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Fiction by Andrew McNabb 


To John Thomas’s mind, architecture didn’t relate exclusively to the form and shape of buildings, but to the form and shape of everything.  For example, he knew that it was their physical forms that had brought him and Aoife together; and he also knew that it wasn’t because either of them possessed overwhelming physical beauty, but that their respective flaws were comparable—some might say, complementary—and that none couldn’t be overlooked. 

Her form, though, often made him wonder, what made a woman with a small waistline and large breasts and full lips and a pear shaped bottom the best of what was to be desired?  And why did a dimpled behind and small flat breasts and ill-defined calves represent something less than perfect?  Whatever the detailed answer was, in short, it was human.  Human?  But what did that mean?  That it couldn’t be helped? 

Some might say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that might be true, but John Thomas would say it’s in the mind, and it’s in the fingers.  A man has needs, the saying goes, and when the mind triggers the body so that blood rushes to his penis those small flat breasts and that big dimpled behind and those ill-defined calves could actually look quite nice.  But even more than that, to the human fingers those parts were all covered by the same thing, flesh, and when your eyes were closed, flesh on one feels pretty much the same as flesh on the other.  The substance beneath that skin might be different—one posterior might consist of more of that visually-valued muscle mass, another, more fatty tissue—but it was the job of the fingers simply to feel, and in each case what they felt was exactly the same: the epidermis. 

But finally, thought John Thomas, and perhaps most importantly, when it came to physical feeling, in that ultimate act of human contact, that cavern into which the penis is inserted is essentially a piece of hardware and can, by no realistic man’s definition, be considered a thing of beauty; and in his experience, which was not record-breaking, but hardly inconsiderable, all of those he had had experience with looked and felt approximately the same. 




But to stay together, the architecture of a relationship needed to be on firm footing.  And because one measure of a relationship is the intensity of physical contact, imagine John Thomas’s surprise when Aoife said, “I’m a virgin.” 

Like him, she was thirty.  Wow.  So what were you supposed to think about when you heard news like that?  His thoughts, for a moment, went to the fact that that bit down there was still intact.  But that bit was just a line of skin, a physical representation of an idea, really.  What was more compelling was imagining all those years of her slapping hands away, of pulsating down there, being kept awake at night, of going quiet when the girls talked about their escapades. 

At first, Aoife’s ardent Catholicism was a curiosity he indulged, an eccentricity he found no different than if she had had a thick series of tattoos running up and down her arms, or a lifelong collection of Asian Barbies—amusing, peculiar, and something he didn’t want for himself.  But it ended up defining the both of them anyway.

It was confusing the way she wouldn’t let him penetrate her, but would wrap herself in all sorts of unusual positions to make him climax, each more lurid and depraved than the next; and then not more than an hour or a day later she’d have no problem going up and sticking out her tongue to receive her Christ. 

Long after the newness had worn off, and shortly after a fight about what they were doing, where they were going, and after a series of news bits from friends who were advancing in careers, getting married, having babies, a particularly heated sexual episode occurred that needed to go somewhere further.  Aoife got herself down on all fours.  When he moved right in she stopped him. 

“No, higher,” she said. 

He complied.  That was a different bit of hardware, for sure.

When they were done, she sobbed, and he said they wouldn’t do that again.  He said he loved her.  And after a half hour of lying there and feeling like he really did, he said, “Why don’t we just get married?”

And so they did.



By no means should the architecture of buildings be discounted.  Bodies needed to be protected, of course, but it wasn’t just that; being inside the proper architecture, immersed in a space and surrounded by thoughtfully designed details could provide a feeling that everything would be okay.  Except that maybe it wouldn’t; if you were Aoife, at least.  She said she tried to live her life as if material things were fleeting, and John Thomas couldn’t disagree that that was the case, but he also made the point that those things were still a component of this here life, just be sure to not let them rule you. 

And that was the reason they finally settled on Portland.  You could buy a house more cheaply there than you could in many other places.  Not that they were in a position to do so just yet.  But for the here and now at least you could walk among the turreted peaks and the orangey brick facades they’d seen nowhere else, floating on the thought that if they searched hard enough, they would find an interesting place of their own.

The first place they saw, however, was not one of them.  It was part of Aoife’s general view on life that good things should be saved for.  That’s why she was always carrying around that damn calculator.  When they found themselves standing in front of a three-decker on Montreal Street in the East End, John Thomas could see her clutching the calculator in her pocketbook, and he wasn’t surprised when she said, “I could live there.”

He didn’t respond.  And they didn’t go in.  He tried to tell her that he didn’t need to see it to know what was already there.  If the floor inside the front door was not covered by a worn red carpet and the walls by a shiny brown paint job, then peeling linoleum and fading flowery wallpaper would surely be the case.  A wasted ten-speed would be tethered to the stairs, or maybe a child’s plastic bike just left, forgotten until the next time.  Three metal mailboxes, names scratched in and out, scattered take-out menus on the floor, an empty bottle of Diet Coke in the corner.  And all of it wrapped in the smell of decades of comings and goings in a place that would never really be treated as home.  So despite the rent, no.

Moving on, all it had taken him to decide on the place they were now living was the cast iron awning out front.  It was a signal, a beacon.  This building might be boxy and not so complex, but there were details here that you wouldn’t find in any three-decker.  The weathered mahogany door in the lobby, the black and white mosaic tile floor, the simple but well-polished banisters, the flowered plaster moldings.  It even had a name, Northcourt.  And after much debate, Aoife assented.



So with all of that now taken care of, John Thomas was remarking to Aoife just the other day how there were all sorts of things that enter and leave and surround our bodies, and she remarked with a smile that that was an unusual thing to think about.  The smile was because she loved him, the way they talked about things like that a lot. 

When it got to be her turn she made the point that how, finally, when certain things were in place, basic human needs met, what greatly formed the rest of you was what you ended up doing with your time.  She, the music major, had just gotten a job as a secretary, and he took this as a nudge.  He couldn’t do the same class of job, and his new neck tattoo prevented discussion of it, but she wondered if maybe there were other opportunities that, if his creativity was competently engaged, could be worthwhile.  He’d told her he’d think about that, and he did.

And so here they were, forming a life’s rhythm together, indulging, somewhat, the conventions of what it took to exist and to be able to pay for things.  They had been in that spot a month now, and just as he had said in selling the place to Aoife when they first saw it, it was nice being able to sit at the table by the window on a weekend morning and push down on a coffee press while you looked out at the little pocket park across the street.  That was the case right now, except he was all alone. 

As always, there were complications. 

Aoife was in the bathroom peeing on a pregnancy stick.  He thought it might come to this.  He didn’t want her to be pregnant.  He thought they should wait, and when he’d said that to Aoife, she’d replied she’d done all the waiting she could handle.  Her sexual maneuverings had become more mundane, more functional, and she’d also said that they couldn’t be stopped now, and the act couldn’t be covered in a plastic sheath for his penis. 

The stream of urine coming from the bathroom was lusty, fueled by morning coffee, and perhaps by Aoife’s intense wishes; and despite the gravity of the impending outcome—he couldn’t do anything about that—John Thomas let his mind settle on that little plastic stick, how it was something that you emitted the body’s waste on and then how it would tell you if there was a tiny life growing inside you.  My God, the architecture of that little piece, and the architecture of a woman’s body, a little potential something taking root right up there in a woman’s—in Aoife’s—womb.  All of that interconnected hardware.

The seconds dripped past, and then finally, with a flush, a verdict was upon them.  The door opened and Aoife emerged.  His eyes darted to her belly.  Could something be living inside her?  His eyes went to her face.  She was smiling.  But what did that mean?  That she would soon start to grow, her belly expanding and distending, a little life inside her taking its own form and a shape? 

As Aiofe kept coming, and with the sun at her back giving the appearance of flight, John Thomas had an overwhelming desire to talk, to remark that when a life was conceived wasn’t it incredible that with each passing week body parts and organs would just appear and be added?  And how when complete the tiny being would just smooth down the uterine tract and push through that cavity that had once seemed like hardware, but that now seemed like something else entirely. 

“So?” said John Thomas.  “So?”

Aoife sat, and a conversation just emerged.


Andrew McNabb is a writer, a husband and a father of four.  For more information, please visit ambien 10 mg fda.


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fiction by Bonnie Peters

On her first birthday, Marah couldn’t sit up, or roll over, or say “mama.” Her head wobbled like one of those dash-board dolls.

“We could suction cup her butt and stick her right over your glove box.  Kinda like that Hawaiian Hula girl Dave used to have in his old Chevy.”  Karol, Anna’s mom, laughed as she kissed Marah’s toes.

Anna had to hold her daughter’s chin while she spoon fed her a piece of the birthday cake, mashed up with the white and pink icing and a little milk.  Marah’s left eye looked at her nose whenever she tried to focus on a face.  Drool and pieces of cake pooled in the left corner of her mouth and returned there within seconds after Anna wiped it away.

 At her twelve month check-up, the pediatrician gently pushed and stretched Marah’s legs into strange frog like positions.

“Marah needs surgery to correct the scissoring.”  Dr. Allen looked at Anna and must have seen her confusion. “The tightness and crossing of Marah’s legs makes it hard to position and clean her properly. After surgery, you’ll be able to take care of her easier.” 

When Anna didn’t say anything, the doctor continued.  “We’ll wait on the surgery, but I’m writing a prescription for physical and occupational therapy that she should start right away.  Lacey, at the front desk, will give you some paperwork to fill out so you can get help with all the services Marah is going to need.”

When Anna still didn’t respond, Dr. Allen put his hand on her shoulder.  “Anna, do you realize that Marah is never going to grow up normal?  Her cerebral palsy and probable mental retardation are going to require a lot of extra support.”

Anna smiled, nodded her head, and after paying the bill and sliding the therapy prescriptions behind the last twenty in her wallet, she put Marah in her car seat and drove back home.  Words kept repeating and echoing in her head—cerebral palsy, mental retardation, surgery, therapy, not normal.

A couple of months ago, Anna had been given a pamphlet explaining the medical term cerebral palsy, but it was confusing.  So, Anna had looked up each word, first cerebral and then palsy in the library dictionary—intellectual tremors, cerebrum shakes?  Marah didn’t shake; she jabbed.  She could push out her arms and legs so hard they could pierce through you if they were swords.  how much does generic zolpidem cost

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Fiction by Don Kunz

Wendy awoke in the master bedroom of the restored Victorian on Prospect Street.  She lay listening to the lovebirds shredding newspaper in their cage next to the bay window and her husband making breakfast in their downstairs kitchen.  She stared at the ceiling.  The new light of an August morning had streamed through the stained glass to cover the cracked plaster with sky-blue and blood-red streaks resembling a child’s finger painting.  She thought of a shiny white egg the size of a marble.  She thought of nesting.  At almost five months she was definitely showing.  Beneath her flannel nightgown Wendy’s stomach was no longer flat and hard from years of abdominal crunches and five-mile runs along Blackstone Boulevard on the east side of Providence.  She heard Bill breaking eggs into a ceramic bowl, whisking them with a fork, pouring them spattering into the cast iron skillet.  The skillet had belonged to Wendy’s mother who had died of colon cancer on Valentine’s Day.  She remembered her mother’s distended belly rising beneath the sheet of her hospital deathbed and imagined she would look like that herself before she delivered in December.  Wendy found it disturbing that on the surface life and death should look so much alike.  She wished her mother had lived long enough to share the mysteries of pregnancy and childbirth with her, especially because this would be a Christmas baby, a miracle.  Then, Wendy smelled freshly brewed coffee and felt the familiar first wave of morning sickness.

Bill dropped four slices of whole wheat into the toaster then turned back to stir their eggs in the skillet.  He sang the chorus of a top-forty tune he remembered from his younger years, “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on.”  After a miscarriage during the second month of Wendy’s first pregnancy, this had become their theme song.  Bill could almost picture this second fetus adrift in amniotic fluid trying to find a grip on the uterine wall with its newly formed hands.  If Sloopy could just hang on, then, what?  Bill would be a father for the first time at age sixty-one.  At a time when his colleagues would be looking forward to retirement, Bill would be heating formula and planning his schedule around day care.  He was still not certain how to feel about that.  But he was trying to stay positive.  From the beginning of fertility treatments he had told himself that becoming a father would make him young again.  Bill wanted to believe that at seventy-five he would have a dark tan, ropy muscles, and lungs like a Sherpa.  He tried to imagine playing one-on-one basketball in the driveway, making a fade away jump shot against his taller teenage son while his retired colleagues across town shuffled about in walkers, dithering over long-term care policies and bingo schedules in nursing homes.  Bill turned into the hallway, carrying two full plates toward the dining room.  He paused at the foot of the stairs.  “Breakfast,” he hollered.  “Eggs and toast.  Breakfast for Wendy and Sloopy.”  No answer.  From the bathroom at the top of the stairs came the sound of his wife retching.  Bill walked slowly into the dining room and set the plates on the table.

Wendy rested her forehead on the forward edge of the white porcelain toilet bowl, reached up and flushed.  “Coming,” she hollered.  “I’m coming, for Christ’s sake!”  She heaved herself up and reached for the Aquafresh on the pedestal sink.  The bristles on her toothbrush were splayed out like the legs of an old dog trying to stay upright.  Her voice tumbled down the stairs toward Bill.  “I’m not too sure about Sloopy.  I may have barfed him up.  I couldn’t bear to look.”

Christmas baby or not she thought as she brushed her teeth, no one could call her the Virgin Wendy anymore; that’s for sure.  At work, Joe Early had christened her with that nickname when they were dating, because she was holding out on him.  She glanced into the speckled mirror over the sink.  She was foaming at the mouth.  Rabid bitch she thought.  She remembered snapping and growling at poor Joe, formerly her would-be lover, now barely a colleague.  Joe Early, one of four senior partners at Robinson, Bender, Early & Touché, Attorneys at Law had spent four months after his third divorce trying to get into her pants.  Back then she was in her fifth year at the firm and had wondered if giving into sexual intimacy would be a quid pro quo for making partner in the firm.  So Wendy, who hadn’t been a virgin since she was seventeen, decided to keep their relationship platonic as a test.  A week after the vote which made her a partner and head of the firm’s workman’s compensation division, Wendy dumped Joe when he tried to grope her in the small kitchen off the second-floor conference room at the end of the hall.  Mooning about with unrequited love was unprofessional but, nevertheless, flattering; feeling her up at work was not.

Wendy took a gulp of tap water, grimaced at the taste of chlorine, thought again about buying a filter for the tap, and rinsed her mouth but did not swallow.  She recalled she had not been able to read anything but embarrassment in Joe’s face, like when he had received a Victoria’s Secret Catalog at work.  She was hoping for disappointment.  She would have preferred epic heart break.  But Joe just blushed briefly.  Then he reached past her, poured himself a coffee (no sugar) and turned away.  She had been tempted to ask if he knew anything about sexual harassment statutes but decided not to rub it in.  Three weeks later Wendy had tried to imagine what Joe would think about her having intercourse with an economist she had met through a dating service.  At first it had amazed her, but later Wendy figured she was overdue.  At age thirty-seven having committed all her energy to marathon training and a seventy-hour workweek at the law firm, she decided it was time to stop acting like a cloistered nun.  What could she have told Joe if he had asked why him and not me, especially when Bill was almost twenty years older than either of them?  Bill just smelled right?  Wendy believed in the science of pheromones.  Now she was pregnant at forty, trying to believe in miracles.

Bill ascended the stairs wearing a red T-shirt, khaki slacks, and a denim apron that read, “If you laid all the economists end to end, they still couldn’t reach a conclusion.”  He shoved both hands into his front pockets beneath the apron and stared at Wendy in the bathroom mirror, admiring her brown eyes, perfectly oval face, and short auburn curls.  Bill watched Wendy wipe her mouth with the green guest towel.  “You were just kidding about Sloopy, right?  Because I’ve got his breakfast ready.  He needs to eat to hang on.”

Wendy brushed her fingertips across the dark circles beneath her eyes as if to erase them.  She wondered when she would see the glow that younger women seemed to get when they were pregnant.  Since marrying Bill three years earlier, she had wondered if starting a family this late was an unrealistic prospect.  Now she tried to push doubt aside.  She told herself it was like hitting the wall at mile eighteen in a marathon when the body had used up all its glycogen; if she kept pushing, she could do it.  And so could her husband she thought; he was a tough, old bird who looked and acted younger than his years.   Bill’s reflection appeared beside hers in the mirror, a square chiseled face with scar tissue around the eyes.  Wendy spoke to his image.  “I’ve got to believe this one’s got a grip.  This baby’s a keeper.”

Bill bowed his head, rested his chin lightly on Wendy’s shoulder, and wrapped his arms around her.  He wanted to hold on more tightly but feared he might break something.  “It had better be.  I don’t think there are many more where he came from.”

Wendy rotated inside the circle of Bill’s arms and gave him a peck on the cheek.  “Thanks for fixing breakfast.”  She wrinkled her nose.  “Oh, God.  I think I’m going to be sick again.”  She pushed Bill away, put both hands on her knees, and leaned over the toilet.  Her hands turned into fists as if she could fight off the nausea.  “Morning sickness is supposed to go away by the third month.  It’s too late for this.”

“It’s probably the damned eggs,” Bill said.  I should have fixed oatmeal.”

Wendy straightened up.  “Yeah, probably just the eggs.  But I ought to be able to keep something as simple as an egg down.  Eggs are supposed to be good for you.”

“Why don’t you save a step, leave the toilet seat up just in case?”

“Don’t be a damned pessimist!” she snapped.   “I refuse to be sick any more.  I’m going to take a seat at the table, and I’m going to finish everything you put on my plate.”

Wendy waited for Bill to get out of her way.  But he reached out and placed both hands on her belly.  His knuckles were heavy, thick, and scarred.  Sloopy wasn’t kicking.  Wendy reached up to brush toast crumbs from Bill’s lips.


That evening Wendy and Bill lay in bed with their heads propped up on pillows and watched a rerun of “The Best of Johnny Carson.”  Wendy was nibbling on soda crackers to settle her stomach.  Beneath the sheet Bill’s feet framed the screen on the twenty-one inch Sony at the foot of the bed.  When he forced his toes together, Johnny disappeared; when he let them flop to the side, Johnny reappeared.  Now Johnny was wearing a black velvet turban and holding an envelope to his forehead; he was playing the Great Carnac, solver of riddles.  The routine reminded Bill of “Jeopardy,” but every answer was a joke.  Johnny closed his eyes, furrowed his brow, and let the suspense build.  “Sis boom bah,” he proclaimed.  Then Johnny tore the end from the envelope and blew into it.  The envelope bellied out, Johnny extracted a piece of paper, unfolded it and read:  “What is the sound of a sheep exploding?”

Seated on the sofa to Johnny’s right, Ed McMahon burst into gales of hearty laughter.  “Yes, oh Great Carnac, The Magnificent.”

Bill brought his toes together and erased Johnny.  “Looks like we didn’t miss much the first time around.  If this is the best of Carson, I wouldn’t want to see the worst.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Wendy said, “maybe that would be more entertaining.  You know, less scripted, more spontaneous.”

Bill moved his feet apart.  Johnny popped up on the screen again.  Bill wondered if that was true about being funny.  He thought it was true about sex.  Now that sex was a regular part of his life, he was relieved and grateful.  But it seemed less exciting.  He remembered the thrill of picking up chicks in bars and bookstores down city when he was fresh out of Providence College with a graduate degree in economics.  It had helped that he looked like a body builder, that he had trained in gyms from the age of thirteen, and that at seventeen he had become New England Welter-Weight Champion in the Golden Gloves.  Whenever some flighty woman in a bar reached up to trace the scar tissue beneath his left eye or paused to focus on his twice broken nose or asked about the callous on his knuckles, Bill knew he had her.  If he wanted her.  But after hitting forty-five, suddenly all the knockout women close to his age were taken.  On weekends he saw them in minivans driving their kids to the Roger Williams’ Park Zoo or swimming lessons at the Barrington Y.  By the time he was fifty, Bill had gotten used to going a year or more without getting lucky.  Eventually, he found the women in bars divided into two types:  Young and giggly or old and desperate.  They were either caught up in trivial details of undergraduate work or seething with anger about divorces.  They all were obsessive about gaining weight.  Inviting them out to dinner was like asking them to step into the ring.

In hindsight Bill knew his sexual exploits had been a crazy game, the worst-case scenario being AIDS.  Meanwhile the sexual climate had changed.  Pretending to love and to be loved by a stranger no longer seemed possible.  When he had stopped scoring regularly, he told himself that he was being prudent.  The newspapers were filled with cautionary tales:  Sexual harassment law suits filed against CEOs; college administrations issuing strict guidelines governing relations between students and faculty; a picture in the Providence Journal of the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s Chief Justice zipping up his pants while emerging from a liaison with a prostitute at Johnston motel.  At First Federal Trust, where Bill worked, sexual harassment training became mandatory, and officiously scripted dialog replaced flirting.   Being a lapsed New England Catholic, Bill diagnosed these symptoms as resurgent Puritanism.  Once again the culture seemed determined to take the fun out of sex by handing out scarlet “A’s, but this time around it would be to men for exploiting women in a rigged economy.  So, at fifty five, William Williams, now Chief Economist at First Federal with offices throughout New England, began to talk openly of looking for a wife and perhaps starting a family.  Bill’s male colleagues, who had been entertained by his earlier sexual exploits, were amused by his transformation.  Privately they began to refer to him as Bill Squared.

Bill found a wife two years later through a dating service called ForPlay, which operated out of a former fitness club and karate studio on Broadway.  It catered to athletes, arranging dates around workouts and sports—skiing, tennis, swimming, even swing dancing. This appealed to Bill.  As a boxer, he had done a lot of roadwork and weight training.  To stay youthful looking he had continued working out long after he stopped fighting.  So, when Bill read a feature article on dating services in the Providence Sunday Journal, he canceled his health club membership at Gold’s Gym on Bald Hill Road and signed up with ForPlay.  He liked their policy of no embarrassing interviews (“Well, after graduate school at NYU…”) or videotapes (“Hi—SMILE—my name is_______”) or newspaper ads (“SDWM loves walking on the beach, candlelit dinners, and stimulating conversation”).  ForPlay was just a chance to find a healthy mate.  In that way Bill met Wendy on a fun run, scrambling along Blackstone Boulevard on a Sunday afternoon in late April, passing five younger men to catch up to her because he liked what he saw from behind.  He was pleased she was a marathoner.  He wanted a woman who could go the distance.  They began to work out together—five mile runs and resistance training.  By the following January they were married.  She was thirty-seven and wanted children before it was too late.  Bill was fifty-eight and wanted to give Wendy anything that would make her love him.  Now at sixty-one he was trying to become a father.  And now Johnny Carson was razzing Doc Severson about his sportscoat looking like something a pimp would wear to an Easter egg hunt.  Johnny was saying “Where’s the hat with the Peacock feather?  What’s up, Doc?”  Ed McMahon was hysterical.  He cackled and hooted.  His head snapped back, then slumped between his knees as he fought to control his joy.  Finally Ed straightened up, wiped tears from his eyes and cut to a commercial for Tidy Bowl.

“Uh oh,” Wendy said.  “I’m bleeding.”


Wendy closed her eyes, leaned back in the passenger seat of their Saab station wagon, and pressed a supersize maxipad between her legs.  Bill drove through rain slick streets and swiped at the foggy windshield with a white towel.  The defroster had died several Sundays ago on their way to the United Church of Christ on Angell, and, although the car was still under warranty, they hadn’t found the time to get it to the dealer’s in Pawtucket yet.  Down Prospect and up Waterman there was almost no traffic.  But as Bill passed Hope, he realized that he was going the wrong direction from habit.  Accustomed to driving Wendy to the Ob-Gyn suite in Wayland Square for fertility treatments and monthly checkups, he had driven her away from the hospital not toward it.   There was no traffic, so he ran the light at Brooke, doubling back toward Hope, then Wickendon and the Point Street Bridge.  He checked his rearview mirror and listened for sirens.  The night was very dark.  Rain sluiced in the gutters and swept twigs and scraps of newspaper into storm sewers.  A Basset Hound frowned wrinkles as it lapped water from a puddle on the broken sidewalk under a streetlight.  The headlights cast small pale yellow pools on the pavement.  They reminded Bill of broken egg yolks.  As he passed beneath the freeway and approached Dudley, he could see the sickly green mercury vapor lights that marked the entrance to Women and Infant’s Hospital.  They made Bill want to vomit.  Hang on, Sloopy, Bill thought.  Hang on. 

The car felt like a cinderblock on wheels; he wondered if he was losing the steering as well as the defroster; Bill wrestled it into the space in front of the glass double doors marked EMERGENCY ROOM.  The asphalt was crosshatched with yellow lines, and a red neon sign read AMBULANCE ONLY.  Bill put on his hazard lights and leaned on the horn until he could see a blur of white coats and stethoscopes appear through the wavy path of the windshield wipers.  The Emergency Room doors burst open, and the water cascading off the roof broke all around them as EMTs pulled Wendy from the car, put her on a gurney, and wheeled her into the hospital with a blood pressure cuff already inflating around her left arm and Wendy holding up the blood soaked pad with her right hand and an EMT pressing Wendy’s hand back down against her crotch and hollering for her to just keep the pressure right on it.

Bill lowered his head to the steering wheel.  The windshield wipers thumped, thumped, thumped like an endless succession of barred doors closing.  Even with his eyes shut the sign’s red glow colored his thoughts.  Without this baby to keep him young, how could Wendy still love him?  He thought, who am I kidding?   I must have been dreaming!  For the first time he could picture himself alone, toothless, hooked up to an IV drip, lying in a nursing home like the one where he had visited his father when the old man was dying of heart trouble.  And like a split screen in a movie, he could see Wendy, seemingly ageless, standing in a navy blue power suit offering her summation to a jury.  This image dissolved into one of their two lovebirds, Anna and Fritz, stretching their clipped wings and singing to the mirror in their cage.  Tonight he knew Anna was sitting on the small white marble that he and Wendy had substituted for the real egg, which they had destroyed after reading about the mortality rate of lovebird chicks in captivity.  Bill imagined Anna and Fritz together now wrapped in silence and darkness by the night curtain.  Then his throat tightened and his eyes watered.  Bill shifted into reverse, backed out of the restricted area, and hunted for a place where he could park the Saab.


The voice came from behind the brilliant white light above her.  “Rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst pain you ever had.”

Wendy lay swaddled in a gray blanket on the sterile examination table inside the emergency-room cubicle.  Her feet were in stirrups, and a doctor was probing between her legs.  “Oh.  Two.  I think.  You know.  Like cramps, maybe.”

“When did the bleeding start?

“About twenty minutes ago.  We were watching Johnny Carson.  I felt this wetness between my legs.”

“Did you do anything strenuous today?  Lift anything?”

“No, I’ve cut way back on my running.  I stretched a little.  My husband and I had sex this morning after breakfast.  You think that could trigger it?”

“Did intercourse hurt?”

“No.  To tell you the truth, it felt terrific.  Better than usual.

“Good.  Just what Mother Nature intended.  That way, you’ll probably do it again.  If sexual activity isn’t painful, and it’s not too . . .ah . . . . athletic, it can actually be beneficial up until about the eighth month.  It usually keeps the parents happy, and if they’re happy. . .”

Wendy shifted on the examination table, recoiling from the pressure of the cold instruments against her pelvis.  The sanitary paper crinkled under her.  Her voice was suddenly husky.  “I lost the first one.  I don’t want to lose this one.”  She cleared her throat.  “I gave up biking.  And I’ll give up running altogether if I have to.  Just tell me.  I mean, I’ve cut back to six miles a week anyway, you know, like three two-mile runs?  And I swim laps when I can get to the pool at the Y.”

The doctor slipped Wendy’s feet from the stirrups and set them down gently.  She pulled Wendy’s green hospital Johnny down.  “It’s better to stay active if you can.  But walk, don’t run.  Swimming’s okay.  Most women know not to overdo.  However, the bleeding is a concern.  It isn’t just spotting.  On the other hand, it’s just about stopped now.”  The doctor turned off the examination light, and pulled her mask off.  “Some bleeding during early stage pregnancy is not uncommon.  But you’re, what now?  Four months?  Five?”

Wendy tried to blink away the dark spot in her eyes left by the examination light.  She could barely read the physician’s face, just making out a woman of about fifty in green scrubs, short blond hair protruding beneath a paper cap, no makeup.  “Almost five.”

The doctor nodded.  “Yeah, okay.  So, I want an ultrasound.  It won’t hurt anything, and it might tell us something.”

Wendy turned her head to follow the doctor as she edged around the foot of the examination table and held out a hand to help her sit up.  Wendy felt lightheaded.  “I’m not sure I want to know.”

Abruptly, the doctor crossed the cubicle, picked up a second blanket, returned, and draped it around Wendy’s shoulders.  “It’s always better to know.  That’s the only way we can help you have a healthy baby.  I think you’d be surprised how much the medical profession does know.  We’ve got so many options now.”  She glanced again at Wendy’s chart.  “Anyway, I’ll make sure this episode gets into your file so you can go over it with your regular Ob-Gyn, who is Dr. . . . ah . . .oh, looks you’ve got a whole team working on this.  A year and a half of fertility treatments with Wayland Gynecological Associates.  You’re in good hands.  Those guys have childbearing down to a science.”

“We’ll I’m forty, and I guess science got me this far.  But it seems more like a miracle.”

The doctor took a pen from her breast pocket and began writing on the patient chart.  She glanced up.  “Yeah.  We see those, too.  Now let’s get that ultrasound.”


Bill punched in the security code, shutting off the alarm system in their Prospect Street home.  He glanced at the darkened stairwell leading up to the master bedroom as he helped Wendy out of her wet raincoat.  He hung it up with his own double-breasted trench coat in the hall closet and shut the door.  He threw the keys down on the dining room table, pulled out an end chair, and collapsed into it.  “I’m beat,” he sighed.  “And I wasn’t even the one doing the bleeding.”

Wendy slipped up behind Bill and placed a large envelope on the table.  Then she bent and put her arms around his neck.  She kissed him on the ear.  “Oh, I don’t know.  You looked pretty white in the face.”  She straightened up and massaged his neck with both hands, digging her fingers in deep like a boxer’s corner man loosening him up for the next round.  His muscles were rigid.  Wendy sighed.  “You know what?”

Bill tipped his head back against Wendy’s belly, hoping to feel movement.  Instead he felt the rising and falling of her breath on the top of his head.  He wondered if he was getting a little bald.  The need to feel his son had become an ache too profound to be massaged away.  It made him weak.  He thought, give me a poke, kid.  Give me a kick in the head.  Your old man is out here waiting.  Finally, Bill grunted, “No, what?”

“I’m starving.  I wish Johnny Rockets up on Thayer Street were open.  I’d get a deluxe hamburger with lots of onions, French fries, a frosty chocolate malt.”

“Yeah, but it’s closed.  It’s, what?”  Bill looked at his Swiss Army watch; there was a Red Cross embossed beneath the numbers.  “A little after midnight.  Nothing’s open.  Nothing but emergency rooms and bars.”  He turned and looked up at Wendy.  “Is this an emergency?  I could pop some corn.”

“That sounds good.  Pop the good stuff, the Orville whatshisface.  The kind where all the kernels pop.  You know, no old maids.”

Bill heaved himself up and took Wendy’s hands in his.  He pushed fatigue aside, forcing himself to speak.  “There are always going to be a few lonely old maids,” he said.  “But you’re not going to be one of them.  I won’t let that happen.”

Wendy stood on her tiptoes and pressed her forehead against Bill’s.  She thought of a lovebird staring at its own reflection in a mirror.  “I know,” she said.  “But it’s not entirely up to you.  I don’t care how tough you are.  That’s too big a responsibility for anybody.  We can’t control everything.”

“So what do we do?”

“We hope.”

“What if we lose this one, too?”

“Cross that bridge when we come to it.”

“It might be too late for me.”

“It might be too late for both of us.”

“So what do we do?”

“What we can.  Let’s look at it one more time.”

Bill let go of Wendy, then, turned toward the table, and slid the grainy black and white image from its beige envelope as if he were the one giving birth.  There it was on the table.  Together they stood, heads bowed, staring at the 8 1/2 X 11 Polaroid enlargement of the ultrasound monitor.  It seemed like a miracle, this projecting sound through flesh and blood to create a shadowy image of more flesh and blood.  There was Sloopy, one hand clutching his umbilical cord, the other raised as if waving to his parents.  Bill’s voice was a hoarse whisper.  “I don’t know if he’s waving hello or goodbye.”

Wendy ran an index finger over the image of her son’s upraised hand, then turned to Bill.  “Damnit, don’t!  Don’t you dare do that to us!”  She paused, fighting for control.  “We’ve got to believe it’s hello.  If you love me, give me that much.”

Bill placed his hand on top of hers.  “Jesus, Wendy, it’s all about probabilities!  When I look at the numbers, it’s hard not to be pessimistic.”  He squeezed his wife’s hand.  “I do love you.  I love you no matter what.”

Wendy swallowed.  Her voice was hoarse.  “This is family were talking about now, not some abstraction.  This is as personal as it can get.  Both of us have got to believe we’re going to be parents.  Both, okay?  All I’ve seen of our son is this crummy looking Polaroid, and I already love him more than I’ve ever loved anything.”

Bill raised Wendy’s fist, unclenched it, and kissed the palm.  “Me, too.  I think we have to show him.  Let’s give him a sign.”  Slowly Bill went down on one knee at Wendy’s feet, like a boxer knocked halfway to the canvas and waiting for the count.  He began to hum “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy, Hang on,” resting his face against her belly so that their son might hear.  Wendy joined in on the second chorus, singing the lyrics softly.  Over the sound of their voices they could hear the lovebirds in the darkness hanging over them.  Anna shredding more newspaper for the nest and Fritz pecking against the bars.

Don Kunz taught literature, creative writing, and film studies at the University of Rhode Island for 36 years.  His essays, poems, and short stories have appeared in over sixty literary journals.  Don has retired to Bend, Oregon, where he writes fiction and poetry, volunteers, studies Spanish, and is learning to play the Native American Flute.

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by Z.R. Davis

He would not cry today, he was going to be happy. The waitress, a moderately beautiful twenty-something, approached the table he shared with a briefcase and the morning paper. Her eyes were light blue, and her small mouth, free of lipstick, was opened slightly as if she was whispering something to herself, but had stopped midway. He wondered what she might have been saying: perhaps a song, or maybe a bit of poetry. No, not poetry; she was far too pretty to know any poetry. Only ugly women liked poetry. Maybe that was wrong. Did ugly women read poetry, or did it just seem that way? Did they just talk to themselves out of loneliness?

Pancakes today, two big fluffy ones both larger and thicker than the plate they rested on. The midpoint of the pancakes had been eaten out, and in the exposed portion was a small pool of sugar-free maple syrup. He was on a mission to lose weight this year, although he was not fat in any clinical sense of the word. His stomach was slightly engorged, and he only had three pairs of pants that fit him comfortably, but he was skinnier than many people, and in fact was considered scrawny by some. The guy his wife was currently sleeping with was rail-thin, though.

 He wasn’t sure what his wife saw in her rawboned lover, but if she was looking for a skinny guy, he could become that for her; she would love him again in six months. He would be nearly transparent. Thinking about that made him feel terrible, however, and he sat with his fork suspended in mid-bite, a line of syrup falling from the bit of speared pancake. He was already transparent to her.

Despite his inward feelings, the image he presented was that of a strong, able-bodied man who had entered into middle age with most of his hair free of gray and a look of good-natured intelligence and wisdom that shone in the corners of his eyes and in the lines of his cheeks. Today he was wearing his nice suit jacket with a long-sleeved white dress shirt underneath with no tie. He left the top button—the one that presses against the Adam’s apple whenever a man swallows—unbuttoned. Looking good was important because a man needed to project an image before he experienced what the image suggested. If he looked successful, he would be successful. Happiness was just a matter of showing the world how happy you were, and eventually the heart and mind would cease their stubbornness and become happy.

“Can I get you anything else?” the waitress asked, and when she closed her mouth, her face set in an expression of somewhat hurried benevolence, he could see small lines at the corners of her mouth that made her lips look curiously like parentheses. He was shocked he hadn’t noticed when he first ordered.

“No, thank you. I’m fine at the moment.”

The waitress walked away, and he stared at the hole he had made in his pancakes and thought of the waitress’s mouth. Those oddly shaped lips, nearly curlicued in construction, would not leave his mind. He was surprised to discover he did not want the thought of her mouth to leave his mind. He wanted to call her back and ask what the specials were so he could stare at her lips as they bounced over every word. He wanted her to read the menu to him, and when she was done, he would ask questions about the food.

Is the bacon from a local farm? Is the gravy homemade? Do the eggs come from actual chickens, or does the restaurant use that liquid egg substitute I sometimes see in the supermarket at the end of the egg cooler, the sight of which always brings a queer sadness upon me. It’s derided by children as their mothers push carts loaded with offspring and cereal, their eyes skyward so they can pretend the obscenely loud noise does not come from their children. They had no children—oh no—they were still young and had so much going for them. They never got married at 17. This goes on until one of the children grabs its mother’s arm and cries “Mommy, look! That eggy stuff is gross!” but it’s not gross, it’s just different. You can never get kids to understand that because it’s one of so many things you cannot explain to kids. Reflecting on it now, I think it was probably a good thing our baby died because I’m not sure I would have had the patience to explain things like egg substitutes to a child. It would have been nice, though, to have a little version of me, dressed for success, standing next to me and calling me daddy. I could explain other things to him, like why boys are different from girls and why mommy works and daddy stays home. That would be nice. I don’t know why she chose (because I sure didn’t) to get rid of the person growing inside of her, and it was you, my son—I don’t know why she didn’t want to keep you. She said she just wasn’t ready for a family, but it was really because she had met that skinny guy, and wherever women go to find insubstantial-looking guys like that, I’ll never know. I want to hear the waitress read the menu and watch her strange, pretty mouth move easily over the words she is so accustomed to saying every day, and maybe if I’m lucky I can tell her about my wife and how I’m going to get her back. She might even be proud of helping me get her back by bringing me the sugar-free syrup with the pancakes. She’ll say she’s glad to help and that she knows a guy who can take care of that skinny punk, no problem, and I’ll say no thanks—not necessary—because I’m lifting weights. One day soon, I’ll walk to the house from the restaurant and open the door and mount the steps and not listen to the skinny guy’s heavy breathing or my wife’s moans. I will stay focused and alert because she wants me to, and she will be impressed by my focus when I go into the bedroom. I will lift up the skinny guy as he is on top of you and carry him down the steps and out the front door and throw him down on the curb like the worthless trash he is, and I’ll go back in and wash my hands and go upstairs. You’ll be smiling brightly and will tell me you never loved anyone but me and that you’re sorry for playing around with trash. You’ll be ready for a real man, and I’ll make love to you like the skinny guy never could, and your moans will be louder because I am a man and not walking trash. You will want to have a baby—a son we’ll name Jack, just like he would have been named if we had kept him the first time—and we will grow old together in each other’s arms as Jack turns into a fine man just like his daddy.

A man walking by bumped into the diner’s arm just as he was about to take the bite that had been suspended for so long. A bit of sugar-free syrup fell from the fork and landed on the diner’s shirt. There was no “excuse me” offered, and he doubted there would be one in the future, the sort of rudeness that is even more insulting because the person doesn’t even acknowledge that he’s done something rude. If he had maybe spit on the diner’s face, it could have been forgiven—at least it would have been honest. The diner could not understand why some people felt the need to act as if kindness and basic decency were foreign concepts. Just like the scrawny man. Just like his wife. She never once thought to bring up the subject of her infidelity. She kept trying to hide it, and that was unforgivable. There are certain things you should be honest about no matter what, and anyone who wasn’t deserved what they got.

The diner felt something within himself shift, and then break. He thought how awful people were because they insisted upon their rudeness but lacked the decency to be straight about it. He was hedged in all sides by the callous and uncaring. There was no escape.

He was too hot, the room was too hot, and he needed to cool off. Feeling like he was aflame from within, he rose from the booth and started swiftly toward the door. He realized as he stood in the doorway that he had left his briefcase at the table. A family of three trying to leave stood behind him. Trying to decide whether or not what was in the briefcase was necessary to go back for, he turned around and began to bite his nails and spit them out absentmindedly, not noticing the ragged, brutally shorn ends of his nails were landing in the hair of the woman in front of him.

“Oh, excuse me,” she said, “you just spat on me.”

Realizing this was his chance to be courageous, the husband stepped forward and placed his index finger mere inches from the face of the diner—this man who had offended his wife, and by proxy, him as well.

“Nobody spits on my wife, you get me?” The husband, feeling his statement to be insufficiently tough, added, “You don’t even spit near my wife, asshole.” Getting bolder, he said, “Maybe you and I should go outside and talk about your manners. I’ve got my family here, and they don’t need to be exposed to that kind of rudeness. What makes you so special you can spit on people, huh?”

At this, the husband spit a viscid glob of saliva, yellowish from the orange juice he recently finished, onto the diner. Although he was aiming for his face, the glob, perhaps too heavy or not expelled with enough force (just in case the diner would happen to take offense) landed on the collar of the diner’s nice white dress shirt.

The husband stepped back and raised his hands to chest level in anticipation of the coming fight, but the diner walked past him to the table where he left the briefcase. The husband, considering himself to be the victor in the exchange, marshaled his family through the exit and toward their car; the only physical contact between himself and the diner was the soft brush of fabric as the diner, in his finest suit—the one he wanted to be buried in—walked past, the shoulder of his jacket touching lightly the husband’s pullover sweater.

Zach Davis is a writer living and working in West Virginia. His work has appeared in print (Sans Merci and Shepherdstown Chronicle) and online (Martinsburg Journal). He has been writing since a first grade assignment to write a three page narrative; the teacher hated the story, but his classmates loved it.

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Fiction by Ethel Rohan

         My fingers traced the diagonal scars that ran from my armpits and across the memory of my breasts, the stitches long dissolved and the red, angry skin faded to pink. My other hand moved to my stomach and traveled up and down its long vertical scar, this one more purplish than pink. All the scars dry and flaky. Fish spines.

          I listened to the birdsong outside my bedroom window and decided to put off going to the hospital until the afternoon. I was no longer a patient, but sometimes returned to volunteer. I liked to hold the babies that didn’t have visitors, to breathe in their freshness and sing them to smiles. I had my first Friday off in months from the diner and felt glad to be free of the customers’ small-talk, of their complaints and ogles. One thing I was never free of was the diner’s deep-fried air. It hung all around me and wouldn’t wash away. Still, I liked my job well enough and could do it robot-like while I day-dreamed. Jason, a handsome, square-jawed, blue-eyed regular who wasn’t coy about his wish to have me on the menu, would be disappointed by my absence. I smiled into my pillow. Sometimes, while I carried the trays and wiped down the tables, I fantasized about Jason and me going out together, to a movie or a nice restaurant. I wouldn’t let myself think beyond that. I couldn’t imagine the two of us alone together.

My neighbor’s colicky baby wailed. Their back door smacked closed. I moved from my warm bed to the window. My neighbor stood in her dark pajamas and bare feet in the grass, her hands on her hips and dark head turned up to the sky. I tried to remember her name. The baby’s cries climbed and my neighbor’s hands covered her ears. Months back, her husband had deployed to Iraq. He had yet to meet his son. She was always polite, but distant, and seemed to want to keep to herself. That suited me. In addition to the fussy newborn, she had two little girls. Her name came to me, Nancy. I dressed quickly, tried not to look at my too-big bed.

Just as I reached my front door, the kitchen phone shrilled. It was likely my dad, and if I didn’t answer, he’d worry. It turned out to be Jason. His voice sent me bobbing in warm, shiny water. He had bribed the new busboy for my number, said he never again wanted to have breakfast without me. He’d never had breakfast with me, I corrected, just delivered by me. The sneaky, small-eyed busboy had also given him my address. Jason asked to come over. I warned him not to dare. He chuckled. I pictured his thick, shiny-with-maple-syrup lips and again felt a rush of pleasure.

“I want to show you my latest drawing,” he said.

The next door baby continued to cry. “I have to go, seriously.”

“I drew you.”

My insides recoiled, and I rushed the receiver down.

Jason sometimes brought his sketches to the diner, mostly of hawks, trees, the ocean, and everyday people. Gifted, he managed to bring out in his subjects something I’d never have noticed: the hawks’ intelligent eyes and the blue in their black talons; green leaves so smooth, shiny, and thick I wanted to pet them; and emotions in people’s faces that lifted right off the page. He was gifted, yes, but he’d no right to draw me without my permission, to take from me like that.

I walked along the side of Nancy’s house and called out over her wooden fence. The baby wailed. Moments later, Nancy pulled open her front door. She stood tall and thin and appeared ill. Her face was pale, and she had greenish circles under her eyes. Her long gray-black hair was messed and unwashed. I tried not to react to her body odor, and followed the baby’s cries upstairs. The unclean smell pervaded the house and yet everything, the carpet, wallpaper, and furnishings, looked washed-out. There was also the smell of burnt toast.

The baby lay on his side in his crib, his face a dangerous red. His eyes were scrunched shut and his mouth was open wide. His colorless fingers gripped the bars on his crib, and I had to peel the spongy digits free. I lifted him, and he roared. I hugged him to my shoulder and shushed at his damp ear. Nancy apologized, explained. She had tried everything. I urged her to take a shower and to nap. I would stay. Nancy protested. She couldn’t, she shouldn’t. I insisted. His mother gone, the baby kicked his legs inside his yellow pajamas and jerked his fists. He cried harder. His large bald head pushed and rooted at my prosthetic bra and his greedy grunts turned frantic. I had only my baby finger to offer. The force of his suck hurt and frightened me, could rip my finger right off.

I carried him outside to the garden, the sky boy-blue and the sun hidden behind clouds. The cool breeze startled him into silence. I bounced him in my arms and praised and cooed. He started-up again. I sang to him, soft and low. Overhead, the plovers circled and seemed to listen, to sing back. The baby quieted and closed his eyes. We returned inside. I cradled him in his rocking chair and breathed-in his sweet-and-sour milky smell. My thoughts returned to Jason. I wondered how he’d drawn me.

For sure, at thirty-two, he would never have depicted me as scarred, breastless, and barren. I had chosen to hedge my bets and allowed the surgeons to get ahead of the white spots in my breasts and lymph nodes, to cut away at me.

On the street, a car slowed and stopped. Its door closed. I held the baby and my breath and strained to hear.

Jason waited on my front porch for over an hour. Twice, I’d signaled from the baby’s window and indicated he should go. He waved away my gestures and leaned back against my front door, his black artist’s case by his hip. I left Nancy recharged and her baby still asleep. At the end of her front path, I almost turned left instead of right, but pressed on to my house and Jason. His easy smile almost made me bolt. He wore faded, ripped jeans and a tight red t-shirt. Red, despite everything, was still my favorite color. We sat on the barstools at my messy kitchen island, there junk mail and other bits of me scattered about. I wished everything was more in order.

I followed his gaze to the reproduction Frida Kahlo on the opposite wall. He scrutinized Kahlo’s naked breasts, open torso, shattered spine, body harness, and the nails that punctured her flesh. He turned back to me with an uncertain smile. I offered coffee, but he refused. His attention turned to the single pine chair at my tiny kitchen table. I’d put its mate in the garage. He reached for his artist’s case. I jumped at the coffeemaker.

I put a mug of steaming coffee in front of him, and told him about the baby next door, the babies in the hospital. In the end, I was the one who reached for his portfolio. He’d captured me in profile, as I scribbled a customer’s order, the obligatory smile on my face. My dark hair was tied up and its loose strands caught behind my ear, curling toward my throat. My prosthetic breasts pushed against my pink uniform, smaller than my real breasts. He’d shaded my face, trapped me in shadow.

I pushed the drawing aside. “It’s not me.”

He looked from me to the drawing and back again, perplexed.

I reappeared in the kitchen, my shirt and bra removed and the black camisole clinging to my small boy chest. I dropped my hands to my sides. He searched my face, swallowing. I told him how much was gone. He held my gaze.

“You want to try again?” I asked, my face hot.

He nodded. I tried to slow my breath, to stop shaking. He moved the pine chair to the window. Seated, the sun warmed my head and shoulder. I peeled off the camisole and dropped it to the floor. I looked straight at him. His pencil danced over the paper.

Ethel Rohan is the author of Hard to Say, PANK, 2011 and Cut Through the Bone, Dark Sky Books, 2010, the latter named a 2010 Notable Story Collection by The Story Prize. Her work has or will appear in The Good Men Project, The Chattahoochee Review, Los Angeles Review, Potomac Review and Southeast Review Online among many others. She earned her MFA in fiction from Mills College, California. Raised in Dublin, Ireland, Ethel Rohan is now a resident of San Francisco, California. Visit her at obat ambien yang aman untuk ibu menyusui and read her most recent work here.

Rohan’s “Gone” was featured in this post and lively discussion (replete with additional story and poem suggestions for further reading) here at buy ambien overnight cod.

Read our interview with Ethel Rohan conducted by Tania Pryputniewicz: que es zolpidem 10mg


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Tania Pryputniewicz, poetry editor of The Fertile Source, talks with J.L. Powers about HIV-AIDS in Africa, South Africa’s problems with sexual violence, and what it’s like to be a new mama and a writer.

 Set in modern-day South Africa, This Thing Called the Future (forthcoming from buy generic ambien online uk  in May) follows Khosi, a 14-year-old girl faced with a slew of extraordinary circumstances: from a supernatural stalking to losing a loved one to AIDS. “A great achievement by J.L. Powers.”—Deborah Ellis, The Breadwinner.  side effects ambien 10mg 

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 This Thing Called the Future strikes me as a love story on many levels, love between family members, the community, love burgeoning in a harsh set of circumstances, a coming of age story, which requires the main character, young Khosi, to grapple firsthand with the realities of the AIDS crisis as she faces her coming of age in the lull between her elders’ optimism (the wave of those fighting for rights, freedom from white control) and the devastating wake of poverty and illness still wracking her people. What was your trajectory to this project, and can you talk about how you arrived at your characters?

 It’s funny you say that. On an invisible level, this is also a love story between me and South Africa!

 I fell in love with South Africa—or at least, the idea of it—over a decade ago, when I first took an African history class and wrote a research paper on the history of missionaries to Africa. I was in my early twenties and I had literally no knowledge about that country. I became intrigued by the missionaries’ good deeds tainted with racism, and from there, I started to learn about Nelson Mandela and apartheid, and from there, I went on to write a master’s thesis on the liberation war in Zimbabwe, which blacks waged against white minority rule in that country. I was fascinated, but it wasn’t until I visited and met South Africans of all kinds—white folks descended from the Dutch and the British, Zulus and Xhosas and Penda, and “Coloured” (mixed race)—that I realized how they were the “salt of the earth.” And they are salty and earthy and lovely, all of them, and the good people are mixed in with the bad people, like you find anywhere, and I fell in love big time. I’ve probably never stayed long enough to get over the honeymoon aspect, though I have experienced loneliness and fear there.

 When I went first in 2006, and stayed with a Zulu family for a time while studying the Zulu language, I knew I wanted to write something. I started to wonder what it would be like to be young, to fall in love, and to be surrounded by a fatal sexually transmitted disease like HIV-AIDS. That was the seed for this novel.

Khosi, my main character, came to me in stages. I first constructed a young woman who was hard-working, respectful to her mother and grandmother, invested in her identity as a “good Zulu girl.” She reminded me of the young women I met while I was there. But as I dug deeper, I knew I was making her too passive, and she needed to be a more active agent of her own destiny and also of the solution to her family’s problems. So Khosi evolved in layers to become more complicated—a little rebellious, a good girl yet willing to stir the waters if need be, smart and courageous and fearful—just like any person is in real life.

The way you’ve positioned your main character in This Thing Called the Future is lovely. Khosi is on the boundary of two ways of life—a child of two generations, like all children I suppose—the one behind her and the one looming before her: the Sangoma tradition and the medical model. She’s pulled one way by her grandmother who takes her often to the Sangoma and recognizes an early gift and propensity for that healing tradition, and pulled another way by her mother, who places more value on the medical model. Can you talk about the Sangoma tradition and the medical model clash as they apply to the AIDS epidemic?

Western medicine is usually not a fan of older, traditional forms of medicine. In most places, when westerners are in power, western medicine seeks to stamp out and destroy the other forms of medicine. Sometimes this happens like it did on the American frontier, by outlawing itinerant, un-credentialed doctors and requiring official degrees from medical schools. Eventually, western medicine trumped all others until recently, when there’s been a revival of so-called “alternative medicine”—e.g., acupuncture.

In colonized countries like South Africa, there was sometimes a varied approach to how this worked. On the one hand, missionaries forbade converts from visiting traditional healers; sometimes laws made these practices illegal; contrarily other laws, and even cultural practices, encouraged it; at the same time, sometimes western medicine was coercive. For example, there were some black women in South Africa in the 1970s that had IUDs inserted against their will and without their knowledge.

Throughout much of the 20th century, practicing as a sangoma (a healer who speaks with her ancestors) was illegal. But practicing as an herbalist (inyanga) was sometimes encouraged in some places, and an Afrikaner once told me that it was partly to be able to point out all the weird practices of Africans to help confirm that they were “inferior.” But at the same time, Afrikaners (white Africans, the descendents of Dutch settlers) who had spent several generations on the frontier away from medical doctors had developed their own herbal & alcoholic remedies to illnesses.

So South Africa is a huge mish-mash of different ideas related to medicine. And you see that everywhere you go. There are all kinds of healers (and charlatans, too, by the way) proliferating in both urban and rural areas. The fascinating thing is that you meet many people in South Africa willing to try non-western medical cures for various ailments. They seem more open to the idea that there is value in different kinds of medical practices.

As far as the clash between medicine and traditional healing: There are doctors absolutely opposed to traditional healing and there are doctors who are working with sangomas and inyangas to treat HIV-AIDS patients. Also, there are academic researchers looking at the medicinal properties of herbal remedies offered by traditional healers, such as the study of ambien tabs 10mg by the University of Missouri. Sangomas use this herb to treat wasting in both cancer and AIDS patients, and 10mg ambien not working.

 Though western medicine at times recognizes value in herbal remedies, there is also anger from traditional healers when their remedies are “stolen”—in effect, when pharmaceutical companies make chemical varieties and reap enormous profits, while the traditional healers don’t benefit at all. It’s a complicated problem because often times, the herbal remedies developed over hundreds of years so no one healer can legitimately patent it. 

To be honest, it’s all a huge mess. But an interesting one.

zolpidem cr genericWhat was your process of accessing an insider understanding of the reality of South Africa’s dilemmas from the culture’s dreams to terrifying details such as necklacing?

I’ve been reading about and doing research on South Africa for over a decade, from my first African history class with ambien 10 mg uso at the University of Texas at El Paso in 1998, then on to two master’s degrees in African History, first studying under zolpidem for sale at the University of Albany and then zolpidem tartrate online uk at Stanford. So I have a strong background in South African history.

 Then I took 3 years of intensive Zulu language study, which included a Fulbright-Hayes to study Zulu in South Africa. During that time, I spent some time with a family in Imbali township, where my story is set. The family I stayed with had two teenage daughters, age 13 & 14, who spent their evenings sitting on my bed and telling me their secrets. That’s how the sugar daddy problem became real to me—when I realized my 13-year-old Zulu sister was dating a man in his thirties, I became very very worried about her.

I returned again in 2008 and in 2009 to do additional research. I spent time with ordinary people and sangomas and aid workers and medical doctors and HIV-AIDS activists. Whoever would talk to me, I’d talk to them. And I tried to understand how things might look for a young girl, 14 years old, growing up in that world.

But I will say that some of those details aren’t insider information—they’re widely known. For example, necklacing (tying a tire around a person’s neck, dousing it in gasoline, then setting it on fire) was a notorious technique used by blacks on all sides during the struggle against apartheid. It was used to punish those who were suspected of being “sell-outs,” that is, blacks who sided with the apartheid government.

Where is the AIDS epidemic heading? How effective do you think attempts to help have been? What is your hope for this book and its reach?

It’s easy to feel hopeless when you consider the enormity of the epidemic and how much money it takes just to give people the anti-retroviral medicines they need. But I have hope. Let’s put it this way. In 2006, my 13 and 14 year old Zulu sisters didn’t want to discuss HIV. When I returned in 2008, I saw that Zilu, the 7-year-old, was marking up her grammar in the backyard and part of the grammar lesson involved facts related to HIV-AIDS. In just 2 years, there was a huge difference in just one family’s apparent willingness to discuss it. I want my book to be part of that.

I’m struck by the way you manage to portray the particulars of sexual violence, pointing to the binding forces of poverty specifically—the impact of dowry costs…families living in separate cities. Are those statistics current, that 1 in 4 men admit to raping a woman? Is there hope for a shift on the horizon with these issues? Where do you see the key to women’s empowerment resting (and for the family as a whole)?

Whoo, hit me with some hard ones. The ambien 10mg price in india has some complicated threads that have led directly to the current situation and I’m not sure it’s possible to explain all those threads in one novel, let alone in one interview. But let’s give it a whirl.

Okay. Deep breath.

First of all, buy ambien from mexico. So that is current. Why are so many men choosing to force themselves on women? I’m not sure but I suspect it’s because they feel disempowered and rape gives them the opportunity to have some control over somebody who is even more powerless than they are. And so the cycle of violence goes on.

Disempowerment of black men and women has been systematic for the past 300 plus years in South Africa. And underobat salep ambien luar, which began in 1948, the government attempted to wrest complete and total control out of the hands of blacks. The educational system, the police system, and governmental systems were all geared towards creating a black underclass that served the white minority in power.

As far as the issues of migrant labor (family members living apart from each other), that is an unfortunate legacy of colonialism (migrant labor, where tax laws were enacted to force black men to leave their families to work in the gold & diamond mines) and then of apartheid (where black families that tried to live together were impoverished and/or harshly penalized, imprisoned, and forced into hard labor). These systems created over the course of 300 years don’t magically disappear when a new government comes into power.

 Nevertheless, things have changed dramatically under democracy—it is now possible for blacks to go to university, to become part of the wealthy elite, to go into politics, etc. But for the vast majority of black South Africans, those goals are still out of their reach.

I think empowerment for black women is still a long time coming, and may only be reached when black men as a general rule feel like they have control of their own lives. But at the same time, I think there are lots of promising signs. For example, last week (March 15, 2011), ambien cr generic release date reported that women in South Africa represented almost 57% of voters, while men represented just over 43%. That suggests women’s voices will be heard in future elections. Women’s Net also reported this month that there’s been an increase of almost 30% in the police force—maybe now they can turn their attention towards sexual violence.

Is there anything you see as part of our web of responsibility, as westerners, to the Khosis of the world?

You know, it turns out, that is a complicated question and a complicated response that I’m not at all sure I can do justice here. Briefly, without getting too much into particulars, I think anybody with power and wealth has enormous responsibility to be kind and generous to people who lack power and wealth. But having said that, I’m concerned about the number of charities who simply perpetuate their own existence long after need has been met, a fact aptly described by ambien generic brand name in her book Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa. I believe in independence, not dependency. Westerners have a long and sordid history of blundering in somewhere to “help,” only to make problems worse. I think we have to be very very careful. But at the same time, yes, it’s important that we extend a hand to help those in need. How to balance all of that is where it gets really complicated. 

You’ll find in many African communities that people there naturally do what they can to help their neighbors in need. What I’d like to see is more support for African-driven charities that mushroom organically from the places in need, and which operate in a sustainable and culturally relevant fashion.

Have you had a response from your South African readers?

The book’s not out until May. But I asked four friends from South Africa to read it and they all loved it. I’m hoping to get a South African publisher for a South African edition.

 Will you return to South Africa?

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!!!!!! I heart heart heart South Africa. If I could tear my husband away from his job and life here in the U.S., I would move there. For years. Maybe for the rest of our lives. For now, I’ll be satisfied with longish research trips of several weeks to several months.

 For now, I’m hoping to go back in 2012 with my husband and child for at least a month or two.

 How long from start did it take you to finish the draft the novel?

 I started this novel in the summer of 2007 and I was finishing final edits in January 2011 right before buy generic ambien online uk, my publishers, went to print! It’s true that I had other projects during that time—for example, I finished a workable draft of another novel during that same time frame, and I worked on lots of shorter pieces—but I was constantly gnawing on This Thing Called the Future throughout the past 3 ½ years.

Any inspirational writers or mentors you encountered along the way to completing this project?

I met some incredibly fascinating people in South Africa that kept me going. ambien sales figures. Now I know that’s partly because of the types of people I’m trying to meet—I’m interviewing people who are involved in non-profit work, sangomas, medical doctors, etc. Nevertheless, it struck me how many people there really, truly, deeply care, just ordinary people who start doing something because they see a need.

For example, S’the Ndlovu. She lives in Imbali township. By any western standards, she is poor. A few years ago, she noticed all the child-headed households in her neighborhood. These children were now taking care of their younger brothers and sisters because their parents had died, often because of AIDS. They were hungry, so on S’the’s limited salary as an HIV-AIDS counselor, she started giving them two meals a day—breakfast and dinner. She did this for years until the number of orphans she was feeding was probably forty or fifty kids. A ambien saleszolpidem tartrate 100mghelped her secure some funding, so now she isn’t paying for it out of her own very limited salary. When I met S’the, I asked her to tell me the story. She is a Christian and she said she had always prayed that her house could be a house of healing. When she saw this need, the hunger of the children in her community, she knew what she had to do. And she did it. I think S’the is a heroine. If you’re interested, the name of her organization is Izimbali Zesizwe (Flowers of the Nation) and if you’re interested in giving, you can do so through an organization in Boston known as ambien cr 12.5 mg half life.

How far along were you in the writing process when your firstborn came along?

Actually, I had long since finished all the major revisions by the time I was a couple months pregnant. But I did do some longish copyedits after my son was born last September.

Can you talk about book promotion with a nursing infant?

OhmyGod, it is both so hard and so much fun! Nesta (born Sept 30, 2010) has been coming with me on book promotion events. Fortunately, he’s an easy-going baby, and even more fortunately, my publishers are willing accomplices to the entire situation. Librarians, teachers, and other writers all seem to love or at least tolerate babies, so it’s been a win-win situation so far. I hope it continues. But at some point, I may have to mark down all the places I’ve nursed him—certainly some weird ones.

At the ALA’s mid-winter conference, I was nursing him in a bathroom stall when a woman came into the stall next to mine and started crying. She sobbed, heart-broken, for probably twenty minutes, while I wondered whether I should speak up or just leave her alone. I left her alone. I thought somebody had died or maybe her husband was divorcing her or something. But we came out at the same time, and while we were washing our hands, she cooed at my baby, and I smiled sympathetically and said, “Hard day?” And she gazed at my baby and kept playing with his fingers and didn’t look at me once while she told me that her cat had died and her teenage daughter was struggling at home because she’d known that cat all her life and all she wanted was to go home, now, and be with her daughter and sob her heart out but instead she had to be in a booth and smile at strangers and pretend that she wasn’t heartbroken while she tried to convince librarians to buy her books. “Seeing the baby helps,” she said.

 I have pets and I know how they’re family members—but I was still relieved that it wasn’t something like her husband cheating on her!

 So there you go! People love babies! He’s an open door wherever I go.

 How do you balance writing and motherhood?

 Ask me in ten years.

 Seriously, though, I’ve been thinking about writing a book about balancing the professional life with full-time motherhood. I am at home with my son full-time, but I’m also a full-time writer and I teach 3 college classes (online) and I do freelance work and I run a small literary press (buy ambien cheapest). It’s hard. I don’t have many models for doing what I’m trying to do. Actually, I have none. I know there are women out there doing what I’m doing, or trying to do, but I haven’t met them. If you’re out there and reading this, please contact me!

When my mother was visiting me, I asked her, “Do you think I’m balancing everything okay and giving my son everything I need?” She told me that we could never be perfect as mothers. When she was a young mother, she used to come into our bedrooms and pray what she called the “gap prayer.” “There is a huge gap between the patience that I have and the patience that Erik (my brother) needs,” she would pray. “And there is a huge gap between the wisdom that I need and the wisdom that Jessica needs. God, please fill in the gaps.”

That is simply beautiful to me. So now I need to start praying the gap prayer. I frankly can’t balance it all. I am not perfect. I am not Superwoman, Supermama, Superwriter. But God can help fill in the gaps.

I’ve become attached to Khosi–I’m so curious to see what she does next and how she’ll navigate the rest of her future. Any plans to write a sequel?

Actually, I do want to write a sequel. But let’s see how this book does first…..

 zolpidem tartrate 10 mg snortambien for sale online cheap is thbuying ambien in canadae author of This Thing Called the Future, forthcoming in May ambien cr generic name. She has a master’s degree in African history from Stanford University and won a Fulbright-Hayes to study Zulu in South Africa. She lives in the Bay Area, California.

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An essay by Elaine Greensmith Jordan

When the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces . . . Peter Pan


 “A cow? You bought a cow?” I’m not really surprised. My sister left California civilization for the simple life on a Michigan farm.

“She’s got that gloomy look—has a white triangle on her face,” Connie says. “I do the milking every morning.”

“I can’t imagine it.” My California kitchen looks shiny, suburban.

We talk for a while, catching up on our lives. By the time I hang up the phone, I feel I’ve been milking that cow myself. Talking with Connie discourages me. Her voice intensifies my grief.

Connie not only has a cow; she has four children. The fact is absurd. She’s two years younger than I and has given birth four times while I’ve been teaching at the high school. Four babies! She raises her brood on a farm, of all things. With her husband and family she’s gone back to the earth like so many others during the Sixties. That too is absurd. We grew up in California, in the suburbs. Absurd or not, I want my sister’s role, mother to adorable children.

My sister wore toy guns in holsters and played cowboy. She liked to climb on to the roof of our house to frighten us. While Mother shouted for her to get down, Connie would wave to us from way up there, a sprite framed in blue sky. Now I imagine her a rural mother who ignores drooling toddlers and crying from the playpen, preferring her cow. I played with dolls when we were young. I should be the one with children. I could do a better job. I’d rush to wipe faces and offer pats. We wouldn’t live on a farm. We’d live near a library and a park, and I’d read to my children every evening.

My husband, Carl, in bell-bottomed trousers, a silky shirt, and long sideburns, comes into the kitchen, and we stand together preparing our breakfast, two tall figures—a flamboyant man smoking a cigarette and a prim schoolteacher holding her porcelain tea cup, a wedding gift. I gaze outside at the backyard, the view as suburban as my kitchen: green lawn with tree. Mattie, our black cat, tiptoes through the dewy grass shaking the droplets off her feet before each step, a dark shadow in a green world.

“Connie’s bought a cow.”

“Oh.” Carl takes a drag on his cigarette. He looks distracted, but I’m not sure how he feels. I can’t talk with him about anything, including my desperation. Our marriage isn’t like that. We’re too politically involved in civil rights (him), too busy reading important books (me). Before we married I rejected the boring men I dated and chose Carl, a man of high ideals. That’s what you do when you’re twenty-one. You choose high ideals. A boring man would look pretty good in this kitchen, I think. Sighing a dramatic sigh, I take a sip of tea from the pretty cup.

While I butter two pieces of toast I imagine Connie’s cow, barns, livestock, the smell of soil. “Want one?” I say. Carl shakes his head and I turn away facing the window again. The cat has disappeared.

We’ve been married for ten years and haven’t had enjoyable sex as we try to create a child. Each effort is mechanical, prompted by a doctor’s program for successful intercourse, whatever that is. I worry that I’m not a good lover, whatever that is. Carl lights another cigarette and snaps the lid of his Zippo lighter. The sound has the crack of the last word, a steely pop. Case closed. Then the screen door slams as he leaves with his coffee mug, headed for work. “Take it easy.” Maybe he’ll be home for dinner or maybe not. I don’t know where he spends time.

It doesn’t occur to me to leave this marriage. In my Sixties universe, women don’t divorce unless they’ve been attacked or find their husbands locked in the arms of a floozy. (We said floozy a lot then.) My options do include a cozier solution, a child who’ll bring warmth and love into our marriage. I’ve been having fertility treatments for months.

Emptiness haunts the spaces at home. I look forward to every teaching day, but when I return to our vacant house in the late afternoon, I suffer a headache. A friend tells me the pain might have something to do with my marriage. She thinks her insight is funny. I prefer to think my miseries are brought on by infertility, a condition easier to understand.

After school I’ll see a gynecologist again. Every healthy woman should be able to get pregnant, and I’m going to an expensive medical specialist who’s been trying to cure me. I trust that Dr. Brighton can find what’s wrong even though he’s started me on pills that leave me weepy. He’s tried painful procedures too—that he’s never explained—like injections into the vagina with a long needle and cauterizing the cervix (an unpleasant procedure with attendant smells) and some others I’ve chosen to forget.  

I rinse my tea cup and make my way along the path through the grass to the car-port. No black cat. No glance from her yellow eyes. When I open the door of the car and raise my foot to get in, I’m startled to see my blue terry slippers instead of the high heels I wore in those days. Slippers keep me in a soft retreat from fertility doctors and Carl’s neglect but will not do for the classroom, so I retrace my steps to the house, regretting having to return to a lonely place.

Driving to the doctor’s office after the close of school, I cry at the sight of my dreary face in the rear-view mirror. Thinking of my sister suckling a baby—or milking a cow, for God’s sake—makes me cry too. When I look back at those times, I see myself weeping in every setting: our empty house, in bed, fixing meals and the privacy of a car.

The brick medical offices are set back on grounds landscaped with red and pink camellia bushes. Only trained gardeners can grow camellias, Mother likes to say, so I choose to believe that the doctors in this blooming complex are trustworthy, though I’m not comfortable with Dr. Brighton. He seems to look through me, as if he’s heard my story many times and it bores him.

In the windowless waiting room, with its trailing spider-plant on a stand, I join a phalanx of silent barren women. (The word barren, used commonly in those days, described women who weren’t fully human, hadn’t fulfilled their role assigned by God.) The whisper of turning magazine pages breaks the quiet until giggles come from the staff behind the office petition. I know they’re laughing at us. Though I’d not become heavy with child I was nursing an oversized paranoia. I wish now I’d spoken to the other women, said some silly thing.

Dr. Brighton sits at his desk in front of an expanse of plate-glass. Why the waiting room had been denied windows and a huge one is reserved for this office strikes me as odd—not demeaning, just odd. An afternoon glare behind the powerful man puts his body in shadow. He doesn’t get up or welcome me but sits tilted back in his chair, nearly touching the glass, his arms behind his head. Even though I can’t see his face because of the gleam of sunlight, I sense an annoying cheeriness in him.

“How’s it going?” he asks.

“I’ve been crying a lot. I’m not pregnant.” I try to breathe. “What’s in these pills? Why does it make me so tired?” The tears come and I look away. “Some odd hair is growing on my—”   

With a squeak of his chair the doctor’s body comes forward out of the shadow. “Your clitoris should have enlarged. Wasn’t that a bonus?”

I hate Doctor Brighton. That my medical professional, a healer for God’s sake, could reduce the pain of being unable to conceive a child to the size of a clitoris feels wounding, as if I’ve been gored by knives. He’s Vlad the Impaler, a torturer. He doesn’t care or understand. Stunned as if smacked into awareness, I sit straight, awakened to new visions in the room. Shadow Man looks like a leering Jack Nicholson, and I turn from Cringing Child to Wolf-Woman. I’ll use my fangs and rip out his throat. The good doctor will fall back through the window leaving a mutilated corpse for his giggly secretary to find in the morning.

But mayhem doesn’t suit. Lady schoolteachers don’t murder people.

Saying nothing, I exit the office, slip past the secretary’s desk and rush to my car, wishing I’d been able to castrate the creep in the chair. Furious with my helplessness, I sit in the car unable to drive, sobbing. I’ll never submit again to an arrogant doctor. I’ll never have another infertility treatment. I’ll never get pregnant.

The drive away from the office is lost in memories of that day. There must have been California sunlight, camellias, houses and black cats, but I doubt if there were pastures or cows. Case closed.

Except the case hasn’t closed for me. I wish for another ending—that I’d had the courage to fight for myself and my wounded spirit hurt by insult. Since then, my fury has burned away grief, and I’ve turned that anger on narrow values of that time and the prevailing stupidities that I bought into. I was so influenced by popular thinking that I let myself be trapped by middle-class values—family values—imposed by the church and the media. “Ozzie and Harriet” was a television show I liked to make fun of, but I bought the whole package, the view of women as valuable only as mothersHarr. I couldn’t consider divorce? I wanted a baby to save my empty marriage? I was not the free thinker I thought I was.

We who are infertile are no longer thought of as inferior to fertile women, but the case is not closed. I wish it were.

***Note:  The Doctor’s name has been changed for his protection.

After a career in teaching and ministry, Elaine Greensmith Jordan now lives in Prescott, Arizona, writing personal essays to sort out the chaos. Her awards include the Nonfiction Prize from the Preservation Foundation and the Florida State Writing Competition. Her essays have appeared in South Loop Review, Alligator Juniper, Passages, The Georgetown Review, and other journals and anthologies. One has been nominated for a Pushcart by Arizona Authors. Excerpts from her unpublished memoir, Mrs. Ogg played the Harp: A Clergywoman’s Desert Odyssey, have won awards from the San Francisco branch of American PEN Women, Bayou Magazine, and the California Writers Club.

Check out Elaine Jordan’s interview with Jessica Powers, “generic ambien pill identifier.”

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Flash Fiction by Candice Baxter

I board the city bus for a ride to my job interview, since that sorry son of bitch wrecked my car and my credit and my master plan.  He ran off with a Russian stripper, said she made him feel alive.  Across from me a wiry, black woman in a red tank top sits breastfeeding her child-with no cover.  I want to declare she needs to put that thing away in public.  Though I know the baby is quiet and nursing and if interrupted from its meal, it will scream out in ear wrenching cries for more until its stop or my stop, whichever comes first.  The mother’s skin will stretch tout with hundreds of pea shaped milk deposits, unless she can release the pressure of the pure intention of breasts in the first place.  Before they were plastered as sexual attachments of women’s bodies, bared on movies and late night infomercials covered with CENSORED, for men like the creep hanging onto the rail above me to watch, to ogle, to lust after plump ones and perky ones and round ones-when breasts were not even created for the man but for the child.  If used for what they were created for, prolonging creation, they are no longer plump or perky or round. 

Babies draw life from their mothers.  They suck from raw nipples, cracking like chapped lips under perpetual friction, leaking and dripping at the cry of any baby, soaking a mother’s front with milk.  Milk streams down into the under-fold, beading along with the other dripping beads of milk as it gathers in the reservoir of the mother’s belly button, the hole marking her own creation, until the baby can relieve the stretching pressure and suckle once again.  The mother cannot give any more of herself, for the child to suck the nutrients out of her.  I try not to watch.  Where her other nipple falls, a wet spot grows.  Her loose apron flap of midriff skin jiggles when we hit a bump. She switches. 

I keep quiet, turn my head.  I am riding the city bus.  I cannot yell for the woman to put that thing away in public.  The baby cannot cry the hungry cry.  After that sorry son of a bitch wrecked my life, I bought a newspaper and some pantyhose and left my baby at home with my sister.  I borrowed her powder blue suit so I would look innocent like the white pearls around my neck.  Even with a thin bra and sheer button down, the jacket barely closes.  

The baby whimpers.  I try not to feel the tiny eggs breaking inside my shirt. 

Candice Baxter is a creative nonfiction MFA candidate at the University of Memphis, currently writing a memoir of her teenage pregnancy in a small Southern town deep in the heart of the Bible belt. She has published work in The Missouri Review, South Carolina Review, and Photosynthesis.

Please read Editor Jessica Powers’s interview with Candice Baxter, street price for ambien crNovember 17, 2010 by Jessica Powers

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Poems by Timothy Black

Missing an Umbilical

I am under water, and my son
is underwater. His hair floats like snakes,
like a tombed medusa’s. The plunge in
erased air from every inch of him.
He tilts back, under the water, and he floats
with his belly to the bright sky. I think,
This is amazing. He looks just like an embryo.
I want to reach out and touch him,
feel his skin wrapped in water
to make sure he’s real and still mine.
His father could come at any time.
Could plunge his hand
beneath the surface and grab
for his hair, grab a handful of snakes.
My son pushes off the bottom
and breaks the surface before me.
I stay submerged,
imagining a world without him.

Cancer Sex

 On most nights we lay there
swaddled in doubt,
but not delusions.
The dark
would press in at us,
or float at the end of day
like a question mark.
On most
nights, need would still be counted
as need, met only with the clasp
of sweaty hands. I
with my penis
and she with vagina and clit
we would lie, trying to ignore
marriage’s only real mandate.
On other nights
we would cover up with quilts
and ignore the fueling
locomotive with its black,
thick smoke and iron
wanting to be released
from its sooty black birth.
I would kiss her then,
and she would kiss back-
becoming more than cancer,
at long last mindless and carnal.
At the end I would always
withdraw. Terrified
of pumping
sickness into
my barren wife.



Timothy Black’s first poetic novella, Connecticut Shade, is in its second printing through WSC Press. He teaches poetry at Wayne State College, and is a ambien pi. He lives in Wakefield, Nebraska with his wife and two sons.

Timothy’s work has appeared in the anthologies The Logan House Anthology of 21st Century American Poetry, The Great American Roadshow, and Words Like Rain. He has been published in The Platte Valley Review and at bringtheink.com, has poems forthcoming in Breadcrumb Scabs, 73 ambienand ambien artand has won an Academy of American Poets prize for his poem “Heavy Freight.”

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