Artist, Cheryl Dodds: Dodds was co-editor/publisher for Urban Spaghetti, a literary arts journal. Her art work has taken the form of mixed media, graphite drawings, photography, painting, woodcuts and multimedia as well as a few conceptual art projects. More of her work is online at AbsoluteArts.
clay-dirt wind on the torn-up avenue
and a gray-haired man with binoculars
running as if he were in the drama
mosquito autumn at the river and
the dry green warmth ready for interment
to let animal breeding take over
no decline in the weed vegetation
but an old scent to make the man wonder
I am not to do with breeding am I
Rodney Nelson, who has worked as a book and copy editor and lives in the northern Great Plains, has been published in numerous journals such as Georgia Review, Kansas Quarterly, Blackbird, In Posse Review, and Word Riot. His most recent books are SWEDE POEMS (Shearsman Books, 2007) and BYTIME in YANGLAND (Sugar Mule, 2006).
People Who Stop in Motels
The girl is thin, pale, wet from the rain. Her blondish hair hangs like knives. She looks twelve and he hopes she’s at least sixteen.
“You alone?” he asks.
She nods, oddly unaware of any danger this information could bring. “How much?” she asks. Her voice is expectedly scrawny, a whisper held together with vowels.
“One night, a single, twenty-five paid up front.”
He watches her pull out a pink plastic wallet, take out two tens and a five. She puts the wallet back in her pocket before she holds the bills out to him from one end. He takes the money and sticks it in a drawer underneath the counter, closes and locks it, even though he’d already emptied it for the night. He turns and reaches for a room key from the board behind him and slaps it down on the counter.
“Number twenty-three. Midway down on your right,” he says, and gestures vaguely to his right because he’s not sure she’s listening. Something about her makes him uncomfortable, more so than most of the gravelly bikers who come in four to a room with a case of beer and a woman with breasts spilling out of black leather.
She turns and he notices how skinny she really is. Her legs like denim fence posts, the seat of her jeans wrinkled into a fold. Small wings of shoulder bones sprout beneath a worn sweater that drapes unevenly on her back. She gets in her car and backs out slowly, her headlights flash into the office where he still stands. He walks around the desk and stops at the doorway, watches her park in front of the room. She gets out and locks her car door, walks to the room with a small gym bag. He watches until he sees the door to her room close and the curtain-dulled light spray onto the narrow walkway from the front window.
He undresses, lays heavily down on a bed in a room off the office, part of a small apartment made by breaking through walls of two motel rooms. He lies there awake, tired with beer yet alert to the sounds of the highway off in the distance. His thoughts zoom through his brain like the traffic. His hands clench the sheets he’s pulled over his head. Still, the girl walks through. He wonders where she came from. He wonders if she’s asleep. He misses his latest girlfriend who left him just over a month ago. Karen was sweet, young and exciting. Too much for him unless he was willing to get married again and he wasn’t. He didn’t trust women enough anymore. But he missed them. His hands crept down to his crotch.
The girl in Room 23 sat on the bed holding her phone in both hands. She had washed her face and hands but didn’t change clothes, just exchanged the sweater for a pullover sweatshirt. She touched the numbers lightly, not pressing them enough to connect. The same eleven numbers over and over again. Then she started to cry.
Leave it behind, she told herself. You’re done with it now. Move on. But there were things she’d not left, but lost along with the leaving. She’d never been this far away on her own before. Never gone without somebody knowing. She held the phone to her chest, held it like it contained her best friend Addie, her little sister Jane, and her ma. Then she put it on the nightstand and shut off the light. Slipped under the sheets, surprised at the sweet smell of the linen. She thought of the man at the desk. He had real nice eyes.
Susan Gibb, recently recipient of the 8th Glass Woman Prize, a Pushcart nomination and on the storySouth Million Writers Award long list of notable short stories 2010, writes one blog on literature analysis and another on hypermedia writing and reading. Her fiction, poetry, and digital art have been published in many fine publications. She wrote 100 hypertext stories in Summer 2009, 100 flash fictions in Summer 2010 and in 2011 writes one flash piece each day.
After spending a week sleeping on the floor of a crack house,
she comes home dragging a heap of bones.
I watch her lay each bone out on the floor:
the clavicle she broke falling up the front steps
the scapula she split open after crashing into a parked pickup
the vertebrae she cracked after collapsing on the pavement,
and more of course, each one a lesson.
She is something to watch, not because you want to
but because you cannot look away.
So I watch her mumble to herself,
the veins twisting beneath her skin,
her fumbling eyes searching for a cigarette
as she attempts to put each bone back in place:
the thoratic vertebrae, the tibia,
then she is lost.
“Mother, it is this one,” I say
taking her hand and guiding her toward a rib.
She looked up for a moment,
as if recognizing me for the first time.
“I’m gonna die like this,” she said.
And I saw the bones scattered around her,
I saw her body shivering beneath her ragged sweater,
could see her face as she clutched an old teddy bear
wandering down the median of an interstate
in the torn lining of an overcoat,
before I turned away
not meaning what I meant
when I said nothing.
Kelly Michels has a Master’s degree in literature from George Mason University and an MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. She won the Academy of American Poets Prize for NC State in 2007. Her poems have appeared in Nimrod International Journal, Mad Poet’s Review, and Winning Writers.
Online Employment Application
If you have already created an account, log in with your user ID and password. All questions on the application must be answered. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
1. Which position are you applying for?
2. What is the last job you held and your reason for leaving?
3. Are you sure you weren’t fired for spending all your time on Facebook?
4. Do you consider yourself a liar, or are you generally an honest person?
5. Are you sure?
6. Have you driven away without leaving a note after scratching someone’s car in the parking lot?
7. What was the name of your first girlfriend?
8. Were you a competent kisser, or was your tongue like a dead fish in her mouth?
9. Did you practice on your hand before you tried kissing Isabel Saenz the next summer?
10. Did you know she wore those purple and white Dove shorts as often as she could because she knew you liked the way her legs looked in them?
11. Did you know she got drunk on California Coolers and let Marco Villanueva go all the way at Letty Lopez’s ditching party the next month?
12. How old were you when you lost your virginity to Hector’s sister Francis?
13. Were you afraid of accidentally yelling out, “Geronimo!”
14. Do you remember how you actually started to yell out, “Geronimo!” but stopped yourself just in time?
15. How many girls did you have sex with in high school?
16. That few?
17. What about in college?
18. Do you remember that time you dropped acid with your roommate and climbed a tree outside the dorms to get closer to the stars?
19. Can you still recall that feeling of oneness with the universe?
20. Do you ever wonder if that was real or just a drug-induced illusion?
21. Do you remember how dumbstruck you were the first time you met Melissa?
22. Can you believe your luck that she chose you instead of Jeff from study group?
23. Have you ever figured out what she saw in you?
24. Do you still remember the zinnias she picked out for your wedding?
25. If we give you this job, will you call in sick so that you can go to the beach and stare at the ocean like you did with your last job?
26. Will you cry like a little bitch as you stand at the water’s edge and remember Melissa?
27. Did you know that she stared at a water spot on the ceiling tiles the whole time they were conducting the procedure and wished she could just die?
28. Were you aware that she would have named the baby after you?
29. Have you any idea how badly you screwed up by cheating on her with her cousin Lorna?
30. What is wrong with you?
31. How many years of managerial experience do you have?
32. Have you ever slept with any of your employees?
33. Not even Jolene Coover?
34. Not even that one time after the Lakers game, when everyone was so drunk and you drove her home and you slipped it in right there in your car in front of her apartment building without using a condom?
35. Did you know that after you wouldn’t look her in the eye for two weeks straight, she hooked up with Todd from HR just to get over you?
36. Did you know that he never looked her in the eye during sex?
37. Do you know that he thought of his best friend from the wrestling team and that one time in the gym whenever they made love?
38. Do you know that they’re married with three kids now and she cries in her car on the way to work at least once a week for no apparent reason?
39. Do you realize that men and women have sex for very different reasons?
40. You mean you didn’t know they’re always looking for love, even the ones who say they aren’t?
41. Do you still believe in the myth of the woman who fucks like a man?
42. Can you see how convenient it is for you to believe that?
43. Can you see how many women you’ve screwed over with that lie?
44. What kind of man are you?
45. Did you love your mother?
46. Do you know that that last week at the hospital she prayed a rosary to La Virgencita to protect you when she was gone?
47. Why didn’t you visit her more often?
48. How can anyone be that busy?
49. What makes you think you were such a good son?
50. Do you know that Melissa will never forgive you, even though she and Lorna made up years ago?
51. No, really, you do realize there’s no chance in hell she’ll ever even talk to you again, right?
52. What if it’s true that no one else will ever love you the way Melissa loved you?
53. Do you realize that the young girl in the black leggings you keep staring at in Starbucks thinks you’re an old loser and a creep?
54. Are you prepared to spend the rest of your life alone?
55. And how exactly will you find someone else?
56. OK, but then how will you manage not to screw that up?
57. Have you taken a look at yourself recently?
58. Really? Have you really taken it all in—receding hairline, bulging beer belly, fat fingers, enlarged pores, cauliflower nose and all?
59. You do realize that offing yourself won’t solve anything, right?
60. What if there really is a hell?
61. That would suck, wouldn’t it?
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Yvette Doss is a graduate student in the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing at the University of California at Riverside. Her non-fiction and essay writing have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Ms. Magazine, and on NPR. Her poetry has appeared in Buddhist Poetry Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and Chantarelle’s Notebook. She lives in Southern California. Some of her radio essays are available online at npr.org.
transport: a baby’s weightless feet
our loves to their graves
a glass toward heaven
dispatch: a blade of grass
green vibration into the supervoid
speculate: god as dolphin
buttercups and green fields
negligible lacking in salt
compare: traffic and souls
drifting from pipes
prophesy: as above below
paris hilton vogues
we shiver naked outside the gate
retreat: oh cloak of shivering
cloak of dogs tongues
the dirigible floats over the graveyard
discern: like trees walking he said
more like a tired mother
guarantor for the baby’s weightless feet