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Erica Ruppert – Long Way Home

Long Way Home

It’s late, and cold with the first hard edge of autumn, and the car is not going to make it all the way back to town on what’s left in the tank.

The gas station is isolated, a lighted concrete patch along a rural highway, fallow fields and scant woods all around it. I rarely stop here. It is too exposed. Tonight I pull in. The sign in the office window says “open”. The office itself is bright with blue fluorescent glare. There is no one in it.

I wait for the attendant to work the pump. This is New Jersey, where I must pretend to helplessness. A single car passes, then another. The station lights hum like summer insects. Another minute slips by on the dashboard clock. I look around. The concrete pad around the pumps is crumbling, the edges of it dissolving into gravel. A dull assortment of cars marks the edge of the property. The office is the base of a bunker of cement blocks sealed with dirty white paint. From there the building stretches up to a second story with a picture window overlooking the pumps and the highway. There are lights on up there, and I can see a standing lamp and the edge of a shelf. A shadow passes on the visible angle of wall, and I hear a heavy door slam, feet coming down a hollow staircase.

A man rounds the corner of the office and heads toward where I sit locked in my car. He is an Indian, tall, possibly mid-thirties. He is wiping his hands on a crumpled rag as he walks. When he gets to my window I roll it partway down.

“I’m sorry, are you open?”

“Yes,” he says, his voice very lightly accented. He tucks the rag into the front pocket of his navy blue work pants. “Did you wait long? I’m sorry. I was having my dinner.”

It is nearly eleven o’clock.

“No, not long,” I say. “I didn’t mean to interrupt. The sign said ‘open’.”

“Yes. It’s okay. I live here, so I leave the lights on. Someone may come.”

He smiles. I smile back. I roll the window down farther.

“May I have twenty regular, please?” I say. He repeats my request and begins the pump. The sound of the machinery overrides the buzz of the lights. A car goes by.

He stands near my window, watching the numbers on the pump roll up. Then he turns to me.

“Were you working this late?” he says.

I pause for a moment, glance at the road. “No,” I say. “Not tonight. But I had a lot of errands to run up in Flemington. Shopping.”

“Ah,” he says. He shifts his feet. “Getting ready for Christmas?”

I pause again. The pump is at sixteen dollars now.

“No, not yet.” I laugh a little. “I used to start this early, but life got way too busy. I used to be really organized.”

He smiles and looks away at the night around us. It is impossible to see anything but darkness beyond the flat blaze of the station lights. He wants nothing from me. I pull him back.

“When are you able to get away?” I say. “Do you have any help here?”

He looks back to me, smiles again. “My uncle is here. My mother’s brother. He helps me sometimes.”

“That’s good,” I say. “Family is a good thing.”

“Sometimes,” he says, and now he laughs. I laugh, too.

The pump clicks heavily and shuts off. He screws on the gas cap and I hand him the money.

“Do you have a family?” he says.

I consider that. I could rely on the kindness of a stranger. I don’t ever have to come back here.

I edit.

“A son,” I say. “He’s grown. He’s out in Pennsylvania.”

He nods.

A pickup truck goes by, fast and aggressively loud. We both watch it pass, listen as the engine’s roar peaks and trails off.

“Thanks,” I say into the fresh quiet. “Have a good night.”

“Yes, thank you. You have a good night, too.”

He steps back from my car, away and behind it. I roll up my window as I start the engine. As I roll toward the exit I can see him in the mirrors, walking back toward the stairs. He waves at my taillights as I pull out onto the empty highway. I wave back. He won’t see me. The windows are clouded from the cold air, and I switch on the defroster.

It is still twelve miles to town. There are no streetlights on this stretch. In the dark sky, the stars are very clear.

- Erica Ruppert 

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M.E. McMullen – To Create Such a Thing

To Create Such a Thing

To create such a thing requires a quality eluding precise definition. It requires the right combination, if you like, of insight and insanity. The silent rat-tat-tats of my neighbor’s creativity come to mind. I call them rat-tat-tats to allude to the soundless quality of the noise of creativity.

Now, letters about noise were written, I admit, but that was about noise from the outside. Sirens mainly, okay? There was no proof that I wrote those letters, by the way, but I was arrested all the same and charged.

I maintain my innocence.

This sound, this rat-tat-tat, haunts the hallway of the place at the foot of Ambler Street. He of the rat-tat-tat creating mode is the freak in 204. I am his neighbor across the hall, the freak in 205. He has a spectacular view of the harbor. I have a breathtaking view of the brick walls and barred windows of the west wing of Drayman General. I happen to know about his view because I looked at that flat before he took it.

I say rat-tat-tat as a kind of coverall phrase, to describe the indescribable sound of whatever he’s building over there. It reminds me of the sounds you hear when somebody builds something using a tack hammer, like maybe a little house for the cat, using those little thin nails that bend if you strike them the least bit crooked.

Couple things.

I’m not some disembodied voice spouting doublespeak platitudes here. My name is Lyle Vance, and I lived at the Y before I moved to the foot of Ambler Street, and I know cats don’t have houses. I sometimes speak in extended metaphors. It’s involuntary, like a tic. I was dropped on my head when I was a kid.

All right, all right.

My name is not actually Lyle Vance. I never lived at the Y. Lyle Vance used to live at the Y, but I’m not him. I represented myself as Lyle Vance because it’s easier that way. That rat-tat-tat sounds like random noise to the uninitiated because they don’t understand what it means, that’s all. The uninitiated, I mean. Once they get it, they’ll see that it’s just much easier to think of me as Lyle Vance even ‘though we know I’m not.

As long as we’re putting it out on the table here, Lyle Vance wrote the letters. Not me. I was out of town. The cops think I wrote them, sure, but they can’t prove it. I was down south on a secret junket, actually, investigating the possibility of opening a trade mission way south, near the pole. I know it sounds far fetched, but it’s pure and simple planning. Planning is what’s going to take mankind to the stars. Everybody pulling together, regardless of race, creed, national origin, shape of nose, eye, lip or mouth, any of that, all following a plan.
Take me, Lyle Vance.

All right, all right, all right. I am Lyle Vance, and, notwithstanding earlier denials, I do have more experience with this rat-tat-tat business than I let on. Rat-tat-tat is nothing more than the sound of making something. When you build a house for a cat, you make noise. Rat-tat-tat is the sound of that building. Across the hall in 204, he’s building something. That’s all. He would probably say he’s creating something, and that’s fine. You might tend to believe him because he has a harbor view, as opposed to my brick wall view, but he pays twice as much rent as I do.

Maybe you’re one of these people who gets all fired up when somebody blurts out something offensive, like when I almost used the word nuthouse earlier, describing the west wing of Drayman General. I left nuthouse out because it’s an insensitive word. It would be analogous to saying that they put Aunt Bertie in a nuthouse because they can’t trust her with matches. Broke their hearts to do it, needless to say. Poor old Bertie stashed away in a drafty, decrepit nuthouse is not a happy image, and it leaves me wondering if creative insight and visionary insanity aren’t actually separate manifestations of the same thing, like waves and particles, space and time, all that. Like me and you, actually. We’ve come this far in tandem.

As for reality of the foot of Ambler Street; first, you’ll see Drayman General looming on the left, a large building of dull yellow brick. Let your eyes drift across the parking lot. Follow the line of light stanchions to the foot of Ambler. You’ll see a sandy colored apartment building that’s seen better days. Go in the front. Take the stairs to the second floor. Turn right at the top. Down at the end of the hall, you’ll see 204 and 205.

The guy who lives in 204, Lyle Vance, has a most interesting and creative rat-tat-tat going. It’s actually not so much a rat-tat-tat sound as it is a series of seemingly unrelated events beginning with a queer smile, a tentative invitation, a clumsy greeting, wine and cheese, clam dip and crackers, reefer and snuff, stories long into the night about undergrad hi jinks. Creating stink bombs in the boys’ bathroom. Making crank calls. Who does Lyle Vance look like, so you can picture him? Well, he looks a little like me, I guess.

He’s not quite as tall, but probably weighs a little more. Some of his friends say we both bear a mild resemblance to what they think one of the prophets might’ve looked like. We both have long hair trailing down to our shoulders, kind of parted in the center. We’re both slight of build, with kind of a thin face and a placid demeanor. If you saw us together, Lyle Vance and I, passing in the hall, let’s say, you might say to yourself, “Those two guys not only like each other, but they also look a little bit like I imagine one of the worldly prophets must have looked.” Lyle Vance and I both graduated from the street. These worldly prophets, as I understand it, were pretty much street guys, relating to the street folk, living in rent, not having accumulated much in the way of what they used to call, and may still, material wealth.

Lyle Vance in a nutshell?

Well, truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect that first night when he invited me, his new neighbor, over for dinner. Peach cartons and frozen ravioli maybe, but it wasn’t like that. Okay, there were beaded doorways. A stuffed raven perched on a shelf above the commode. A large tropical hammock hanging in the living room. There was jungle music, and a live parrot named Itchy, a beautiful blue and yellow creature, cawing out, ‘Stand down, Mr. Christian.’ No rat-tat-tats lying around that I could see.

Some people like to put their own art work on their walls, their visible light spectrum rat-tat-tat, you know. Lyle Vance was one of those.

I used to know a guy named Chester, who put his own art work on the walls. When I saw Lyle Vance’s walls, I was pretty sure we were dealing with another Chester. Chester was always running for office. Kissing ass. Fawning over people. Laughing too much, slapping everybody on the back, pretending he was interested in their petty bullshit problems when all he really cared about was getting back to his private car on the gravy train. Old rat-tat-tat Lyle Vance across the hall reminded me of Chester, putting his own art on the wall.

Chester bought a huge canvas, locked himself away with a paint set. He painted an amateurish looking portrait of his own feet, which he called FEET in capital letters at the bottom. He signed it, had it put in an expensive frame and hung it above his mantle. He told everybody that he’d been offered a lot of money for FEET because it represented a breakthrough of raw creativity translating into `Great Art’ even ‘though the art itself, by objective standards, was lousy. Somebody said that the FEET painting looked like something a chimp might do with finger paints after being given LSD.

Lyle Vance had something almost as good as his own art on the wall, a color photo of the sparkling harbor scene his window looked out on. “Why a photo when I can look at the scene itself?” he said. “I can take it with me when I go.”

I asked in a kind of neighborly way, what else he builds, besides moveable views.

Relationships’, he said.

We are freaks, okay? I mentioned it earlier. We don’t conform to the norm. The bottom of Ambler is the underside of the American Dream. Emergency sirens all night. Fire engines coming in the front window. They rip you out of a sound sleep at four a.m.; send you crawling off to the kitchen in defeat and humiliation. I don’t know if it bothers Lyle Vance, but it sure bothers me.

This is all I can afford right now, until this trade mission thing kicks in. I haven’t approached Lyle Vance just yet. I’m waiting until the right time. He’s building something over there. What, I’m not sure. Maybe a new relationship. The rat-tat-tats are sporadic, soft and loud, but he’s definitely building something. He says relationships, but you don’t need a rat-tat-tat hammer for that.

To create the trust that the word ‘relationship’ implies, one is compelled to ignore some things that are pretty hard to ignore. Nasty letters were written to the mayor, the hospital trustees, the police, the National Association of Emergency Rooms, and local politicians, complaining about the sirens.

All right, all right.

I pretended to be associated with an alderman in order to get some signatures on a petition against the sirens, but I really have no connection with the alderman, who is actually an alderlady. In truth, she’s never heard of me, which kind of hurts my feelings because I volunteered with her campaign.

She has heard of Lyle Vance, the one connected, which is why I used his name, merely to facilitate and expedite things, that’s all. If he had a problem with it, he should’ve said so. We’re just across the hall.

All right, all right.

I made a few threats, but it was strictly for show to help my anti-siren campaign. To create such a thing, you have to be assertive. I was a regular worldly prophet about it. Never got a penny. Well, — hardly a penny. Few meals, maybe. Couple drinks.

All right, all right.

I got a little money. A few bucks. Not enough to buy a ticket off lower Ambler; believe me. Hey, you do what you have to in hard times. Creation is an assertion of a person’s humanity, you know. Try telling that to the cops. Bastards.

- M. E. McMullen

Note: This piece was originally published in 2011 by Blue Lake Review

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Karla Cordero – A Familiar Stranger

A Familiar Stranger

I. Seven Words

He’s always been a deep sleeper. She visits his face. Two flies surround the slight entrance of his mouth. She swats at their intrusion, only to find the corner of a piece of paper clamped between his lips. She tugs the paper delicately between thumb and index causing an opening of the mouth. The smell of shredded carcass burns her eyes to a water. A black beetle gnaws at the edge of his tongue. She extracts the rest of the paper from what was once a pink fleshed organ. She unfolds the damp material. Only seven words, Guilt is a hard thing to swallow.

II. A Shower after Dinner

She flushes the goldfish down the toilet. This is how she copes with her anger. After dinner she jumps into the shower. She runs conditioner through her hair. Allows the soap to burn her eyes. A small object pushes through the shower nozzle, slapping her on the forehead, and dives to the bottom of the wet title. She looks down to find a goldfish flopping between her toes. This is how the goldfish copes with her anger.


My lips push on each other between front teeth. The tearing of skin welcomes the taste of blood on my palate. I reach into the fish tank and cage Goldy between my palm and fingers. I lay his fragile body on a pyrex. It’s an easy task to spray Pam on Goldy’s body, as he flops against glass. I place the pyrex into the oven at 350 degrees. I watch through the oven window with a glass of Pinot Noir. His gills surrender the struggle at the coming of heat. Scales turn a metallic orange to a fine golden crisp. Eyes bulge from pinhole sockets. At the sound of the timer, I scrape Goldy onto a ceramic plate pulled from the fine China cabinet. Beethoven on vinyl orchestras the rest of our evening. I shred the delicate meat from his body and savor the little he has to offer. I pull a tin box from under the sink, unlock the lid with a key from my charm bracelet. I scrape Goldy’s remains onto a pile of tiny skeletons. Lock the box and go to bed full.

- Karla Cordero

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Anthony Arnone – The Monocle

The Monocle

When I walked in to Davies Symphony Hall for the first concert of the season, like usual, it was glowing with a gold tint. The low yellow lighting, the hanging sound-reflectors that reflected the beige stage and the few scattered musicians’ instruments already warming up, and the golden pillars spread out along the walls accounted for that. Patrons of both sexes were pouring into the hall in a steady stream, mostly coupled.

I arrived at my seat in the middle of the premier orchestra section and sat down next to a bald elderly man with the curled mustache of a connoisseur. As he turned to greet me, my gaze fastened to his large but rimless monocle covering the specimen of his inquisitive eye, like the lid to a petri dish, which it magnified almost double along with forcing what looked like an almost painful contraction of the eyebrow supporting the monocle, giving him the stately refinement of a man-of-the-world.

“A young good-looking man like you, alone at the Symphony! Bah. You should get yourself a young lady at your side for something like this,” said the old man after shaking my hand.

“I don’t know if that’s good or bad advice,” I responded in monotone.

He emitted a snorting laugh while removing his monocle, which shrunk his eye significantly, and while giving the monocle a polish with the square kerchief from his suit jacket pocket said, “Ah you’re young. It’s the best time for heartbreak, boy.”

I feigned a laugh. As the lights started to flash mellowly to signal the start of the concert, the old man’s wife appeared at the end of our aisle and started to make her way to her seat.

“There’s the old lady,” said the old man giving a wink and then turning in her direction before lodging the monocle back into his eye socket.

When she finally, after a long and shaky struggle, reached her seat, beads of sweat were quivering below the high hairline on her forehead under the overhead lighting. The old man turned towards his wife. Continue Reading »

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Brooke Glass-O’Shea – Some Things I Stole When I Was a Teenager

Some Things I Stole When I Was a Teenager 

1. My mother’s vodka. She bought a big jug of it because her parents were coming to visit, and they always had vodka and tonics before dinner. But they stay ed at a hotel and ate at restaurants, and so the big jug just sat there, perched on a wooden rafter in our drafty little cottage, unopened. My mom only drank socially, and then just a glass of wine or something. 

The month before my 14th birthday, I took the jug down. My best friend said she was pretty sure that vodka and Coke was a thing, and so we bought a couple cans of Coke and mixed up our drinks in the kitchen, filling the water glasses with half Coke, half vodka. It tasted like paint thinner mixed with earwax. We figured it would be gross anyway, so we just choked it down. Soon, I felt funny. And then I felt happy. I had not realized how unhappy I’d felt for the past 13 years.

2. A light fixture from the hardware store. My mother kicked me out at age 15 because I’d started sleeping with a dumb hippie guy twice my age, and so I went to live with my father and stepmother. My father did not like young people, and did not particularly like me, but he felt compelled to prove to the world that he was a better parent than my mother. He did this by taking me with him when he went to the hardware store.

My dad would rarely speak as we drove through the drizzly streets in his old blue Toyota Corolla, or as he strode around the store, engaging eagerly with the cables and wrenches and pipe fittings. I wandered, listless. Stealing that light fixture was the only fun I ever had on any of these outings. I tucked it into my backpack, fast as a thought, and glowed all the way home with the secret knowledge that my life was more exciting than it was supposed to be.

I wanted the light fixture to turn my gumball machine into a lamp when it ran out of gumballs. The old hippie guy had sent me the gumball machine, because of my fetish for them—the old-fashioned kind with the sort of art deco design on the pretty blue base. He was a nice guy, really. My dad told me when I moved in that the old hippie guy had raped me, but I thought that was just stupid.

3. A chocolate Easter bunny from Macy’s. There were a bunch of them piled on a display table, and I picked one up as I was walking out with my friend, to impress her. She was impressed. I felt awesome. Much later, she almost became a man but then changed her mind after about six months of the hormones. That’s rough, I thought—believing for so long that you shouldn’t be a woman and then discovering that you shouldn’t be a man either.

4. A chemistry textbook for my friend Tim. He’d started taking some serious college science classes right after high school, like during the summer quarter, but then his parents kicked him out of the house for being difficult. He was living in his VW bus, usually parked right outside his parents’ place so he could shower and do his laundry there when his brother was home. He could not afford to buy the textbook for his chemisty class, but he offered to give me his nice motorcycle jacket if I’d steal it for him. I had a reputation by then.

This theft got weird, because our friend Jonathan joined us when we met up on the university campus and we all took a couple hits of LSD. I thought I’d be out of the bookstore by the time the drugs took effect, but I found, to my great consternation, that the store was lousy with uniformed security guards—probably there to keep weirdos from stealing the chemistry textbooks.

I crouched low in the aisle, pretending to read the laser-printed labels beneath the piles of assigned reading. The chemistry book I could do, but then how to get it out of the store? The only exits were through the tight checkout counter lines, where I would surely draw attention to myself if I didn’t buy anything. There was approximately $3.82 in my pocket, but this part of the store—the heavily guarded part—only sold textbooks, so I couldn’t just buy some pens or something. I pondered this dilemma for so long that I started to get very, very high. I’d forgotten about the LSD.

Panicking as the air around me grew bright and thick, I moved in a daze with the textbook toward the front of the store and almost past an old wire display rack of folded maps. Maps were $3, plus tax—enough to get me into a checkout line and out of the store looking normal-ish. My friends, worried and high, were loitering across the street. Tim gave me $3 and let me keep the map—a nice, big map of the US. Later, I collaged a bunch of pictures onto it and went over all the state borders with lines of glow-in-the-dark paint, so that when I put it up on the wall and turned off the light at night, all 50 states hovered next to my bed, reassuring me that the world was big, very big.

5. A small can of glow-in-the-dark paint. That is some wondrous paint technology right there.

6. Two cans of frozen cranberry juice. I loved Tim, but he always said that he cared too much about me as a friend, so I eventually started sleeping with Jonathan, which wasn’t so bad. I did get a urinary tract infection, though, and then another one right after. The next time Jonathan and I were at Safeway, I said I’d heard that cranberry juice was good for preventing urinary tract infections. We went over to the frozen juice aisle.

Cranberry juice, it turned out, was expensive. “I can steal it,” I said, and when he got uncomfortable, added, “or you can pay for it if you’d rather. I don’t have enough money.” He said I could go ahead and steal it.

7. The P-Funk All-Stars, Live at the Beverly Theater in Hollywood, on cassette. This ended my stealing career, because I got caught. The Tower Records security guy tapped me on the shoulder and I knew it was all over. He took me up some stairs into the little security office in the back, where he could see almost every part of the store through a one-way mirror. He was stern with me. I was 17. He would have to call my parents.

My father answered the phone. I watched the security guy as he related my misdeed to my father, told him to come and pick me up. I watched the security guy’s face shift from authority to incredulity. “No, I don’t want to take her to jail. Just come and pick her up.”

To frustration, the pitch of his voice rising. “Look, I’m not taking her to jail. She’s not 18, so you’re legally responsible for her. I’m going to keep her here until you come get her.”

We waited together, and he wasn’t stern anymore. I asked him about what it was like to work security at a record store, what kind of stuff he’d seen. My dad eventually came, and we drove home in silence, which wasn’t unusual. After dinner, he and my stepmother gave me a little lecture, cold and tight-lipped.

I did get to keep the P-Funk tape, which would provide me with many years of funky listening pleasure. But I hated myself. My parents—all three of them—thought I was monstrous, possibly evil, and I wasn’t even that good at stealing. I left the apartment without a word and walked through the summertime streets to where Tim was, reading a book in his VW bus outside of his parents’ house. Tim said that I was okay, not evil at all. He let me climb into the back of his bus and sleep there with him, just sleeping, fully clothed and apart but together, like children.

- Brooke Glass-O’Shea 


Cindy Mundahl – The Gift

The Gift

I wrapped the watch in the old cigar box just as he had when he gave it to me for my twelfth birthday. He said his dad had given it to him when he turned twelve and that he wanted me to have it now that I was old enough to take care of it. The box still reeked of the cigars he used to smoke when he drank. He gave the watch to me a couple of days before he locked me and my mom and my little sister out of the house in one of his fits. That’s what mom used to call them, fits. We had to walk to Grandma’s in the dark that night and sleep on the green shag carpet of her living room that smelled like cat pee that’d been there for twenty years.

Now that I was back in town, I finally had the courage to tell him that I was done with him for good. I was going to rid myself of the years of living in fear of his moods. How many times did I worry he would drive us into the lake or off of a bridge? After a while I secretly wished he would and that I would walk out of the water with no scrapes or bruises or broken bones and he would remain on the bottom of the lake like a stone mired in mud.

When I handed him the gift, he unwrapped it slowly. His shaking hands didn’t let him tear the paper quickly. He opened the lid of the cigar box, struggled to pick up the watch and peered up at me over his glasses. “Thanks, Dad,” he said. “I’ll take really good care of it.” He smiled wide, stood up and put his arms around my chest with a strength that I didn’t think he had in him anymore. He held the watch up for everyone to see then gently tucked it into his shirt pocket as if he was afraid someone would snatch it from his wiry fingers. He leaned away from me toward the table of unopened gifts and motioned for the next gift, his eyes filled with the eagerness of a child. I turned and walked through the crowd of aunts, uncles and cousins gathered around his chair, past the birthday cake and out into the still evening air.

- Cindy Mundahl


Rebeka Singer – Orbiting


Evening rain seeped into the city ground to sleep that night. The boys wandered down alleys, jumped fences because they could, and ran through the dorm corridors for recruits. They found Sharon and Ashley in their room, readying for the night. The dresser door hung open and clothing collected in corners. They enlisted the girls to join them in their aimless revelry. “The night will be dreamless, and boundless.” They bartered promises for company.

Charlie had just taken his final exam earlier that day. It was the last day before holidays began. Then they would return home for a winter hiatus of boredom, Christmas turkeys and lousy reunions. The kind when everyone pretends that they have their life together and, over cheap cocktails parading as symbols of sophistication, smiles broadly at one another, bearing teeth, to convey post-adolescent success.

What were they in the day but a bunch of college kids? The world wasn’t looking now.

Ashley stroked on her eyeliner in the mirror above her bunk bed. Charlie clutched a bar on the battered wooden ladder, leading up to Ashley. The bed swung ever so slightly as he pulled on the bar and shifted his weight outward.

Walt eyed Sharon’s smooth hand reaching for his arm. Her shirt rose as she stretched out for him and a bundle of bracelets slunk to her elbow, exposing the white of her wrist. Walt shuddered at the sight of its vulnerable flesh. Even when they used to date, he never grasped her delicate wrists in affection, but preferred her sturdy shoulders and silky neck.

They navigated the maze-like halls, passed around a bottle of gin and cola. They laughed and leaned into each other’s bodies.

December nights are cold.

The December cold freezes memories: pictures with captions. Feeling and fact are muddled.

Outside, Ashley’s eyelids were silver dust. The wind swept that dust through the air.

Tiny particles glint under the streetlights.

To Charlie, Ashley’s eyes shone something feral, something stirring, and he longed for the gaze of those dark eyes, the blackest he had ever seen.

The streets were quiet, whispers under foot. Those lost side streets, lined with tenements and markets and underground fetish bars, slept that night—on the outside. The city was a continent all its own. There was too much ground to cover in the waning hours until morning. They trespassed that continent.

“Look at us!” Sharon lifted her arms above her head, reaching her fingerless-gloved hands to the heavens. “We’re like outlaws.”

They wandered into a convenience store. The Indian clerk eyed their ashen skin. The boys bartered money for cigarettes and beer.

The four sat on the steps in front of a small deserted park. Walt administered each team member their share. Ashley and Sharon embraced and took long drags of their cigarettes. Everyone drank until the bottles were empty.

They spun softly in their newfound states of existence. The shiny streets fused with the moonless night and lit up the skies. Their eyes glowed something wild. Their eyes glowed triumph. Trespassers; now, proprietors of that continent beneath their feet; its atmosphere cradled their unsteady movements.

Ever forward. 

The sky grayed over the Hudson. Lit bridges faded into the earliest hours of day. The lights of the city dulled and the sun peaked through the low, heavy clouds. The sunrise was just a color that time of year. You couldn’t feel its warmth blanketing the Earth. Just a vision, so far far away.

They wandered through the tangled city, tangled in each other’s arms, tangled in their minds.

- Rebeka Singer


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