Volume 1, Issue 1. Summer 2014.




Contents.



Letter from the Editors...........
Interview: Ryan Boudinot...........

Family Life and Sexual Health, Christine Texeira...........
Dear Stars on Ice, Clayton McCann...........
The Roads Amputated the Legs, Nate Liederbach...........

Essay: The Ninth Life, Donald J. Mitchell...........

About Moss...........
Call for Papers: Issue 2...........

  
...........2
...........3

...........16
...........28
...........33

...........49

...........53
...........53




Click an entry above to navigate automatically. While reading, click    to
return to the table of contents, or click    to return to the top of the story.

To download a .pdf file of the issue, click here.










Letter from the Editors
New York, NY  ·  August 2014

Welcome to the first issue of Moss, a new online journal dedicated to bringing Northwest literature to new audiences and exposing the emerging voices of the region to discerning readers, critics, and publishers.

The list of great authors who have emerged from the Pacific Northwest is too long to mention, and today, the region is home to a host of talented writers doing innovative, imaginative work. In his interview (page 3), Ryan Boudinot describes his feeling that Seattle is on the verge of a kind of literary renaissance; we think the same is true of the Northwest as a whole. But for undiscovered writers working in the region, reaching the gatekeepers of the publishing industry—most of whom are concentrated in a city three time zones away—can be a daunting struggle. The idea behind Moss is to help Northwest writers expand their audience, and to show people living elsewhere what they might be missing.

In the following pages, we’ve assembled an exciting collection of work that showcases some of the freshest, most ambitious—but as of yet, still widely unknown—voices in the region today. From Christine Texeira’s haunting story about a girl who thinks D.B. Cooper may be her brother, to Clayton McCann’s experimental piece about night-shift cops and their otherworldly encounter with a homeless man, to Nate Liederbach’s wry yet moving portrait of an aging professor and his reluctant disciple, the work collected here spans genres and styles but is unified by its originality and its honesty.

Moss—the organism—is a ubiquitous part of the ecological landscape in the Northwest. Modest yet vital, humble yet nourishing, it is a cornerstone of the Northwest experience. We hope you find these stories to be the same.

    —  Connor Guy and Alex Davis-Lawrence
      Editors, Moss

2  ·    ·  



An Interview with Ryan Boudinot
Seattle, WA  ·  April 2014  ·  Interviewed by Connor Guy

Ryan Boudinot is an acclaimed writer and a leading advocate for Northwest literature. His works of fiction include The Littlest Hitler, Misconception, and most recently, Blueprints of the Afterlife, which The New York Times called “bracingly weird,” praising its “fierce literary imagination,” and comparing Boudinot to William Gibson and Neal Stephenson, among others. A finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award and the PEN USA Literary Award, he has been a Richard Hugo House writer-in-residence, a creative writing instructor at Goddard College’s MFA program, and a film critic for The Rumpus. His writing, remarkable for its striking inventiveness, audacious blurring of genres, and dark humor, has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Mississippi Review, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. In recent months, he has led a campaign to bring wider recognition to Seattle’s literary culture by designating the city a UNESCO “City of Literature.” In March, he prepared an official application on behalf of the city, which was submitted by the mayor's office; the results will be announced in November.






Interviewer

I thought we might start with your campaign to make Seattle a UNESCO city of literature. What is it that makes Seattle an international city of literature? The only other U.S. city that currently has the designation is Iowa City, which is home to the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. What puts Seattle on that level?
Boudinot

Well first of all, one superficial reason is that Seattle is consistently ranked as one of the most literate cities in the United States. There’s a study through Central

3  ·    ·  



Connecticut State University that ranks the country’s most literate cities, and Seattle trades places from year to year with Minneapolis and Washington DC for the top spot. Since they’ve been doing this study Seattle has never fallen beneath number two.

And what does that really mean? Well, what it breaks down to is bookstores, education programs, publishers, nonprofits that support writers, and libraries; and in each of these categories, Seattle has a lot to show for itself. We have this incredible library system that we’ve approved bond measures for above and beyond what a typical city library system would have and we built this amazing Rem Koolhaas-designed Central Library ten years ago and have supported it through levies and public funding. We have nonprofit organizations that provide writers with opportunities to hone their craft—like Hugo House, which I believe is the second largest literary arts center in the United States.

So there are lots of people in Seattle doing work on behalf of books, on behalf of writers. We’re up here in the upper left-hand corner of the United States; we’re kind of an incubator for creative ideas. We saw it with the music industry in the early 90s, all the bands that came out of here, there was a community that was entertaining itself that then went on to entertain the world. And I think that writers in Seattle are on the cusp of a similar kind of renaissance. I keep learning about new writing workshops and writers’ groups and organizations in Seattle that I had never heard of before. This effort to get designated as a UNESCO city of literature is ultimately about giving everybody in this community a chance to work together and put Seattle on more of an international stage, to bring more attention to Seattle as a town for writers.
Interviewer

Okay, so I wanted to ask particularly about the publishers. When you hear about independent publishers in the United States in places other than New

4  ·    ·  



York, it’s always the ones in Minneapolis like Graywolf. What do you think it takes to get that kind of attention for the Seattle publishers?
Boudinot

Well, ultimately it just takes good books, right? But you know, Seattle publishing is really fascinating. As I was leading this effort to get recognized as a city of literature, I started focusing on what kind of publishing ecosystem there is in Seattle. And I decided, well, I’ve got to walk the walk, so I left my New York publisher and decided I’m only going to get published in Seattle now. I have two books coming out in 2015 through Seattle publishers. The first is a collection of stories that I’m doing with Fantagraphics.
Interviewer

Oh! Will they be illustrated?
Boudinot

No, they’re not going to be illustrated, but I hope to do some really cool stuff with typography and design. And then the other book is going to be an anthology about writers in Seattle, with contributors exploring the history and culture of writing in this town. And that will come out through Sasquatch books.

So those are both with very different publishers, but they’re both doing amazing things in their respective areas. Fantagraphics kind of owns graphic novels. I’m just stunned by the quality of the work they’ve published. Sasquatch has been around for a long time, and they publish a lot of beautifully designed general interest titles and they’re wonderful people to work with.

5  ·    ·  



That’s another thing that I’ve found, too—I enjoy being able to have coffee with my editor whenever I want, you know? I can walk from my apartment to Sasquatch books, I can sit down with Gary Luke and have a conversation over tea. That’s what I was missing having my work come out through New York publishers. What I really wanted was a more hands-on relationship. And I feel lucky that Seattle has publishers that are able and excited to publish my work. There are a bunch of others, too—Wave Books, Dark Coast Press; there’s some really cool publishing here.

If you’re a writer writing literary fiction in particular, there’s this assumption that your career has to go through Manhattan. So you get your agent in New York and then you get your publisher in New York. And that’s certainly what I did—I followed that path for three books.
Interviewer

You were with PJ Mark, right?
Boudinot

Yeah, with PJ, who’s a great guy, and who I really enjoyed working with. He stuck with me through some times when certain books were in doubt. He was very supportive and I appreciated his guidance. But it just was time for me to look closer to home, to try to grow something here. It’s much more exciting to me to try to build something new than to just go into a system that already exists. I think it’s more fun.
Interviewer

But that’s also a great challenge, right? Throughout the world, literary institutions

6  ·    ·  



like big publishing houses, agencies, larger nonprofits, etc. are clustered in cities like New York—so what does it take to build literary communities in other places?
Boudinot

I think the first step is taking stock of what you have. That was the beginning of this process for us. When you put your head up and look around, and see, ‘oh okay, we have all these independent bookstores, we have writers doing readings seven days a week, we have Seattle Arts and Lectures bringing authors from all over the world’—you assess the inventory, figure out what it is, and sort of wrap your arms around that. And once you do that, you start examining your assumptions about how a literary or cultural center should operate. And for me personally, I started to examine this assumption I had that I had to involve New York in my writing career. And New York’s great, et cetera et cetera. And I’ve had really good experiences working with publishers there and my former agent. But should a country the size of the United States have one city where writers send their work? Is that really what we... Is that... Really? You know what I mean? That seems absurd to me, especially when you’re trying to cover three times zones.

So why is that? Because the one thing that New York offers writers is validation. You can be from the Midwest or the West Coast, and you say ‘my book’s being published by such-and-such publisher from Manhattan,’ and it has some cachet to it. But there’s a gap between the cachet and the actual experience of writers. What I see happening over and over again is this: serious writers in Seattle send their work off to a New York agent and they get a publishing deal. I’ll run into them at Elliott Bay Book Company, they’ll share the news, and we’ll be excited about it, and then a year goes by and the book comes out, and they’re very excited around the publication of the book. But then it comes time for the second book. And then suddenly the mood shifts dramatically, because the first book didn’t perform. They’re feeling like... they’re facing the reality of becoming a mid-list

7  ·    ·  



writer for a New York publisher, living in a city that’s three time zones away—which can be a pretty harrowing experience for a lot of people. And I think it’s easy for a publisher in Manhattan to put less emphasis on writers who don’t live there.

The other thing that’s happened—and this introduces a whole other ball of wax—is that Seattle gave the world Amazon. In full disclosure, I worked for Amazon for five years over two different periods. I was there from 1998 to 2000 when it was just a bookstore, doing customer service. And I worked there from 2004 to 2007 as an editor, on the DVD team primarily. There are debates about what it means and where it’s going, but Amazon completely upended the way that publishing works in the United States. I don’t think there’s any dispute about that. It was a disruptive technology that changed the business of publishing.

So Seattle has already affected the publishing industry on a corporate level. I think that Seattle can become a viable alternative to publishing in New York—a major publishing center in the United States, if not the world. The UNESCO City of Literature designation will open up opportunities for partnerships and collaborations with different cities around the world. That’s where I see things going: Seattle will become more and more important in the domestic publishing industry, but it will also become more and more a city to which writers and editors and agents from abroad will gravitate—they won’t just immediately think of Manhattan.
Interviewer

I want to go back to something you said a moment ago—you just mentioned, in the same breath, Amazon’s massive corporate influence on the publishing industry and the possibility of Seattle’s emergence as major publishing center. Do these go hand-in-hand? Is there any way that Amazon can bolster the independent publishing sector in Seattle or invigorate our literary culture here?

8  ·    ·  



Boudinot

Well, here’s the problem with Amazon. It’s kind of one of those situations where if you’ve worked in a slaughterhouse and you’ve seen how the sausage gets made, you never want to eat sausage again. That old saying. So getting involved with Amazon involves taking on a lot of their baggage. There are a lot of questions about how Amazon operates its business. For starters, Amazon has a record of not supporting charitable or nonprofit organizations in Seattle. There’s a very limited number of dollars coming from Amazon that are supporting nonprofits here in town. Other companies and organizations like Microsoft, Boeing, and the Paul Allen Foundation contribute to the cultural life of the city. Amazon isn’t doing that nearly to the degree that these other companies are. So do you want to expend a lot of effort asking for money and support from Amazon that they really don’t even want to give?

The other issue is, there’s so much troubling news about how Amazon treats its workers. I was just reading the other day about the drivers who work for these third party delivery companies that Amazon uses—how they’re expected to pay for gas out of their own pocket and uniforms and the maintenance of their truck, and by the time you deduct all the expenses, they’re making very, very little.
Interviewer

And of course there was that great Mother Jones article a few years back about the warehouse workers—how they’re employed under really demeaning conditions. There’s a system that counts exactly how many seconds they’re late in tracking down each item, which they’re then punished for.
Boudinot

You know, the AWP conference was here a few weeks ago, and Amazon had a

9  ·    ·  



booth that was set up to highlight their publishing platform. And I walked up to one of the people at the booth and I said, ‘Hey, I want to make sure that when I order my Kindle, that the person who packed it in the distribution center didn’t take too many bathroom breaks. Do you have a way of making sure that the people in the distribution center aren’t slacking? Because that’s really important to me.’ And the representative got this look of terror, all the blood drained from her face, and then suddenly everyone in the booth fled. They all abandoned the booth! They have very thin skin about that stuff.

In general, how Amazon runs their business has been very troubling to a lot of people. I don’t run into very many friends of Amazon. There are a lot of people who’ve worked there who’ve ended up with a bad taste in their mouth. By this point in their history Amazon has filled up a reservoir of bad blood in Seattle. They provide a lot of money in terms of the tax base and employing a lot of people, and real estate. They have a big footprint here, and that is certainly valuable to the economy of Seattle. If they were to leave it would be a big problem. But nobody I’ve met who doesn’t currently work there has really stepped forward to defend them. It’s fascinating. And having worked there twice... you know, I was in those conference rooms, listening to the way directors of departments were talking about how to go after vendors. I saw it. I saw how vicious it can be there... and arrogant, and smug. Amazon as a company... it’s kind of like giving an infant a Corvette and a lifetime supply of cocaine. [laughs] That’s their sort of corporate personality, because they were so successful from very early on. It was very exciting and very heady. And that I think will really contribute to the Achilles heel of the company. The smugness and arrogance and bullying behavior of Amazon is unfortunate.

And you know, as someone who worked there, I really wanted to see them succeed. And I still do! I just want to see them succeed on different terms. They’ve provided a really good thing for a lot of people—you’re able to find any book that’s in print, no matter where you live. It’s just unfortunate that they had to get

10  ·    ·  



there by behaving the way they do toward their employees, their vendors, and their competition, and by gaming the tax codes of every place they operate.
Interviewer

Absolutely. Now I thought we might end by talking a bit about your creative process. How do you even begin to map out an enormous and complex story like Blueprints of the Afterlife? It seems like a lot to keep track of, and yet part of what makes it so great is the precision with which things are interconnected.
Boudinot

The connections happen in two phases: one, subconsciously during the first draft, and then through revision. I don’t map anything out, I don’t use an outline, I don’t know where I’m going most of the time. And there are a lot of blind alleys that I go down that I’ll end up cutting. I sort of vomit out the first draft, then go over it and see what’s there—and the things that are most interesting to me are the things that I’m unaware of at the time, the subtextual elements that I start to recognize in revision. Then once the material is all dumped out in the first draft, then I start making connections. And the middle drafts are really about doing things like consolidating characters, or giving characters things to do that consolidate other parts of the story, or tying things together in a way that’s more deliberate than it was in the first pass.

But I don’t figure it all out ahead of time. I just start with an idea and sort of follow it for a while and see where it goes. And sometimes it doesn’t go anywhere, or goes in a direction that I end up abandoning, but at least that gives me a better sense of the parameters. I get a better feeling for the borders of it. And that’s kind of how it worked with Blueprints—all that connective tissue stuff happens in revision.

11  ·    ·  



Interviewer

So if all that came later, what was the sort of initial impetus for Blueprints?
Boudinot

The first idea I had was: I imagined a guy walking across this field and coming across a dead body. And then the cops come and take the body away, and then he’s walking through the next day and the body shows up again. And if this body kept appearing, what would that be like? That was just interesting to me.

And then I was also thinking about... you know these theories about different kinds of intelligence? I thought, what if you had a character who had off-the-charts emotional intelligence, but was really stupid in terms of every other kind of intelligence? And then I had other ideas for other characters and I would just sort of follow each of them for a little while. The interviews with Luke were kind of based, structurally, on a Murakami book, Kafka on the Shore, where there are these interspersed interviews in the form of a transcribed document—I really liked the way that worked tonally. And that kind of became the spine of the novel, and then all the other characters from the future sort of became like organs attached to the spine. But every book I try to write is different. The novel before that was very much a Ping-Pong match between two narrative voices. But I don’t plan out anything, I just kind of go.
Interviewer

A main plot element in Blueprints is the construction of an exact replica of Manhattan where Bainbridge island is now, in the Puget Sound near Seattle, because the real Manhattan has been destroyed in an apocalyptic war. This

12  ·    ·  



was interesting to me in particular because I’m from Seattle, I live in New York now, and I used to spend a lot of time on Bainbridge when I was younger. To see all these places that have figured in my life, together, on the page—it was kind of surreal. And I wonder, was it like that for you also? Were you perhaps expressing in some way your feelings about Seattle and New York and your position between them as a writer who lives in one place and is published in another?
Boudinot

I’ve wondered that! I wonder if I was thinking ‘yeah, just bring New York over here, that would make it so much easier.’ And I guess the element in the book about building a replica of Manhattan in the Puget Sound arose out of two ideas. One being that when you ask people from Bainbridge how big Bainbridge is, they say ‘oh, it’s about the size of Manhattan.’ And the other is that when Seattle was founded, one of the first names for the city that they entertained was ‘New York Alki.’ And ‘Alki’ is Chinook for ‘by and by,’ meaning that one day we’ll be as big as New York. So these two ideas kind of came together and I thought, ‘well, okay, what if Seattle literally became New York?’ ‘So where would it be?’ ‘Well, obviously it would be on Bainbridge because Bainbridge is the size of Manhattan.’

So I was working on this idea and then that Charlie Kaufmann movie, Synecdoche, New York came out. He was doing something kind of similar, recreating parts of New York within a warehouse. I was initially worried that they had taken the idea before I could get to it, but in the end it was really different. I still think about that movie from time to time, and watch it about once a year. I was thinking recently about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Caden character, how late in the movie he adopts the persona of a cleaning lady. And this notion that there is no such thing as a minor character, how every person is the star of his or her own life’s narrative. Synecdoche may have more influence on what I’m writing now than Blueprints. For the past few years I’ve been interested in writing about the kinds

13  ·    ·  



of people one tends not to find in fiction. The overweight woman working behind the bar at a bowling alley. People who are uncool, or who go to church, or who are old or don’t have sexual relationships. When I was 22 I was interested in writing about heroin addicts who hold up liquor stores and watch French New Wave movies. Now I’m interested in the inner lives of the people who work at Safeway.
Interviewer

My last question is about science fiction. I’ve read some of your writing that’s not science fiction at all, and loved it. But then I read Blueprints, which I think is really 100 percent science fiction, and it seems like you’ve really hit your stride. Some people see the label of science fiction as limiting. How do you feel about that? Do you see yourself as a science fiction writer?
Boudinot

It’s really a shelving problem more than anything. I guess what I like about science fiction as a genre is the wildness and risk-taking of the ideas. What I tend not to like about it is that the prose often seems really pedestrian to me. The sentences aren’t as beautiful as I want sentences to be. The thing I love about literary fiction is the attention to language, the attention to emotional complexity.

When I was in grad school I was reading John Cheever and Raymond Carver—lots of American realism. And lots of international work, too—I wanted to stretch out and read writers from other cultures. And what I found was that in other places, particularly in Eastern Europe, the border between literary fiction and science fiction isn’t nearly as segregated as it is in the United States. So you can have writers like Italo Calvino or Dino Buzzati—and then Latin America, of

14  ·    ·  



course—you have Marquez, Borges, Mutis. You know, Borges, you could call him a science fiction writer in a lot of ways. But there’s not a hang-up about it internationally. And some writers in the United States have been able to cross back and forth. Jonathan Lethem has done a really good job of being able to bridge that gap. Kelly Link, too.

I think we call fiction literary when it emphasizes language and emotion. With Blueprints, I wanted it to be just... fun. That was the pinnacle of my ambition for it. Sometimes the real reason you’re writing a book is so that other people will think you’re really cool or admire you. Then you go down a dangerous path where you start writing in a way that you perceive as being worthy of admiration, as opposed to writing something where you can’t wait to write the next chapter because you’re having so much fun. That’s what I’m looking to do. I had a great time writing that book, and whether it’s called science fiction or not, I don’t really care. The world we live in is becoming more and more science fiction-y all the time, so it’s going to become realism before you know it.














15  ·    ·  



Family Life and Sexual Health
Christine Texeira

Elle sat in her classroom, wide-eyed, watching her teacher pull folded pieces of paper from their completely anonymous-anything goes-let’s be open and ask questions-sex box. “Dick,” “wiener” and “crotch” fell from the teacher’s mouth in such aurally disgusting, rapid and surprising succession that Elle found herself struggling to understand and apply definitions about genital organs and reproduction and copulation to these words that were tucked into the crevices of her mind. The scientific terms sounded more comfortable in her ears. Maybe because they carried a functional mystery—still rugged, with hard vowels, but curving around themselves, shiny and iridescent, like a spiral seashell right at the tide line or a cat cleaning itself. Fallopian.
Week two of fifth grade FAMILY LIFE AND SEXUAL HEALTH focused on Family. Strangely, it was here that Elle realized, for the first conscious time, that it would be impossible to acquire an older brother. It had always been obvious that finding him was one option, but now it was the only option. Elle existed and therefore an older brother should already exist were he to exist at all. The way time went forward all the time. Her brother was a situation that seemed to only exist in that path between her brain and her heart, the line that allowed her brain to say, and her heart to hear, “Beat, beat. Live.”
Even before she could remember, before she started school or could even write her full name, Elle’s tantrums arose from that brotherly desire made so vivid by the memories of him haunting her head. No matter that her mother was sure she did not have a sibling of any kind—Elle knew he was out there, elsewhere.
Also in Family week Elle learned that most of the other girls had seen a penis before. They nodded and looked down not wanting to see each other, or perhaps to make it seem like they were thinking seriously about the question. Elle kept her head up and still—thinking about the natural and perplexing connection between family and penises.

17  ·    ·  



“It goes inside, right?”
Elle shook her head, “I don’t think so. I think it’s kind of like a hotdog in a bun.” Amma looked down at her desk, thinking. Biting her bottom lip, she pointed at the diagram worksheet between them, straddling the awkward height difference of their respective desks, “This is like a tunnel though. How does the sperm get up there?”
“Like a hotdog slamming really hard into a bun.” Elle points to the vagina, “They drip in. It’s more like a river than a tunnel.”
“Maybe we should ask?” Amma rips a piece of paper from her notebook and glances at the ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ROOTS page in her folder. She writes, What do you mean by and stops.
Elle keeps her eyes on the paper, “Sex?”

A few uncomfortable attempts and she finally figured out the angle at which something could go inside. She quickly removed her finger. That was that. Ok, definitely a tunnel. And then it happened. That thing where whenever she looked at a certain boy she thought about that angle and it was a little embarrassing and still confusing, but also mostly ok. Her body possessed a ram’s skull, a blooming iris but it was all so unknown.
Elle walked across an empty playground, returning to her classroom. There he was, walking in her direction with a bright yellow slip in his right hand. They passed each other and he said something, anything, who could remember, looking at her.
Elle turned toward him, “Yep. Good.” They faced each other and walked backward in opposite directions. She yelled, “See you back there.” Then she thought. And the back of her body ran directly into a tetherball pole and she turned around with such ungraceful fervor that she practically hit the pole with the front of her body, too. At that moment, she was grateful to be alone.

The Museum of Mysteries was in the city. Amma saw an ad in the yellow pages

18  ·    ·  



and realized an unknown desire within her to play a Theremin. In fact, that is all she told Elle about the museum.
“It’s a musical instrument. They have one there that you can play. Look.” She showed Elle the page ripped from the phonebook. It was an ugly ad with nearly indiscernible gothic font, but she was right. TRY OUT A THEREMIN! Elle deciphered.
“So, it’s not a mystery?”
“Well, no, but it’s weird. You don’t even touch it!”
“You just play it with your mind? That’s cool.”
“Well, no, you play it with your hands.”
“Like an instrument. Like regular instruments?”
Amma was agitated, but seemed to recognize the logic in Elle’s confusion. “You move your hands in the air around the Theremin and it makes sounds. Weird sounds.”

It was still dark when the two girls climbed on to the bus. They could make it from their suburban neighborhood to The Museum of Mysteries in forty-five minutes and be there as soon as the museum opened. They hoped to be back before afternoon and their absence was noticed.

“I guess my mom could have driven us.” Elle watched the street slowly turn into freeway.
“There’s no mystery in that.” Amma maintained eye contact with the window, only moving to check the schedule and map in her lap at every stop. In Georgetown, they disembarked.
“Do you two know where you’re going?” the bus driver looked down at them.
“Yes. The Museum of Mysteries.”
“Never heard of it. Have a good day,” and the doors closed behind them.

The museum was a one-room museum. One grey, mottled couch, display cases and images of Bruce Lee had somehow found their place in this crowded,

19  ·    ·  



windowless basement. Above everything were shelves of books, which the woman at the front encouraged them to read. Older books were in display cases and online articles were printed and taped to the wall, the word UPDATE in black marker across the top. Near the couch was a television, playing a muted documentary with evergreens and waterfalls, blacked-out pages and holes in the earth. She could smell coffee roasting from the café above, perfectly complementing the COFFEE CONSPIRACY poster above the television. Elle began to walk around the perimeter, reading the photocopied stories from newspapers, interviews typed on a typewriter; inspecting the large, rigid plaster casts of footprints and dark, yet terrifyingly vivid artist renderings.
She sounded out Manastash under her breath and heard a hum, faint and ethereal. Amma at the Theremin – her arms waving as if without bones or tissue; flailing with untouchable pleasure through empty space. And the hum changed. It grew in intensity, the pitch adjusting with each swipe of her hand. Soon, Amma’s face was serious and her arms slow, finding themselves more comfortable in constraint, they rose and fell modestly in search of something specific, hollow and human. Elle felt too much a voyeur watching Amma’s body move and turned back to the wall. The sound of the Theremin forced Elle’s stomach into a trembling walnut, circling frantically in the space behind her bones.
And the walnut dropped. Just like that, the walnut fell straight through her body, through the floor. It still felt connected somehow, pulling her whole being closer to the ground, into a gutter, until her jaw dangled the smallest amount away from the rest of her skull. She knew this image of a man was not her brother; he was too old, his forehead too large. But he felt like her brother feels in her mind, distant and unattainable and real. She thought that if she could understand D.B. Cooper, if she could be close to this mysterious, missing man, if she could know him, maybe she would be able to find her brother, maybe she would understand where he had gone. D.B. Cooper, the skyjacker, the man no one could find. D.B. Cooper was elsewhere, and maybe her brother was, too. Elle began reading the informational packet hanging on the wall, enhancing and living every moment

20  ·    ·  



of it, vicariously, in her mind:

“Do you have a seat preference? Window or aisle?”
“Aisle, if possible.”
“Fantastic,” Peggy said. The ‘y’ was beginning to fade from her red and gold nametag. It was the way her index finger grazed it every time she pulled the right side of her shirt back toward center. Twice already. “This flight isn’t full so you can have the row to yourself. Will you be checking any luggage?”
“Oh, no. Thank you. Just a quick trip.”
“Of course.” She typed ‘0’ and ‘enter.’ “Visiting family?”
He smiled and let his shoulders relax. “Yes. Got out of work just in time.”
Another shirt adjustment as his ticket printed. “Have a wonderful flight.”
“Happy Holidays.” He took his ticket and walked straight through to the gate.

“Thank you for joining us today aboard Northwest Airlines flight 305 from Portland to Seattle. We will have an approximate airtime of thirty minutes with expected arrival at 3:20 pm, Pacific Standard Time. We might be able to pick up some time along the way, bringing you in to the Emerald City as early as 3:18.” The speaker crackled.
Dan buckled his seat belt and called for a flight attendant. Within moments the light above him switched off and a woman approached.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“Bourbon and soda. Thanks.”

The woman nodded and walked toward the front of the cabin. Dan unzipped his rain jacket and kicked his attaché case snugly under the seat in front of him. Settling back, he lit a cigarette. When she returned she dropped off his drink and buckled herself into the jumpseat just behind Dan. Sounds of luggage shifting, as people moved themselves throughout the plane, spreading out among the empty seats. As they began to taxi, Dan pulled a notepad from his pocket and wrote carefully until the plane began its ascent. The no smoking sign bing-ed into existence and Dan smashed his butt into

21  ·    ·  



the arm ashtray without looking. Finishing his writing he leaned back and closed his eyes. He kept them closed, imagining what he would dream if he did fall asleep. Something with a woman. And falling, maybe. Definitely falling or snow.
While thinking of ice, the no smoking sign bing-ed off and the lights of the cabin flickered on. He heard the attendant unfasten her seatbelt and leaned around his chair to hand her his slip of paper.
She forced a smile, “Thank you, sir,” and dropped it into her handbag below her seat. She stood and, maintaining her smile, began to walk up the aisle.
Dan reached for her wrist and spoke upward with the still and serious voice of a frozen lake: “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.” He released his grip immediately and sat back in his chair, drinking the remains of his bourbon and soda.
She took the few steps to the back of the cabin and retrieved the slip of paper, apparently not a phone number or a crude one liner designed to guide her smooth curves into the love lounge or bathroom. She read the note, refolded it and slid it into her front pocket, nestled among thirty cocktail napkins and a bag of lightly salted peanuts. With a deep breath she maneuvered around Dan and his chair to occupy seat 18B to his left.
“Can I please see.” Not a question and not a request, but a prolonging of the moment. A gross extension of the time and space between Dan and her in which it was still possible he was just trying to be close to a body, to speak intimately with a woman in uniform.
But instead of looking at the variable space between her breasts, fluctuating rapidly with each breath, Dan squeezed himself awkwardly against the seat in front of him and unlatched his case. Inside were four canisters, red wires, menace. Then the demands: money, parachutes, fuel; nothing outrageous. When the attendant returned after relaying his message, Dan had pulled a pair of sunglasses from his jacket and wore them, nodding to her and pleased as ever by her presence.


Elle continued reading, formulating the scenes in her head. There was something about the face, the pencil-drawn lines and hinted tie that forced her forward through the dense packet of text attached to the wall. D.B. ordered another drink and paid his tab. The plane circled Seattle until the money, parachutes and

22  ·    ·  



fuel were ready. But when the plane landed in Reno, D.B. was already gone.
“Listen. I think I’ve composed.” Amma’s voice floated into the cabin and Elle stumbled back into the bitter air of the museum.
“Composed?”
Amma began to dance with the Theremin, her hands around its invisible and impossible shoulders. But soon she motioned for the Theremin to sit and she appeared to be performing illusions, hiding and revealing rabbits, coins and scarves that were never there. Her performance was extended and seemed to make a certain amount of aural sense; despite the confusing story her body seemed to be trying so hard to tell. Listening, Elle placed the music inside the cabin of the plane. She imagined pilots and police walking, single-file, through it all the way to the airstair, open and exposed to the tarmac. A plane unpopulated.
Elle clapped. Blushing, Amma moved to inspect a deck of tarot cards on a table behind the Theremin. Turning back, gazing seriously at his rendering, Elle imagined Dan coming home. She replaced her brother’s face with Dan’s in her sibling fantasies. She would be working on homework at the dinner table, her mother preparing side dishes and scheduling for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving meal beneath the warm, old bulbs of the kitchen. The drawers and cupboards would all be open, their oak encroaching on the little linoleum rectangle of space in which her mother could move. The rest of the house dark, windows and curtains closed against the rain. There would be footsteps. Elle would hear them coming up the drive, distinct and hurried amidst the patterned drops of rain. He would open the door, bags in hand, dripping and bloody. Elle would stand, maybe her pencil would drop to the floor, and their mother would rush from the kitchen, worried and relieved. She would hug him, but he could not respond with his hands full of bomb. He would set them down and let one arm fall casually and naturally around Elle’s shoulder, using her for balance while he caught his breath and cleaned his wounds. He would be there, real, and no one else would know who he was or that he even existed outside of the cabin of Flight 305. But he would be there. He would be right there.
Even before the skyjacking, in an earlier fantasy, Elle placed Dan in the role

23  ·    ·  



of her brother. Elle and Dan writing in their individual notebooks, him at the end of the rectangular dining room table and her at the side. Sometimes their writing elbows would collide at the corner and he would flick his pencil at her arm, make fun of her for being right-handed before going back to his equations, his wind speed and altitudes. And she would know he was joking. Maybe she would even say something back. It was stupid, silly things like that that Elle wanted the most.
She knew the time was wrong. How time always moves forward. How Dan would be old or dead now.
“If you’re interested in D.B., you should visit with Tom Kaye at the Burke. He and some others are still investigating the case – Citizen Sleuths.” The woman behind the counter of tarot cards and postcards for purchase smiled over to Elle, immovable in front of a photocopy of a photocopy of a sketch of someone’s memory.
To Elle, it was logical and inevitable that she should go to the Columbia River. Somewhere north of Merlin Lake, where maybe Dan landed or maybe he didn’t, or maybe he did and he died. She was sure of going there where there was still undeniable mystery; where a little boy found Dan’s money. She was unsure of meeting a sleuth; someone who might have answers that were unusable, answers for questions too realistic and focused to be of any use. Who is Dan Cooper? No, Elle would say, where.

Ghost of Dan visited Elle in the night. She did not need to go to him. She knew she was not sleeping, because it was definitely Dan, all flesh-like and calm menace. She heard him, in the kitchen and, discerning her mother’s breathing through the wall, tiptoed out through the house. He was cooking, which had happened before.
“What are you making?” Elle asked and adjusted her slippers.
“A pot pie.”
Somehow he held everything—plates, spoons, a rolling pin—in the complete darkness. It was only that thick blackness pervading the kitchen that made him appear ghostlike and shadowy. Maybe he was real, and Dan had not yet died but was entering Elle’s home through an unlocked window in order to cook her a late dinner. But time again. He was not old; he was the same face Elle knew.

24  ·    ·  



“What did you do today?” Elle asked.
“Probably the same as yesterday,” Dan poured a mixture from a bowl into a small piecrust. “Let’s see. I walked for a long time and then I bought a house.” Elle watched the half of his face illuminated by the open oven. It was the same answer as yesterday and similarly wistful, as though even he were unsure what he had done that day or yesterday or any day at all.

“What are you making?”
“A pot pie.”
“What did you do today?”
“Probably the same as yesterday.”

Dan pulled a pie out of the oven and walked past her to the dining room table.
“Would you grab me a fork?”
Elle pulled a clean one from the dishwasher and set it on the table between them.
Grabbing the fork, rotating it in his hands, Dan asked, “Would you like a bite?”
She took the fork from him and broke the crust. It was angular, flaky and flickeringly real.

Elle yawned. It was wide and long and satisfying.
Through the receiver Amma asked, “Do you ever sleep?”
“Not lately. He’s here every night.”
“I can’t stay over.”
“He’s not scary. He makes food.”
“I’m not scared. I get up early to work around the house. I’m saving money.”
“For what?”
“Nothing.” Amma’s response was quick. “I have to go.”
“Ok.”
“Why is he there?” Amma began to sound sympathetic.
“I need him.”

25  ·    ·  



“What are you making?” Elle did not even look at him; she sat at the table and waited for the pie to bake.
“A pot pie.”
“What did you do today?”
“Jumped out of a plane. Died, maybe.”
Elle turned and saw his face half lit by the light from the oven. He knew this was the truth and somehow it gave him more comfort to say it than his walks and new houses. The oven door closed and they both waited. Elle watched him, unable to distinguish anything aside from the white shirt between his black raincoat and tie. She tried to see him. It all felt so heavy.
Dan set the pie on the table and Elle gasped awake. “Would you grab me a fork?”
She did not get up. “What did you do today?”
“Probably the same as yesterday.” Dan smiled—he knew what she was doing. She was guiding him back to routine, to something comfortable and pleasurable, something that had already disappeared. “Let’s see. I walked for a long time and then I bought a house.”
“Where is your house?” Elle knew their script had unraveled.
“Would you grab me a fork?”
She got up and pulled a fork from the dishwasher. She placed it at the corner of the table between them. Dan grabbed it before Elle could move her hand.

Instead of falling asleep, Elle listened to her mother hum in the shower. She heard a hairdryer and the closet doors and the soft sounds of breathing increase into ruffling snores. Then there was a wooden thud as a cupboard door closed. Dan was in the kitchen, but Elle stayed in bed. Things progressed without her and the potpies smelled warm and salty from her hiding place under her covers. There was a light knock on her door. She sat up and pulled her legs into her chest, wrapping her right hand around her left wrist. Dan distracted her. He had filled a role in that nighttime loneliness she usually occupied with those few memories of her

26  ·    ·  



brother. But she could not let herself be distracted from finding him any longer.
“Dan.” She said. “I’m sorry, I really am.”
He came a few more nights, and she could feel him standing beyond her bedroom door, warm from the oven. He didn’t knock again; he just waited with his back against the door, eating the pie from its dish without a fork. She missed him and the heat in her throat from eating pot pies fresh from the oven.
And then he didn’t come at all. Elle slept through the night without waking from cold, or hunger or awareness that he was always gone.
















Christine Texeira received her MFA in fiction from the University of Notre Dame and is a recipient of the 2014 William Mitchell Award. Her work is forthcoming from The Conium Review, where she was a finalist for their 2014 Innovative Short Fiction prize. She currently works at Hugo House, a nonprofit place for writers in Seattle.

27  ·    ·  



Dear Stars On Ice
Clayton McCann

The crumpled hills have all but fallen away, burnt crisp as ash in t=he fog and twilight. In the bars downtown the rich kids sit and complain the=y never had a chance, the money's too good, who escapes the money? Along Douglas—named after the ghoul who made off with the=20=entire island—the panhandlers have multiplied, alternately frowning and pasting o=n forced smiles. And it hasn't gotten=-20cold here yet, not the sort of cold that brings on tears, real regret for reduci=ng your life to a street-level sleeping bag, and then numb. Numb like your f=ace doesn't work. Numb to the point where your nose doesn't even run. Numb like you might d=ie but the thought doesn't sink in, nothing sinks in, you're a piece of wood=.

And when the cops come and the ambulance drives up in the cobalt da=wn=another panhandler has died, they seize the body and drop it on the stretcher. "Fucking idiot," one of the cops says a=s the cardboard sign flutters to the ground: Please HELP. Spare Chang.
"Spare Chang! Like he's some sort of chink on death row," the other= cop says, and he gets back in the cruiser to beat off=the cold.
The cop in the cruiser shuts the door.
The ambulance attendant wants a signature on the form. The outside c=op signs his name, hands over the pen, receives the form, all in one swift m=otion.
He's back behind the wheel and they're rolling before he says, "Tha=t fucking nurse stole my pen."
"What nurse?"
"The driver, the ambulance. He stole my pen."
"How?"
"I gave it to him. And he took it."
"That's not theft," =the other says, "that's a gift."
"It fucking is theft."

28  ·    ·  



"He takes it? After you give it to him?"
"I show my dick. She takes it."
"Theft?"
"Possession."
"Who are we talking about?"
"Anyone, no-one. It doesn't matter. The act is the taking of someth=ing that is offered."
"That guy's going a little fast," they both watch the car in the le=ft lane speed past, then slow down. It slows more, until it is behind the cr=uiser. "That's better...."
"A pen is not a dick."
"Are you on purpose this ignorant? I offer the pe=n. The pen is kept. It is the=20motive of the receiver that counts."
"Oh, motive."
"Yes, motive, sir. This ambulance driver, he intends on stealing the pen."
"You can't ascertain motive. The poor guy, like us, has been up al=l night—"
The radio bursts forth with a series of bleeps and static, then a d=ispatch officer begins issuing a call.
"—Don't answer that. We’re off shift as of three minutes ago."
The other cop taps something on the steering wheel, "This is one-wi=lliam-four-five responding, go ahead dispatch."
"Fuck."
"One-william-four-five, a ten-fifteen at 400 block, Douglas, over."=
"Confirm, ten-fifteen..."

== +=

At initial approach, which is a drive-up, the guy on the sidewalk l=ooked like another pan-handler. Under-dressed for the weather, clutching him=self, desperate. It wasn't until they = out of the car that they both had t=he feeling something wasn't quite normal.

29  ·    ·  



"Look at this fucking guy, will you? He's scabbed like a sander wor=ked his face!"
"Jibber, probably."
"Hey, buddy? Can you hear me?"
The man on the sidewalk =still, shivering, but still.
"How is this a ten-fifteen?"
"I just got here myself, partner. Try him again."
"Hey, buddy? Do you want to try to get up?"
The man on the ground started to shake a little, his head jerking u=p in quick, furtive movements.
A woman appeared from one of the shops down the block. "Hello. I ca=lled the police."
"So?" said the cop.
"He tried to eat the garbage. I called the police."
"You work at this convenience store?"
"Yes. He tried to eat the garbage. I—"
"You called the police?"
"Yes."
"The garbage, was it inside your store?"

The other cop pulled out his baton and squatted next to the man. He= poked him with the baton, "You hear me? Can you hear me in there?"
The man convulsed noticeably, his eyes remained shut, but as though= they were forcing themselves shut.
"Sir, I'm asking you to rise, now." He used his deepest cop voice. The man   went stiff, still and stiff, and then began to float, slowl=y, slowly, off the sidewalk.
"Lieutenant Fong?!"
The other cop =20engaged with the convenience store woman.
"Lieutenant F=ong!"
"Gimme a =20sec, here, =Roger."
"Fong!= Fer fuc=k's sake!!=!"

30  ·    ·  



"What the--? That's n==ot possible!!!"
The man had risen =20== four feet off the sidewalk, and appeared as= though he had no intention of sto=pping.
"He did tha=t in the store," the woman shrieked, "He did that!"
"Lad=y, why the f==uck didn't you =20mention it= when I asked you to tell     m=e what happened?"
"What the fu=2ck, Fong?!"=
"Just relax, =20Roger. Ste=p back here, lady... +Sir! ==S=ir, can you hear me=20?!...=SIR!!!"
The man sort of +sat up while floating in the air. Hi=s +bo=dy stopped rising. H=is eyes=+ open=ed, tw=o white, blinding whi=te lights shining o=ut of his +head.
"Fuck me+=!!"
"R+20=oger, call for—"
But= the man's voice scree=ched out, "WHAT IS TO BE DONE, NOW THAT AL=L HAS BEEN FULFILLED?!!"
"What+=20==? What did he =say?!"
+=And again, "WHAT IS TO BE DONE, NOW THAT ALL HAS =+BEEN FULFILLED?!!="
"+=20Roger! Call for—!+=20=="
"=Fuck this!!" And +20the== cop pulled out his =20==taser, "Sir! +==I or=der you20 t=o re+===turn =20to the sidewalk!"
"Wh=at the f==uck are+=20 you 20+==doing, Roger?!"
"I'm gonn=a taser this fu==cking—!!!"
"I do=n't think 20-=that's—"
A streak +=20 from the taser =, two streaks, tw=o w=+ires attach=20 themselves =to the man, the= man floating there. =+In the next instant the m=an began to+20 glow, white+ hot. The cop dropped the taser, shielding his+20 eyes. T=he other cop and the woman, too, cov=ering their eyes from =the br+==ightening inten=sity, all three+ step=20ping =back, away as from a+= house fire.
The man screamed =+again, this time some+th=ing unintelligible, and the

31  ·    ·  



=white+ heat filled the air, scor20=ching the cops, the woman, the street, blinding20=, blind=ing +white heat, white= light!

+ -

"And that's when the suspect stole your taser?"
"Yes sir."
"After you had fired it?"
"Yes."
"Fong?"
"Sort of."+
"What do you mean, 'sort of'? Did he st=eal Roger's taser or didn't he?"
"It seemed to me..."
"Yes?"
"Well, it seemed to me, sir, that Roger abandoned the taser, you kn=ow, when the 20suspect began to glow, uh, white hot."
"Yes, sir. Abandoned it, you know, because it was getting =hairy."
"And so, Roger, you abandoned your taser weapon?"
"Yes, sir."
"Was a thorough—?"
"Sir?"
"Yes, Fong?"
"It was more like he=20gave him the taser..."





Clayton McCann is a writer living in British Columbia. His work has appeared in Canadian Literature, SubTerrain, and filling Station, among other publications. He has performed on CBC Radio and at countless poetry readings throughout the Canadian West.

32  ·    ·  



The Roads Amputated the Legs
Nate Liederbach

The pack of pissed-off, caffeine-cocked neo-Ashberry’s ambushed my office. Four entitled seniors, huffy Lit-sters all, dressed like a crew of Victorian chimney sweeps, complete with the hand-rolled cigarettes behind the ears. They demanded action.
“He’s making strange faces.”
“He’ll just fold over, mid-lecture, hanging there, touching his toes for five minutes.”
“He’s told us five times that Frank O’Hara had Down syndrome. Frank O’Hara did not have Down syndrome.”
“No,” I said, “Frank O’Hara did not have Down syndrome,” and I calmed them. Said I’d take it right to Dean Liu, now goodbye, goodbye. It was only partly perjury on my end, meaning that I’d make her task easier and tell the old boy myself. At long last hat-hanging time for the Great Clod-Ball, and I’d personally see his two courses out. The man’s brain was cancered, a primary tumor so big it had its own pulse. At best, he had four months to live.
I hunkered down, waited until 7:30.

In office half-light, playing chess on his computer. Claude’s broad shoulders stooped, his short, patchy hair like sun-seared grass. From his chair back, his black raincoat had slipped to the stained carpet. His royal blue newsboy cap lay beside it. I said his name, tapped the open door. I set my stance, but it faltered when he glanced over.
Where my veritable Churchill once sat, now slouched a repulsive cartoon. Obscenely sagging cheeks and raw-rimmed lids. My heroic resolve drained away. I’d him seen twice that morning, but his face was still a punch to the chest. Droopy goddamn Dogg eyeballing. “Claude?” I said.

33  ·    ·  



He didn’t speak. His bottom lip hung askew, white, showing bad teeth. A stroked English bulldog, I thought and raised my eyebrows, tried sounding detached. I asked if it was a bad time, but he didn’t blink. Just turned back to the screen, tapped at his keyboard, and finally croaked, “Good times, bad times, know I had my share.”
I stood there nodding, nodding, nodding.

Except for his desk, his student chair, and three neatly filled, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, the place was bare. Slowly stripped of decorations over the month before. Something told me the knickknacks weren’t carted home. Nibbles of a man’s identity swallowed one by one. I’d never noticed the extent of the objects in Claude’s office until they were replaced by these garish white walls. The Far Side poster in its green frame. The scimitar with its dark blue grip. The kitschy string of chili-pepper lights draped around the high corners. Where were they now? Rotting in a landfill, streaked with magpie shit?
I was partially hurt, wishing he’d bequeathed me these items. Then again I knew they would’ve been a staggering burden. Did he know that too? Like the Nemerov poem—it had vanished the week before. Hand-written on paper towel, pressed cockeyed into a pewter frame:

The blind maid shaking a stick
Chasing dirt endlessly around
A yellow wall was the very she
To violate my oldest night;
I frighten of her still.

Love, Steve.

A Can of Dutch Cleanser, it’d been titled at the top. For three years I mulled those lines hanging eye-level on his wall, but never did I consider they were only a

34  ·    ·  



fragment of the whole. The day Claude took it down, the absence fucked with me, and mightily. At home, in bed, deep in the night, I tried but was unable to envision the poem’s syntax. I fell to cussing. Frustrated, I consulted my phone, clawed around online, found more than I bargained for. The lines in the frame weren’t even the poem’s beginning.
Next I’m up until 3 a.m. wondering why, why? There I am trying to pry open some personal code between the two men. No, between the three. Or four, adding myself to the equation. Who’s the blind maid? What’s the yellow wall? Oldest night? Violated by what? Sarcoma, queer love, fragments of bar-scrawled texts?

I locked my hands together, stepped into his office.
“What’ll it be?” Claude growled, not looking.
I sat stiffly in his student chair. I crossed my legs. Picked at the little whiskers on my jeans and suddenly hoped he didn’t notice my missing beard, wouldn’t say I looked younger. I set my tone to casual. “Evenin‘, Clod-Ball. How’s it hangin‘?”
“Evening for me, not you. Autumn of the turd-burgling Patriarch.”
“Really, man? You’re playing for pity? With me? The drama?”
“Believe it,” he said, and we didn’t speak for five minutes.

After the poem, it happened again, a night or two after, happened worse. Couldn’t sleep, feeling like my immune system was shutting down. There I am, wide awake with my eyes pinched and my brain just scouring the walls of his office. The missing scimitar that hung to the right of his door well it wasn’t a scimitar at all—no, something Wikipedia called a falchion. Fucking European, not Persian. Just a late-historical knock-off. I unearthed that little fact and then got in the tub, sat there until the water went cold, until a gunmetal sun leaked through the bathroom window.

35  ·    ·  



Anyway, I was thinking about that night in the tub as I sat there watching him play his Chess—his nose nearly touching the monitor, his mouth agape and breath ragged. It was painfully obvious we were both aching for him to die.
So why didn’t I just leave then? Storm out like, Fuck this shit, because technically it is NOT YOUR JOB.
Yeah, Jesus, I had my own fires to put out, God knew.
Or maybe I should have only played my part to keep Dean Liu at bay, and left it at that? You know, still let Claude ride out his classes. Just do what I could to let him go as long as possible? Hell, wasn’t it fitting for our students to witness the full extent of his deterioration? A dazzling mind gone mushy inside a cozy, protected classroom? Body and spirit capitulated to the hungry fucking worm of random fucking inanity, because, fuck, isn’t academia, isn’t America, isn’t fucking pedagogy far too fucking safe?

Smells of sweat-warmed clothes, his office. Of microwaved processed foodstuff. I heard his stomach rumble. Or it was a low, stretchy fart. He muttered unintelligibly. He rubbed his palms on his same nasty slacks. I huffed and swiped his newsboy cap from the floor. I flipped it over and found a label stitched inside. A black anchor icon, a line to sign one’s name. He had, in blue Sharpie. Big block letters, the C lower-case and the U and E upper-case. I pictured his tumor straining to gain language, speak for itself.
Two days before, the guy had left me three back-to-back voicemails. In the first he was annoyed, saying I blew off our lunch. In the second he was solemn and apologetic, informing me he couldn’t make our lunch. In the third, voice longing as an orphan’s, he begged me to call him, please, sometime, anytime—“Shit, man, come on, call. I don’t even know where you’re living anymore...."
I slid to my chair edge, leaned close to his shoulder. I nodded at his monitor, and softly said, “You winning?”
He snorted, pointed to his poorly sheared skull. “You tell me.”

36  ·    ·  



Instead of getting angry I forced myself to recline. Loosening my shoulders, I let my lungs fill with that old springtime strength. It’d been cautiously returning. Over the past couple weeks I could feel my blood fighting back from a hardest drinking winter. My face was tanning, its Mediterranean fleshed out of hibernation. I’d started jogging, too. Four-mile stints, eating minimal carbs, popping fish oil pills. And no beer, just Syrah at dinner, black French Roast with breakfast. Added two-hundred crunches a night, right before hitting the sack. Next, I dusted off the ancient weight bench and I assembled it on a crappy rug in the center of the garage. Put my college speakers on either side.
I know. I know. I told myself, You’ve got to be careful. All this juice and muscle-ripping, had me channeling the primitive, the cathartic. Wanting to carnivorize and compartmentalize. I’d been eyeing my students’ floppy arm meat, their tone-less calves. They waddled to their desks like corralled cows and the only way I could stay focused was imagining burning them in pull-ups and hill sprints.
Oh, please, man, they moaned, please, we’re so tired, please, we just want to pass, get the grade. Just tell us what to do, what to think.

“Claude, we need to hash this. Right now. Get serious.”
We do?”
He wouldn’t face me. I rested his cap on my knee.
“Word is you’re teaching cutting-edge curricula. Frank O’Hara had Down syndrome?”
He moved his mouse, click, click, click. He said, “It’s all wire now, Boy. Down to it.”
Boy. When he remembered, he still managed to call me Boy. More and more though, he didn’t call me anything. Often he looked at me and I was a face in a poster. Or other times his red eyes darkened and I was Steve. He didn’t say it, but I knew. He would push on his forehead like it was a flap about to fall open. I never met Steve. He’d died of “complications related to AIDS,” two semesters

37  ·    ·  



before I got the gig. Eighteen years they’d been together.
“I’ve got other fires to put out, you know.”
Claude sniffed wetly, mumbled, “Go with God, Boy.”
“We’re gonna to talk this shit out.”
He tapped his forehead on the screen. He snarled, “Shit, oh shit yes. Let’s see, well in my thirties I was always thinking I’d finally become an adult, too. You should’ve seen me, strutting around telling folks that just because they’ve got power to do something doesn’t mean they should. Telling people I was a Dancing Wu Li Master.”
I sighed. “I’m beat, Claude. Turn around, face me. Come on, look.”
He shook his head, leaned back. He whistled. He crossed his arms and leaned forward again, returned forehead to monitor. “How to handle the dying man?” he mumbled. “Hm, cliff notes. Well, I’m down to one washed-up physician now. Oh, and Charlie flew in from London yesterday. Little parasite booked an open-ended ticket so he can sit in my basement until I die, so he can pretend he ever gave a shit, pretend I didn’t embarrass the whole family, ruin his life, pretend he didn’t side with his mother, that the two of them didn’t whisper about me like I’m some trailer-trash wino Queen who brought all this on himself. From London! Charlie! So the tick can pat me, squeeze my shoulder, call me Pops and mate, like we’re best friends and it’s gonna kill him so bad when I flit off to Fairy Heaven....”
Charlie, the son, he was only a few years younger than me. Sort of guy who marches down a sidewalk with his arms flexed like he’s carrying invisible watermelons. I’d met him, once, and he puffed up. He shook my hand and clenched my fingers like I’d better know how much he meant things.
Again Claude pulled his head off the screen to wipe at his face. I stared at the sweat smear on the glass. When I said nothing about Charlie, he flapped his arms like he might turn around, but didn’t. He said, “Use your brain, Boy.

38  ·    ·  



Remember what I told you after your first bombed interview here? Huh? When you were still so excited to be a piss-ant adjunct?”
“Fuck you. Don’t talk to me like I’m some admin spy out to crucify you with pity—”
“Ha! You don’t remember!”
I popped my knuckles, rolled my head, and answered dryly, “That you used to be straight once too.”
“Swell! What else I say?”
“That I’m crazy lucky you’re so old and I’m so naïve, because we’d never work out.”
He laughed weakly. “Pretty smooth, huh?”

Outside Claude’s office the night custodian began emptying trash cans and recycle bins. The tiny man shuffled back and forth under those much brighter lights. He wore a wispy wide mustache and a yellowed, matted beard. He kept his long gray hair in a tight ponytail, kept his loafers always shined. At one point he’d sported a red turban, but then abruptly ditched it. I never asked him why. Of course, he was deaf. Deaf and always smiling. When I had a semester of night classes and regularly saw him, he never failed to wave and shoot me two thumbs-up. I’d do it back. Next we’d be grinning like chum-idiots, everything Zen.
But I hadn’t seen him much that month and, sitting in Claude’s office, my janitor pal hadn’t yet noticed me. Rumor had it he was eighty-four. He didn’t look a day over sixty. Didn’t look a day older than Claude, who was fifty-two.
Claude wouldn’t look at me. He pushed the power button on his monitor. It gasped black. He glided back from his desk in his rolling chair. Still canted away, he said, “Hey, if those kids want to believe everything I profess, well good for them—”
“You’re still an authority.”
He spun around, quick, not aggressive. Looking down at my legs, he

39  ·    ·  



reached out, took his hat from my knee. A gentle motion. Almost paternal. Like a gift he was receiving and he wanted to show he’d cherish it.
“Here we go,” he whispered.

Father-figure, uncle, mentor, coach, call it what you will, but I owed Clod-Ball my job, my curriculum, my desire, my students. Before him, I’d never taught, never even studied, not with true thirst, not way outside my comfort zone—Genet, Ikkyū, Barnes, Bataille, Sappho, Isaak Babel—
“...I swayed from side to side, singing in a language I had just invented. Through the tunnels of the streets bounded by lines of street lights the steamy fog billowed. Monsters roared behind the boiling walls. The roads amputated the legs of those walking on them.”
We’re talking goose bumps every time from that Babel. My eyes tearing in front of my students, but, hey, I let it happen. Rejoice in it, all my multifarious manliness. Monsters and boiling walls? What did the roads do? They amputated the goddamned legs of those walking on them!
Jesus H. Fucking Christ, I mean, what does that even mean?
Doesn’t matter though, see. No, it can’t mean—it is meaning. Felt. And that’s prose. Showing and Telling drop their distinction and the writing knows for itself, of itself, and its self is universal ... but, see, all this rabid chatter, it’s not mine. These platitudes and doozy terms, I spew them, I feel them, but they came from Claude and, frankly, I was terrified they were about to die with him.
I said, “Here we go?”
“Want my confession or not, Boy?”
He stroked the cap on his knee like it was some sick pet. I sighed, thinking, Confession, wow, there’s a word. Then, and I don’t know why, I blurted, “Monsters roared behind the boiling walls and the roads amputated the legs of—”
“Stop.” Claude lifted his sour eyes, cheekbones jutting, said, “That’s why you’re here, huh? Retarded? Well the answer is yes. And your dear Babel was too. Just like O’Hara. Flat retarded. What I’ve been telling my students. Retarded. I

40  ·    ·  



got empirical evidence. More than just tumor talk—”
“Shut up. Come on. What’re you trying to prove, Claude? I’ve been here since six a.m.”
“Paradox! Early’s a paradox! Late’s a paradox! Blah, blah!”
He pushed back with his feet, rolling away. He twirled his seat again, back to me, stopping at one of his towering shelves. Folding over he grabbed a book, turned back, plunked it open on my lap and said, “Frank.”
He pounded the page with a finger. “Frank.”
When I refused to pull my eyes off his face, he huffed. He worked his cap onto his head. He sputtered, “Oh, come on, Boy! Look at the picture, the retard. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell him he’s wrong.”

I was the first he told. Eight months before, mid-afternoon. Claude strolled into my office, shut the door, and said, “Boy, you seen any good movies lately?”
“Why, what’d you see?”
He smiled, stroked his eyebrows with both index fingers, said, “Brain cancer. Half a year and ticking.”
“Brain—brain cancer? Who? You? Shut the fuck up. No, no. Like ...like a tumor?”
Only a wry grin.
“Bullshit, bullshit,” I said, “don’t fuck with me.” And I didn’t stand. I wanted to. To throw my arms around him—not hug but get so close I didn’t have to look at him looking so perfectly blasé.
He knew it too. He stared down at me, blinking thoughtfully. His newsboy cap all crooked.

No one else at the school had a clue, not then. I’d see Claude between classes and wonder about treatment, about chemicals. My ex’s sister had it when she was in

41  ·    ·  



college—left her with a double mastectomy. She dropped half her weight, perfect cheekbones and hips and barely the strength to talk. But with Claude two months rolled by and he popped back in looking exactly the same. Shutting the door behind him, he announced that his tumor cells had grown. “But I got it, see. The mind, it’s the soul of the brain. Grown! It’s a good thing, Boy. Guess tumors, they swell right before dying.”
Excited, he crossed and uncrossed those huge arms. I think he wanted me to be more thrilled but I didn’t want to, not so soon.
“Boy, look, the mind drives the brain. That’s right, sometimes it drives fine, but other times it gets confused, thinks a stop sign is literally for stopping the sled.”
I leaped up, hugged him hard. It felt rehearsed, sure, but isn’t that at least a feeling?
And, of course, a mere week after that I came upon him slack-faced outside the Student Union. He was feeding sandwich crust to a squirrel. When I asked him, by name, if I could join him, I received a blank stare. So I said his name two more times, and he grunted, scooted over.
We sat in silence. After a bit he waved at the squirrel and said, “Only time I saw squirrels this fat was at the Wall. This guy’s hefty, but doesn’t compare. Goliaths, at all the monuments in D.C., ten pounders—milking sad masses, eating apples, Whoppers, Twinkies from Pro-Lifers...”
“Vietnam Wall?”
“My ghost brothers.”
“Hold up, Claude. Did I know that? You served in—”
“Toured,” he interrupted. “Oh, the things I carry!”
He gave a small, acrid smile, elbowed me gently. “Grows before it dies! Ha! They coulda just sang me a little Frankie Goes to Hollywood! ‘Relax, don’t do it, when you’re gonna come.’ Wow, if this old homo had a nickel!”

Wouldn’t do it. Wouldn’t look at that book draped on my lap. The disease was

42  ·    ·  



real, nefarious. I had to admit it. Brain, mind, as much as he tried to play it off like he was in control, and as much as sitting face-to-face with him I wanted to believe he was, no. The phone calls the day before—there was never a lunch date.
“Oh, come on, have a one look, Boy.”
“Why are you whispering?”
“Please?” He nodded down at my lap, biting his lip, eyes instantly alive, wide, so back to normal. “Please goddamn it, just look at him! That big ol‘ dent of a forehead, those puffy Disneyland eyes!”
I frowned but relented. On my lap, a black and white photo of Frank O’Hara. The poet posed stoically, staring at himself in a mirror. I’d seen the image before; it was famous. But the man’s forehead was huge. Huge and guttered, and I had to admit, with his balding head and his short sloppy hair, with his strangling collar and that crookedly pinched tie, he did look, well...
“Yeah! Yeah!” Claude bobbed hungrily, bright spit on his lips. “Hell yeah!”
He tapped O’Hara’s chest with a thick and dirty fingernail. He cried, “Look harder, Boy, look forcefully—past the queer eyes, past the basketball head and artsy-fartsy casual cool, huh? See that? Retard! Brain, mind, brain, mind.”
I shut the book. “Maybe.”
“Maybe!”
Claude lurched backward, his chair groaning, swaying. “Maybe!”
He smacked his cheeks with both hands and yelped, “The kid says maybe!” He snatched the book from my lap and lobbed it perfectly into the trashcan. The steel can rang against the door’s metal trim. “Maybe!”
Two points for the corpse, I thought.

Look though, way before the tumor, well, old Clod-Ball was already the department’s joke, a hulking bumbler. Zipping wit and no couth. Lettuce and coffee grounds in his teeth at faculty meetings. And of course they were replacing him already, not so subtly lining-up interviewees. And of course, with the news out, everyone was on their most politically correct tip-toes, staff and faculty just

43  ·    ·  



waiting for that last straw, that famous poet with Downs. They’d prearranged a goodbye party. They’d chatted with his advisees. They’d hurried reports to Human Resources. So much business, but how many of his colleagues bothered to ask him why, on his own volition, didn’t he just call it quits?
Why hadn’t I?
Claude leaned in. Squeezed my shoulder, cooed, “Hey? Hey? More proof, Boy? More?” His breath reeked rot. His eyes were too alive, circuitry afire, ready to smolder. “More? More?”
He spun his chair. Spun again and again. He over-rotated, smacked his knee on his desk. He groaned, rubbed the leg. But it didn’t distract him, not from yanking more books free. A fury. Seeking more O’Hara photographs. Grabbing and flipping, casting aside one as quickly as he could snag another.
“Pick any snapshot! Any! For one, the queer’s ears are too low—they’re drooped, hanging funny. And his cheeks! Swollen and hollow? How’s that work?”
Handfuls, pages, covers tearing. Chucked then blindly over his shoulder at the trashcan.
“His cheeks distended! Too freckled. Too pale!”
I kicked gently to clear the piles from around my feet. I stood and dropped both hands on his broad shoulders. I squeezed. His back muscles ground together and his huge frame tensed. But he continued to claw at the stacks, his voice a hum, a constant motor, “Frankie, Frankie, Frankie....”
His neck twitched under my fingers. He spat, “What? What other diagnosis? O’Hara! Motherfucking Downs! Ketchup stains. Sugar buzzes. Ginger Rogers’ similes—”

I massaged, what else could I do? Worked my fingertips deep. Tried to make it painful, purgative, paralyzing. More books flew past my head. I whispered, “OK, take it easy, Buddy...”
He did. Cut off. Just shut the book he held and calmly placed it on his

44  ·    ·  



desk. He exhaled. He slumped. Reaching up, hands trembling, he yanked off his cap and studied it a moment. He tossed it at the trashcan and it landed on the rim.
We stared at it, the sag and balance. We were staring when the deaf custodian peeked in. Seeing me, he began to smile. Then he caught himself, blinking at my fingers on Claude’s shoulders. The small man’s face reddened and he smiled again, but differently.
I raised my hands. I was going to give him a thumbs-up, but he shook his head like he couldn’t abide it. He abruptly dipped for the trashcan, but instead slammed his forehead into the metal doorframe, sprung upright, and laughed a muted, stuttered laugh.
He was dizzy on his feet. Now he lifted both thumbs and stood frozen like that. His forehead bubbled blood. I made a worried face, pointed at his cut, gestured to my own forehead. He lifted his hand to the wound, drummed it. He grinned, smeared, opened it all the more so a dark rivulet drained into his eye socket.
Claude whined like a hurt animal. “What sort of madness…?”
The fingertips of the janitor’s right hand were covered in blood. He held them up, looked at them for a split second, then jammed all five in his mouth. He sucked loudly. His wide mustache shuttered. His free hand snatched Claude’s cap from trashcan rim and held it out.
Claude shook his head, a terrified child, lowered his eyes. Deeply ashamed, Claude quietly said, “Please, man, get a bandage on that before the bears catch wind.”
Why was the janitor sucking his fingers? Is he concussed? Must be concussed
I grabbed the cap from the outstretch hand. “DO YOU NEED HELP?” I asked, mouthing it, over-enunciating, but the man just closed one eyelid, pulled the glistening hand from his mouth, and wiped it on his pants. He cocked his head at me like a wondering dog.

45  ·    ·  



“Do you? You need our help?”
Now he got it, eyes brightening. No, no, no!
He waved his palms and then reached for his back pocket. He produced a handkerchief already rolled up as a headband. Tying this around his head, he snatched the trashcan and slipped away.

“Janus,” said Claude, voice full of shaky reverence. “God of doorways.”
“Hope he’s not concussed—or too concussed.”
“Ditto,” Claude said, and sighed great relief. Then he said, voice patient, conclusive, “And with that demonstration we now see, don’t we, what this says us about us, Boy. About teachers. How can we be defensive and snide about anything? Retards. Art. Junior colleges and minor leagues. How can we continue to lie to ourselves, pretend that anything beautiful can be taught?”
But I didn’t answer because the custodian was back. The cut hadn’t bled through the handkerchief, but the socket sat black and ghastly around a too-white eye. There was blood on the mustache, blood matting the beard.
The man held out the O’Hara book, the book with the first photo. I slipped on Claude’s cap before taking it. The custodian liked this. He gestured at my head and flashed his thumbs. I pinched the brim, gave a slight dip. The man shook his head. He moved his hand around his mouth, his fingers like scissors over his beard.
“Jesus. He wants us to cut his face in half,” Claude whispered. “We can’t do that.”
I nodded, smiled. “Yes. My beard? Yes! Gone.”
The man jogged his thumbs a few more times, and hurried away.
“That,” said Claude, “is exactly what I’m saying.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“You can’t say that!” he brayed, grinning up at me. “I’m dying of lame-brain! You can’t say that!”

I dropped the O’Hara book in his lap. “Open the book, Tumor Time.”

46  ·    ·  



He opened the book to the same photo and set it on his keyboard. He hunched over it. I rested my hands on his shoulders again. I leaned way in, way over. I pressed my chest to those dry-grass patches of hair. Set my chin on that big pale head. “You’re right, Claude. What a retard. His lips so blubbery.”
“Blubbery. Think, Boy, that’s where his words came out. Those superior words!”
“Blubbery goddamn lips,” I said, though they clearly were not. In the photo, O’Hara’s mouth was thin, tight and pale. But I kept at it, talking for the sensation, the resistance of Claude’s skull against my lower jaw, talking until the man said, “Shhhhh, Boy.”
Down the hall a recycle bin was dumped, the glass clanging, breaking.
“You know what he told me?” Claude whispered.
“The custodian?”
“Frank.”
“O’Hara?”
“Yeah, O’Hara. This was back in Ann Arbor, a greasy spoon where I used to hang out and read Carver.”
There was something so mechanical, so heavy about my mouth, about my whole head. Like if I rested it there long enough, on his, and just let my muscles go, it would sink right into Claude’s skull, come to rest on his own flagged neck. I said, “Tell me.”

And we remained like that, stacked, staring at the photo. I don’t know how long. Soon I realized it wasn’t a mirror around O’Hara. No, the poet was holding an empty wooden picture frame. What it meant, the difference, the pretentiousness, I didn’t care.
No, because Claude really was telling me everything. How, at this Ann Arbor greasy spoon, on an average afternoon, the sky hazy, the world humid as hell, he was eating a cheeseburger and sitting in a cool red booth. That’s when O’Hara showed, just plunked down and started yammering.
“Right next to me, thigh-to-thigh. I didn’t know him from Adam, but it

47  ·    ·  



was clear the guy wasn’t retarded, not yet. At this point he was only confused, waxing. So confused he started pinching my side and reciting Kool and The Gang. Tried to get me to French him, jam my tongue in his ear. But what could I do? Because I knew, see. I sensed it coming. So I invited him home. Let the kid stay on the couch. Brought him blankets, pillows, a glass of water and aspirin. Then I stood there and watched him, and when it happened—”
“When what happened?”
Claude lifted both hands to his shoulders, covered mine, calmed them. He said, “When he started to shake and boil. When his face started to swell all moon-shaped. His tongue got fat and he drooled and he babbled...”
“What’d you do?”
“I read to him. Pulled up a chair and read from the classics—The Rape of the Lock, To Stay Alive, Kubla Khan, Nightwood, all of them, aloud, reading into the middle of the night because that was the only way to ease the poor kid when he started twitching, jerking, when his eyes went all dumb. Tell me, what else was there? He was terrified, turning, and totally shitless. I mean, the poor fool had no idea what it meant to become a poet.”








Nate Liederbach is the author of several short story collections, including Doing a Bit of Bleeding, Negative Spaces, and the forthcoming Tongues of Men and of Angels: Nonfictions Ataxia. His most recent collection, Beasts You’ll Never See, won Noemi Press’s 2014 Fiction Book Prize, earning it a spot on the press’s Fall 2015 list. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Mid-American Review, and Third Coast, among other publications. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.

48  ·    ·  



The Ninth Life
Donald J. Mitchell

I was born that day. This has just occurred to me. I was born that day he found me, or I found him—no—better to say that we were found. We were found together deep in a long hole through a hill, each of us having come from the light shining far away at opposite ends. I was making my way to someplace where I thought I could belong, or was it that I had been chased? I can’t remember. I do recall the terrible noise and the lights and the air that was suffocating and poisonous. I went as far as I could, half-way in fact, before I froze. My life ended there: I understand that now.

It was seventeen years ago almost to the day and I had lost myself in Nagasaki. I had already experienced some strange things in that city: there was that boy in a park who claimed to live in a huge cemetery; that Swedish man in the hostel who took my photo because he thought I was the reincarnation of his sensei. Maybe it’s true, then: I was fleeing and that tunnel seemed my only way out.

And so there I was, in the middle of it, dead, so to speak, looking at the ground, which was frozen. And on that dirty cement I saw him; at first he had appeared only to be a bag with nothing in it, shoved up against the wall by the wind-pressure of the relentless traffic. I suppose, to people in those vehicles, I appeared to be just an empty coat pressed up against the tunnel wall, but in that moment, he and I, we weren’t either of these things. I was a wanderer and he was too, except that we had come to the end of it, both of us. I know now that we could not have studied long enough or kept our tools clean enough or lived honestly enough to have gone any farther. He was more certain about this than I was; he had buried his head in his paws to shut out the horror of that afterlife and was as still as a child’s tombstone. At the time, I could not imagine how and why he had come so far into that horrible tunnel, but I completely understood his

49  ·    ·  



unconditional surrender to it. He had simply realized his utter insufficiency to deal with the impenetrable wall on one side, the mad dash of cars on the other, and the two distant half moons of light—as if God’s head was bent all the way around us and His sight had pinched everything from opposite ends of infinity.

I knelt down. He was likely feral, I surmised, diseased, crawling with lice and though his fur appeared healthy, he was hardly breathing. Of course, I couldn’t stay in that tunnel, and I couldn’t leave him there. I’d seen a woman walking far ahead of me as I’d entered—she must have stepped over him, or squeezed around him. I shed my coat and wrapped him up and started walking again, toward one of the two eyes that was least familiar to me. When we emerged from the tunnel I had already gone over and over what I should do with him. Should I take him back to the states? Or at least find a vet? I barely knew enough Japanese to order soup, how could I explain to anyone my intentions? I was never very good at explaining my intentions—at any given moment I never knew what they would be. So at the mouth of the tunnel I sat down on a cement stairway with the cars and lorries rushing by and the bundled coat on my lap. He made no movement at all underneath it. He was absolutely no help.

I guess I knew something had changed then, though I didn’t want to admit it. I was twenty-seven, or thought I was, and I’d only managed to stumble onto some truth here and there. And there in my lap was another truth giving me no comfort, you know, the way truth is supposed to do. I pulled my coat away from his head. His face was still buried in his paws. I’d given up being worried about lice or rabies or other such things so I stroked his head and ears. He was as stiff as a stick but I kept petting him. I’m not sure how long I petted him and thought about truth until, very gradually, I began to feel a little rattle on my legs and then began to hear the fragile, nearly inaudible purr. After a few minutes of this he pulled his nose up from under his bad dream, stared and blinked. He didn’t look

50  ·    ·  



around much and I don’t believe he even looked at me. He seemed to know in his bones that all was well and would not chance losing face by needless investigation. He just loosened his muscles a bit and relaxed into the nest I’d made for him.

He fell asleep. Not a death-sleep, but an easy, thanksgiving sleep. I imagined that he’d already comprehended that he was newborn into a new world: my coat would have smelled like nothing he’d ever smelled before, but he accepted it fully. It made my heart ache how trustingly he understood himself and his own good senses.

I let him sleep maybe a half an hour before I became restless, stood up and started walking again, carrying him in my arms as if he was a baby. I don’t know where I thought I was going; I suppose I was conjuring a whole new life too, something completely different. Really, I even started in that direction, thinking that he and I would find some island to the south and live there together. I’d grow persimmons and those tiny oranges and write poems, and he would find his way into many of those poems. But, before I could even fantasize the quaint Basho-hut I would build and the strange fish I would catch from my Dogen-boat, something made me stop. There, to my left, was a little side street with little houses leaning against each other carefully. I simply turned and walked down it. There was nobody anywhere in sight, just little houses and their little doors. I didn’t go far before I felt him struggle in my arms and, for the first time since I’d scooped up his corpse-like body in the tunnel, I put him down. He stood up with perfect dignity and symmetry, his tail held high, staring at a particular house. I remember that the house seemed a bit more run down than the others, a little more suspended by all the rest. Then he looked up at me, mewed, pressed his chin against my calf and circled my legs three times, quite slowly, his face, body and especially long tail caressing them as he turned. And then he just leapt away, disappearing into a modest door that happened to be propped open.

51  ·    ·  



I stared after him for a few minutes to see if he would return, then walked back to the main road. I headed toward my fantasy island for maybe a mile or so before it dawned on me that a new life doesn’t always mean forsaking the old. Besides, I realized that I didn’t want to live on a Japanese island without him. So I turned around and walked back to the city, to the park and hostel, to the trains and planes—through how many lives? Doesn’t matter. All the way home.



















Donald J. Mitchell lives in Deming, Washington on his family’s 130 year-old homestead. Raised by a preacher who was also a woodsman and fur trapper, he has self-published several works of poetry, including the collections Signs of Faith, The Shark Skin Man, and Hello Eternity.

52  ·    ·  



About Moss

The Pacific Northwest is home to a thriving, vibrant literary culture. Following in a long tradition of finely crafted regional writing, a new generation of local talent is trying new ideas and crafting cutting-edge, experimental prose. Published three times annually, Moss is an online journal dedicated to bringing Northwest literature to new audiences and exposing the emerging voices of the region to discerning readers, critics, and publishers.






Submissions are now open for our second issue, which will be published later this year. There are no length or style requirements, and both fiction and nonfiction are welcome. We are not accepting poetry at this time.

Submissions are limited to current residents of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia and those with a substantial connection to the region. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, with the condition that you notify us immediately if your piece is accepted for publication elsewhere. Please send only one submission, attached as a Word document, to mosslit [at] gmail [dot] com.

Moss pays $125 for each accepted piece. We buy First Serial Rights. There is no fee to submit.






Moss is edited by Connor Guy, an assistant editor at a publishing house in New York City, and Alex Davis-Lawrence, a filmmaker and video editor. Both were born and raised in Seattle.

To contact us, email mosslit [at] gmail [dot] com. For occasional updates, including news on our upcoming issue, subscribe to the email list below.

53  ·    ·