Flash Special (September 2012 / 12.20)
Artist, Pamela Callahan: Callahan’s paintings are about the convergence of inner and outer worlds, shadow landscapes that we all move through. Woven through the imagery of her landscape paintings is the crow, both talisman and protractor. Its shape echoes the arcs of the hills in southwest Wisconsin. Callahan says: “These crows and hills have imprinted their curves, their shadows and shapes, upon me. Everywhere, I see the land, the skies, the waters and their creatures. I recognize their vigor and converse with them continuously. It is a vital exchange.” Born and raised in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Pamela Callahan received a B.A. in Studio Art from Lawrence University. After living and working in Chicago for fifteen years, she moved back to Wisconsin in 2004, and co-created Otter Creek Arts, a rural art studio amidst the wooded hills and valleys of the Driftless Area.
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15 Restatements of How Lovely You Are
I arrange 15 restatements of how lovely you are forward then backward, horizontally then vertically then along the diagonals. I use letters of different sizes styles and weights against color fields or scatter them among illustrations of jolly animals and architectural features. I consider poster concepts, pop-up books and billboards, radio plays and business cards. Representatives are dispatched in caravans to locate producers for short films. From beyond my window come the sounds of cheering. Every city and town holds a tickertape parade. Leaders in dress uniforms announce they are stepping down. They say: Everything has become much better. Being a leader takes up too much time. We want to go outside. So that is what we will do effective immediately thank you. No one pays them any mind. Toasts are proposed and glasses are clinked in air that is a caress beneath a sun that is brighter among greens that are more green and blues that are more blue and everything everywhere is more itself. There is a lightness more pleasurable than any thought possible. This is the 15th restatement of how lovely you are.
Stephen Hastings-King lives by a salt marsh in Essex, Massachusetts where he makes constraints, works with prepared piano and writes entertainments of various kinds. Some of his sound work is available here. His short fictions have appeared in Sleepingfish, Black Warrior Review, elimae, Ramshackle Review, Metazen, and elsewhere. He puts new work up to dry at Edge Effects.
Rocket to the 4th Dimension
When I re-entered time, it was in a rocket falling to Earth, the air aflame. G-forces nearly crushed me, my head jackhammered by the past. I poured sweat for days. There was no sleeping, my stomach a knot. The future approached at hundreds of miles an hour, an immovable object promising only doom. The present moment a jangle of fear and trembling, the dials twirled out of control, no clear reading on my bearing, no steady reading of altitude. I didn’t crash into a continent, or even a rocky atoll. I didn’t bounce off of the atmosphere and return to static space. I splashed down and floated on brine. A plane saw my beacon, a ship plucked me from whitecapped waves, and soon I was on solid ground, terra firma. Space legs, gone weak in a black void, learned about gravity, my mind learns the 4th Dimension every day. My heart builds muscle to bear the weight.
Hobie Anthony received his MFA in fiction from Queens University of Charlotte, NC. He can be found or is forthcoming in such journals as The Los Angeles Review, Crate, Prime Mincer, Birkensnake, R.kv.r.y., Ampersand, Pank, Prime Number, and Palimpsest, among others. When he’s not teaching or writing he can be found on one of Portland’s disc golf courses.
It’s written on back of the menu. This restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean no longer accepts American Express. The waiter makes a half hearted apology to us, a gesture like flicking away flies, and moves on to another table.
He is fuming. This is incredible, he says. I don’t have enough cash on me for dinner. I’ll pay for the drinks and we’ll leave. I’m never coming back here. Never.
I stare out the glass wall at the yachts moored. I don’t mind, I say, I think this place is overrated.
He looks grateful. Not one of his usual expressions. Usually he looks like a bridge built to withstand earthquakes. This refusal of his American Express card has hit him on a level.
Let’s go now, he says standing up. Even though my drink is only part finished.
Fine by me, I say grabbing my purse.
Back in the rental blue Mercedes we pass the same little towns we passed on the way over.
Grasse, I say. It lingers on my tongue. It’s such a pretty name, I say. Isn’t that the perfume town?
He nods staring ahead. I’m sorry this happened, he says. Do you mind if we eat at the outdoor place with the hedges again? We have no other reservation and I think they’ll take us.
Of course I don’t mind, I say. It was nice there. I loved sitting with those hedges all around us. So cozy and intimate. It’s a beautiful night. Who wants to be stuck indoors when you can eat outside?
He seems to relax and reaches to touch my hand. You’re different, he says. Other women would have fits. Kara would’ve had a stroke.
I stiffen. Kara. A woman I know. He has taken her on trips in the past.
She could never pack, he is saying. Not like you. She brought four suitcases. It was absurd. Then he’s saying the concierge should have warned him about the Amex situation. If he’d known he would’ve cashed up before we left. Who doesn’t take American Express these days? he says. What bullshit.
Well that place certainly doesn’t, I’m thinking. But I keep quiet about it. I always keep quiet when things get dicey around men. Sooner or later they will find a way to blame you. As if you are a platinum card just made to slip in their wallet.
Susan Tepper is the author of four published books. Her recent title From the Umberplatzen is a quirky love story set in Germany and told in linked-flash fiction. Tepper hosts the reading series FIZZ at KGB Bar in NYC. More at www.susantepper.com.
The Devil is an Art Critic
You’re drawing there.
You’re drawing to fill the space.
And what you’re adding is art. But what you don’t see is time. The misplaced thought is real. It just exists outside. And you try to make it latch. But what you’re really at won’t hold. It just placates the mind. And hope is not enough, nor how you rub the lines. The lines aren’t yours to give. You’ll smudge and then they’ll fall. It’s only a matter of truth.
Your attention is merit enough.
It’s a shame you don’t all see alike.
The piece is my response.
I’m not going to mend the world.
Yes, but – it’s all been established! An old story. It’s a shame really. It’s –
It’s, it’s –
It’s not nice to mock.
Ha! Who’s mocking?
I’ll remember you.
And I’ll paint what you really are: a pale shade of maroon. Your edges are soft, too. Wait, where are you going?
Relax, I’m just trying for a different angle. Ah.
No, that doesn’t help.
Are you worried?
Very good, then. Carry on.
You have a few bucks coming to you when you’re gone, anyway.
Kari Nguyen lives and writes in New Hampshire. Visit her here, where she writes about things she’s written.
She comes in a dream. As herself, not as an animal or a witch. She appears sitting quietly, speaking to me calmly, her hands folded in her lap. Saying she is sorry. And I know that she is. In the dream.
So many years ago. So many lives lived in the meantime. So much time to change who we are and leave us the same. She looks the way she did years and years ago, of course. It was a dream.
It’s that hungry time of the morning, between three and four, when you realize you won’t be sleeping at all and you’ll have to be at work soon. She sits on the edge of the thrift-store bed in our two-room apartment and neither of us can be more than nineteen, twenty. Stumbling into some city from somewhere, young enough to believe it could make a difference, that simply living in the city might transform us into adults and fill us with fresh promise.
She’s wearing a worn blue chenille bathrobe, cinched at her waist, now gaping open to reveal her pajama shirt and the funnel of open skin beneath her neck. Her hands lie palms up within her lap and she’s staring down into them, shoulders slumped. Her eyes are swollen, her cheeks scaled with dried tears.
I’m standing by the dresser, near the door, resting one elbow among the loose change, clock radio and discarded pencils. The room is hot, the air damp, and we’ve run out of words, hateful or otherwise, for each other. Staring at the floor, the blank wall, the ceiling. Staring at our hands. Shifting uncomfortably in our bones, wanting to be somewhere else, to be with someone else. To be someone else
Nothing moves in this room. It seems that nothing can move. The furniture, the bodies, the oily light of the bedside lamp are all fixed, entangled one with another. A crime scene photo. Chalk lines on the floor.
I remember the drive there. In the room and in the dream. Everything we owned in the trunk and back seat. Photo albums and a family quilt. CDs and a portable stereo to play them in. Clothes packed in liquor store boxes. We hadn’t told her parents or mine, simply loaded everything while they were out of the house and pointed the car in one direction. Away.
Sandy has her seat tilted back and her bare feet on the dash before her, one arm hanging out the window. The other hand taps out the beat of the song on the radio at my bare knee. Her fine brown hair feathers into her face but she doesn’t brush it away. Every now and then, she turns in her seat to peer out the back window into the wide ribbon of road folding up behind us.
A week later, we spend ten dollars at the Dollar Mart on framed pictures and figurines to make the apartment ours. We make love on our own bed in our own apartment as if it were our honeymoon.
A year and a half later, a dark river has bubbled up from beneath the earth to rise between us, skewing the pictures on the wall, cracking the floorboards. There, in the room, in the dream, the water roars in my ears. Minutes before, I had felt I was drowning, sinking below the surface for the last time, hands clutching in a panic for something hard and sure.
I was struggling with some kind of formless weight which had settled at my chest, the blind hysteria of breathlessness, spinning out, flailing, as if everything could be solved by shifting my position within the room. Too frightened to recognize the lifeline, or grasp the outstretched hand. I am catching my breath now, leaning upon the dresser, my teeth clenched, jaw set.
Sandy brushes a nonexistent wisp of hair away from her eyes and allows her hand to drop again into her lap. I feel her breath shallow, learning her body her taste and the delicate construction of her thought over the last two years, I feel her shoulders sag. I know the scent at the base of her neck and the delicate resolve of her chest, having rested my head within that curve. I know the slight tension which sparks along her collarbone just before she speaks. I feel the lump in her throat, in the room. In the dream.
We are trapped in the room where we built and lost our secrets, both the construction and the loss equally mysterious and unfathomable. Surrounded by the objects which described our twenty-year lives, the only years that really mattered spent together. We are captured in the photo just before, or just after, the earthquake, the explosion, the ravaging fire.
She looks up to me. In the dream. She is no longer sobbing, her tears simply pooling in her eyes. Her lips no longer tremble; her lips are slightly parted, full and red. Her right eye is swollen, a large bruise darkening around it and a thin crescent below. She looks up at me with a question she will not ask and I cannot answer.
We were young, too young. In the room and in the dream. She was telling me how sorry she was and I believed her and that made everything worse.