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Bologna in the Sun | Suzy Eynon

Bologna in the Sun

Peanut butter on whole wheat, no jelly

When I stay home sick from school as a child, sometimes sick but other times not, I make myself a peanut butter sandwich and eat it on the floor in front of the television next to my dolls. I animate them in erotic fashion. My mom doesn’t let me have Ken dolls so I only have Barbie and Ariel. I make Barbie and Ariel rub against each other as they wear their sexiest dresses. I always spread too much peanut butter on my sandwich, and I imagine a curl of blond doll hair becomes stuck to the peanut butter. I choke on the thick peanut butter as it melts and joins with the imagined hair in my mouth, now too full to open. I breathe through my nose.


Chocolate milkshake

On Saturdays, my sister and I ride our bikes with my dad. I don’t enjoy heading out into the hot sun at 8:00AM on the weekend and I fear running into someone from school but don’t want to hurt my dad’s feelings. As a treat, we stop by the gas station before we head home after riding through the desert. He buys us each a chocolate milkshake from the dispenser by the bathroom. I can hardly keep the thick, creamy concoction down in the 100+ degree heat, but I never think to tell him I don’t want the milkshake after a long bike ride, to bring up my lactose sensitivity.


Bologna sandwich, dry

My first boyfriend who isn’t a cartoon animal lives across the main road so we walk or ride bikes to meet each other after school. This makes us sound younger than we were. He loathes me but I’m too naïve and inexperienced to differentiate loathing from loving. He asks me to pop a pimple on his back. He says his mom used to do that for him. My first brush with non-familial intimacy. I’m repulsed but do it anyway. One day on our walk, he breaks down and sobs, incoherently tells me I used to be like you and that I remind him of this.

He offers to help me lose weight. We don’t have access to a gym so he has me work in his mother’s backyard in the midday southwestern sun, pulling weeds from the dirt. When I come inside from my chore, my back and arms are purple with sunburn, plum skin grotesque against my lemon-lime striped bikini top. For lunch, he prepares me what he considers a diet meal of ingredients pulled from his mother’s fridge: a round slice of bologna between two pieces of white bread, no condiments. He demonstrates how to press a paper towel to the meat to absorb any excess juice. The color palette haunts me: the purple-pink flesh of that bologna slice pinned against bread.


Slice of deli turkey with mustard

After school, instead of the entire bag of Doritos with two Ding Dongs I’d down a year or so prior, at seventeen I eat a single slice of turkey with yellow mustard. I know the mustard has few calories so I treat myself, allow as much as I want, eating it like it’s a main course. Afraid my mom might notice my recent weight loss, I crumble the edge of a cracker onto the placemat left in my spot at the kitchen island for her to find when she gets home from work. I leave little tableaus like this around the house: food scraps as evidence of eating, my backpack and textbooks arranged in the living room as if I’ve been studying and not staying home sick from school. My estimation of a functioning young adult. If anyone notices, they don’t say anything.


Beef Stroganoff

Once I live with my partner, I try to cook dinner. I never learned to cook, only to eat or not eat. I try to make beef stroganoff, a meal I remember my mother making when I was a child, only I’m too impatient to use many ingredients. I don’t sauté onions and we don’t have many spices. I was disgusted by the dead cockroaches I found in the kitchen cabinets when we moved in and refuse to store anything there, so I buy and assemble a small storage hutch for our plates and cups, piling layers on top of unnecessary layers around me instead of tidying up what’s already there. I use the frozen Schwann’s pre-portioned beef my mother gives me when I visit home, and for a sauce I mix an entire container of sour cream and blobs of butter in the single pan we own. It tastes good to me, salty, though it looks limp and one-note on our plates.

When we break up after five years, my ex becomes angry with me and writes whore across the white front of the hutch with a Sharpie. My mother comes to our place to help me clean out the last of my things, and before she arrives, he smashes the hutch to pieces with a hammer and throws the pieces in the dumpster so she won’t see what he’s scrawled there. I move back home. I’m never really hungry, until I’m so hungry that I stop at a drive-through on the way home and eat tacos and burgers in my car while parked in the lot down the street before joining my parents for another dinner, already full but still wanting.


Soma Café, Phoenix

The only time I live alone—no roommate, no partner, no parents—my apartment is a few blocks from a healthy foods café that no longer exists. They list the calories next to each item on the glowing menu. Everything is clean and uncomplicated, no calculations required. The veggie wrap with hummus and the turkey cranberry roll have the least number of calories, so I alternate ordering these for dinner. I can’t afford the apartment which I’ve signed the lease on during a sales promotion, and don’t have a kitchen table, so I eat my wrap or roll while perched in my bed. I know none of this can last since I’ll have to move within the year, and the café will close down too, but for a span of time I feel full.

Suzy Eynon

Suzy Eynon is a writer from Arizona. Her work has appeared in JMWW, Roanoke Review, Passages North, Autofocus, X-R-A-Y, South Dakota Review, and others. She has an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. She lives in Seattle with her cats. Connect on Twitter @suzyeynon or at

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A Body of Water | Rachel Paris Wimer

A Body of Water

For a long time, I thought about Ruth every time I saw a body of water. She was wearing pink shorts and a lavender t-shirt. It was the first time I noticed that she even existed, and there she was. Face-down at the bottom of the deep end of my backyard kidney-shaped pool. I thought she was a doll; her body was so small under eight feet of water. I turned back to the large party of other high-schoolers and their parents on the deck, not realizing that I had seen the body of a friend’s four-year-old sister. How long did I look away? How many crucial minutes passed before another of our friends saw her body too, only this time seeing the truth? What would have happened if my brain had made the connection, and I had been the one to leap off the deck, diving into the pool? Could I have saved her?

My mother doesn’t remember this, but as a teenager, I used to go swimming late at night in our pool. It was heated, and the moonlight, the lights in and around the pool made it glow. When the night air got chilly, steam would rise from the water. Even after Ruth drowned, I swam with her ghost. I found out later that my father would sit out on the screened-in back porch, watching me from the shadows. This is how I know he loves me, in his own way—hidden in the dark of night so that I couldn’t see his emotions.

When I went off to college, my dad warned me about gaining weight. As a result, I went on a diet my freshman year, eating salads from the salad bar, apples, and drinking Slim-Fast shakes. When I told him I’d lost eight pounds, my dad said, “Well, you could stand to lose five more.” And when I did, he came to see me at school and as soon as he saw me, he said, “Well look, it’s Kate Moss! You look like a little waif that’s going to blow away.” The message that I got was that nothing was good enough, I would never win. I would never measure up.

That first year of college, I read Louise Glück’s poem, “The Drowned Children.” Memorizing the dark words, I let their ghostly rhythm spill off of my tongue, out of my lips, and into the air to release their spirits with my breath. I tried to come to terms with my long-held guilt. I imagined Ruth in the water’s “manifold dark arms.” When I read the words,

What are you waiting for

come home, come home, lost

in the waters, blue and permanent.

I felt a sense of deep peace, like a shadow passing over my face on a sweltering day. A respite. Relief. Maybe she just needed to go home.

Then, the summer after my junior year, I worked in the Admissions Office on my college campus, and I would go swim laps in the indoor pool after work. Trying to wash away my heartbreak after the end of my first relationship, I did the breaststroke, counting each lap until I reached twenty-five. My body was tired, so very tired, but the swimming refreshed my dry soul, even if just for those moments. It was the healthiest thing I did for myself that summer.

I remember the day towards the end of the summer when they emptied the pool to clean it, and without those cleansing breaths, I sunk deeper into my undiagnosed depression. Then, in mid-August, my dad called with the news that my Aunt Carol had died of a heart attack while swimming in a pool in L.A. She was fifty-two. I imagined her heavy body feeling weightless, peaceful at last. I felt a part of myself die with her, even though I’d only met her once. I’d always related to her, when my father looked at my body and told me that if I wasn’t careful, I would become fat like his sister. As I would soon discover, I already had her bipolar genes, so it seemed inevitable that I would have other physical traits. The weight struggles, the health problems, the lifetime of being misunderstood, the emotional rollercoasters, were mine and hers, and they died that night.

It’s been nearly thirty years since Ruth drowned, over twenty since Aunt Carol died, and now I’m at the point where I don’t like to swim. While I used to love feeling submerged, I don’t even dip my toes in. I can’t remember the last time I was in a pool, or even in the ocean at the beach. I stay on land. It’s been a gradual slipping away into fear over the years, as I’ve moved into motherhood. There’s more than just fear—there’s deep shame. As my father predicted, my body has spread over time. My thick pale thighs hardly see the light of day. I loathe bathing suits. I cover up—I hide. And maybe if I don’t swim, I’ll never drown.

At the lake every Labor Day weekend, I sit on the dock, wearing a billowy caftan, floppy hat, and large sunglasses. I watch my young son swimming, splashing in the water, and I hold my breath. If he were to go under, I wonder how fast I could move to retrieve his body from the lake. I imagine my own screams, locked in my throat. I picture the smallest of caskets, a funeral, feeling the rest of myself dying, my body drowning in the watery depths of depression, and how I would blame and blame and blame.

Rachel Paris Wimer

Rachel Paris Wimer is a web content editor by day and a writer by night. She has a BA in English from Washington College and an MA in English from George Mason University. She is an alum of the Pioneer Valley Writers' Workshop and the Tin House Summer 2022 Workshop. Rachel's work has been published in Southeast Review, Microfiction Monday Magazine, Under the Gum Tree, and Scary Mommy. You can find more of her writing at She lives with her husband and their son in Fairfax, Virginia. She is currently working on a hybrid memoir.

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Designated Rememberer | Camille U. Adams

Designated Rememberer

I am fourteen. In Grenada. Up in St. Patrick County. Visiting from my home of Trinidad for a week. Visiting my mother who, for a year, I have not seen.

I am fourteen, visiting my mother’s birth country. Where she has planned a festive reunion. A week’s holiday together for all her left-behind children.

I am fourteen, permitted this trip. After my father pounded the centre-table he then flipped. Permitted after my father slammed down the phone on my mother’s long-distance call. Permitted, after my father yanked the cord out the wall. Permitted after my father threatened his daughters with his fists. And warned we not going nowhere at all.

I am permitted this trip after my over six foot tall, construction foreman, girlfriend-spending-all-his-salary father relent. Permitted to see my mother after my father curse his children and yuh-fucking-modda vent.

I am permitted, finally, to see my mother again after my foaming-mouth father examines my two younger sisters and my tickets for the plane. Examines the stapled papers for terrorising hours and days. Upside, downside, in every single way. To make sure they contain no secret keys. No discrete visas allowing us to exit the Caribbean bowl. Making sure we stay under his empty-cupboard roof’s control.

My father making sure we cannot board an international Liat or BWIA flight. My father making sure we cannot go to Brooklyn where Smiley, my mother, now resides.

My father making sure that we cannot go to New York City, unbeheld. To that cold country my mother lives in now after she secretly fled.

After my mother secretly told a thirteen-year-old girl she’d be alone in this world. To lovingly make me prepared. So she said. After my mother left her three daughters in Trinidad with the man who she feared would take her life. After my mother left me at 13 to mother an 11-year-old and an eight-year-old near catatonic child.

Now, I am here in Grenada. Here in the isle where my mother left her first child. Here in the country where my mother abandoned her first baby. Here, visiting the village in which this first child still lives. The parish where she, with an aunt, resides. Here, meeting an unknown older sister for the first time.

Here we are, all five. Each pregnancy with which my mother was fertilised. Including the baby aborted just in time. Another daughter conceived in this isle. All five. Together in the place that sprouted such a mother we have to survive.

And I – while the first priorly-unknown daughter is being maligned, while my new older sister is being deemed evil, bitter, and full of spite – drift over to the hill to take in one of Grenada’s most famous sights.

From this distance, I cannot hear the last daughter’s whine. The last daughter regressing to babyhood with the mother for whom she pines.

With my back turned to the rest of the excursion, I cannot see the third daughter’s anxious, flitting smiles. Wanting to be mummy’s favourite, while Smiley ignores her first unloved, silenced child.

While Smiley cuddles the last. And gossips with the third who is eager to agree with everything her mother asks. Lest they, too, be forced into the iron mask. Of unfavoured daughter.

All while the unborn foetus, dealt the earliest desertion from our mother, is tasked with having no face, no name, no claim to a future. Bound only to her mother’s past.

And I – dressed in all denim my mother shipped to her barrel children, bounding care in a cask – step away from the jovial family group. The family troupe who boarded Cousin Ashley’s bus early this morning for his escorting of all of us. Up, round, and through Grenada’s must-see destinations. Sites of familiarity, nostalgia, newness, and recognition for my mother and all her visiting cousins. Play cousins from their shared childhood my mother returned home to see.

The real reason for my mother’s trip from Brooklyn happening to be not wanting to miss out on the gathering of her England, Canada, U.S. scattered family. Bringing her children together an added amendment after a cousin inquired, and what bout yuh pickney, Smiley. As this cousin laughingly tells me in our holiday verandah filled with family. Generations renting vacation houses on a hill whose name issues this collective’s command, Happy.

And the noise and the rum punch jokes and the cigarette smoke of my mother’s cousins is getting to me. So, I step away. To examine the hill my textbooks say is called Carib’s Leap. The hill my soul remembers in agitation, anger, and sorrow deep. The hill over which my remembering spirit shudders, dreams, and weeps.

Finally in Grenada for myself to see. I stand on the hill that witnessed jumpers leap into the open-armed sea. The hill that saw jumpers fly over its steep 340 years before I appear at its ledge. In this town of Sauteurs. Named by the plundering French who made them flee. Named jumpers for these indigenous people who came before me.

I stand on this inherited shelf, peering into the wealth of blue who received undeafeated troops. And families. My Kalinago ancestry. On Carib’s Leap. The hill that keeps hold of their screams, their flails, their dives, their lives. Their dignity.

I am fourteen, here to stand on the cliffside hill from whence Carib Kalinago arms flailed. Here in the town of Sauteurs to see where my mother was born and raised. And all the mothers who before her came. And the first mother, who before me comes. Today.

The first mother watching eyes pressed right up in my space. In my taken aback face. In my who-is-this-looking-directly-into-and-at-me line of sight. In my field of vision where she is so close to me I can see the whites surrounding her jet-black pupils intently, silently focused.

And the locus of any control I wield slips. And in my swift horizontal tilt, I realise it is bogus to believe it is only me who longed to see. Only my desire that drew me. To Carib’s Leap. From whose rocky, beach-washed feet, she rise.

This mother mother mother mother. The first. And extends her hand to right my gravitational confusion. Extends her come-with-me head inclination. To invite, to guide, to walk astride. To provide me with sight. And answers to my questions. Into what my spirit feels. But my witnessing must now for itself see.

As I turn now to walk, and follow upon the first daughter-deserting mother heels.

Camille U. Adams

Camille U. Adams is a multi-Best of the Net nominated writer from Trinidad and Tobago. And she’s, quite proudly, a current finalist in the Restless Books Prize For New Immigrant Writing 2023. Camille earned her MFA in Poetry from CUNY and is a current Ph.D. Candidate in Creative Nonfiction at FSU where she has been awarded a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship and nominated for a teaching award. Camille is a 2022 Tin House alum, a 2023 Tin House summer workshop reader, and an inaugural 2023-24 Tin House Reading Fellow. Camille was also awarded an inaugural fellowship from Granta Magazine for the 2023 Nature Workshop. Additionally, Camille is a Kenyon Writers Workshop alum and has received scholarships for attendance from Roots Wounds Words, Community of Writers, Kweli Literary Festival, Grubstreet, VONA, etc. Her writing has been longlisted in the Graywolf Creative Nonfiction Prize 2022 and selected as a finalist for The 2021 Orison Anthology Award in Nonfiction. Camille’s memoir writing is featured in Passages North, Citron Review, Hippocampus Magazine, XRAY Literary Magazine, Variant Literature, The Forge Literary Magazine, Kweli Magazine, The Caribbean Writer, and elsewhere. Camille is also an associate managing nonfiction editor at Variant Literature, the assistant nonfiction editor at The Account Magazine, a prose reader at Abode Press, and a memoir reader for Split Lip Magazine. When she isn’t writing and teaching, Camille can be found on Twitter at @Camille_U_Adams where she spends way too much time.

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Role Model & Can I Take Your Order? | Avitus B. Carle

Role Model

After she signs the divorce papers, and after he moves out and I move out and she decides to downsize by throwing out his things and my childish, unwanted things, my mother becomes a chalk outline model. She’s breaking news on CBS. A woman who jumped from a burning building. A bank robbery gone wrong.

When I call her, she tells me about her new lives. Shasta with the broken arm. Letitia with the steak knife. Rowen with three bullets. But mom, I say and hear her stop breathing. Mom, she says, toying with each letter, before the call dies.

Can I Take Your Order?

Order extra fries drizzled with chocolate. You shouldn't have to say "melted chocolate" because you say "drizzled" so it's clearly implied. Ten ketchup packets, just in case. You never know what might happen on the drive home. A burger would be nice. Treat yourself. Three patties, tomatoes, no pickles, light mustard, ketchup, all wrapped in lettuce.

You are, after all, watching your figure.

Not really, but tell the teenager on the other end of the voice box this. Say, I'm watching my figure. Don't let the sound of static embarrass you.

Instead, talk about your mother. The measuring tape she wrapped around your waist before every ballet class. How she compared you to other little girls sinking deep into their pliés.

Your ass gon' be trouble, she'd say, while the other little girls covered their ears.

Don't let the sound of static embarrass you.

Remember your father with a rib bone hanging from his mouth. Your uncles drooling grease, smacking on ox tails, chitlins, pig feet, chicken wings, feet, breasts, thighs, and gizzards. You tried that once, not the gizzards, but parading around with a bone in your mouth. Somethin' wrong with that girl, your uncles said.

Your daddy wouldn't face you.

That's when you ate the gizzards. Held them in your hand above your grandma's favorite cooking pot in a closet all your own.

Ask how much for a slice of apple pie. Laugh when the teenager in the voice box says, they nasty, after you miss hearing the cost.

Talk about pie. Apple, pecan, sweet potato, that one cherry pie you threw up when you were 16. Leave the memory there. Or don't. If you want, talk about how the women in your family take any bit of you they consider swollen and pinch and pull while sucking their teeth.

When you were a baby, it was cute.

Five, and they start to worry. What they feeding you, girl? They say while struggling to raise you over their heads.

You are a big legged girl at 12. Just as big as you wanna be.

16 and you're grown assed'ed, just like your mama said.

Baby having a baby, she said.

Except, you decided not to.

Again, you don't have to talk about that.

The teenager in the voice box will ask if you want extra napkins. Ask if you want a cupholder for a drink you don't remember ordering. He'll tell you to pull around to the second window.

I thought I paid at the first? You say.

Listen to the sound of static.

Change your mind. You ordered a burger and deserve a bun. Clutch a twenty in your palm. Practice saying, actually, I'd like a bun please.

Practice saying, keep the change.

Stare at your reflection in the sliding window. Your swollen cheeks. Arms beneath a sweatshirt that once belonged to a college linemen version of your father. How your stomach plumes over a belt strapped too tight. You can't see it, but you know it's happening.

The teenager behind the voice box appears, smiles, and offers you a brown bag with a greasy bottom.

Your order, he says, and you hear him. You swear you hear him.

And you ask, how much do I owe?

Avitus B. Carle

Avitus B. Carle (she/her) lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Formerly known as K.B. Carle, her flash has been published in a variety of places including Five South, F(r)iction, Okay Donkey Magazine, Lost Balloon, CHEAP POP, and elsewhere. Avitus's flash, "Black Bottom Swamp Bottle Woman," was recently selected as one of Wigleaf's 2023 Top 50, and her experimental flash, “Abernathy_Resume.docx,” was included in the 2022 Best of the Net anthology. Her story, “A Lethal Woman,” will be included in the 2022 Best Small Fictions anthology. She can be found online at or online everywhere @avitusbcarle.

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Echo | Anna Vangala Jones

Before she was a girl, she’d been an elephant. She wasn’t supposed to remember that, but somewhere in the reincarnation system, there’d been a glitch. Her memory had come with her. Now nothing in this life could satisfy, as she had a whole other one to forever measure it against. When she was an elephant, she remembered longing to be a girl, as they seemed to have things better overall. Now after an excruciating stretch in this human body, she wasn’t so sure. The past held a promise of a better future, but this present seemed eternal and fixed.

It had been a hunter and his hunger for ivory that ended her life as an elephant. Now it was a man and his greed for her body that made her life as a girl just as precarious and intolerable. What she’d done to deserve male lust stalking her as prey across two lifetimes, she was sure she didn’t know. She was determined now that the ending would not remain the same.

She wouldn’t be conquered, she wouldn’t be owned, and sold in parts—not when given a second chance. Her soul had stayed intact for a purpose. Freedom lingered just beyond the barred windows of her current cage, a shed in the man’s backyard, so like the one her elephant body had inhabited after it shuddered its last breaths and collapsed with seeming finality upon the dusty earth.

Her skin, a cracked and rough grey, was now a smooth and soft brown. Yielding yet resilient like tightly coiled springs.

The hunter had not allowed for a fair fight. He’d followed her first in his jeep, built for the terrain, and then on foot. He stalked her for some time from a distance before positioning his rifle just so and aiming for her wide, unprotected back as she bathed herself. She remembered the quiet. She remembered the peace. She wondered how long he watched her before firing the shot that brought a life full of beautiful possibilities to an abrupt end. If he’d contemplated what all came before that moment for her and what all could have come after had he changed his mind; if he spared even a sliver of thought for how she deserved to live and flourish for herself rather than die and be used for his pleasure. The feeling of the bullet penetrating her, the burning and tearing sensations, the slow agony, the merciless pressure, the shock building into horror, the pain, the fear—it had come coursing back through her every nerve ending the first night in the man’s shed. His ugly face looming in the darkness, the weight of his knees, his hot breath so close, the terror of today’s brutal reality and the fear of tomorrows with no hope.

She’d been on a bus with her high school debate team when the man began following them, first in his car and then on foot at the gas station rest stop. She’d never forget the music that played that day now, echoing for eternity—the explicit lyrics, the pounding bass, the cacophony of her classmates’ voices singing along—imprinted upon her soul as the last moments of her freedom and innocence. Just like the man’s fingerprints were tattooed into her flesh now as the enduring bruises of her imprisonment and all he’d taken from her since.

But today, as he stumbled into her shed, he was intoxicated and she could smell weakness on him. Vulnerability emanated from his pores intermingled with bourbon. His foot caught on a crooked plank that he usually knew to sidestep, and he tripped. It was now or never.

She reared back and charged at his fallen figure with terrifying speed, the hardest part of her skull focused on the point between his eyes and her nails outstretched and curled, ready to pierce his flesh. She’d been attacked from behind last time, so her curved sharp tusks had been useless as weapons and were preserved instead as the hunter's prize. This time, the man would know defeat. She felt a drunken rush of power surge through her when his face contorted in fear at her fast approach. There was nothing very intimidating about her slight frame. She was slender with a doughy tummy, all pointy knees and elbows, where her skin was the darkest brown and dry like puckered raisins. But there was no time to concern herself with how he could be afraid of a girl like her. She rammed her head into his and his eyes rolled back. She reversed and stampeded him again. Her strength swelled as he lay crumpled flat on the ground. She could feel ribs and bones cracking beneath her tremendous feet as she trampled and stomped with a delight she hadn’t felt in years.

It was only then that she caught her reflection in the small, dirt splattered mirror above him. She was enormous and grey, her ears billowing around her head like sails in a warm breeze.

She coiled him up in her trunk, lifting and slamming his near lifeless body to the ground. Over and over she did it, to be certain. She released him more out of curiosity than anything and waited. As he staggered up to meet her, the look in his eyes as wild and frenzied as it was afraid and hopeless, she allowed her tusks the victory they’d been denied before. Dark red, almost purple, flecks of him freckled her grey shell, but she plowed on. She watched the man shudder his last breaths as his body collapsed to the earth below him. A translucent, dark puddle of his blood formed around him, sparkling with his sweat like diamonds.

She trotted out into the sunlight, letting it bathe and bake her tired armor. As she settled herself in a position comfortable enough for rest, she raised her majestic head and looked all around her for any potential predators. Reborn, she closed her eyes and slept.


This story was originally published in Jellyfish Review and is an excerpt from TURMERIC & SUGAR: STORIES © 2021 by Anna Vangala Jones. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Thirty West. All rights reserved.

Anna Vangala Jones

Anna Vangala Jones is the author of the short story collection TURMERIC & SUGAR (Thirty West Publishing, 2021). Her stories have been selected for Longform Fiction’s Best of 2018 list and appeared in Wigleaf, Necessary Fiction, and Berkeley Fiction Review, among others. Find her online at

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I’m the Guy Who (Almost) Killed the Guy Who (Almost) Killed Albert Einstein | James J. Patterson

The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament arrived in Washington, D.C., on November 15th, 1986. The participants had marched all the way from California to my hometown, the Capital of the Empire, to protest nuclear weapons. Under President Reagan, the war industry had shrugged off the negative image it had acquired during the Vietnam War. Now, saber-rattling politicians were postulating that nuclear war was something everyday citizens could speak of as a wise foreign policy option. After all, if you want to make astronomical amounts of money, the thing to do is to think astronomically. And the supersonic multi–nuclear warheaded MX missile, coming in at seventy million dollars a pop from the Raytheon Corporation, had the arms industry and all its dependents smiling, with stars in their eyes.

My two-man band, The Pheromones, had a steady group of regular venues where we played in and around D.C., as well as hot spots around the country. With songs like “The Great Rondini” (about our Teflon president), “Peace Once More,” and “MX Madness,” among others, we were the go-to guys if you wanted it topical, raw to the bone, and loaded with attitude. In other words, major media outlets wouldn’t touch us, but fans came in all shapes and sizes. Members of the march’s organizing committee had heard some of our anti-war numbers on the Pacifica radio station out in Berkeley. So, when the ragtag army of anti-war, anti-nuclear demonstrators were at last about to arrive at the nation’s capital after walking three thousand miles, those friendly organizers put us at the top of the show, slipping us in at the last minute. We would play at the Lincoln Memorial, where later Sweet Honey in the Rock, Holly Near, and Ralph Nader would praise those marchers for their massive contribution to the cause.

While the marchers were gathering in Martin Luther King Park, we had enough time for a quick sound check. My stage partner Alvis Pheromone picked two songs I had written years earlier on Clovelly Island in Canada, “Grace in the World” and “Holiday,” when even my closest friends didn’t know I could write, play, or sing. I would sit on the porch overlooking the Lovesick Lake and play to the gently rippling tides. Now those two songs boomed out across the Reflecting Pool and bounced off the monuments, delivering an eerie kind of wonder and surprise at life’s more ironic and unexpected twists and turns. We were standing where King had delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. This memory still brings me happy chills.

Casey Kasem, a famous hit radio DJ, was the MC, and he called us up to the stage as the massive crowd of marchers was making its way to us from Martin Luther King Park and Lafayette Square. There were already a thousand or more people gathered there—tourists, locals, and a bunch of fans who had found out we were playing I know not how, because, being last-minute additions, we were not on any schedule. But we could see the throng of marchers, a people’s army, with their homemade banners, flags, and slogans, moving inexorably toward us with the slow determination of history itself. Our fingers were numb in the thirty-eight-degree cold, but we greeted them with songs: “Hey, Look Around You,” “MX Madness,” “The Great Rondini,” “Money Go Round,” “Host Homes,” “Peace Once More,” and “Galactic Funny Farm.” Kasem brought us back for “Grace in the World.”

As we stepped back from the mikes and took our bow, Kasem returned to talk to the crowd; we hurried over to put our guitars away as Sweet Honey in the Rock, an all-woman African American a cappela ensemble who just exude a kind of ancient life force, sang a spiritual welcome to our giant peace brigade, who were by now moving in that slow-surging not-to-be-denied way a large crowd moves, right up to the stairs of the Memorial.

As this was going on, at the back of the stage area, standing by our guitar cases, was Ralph Nader, flanked by two young acolytes, waiting for Kasem to introduce him. Now, this was long before Nader had torpedoed his liberal bona fides by running against Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, still fourteen years distant, ensuring that stupid George W. Bush would become our president. But at the time, Nader was a genuine hero. I thought he could be another Abe Lincoln.

I approached Nader cautiously with an “is it okay?” look to his two handlers, who just smiled. I shook his hand and went on to explain that ten or more years earlier, I had bought a Chevrolet Monza that was a total lemon right from the first day I owned it. For example, the passenger door fell off—that’s right, it just fell off. It happened on a first date with a lovely woman I had taken to the Kennedy Center for a concert. It was pouring rain, and when I got out to open the door for her, it simply tore off from its welded hinges and landed in the gutter. Do you know how fucking heavy a car door is? What’s worse, my date insisted I take her home. So, with the car door sticking out of my hatchback, I drove her home with water pouring in her side. You’ll be shocked to learn that our first date was our last. Also, that first year, a strut bar beneath the car fell off, and the entire chassis dropped down, grinding all four tires to pulp with only a few rotations. But I digress.

So, with a couple thousand people waiting, I stood there and told Ralph Nader about a time I was coming up the hill on Florida Avenue, in front of the Washington Hilton, when my brakes failed completely. I was yanking desperately on the emergency brake and pumping the brake pedal wildly and was able to bring the car to a stop but not until I had entered the crosswalk and bumped a man who angrily banged his fist on the hood of my car.

That angry man was Ralph Nader.

“It should have been a Corvair!” Nader laughed heartily, referencing his legal suit against the car company that made him famous and led to massive safety reforms in the auto industry that to this day have saved countless lives. He went on to tell a story of his own. Back in his college days in Germany, he was driving an old beater car with bad brakes, and rolling down a hill toward an intersection where he bumped an old man in his pajamas in the crosswalk. That man was Albert Einstein.

“So, in another life,” he put his hands on my shoulders and smiled down at me, “You’re the guy who killed the guy who killed Albert Einstein!” We both laughed hard. I then handed him two cassettes of our tunes, bootlegged to sell from the stage, with maybe eighty original songs. “Are all these songs different?” he wanted to know as only a true consumer activist would, and he tucked them into his jacket pockets. Then he calmly stepped up to a microphone and said, “I presume that by now, after your courageous experience walking all the way across the country for peace, many of you will go on to become active critics of the footwear industry.”

It was a scream.

Nobody laughed.

Poor Ralph. Once upon a time, he was très cool.

That night we MCed a dance party for the marchers at a Nader event. When I recounted our conversation at the Memorial earlier that day, one of his aides laughed wearily, “Did he tell you his Einstein story? He tells that story to everybody!”

Now, I guess, so do I.

James J. Patterson

James J. Patterson is the author of the essay collection Junk Shop Window: Essays on Myth, Life, and Literature, out June 6th from Alan Squire Publishing. He also wrote Bermuda Shorts, an Indie Bestseller, and the novel Roughnecks. As Jimmy Pheromone, he crisscrossed north America for a decade, writing and performing songs as one-half of the satirical art-folk duo, The Pheromones. Patterson was the founder and publisher of SportsFan Magazine, dedicated to tracking the life and times of America’s sports fans.

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Night of the Butterflies: A Broken Sestina | Tara Campbell

We stood around the bonfire, warming our hands at its glow. I could tell Samantha was fretting about something, but I didn’t ask, trusting her to tell us in her own time. I guessed it had something to do with the ropes Raj was handing out. “Pretend you’ve got to reach a drowning man,” Raj said as he gave each of us one heavy coil of coir. The roughness of the rope against my palms awoke butterflies in my stomach. I knew something that transpired tonight would involve digging.

When Raj turned away, Samantha dug an elbow into my side. The flickering light of the bonfire accentuated the concern on her face. “We were supposed to be hunting nocturnal butterflies,” she whispered. I fingered the rope’s coils like frets on a guitar. I was afraid of drowning in mistrust if I looked into her eyes. “He’s got to have some reason for the ropes,” I told her.

She glanced down at her rope. “I’m not digging this,” she said. “Better than drowning,” I said with a smile. She looked away from me, turning back toward the bonfire as Raj called for our attention once more. “Those of you who are wondering what this is all about,” he announced, “don’t fret. Tonight is indeed about hunting butterflies—but not as you thought.”

“Nocturnal butterflies have long been a scourge in our city,” he continued, striding back and forth in front of our group like a general. “These ropes have been donated by the city council, who send their regards for your courage tonight.” Courage? I wondered, beginning to fret. But I waited to hear more, nervously digging the outside edge of my boot into the dirt. I scanned the nervous faces around the bonfire. Everyone looked like they were drowning on dry land.

Raj tried to drown out our worry with visions of valor. “Tonight we will beat these butterflies into submission!” he roared. The bonfire danced as though activated by his courage. Samantha bravely raised her voice to ask, “But why ropes; why not nets?” Raj glared at her with eyes that could dig graves. “We don’t need that kind of fretting in our ranks.”

My fingers fretted the rope, but I gathered the courage to speak up. “What was that about the drowning man, then?” I asked. Apprehension dug away at my gut. “The butterflies,” Raj said, leveling his death gaze at me, “have metamorphosized again.” The rope jittered in my hands. The bonfire crackled.

And now we’re digging the trap, fretting it won’t be large enough. And now we’re setting more bonfires to lure the prey, drowning the darkness in light. And now the butterflies are coming, wind from their wings whipping the flames, and we can only hope the ropes will hold.

Tara Campbell

Tara Campbell is an award-winning writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse, and graduate of American University's MFA in Creative Writing. She teaches creative writing at venues such as American University, Johns Hopkins University, Clarion West, The Writer's Center, Hugo House, and the National Gallery of Art. Her publication credits include Masters Review, Wigleaf, Electric Literature, CRAFT Literary, Daily Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and Escape Pod/Artemis Rising. She's the author of a novel, two hybrid collections of poetry and prose, and two short story collections from feminist sci-fi publisher Aqueduct Press. Her sixth book, a novel featuring sentient gargoyles in the 22nd century American West, is forthcoming from SFWP in fall 2024. Find her at

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Bump in the Night | Benjamin Woodard

A noise wakes us at 2 a.m., and when we open the door to Zoi’s bedroom, rather than spotting the five-year-old tucked under blankets, Stefani and I are greeted by Zoi’s small, padded frame wrestling with her pink down jacket, for she must already be wearing three pairs of pants, six shirts, four sets of socks. A plum-colored magic eight ball sits on the floor. She surely knocked it off her bureau while hunting for clothes. Its bang on the hardwood is probably what roused us. This is the first time I have spent the night, and when Stefani informed Zoi of the sleepover after dessert, Zoi gave me the stink eye before she threw a pair of unused butter knives at the wall and stomped up to her room. It’s funny, since during dinner, Zoi told me the carbonara I prepared was the best spaghetti ever and asked for seconds. She even laughed when I pulled a face behind Stefani’s back. But presently, she freezes next to her stuffed backpack when we flick on her bedroom light. The scene looks ridiculous, the three of us standing there. I almost laugh until Zoi declares that she is taking all of her clothes and moving in with her father across town, and since I know that there is nothing I can say at this moment that will get me back in bed any sooner, I return the magic eight ball to its bureau perch, step into the dark hallway, and listen as Stefani patiently tells her daughter that nobody makes rational decisions in the middle of the night. I hear the rustle of fabric as she pulls layer after layer from the girl, much to Zoi’s frustration. Their voices rise, so I retreat to the living room downstairs and turn on the television. What they say above me I cannot decipher, but on the screen, I see that the network is airing 13 Ghosts, a black-and-white film I have not watched in probably 25 years. I am just in time for the early scene where the lawyer tells the married couple that they have inherited a new home, only that it is full of ghosts. When the couple try to chuckle off such a declaration, the lawyer turns serious. “They go with the house,” he says, stony-faced, before he leaves them alone to consider their future.

Benjamin Woodard

Benjamin Woodard's fiction has appeared in journals like Joyland, F(r)iction, Cutleaf, and SmokeLong Quarterly, as well as in the 2019 and 2021 editions of Best Microfiction. He is editor-in-chief at Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine and can be found at

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The Revolution comes to the Midwest | Tommy Dean

Dakota leans against the stop sign, hand outstretched flipping off driver after driver. Kids in backseats meet his eye, and he smiles, beckons them to join him. The ones that turn in their seats, heads popping up in the glass as the car retreats. These are his favorites. His fellow revolutionaries. They'll grow up remembering him—a scarecrow of capitalism. He is twelve years old and accepts his allowance in Bitcoin, taking Christmas gifts in other cryptocurrencies. Financial freedom is how you fuck with the status quo. Twenty-five cars pass before the sheriff rolls up. He doesn’t even roll down his window anymore. A flash of the lights, a blip of the siren, and Dakota walks off, already scrolling on his phone.

Dakota has bigger plans for the community pool. He loves walking through the neighborhood at night, street lights placed haphazardly. Their arms hanging over him like a scolding adult. He runs from pools of light to the shadows and back again, hopscotching on the cracked and gritty streets while the blue glow of TVs pulse in the corner of his eyes. He screams, chest tightening, waiting for the pulled-back curtains before slinking off. But here is the pool, surrounded by a chintzy eight-foot chain link fence. He vaults over it with the ease of youth, spray paint cans ratting in his jacket pockets. He loves how the little ball rattles around the inside of the canister. The spray comes out fast and irregularly, but the words are clear enough for a quick pic. Southfield sucks deez nuts. Stupid, unoriginal, but the challenge is complete. A few hashtags and he’ll go viral. Leave this wasteland behind.

Cameras everywhere. Infiltrating. Surrounding. Dakota walks through the high school hallways with an unfurled umbrella. He found this particular tactic on TikTok. As he approaches each corner, he flops the umbrella upward, blocking the camera and masking his movements. He hasn't heard of a revolution starting in school, but he is bent on becoming a #trendsetter. His classmates laugh and jostle the umbrella, cursing and calling him #lame. He flips them off and sneers into their phone cameras. Welcome to the fucking Revolution. Don’t say you didn’t know.

This lasts two days until the gym teacher stops him, the man's red face looming over the top of the umbrella fabric. Dakota jerks the umbrella back, but the man wrenches the material toward him. "Dude. Don't be an asshole," Dakota says, wishing he was in one of those karate movies, or an Avenger, whipping the metal of his umbrella across the man’s face. But, instead, he loses his grip and falls to the floor, the grit gathering on his palms. He lays there quivering, the teacher standing over him, saying in a low voice, “Get up now. Don’t make this a scene.” On the way to the office, the teacher's hand gripping his shoulder, Dakota dances and squirms for the cameras. Fist raised high. Flicking his hair out of his face, shouting, We want Freedom, We Want Freedom.

Senior year. Dressed in cap and gown. A concession for his mother. The night before, she promised him a two-drink maximum. And still, he witnesses her stumbling, falling into the lap of another father. Dakota has planned for this. Her failures have become his license to do something unbearably embarrassing. He’s thought of violence. An assault rifle hidden under his robes; a barrage of bombs left under the stage. But these thoughts leave him breathless, a bit giddy, frightened by how easily they come to mind. His anarchy arrives in softer forms. He wants them scared by his potential. But he hungers for change, too. He isn’t that fucked up. Not yet. So he waits until his name is called, waits until he has shaken the principal's hand, has gotten the required photo, his smile a little smirk he’s too proud of before flipping open the app he developed to coordinate with the school’s sprinkler system, the water splashing from the sky, the fire alarm ringing. He unfurls the umbrella secreted underneath his ropes and walks out the back gym door and into the gloaming.

Tommy Dean

Tommy Dean is the author of two flash fiction chapbooks and a full flash collection, Hollows (Alternating Current Press, 2022). He lives in Indiana, where he currently is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine. A recipient of the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction, his writing can be found in Best Microfiction 2019, 2020, 2023, Best Small Fictions 2019 and 2022, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. Find him at and on Twitter @TommyDeanWriter.

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“To live in one world and breathe in another” | Shiksha Dheda

CW: mental illness


- title taken from Science girl(@gunsnrosesgirl3) tweet on 25/10/2022


They say that no other whale can hear his 52Hz cries of solitude. The blue whale being heard at 10 – 39Hz; the fin whale being heard at 10Hz; they can all hear one another. No one can hear him. No one has ever seen him. We’ve just heard his elusive calls of soothingly lonely pleas. Some say he could be deaf. Some say there are others just like him; more than just one lonely whale, wallowing in 52Hz solitude. No one really knows, though, but we can still hear him. In the expanse of the ocean, away from the masses of schools of whales, no predators, no preys, no enemies, no friends, no family, no mate; just him, Mr Blue, Mr 52Hz, Blue 52.

Whale J35, also known as Tahlequah, is an Orca that has given birth to three calves now. Her second calf, her middle child, Tali, died almost immediately after being born. J35, in an unprecedented and unexpected display of motherhood and grief (and maternal grief) carried the lifeless body of her offspring for 17 days, across the ocean, until she felt that she had grieved sufficiently. Other maternal orcas in her pack helped her carry the hefty corpse when she tired of carrying the burden of grief.

When sperm whales tire, they commonly sleep for 15-to-20-minute power naps. Usually, they sleep upright (or longitudinally/vertically) with one eye open, usually very close to the surface of the water. This is usually done in their packs and looks somewhat like massive sacs of alien eggs, just waiting to be released. All whales sleep in this manner to keep their guard up, in case any predators attack them, but also because whales cannot breathe underwater.

Whales (despite living in the ocean), cannot breathe underwater. They usually come to the surface of the water every 20-to-90 minutes to breathe. How strange it must be to live in one world and breathe in another.

I lapse, usually every few minutes, into an intrusive thought. I wander, just below the surface of normalcy, to dwell on the intruding theory. I count…till 9…till 12…till 15. I do something elaborate with my fingers. I touch my chest (where my locket used to be), say a silent prayer. I do it once more. I do it thrice more. I come back up to the surface; for air, for sanity, to breathe.

Oh, how strange it is to live in one world and breathe in another.

Shiksha Dheda

Shiksha Dheda is a South African of Indian descent. She uses writing to express her OCD and depression roller-coaster ventures, but mostly to avoid working on her master's degree. Sometimes, she dabbles in photography, painting, and baking lopsided layered cakes. Her writing has been featured (on/forthcoming) in Wigleaf, Passages North, Brittle Paper, Door is a jar and Epoch Press amongst others. She is the Pushcart-nominated author of Washed Away (Alien Buddha Press, 2021). She currently has chapbooks published with The Daily Drunk Mag and Fahmidan Publishing & Co. She rambles annoyingly at Twitter: @ShikshaWrites. You can find (or ignore her) at

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