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Month: August 2011

DAEDAL DOODLE, C

by Victor Stabin

[Editor’s Note: We will be publishing all 26 letters of Victor Stabin’s Daedal Doodle series, one each Wednesday for 26 weeks. Be sure to click on the picture for the FULL VIEW! Victor Stabin’s alphabet book is available here.]

For almost three years, wherever he went, Victor Stabin brought a dictionary along. Combing through over 8,000 pages of a variety of dictionaries, he came up with the alliterations that inhabit this work. Inspired by reading “ABC” books to his three-year-old daughter Skyler, his love of words, and his incessant inability to to stop doodling, he unflinchingly created the improbable alliterative combinations and illustrations that inhabit this work. In his heart he knew he was creating a work that, while using unusually obtuse words, would have broad appeal and challenge the “ABC” status quo. The goal—to create platforms that bridge literate curiosity across multiple generations using mostly common (and sometimes extraordinarily uncommon) imagery in new and inventive ways. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, presented for your literate and retinal delight… (more…)

Important Tips on Designing Your Dream House

by Joe Kapitan

A large house is defined as a dwelling of at least 3,500 square feet in area. Large houses allow members of a single family to find adequate solitary space while simultaneously occupying the house. In a large house, you can hear muffled voices, footfalls, generalized emotional sounds (i.e. laughing versus crying), enough to feel “together,” yet the spaces are far enough apart that individual family members can come and go with no further interaction or specifics. Fact: seventy-nine percent of the houses built in the United States since 1990 can be classified as large houses.

A large garage is a necessity. Garages are the chapels of transience. Life moves and people change and therefore the things that come along with those people must change. Boxes in, wedding-gift china sets; boxes out, same, but chipped. Hers vs. yours. Garages must be big and dry and well-lit, but nothing more. You’re not supposed to get comfortable there. Keep it clear for what’s coming.

Adjacent to the garage should be a Mud Room. It will have the usual shelves and cupboards, washer and dryer. It should also be large enough for a fold-out bed. You will say it is for the nights when you come home late from the office and you don’t want to disturb anyone, but it’s also a place where you might hope to slough off a few more dubious skin cells in your sleep, the ones the shower may have missed, the ones that hold scents that are only noticeable to the victims.

There should never be a door on the rear of a house. There should never be a back door on the rear wall of a house that is shielded by a row of dense arborvitae. That is where someone who parked down the street could enter your house unnoticed, while you are at work, and proceed to breathe your air and touch your things and leave hairs darker than yours on your sheets and in your shower drain—so phantomlike that your wife would swear to know nothing of it.

The kitchen must face east, so that the window above the sink will catch the pink of sunrise and paint her sleep-plump face with it, her rumpled hair, your old college sweatshirt. Pay attention—that lighting is most crucial to this memory. The moment only lasts as long as the pink does, and the coffee.

The room adjacent to the Master Bedroom will have no name. It can function as Guest Room, Sewing Room, Storage. It could also be a Nursery, unless there has been cramping and spotting of blood and a whole future escaped down the plumbing, whereupon it will remain cobwebbed and drop-clothed. Note: there must be one window in the room, one source of daylight—otherwise, you will not be able to stomach it. The door will remain locked. Ghosts will come.

Remember, before you begin this process, you must check and re-check the financials. Dream homes are expensive. Even if she marries her architect and you make it clear of the alimony, it will consume you. Maybe you’re meant to live in a house beneath your aspirations, meant to keep your dreams on a shelf where they will feel like a hunger, and the hunger can be the proof that you’re still alive.


Joe Kapitan works and writes and chops wood in northern Ohio. His work has appeared in elimae, PANK, Necessary Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly, and others, and is pending print publication in Fractured West and Bluestem.

A member of the editorial staff commented on this story, “It says a lot without feeling like it’s saying everything.” How, in writing compressed work, do you accomplish such a thing? Also, how did you come up with the design for this piece? What do you see as its “plot”?

In this piece, I wanted to use hints, symbols, and other “story shorthand” to say things without really saying them. To me, that results in a real sense of compression. Whether or not it truly is (i.e. did I end up using fewer words than I would have otherwise?) seems less important to me than the overall impression left with the reader. I think that prose which uses hints and signals can somehow seem smaller and lighter.

The design of this piece is a result of my wanting to experiment with a form of compression that I call a “story virus.” I wanted to deconstruct a story, then take a few key elements of that story and use them to infect another form (in this case, a nonfiction-type list). Question: Would there be enough structural fragments hidden for the reader to assemble a story from, or would the host dominate the parasite and cause the experiment to fail?

I think one surprising aspect of what resulted was plot in its loosest, most minimal form. The story elements end up being a do-it-yourself plot kit for the reader, and individual readers will probably assemble the pieces differently. For instance, a reader will (hopefully) picture a marriage troubled by emotional distance, both spouses cheating on each other, a miscarriage, all leading to divorce—but in what order? Which led to which? There are multiple answers, each viable. Compression without clear resolution.

Abundance, image 17

by Joseph Young

Editor’s Note: Each Monday we’ve been publishing individual pieces from Joseph Young’s Abundance. Abundance is 27 occurrences: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.

Joseph Young lives in Baltimore. His book of microfictions, Easter Rabbit, was released by Publishing Genius in December 2009; he is currently shopping out a second manuscript of microfiction. He also enjoys creating concrete representations of text, and this work has been included in a number of art shows in Baltimore. Some of this work can be found at TextShop.blogspot.com or www.verysmalldogs.blogspot.com.

Author’s Note. I was looking to do a project that would remind me of the abundance of my life, the many cool experiences I’ve had, people I’ve met, and I was looking to do something in text and image. I wanted to do something I’d not done before, material and process wise, so I came up with the idea of using a stencil and Letraset letters. The figure is a rough stencil I made from a photo of myself, spray painted on cardstock. Over about a week, I wrote the various pieces of text based on my memories and applied them to the cards with Letraset.

Mobility

by Ellen Parker

For years Sheila had been gnashing her teeth, and all that time she hadn’t known she shouldn’t be. She’d always had a nice bite. Her choppers, bit together, fit great. Since she was small she’d spent many a calm hour treasuring the feel of the uppers and lowers pinned one to one, and sliding.

The hygienist, though, called it “grinding.” She summoned the dentist. He emerged from a room in the back. He stood before her, his face aslant. “What work do you do?”

He was dark, smooth, adorable. An otter. Rude.

“Our teeth should not be held together. They should never be clenched.”

He gritted his teeth and grimaced. He’s miming me, Sheila thought. He’s telling me how I look.

Out of the chair, she held a card for her next visit. Sheila had a husband and a daughter. They were still living, and still living with her&#8212but they’d moved on. The two of them, at separate times, had told her so.

“I’ve moved on,” her husband said.

“I’ve moved on,” her daughter said.

All her life she’d had hundreds of hints that people were saying plenty to each other but not much to her, but lately they were coming out with it.

She took her hard white card into the paint store. She kept it pinched tight in her fingers. Her husband was sleeping in the basement. She wanted to paint the bedroom.

The clerk had black hair. This&#8212despite the fact that he was white, and quite old. A purveyor of fakery. Perfect. She’d come in thinking she’d wanted a yellow, sweet like Easter, a creamy little chick&#8212but now she could see she wanted something nocturnal. Something like a good cocoa, a meltdown. The clerk’s flesh along the hairline was dyed. This was a revelation&#8212one more thing she hadn’t thought of.

Note to self: Dye your skin.

The hygienist, behind the glass, was nodding, and Sheila wanted the woman’s hair&#8212she thought it would make a lovely comforter, or a pillow. A rug. A bed.

“Lips together, teeth apart,” said the mouth beneath the magnificent hair.

“There are always consequences,” was another thing her husband had said.

“No shit,” she’d retorted.

Later, though, she wondered: Like what?

“You wear them down,” said the dentist.

What she had in her mind right here, though, was the effect she could get if she set dark against light&#8212a shape of sun cut from a wall&#8212and she was having this dyed clerk mix her up a whole gallon of Midnight. She loved the shimmy of that machine. She stood there and gnashed all her little nubs in unison. She told herself: Sure.


Ellen Parker writes fiction. She is also the editor of the online literary magazine FRiGG.

“Mobility,” according to the OED, derives from the French mobilité, in sense ‘character of that which is mobile’; late 17th cent. in sense ‘ability to pass easily from one psychological state to another’—and its etymon classical Latin mōbilitās: ability to move, quickness of the mind or body, inconstancy, fickleness. How do you see this title and its sense at work in this piece?

That’s a really good question, and I didn’t know the etymology of the word “mobility” before you told me, but the word certainly does seem to fit this piece now that I know its origins. In fact, I originally used the word as a title because I heard it from a dental hygienist who commented to a dentist that my front lower teeth were exhibiting “mobility” (in the dental sense) beyond what might be considered normal. I was thinking, My teeth have mobility? They are mobile? This idea is both frightening and funny. (I don’t want my teeth to walk out on me.) I think I used the word in an earlier version of this story, but now it’s only the title. (I have another story about a character whose teeth are very loose&#8212that is, they have mobility&#8212because she has grinded&#8212ground?&#8212them so much. I looked at that story the other day, and it’s not very good, but maybe I can fix it. I’m always hoping I can “fix” my stories, just as I am always hoping that a dentist can “fix” my teeth.) So I originally used this word as the title because it referred to the “mobility” of the protagonist’s teeth, but then I saw that the word was no longer in the story itself, and I was thinking, Maybe it’s not a good title, then. The reader will not get what the hell “mobility” means as a title for this story. So I looked up “mobility” and I saw the definition and synonyms for it (fluidity, locomotion, ambulation, the ability to move), and I thought, Well, maybe the word does sort of fit, although it’s a stretch, and anyway, I can’t think of a better title, so I’m just going to leave it and hope readers don’t go, WTF? But now that you tell me the etymology of the word, I can see that it is a brilliant title. Good god, I am such a fucking genius. I would like to add that my characters are always losing stuff: their teeth, their family members, friends, patience, faculties, cats, etc.

DAEDAL DOODLE, B

by Victor Stabin

[Editor’s Note: We will be publishing all 26 letters of Victor Stabin’s Daedal Doodle series, one each Wednesday for 26 weeks. Be sure to click on the picture for the FULL VIEW!]

For almost three years, wherever he went, Victor Stabin brought a dictionary along. Combing through over 8,000 pages of a variety of dictionaries, he came up with the alliterations that inhabit this work. Inspired by reading “ABC” books to his three-year-old daughter Skyler, his love of words, and his incessant inability to to stop doodling, he unflinchingly created the improbable alliterative combinations and illustrations that inhabit this work. In his heart he knew he was creating a work that, while using unusually obtuse words, would have broad appeal and challenge the “ABC” status quo. The goal—to create platforms that bridge literate curiosity across multiple generations using mostly common (and sometimes extraordinarily uncommon) imagery in new and inventive ways. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, presented for your literate and retinal delight… (more…)

Agamemnon’s Wife Speaks From Hades

by Sybil Baker

With you, Agamemnon, sex was no great shakes. You fell on top of me when I was half asleep, my body as still as a vase trying not to shatter. You were dry and heaving, smelling like sour milk, grinding into me until I was dust. Why would I save myself for ten years for that? Ten years in Ancient Greek age is like fifty years in the future. I always figured Odysseus was a great lover, why else would Penelope wait so long, so patiently? He probably made sure she came first, early and often.

And then Aegisthus appeared. We took our time, spent hours in bed, feeding each other apricots and olives, licking each other clean like cats. He brought cup after cup of wine to my lips, kissing the drops as they slid down my neck. He asked me questions like who do I remember, what is the color of my last dream, what happened to dawn, what were my dead daughter’s first words, where did she kiss me last? I pointed to my cheek. Here. He kissed it. And here and here and here. Throat, ear, breasts. Slowly, tenderly, he worshipped my body, rubbed oil on it, kissed all those places you didn’t know. Each night it was my body, my pain, my skin he peeled away. He never once said that I was old, never plucked my gray hairs or followed the tracks of skin stretched across me. Again, again, again. That’s what he said.

And you, arriving in your carriage with your latest prize, Cassandra, a stolen lover I was to embrace, a woman younger than Iphegenia would have been had you not killed her. Poor girl, how could I let her waste her years with you and your parsimonious ministrations? How to share you when there was nothing left to share? But even that, all of that, my happiness with my lover, your own mistress kidnapped (because how else would a woman sleep with you) that was not enough for me to take the knife and gut you like a pig. No, that was for our daughter, the one you whose hands you tied and mouth you stuffed with a rag to keep her from crying out. At least I let you cry out, at least the Gods heard you. But what about our dead daughter, silenced, sacrificed to Gods who have already decided everything, have foretold the way the world will end. If only I could have held her one last time, brushed the curls off her forehead, pulled the lobes of her ears before I whispered to her to never trust them. And yes, I admit, I wanted power, wanted to rule the land. You men, you understand that at least, the lust for power, but what you will not understand is this: that is not the half of it.


Sybil Baker is the author of Talismans and The Life Plan. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Prairie Schooner, upstreet, and The Writer’s Chronicle. She received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. After living in South Korea for twelve years, she now lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she is an Assistant Professor of English.

What was the inspiration for this “Agamemnon’s Wife Speaks From Hades”? What challenges did compression play in its transformation from inspiration to this wonderful finished piece? I read the Oresteia for the first time a year and a half ago in preparation for a freshman humanities class I occasionally teach. I was fascinated by Clytemnestra—I always felt there was more to her than simply being ruthless and power hungry, or at least I wanted to allow her more than that. This piece came from playing around with what else that “more” might be.

For most writers I know, form follows function, and that is also true for me. Although I generally write longer pieces, as soon as I had the idea for this piece, I knew that it would best work in a compressed form. My challenge was to do service to a form I’m just starting to work in, so I read a lot of short pieces in this journal and others for models and inspiration.

Abundance, image 16

by Joseph Young

Editor’s Note: Each Monday we’ve been publishing individual pieces from Joseph Young’s Abundance. Abundance is 27 occurrences: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.

Joseph Young lives in Baltimore. His book of microfictions, Easter Rabbit, was released by Publishing Genius in December 2009; he is currently shopping out a second manuscript of microfiction. He also enjoys creating concrete representations of text, and this work has been included in a number of art shows in Baltimore. Some of this work can be found at TextShop.blogspot.com or www.verysmalldogs.blogspot.com.

Author’s Note. I was looking to do a project that would remind me of the abundance of my life, the many cool experiences I’ve had, people I’ve met, and I was looking to do something in text and image. I wanted to do something I’d not done before, material and process wise, so I came up with the idea of using a stencil and Letraset letters. The figure is a rough stencil I made from a photo of myself, spray painted on cardstock. Over about a week, I wrote the various pieces of text based on my memories and applied them to the cards with Letraset.

Myopia

by Sue Ann Connaughton

“A girl’s success in life depends upon her ability to sew,” Lovberda’s mother would say. “If you can’t stitch together a collection of finely-made bed linens for a trousseau, you may as well forget about marriage to anyone, never mind to a proper gentleman.”

But Lovberda couldn’t work needle, thread, and fabric into something that satisfied her mother. Her first and only attempt produced a lopsided doll blanket. The small heart she embroidered on the back, to enclose her name and the date, didn’t look like a heart at all and it was too small, so to fit, she shortened her name to “Lov.”

Her mother scrutinized the quilt. “The colors clash,” she said, “vermillion, indigo, ochre. Such an odd, garish combination. The seams are crooked and the stitches so uneven.”

When she turned it over, she winced as though her heart had been pierced with a bodkin. “Is that your signature inside a bird’s nest? Oh, Lovberda, such poor planning: you cut off your name after the first three letters!”

The whole experience so upset Lovberda that she tossed the quilt in a drawer and refused to ever sew again.

Do as you will,” her mother said. “You’ve sewn your future.”

*****

She spoke in a hushed, reverential voice. “As you’ll see, it’s in excellent condition for a 19th century textile.”

The Museum trustees moved closer.

Annabelle Smythe, the Curator of Folk Art, donned white cotton gloves before lifting the doll quilt from its conservation box.

“The first feature you’ll notice is the combination of fabric colors, so fresh and artful in their childish abandon, yet contemporary by today’s standards.”

Curator Smythe pointed out the threads that danced across the surface like spider legs, “Uneven stitch lengths like these indicate it was probably a young girl’s first sewing project, before she mastered control of the needle. See this brown dot? It’s a bloodstain, most likely from pricking her finger with the needle, so easy to do, even for experienced quilters.”

She turned the quilt over and delicately laid it on a sheet of archival paper. “Here we see the maker’s signature inside a primitive heart shape. Look how she adapted to the limitations of a small space by inking in only the date and the word ‘Lov.’”
The trustees nodded solemnly at one another.

“We don’t know the provenance of the quilt, but our research indicates it was constructed around 1859. It’s possible that she wrote the word to evoke the emotion of love, rather than her name. We may never identify the maker of this treasure, but most likely, she grew into an accomplished seamstress with the sensibilities of an artist.”


Sue Ann Connaughton is a New England-based writer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Twenty20 Journal; Candidum; Liquid Imagination; Boston Literary Magazine; Six Sentences; The Adroit Journal, Bete Noire; Orion Headless; Fix It Broken; The Binnacle Seventh and Eighth International Ultra-Short Competition anthologies; With Painted Words; Every Day Poets; On the Premises; South Boston Literary Gazette; Everyday Weirdness; American Tanka; and Modern English Tanka.

What was the inspiration for this piece? What ideas were you hoping to explore through the juxtaposition of the two sections?

I wrote “Myopia” in response to a prompt from my writing buddy: compose a story that contains a nest and a character with a bird’s name. I decided to include the nest as a frame for a signature. Once I came up with the character’s name, the idea for the story solidified. “Lovberda” conjured up to me, a girl who falls outside mainstream expectations, someone whose creativity might be celebrated in another time or setting.

By contrasting two time periods and sentiments, my intention was to offer for consideration, two questions:

  1. What are the criteria for determining “art?”
  2. Do craftsmanship and creativity carry equal value?

In each section, an expert evaluates the quilt according to standards that reflect and limit her judgment.

DAEDAL DOODLE, A

by Victor Stabin

[Editor’s Note: We will be publishing all 26 letters of Victor Stabin’s Daedal Doodle series, one each Wednesday for 26 weeks. Be sure to click on the picture for the FULL VIEW!]

For almost three years, wherever he went, Victor Stabin brought a dictionary along. Combing through over 8,000 pages of a variety of dictionaries, he came up with the alliterations that inhabit this work. Inspired by reading “ABC” books to his three-year-old daughter Skyler, his love of words, and his incessant inability to to stop doodling, he unflinchingly created the improbable alliterative combinations and illustrations that inhabit this work. In his heart he knew he was creating a work that, while using unusually obtuse words, would have broad appeal and challenge the “ABC” status quo. The goal—to create platforms that bridge literate curiosity across multiple generations using mostly common (and sometimes extraordinarily uncommon) imagery in new and inventive ways. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, presented for your literate and retinal delight… (more…)

In Another Beginning

by Kirsten Kaschock

There was a meltdown, and new animals began to grow or transform. (more…)

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