By Madison Robbins

Yeah, I want to know…just say it.  Tell me.  We fucked for the first time in the passenger seat of his Chevy…are you sure you wanna hear this?  Yeah, keep going.  I wanna know everything.  Okay, well, it was in the Walmart parking lot, over there on the right, you know, where the lights are burned out.  Anyway, I really do love him, I mean, you do, too, but it was like, for a minute, I couldn’t even feel the coolness of his ring against my hips when he guided me against him.  Should I stop now?  I feel like this is too much.  No, stop saying that.  I asked you.  I want to know.  Okay, well, I don’t know what else I should say.  When did it start?  You didn’t know?  I was in his class when I was a junior.  I mean, that’s how we met.  But we never like, did any of this, until after I graduated.  How soon after?  To be honest with you, it was the day after graduation.  He texted me and was telling me all this stuff about how he could barely concentrate with me in his class and all this, and at first I was like, what?  No.  But then, I mean, a while later, it just became more.  We clicked.  When was the first time you saw him?  After graduation, I mean. Uh, well, I saw him every time I visited from college, but just always a quick visit at the high school, so no big deal.  And then the summer after I graduated college he came to town and called me, and I was like, sure, I’ll come meet you.  So we went to dinner and had drinks and stuff, and we didn’t do anything, but like, I remember never feeling like that before in my whole life.  Like he held my hand and nobody had ever held my hand like that, and everyone we met he like, showed me off to them.  It was the happiest I’ve ever been…I felt like I had someone.  I mean, I know you don’t know me, but I’ve never like, had that before.  Ever.  I understand.  I’m sorry, I really am, I didn’t wanna tell you any of this, I just… No, don’t.  I wanted to know.  What are you gonna do?  I mean, you don’t have to tell me, I just, you know… Nothing.  Wait, nothing?  Nothing at all?  Are you gonna stop seeing him?  I mean, I could tell you yeah, but in all actuality, probably not.  We have a son at home, you know that, right?  He’s been my husband for twelve years.  And we share a child.  He’s two.  Do you realize that?  Yeah, I know.  And that doesn’t bother you?  That you’re fucking a married man with a wife and son at home waiting for him?  I’m fucking the only person I’ve ever found happiness with, actually. And well…  Well, what?  I’m pregnant. 

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MFA graduate student studying Fiction at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Soul Searcher
By Tod Connor

Staring into a spelunker's nightmare, like a cat with crossed eyes chasing his redundant prey, I found myself following her home.

Her hat was lopsided, angling into an attitude of 'who gives a shit'. I had to comment on it and that was upsetting, for her and for me.

She led me to a rickety stilt house on the edge of the bay with fogged in blisters meeting the soaking wet morning.

In the back, where her son played on his face, there was a garden: tomatoes, chard, wishmelons, falken drops -- everything necessary for the good survivalist.

"I can't stay," I told her.

It was because of her affiliations. She had connections to the world of the living, a place I found dismally uncomfortable. I don't associate with those kinds of people unless there's a party. She was going to be my party, with her sticky mouth and her wet mound. But I was forced to question my motives.

We can't all be scholars and artists, we have to make room for the the real people of the world, the ones who ride the trains and keep the bees.

"Maybe next time," I said, slamming her Sausalito gate and renegotiating my solo flight across the duck pond.

But she wouldn't have it. "Wait," she shouted, skanking through the roses, slithering into an obscene display of desperation. "I want to show you something, something I created."

This tickled my attitude.

"You mean some kind of art, or what?"

"It's a writing, a good writing."

I had time, maybe. So I followed her into the houseboat. Upside down and greasy, it looked like the after life of a medieval skirmish... she was no home maker, I was certain of that.

"Come, sit, have a glass of sherry."

"About this writing..."

"It's right here," she said, slipping the paper in front of me like newsprint for cat litter.

"Can I read it out loud?" I asked her.

"Of course."

"Bowling balls were never meant to be transported long distances. This I know, because I had one in the back of my bronco and it rolled around and shattered the rear. I'm not even a bowler. It was given to me by the father of my child, at least I assumed he was the father of my child." I paused and looked up. "This child here, are you talking about the little guy in the back yard?"

"What difference does that make?" My question seemed to upset her, the hat assuming an even more offensive angle of mischief.

"I was just curious. Haven't you ever been curious?"

"Would you just read the mother fucker for gosh sakes, lands alive!"

So I continued. "Two rights don't make a wrong so I didn't say anything to that philanderer." I paused. "What does that mean?"

"I prefer that you don't ask questions, just read it straight through and we can talk about this writing afterwards, okay?"

"Sure, I can do that...

"I've always harbored strong feelings for snakes and robins, my favorite animals. I used to swing in the summer, underneath the elm tree, looking like Ann of Green Gables. Well, not looking like her, I'm much more beautiful, but feeling like her, certainly feeling like her. And now those times have slipped away into darkness and wondering. I kept the china upstairs where it would be out of the way, hoping I would one day meet the man of my musings, but he never came." I stopped, I had reached the end. "So this is your writing, huh?"

"What do you think?" she asked me.

"It reminds me of something Hitler would have come up with."

"Oh? And is that supposed to be a compliment?"

"Sure. He wrote a best seller, didn't he?"

"That's true."

Her hovering ceased. She took the seat opposite. "Now is the time to ask me about what I wrote," she said, sounding like a teacher with no teeth.

"No questions here, everything is perfectly clear."

"You're a thief and a liar."

"And what is it that I've stolen?"

"You've absconded with the meat of my writing. You can't take it into yourself and then act as if it isn't there. I crafted it in such a way that it sinks into your subtle spots, stirring up the shuffler in you."

"In that case, I will ask a question, but only one. Do you fish?"

"Fish for what?"

Now it was my turn to display a certain level of irritation. "Do you drop your words into the depths to pull out whatever may be there, without hesitation, without protection, without restraint. Do you do that?"


"I thought not. That's why your writing plays around the edges. It invites but it doesn't take one by the hand and dive into the naked lagoon. Does it?"

"You're the only one who has offered that criticism. I have a fatness of gratitude for that observation, I really do."

"Good. Now it's time for me to let you continue searching for the spaces between your words. When you've gathered a few, you can look me up again."

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Tod Connor lives with his wife in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His work has appeared in Raphael’s Village, Apropos Literary Journal, Out of the Gutter, Christianity Today and many other publications.


Thoughts While Waiting
By:Donal Mahoney

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Ruth's at an age
where she's happy
to sit in the sun
under a patio umbrella
and watch a line of ants
curve across a path
carrying seed
to their burrow.

She and her husband
watched ants
parade each summer
for forty years.
Always the same burrow,
Ruben would stress.
But different ants,
life being what it is.

Ruben didn't like the ants.
They reminded him,
he said, of his parents
in line at Dachau,
waiting to find out
if there's a heaven,
wanting to know
if God was watching.

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Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.


By John Yohe

A wolf, coming-of-age, mix between White Fang and Watership Down.
Something called The Witch’s Daughter, a young social-outcast boy meets young social outcast girl, with a cool alternative mom, who the boy is also sort of enamored of, but not overtly of course, and tragedy ensues.
A female version of Lord of the Flies.
A boy runaway—from Michigan—train-hopping.
A bike messenger in New York—a day in the life—attracted to another female messenger—but quits at the end of the day, I don’t know why.
But anybody quitting ends up sounding like A&P, so not sure.
More fire-fighting stories.
I have a vague one about a day-in-the-life on a fire, jumping from person to person as they arrive and as the fire grows—could be a novel or novella maybe.
Woman’s POV, different descriptions of old boyfriends, each of which has a nickname, like, The Earnest Pornographer, or the Stone Mason, or the Insecure Carpenter.
A Bolaño-esque thing about a woman musician.
Steal an idea from Vargas Llosa about a guy and his relationship to a girl/woman throughout their lives—how she uses him to introduce herself into new jobs/lives—but like I said it rips off Las travesuras de una chica mala.
Maybe something about a couple, white, who decide to try having a black guy have sex with her while the white guy watches, etc, but would have to avoid the outright sex parts and focus on the personality dynamics—it’d have to be more told than shown I think.
Or maybe instead of The Story of a Breast, it could be about a pair of legs.
Or a boy growing up in Michigan with an emotionally distant father?
No, been done.
Or a café, scenes interwoven, convos, descriptions, w/o explanations, just a space between them.
Or the story of a pussy.
Or of an asshole.
Except that would be autobiographical and therefore technically creative non-fiction
But no sex.
No more sex.
I’m tired of it.
I see a woman and she just looks like a quivering mass of issues and problems that would want dominion over my quivering mass of problems and issues.
So take out sex.
Have a story about guys.
A guy telling about another guy, a friend.
But don’t let it slip into subtle homo eroticism.
Especially if they herd sheep or something.
Not because I’m opposed to homo eroticism but that it just becomes about the interaction of teeming masses of issues and problems again.
Which brings me back to the wolf story.
He’s born.
His father gets killed by the pack leader.
Then he himself gets kicked out.
So he travels and meets a fox and a coyote.
Learns from both of them.
About different things about humans.
About how to adapt and live with humans.
Though not like dogs, which they all hate.
But then the coyote and fox get killed.
So he really learns that humans can’t be trusted.
Though meanwhile he has returned to his pack.
The pack leader has been killed by humans, trappers or something.
So our wolf takes over and leads more by wits than strength.
Though meanwhile all the wolves in the area are being killed, even his pack.
But two humans, who he met with the fox, a man and woman (though this is not about the commingling of two sets of issues and problems) have organized or become part of a group trying to save the wolves and relocate them to Yellowstone National Park (this part is kinda true) and they end up tranquilizing our wolf protagonist, his sisters and remaining pack members and our last scene is of him (from the human’s POV) waking up in a new territory, slightly confused as we all would be, but getting his bearings, hearing the howls of his sisters up in the mountains and running off to join them.
Whether he will actually stay within the Park boundaries is unknown, the humans hope so, but all we know is we see him stop and look back once at us, as if thinking.

As if figuring out that he may have been saved from extinction.

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Born in Puerto Rico, John Yohe grew up in Michigan, and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, deckhand/oiler, runner/busboy, bike messenger, wilderness ranger, as well as a teacher of writing. He has lived in Mexico, Spain, France, and traveled to six continents.

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