Month: September 2022

Cab Calloway’s Radio Alphabet

by Sarah Totton


A      A-hidee-hidee-hidee-ho
B      Boy!
C      Cotton Club
D      Dig that jive!
E      Eggs on the Jersey side
F      Foo
G      Gator
H      Hoochie coocher
I       Ickeroo
J      Jim, jam, jump on the jumpin’ jive
K      King of Sweden
L      Lay it flat as a gator
M      Minnie the Moocher
N      Nickels and dimes
O      Oh, you dig it
P      Palomar
Q      Quizzicale
R      Reepity-buppity-gaa-gaa
S      Shalomar
T      Tee-dah-dah
U      U hep-hep on the mellow side
V      Vocalista
W     Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-wherever she may be
X      Xep-doodli-diddle-doodle-xep-bott-bottle
Y      Yeah!
Z      Zoot suit


Sarah Totton’s humor has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The New Yorker (She won a cartoon caption contest.), The American Bystander, and Points in Case. Her short fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Nature, and The Walrus.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Cab Calloway’s Radio Alphabet”?

I was teaching myself the radio alphabet and discovered that there were a lot of variations. It occurred to me that the alphabet could be modified to apply to a person, so I decided to adapt the Radio Alphabet for a celebrity. I chose someone who was big in the Golden Age of Radio (This is a radio alphabet after all.), someone who’s known for playing with language, and someone whose work needs more love and attention. Cab Calloway was the obvious choice. Even though he’s been gone for a long time now, his musical influence is still strong and he’s created some timeless classics. After I had the premise, executing it was like solving a crossword. Trying to transcribe the sounds he’s making when he’s scatting was the biggest challenge. And I will stop there because my explanation of the piece is now longer than the piece itself.

Narrative Studies #2

by Sean Ayres Cho


A single experience is worthless. We collect a group of people and have them all take the pill to collect data, this is science. We have to trust the scientist. When surveying a group of elementary school children What do you want to be when you grow up? 85% of the responses were, doctor, or firefighter. From this is was concluded that the majority of people in the world are interested in helping people. From this some go on to study the space in between learning to tie shoes, and lofting our doom beds. Others become interested in the linguistics of communication. How what do you do? is a question about work, about occupation. The graduate advisors talk about the importance of hobbies. What does the bartender do for fun? Or, why does everything have to become so serious when once the novelist gets a book deal.


Sean Cho A. is an editor. He writes and teaches in the midwest.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Narrative Studies #2”?

The cited fact isn’t “true”, but probably could be. Right now, truth feels, nonexistent, and ever present.

Two Microfictions

by Bonnie Jo Campbell


The Maple, the Cherry

“It won’t fall on the house, Mama, I know it won’t.”

I bawled when her boyfriend cut down a big maple that shaded us, but if you wanted a man around you had to let him put his mark on the place. He used to watch me. I asked for a lock on my bedroom door. “Why are you so sensitive?” Mama asked.

When a cherry tree fell, breaking windows, my mother said it was an act of god. The man chain-sawed more trees. There was a real competition here between that man and God. And the next man, too.



Lyme Rhyme

“There might be ticks on some of these chicks, but there ain’t no ticks on me,” I sing to my husband after he inspects me in the shower. This is necessary after walking in the meadow. We have permethrin-infused socks, tweezers, tick spoons, magnifying glasses, rational minds. We apply tick and flea spray on the cats, but the wild rabbits are covered with bloodsuckers, the deer too. We wipe crumbs off the counters to prevent ants, roaches. We carry spiders and crickets outside. I’ve had lice, crabs once, even survived the bedbugs. But we know who will win in the end.


Bonnie Jo Campbell is the bestselling author of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, Once Upon a River, and American Salvage, among other works. She was a National Book Award finalist and a Guggenheim Fellow, winner of the 2019 Mark Twain Award. She is six foot tall and rides a donkey.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of these two pieces?

I’m writing a lot of personal essays these days, thinking about how my mother’s boyfriends interacted with us kids. The first piece is not a true story, but my poor mother, after her divorce, was over-eager to keep men around her. The men in her life were like gods to her, which was confusing to us kids.

The second piece was written while contemplating the photograph Modern Dance, which features a meadow and small tree, an idyllic vision, until I suddenly remembered what happens whenever I venture into such a meadow nowadays. Ticks! They’re maddening, and any walk in a meadow will almost certainly result in picking a few up. Last week a tick took up residence in a small wound on my torso—ugh! The phrase I sing is something I always sing after my husband checks me. And all the infestations are true reports, so I guess this must be a true story!


by Candice May


Twice a week, I’m removed from the 1st grade classroom and escorted down the hall to sit in a metal chair across from Ms. Shirley, with her enormous glasses and enunciating voice. “Roll your tongue to the back of your throat,” she says. “Make the oval lips. Repeat after me: Rrrr-abbit. Rrrr-abbit. Rabbit.” I roll my tongue, make the oval lips: “Wwww-abbit. Wwww-abbit. Wabbit.” I’m seven years old and cannot pronounce ‘R.’ I cannot say four, or grow, or Shirley. My cheeks burn in class when the teacher asks us to call it out, tell her what season it is (Spring! Spwing!), which month (April! Apwil!), the colour of grass and trees (Green! Gween!)


Thirty years later, I sit crosslegged on a shiny leather couch, three sessions in with my new psychologist, Dr. Tom, a man who specializes in what he calls ‘harmonic resonance’, which appeals to me because my husband used that word before he left, or close to it: “Pam, there’s just no harmony.” I tell the psychologist that my husband’s words left an imprint, their own kind of harmonic resonance, and now all I hear is the word harm, like an echo. Dr. Tom leans forward, rests his elbows on his knees and asks, so gently, “Are you ready to cut those cords?”


The vocal cords: layered mucous membrane, soft tissue, stretched and folded, vibrating. In 1741, French anatomist Antoine Ferrein envisioned the vocal cords as strings of a violin, the moving air its bow.


Ms. Shirley gives me exercises to strengthen my pharynx: gargle with warm water and say ‘Grrr.’ Repeat words that end with ‘R’— car, floor, tear. Instead, I revel in the flat ‘W’ and ‘H’ sounds that puff from my mouth like stepping off a ledge, no bottom. My parents play records of Tchaikovsky and Bach, and I say their ghost-names over and over, whispering kov, kov, and bah, bah, like I’m sneaking candy. I say the words piano and cello and oboe; they are edgeless, like music itself, and my body lifts from the carpet, rises on each chord, endlessly.


Dr. Tom has methods. Visualize my husband sitting in the chair across from me. Visualize my heart a tangled ball of yarn. Visualize threads that extend outward, weaving into my husband’s heart, coiled and knotted. Expand the visualization; these threads are cords. “Thick cords like a suspension bridge,” I tell him, eyes closed, swaying from the height. Dr. Tom hands me an imaginary pair of bolt cutters and says, “These cut through anything.” I stand on the suspension bridge, one or two cuts between rectifying this attachment to my husband and falling, falling free.


There are true vocal cords and false vocal cords. The true ones, residents of the larynx, are our vocal persona. They produce the pitch of our voice, our accent, a sweet singing tone. The false cords live at the inferior edge of the larynx, our vocal shadow. They grunt, growl, and scream.


When I’m eight, I attain the perfect ‘R’. “Rosy,” I say. “Circus.” “Rare.” Ms. Shirley declares my vocal skills rehabilitated. Now I raise my hand in class, call out the answers. I read to the younger children. My assignments are riddled with gold stars. But at night, quiet beneath the blankets, I still whisper the forbidden words, the amputated ‘R’ sounds: “Vah. Eee. Oh.” Daytime, I’m a girl who can say “Rabbit.” Nighttime, I speak my own language.


“Arrrr! Raaaah!” Dr. Tom paces the room, pumps the air with his fist. “Yes, Pam, let’er out!” I’m cutting the cords between myself and my husband, falling, screaming. Dr. Tom says, “A scream is simply a harmonic infant. Arrrr!” I scream at my husband for leaving the pile of letters behind, words from his lover, and for shoving ‘R’ sounds into my mouth that punch my throat: affair, liar, divorce. I cut and scream and fall and cry until finally, I land on Dr. Tom’s carpet, curled in a ball, my vocal cords throbbing. “How’s that feel?” he asks, but when I open my mouth to speak, nothing comes out at all.


If I fall in love again, I want it to sound different. No ‘R’ sounds: romance, remarriage. Antoine Ferrein likened the vocal cords to a violin, and I imagine my violinist tucked safely behind the shield of my Adam’s apple. If I fall in love again, I hope you hear how it feels for me to say it—that quiet moment before an orchestra begins, the nervous rustling of sheet music. A concert hall, hushed. A tiny conductor awakens, tap-tapping my epiglottis. The chords of a piano come next, then the cello. When I say it, a symphony. Love. It sounds like this.



Candice May is a writer from British Columbia, Canada. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best Small Fictions 2022, SmokeLong Quarterly, Epiphany, Masters Review, Atticus Review, PRISM International, Pleiades, December, and elsewhere, and has twice been nominated for ‘Best of the Net.’ She is currently working on a collection of short stories.


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

I used an alternating structure to connect seemingly divergent subjects — A) speech therapy, B) counselling therapy, and C) a compressed biology & history of the human vocal cords. I’m often inspired to write about music and sound, how it can so viscerally and/or eloquently express human emotion, in a way that words cannot.


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 closed. The reading period for standard submissions opens again March 15, 2023. Submit here.


05/27 • Claudio Perinot
06/03 • Amanda Chiado
06/10 • John Davies
06/17 • Lynne Jensen Lampe
06/24 • Valerie Valdez
07/01 • Carlin Katz
07/08 • Meg Eden
07/15 • Tim Raymond
07/22 • Mike Itaya
07/29 • TBD
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09/02 • TBD
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