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Ryan Garcia – Monthly Business Trip

Monthly Business Trip

The cool marine layer had crept over the city through the night, seeping its way into cracked windows, tugging at the edges of blankets. Highway headlights dimmed a little, and the comfort of shorts and shirts soon turned into jeans and jackets, maybe a scarf. Scarves, Henry thought, what a joke. Henry made his way through the lobby towards the elevator doors, suitcase in one hand, rolled blueprints in the other. His visits to Los Angeles felt tropical; a nice getaway from the sleek and sting of a New York winter. He sought them. He sought any opportunity to venture west.

The elevator doors slid open. He began to read through the small calendar he kept in his pocket as he made his way up to the 28th floor. Carefully, he drew lines across the day’s agenda list, feeling the smooth wave of relaxation beginning to blanket his shoulders in the comfort of a productive day. Hotel hallways were always the loneliest part of Henry’s day, the burning seconds between his business on the outside and a warm room inside. Gently sliding his keycard up and down the lock, he exhaled. The bathroom door was ajar, cracking just enough light in the room to make the bed look as though it was glowing. Henry smiled.

He loosened his tie delicately; a Christmas gift from his wife last year – all black, pencil shape, his favorite. He placed it over the wonderfully tacky chair that stood just next to the bed, and began to undress to nothing. Henry threw the covers from the bed, scooted towards the middle, and stared at the ceiling. It was these last moments he had when he missed New York the most; the few moments lying between the day’s anticipation of the night and the overwhelming sentiment of love. They were moments he believed to be the darkest. Waiting.

The bathroom door finally opened, and Henry began to bask in the evening’s promise. Now completely consumed by his adoration and passion for something he planned his whole month around. She walked to the bed and placed herself next to him so gently that it felt to Henry that she was set there delicately by God.

I’ve missed you, she said.

I’m here.

The city is colder when you’re gone.

She grabbed him tenderly, and felt his body tremble. The marine layer began to thicken, passing by their window with the stealth and discreetness of a lover. Henry felt his body getting colder, allowing himself to be enveloped by the cool ocean air that he so seldom felt back east.

- Ryan Garcia

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Natalee Singleton – Inflammation of the Soul

Inflammation of the Soul

A man sits across from me. He speaks of taming wild thirsts; my fierce, unholy hungers. Of bread and blood. And meat and seed.

He crusades to turn my eyes inward and soul outward. He wants to see the prospect of nature everted and poke at the diseased spots of its pink, fleshy core.

I listen to the living word carried on his musky breath – like the dusty old books on his shelves. It smells like nothing has lived or stirred there in a long time. He spits when he pontificates.

A framed certificate confirms an ordination for God, but I keep expecting a demonic, bifurcated tongue to emerge. Oh God, don’t think of tongues.

He leans forward and asks if I’ve known the smell of sulfur. Have I been to Old Faithful? Visited St. Helens?

“It is better to marry than burn.”

I burn anyway. I burn for her. Because of her. Me. Us.

I wonder what passion looks like to him. Crumpled roller-permed hair and pit stains on his undershirt, every third Thursday of months without an r?

Has he seen passion like ours, ethereal and framed by the sun? Maybe if I hid it, if I tucked away our glow and loved her under the covers, to shield from Heaven’s eye all the parts of us we shouldn’t be. We could cover our mouths, with only whispers on our tongues to say the sun was ever there. Hide away, and covet my own cause for believing.

Our cocoon probably looks like a bundle of kindling to this man. With calm and folded fingers, he touts joys, simple and domestic, from a world of dutiful roles and plentiful, ripened fruit.

I want to scream; I want to hit him; I want to cry and get on my knees and beg him to absolve me.

“Shameful, unnatural… the evils from inside that defile you.”

I white-knuckle my armrests until I hear them creak in distress. But the fleshy pads of my fingers won’t draw blood from the wood.

He doesn’t understand. I’ve loved her before. I know I have. On an un-Grecian shore, when we were as we should be. I’ll just sit here and listen until I can remember – our names, the time and the place and the years of our age – and I can explain.

He reads me a passage and calls it breath.

But it can’t be the one I know. Because I’ve felt an angel’s breath on my skin, in the bliss of a little death.

Paul says I have choices, his verses or my own.

——-We’ll build them like Us
——-to walk as We do,
——-Our flesh to wear
——-Our will to bear,
——-to eat when they’re hungry
——-and starved for the truth,
——-to burn hot on the pyres
——-of many delicate fires.

- Natalee Singleton

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Harold Stallworth – Brothels

Brothels

I grew up in a shoddy trailer park just east of Roanoke, Virginia. My hometown has always been a hotbed for deviant behavior, an incubator for miscreants. I suppose this made it easier for me to reconcile with the idea of dropping hard earned cash in foreign whore houses. Jamilla was mortified by my tales of erstwhile debauchery.

“Oh my God,” she shrieked in the most judgmental tone she could muster. “How could you?!”

“How could I what?”

“Have you ever seen that documentary called Trap Door?”

“Yeah, I think so. Is that the one about the Mongolian Empire?”

“Worse! It’s about human trafficking and illegal adoption rackets. The girls that work in those cat houses overseas are sold into that life. Spending money in those places makes you complicit in horrific crimes against defenseless women.”

“Oh.”

“It’s on Netflix,” she said, reaching for her laptop beneath the coffee table. “Let’s watch it.”

“Ugh!”

“You should be more knowledgeable about the consequences of your actions. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of you glorifying a parasitic culture.”

“This is why I never tell you anything, Jamilla.”

My stint as a piddly deck seamen on the USS Somerset was undoubtedly the best four years of my entire life. I traveled the world twice over in a drunken stupor, occasionally seeking respite and refuge in exotic brothels along the Mediterranean coasts of Europe. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was naive to assume Jamilla could unsaddle her high horse long enough to admire my off-color exploits. She cued up the documentary with a disturbing fit of enthusiasm. I squirmed about the couch, bracing for an impending wave of retroactive guilt.

No more than two minutes into the film, before the conclusion of the opening credits, Jamilla slammed the laptop shut and pivoted toward me, legs folded, arms crossed, attentive in a way that was equally creepy and endearing and endorsing. Her sunken brown eyes begged for honesty. Continue Reading »

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Richard Mark Glover – Synthetics

Synthetics

I reached out across the sheets and put my hand over the small of her back just above the skin, her camisole cinched, my mind in full focus as I encountered her aura. I breathed deeply thinking maybe this is the road back. It’d been awhile. I tried to think how long it’s been as I glided my hand above her butt feeling static generate from her panties, holding my hand just above contact like maybe the magic of silk and electro-magnetism would change things.

In the beginning of our relationship she would turn to me late at night and ask questions like “Do you think I have nice hands?” And words would slide out of my mouth, “slender, soft.” She would listen and take it in and I could feel her smiling in the dark and we would make love.

We agreed, before we committed to each other, to live our relationship outside convention. The first step was not to get married. We made a list, Nina insisted, a list of everything we didn’t want: the corporate world, jobs with time cards, doctors with pills. Continue Reading »

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Bryce Taylor – Custom Jesus

Custom Jesus

Welcome to Custom Jesus! Where you get to hang out (virtually!) with the Jesus of your choice and predilection! Here are some recommendations to which you should not at all feel limited to, but feel free to choose them if you so please and desire!

Good Old American Jesus: This popular Redeemer emphasizes the importance of the traditional family, patriotism, freedom, capitalism, and the basic fundamental values of our Founding Fathers. For an additional $10, he will sing the lyrics of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” to the tune of an ancient Galilean bar song!

Jock Jesus: Say goodbye to the “meek and mild” Savior of Sunday School days gone by, this Jesus is not afraid to flex his washboard abs. Turn the other cheek? I don’t think so! Jock Jesus does not walk the extra mile, he runs it — in under five minutes! Booyah.

Secular Jesus: Who needs over-the-top miracles when you can have fascinating lessons about generosity and humane behavior more or less consonant with the teachings of other humane leaders like Confucius, Gandhi, and MLK? This Jesus proves you can be super without being supernatural!

Marxist Jesus: Talk about immanentizing the eschaton, this Jesus preaches a Gospel of radical equality and classlessness and material prosperity for all, meanwhile eschewing hope in “another world.” Boy, can this Son of Man stick it to the man!

Historical Jesus: As per the latest research of renowned and accredited scholars, this Jesus will vary from month to month. Guaranteed to be the genuine article!

Coming soon: Prosperity Jesus! Easier for a camel to go through the eye of a homeless man than for this Jesus to give a rat’s behind!

- Bryce Taylor

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Austin Eichelberger – On Having Faith

On Having Faith

Mid-afternoon sunlight filtered into the Hayfords’ living room, throwing long, thin shadows across the carpet and softly illuminating objects in the room: the bookshelf, creased spines of mysteries and romances lined up beside photo albums, auto repair manuals; the plaid couch, matching crocheted doilies on each arm; the wood laminate china cabinet, glass doors protecting the shelves of plates, cups and saucers inherited from parents, aunts, a great uncle; and the padded rocking chair where Maureen sat, her body still except for her slowly pushing legs and tense, restless hands – which moved between fluttering about her lap and twisting the gold cross around her neck until the chain went taut – as she watched the light touch the objects around her.

            Maureen looked from her and Gerry’s wedding photo on the wall to the cold, quiet street out the window, and then at the half-table that was pushed up against the aging wallpaper facing her, willing the cordless phone sitting on the smooth wooden surface to ring. The table was one of the only things Maureen still had from her childhood home – her grandfather had made the table for her mother, carving the edges to look like the elegant, lacy trim that the bank manager and mayor had ordered for their homes – and she kept it nice by polishing the hardwood surfaces, hammering in a new nail when one of the legs got loose. The table being older than herself comforted Maureen, let her believe that if a tiny little table could withstand the world for that long, then so could she.

            Gerry had said he would call her the night before – he was hauling the rig cross-country in five days, and she hated when he’d try to get ahead of schedule by not sleeping, so she made him promise to call when he stopped each night – but as she sat up waiting on the third night, twisting and tugging on the cross hanging from her neck, the phone never rang. She had tried calling him around eleven thirty, an hour after he usually turned in, but his pay-as-you-go cell phone hadn’t even rung. Not unusual, she had thought while replacing the receiver, he turns it off while driving so he won’t be bothered – he’ll probably turn it on in a minute. After half an hour in the rocking chair, her sore knee began to loosen up a little and Maureen dozed off only to wake up seconds later, frantic that she had missed him. Once she saw the red LED zero on the answering machine, she got herself a glass of water and laid down in the bed. Continue Reading »

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AJ Urquidi – Forest

Forest

The manchild moved to where boys go to bald:
a forest of plaster, his language erased.
                        A terrier brushed his leg,
                        he longed to pet its fur. 

A boy and girl threw sticks at their ball in a tree,
he starved to reach up and embody their hero.
                        Into his open sore
                        he deposited an evening. 

He emitted more fluids than his liver contained.
He wondered why tattoos gave their harborers cool,
                        why men sported earrings,
                        why women sported earrings. 

He lay in the grass and drilled out his mind
for images that could untie old knots,
                        his sweater sleeves tie
                        around his hefty waist. 

He lay in the grass near beautiful girls;
eye contact was neither made nor kept.
                        Aspirations to jog, walk
                        the dog around the block.

He spoke to Mother and dead CEOs
in his sleep, and in his sleep
                        he heard himself talk
                        and was afraid to awaken.

A shuttle bus shuffled past, clicked violins
into position. Near Rainbow Falls
                        two years before
                        a tree with loose roots

upended uphill and fast-lanced down a gulch.
The forest grabbed at, hoped to stop, or slow it,
                        but it hit the creek,
                        with lugubrious force,
at which point momentum broke it apart.

He lay in the grass and imagined that tree
would still lie in pieces, cracked little verses,
                        at a low, low point
                        for a long, long time.

- AJ Urquidi

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