16

December 2023

“When the lion gobbles up the lamb and wipes his lips, then there's peace. Well, I ain’t for that peace at all.” -- Abbie Hoffman


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JEREMY TENENBAUM, FOUNDING EDITORwith ALEC CALDER JOHNSSON, ALYSSA SHEA, ARIA BRASWELL, DANIEL DIFRANCO, DEMREE MCGHEE, EMILY ZIDO, GABRIELLE DECKER, KAILEY TEDESCO, ROSANNE LEE BYRNES, AND WARREN LONGMIRE

WITH ADDITIONAL GLORY VIA BETSY HERBERT, BRENNA DINON, BRITNY PERILLI, KELLY RALABATE, NICK PERILLI, AND VICTORIA MIER

PLUS FIONNA FARRELL, Director of Intern-al Affairs


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From PHILADELPHIA, the WORDSHOP of the WORLD


Cover Image: Fernand Khnopff, Un masque, 1899


Aïcha Martine Thiam
Four Poems


“small-scale exit interview”


“midnight baking”


“Fugue V: Surface Work”


“say goodbye before you leave”


Carol Everett Adams
Two Poems


“The Ditch Trail”

is not a ditch at all, and why the locals call
it that is beyond me. Beyond me is a sky
that stretches from the Viewline to mountains
I don’t know. I should know, I should know how
to stand still for the deer. What is a group of deer called?
All they said is how they ran from us,
not knowing the road name, the names of trees
or mountains, how they wanted the walk too,
but we were noise that had forgotten
how to call things. One quick word we shared,
that deer and I, shocked at the name of the trail,
wondering who built the mansions above, who looks from them
deep into the name of a tree where I’ve lived
and loved, bark smooth and white as a pillar,
with eyes that watch for deer and see where no one walks,
ringing little green bells in the breeze.


“Your Arm And I Stayed At The Viewline Resort”

Your arm unfolded on the bed
like a summer chairlift,
empty benches marching
up the slope beside us,
and in I climbed, in I climbed,
sailed the ridgeline on a mountain coaster.
Your arm was a harness -- no,
a net in case I missed the jump.
Your arm was the handle of a case I carry.
Your arm was a lift to the outside lounge,
and a door I struggled to slide
when the wind kicked up. What was your arm
but a boulder on the river
where the water poured through,
hollow carved just for me.


Angela Townsend
“The Atrium And The Artery”


I saw Iggy Pop on the Greentown Bypass. I can’t tell you what the venerable Stooge was doing in the hygienic heart of suburbia, but you can’t tell me I got him wrong.He was there, his vermicelli hair in a knot. He strode with purpose, and he smiled in my eyes. Iggy Pop is gentler than he seems, and the joke is on everyone who assumes that vinegar and chamomile can’t share the same mug.I can tell you that I saw Iggy Pop on the Greentown Bypass, because my juices flow up and down this artery. Restless and loose, I am the huntress in a homebody husk. The Bypass is your fastest route to Target, as ordinary as a pocket T-shirt. But you can clench and unclench your fist the entire way, pumping blood like a brake until your cheeks are pink again.I married a bruise who told me I did not see Iggy Pop on the Greentown Bypass. I was too reckless with pinks and purples, a rolling epiphany bleeding out in all directions. He applied pressure to my carotid. He cauterized my strange stories. I picked off the scabs and got in the car.You can take the Greentown Bypass to a church that capitalizes itself. They will promise you bread and blood. They will promise to stent your promises. I detoured and devoted myself. I would tie us back together like fallen wires.The bruise did not believe in much, but if my foolchild heart needed a church, this was the one he would accept. I bent my arteries into new acronyms, RCIA and CCC and SDG and JMJ. I would transplant my Protestant past into the herb garden. I would braid my capillaries into saints’ fine hair. I would drink the wine and stop the bleeding.I would be the Little Flower, pale and tubercular. Her last petal fell at twenty-four. All mercy, no thorns, she would be my model: "At last I have found my vocation; my vocation is love!" I would be small, the bigger person, the little way to save the ending.I would be Francis de Sales, peace in an inkwell. The bruise was too busy for my writing, "flowery language," "not normal," "too much." I would be anxious for nothing, cramming paragraphs in trunks and ventricles. I would write in blood and prayer, invisible ink to mend our story.I would be Catherine of Siena, palatable power. She entered the atrium, spouting truth to popes. She was a doctor of the Church who could not read the Gospel before men. She starved herself to death on the bread of angels. I would speak power over self-indulgence. I would keep my "showy third-level words" to myself. The bruise would heal.I would be the mascot, my former-seminarian scalp on the altar. I had once planned to be a pastor, purple and Presbyterian. I would give my last drop to remain a wife. I would give my testimony before five hundred Catholics. I would tell them all the ways I had been wrong. I would thank the saints and angels and my husband. The bruise would film it on his phone and show his parents. My mother refused to watch.I saw gold dust on the Greentown Bypass, piling like anthills as I drove to daily Mass. Old Italian men asked my name and pretended I was holy. I picked up angel feathers but found out they were wild geese. I invented rebel prayers between beads of sweat.The bruise reminded me that God is not really involved in our lives, but I had chosen well to convert to the Church of his childhood. I ran errands, gulps of salvation by way of ShopRite and CVS. I ran yellows. The bruise grew webby. I became anemic.You can take the Greentown Bypass to the emergency room, or you can keep driving until the sky turns violet. I stretched my veiny arms and gathered wildflowers. I sang childhood hymns, "Thomas Kinkade set to music," "evangelical pap," "comfort stuff," and tucked daisies behind my ears. I swore like Job and bought honeysuckle lotion. Ravens airlifted bread and roses. I got back on the artery.You can take detours into the night, or you can find the direct route into day. The morning mug may roil with wine and crumbs and fear.I saw Dorothy Day on the Greentown Bypass, forty years dead and unafraid. My uncanonized sister stared me in the eyes. I was another hobo on her breadline.I can’t tell you what Dorothy, Catholic to her molecules, was doing comforting a theological half-breed in a Subaru, but you can’t tell me I got her wrong. She was there, in calico and hot blood. I was another sacred knot with a hemorrhagic heart. I was permitted to play with God and sing with stooges.I would not die if I went free.You can take the Greentown Bypass home, where saints and simpletons rejoice that you are abnormal. You can ride right through the ridiculous, tearing off hunks of epiphany and dunking them in wine. You can convert and deconvert daily, pumping blood and revelation. You can be a gaudy flower. You can open your fist and find sanctuary. There is virtue in your ventricles.



Sam Anders
Four True Spy Stories


“The Cockroach”

My father held up a blue Pan Am carry-on bag."We’ll put this on your back," he said. "You can be like one of the astronauts that landed on the moon." He hitched it over my shoulders, then turned and along with my mother, schlepping my three-month-old baby brother, stampeded off through the Nairobi airport, headed to our new life in Paris.At nine, I was a short, skinny, whisp of a kid, and the weight of the bag exceeded my own. I took a couple of steps, then fell flat on my back, my legs flailing in the air, like one of those cockroaches that frequented my nights in warmer countries. I lay there cursing creatively, having learned from the best, my father, an ex-officer in the Navy. A pair of nuns offered to help. When my father finally saw I was missing and returned to find me with the Catholic sisters dressed in their habits and wimples, he guffawed. I don’t know if he was laughing at the sight of us or the absurdity of life, fleeing a country, family in tow, to escape Kenyan arrest for espionage and an African jail.


“Mango Diplomacy”

"Don’t push it, unless you like jail." I turned to my West African colleague. Our "principal" had just disappeared into a small room, alone with the president of the country. His interpreter had barred my entry."Go to jail, really? Seems extreme." I tossed my head.Grabbing my elbow, the deputy spokesperson steered me towards the banquet. "This is a dictatorship, and you have no rights." He knew -- it was his country.I relented. "I’m starving anyway."I had just started to eat when I was interrupted "Sam, you’re needed at the head table." Perched between my boss and the president, I gazed longingly at my client’s mango and wondered why I’d been summoned since they were not talking."You like mango?" my boss inquired."Yes."He asked the waiter for a second piece and then pushed his plate toward me. "Please, have some." Uncomfortable, I chastised myself for my honesty while my tongue savored the smooth texture and juicy sweetness of the tropics.At an official event the next day, the dictator-president greeted me effusively with a hug. I wondered at the change. A skilled diplomat, my boss had demonstrated his trust in me with the mango.


“My Father’s Secret”

My hand smoothed the jade velvet of the chair’s arm as my gaze flickered up to my father’s face, waiting for him to speak. I thought about the French word patienter. To wait, to exercise patience -- not my strong suit.I began to swing my legs back and forth. As I watched this motion, I could hear Dad’s voice in my head:"Sam, turn off your motor, please.""Your mother says you seem worried and been asking questions." He paused.Since our arrival in Paris, Dad had not been going to work in an office. "Well, about money..." I must be in trouble -- summoned to the living room, after all."Promise me, Pumpkin, that what I am about to tell you will be a secret just in our family."Then he told me.He droned on and on, at turtle speed, using lots of boring words. A few I recognized but didn’t understand. At age ten, I didn’t know about the Cold War.And then my mind cut through. As if by magic, I knew what he was trying to hide."So, you’re a spy?"His blue eyes flashed briefly, and he took a deep breath.


“My Mother’s Gift”

I did not learn to read in school. Upon our arrival in Nairobi, there were no first-grade spots open -- it was on a red-tiled veranda under the African sun that my mother taught me.When Dad was away, we loved breaking house rules and reading at the table. Many a meal saw Mom sitting at the table with a paperback, like James Michener’s Hawaii, propped up in front of her plate, and I at the other end, nose plunged into the latest Nancy Drew.It was advice that was her greatest gift. "Books are your best friends. They are always there when you need them and never let you down."Her words often echoed in my mind as we waited in airports around the world or when my father needed to "stop by the office for a minute," leaving us to sit in the CIA parking lot for hours, unable to enter the building, much less ask for his whereabouts.


Stephen Ives
“Wildfire”


I.

Naomi shoved the spade into the dry, hard-packed clay, angry that Javier Jones, the National Book Award finalist, had talked her into hand-digging underneath his house, at least until the permit cleared for his proposed archival building. A single, bare light bulb cast weak shadows in the dusty air, obscuring Javier as he silently hacked the ground beside her. Javier may have been a famous writer, but Naomi had a degree in architecture, and she'd designed and built several high-end homes and dozens of remodels. Because they'd only just met, he probably didn't know she also played piano in a jazz quartet and that her latest original composition debuted last Friday at the Jazz Station.Javier had charmed her by suggesting they excavate under his house in the way someone else might suggest a drink. Intrigued and annoyed, mostly with herself, Naomi inhaled the same dust and shoveled the same dirt, standing six inches from the shoulder of a man apparently brooding about his next book.Their shovels clanged the side of the metal wheelbarrow. Once it filled they alternated rolling it out the basement door, dumping it down the hillside. She was tired of being a rarity, that female contractor who not only endured a test or an initiation but, more often than not, a comment about her looks.She resolved that today was her last day of digging. Javier could find a laborer to excavate under his house. He could find another contractor to build his archival building. She had plenty of work. All she wanted was to go home, soak her blistered hands, play her piano, and reclaim her space. The only benefit of being underneath Javier's house was that Patrick was hauling away his Les Paul Gibson, his Fenders, his BarcaLounger, and his duffel bag stuffed with dirty clothes, and she didn't have to be there to witness it.Physical labor didn't scare her, if she could see the point of it. In this case she had to guess the reason because Javier Jones was practicing a silent, digging-meditation. Wordlessly they relocated his three mountain bikes, cross-country skis, and a plywood armoire containing wet suits, fins, and regulators. She wondered, Why was he spending this kind of time with her? With anyone? Surely he had more important things to do. This wasn't the man she saw interviewed on Bill Moyers a week ago, a man so skilled with a pen, it seemed inconceivable he would even consider laboring with a shovel.Still, the silence allowed her the space to reconsider everything Patrick. She'd cried when she realized it was finally over. Losing a relationship hurt more at thirty-six than it should. Now, other than her music, she had no long-term prospects.On the third day under the house, as if sensing her struggle, Javier brought her French press coffee after lunch. The permit for the archival building still hadn't cleared. His kindness tempted her to ask what they were digging for. Buried treasure? His misplaced ego? The man, although ruggedly handsome, was a walking coma. She knew musicians who bragged with their sound (Patrick was one), but Javier bragged with his silence.Maybe digging was an excuse for him to spend time with her. Anything was possible. He wasn't like most men she knew, men who pretended to be complex but were, in fact, transparently simple. Naomi wasn't like the three U of O coeds who'd just dropped by unexpectedly. They asked her if Javier Jones lived there. She told them he was making her coffee. Then she watched Javier spend fifteen minutes autographing copies of his books and smiling for the obligatory selfies.Initially, when they first discussed a contract for his archival building, Javier had inquired only about her availability, not her expertise. She'd been recommended by a friend, and that was good enough for Javier. With her crew currently framing a six-bedroom custom at a winery in Monroe, she was the only carpenter available. If she'd known that Javier's project involved four days with a spade instead of a hammer, she would have politely declined, even though her labor rate was the same.They jabbed the hard earth shoulder to shoulder, the ground protected from outside moisture for eighty years. Finally he admitted he was making work, waiting for the permit, because he didn't want her to leapfrog another project before his. He added that physical labor was also therapeutic. It was a way to clear his head, he said, subtly implying that maybe she needed to clear hers.Which was true but he couldn't possibly know about Patrick. She should have walked away because she wasn't a laborer; she owned her own design-build company. It was mildly insulting for him to assume she would be willing to dig, no matter who he was.Instead of starting another project, she would have spent her down time at the piano, not abusing her hands in a virtual cave. The main benefit of being underneath Javier's house was not witnessing Patrick's slow-motion exit. A talented musician but a lazy boyfriend, she enjoyed making music with him, but after a year of contributing little money, staying out late, and still having a thing for that vocalist in Portland, she'd asked him to leave.His fingers were fast but he failed to maintain a clean space between notes, no matter the tempo. He seldom cleared the kitchen or hung his clothes in the closet that she'd emptied out for him. She'd grown tired of making tiny requests that were largely ignored.She owned a business and she paid the mortgage. Unlike Javier, Patrick would never dig hard-packed ground. He'd never use repetitive labor as a form of meditation because to him, meditation was no different than sleeping.When the coeds left Javier handed her a mug of coffee and sat beside her on the log bench. He scrolled through photos on his smartphone. He leaned closer to show a paused video of a caribou herd, their collective breath steaming in the low arctic sunlight.Naomi sipped her coffee. "Impressive."Javier rotated his phone and, using two fingers, he expanded the shot. "See that smudge in the corner?"She squinted. Javier scooted closer. She detected a scent of mint, or was it citrus? "Upper left."Their shoulders almost touched. "Okay?""I'd just woken up," Javier said, "when the whole scene unfolded before me."Javier propped his hand on the seat for balance and leaned closer. Naomi, already at the end of the bench with nowhere to go, felt his touch on the side of her leg, and she realized that she'd no longer have Patrick's skin pressed against her in bed, listening to him go on about another obscure musician, a new fantasy novel, or dreaded politics.She blushed when Javier explained that the gray patch was a pack of wolves stalking the caribou, the beginning conversation of death. He pushed play. She watched the video but she also watched herself from across the garden, witnessing her helplessness because Javier was suddenly as big as Buck Mulligan standing at the stairhead in the opening scene of Ulysses. Would it be silly, right now, to tell him she believed Casablanca was sappy, Shakespeare in Love outstanding, that Mozart trumped Beethoven, and she didn't know a single person who liked butterscotch?It had to be accidental, his touch, warm against the leg of her jeans. She noted her truck in her periphery, a potential escape. She froze in the face of this deliciously uncomfortable rogue wave, knowing that once it broke, it had the potential to wash away the detritus of all that was Patrick.Javier narrated the video with the same intensity as his prose, although she was already lost in the yellow flecks of his brown eyes, the black circle around his iris. He looked skyward, as if the adjective he wanted was a bird that had just made an exotic call.He laughed at something -- she was no longer tracking what he said -- then he placed his hand on her knee. Paralyzed in self-awareness, she resented this naturalness, his ease, the guts to touch her in the absolute right spot. A centimeter higher and she'd have to shove him away quickly. Any lower and he'd be her mid-century orthopedic surgeon examining her overused runner's knee.Worse, she not only felt these things, she watched herself feeling them. She judged herself for being confused. A talented intellectual had just made her coffee, then he willingly pulled her into his circle of enthusiasm. He touched her. What was she supposed to do?She abruptly stood. She calmly announced that at the end of the day, she was done digging. He looked pleasantly amused. All right, he said, he was done too. The rest of the afternoon passed in a charged silence. Then, as she drove through Vida on her way home, she felt ridiculous for taking so long to set a boundary. At Deerhorn she reminded herself to be compassionate, starting with herself. Cresting the long hill before Thurston, smoke from a nearby grass fire drifted across the highway, and she forgave her temporary confusion because the pain of Patrick leaving was still fresh.Back home she went for a run, took a long shower, and cleaned the house, purging all evidence of Patrick. She hid their demo discs in a drawer under her sketchbook. She started on a new composition, working well past midnight, and her blisters inspired minor chords that balanced the foolish melody of Javier's eyes. How could she possibly be attracted? He was married, although his wife apparently lived in Italy. He was fifteen years older. It wasn't a crime to feel alive in someone's presence. There was nothing wrong with feeling alive. Using her sleeve, she wiped a tear from her cheek because there was no sense getting the piano keys wet.


II.

A month later Naomi finished the framing of Javier's archival building. The roof was dried-in and it could rain whenever it wanted, although for the past week there had been a smoke intrusion from a lightning strike in the Cascades. Uncharacteristically, Javier shared with her that he was nervous about the upcoming award ceremony. He said the building looked great, but his acceptance speech, on the off chance he won, was going nowhere.That night he knocked on Naomi's front door. She was speechless because she hadn't told him where she lived. She'd been struggling at the piano with a draft of her under-house-Javier composition. She seldom shared a work in progress except with other musicians, but apparently Javier had been standing outside her door for ten minutes. He said he was impressed with her sound.Her hair still damp from the shower, she invited him inside. She had no idea why he appeared on her doorstep the night before he was to fly to LA. With a tiny sparkle in his eye, Javier handed her a bottle of Portuguese wine, and despite her month-long vow of abstinence after Patrick left, she filled two goblets. They looked into each other's eyes and clinked glasses. After an awkward silence she offered to heat up a frozen pizza."Is your wife attending the award ceremony?" she asked, slipping the pizza in the oven. When he didn't reply right away, she was certain she'd overstepped a boundary. But Javier often delayed a response, like a chess player planning four moves ahead. He'd never once spoken his wife's name in Naomi's presence."She's in Lake Como, north of Milan, giving a master class in oils."His little geography lesson put her off. Naomi had been to Lake Como when she was young. She knew exactly where it was. She debated telling him her mother had been a concert pianist and played in Europe during much of Naomi's childhood. She died in a car accident outside Barcelona when Naomi was twelve."I have a confession." Javier emptied his wine glass and reached for the bottle. "My plane doesn't leave tomorrow. It leaves the day after. I came into town to use the U of O research library, to prepare something, in case I win."Naomi tipped her head. She suspected he'd been drinking before he knocked on her door. She disappeared into her bedroom, and a moment later she returned with her twelve-pound dictionary. She clunked it on the table as a joke. "Here. Maybe this will save you gas driving back and forth to the library." When Javier caressed the cover of the dictionary, she added, "I'm considering taking tomorrow off myself."Javier opened the dictionary to the Js.She topped off their glasses. "Because my current client asks me the same 'aren't-you-done-yet' question day after day. I think I need a break."Javier smiled. She took her wine to the piano and began to play, the sound of the baby grand filling the room. With his palm on the dictionary, Javier closed his eyes and listened. So far she'd agreed to nearly everything he'd asked because he was confident, successful, famous, and had brown eyes that made her believe there were benefits beyond the obvious. But now, in her house, she was setting the tone.They spent the night and the entire next day together, shattering her number-one rule about not getting involved with a client. She didn't care. She was utterly lost in an ocean of feeling, adrift in the winds of Javier's personality.In the end he didn't write a single word of his speech. He flew to LA and won anyway. She was the first person he called. He said she must be good luck. After a whirlwind weekend in LA, she didn't know what to expect when he returned. Anxious to see him, she cut and fastened cedar shingles on the exterior of the archival building. He spent hours on the phone, answering wave after wave of congratulations. His agent seized the moment, arranging last-minute speaking dates and book signings. Javier spent a week of nights with her, always at her place, before embarking on his celebration tour.In his absence she added a curved bay window on the back side of the archival building. She used a reclaimed sash from Bring Recycling, knowing the entire side job was completely outside her contract. Then, prior to paneling the interior with faded barnwood, in the stud bays she hid the cork from their first wine bottle, a menu from their dinner at the Excelsior, ticket stubs from the 10 p.m. showing of the latest Bond movie, plus copies of the two handwritten letters he'd left on her piano.Javier had wanted a simple rectangular building, something modest that wouldn't compete with the work it housed, but she couldn't help herself. It wasn't in her DNA to design and build a structure with only four corners. A box that looked like a chicken shed. The structure needed something more, an expression of feeling, because without it, only the left hand was touching the keyboard, begging for a melody.When he returned from his tour, he was so busy with admirers he didn't view the building for two days. And when he finally did, his response to her bay-window improvisation made her feel she'd left evidence, a sexy curve in an otherwise flat plane, for all to see. Especially his wife, if she ever came home.His awkward silence made it clear she'd gone too far, letting her excitement show. He was married. Whether it was an open marriage or not he never said. She couldn't have misread his intentions, could she? The passion, the intimate humor would have been obvious to anyone looking in from the outside. She was about to offer to remove it, at her own expense, when his smartphone interrupted and his frown vanished. He turned his back, answered the call enthusiastically, and walked back to the main house.Inspired by this post-award love, Javier arranged a return to the arctic. He told her that precious little summer remained in the far north, and now he knew the path his next book would take. Naomi planned a send-off dinner of grilled Alaskan salmon, and in a weak moment she bought satin sheets at Bed Bath & Beyond. Javier called a half hour before dinner, when her hands were covered in marinade. His plans had changed, he told her. He was now taking a charter out of Portland. He had to leave immediately. They'd have their dinner in two weeks, he promised. Plus he hoped his building would be complete when he returned.The endorphin lights in her chest suddenly became tiny black holes. A weight gathered behind her eyes. For over a month she'd felt internally aligned, driving back and forth on the winding McKenzie River Highway, walking the curved path to the archival building site coated in sawdust, laughing with Javier. Now she felt a numbing separation, distance from those moments when the two of them had playfully functioned as one. The knocking headboard, the spilled wine, the edge of her queen bed.He texted her from Nome. Because of favorable weather he was extending his trip another week. Instead of coming back to see her, to see his building, he'd be detouring to New York instead. She texted back that it sucked to be used but she didn't press send. She googled Javier's wife's master class. The end of her master class in Italy aligned with Javier's dates in New York. Her name was Fiona Jones. In the picture on her webpage, she looked like a 1970s English teacher.Naomi purchased Javier's latest book of stories. She drank more wine than she should, searching his pages for a character that resembled her. Javier's prose now seemed flat and toneless. It demanded the reader contribute to the meaning, participate in his metaphors. Either his language was overly obscure, or he was too lazy to explain himself.After three weeks without a call, email, or text, she drove back up river, passing three fire trucks headed the other way. On the curved desktop, fabricated from chinquapin she felled and milled herself, the vase of wild irises, now dead, weighed down her final invoice.


III.

In late September the Holiday Farm fire scorched thirty miles of the McKenzie River Valley. Roaring west from Blue River, it consumed Finn Rock and parts of Vida. Eight hundred structures had burned. Contractors were suddenly in high demand. Naomi drove up river to meet potential clients who'd lost their house. She'd left an hour early because the usual landmarks and waypoints had disappeared. All that remained were masonry and stone chimneys, grave markers on the charred landscape.The monochrome background reminded her of the fullness she once felt driving the same road to Javier's. Knowing she would see him, the anticipation in her chest was as tight as a drum, her effort to control her hope as effective as a bare hand over a geyser hole. The ruined landscape had the opposite effect of what she expected. She hoped for confirmation that she was better off without him, that she was stronger, more determined about her music and less apologetic about being a female builder. But because there had been the possibility that her life would change dramatically, she was helpless to resist that she might have fallen in love.She was early for her meeting. Her father told her to never be late, especially for an initial interview. The mile markers had melted, vanished along with the trees and the houses. She hadn't realized it but she was actually close to Javier's. She had no idea if the fire had burned his house or her archival building.Her phone rang. Javier's name appeared on the screen. There was her answer. Absurdly she imagined that by bringing a bottle of wine to her house, he was the one who set fire to the valley. The scorched landscape was his fault. He must have driven by and seen her truck parked on the side of the road. Angry that he hadn't called sooner, she was desperately curious why he hadn't."Javier?""I know it's been a while since we talked."She knew the exact number of days. "It's been about three months," she replied tonelessly, like the thump of a dresser drawer or a turn signal clicking off."You know about the Holiday Farm Fire?"She said nothing. No, ever since you ghosted me, I've been living in a cave. Even in a cave I would have seen the massive clouds of smoke in the east. My car had been packed. My neighbor's cars were packed. Everyone I knew had been ready to evacuate the moment the alert squealed on our cell phones. Fortunately for us, but not for you, the fire stopped two miles from the urban growth boundary.She asked, "Did you lose anything?""Wildland firefighters saved the house but my archival building burned."Our archival building."I'm sorry," she said, because she was. She wanted to hold on to her anger and pain, but that was temporarily overcome by her auto-compassion, a vestigial response of her upbringing. Plus the building meant something to her, the icons in the stud bays behind the insulation, the tiny Lego piano he'd given her, the first digital tape she'd made for him. Feathers from the dead crow she'd found at the entrance to his driveway.When he didn't elaborate she imagined it was painful for him. "What did you lose?" she asked."Ninety original journals." Javier sounded out of breath. "Years of correspondence. The National Book Award. Other awards. Half of the draft of my newest book. My 1968 Selectric.""You actually wrote out there?""I used the curved table you built."Table? She fought the comparison of losses because Javier had always been bigger, taller, and more important. He was a titan in the publishing world. She worked as a contractor to support her passion for music.Javier cleared his throat. "I know the circumstances are awkward, rekindling our acquaintance in this way."Acquaintance? She remembered being acquainted with the feel of his skin, the view of him in the morning walking naked to the bathroom, holding in his little pot belly in case she was awake and watching. Was it a good thing the fire vaporized the evidence of their acquaintanceship? That future biographer Javier always fantasized about, he might uncover confirmation of Javier's affair with his female builder. That might damage the façade of a marriage with his oil-painter wife, Fiona, a name Naomi never heard him utter the entire time they were together."My insurance company needs you to fill out forms for the claim. I will, of course, pay you for your time.""Are you home now?""No. I'm in New York."She pressed end and tossed the phone on the passenger seat. She lowered her window and took a deep breath. Her heart was beating wildly. A truck carrying charred logs rumbled past.She drove five miles farther, missed Javier's driveway, backed up, and then pulled up to his scorched house. She parked, got out, and slammed her door. At the bend in the path leading to the archival building, she carefully stepped over a charred log. When she looked up, only the foundation remained. Closer to the river a lone cedar stood unscathed save for a few singed branches, the only color in a gray landscape. The fire had burned so hot, the demolition phase of the building would consist of sweeping the feathery ashes from the tops of the pier pads with a broom.The body of Javier's work was gone, as was the evidence of their relationship, behind walls that failed to resist the intense heat. Had he hurt her badly enough for her to want to hurt him? Definitely. But not like this. She wouldn't burn his life's work; she wouldn't burn a single page of a single manuscript. At the same time, what she'd hidden in the walls, and his work, now shared a common pile of ash.She walked back to her truck. She'd believed he'd wanted her and not just the temporary body of an affair. In the reflection of her driver's window, she hated her hair, tied in a bun, Naomi trying to look professional. If she heard one more client brag to his buddy, "My builder is better-looking than yours," she'd take a framing hammer to his windshield. In the end she had to admit that Javier regarded her music the way a parent regarded a child's drawing of the sky. She thought he saw more than that, but maybe she was like everyone else in his life, stumbling on the surface, drunk on form. She heard her father's voice: "You can't play piano professionally and also run a business."Her insurance estimate would include a price for two new foundations. One for Javier and one for her. If anyone asked, and she doubted anyone would, she'd also blame the high cost of liberation.


Ivars Balkits
“Nazca Zodiak”

Illustrations by Francesca Taiganides


A meditation on post Cro-Magnon astrology is possible here: movements, relationships, observed rhythms, correspondence with the movement of the mind through one’s body with the stars in the heavens, that is, the first meanings.The proto-Nazca laid out the lines on the earth of Pampa Colorada in southern Peru and, later, the Nazca themselves created the geoglyphs that still cover arguably the world’s driest desert. Scholars offer proofs, mathematical proofs, some do, of a great-in-size, great-in-purpose Zodiac: astrological glyphs, overlaying, underlaying the world-famous Nazca Lines.One scholar notes a rotation of birds, a fortune-telling wheel of birds, suggesting intent. So one might question: the night sky, the stars, were they animal first? Were they like the winds and the rivers and the growth of figs? What cosmic umbrella terms might be applied to these arid regions? What was their intent? Unexpectedly, unpredictably, these glyphs cry out for a Horoscopic Columnist, and here I am and the Horoscope Column: here it is.


Kolibri

Shedding violet tears as you sing your loud double-noted song, you align yourself with the smiling stars. Knowing your limit, you set out for the first circular infinity, forward, backward, upward, downward, sidewise, and then somersaults. While hovering, Kolibri, you have been parts of cars and presently you will be found aboard submarines as a disinfecting perfume. As you can see, it will be hard to avoid well-oiled machine parts. Even in past lives, helicopters appear to have been a favorite with Hummingbirds, and you’re no different. BTW: The code word to Goering from Hitler to begin the fratricidal "Night of Long Knives" was Kolibri. So you can have a dark past despite iridescent feathers. You can speak Spanish, German, and French Caribbean.


Condor

Prone to late sexual maturity, you are long-lived, especially in captivity. You may be found in a cage next to a sick alpaca -- a bad time for zoo visitors. Zoomorphic in general, you are often confused with a long-tailed mockingbird named el chaucato. Your wattle flushes when you are excited. And of course you feed on dead flesh, albeit peacefully. The balloon they sailed over the Nazca desert was named after you. The Condor was where the breast implant was introduced by the stripper Carol Doda. You may be too young to remember that. That may be why you have such a soaring kind of idealism. El cóndor pasa... as all things must, from the upper regions of the super conscious to the past reality of the Incan cross.


Frigate Bird (Nazca Booby)

You have a freakishly short neck and long bill. Red inflatable gular pouch of a male in rut (reflecting the Condor) and you are drumming there self-consciously on the porch. Snatching the eye of the fish. Baffling. Your namesake was originally a war vessel. They have marauding habits. Stealing from other birds. You are such a bird. You have a strong homing instinct which makes you easily exploitable. Your theology is light for its size. You fish from the surface of the deep. You can be caught sleeping. On the plus side: You can fly in cyclones. It will be a long but tireless flight.


Pelican (Alcatraz)

You can't decide which pelican you are. There are so many variations of you. One suggestion is you are a Heron. Others deny that, saying you are a Condor. Another might say "That is a Frigate Bird." Don’t take it personally. You should be absent from the interior, but there you are in the Nazca desert. Only slightly interior from the exterior. You can fly, as if you didn’t know. So make it a proper vacation and float high in the nearby water like a proper pelican. Gulp your food. No island should be a prison for this Alcatraz.No, there really are too many variations. That ties up things astrologically.


Parrot

Parrot astrology is popular among the Tamils of India. The parrot picks the fortune card for the name proffered by the customer. It does not have to be the customer’s name. It is a street astrology. It is also a squeaky astrology. These are squeaky parrots. Very stylized wings. Hardly a tail. Mostly a c-shaped beak. In their little blue cages, squeaking, their beaks picking at red frayed cards. Can you tell the fortune from a card? Then shut up.Wait, I apologize. You are indeed like the parrot picking other people’s fortunes. You can get no fortune of your own. You also get no horoscope of your own and must D.I.Y. So don’t even try to pretend you’re not a skeptic. Squeak the truth.Again, I apologize.


Giant (Or Human) Or Astronaut

You are the kind of vertical effigy that is carved into a mountain. It must mean you are upright. No reason to be proud, as that’s counter-productive. One person has posited you are a fisherman holding a net. You seem clothed in a sash. Are you wearing a helmet or are your arms raised? I see where runes appear in a stock photo as a kind of astronaut astrology for you -- only one of several choices -- owl astrology is also an option. The Astronaut designation probably came from von Däniken's influence as promulgated in his The Chariots of the Gods. No one can get a picture of you that’s not blurry.


Spider

Your one extra-long leg might be distally tipped with the male reproductive organ -- let’s take a look -- which is visible only with a microscope, sorry about that. If you are ricinulei, that is, identified as a rare spider found only in the remotest parts of the Amazon rainforest, then you are that. Even though you are in a desert, you do not seem out of place. FYI: Your ancestors had eyes. It’s in the fossil record. But you do not and are not, so don’t worry. You may also be a common spider with a rich heritage of misconceptions trailing you. Certainly you act that way. But don’t worry. You have an entry and an exit point like many glyphs of the Nazca Zodiak. The smallest, most favored glyph by many, you need dampness to survive, or what you represent does.Correlated to Orion, BTW.


Flamingo

You have also been called Heron, Cormorant, and Pelican. Your zigzag neck may be the cause of all that confusion. We will say you are the Flamingo. Standing on one leg (flamingo-like), you allow half your body to sleep before switching legs to let the other half sleep. It is a sign of your left-and-right brain nature. You might improve that with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). For your sign, pale white is the new sexy, though it has been undesirable in the past. In the pink meant in good health then. But you are a post-modern(like) bird, and every social bird in colonies numbering thousands wants to meet you. And live on mudflats. And serve their country as popular lawn ornaments.


Orca

More fins on your back than a typical killer whale, you are a dolphin from the land of denial and obfuscation. You even look a little like smoke and charcoal and white ash. Let’s make lye. OH, don’t be an ogre, be an orca. Don’t be lonesome, be like orcas in a pod. Or okra seeds, in a pod. Don’t pee in the ocean, unless you happen to be an orca. Don’t orchestrate a feeding frenzy unless you’re not willing to be (ignorantly) called a killer. Don’t feel bad if you are a killer. You have been confused with the Whale, so maybe you should cross-check on the Horoscope signs.


Whale

You are friend to hippos, and related too I hear. Congratulations. Your nose migrated to the top of your head, I can tell. Your front hooves turned to flippers. Horse that you are, you are bovine in the way you swing your hips in the water. You are obviously one of the mammary persuasion. Speak to me like a brother. We need to talk. Twist the wires in your throat to be tuned to radio. Be neutral, not neurotic. Stay awake, so you don’t drown. Do your usual one-eyed two-minded sleep, similar to the Flamingo. You bird signs are all alike.


Zodiac -- Wheel of Birds

Thus, during the explanation prior to the visit, the guide to the Nazca desert doles out sheets of paper in which the Hummingbird matches Sagittarius somehow, the Hands go with Taurus, and the Tree with Gemini.


Michael Ford
“The Tragic Shakespearean Fly”

(To Be Read In A High-Pitched Buzzing Voice)


They'll not come back! I'm sure of that, and more, their shame shouts "Aye!" Disdain reigns king for all their boasts and fools, by my count three, are thrice the fools to bring a challenge to me. I jabbed and jabbed and jabbed until they fled like rats, and there on dusty ground lies proof of it. Six feet running, so say my eyes, and a flower dropped in haste. My flower, my domain! My kingdom from the tree over there to the rock over here, at peace again by my wrath. And should they return, as fools often do, alone or girded by friends I will jab and jab, again and again, and really let them have it!Two bear witness to my campaign, one sleeping, one wide awake. The sleeping one lies where I dispatched him that morning. The star-crossed fool! His piteous fate! He claimed the bush was his when the tree marks the boundary of my land, the bush being three feet closer! And so through his devices my domain suffered by measure of three feet, but for only the briefest of moments, for I battered him back in a splendid frenzy. Like the cowards who ran, he could not stand and fell broken to the ground. The Ozymandias! Look on my works, ye pitiable, and despair! None can grapple with me. In truth I think he died of natural causes, but we were fighting at the time!The one awake stands proudly now on the rock that marks our border. I strain to see in the shadows of the day, but I'm sure his eyes glare at mine. I fix my stare with savage air -- I dare you, sir, leap from your rock! To eye each other thus is our game. Though not a game, for language can be feeble, but a struggle of soldiers on the field until one, distracted by a bit of fluff or a sound in the trees, averts his gaze as if to say the struggle signifies nothing. How often we've so engaged, two pugilists of late with each insult of his damned eyes onto my land, though our contests have so far suffered greatly for lack of conclusion. He's quick, and knows the tricks to cause one pause. Not an hour ago we fought a duel, and I would have had him but for the dust, a mote that clouded my eyes. A less cynical fly might think it nothing, the chaos of our skirmish, but I know him too well to be so tricked. Or is it she? I cannot tell.Deceitful Fates, you'd neglect your honored foe? You'd leave one idle to wither and fade like fruit borne of wilted trees? Well then, a challenge I throw to you! I have neither glove nor hand to fit it, but had I one you'd feel its sting. Inspire him to leap from his rock and into the fray, so is my entreaty, or should that task offend as too paltry an instrument, then pick an instrument. Whether angel or demon I care little, and want only worthy opponent to test strength and skill. I dare you! And still he sits with unblinking eyes and twitching wings.The rogue! The cozener! Off to Hades with these steely gazes. Patience wans and I'll not rate this torpid, limp Achilles to my Agamemnon. Short-lived truce be damned! I'm up and jabbing, darting, thrusting. Thus he jolts in fear and bolts. You lizard, snake and bird -- I dodge your grasp, a devil with wings! To you I shout my mettle. None can stand!And what is this? A mounted challenge now? A horse and on it rides a man. I've dealt with such before. No trivial threat, no bluff, no dismal mountebank, but now I feud with fearsome grit a two-faced cen-a-taur! I know this beast, a trick for hapless saps. The ploy is thus, that reckless flies rush in where fools will go. Aloof with rage they thrust and strike the first and obvious foe, but just behind lies greater threat. The rear is to be feared! The butt of jibes is fool's reward should pride make ass of you, for at that end lies weapon foul and doom for common flies. I thrust at thee! I thrust at thee again! Touché! I jab and jab and jab! How sad a moment. There! I jab once more!These poor dastards, these simple foes know well when feud is done, for though the steed with horsey ire may swing and strike its whip -- and might I say, a fine and handsome beast it is, one skilled and grand in battle -- yet it makes no mark. Once more I win, and none may disagree, for look! They slink away, cowed faces masked in rage. That countenance is my reward, that glance behind in pique as quitters quit the field. Hah!I land in victory, and stand to view the ravaging. Achilles dares not show his eyes, most fearful fly he is. Poor Ozzy lies as I left him, spirit spilled to dust and dirt. Pity? I know none. Did I say how he died? The irony cuts deep, that in his dreams he thought he could protest my claim. And dream it was, for now his dark and mortal orbs turn heavenward where spirits dwell. I know not what thoughts they tell. Do they fancy drifting in ethereal realms? Do they scowl enraged, halted mid-life, chafed at the gods for quick misfortune? Or do those eyes tell tales more difficult to fathom? Are they entreating, pleading, imploring? What sense do they convey?But here! A man, yet another! So treacherous was his stealth that he came upon me of a sudden. A fight, a fight!I eye him to gauge his measure. He sits on the rock of Achilles with a sigh, wipes his brow, pats his blue hair -- blue! -- and drinks from a bottle he had concealed on his person. Clever rival, what else have you concealed? A taunt it is, most certainly. A battle of wits to add to the carnage, so be it!I set myself. Your plan, foul foe? And have you dispatched Achilles? I don't see him, and you recline on his rock as a conquering king on a foreign throne. I little regret his death if it be so, for pale adversary he made at best, yet he was mine to kill. You would take from me trophy as well as yardage? Well, a trophy lies stiff and dry in the dust just there. Take it if you can!Had I chin or brow I'd rub it. Your scheme, base cutthroat? Cease your contemplation of the hills. Man-to-fly, rise from your pilfered chair!He does, have at you! Thus and thus I strike! I jab again and take my wages paid in fearful eyes and frantic hand. But fate is keen to thwart the schemes of flies and kings. Crude counterfeit I think he is, and sly, for 'top his head lies not blue hair but moist and ragged cloth! A trap! With jabbing quick, as deft as that of four-legged mounts enraged, he pulls it off and twists it 'round and whips it true. Most dim of thinkers, think you flies as apt as I know not of locker rooms? That fatal blow! Be not so low to think I'd die in sciolism.Crouching down, wry in eye, says he, "I know this seems improbable, but Shakespeare is adoptable."Swindler! Tyrant! Cheat! To pose a dying fly this question? No, to burden one with decatick that's down right Jabberwockian? It's touchy, not touché! By such mechanics here I lie with guts spilled to the ground. And over there lies Ozymandias, the same. My friend! I'll be as you, with eyes turned up, in not so far a future. Irony, your blade cuts cold and deep.A drink! Respite! My eyes grow weak, and high above I think I see Achilles. Friend! Remove your eyes. And was the name I named you with in truth most meant for me? My breath is caught -- oh ...The Fates! And death! And hubris dire! A pie! A pie! My kingdom for a pie! Oh ... ! I breathe my last, I fear. Achilles, are you I? Or is it me? And thus ... I ...


T. R. Healy
“Round Enigma”


As he stepped toward the deflated balloon, Bolton picked up a blade of grass and tossed it above his head. It barely fluttered as it fell to the ground. He smiled, confident it wouldn’t be too windy this morning. Then he knelt down behind the balloon, turned around the brim of his Red Sox cap, and began to shoot hot air inside the envelope of the nylon balloon with a propane burner. Gradually the balloon expanded into the shape of an inverted teardrop, its scarlet and gold stripes as radiant as the flames that decorated the gate at the south entrance of the waterfront park.Deeter, a member of the ground crew, watched the gigantic balloon take shape as he made sure the ropes that attached the wicker basket to Bolton's pick-up truck were secure. The first day he joined the crew he was shown how to tie a constrictor knot which Bolton regarded as one of the more effective binding knots."Do you know how many passengers you'll be taking up today, boss?"He wiggled the toothpick in a corner of his mouth. "The last time I checked Mrs. Weems had narrowed it down to four.""Including Tyler?""Including Tyler."Tyler was her son and this would be the fourth and last time Bolton would take him up in his hot air balloon.

#

"Morning," a bearded customer said as he approached Bolton who stood behind one of the glass counters of the second-hand store he owned with his Uncle Royce. A silver hat box was pressed against the man's considerable chest."Good morning, sir.""I bet I have something you've never seen before."He smiled skeptically. "In this line of work I've seen pretty much everything there is to see.""Not this, mister."Carefully he pulled out of the box a headpiece made out of cheesecloth with two small eye lenses and a filter that covered the mouth opening.Bolton studied it for a moment. "I assume it's some kind of mask.""It is.""A gas mask, perhaps, from the First World War."The man nodded and set the headpiece on the counter."A while back a customer brought in a British Smoke Hood that was issued to troops on the Western Front. Is it some kind of version of that mask?"The man shook his head. "It's a respirator designed to be worn by dogs which were also stationed on the front lines during the First World War.""Is that so?""I told you you'd probably never seen one before.""No, sir, I certainly haven't," he said, tracing a finger around one of the lenses. "With this on a dog must've looked like some creature out of a horror movie.""No doubt.""So what do you want for it?""I was thinking a hundred dollars.""That's pretty steep for something that might well sit on a shelf in my store for a very long time."The customer disagreed. "Not only will dog fanciers be interested in owning this mask as a souvenir but also collectors of military memorabilia.""I'll give you fifty dollars for it.""Can't you do a little better than that?" the man pleaded.Bolton thought for a moment. "Fifty-five and not a penny more.""All right," the customer said a little reluctantly. "You've bought yourself a gas mask.""Sweet."Over the years Bolton had purchased many unusual items for the store and, for the most part, managed to make a significant profit on many of them. His interest in hot air balloons came about when he purchased a basket, or what the seller called a "gondola," for the store. He bought the basket because he thought someone might purchase it as a decorative piece in the backyard or, perhaps, use it to store gardening materials. A week later, the same customer brought in a commemorative coin from the 1939 World's Fair that a passenger gave him after a flight. Also he had some patches and goggles to sell. A lighter-than-air pilot, his name was Dick Andrews and he said he operated a small balloon business and was replacing some of his old equipment with some new pieces."I never quite understood how such large balloons manage to stay up in the air."Andrews smiled he was so accustomed to being asked that question. "It's a pretty basic principle," he said, tapping a finger against his brass belt buckle which was emblazoned with a small red balloon. "Hot air will float above colder air.""I see," he said, still not sure if he did. "Can you make a living flying balloons?"Andrews shrugged. "I'm a delivery driver, by trade, so I just operate my balloon business as a side line.""But it's profitable?""Well, I don't make a lot of money as a pilot but I don't really mind because I enjoy flying balloons so much," he said. "But there are some full-time pilots who can make a fairly decent living if they get a couple of lucrative advertising contracts.""With the name of the company printed on the balloon?""That's right." He grinned. "A while back, I saw a balloon in the shape of a stagecoach sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank.""No kidding?"He nodded. "Say, if you're at the fair this weekend, you can see me in action. Weather permitting, I'll be giving people rides most of the day. I'd be happy to take you up in my balloon if you're interested.""Yeah?""Yeah.""What's the name of your operation?""Airborne Express but I'm thinking of changing it.""To what?""Round Enigma."His forehead wrinkled in confusion."A recent passenger referred to my balloon as a 'round enigma' and I thought that sounded kind of clever."Bolton nodded. "I've never flown in a balloon before.""Then it's about time you do it.""Maybe so.""No maybe about it, friend," he barked. "I'll be keeping an eye out for you."

#

Bolton, who never cared much about flying, usually took the train whenever he had to travel a long distance. So he surprised himself when he drove out to the state fair that weekend and went up in Andrews' balloon. Because of the burner it was very warm inside the basket and right away he began to sweat but not only because of the heat. He was so nervous he clutched with both hands one of the leather straps attached to the inside of the basket and didn't open his eyes until the balloon began its ascent. Then, when he saw all the people on the ground get smaller and smaller, he was reminded of the many rides he took on a Ferris wheel as a youngster. This helped him to relax and, gradually, he started to enjoy the ride as the striped balloon floated above the fairgrounds. He almost felt as if he were all alone even though there were three other passengers in the basket because all he could hear was his pulse throbbing in his ears."So, did you enjoy yourself?" Andrews asked after they landed."I did.""You sound surprised.""I am," he admitted. "I've never felt comfortable when my feet aren't firmly planted on the ground."Andrews smiled. "Maybe you'll go up with me again some time.""Oh, I will," and the next day he returned to the fair and got back in the basket.What, initially, he thought he would dread turned out to be as enjoyable and invigorating as any amusement park ride. And for the rest of the summer he showed up at different venues where Andrews offered balloon rides and got aboard again. Occasionally he asked him to help his crew get ready for the flights, and by the middle of the following summer he became a regular member of the ground crew.He worked for Andrews three more summers then, to his amazement, Andrews said he was ready to retire because he claimed he was just too old to continue hauling the balloon back and forth across the state."Are you sure you want to call it quits?""I am, Clete. Oh, now and then, I'll probably have some regrets but it's time I got out before I get hurt. So, if you're interested, I'll sell the balloon and everything that goes with it to you.""I'll have to think about it, Dick.""Of course. Take all the time you need."He grinned. "Well, I guess I've given it enough thought," he said, after a minute passed, "and I'd be happy to buy the balloon.""I figured as much."The two men then shook hands and embraced beside the tethered balloon.

#

Just about every weekend during the summer, after he took over the business from Andrews, Bolton offered balloon rides at various locations in the state. That first season he didn't attempt to secure an advertising contract with some company but was content to give rides to pay for his expenses. Following the practice of Andrews, he offered two kinds of rides: an airborne one or a tethered ride in which the balloon rose nearly seventy-five feet while attached to the back of his pick-up truck.One of his most memorable passengers that summer was a sixteen-year-old boy who had spent the past six months in JDH, the juvenile detention home on the other side of the river. His name was Tyler Weems. And, according to his mother who booked the flight, he had watched a balloon float over the detention home one afternoon when he was out in the exercise yard and decided that instant the first thing he wanted to do when he got out of JDH was go on a balloon ride because he couldn't think of doing anything that was more liberating.Soon after they started their ascent, Tyler began to flap his arms in imitation of the seagulls that flew around them. His smile was infectious it was so bright and affable. Bolton had seldom seen a passenger who enjoyed a flight so much. He was not surprised after they landed when Tyler said he hoped to take more flights in the balloon. And, twice more that summer, he did so, once on his birthday and once on the Fourth of July."I'd like to do what you do," he told Bolton as they watched the fireworks on the Fourth."Maybe someday you will, son.""Maybe so."He hoped the youngster kept that ambition in mind because it might keep him from getting in any more trouble with the law. His mother told Bolton that Tyler was incarcerated in JDH because he and a couple of other boys took a car for a joyride."He's never done anything like that before," she claimed. "I just think he got involved with the wrong crowd.""That can happen all right, ma'am.""And I'm sure it'll never happen again because Tyler's learned his lesson the hard way."Bolton knew all too well how something like that could happen because, as a junior in high school, he and a teammate on the basketball team took a substitute teacher's vintage Firebird and drove it around town for almost an hour before they were pulled over by a patrol car. Fortunately, they didn't have to spend any time in JDH but their driver licenses were suspended for a year and they were required to perform one hundred hours of community service and write a letter of apology to the owner of the car. He never took another vehicle again without permission and hoped Tyler didn't either.The following summer Tyler returned on his birthday to go up in the balloon and afterward made a reservation to go up again on the Fourth of July. He never kept it, though, and Bolton learned from his mother that he stole another car and was arrested. Bolton was surprised and surprised even more when Tyler was charged with a felony and sentenced to serve fourteen months in a minimum-security prison. Again his mother was adamant that he continued to be involved with a bad group of friends but Bolton wondered then if Tyler wasn't the one who was the bad influence on others. Still, he wrote him a lengthy letter after he went to prison and told him of the mistake he made when he was around his age and reminded him it was never too late to turn his life around."You know, if you're interested, I'd be happy to hire you on as a member of my ground crew when you get out of prison," he added at the end of the letter. "And maybe help you get a pilot's license."He never received a reply from the young man which surprised him because he thought Tyler would be eager to become involved first-hand in the balloon business. And it was not until his mother called a few weeks ago to book a flight for her son that he had thought about him in quite some time."So how is Tyler getting along these days, Mrs. Weems?""You haven't heard?""Heard what?""He died not quite a month ago," she said, her voice cracking. "The car he was driving on Old Mill Road apparently skidded on some slick spot and plowed into a cedar tree.""My God.""It was his car, in case you're wondering, not someone else's.""I wasn't," he said but he was of course."He was finally getting himself on the right path," she sighed. "He was no longer involved with any of that bad crowd he used to associate with and was thinking about applying to a community college and getting a degree."Bolton didn't know if he believed her but kept his doubts to himself."He often talked about accepting your offer to go to work for you but he never got around to telling you. I think he was too embarrassed to see you again.""He shouldn't have been. I meant every word I said in the letter I wrote to him.""I know that, Mr. Bolton, and I told him so but I guess he felt he had let you down like so many other people and just couldn't face you.""That's a shame.""It is. It very much is.""I know how much he enjoyed going up in the balloon.""Which is why I want him to have one more ride with you.""I look forward to it."

#

Shortly before noon, Mrs. Weems arrived at the park where Bolton was going to launch his balloon. She was accompanied by her two sisters and carried Tyler's remains in a small copper urn which was tucked inside a canvas tote bag she clutched to her chest. Soon after they left the ground, Bolton asked if she would like him to secure the bag in a corner of the basket but she shook her head."Tyler was my only child and I intend to hold on to him every minute of the ride.""Of course, ma'am."In another minute, Bolton switched off the burner and all of a sudden it became very quiet inside the basket. The sisters scarcely said a word to one another, however, as the balloon drifted above the park at the pace of the summer wind. Bolton was tempted to point out a duck pond where he used to go swimming as a boy but didn't want to intrude on their thoughts which he assumed were likely about Tyler.Near the north end of the park, a flock of seagulls emerged from behind a water tower and the sisters became excited and waved at them. One large black-backed gull then headed toward the balloon and the sisters ducked their heads until the bird flew past them and they laughed and bumped fists.Bolton laughed, too, reminded of the first time he took Tyler up in the balloon when he also saw some seagulls and began flapping his arms as if he had sprouted wings. As if he were as free as any of them that day.


Dallin Hunt
“Cheating”


The blizzard passed just before the sun rose. Ivy and Ben ventured outside to find half a foot of fresh snow, too dry for packing or rolling into balls, but ideal for a day of exploring. They wandered beyond their front yard, down the road past two houses, then stopped at the curve of the sidewalk. A puppy was lying there, curled up beneath a bush by the sidewalk, coated with a layer of hard, white ice. Ivy nudged the stiff animal with her shoe and started to cry, but Ben said, "It's okay, we just need to thaw it out.""He's dead," Ivy replied."Not if he froze fast enough. The snowstorm came so fast that maybe it only took a few seconds. I think he's still alive in there."Ivy trusted her brother, cautiously. Ben was six and knew much more about the world than she did, and the idea that he might be wrong was hard for her to think about.Ben pulled his sleeves over his hands to create makeshift mittens, then picked the puppy up and cradled it the way he'd seen his dad cradle bundles of firewood. Ivy kept her hand beneath the puppy's frozen head even though Ben said she didn't need to.The two set the puppy in a dry saucer sled on the snow in their backyard, where it could be in the sun. Ivy had wanted to bring it into the house, but Ben said, "No, he needs to thaw slowly, so he isn't too shocked." By afternoon, the puppy's ice coating had melted away, and its black fur was no longer matted and brittle, but soft enough to pet, with a warm, wet puppy smell. Less than an hour later, it started breathing slowly. Ivy and Ben brought it into the house and tucked it into Ivy's bed, and by the afternoon, it was running, jumping and panting like a healthy puppy should. Ben picked it up and tried to carry it, but it squirmed out of his arms and started running around the house. They let it out into the backyard again, where it leaped like a dolphin through untouched snow.Ivy wanted to name it Icicle, but Ben wanted to name it T-Rex.That evening, their parents said that they wouldn't be able to keep the puppy.Ben said, "But what if he has no home? What if no one else wants him? What if there's another blizzard and he freezes again?"His mother responded, "It'll be fine. Some other little boy and girl will find it and help it, just like you two did."

#

Larissa had just shouted "Do not stand so close to the edge, it freaks me out!" when Brock slipped on an extra gritty slab of rock and fell. He hadn't actually been that close to the edge, but he wasn't holding the chain, and once he was down, there was nothing to grab but a jagged branch of dead sagebrush, which snapped in his hands. He slid down a steep incline, then right to the drop-off, where he grasped at crumbly edges of exposed limestone layers on the rock face before they too were out of reach. After the initial disgusting sensation -- like a dry-heave, a jolting pain that rippled out to his fingers and toes -- he tried to call out "Sorry!" but the rushing air sucked all the breath from his lungs, and his mouth closed by reflex.Then again, it hadn't totally been his fault. She accidentally packed his old shoes, which had no tread to speak of anymore. And they had already made the six hour drive when he realized, so what choice did he have but to wear them? It's not like he was uncoordinated, or like he was some inexperienced hiker. It's not like you need experience to know how not to fall off a cliff.He probably didn't have time to decide where to place the blame, even though falling lasted a whole lot longer than he'd thought it would. They hadn't even been that high up. There were plenty of other ledges on the hike that were higher. Yet he just kept falling, and the rushing air that had been so loud at first was now quiet, like in that strange, pressurized moment before your ears start ringing. The sky was so big and so white, and there were juniper bushes out in the distance amid all the red rock. Two towers of rock at the horizon looked like pawns on a monochrome chess board.The ground was getting close now. Boulders beneath him looked like compact cars. He closed his eyes.And it didn't hurt at all!Nothing was intact, but it was okay. He couldn't wait to tell Larissa. Not because he wanted to prove her wrong for being worried––he'd still probably need to apologize for not being more careful -- but because she'd think it was so cool that it didn't hurt!

#

As a mortuary cosmetologist, Jane was sometimes asked if she had nightmares. Did she dream of a pale, bloated body suddenly sitting up and speaking as she applied clay to its wounds? Did she dream of an infinite room, endless fluorescent lights and corpses on metal beds, each uniquely mangled from car wrecks, falls, or heavy machinery accidents?Her answer was no, she did not have nightmares. Because the dreams were not scary.Sometimes she dreamed of a middle-aged woman -- a stabbing victim -- who spoke through torn lips. "You should have seen me in my twenties," she'd say. "My makeup was catastrophic, but I had a natural beauty and bewitching smile, at least according to my dance teacher."Once she dreamed of a boy with blunt trauma to the skull, who said, "Just cover it with my hat. I have four hats, and my favorite is black with flames on it." And once, she dreamed of a young woman who kept her hands over her face and said in a comedic tone, "Look away, I'm hideous!" Jane never saw the woman's face but somehow knew the woman had drowned.Sometimes Jane dreamed of a dead man who looked perfectly intact, rosy-cheeked and full of life. He hummed a song she'd never heard as he lay on the table in front of her, and she tried to decide how to be of any meaningful service.These dreams were neither common nor bothersome. Jane occasionally wished for similar occurrences in reality, which, of course, never happened. She wanted to know her clients' voices. For those who'd been maimed or mutilated, it only made sense that they'd apologize for their appearances. It's human nature.

#

Jordan had the worst case of cystic acne his doctor had ever seen. It made his face lumpy, shimmery red and perpetually crusted with dead skin that he had to peel away at night. During the days at school, cysts along his jawline would sometimes begin to bleed without him noticing, so he went to the bathroom as often as possible to check for streaks of brown, dried blood down his neck. He never wanted to leave the house. When he did go out with friends, he made every possible effort to avoid bright lights. Nobody made fun of his skin, at least not to his face, but the way his friends seemed to avoid looking at him was still perfectly painful.One evening, when he came home from a particularly hard day at school and a disastrous basketball practice (somebody had elbowed him in the face, leaving his cheek a ragged, slimy mess), he went straight to his room and fell asleep.He slept better than he had in weeks. But in the dark, early morning, his mom came into his room, turned his light on and said his name."Are you in here?"Jordan stirred, dream images leaving his mind as his mom's urgent voice lifted the silence from the room. It seemed she repeated herself once or twice before he was fully awake."Jordan?""Yes," he mumbled, confused and alarmed by the tone of her voice. "What's the matter?"His mom sighed heavily, then waited several seconds before speaking."You left the truck running in the garage," she said. "It's just been idling all night.""I what?""The truck has been running. I thought you might be dead out there."Dead?""From carbon monoxide poisoning or something.""What?" Jordan said again, sitting up, rubbing a sore spot on the back of his neck where a new cyst was forming. "I have no idea how that happened."He truly had no idea. He figured he must have been fumbling with his backpack and phone and water bottle when he got out of the truck, and his tired brain had forgotten all about the keys in the ignition.His mom kept standing in the doorway, her eyes wide and fingers tightly knotted. He squinted against the yellow brightness of his ceiling light, trying to read her expression, trying to decide if there was something else he needed to say. Was she angry?Then he realized. She thought he'd been trying to kill himself.Jordan felt a twinge, a cold sensation, but he assured his mom everything was fine, saying nothing about the idea in her mind. The last thing he wanted was to give volume to it. She returned to bed, but he stayed awake, thinking how even as he'd slept, safe and unaware, it seemed that death had still come dangerously close.

#

Irene's daughter did kill herself, but her method doesn't matter. When Irene received the phone call, she said, "No. No, she didn't." And that was that.

#

It was past nine, the temperature had dropped below zero, and Jon still hadn't arrived home from his skiing trip. He'd called that afternoon, just after leaving the resort, so Erica figured something must have happened on his drive. She called 911 and sent out a search and rescue team, but without a car of her own, she could do nothing else but sit around and wait for news.That night, for the first time, she realized that their living room had far too many windows. The entire south wall was made up of them––black rectangles of cold glass. The outside world peered into her house, its icy scent permeating the glass panes, its chill invading. The immense darkness could crush her.She closed all the blinds, then she turned on the TV and kitchen fan for as much cacophony as they could provide, made several calls to her mother and sister, cried, ripped tufts of stuffing from the tear in the the living room sofa's upholstery, and filled the air with a warm haze of cigarette smoke. And she spent the night convinced that Jon had been in a wreck, or that he'd slid off of the road in the canyon where there was no cell service, and then he'd frozen to death trying to walk to a nearby town.The latter scenario was mostly correct, but what Erica didn't know was that Jon's car had slid off of the road right before the exit to a canyon famous for its natural hot springs.The car had slid far enough down a snowy slope beside the road that it was not easily visible to passing cars. Jon climbed out of the car and back to the road, but he could not bear to stand still out in the lethal cold waiting for someone to drive by and see him. So, he walked into the darkness of the canyon, stepping carefully over ice-slickened rocks and barely managing to take in enough air between shivers.It was only a matter of minutes before he heard the trickling water and smelled the sulphuric steam, and he swore with joy and relief.He passed the night getting pruney in a shallow pool, sifting silt between his toes, breathing in the natural warmth, and watching thick swirls of steam rise into a black sky. Crisp moonlight lit up the hills of blue pines all around. He saw more stars than he'd ever been able to before in his life, and that night, he was just as convinced of the fact of his life as Erica was of the fact of his death.


Paul Rabinowitz
“Villa Dei Misteri”

Adapted By And Starring Georgia Usborne


“Villa Dei Misteri” is an experimental dance poetry film adapted by Georgia Usborne from Paul Rabinowitz’s short story. The short film depicts a memory revisited through words and movement, exploring a woman's relationship to self, space, and time using the lenses of perception through which we see ourselves and others.



Contributors


AÏCHA MARTINE THIAM is a trilingual / multicultural writer, musician, and artist and might have been a kraken in a past life. She's been nominated for Best of the Net, The Best Small Fictions, and The Pushcart Prize. She’s the author of At Sea (Clash Books), shortlisted for the 2019 Kingdoms in the Wild Poetry Prize, and Burn the Witch (Finishing Line Press). Follow her work at amartine.com.ANGELA TOWNSEND bears witness to mercy for all beings as Development Director at Tabby’s Place: a Cat Sanctuary. She has an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and BA from Vassar College. She has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 33 years, laughs with her mother every morning, and delights in the moon. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Amethyst Review, Braided Way, Cagibi, Fathom Magazine, and Young Ravens Literary Review, among others. She received fifth place in the 2023 Writer’s Digest Awards (Spiritual Nonfiction). Angie loves life dearly.CAROL EVERETT ADAMS writes poems about Disney theme parks, organized religion, UFOs, and other topics. She lives in the Midwestern United States and works in the tech industry. Her poems have been published in California Quarterly, FRiGG, Hawaii Pacific Review, The Midwest Quarterly, The New York Quarterly, The Nonconformist Magazine, The South Dakota Review, Wrath-Bearing Tree, and many others. She earned her MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska. Find her at caroleverettadams.com.DALLIN HUNT has an MFA in creative writing and is working on his third novel. He currently teaches writing at Utah Valley University. He loves mountains, snow, Mario games, hockey, and libraries.FRANCESCA TAIGANIDES (illustrator of “Nazca Zodiak”) is a 26 year old Greek-American with a history of art masters degree and an infinite love of the arts. She has spent her life living among some of civilization's oldest archaeological sites that continue to inspire and shape her own creative practice.IVARS BALKITS -- a dual-citizen of Latvia and the USA since 2016 -- lives part of the year in Ohio but mostly in a small mountain village in Crete, Greece. His poems and prose have been most recently published by Pnyx, Punt Volat, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Bear Creek Gazette, Synchronized Chaos, Otoliths, Seneca Review, Anvil Tongue Radio, Harpy Hybrid Review, and Lotus Eater. He is a recipient of two Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council for poetry in 1999 and creative nonfiction in 2014.MICHAEL FORD used to work on computers for a living. Now he types for a living.PAUL RABINOWITZ is an author, screenwriter, photographer, adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and founder of ARTS By The People. He's is the author of five books including Confluence, The Clay Urn, truth, love and the lines in between, Limited Light, and Grand Street, Revisited. Paul co-writes screenplays with Brittney Bertier, including the TV pilot Bungalow. His photography, prose, and poetry appear in magazines and journals including The Sun Magazine, New World Writing, Arcturus-Chicago Review of Books, Evening Street Press, The Montreal Review, Talking River Review, and others. Paul was a featured artist in Nailed Magazine, Mud Season Review, and Apricity Press, and his photo series "Limited Light" was nominated for Best of the Net. His poems and fiction are the inspiration for eight award-winning experimental films, including Best Experimental Short at Cannes, Venice Independent Film Festival, Oregon Short Film Festival, Jersey Shore Film Festival, Florence Indie Film Festival, and Paris Film Festival. Paul produces mixed media performances and poetry films that have appeared on stages and in theaters in New York City, New Jersey, Tel Aviv and Paris. See more at paulrabinowitz.com.SAM ANDERS is the pen name of someone who needs some cover to keep her identities as an interpreter and a writer separate, just like her CIA father with his many official identities and aliases. As an interpreter, Sam has spent two decades in international affiars and multilateralism, working for everyone from broccoli pickers in California to heads of state. She has lived and worked in Vienna, Geneva, and New York, covering a range of topics from human rights and disarmament to international peace and security. This career choice was only natural for someone whose childhood was shaped by American foreign policy and spent in different parts of the globe. Sam’s work include The Cockroach, Mango Diplomacy, My Mother’s Gift, and My Father’s Secret. She’s currently seeking to publish Do You Have a Raincoat?, a coming of age memoir steeped in espionage. Sam is married, has three grown sons, and lives in Dobbs Ferry, NY.STEPHEN IVES has been published or is forthcoming in Allium, Evening Street Review, Mississippi Review, South Dakota Review, Wisconsin Review, and Pacifica. His work has been anthologized in Popular Fiction by Oregon Authors. His story “Adolescent Mammals” was a winner of the Lane Literary Awards. He owned a custom homebuilding business and was an adjunct instructor in the University of Oregon architecture department. Stephen has traveled to 25 countries, is a practicing Buddhist, and enjoys participating in Zoom meetings with a group of published short story writers.T. R. HEALY was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and is the author of the novel Cruel Earth.


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SORTES supports local, charitable, and community-based groups. Here's one important organization that SORTES supports:

"ArtWell was founded in 2000 to respond to the chronic community violence in Philadelphia by introducing a preventive, educational, arts-oriented approach to reach underserved communities and youth facing discrimination, poverty, violence, and the everyday challenges of growing up. Our mission is to support young people and their communities through multidisciplinary arts expression, education, and creative reflection to celebrate their strengths, thrive while facing complex challenges, and awaken their dreams."Charity NavigatorThe people who have worked on this publication support this cause and we urge you to as well.

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SORTES is?

SORTES is a spinning collection of stories, poems, songs, and illustrations to help while away the wintery June nights. It’s an oddball grabbag wunderkammer mixtape offering distraction and refreshment.We have neither theme nor scene. Each issue is its own creature. We publish both the sufficiently strange and insufficiently boring: swart stories, hoity poetry, magical surrealism, beatnik travelogues, hard modern haiku, pulp, fantasia, antibiography, crooning balladeering, experimental sentimentalism, and grainy sideways photography.We also host online readings, old time radio performances, and other beloved gimmicks as they occur to us. Previous issues are available via the site’s Archive link.

Submitting

SORTES considers unsolicited submissions of poetry, prose, illustration, music, videos, and anything else you think may fit our format. Feel free to poke us; we’d love to find a way to publish dance, sculpture, puzzles, and other un-literary modalities.SORTES is published quarterly. Each issue includes approximately ten works of lit, visual, or performance art. We like a small number of works per issue: artists and readers should have a chance to get to know each other.SORTES, you’ll notice, is primarily a black-and-white publication, and we like to play with that (by featuring monochrome videos and photography, for example), but we’ll happily consider your polychrome submission.Submissions are ongoing throughout the year. We consider artists with both extensive and limited publishing experience. We accept simultaneous submissions but please inform us if your work has been accepted elsewhere. We publish translations and reprints on a case-by-case basis; please send us a note describing your interest. And while there's no restriction on the number of pieces you can submit, please have a heart.There’s no need for an extensive cover letter or publication history but please tell us who you are, what kind of writing or art you do, and a bit about what you’re sending us. There are no formatting requirements for text submissions. There is no fee to submit. Please send submissions as email attachments whenever possible; multimedia submissions may be sent as links.

Rights

You asked and we provide: what's up with publication rights and ownership?Simple: When you publish with us, you give SORTES one-time publication right for your work. You retain all right to your work after publication. Work published with SORTES will remain available via our online Archive.While SORTES retains the right to link to or excerpt your published work, we do not have the right to publish your work in new formats (including print). If we would like to pursue publication of your work in new formats, we'll ask you and hopefully agree to terms.

Mahoffs

SORTES was created by founding editor Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum and emeritus editor Kevin Travers. It's edited by Alec Calder Johnsson, Alyssa Shea, Aria Braswell, Daniel DiFranco, Demree McGhee, Emily Zido, Gabrielle Decker, Kailey Tedesco, Rosanna Lee Byrnes, and Warren Longmire. Fionna Farrell directs Intern-al Affairs. Additional vim provided by Betsy Herbert, Brenna Dinon, Britny Perilli, Kelly Ralabate, Nick Perilli, and Victoria Mier. Many of us live in Philadelphia but we invite writers and artists everywhere to live the SORTES fantasia.


Events

SORTES regularly offers readings and performances. For upcoming events, please check here and our Facebook page.


Join us for the

SORTES 16 READING

Sunday, January 14, 2024 @ 7pm ET

Welcome weird winter wherever you are with the reading for SORTES 16, “Rimbaud’s Heart (Hollow As A Bamboo)” !Wherever you are that January night, we promise the weather will be rotten -- and therefore ideal Zoom conditions for the SORTES 16 reading. Set fire to something sumptuous and be delighted by some or all of the following SORTES 16 contributors:AÏCHA MARTINE THIAM fugues in cursive singing
ANGELA TOWNSEND sees Iggy Pop on the Greentown Bypass
CAROL EVERETT ADAMS views sky, deer, boulders, coasters
DALLIN HUNT submits six scene stealers
IVARS BALKITS and FRANCESCA TAIGANIDES forecast Nazca fortunes
MICHAEL FORD buzzeth battle broadside
PAUL RABINOWITZ and GEORGIA USBORNE show winding dance
SAM ANDERS confesses four knee-high spy stories
STEPHEN IVES builds blazing drama, and
T. R. HEALY lifts high and free.
Unless something wonderful happens, Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum will be our host. All SORTES events are free, public, and ice-olating, which is a pun I've been trying to work out this entire message.


ID: 822 6467 0783
Passcode: 103269
Call in: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbDN0fZgKh


Radio SORTES



Archive


A Suspense-Full Halloween, October 29, 2023

On October 29, 2023, Radio SORTES presented A Suspense-Full Halloween -- live performance of two old time radio Suspense episodes -- "The Screaming Woman" and "Ghost Hunt" -- each dripping with period music and sound effects.From 1940 through 1962, Suspense, "radio's outstanding theater of thrills," terrified radio listeners with macabre true crime and supernatural horrors.Our production was reanimated by the electrifying Radio SORTES Players: Alyssa Shea, Betsy Herbert, Dan DiFranco, Demree McGhee, Eliot Duhan, Emily Zido, Fionna Farrell, Iris Johnston, Kelly Ralabate, Lino, and Nick Perilli. The performance was adapted by Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum and Aria Braswell, with direction and sound by Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum.


Scary SORTESies To Tell In The Dark, October 30, 2022

On October 30, 2022, Radio SORTES presented three ghastly and unnerving old time radio stories, including original adaptations of Arch Oboler's "The Dark," Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," and
and Oscar Wilde's “The Canterville Ghost,” plus poetry from "Weird Tales" magazine.
Our infernal Radio SORTES Players included Betsy Herbert • Brenna Dinon • Christina Rosso • Demree McGhee • Emily Zido • Evan Myers • Iris Johnston • Kelly Ralabate • Lino • Luke Condzal • and Rosanna Lee Byrnes. The performance was written, produced, and scored by Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum.Radio SORTES is an unnatural extracurricular extension of SORTES magazine, whose events and readings are always free, open to all, and ideally less than two hours. See SORTES.co for inexpressibly brilliant literature, art, and upcoming events.


1950s Western / Sci-Fi Double-Feature, February 25, 2022

The talented Radio SORTES Players performed two old time radio episodes broadcast live via ethereal wireless right to our audience's home receivers.We galloped into the unknown with a 1950s western / sci-fi double-feature: The Six Shooter episode “Battle at Tower Rock” and the Dimension X episode “A Logic Named Joe” -- each with music and convincing sound effects.The all-star Radio SORTES players were: Abbey Minor • Betsy Herbert • Brenna Dinon • Brian Maloney • Britny Brooks • Daniel DiFranco • Dwight Evan Young • Emily Zido • Evan Myers • Iris Johnston • Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum • Kailey Tedesco • Kelly Ralabate • Kevin Travers • Luke Condzal • Nicholas Perilli • Rachel Specht • Rosanna Byrnes • and Victoria Mier.Radio SORTES -- an unnatural extracurricular extension of SORTES magazine -- was produced and directed by Kevin Travers and Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum. Radio SORTES is always free, open to all, and less than two hours. See SORTES.co for upcoming events.


The 39 Steps, February 19, 2021

The Radio SORTES Players performed this classic adventure story, written by John Buchan and adapted by Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum from Hitchcock's 1935 film and the 1937 Lux Radio production. It starred Brenna Dinon • Heather Bowlan • Rosanna Byrnes • Betsy Herbert • Iris Johnston • Warren Longmire • Brian Maloney • Britny Brooks • Nicholas Perilli • Kelly Ralabate • Dwight Evan Young • Emily Zido • Victoria Mier • Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum • and Kevin Travers.


Halloween Eve Special, October 30, 2020

Introduction

Suspense, "The House in Cypress Canyon"

Commercial

Inner Sanctum Mysteries, "Voice on the Wire"

The Radio SORTES players presented a live Halloween Eve special: two programs of classic old time radio horrors. The shows -- including dialogues, music, and sound effects -- were performed for a live Zoom audience.The Suspense episode “The House in Cypress Canyon” was originally broadcast December 5, 1946 and the Inner Sanctum Mysteries episode “Voice on the Wire” was originally broadcast November 29, 1944. Both programs were performed by Kevin Travers • Sean Finn • Britny Perilli • Don Deeley • Brian Maloney • Betsy Herbert • Kyle Brown Watson • Nicholas Perilli • Emma Pike • Susan Clarke • and Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum. Between episodes, we presented an original commercial in period style written and performed by Kevin Travers.


Odd Lots

Announcements and correspondence


Like any genius literary journal, SORTES invites readers and contributors to fight amongst themselves. Please email us to compliment our stellar authors and artists. Spicier fans may want to howl and bellow. Or maybe you have an announcement about a book, art project, impending marriage, &c?Be a part of the problem: comment on our stories and poems, other letters, and the SORTES demimonde in general by emailing


Announcements

TEXT


Correspondence

No Gimmicks

“SORTES continues to ascend the summit of artistic authenticity with every new issue its editors publish, showcasing the works of talented writers in a clean format that is accessible to the reader. There are no gimmicks here or busy links to click through, just the authors and their words. Read em'.”

James Feichthaler, September 8, 2022

James, we appreciate your words mammothly but we delicately disagree: SORTES is one transparent gimmick after another. It's a ruse wrapped in a gambit baked inside a flaky shenanigan potpie.


Missed Connection

“You: M/early 30s olive skin and a nose like a fleur-de-lis, burgundy sweater, pumpkin scarf.Me: F/38 eating olives out of pumpkin rind, lily patterned dress
The bartender sent me a glass of burgundy 'from the gentleman' and you tipped your hat. We talked about SORTES, the paper magazine on the internet, and sang karaoke of our favorite submissions. Drunk on bons mots and pithe, you knocked over the wunderkammer and were ejected by the bouncer. Let's meet and collage a poem!”

Iris Johnston, September 12, 2022

Me: That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said about my nose.

Credit and Debit


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SORTES is a mostly online journal, as you know, but every so often we can't resist existing.


Annual 2023

The SORTES Spectral Winter Annual 2023 revives the tradition of haunted holiday fiction. This beautifully crafted 44-page paperback anthology features ghastly short stories showcasing a dead man’s special deliveries, a judgmental seaside specter, the pains of an aging table-rapper, the heartwarming war on the poor, and the electrifying end of the year / world, as well as poems celebrating the Jersey Devil's unsung siblings. Authors include Daniel DiFranco, Jean Zurbach, Kailey Tedesco, Max D. Stanton, Mordecai Martin, and Nick Perilli. The Annual makes an ideal holiday present for any dear friend or family member who loathes the living.

SORTES Sampler 2

A SORTES Sampler 2 is a slender tasty book collecting weird fiction by Max D. Stanton, surrealist collage art by Danielle Gatto Hirano, and a poetry cycle by Uri Rosenshine. It’s a handsomely designed but affordable little snack of a book. We have incredibly limited copies on hand, and every day they become incredibly more limited, so leap today.

SORTES Sampler 1

NOT QUITE SOLD OUT! We've uncovered a secret cache of remaining copies!A SORTES Sampler 1 was our first attempt to make the ephemeral real. It contains a dystopian farmstead fantasy by Iris Johnston, paper cutout art by Abi Whitehead, and a Coney Island noir by Mordecai Martin.


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Annual 2023 + Sampler 1

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Annual 2023 + Sampler 2

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Annual 2023 + Both Samplers

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SORTES is dedicated to free: every online issue is lovingly brought to you for zero dollars while each Radio SORTES entertainment is beamed gratis to your Zoom dial. Our masochistic editors tell me they’re delighted to put in hundreds of hours for no money and paltry recognition.However, the rest of the chilly world is less dedicated to free and much the opposite: our website, our Zoom, our physical publications, and so many other digital nickels and dimes sap us more each year.We must fight back – and we need you to help us! Every dollar supporting SORTES goes to creating a strange literary world in which you’re a citizen. To delight you, we’re dancing in our red shoes down to our nubs.Why don’t we accept advertising? Because we hate it and it seems like too much work anyway. It blocks the bucolic view. It spoils the fine pleats in our website.So we turn to solicitation, which is much more up our alley. Patreon revives a tradition old as Roman poetry and frumpy chapel ceilings.


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