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Beverly Jackson

I Lost My Memoir

The slam of cupboards and loud singing wakes me. I have to get my bearings, the strange bed, the fog in my head. Who is that? Wait, familiar voice. Tom!~ I can’t remember precisely what my new husband looks like. My temples throb. His loud rendition of “Hit the road, Jack,
and don’t cha come back no more, no more… ” makes me wince, and the smell of fresh coffee slightly nauseates me. It’s difficult to get the unfamiliar bedroom in focus.

Birdsong wafts from the floor-to-ceiling louvers on two walls facing a bougainvillea garden. Tropical breezes flutter tall palms. I reach to the foot of the bed for a white peignoir, edged with stiff lace, a gift from Tom’s mother. My cynical friends joked that it was fancier than my wedding dress, a simple pique.

Had we made love last night? I can’t remember.

Tom appears, framed in the doorway, holding a breakfast tray. He’s clean-cut, handsome in an Eagle Scout, asexual way; a whole-wheat kind of guy. Short, light hair, blue eyes fringed with blond lashes. Not my type at all.

~~

Beverly Jackson writes, paints, and walks dogs anywhere she can.
www.beverlyajackson.com

D.R. Wagner

Penultimate

 

I’ve got this house in the desert. They won’t find us there. You can wear a rose in your hair. Tomorrow is close, still small, still inert.

You showed me the knife blade. It almost glowed when I touched it. Who was going to believe we were here? We sh
redded our clothing as it got darker.

We stood on either side of the window so we could see the streets. A patrol was walking slowly up the avenue with their dogs and their rifles cradled in their arms like something dead.

The streetlight across the way would flicker then go out for a few minutes. That was our signal to leave. I grabbed your forearm and pulled you near to me. ‘Listen, this all we have left. We will meet on the other side of the river. Stay close to the buildings.’

When I saw the video later, I couldn’t help but notice that you were biting your lips hard. I put my hands on the screens. I could feel you in the flickering light. Things would be okay. The children told me you would be here in morning.
I kissed the back of my hands. They were trembling so.

~~

D.R. Wagner is the author of over 20 books and chapbooks of poetry and letters. He founded press : today : Niagara and Runcible Spoon (press) in the late 1960’s and produced over fifty magazines and chapbooks. His work is much published and has appeared in many translations. He resides in Locke, California.

Michael Shay

Welcome to Zan Xlemente, Zalifornia

My daughter M went to a nuthouse in San Clemente and all I got was this lousy metal keychain with CALIFORNIA writ large the blue of the sea under a gold-and-orange/red sun. M goes to the beach every afternoon, the only one of her group who swims, the only one who sticks her head underwater and body surfs the waves her arms cross-hatched with razor cuts her bloodstream salted with meds that start with X and Z. Why is it always X and Z? The drugs cause delusions and weight gain out there in Zan Xlemente, Zalifornia. My daughter calls and says she sometimes feels like a seal riding the waves. When she was five, her kindergarten teacher called and said can’t you do something about your daughter she thinks she’s a cat prowling the classroom on all fours and licking chalk dust from her arms. She meows answers to the teacher’s questions as she does with us. That’s progress I guess. Cats won’t go in the water and seals send us keychains from The Golden State.

~~

Michael Shay’s book of short stories, The Weight of a Body, was published by Denver’s Ghost Road Press in 2006. He lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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Margaret Spilman

Basic Rules for Party People

The trick is finding who to be like. It’s a natural inclination to admire those loud, flinging their arms up types, those who like how their own voice tastes. They get fat off it, spill their drinks and call for more. No one will remember you next to them.

Don’t worry. You’ve just got through the door, plenty of time to find your place. You spot the standard rows of women ringing the edges of the room. Leaning different angles, their eyes won’t focus on anyone in particular. They look good. They make bangs work somehow. They are ornaments, attached to more mobile types that will be back soon with drinks. They don’t hunt for themselves and they don’t need you either.

Someone will be making drinks, there is always someone making drinks. If there isn’t, wait. Don’t make your own drink. You’ll have to poke around places you don’t know looking for ice tongs. It will make you feel lonely. You’ll put too much inside the hollow red cup to compensate. Wait until some long-limbed joker is shaking empty bottles like church bells to let everyone know that the ice is melting. Let him choose your drink. Smile when he names it something like “Shit-storm”, or “Gets It Done”. Some of the leaning girls will have their elbows on the counter top, blocking you from joining their conversation. If you can, edge the scattered ice cubes against their bare elbows. The bite of cold will make them yelp. They will seem delicate; you will seem strong, drinking lukewarm tequila.

On the couch, a tangle of limbs, smoke will puff up. Couches are good places to start. These are comfortable people, and you’ll need that ease if they are going to believe you belong here and put their hands on your shoulder and their knees near your knees. Couch people are tightly knit. You’ll have to wait your turn until someone has to pee. When someone gets up you can take their seat and adjust your shoelaces, like your only staying a moment. Make a joke about it. Beg a pardon. If they offer you anything take it, take it confidently like you’ve always been on this couch. Forget to offer the seat back, forget to be polite. But they will ask for their seat back, and you will have to get up because the tone of their voice is all ownership and you are small and moveable.

Beware of sober faces counting the time against the alcohol in their veins. When can we go home? That’s what they’re thinking. It can become what you’re thinking. Stay away from couples. Sip your drink slowly. Getting drunk won’t make anyone notice you.

Back at the bar, everything will be covered by sticky, laughing people who need to be close to their courage’s source. It will be all backs and elbows and no way to slide in. You took too long moving round the room. Too many couples. Too much tequila makes listening to your shoes easier than acting natural.

Outside the air will be cold. Or maybe humid this time, maybe it’s summer instead of winter, right before the Fourth of July instead of right before Christmas. There’s fog though, always fog, makes your skin match the damp in your palms. You’ll see couples climbing into cars, sharing secrets. You’ll know the bus will be there in 10 minutes. Hopefully there will be something to lean on while you wait.

~~

Margaret Spilman was born in Milton, West Virginia, raised on the plains of Wichita, Kansas, and currently reside in Los Angeles. I received my bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and was recently accepted into the California State University, Long Beach MFA Creative Writing program starting in the fall. I am a 2013 James Kirkwood Literary Prize winner and a 2014 PEN Emerging Voices Fellow.