Month: August 2022


by Thaddeus Rutkowski


She often stayed awake late; she was a hyperactive child. So I tried to hypnotize her to put her to sleep, using a method I’d seen on television. I had taken no classes in psychology. I was no doctor. I just fluttered my fingers in front of her face and chanted, “Your eyelids are getting heavy. You’re feeling sleepy. You’re asleep!” I should have had a pocket watch on a gold chain to swing like a pendulum in front of her face, but I didn’t have one.

On television, subjects receiving such suggestions would drop into unconsciousness. In their sleep state, they could be made to do things against their will, like lie between two chairs like a board. Once they were there, between the chairs, you could sit on them or jump on them, and they would not bend.

I didn’t want to paralyze my daughter or petrify her; I just wanted to put her into a peaceful state of slumber. I kept up my chant, my relaxing mantra, but she just looked at me. She met my eyes with her eyes. She didn’t waver, and she didn’t go under. When she saw my fingers fluttering in front of her face, she slapped my hand away.


Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of seven books, most recently Tricks of Light, a poetry collection. His novel Haywire won the members’ choice award from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. He teaches at Medgar Evers College and received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.


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

Our daughter has given me material for writing from the time she was born. (Now, she has just graduated college.) “Hypnosis” takes place sometime in her early teens, when, like many people, she had trouble sleeping. I never expected to actually hypnotize her—it was a goof. The opening is like an unexpected move in chess—not proven to be good or bad—that might solidify with other moves later on.

True Romance

by Len Kuntz


When My Depression elopes with a hermit crab, I have no qualms whatsoever, but I also have no name for it.

The Hermit and My Depression honeymoon on a choppy Central American coast, but quickly decide to buy a cozy, sea cave condo where the two of them take turns lovingly interrogating each other, letting the salt water douse their doubts and quibbles.

Whenever My Depression starts to fold itself, cowering under an impressive volcanic rock, The Hermit scuttles over to My Depression, eyes piping hot-black and full of anticipation.

The Hermit says, Darling, Sweetheart, Light of my Life, we’ve been through all this before. The best way to shake it is to stand up, move, call someone, turn on a light.

All My Depression hears or sees, though, is The Hermit gnawing on sea bubbles, words coming out as Bloop Bloop Bloop.

The Hermit goes on, legs feeling a little rubbery all of a sudden: For God’s sake, I know we don’t have cellphones down here, or light switches, but the experts know what they know because they’re experts!

Bloop Bloop Bloop-bloop, is what My Depression hears.

The Hermit tosses a nonexistent lock of hair off its shell-skull, continuing, I admit I’m confused, and disappointed, again. Is it all right to share this? After all, we’re betrothed.

The word betrothed makes My Depression see a sheet of black migraine sprockets.

 Remember when we first met, how we frolicked in the sticky sand, so connected and in-tune? It made me feel like I’d swallowed the sun. I’d never been so happy.

My Depression yanks on its eyebrows like a bored simpleton, and when nothing gives, My Depression does a vicious jerk to its head of sea hair, pulling out a clump, bloody roots floating away with the tide.

What I’m saying, The Hermit says, is it seems like you’ve changed,


What I’m saying is, I don’t know if we’re working out together anymore. As a thing, I mean. A couple.

Bloop Bloop.

Now The Hermit has a hard time looking My Depression in the eyes, yet still manages to say, It’s probably me, not you, though it sure seems like, in this case, it’s all you. I’ve collected circumstantial evidence to prove it.

My Depression tilts its ear in the direction of its other ear but merely hears, BloopBloopBloopBloopBloop.

The Hermit throws up its faux claws, which are really more like stumpy toenails painted black, and says, You’re not saying Jack. Where are your words, Depression? Talk to me. I need to know how you feel.


Okay, that’s it. I can’t do this anymore, even though it’s only been something, like, 19 hours.


Last chance, Depression. Kiss me like you mean it. Like you really mean it. If you do, well, maybe there’s still hope for us.

The soles of My Depression’s pruned feet start to twitch and shake, sand coiling up from the bottom of the sea cave, as if unleashing a spirit, a sea sprite, or just a regular old-fashioned genie.

Although it’s not My Depression at all, but rather a succession of enormous slaps, each as large as castles, beating down from above.


The Hermit is blinded by swirling bits of grit and broken shells.

Shit! I can’t see! We’re fucked!

Darkness and ugliness are My Depression’s best friends, two pals he can tell anything to, and he’s unbothered by the ruckus.

My Depression sways through the broiling murk, finds The Hermit choking on nasty sea detritus, and performs a slick Heimlich maneuver. Before The Hermit can say Thanks or Bloop, My Depression takes The Hermit’s hand firmly, and like sleeping otters, the pair float through a seam in the sea cave, drifting past their hometown surf, past the Pacific and Atlantic and Adriatic and Indian oceans, past every sea in the world, and any others yet to be imagined.


Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of five books, most recently the personal essay collection, THIS IS ME, BEING BRAVE, out now from Everytime Press. You can find more of his writing every M, W, and Friday at http://lenkuntz.blogspot.com.


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

I get depressed on certain occasions, sometimes for a reason I can’t even ascertain, and so I toyed with the notion of placing my depression outside of myself, being coaxed out of the gloom by a sea creature, who just happened to be, of all things, a Hermit crab, ironically enough.

Down in History

by Michael Czyzniejewski


My father had this joke: He’d be talking to people and he’d slip in something about Fred Flintstone being dead, then go on as if he hadn’t said it. Whomever he was talking to would interrupt, say, Wait, what? My father would counter, What? Then the person would say, Fred Flinstone’s dead? My dad would answer, Of course. He’s a caveman. He died over three thousand years ago. Then my father would keep on talking. Some people laughed. Most didn’t. I always laughed. My father didn’t tell a lot of jokes, but that was my favorite.

My father left when I was 16. I came home from school and he wasn’t there. He missed dinner. Before bed, I asked Mom what was up. He’d never not been home. Mom told me he was gone for good. I asked her what she meant. She said she meant exactly that, that he wasn’t ever coming back. She told me to go to sleep. She looked out the window. It was dark. All she could see was her reflection staring back, me over her shoulder. I didn’t bring Dad up again.

I acted out. My grades plummeted. I punched a kid in gym. I told the geometry guy to fuck himself. I smoked everything smokable. A vice principal called Mom. She went into her bedroom, as if I couldn’t hear through the door. She told the vice principal about my father. She connected the timelines, his leaving, my behavior. She stressed, No, he’s not coming back. She hung up. That night she bought me a car from a corner used lot, a rusty convertible that barely ran—I could see through the floor to the street. I stopped screwing up so much. My grades stayed shit, but I got a job. I met a girl. I moved out after graduation. And yeah, like Dad, I never went back.

Mom died on my thirtieth birthday. I attended her wake. We hadn’t spoken in months. I saw my relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins, for the first time in years. They didn’t look happy to see me, but who looks happy at wakes? There was a strange guy there. My Uncle Gary asked me, as the stranger knelt at the coffin, if I knew who he was. I said no. Uncle Gary said the kneeling man was my real father. I reminded Uncle Gary I knew my father, yeah, at least until I was 16. Uncle Gary said the guy at the coffin was my dad, married to my mom until I was 2. She got with the second guy, the one who skedaddled when I was 16, six months later. I would have told you, Uncle Gary said. I said, You just did. I took in the sight, mom laid out, this supposed dad at her side. I left, never seeing those people again.

I drove around that night and imagined my fathers, the man I only saw from behind and the man mostly who raised me. Birth Dad was some figure from the past, plucked out of time. He had to know I was there. I played out what he would say, if I’d stayed, how I would’ve answered. Maybe later, Until-16 Dad showed up, paid his respects. Maybe he’d look for me, too. Maybe he’d punch Real Dad. Maybe he wouldn’t know who Real Dad was. Maybe they’d go outside to smoke. Formative Dad would tell the Fred Flintstone joke, and like me, Real Dad would laugh when no one else did, a little funny bone genetics. Yeah, that’s what a dab will do.


Michael Czyzniejewski is the author of four collections of stories, including the forthcoming The Amnesiac in the Maze (Braddock Avenue Books, 2023). He is Professor of English at Missouri State University, and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Moon City Press and Moon City Review, as well as Interviews Editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Down in History”?

I used that joke teaching a class before, about Fred Flintstone being dead, and got a good reaction. It’s kind of dad joke, but a weird, twisted one. I used it again in a different class and got a good reaction there, too. I don’t really write stories that start off as jokes, but I thought it would be a good segue into a story, someone hearing that joke as a dad joke, from their dad, and seeing what happened after. Eventually, it seemed like I needed to tie the joke to the story a bit, so I worked in some death, as well as some notions of realism vs. the fake. The last line came to me after I thought I was done and I smiled and knew I had to put it in, whether it worked or not.

The Man Who Helped Me

by Kim Chinquee


My apartment got so hot. I finally shut the windows. It’s hotter to keep them open, which lets in the heat and the noise of motorbikes blaring off the Interstate doing wheelies. And the bus: loud even in its rule-following, letting people off and on and off…

I’m healing from a bike crash. It was my fault. It was a time trial. I was going fast, then tried to stop and couldn’t unclip my shoes right.

I found a way to use my SkyMiles to get myself and my two dogs a hotel that has AC.

We’re on the 12th floor. I look down into the city and out to the great lake—where I ride along it on the bike path. I look out to the break-wall. I know what it’s like to walk there.

The dogs tilt their heads. I tell them: Hey guys, I could’ve found a better hotel, but not every hotel likes you.

On the bed, I sprawl the best I can. One of my ribs is fractured.

I turn up the AC.

I go to Walgreens for the third time since my crash. Buy more dressings. I’m getting to know which kinds work better for the road rash on my knuckles, on my fingers, on my elbow, knee. The raw skin on my shoulder.

I take off my old dressings. The bruise on my hip has turned a lighter purple.

I run the shower and feel the water with my fingers. The sting.

I step in, adjust the temp. I address my wounds and wash them.

It’s my goal to find the man who helped me. He picked me up and drove me to the ER. He even brought my bike there, all banged up except for a wheel.


Kim Chinquee grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and served in the medical field in the Air Force. She’s published hundreds of pieces of fiction and nonfiction in journals and magazines including The Nation, Ploughshares, NOON, Storyquarterly, Denver Quarterly, Fiction, Story, Notre Dame Review, Conjunctions, and others. Her seventh collection, Wetsuit, was published in 2021 with Ravenna Press, and her debut novel, Pipette, is due out July 2022, also with Ravenna Press. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and a Henfield Prize, Senior Editor of New World Writing, and co-director of SUNY—Buffalo State’s Writing Major. Her website is www.kimchinquee.com.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Man Who Helped Me”?

This flash resulted in a set of prompt words from my Hot Pants writing room–worldwide, suit, joint, hip, salute. (Though it appears some of those words were edited out.) I had also experienced a bike crash, tried to endure the heat and live through the pandemic; this is a fictionalized/revised account of that.

The Problem with Quantum Entanglement

by Christina Cook


An alchemist, a Theosophist, and a physicist walk into a bar.

“Give me a shot of the most potent elixir you distill in your back-room alembic,” says the alchemist.

“I’d like a shot of your finest spirits,” says the Theosophist.

“I’ll take a shot in the dark,” says the physicist.

The bartender lines up the three shots, but finds he can only see two of them. He hands these to the alchemist and Theosophist, whose arms span centuries to clink their glasses together.

The bartender turns to the physicist. “I’m sorry, but I seem to have lost your shot,” he says.

The physicist laughs and slaps his hand on the glossy wood bar top: the sound of the slap emerges in a bar three ungentrified blocks away. “I can’t believe you fell for that trick again!” he shouts. Intoxicated with the lack of liquor, he falls off his stool and straight through the floor as if it wasn’t ever there.


Christina Cook is the author of the poetry collections A Strange Insomnia, Ricochet, and Lake Effect. Her poems, translations, essays, and book reviews have appeared widely in journals including the Prairie Schooner, New England Review, and Crazyhorse. Formerly a senior writer for the presidents of Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania, she is now an assistant teaching professor in the English Department at Penn State University.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Problem with Quantum Entanglement”?

The three personages in the piece are main characters in my novel-in-progress, American Alchemy. Two are based on historical Philadelphia residents: The “Alchemist” is Magister Johannes Kelpius, a.k.a. “The Mystic of the Wissahickon,” an alchemist and Pietist monk who led his adherents from Transylvania (I’m not even kidding) to Philadelphia in anticipation of the Apocalypse in 1694. The “Theosophist” is Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky—spirit medium, occultist, and founder of the Theosophical Society—who lived in West Philly in the 1870s (though she fabricated many of the events of her life, so we can’t be too sure). The “Physicist” is Cassius Ilinga, a fictional character whose efforts to save the country from itself in the late 2020s entangle him with Kelpius and Blavatsky deep in the forested Wissahickon Park.


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

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now open. The reading period for standard submissions closes again June 15, 2023. Submit here.


08/21 • Annie Marhefka
08/28 • Jamey Temple
09/04 • Joanna Acevedo
09/11 • Mykyta Ryzhykh
09/18 • Anna Pembroke
09/25 • Matt Barrett
10/02 • Tommy Dean
10/09 • Deborah Thompson
10/16 • Nicolette Jane