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Oh, What a Night

by Sara Backer

Towels don’t dry. Swollen doors can’t shut. The house collects swelter—92 degrees inside. Half asleep at night, I hear a man and woman talking in the basement. Intruders! No, intruders wouldn’t chat for fear I’d call police. Am I hallucinating? I shut off the air conditioner—the voices stop. I turn it back on and a radio chat show reaches the edge of my hearing. Listening harder changes the conversation into Gregorian chant. As I start to find a rhythm, it becomes—sort of—the radio hit played nonstop through my freshman year in college. I return to a sultry August night with dancing in the quad between four dorms, me watching from the window of my room. Everyone cheers when the song begins, as if “late December back in ’63, what a very special time for me” had meaning for eighteen-year-olds who were pre-schoolers then. Giddy with my brand new independence, I wonder if one of the boys in the quad might become my first boyfriend. I calculate odds: about 150 of the about 250 are male and if a match requires a 1%, there’d be a boy for me. I put on mascara and a halter top, but I’m too shy to go downstairs and join them. The mirror shows me who I am: the girl who analyzes from afar. What happened to the music? The sneaky air conditioner shifted to fan mode, rumbling like a motor.

Sara Backer, an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine arts, has published two poetry chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt (dancing girl press) and Bicycle Lotus (Left Fork) which won the Turtle Island Poetry Award. Recent and upcoming online publications include Unbroken, Amaryllis, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Web site: sarabacker.com

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Oh, What a Night”?

When I started hearing voices coming from my air conditioner, I feared I was going crazy. I went online and was relieved to learn that was a common hallucination usually caused by fatigue. The motor noise is irregular enough for our sleep-deprived brains to interpret as voices or music. I cautiously brought up this topic with friends and was surprised to learn that they, too, had heard the AC speak to them! Never quite clear enough to nail down the words, but a very convincing radio substitute. I drafted “Oh, What a Night” under the influence of exhaustion. Unable to put up my usual critical filters, I followed my associations and landed on an August night years ago with similar weather. Barely 18 years old, self-conscious and shy, I couldn’t bring myself to join the dancing. Instead, I took refuge in analyzing the situation. As with most dreams, mine faded at the epiphany. The AC motor, which had become a musical time travel machine, went back to being a motor.

News

Congrats to the Best Small Fictions nominations from Matter Press for Compressed Creative Arts: Sara Backer’s “Oh, What a Night”; Dan Crawley’s “Powers”; Jill Talbot’s “Malahat Highway on Boxing Day”; Christopher Allen’s “Falling Man;” and Kathy Fish’s “Five Micros.” Congrats to Christopher Allen for being chosen to appear in BSF 2019 from Sonder Press.

Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Submissions

Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions is now open. Check out our new category triptychs! The submission period closes June 15, 2019; submit here.

Upcoming

05/20 • Clint Margrave
05/22 • Leah Griesmann
05/23 • Nance Van Winckel (1 of 8)
05/27 • Natasha Sajé
05/29 • Carolyn Oliver
05/30 • Nance Van Winckel (2 of 8)
06/03 • Ankita Banerjee
06/05 • Rachel Rodman
06/06 • Nance Van Winckel (3 of 8)
06/10 • Erica Soon Olsen
06/12 • Beverly Jackson
06/13 • Nance Van Winckel (4 of 8)
06/17 • Avra Margariti
06/19 • Tommy Dean
06/20 • Nance Van Winckel (5 of 8)
06/24 • Stephen Reaugh
06/26 • Hege Lepri
06/27 • Nance Van Winckel (6 of 8)
07/01 • Danielle Hark
07/03 • Shirley Harshenin
07/04 • Nance Van Winckel (7 of 8)
07/08 • Matthew Barrett
07/10 • Andrew Stevens
07/11 • Nance Van Winckel (8 of 8)
07/15 • Peter Cherches
07/17 • Christopher Ryan
07/22 • Jessica Kehinde Ngo
07/24 • TBA
07/29 • TBA
07/31 • TBA