By: Kaila Allison
It’s the hottest night of the year.
Men wipe sweat from lips with hankies. Women fan themselves with brochures. We are young and in New York. A buddy of Miles’ from Philly is performing with his group, a free-form jazz quartet, in an Aikido dojo at 307 East 92nd. We walk up a narrow staircase and Miles cracks the door slowly – not sure we’ve got the right address. But it is, Sensei greets us and tells us please if we didn’t mind taking our shoes off, this is a dojo after all. A slight Asian man holding a beer comes over, tells us his name’s Ken. We all shake hands. Miles says he’s a buddy of Elliot’s from Philly. Not from Philly but he goes to school there, studies jazz guitar. He says, this is my friend Kaila, she’s a writer. Ken smiles. He has nice teeth and he laughs in the right places. He says there’s sake and beer if you like. I’m a little nervous about being barefoot, what if I picked up a fungus or something. Then I decide to forget about it. Miles and I take a tour of the little studio, we look out a window and see a picnic table decorated in weed memorabilia. That’s psychedelic, Miles says. We sit on a rocky wooden bench and Miles sees this guy behind us with a camera, Pete. Are you a jazz photographer, he asks? Just a bass player with a camera, says Pete. We all laugh. This guy Pete knows his stuff. He has a 1958 Nikon around his neck. Still works, but you gotta wind the film by hand. Miles says, This is my friend Kaila, she’s a great writer. I tell him I go to NYU. Great school, he says, I went to Columbia then Fordam by Lincoln Center. I say I know it. We talk about how brevity is the greatest challenge of writing. Pete says Mark Twain thinks writing is like slitting your wrists and bleeding onto the page. I say I’m more into poetry because it’s brief. Our culture is filled with people in a rush to get on to other things.
Elliot comes waltzing into the room with a rusty old baritone sax and a flute. He’s a looker, Miles says, reminds him of a pirate. Certainly has the right beard. Also has this long Dred wrapped in red ties coming out the back of his black Euro-beanie. He’s dressed in a black tank and sweats and socks. All the musicians have their shoes off, in respect of the dojo. The keyboard guy has a mop of black curls and glasses, looks vaguely Middle Eastern. He faces away from the keyboard and presses his palms together over his heart and closes his eyes, like he’s some sort of monk. The bassist tunes his 5-string and does some licks to warm up. Ken tells us, here we are on this hot night but hopefully we cool it down with some of this jazz. If someone else had said it, it would’ve sounded corny. He sets himself up behind his playbox of percussive toys and the music starts. And boy is it like ecstasy. Like sex. Pure, dirty sex. The room is hot. Men wipe their faces and women fan themselves. They press their beers against their foreheads. Miles slaps his legs and stomps his feet like a loon. He rocks back and forth, shaking the bench. I feel the rhythmic vibrations go through my legs and my chest and my head. It is sex, this music, that’s what it is. Then Elliot fishes through some papers under his chair and reads his sex words and we sway and we yeah and we moan, we are certainly not human we are animals. I close my eyes and feel the heat on my skin, the damp moisture of the room. It smells like beer and rubber. People drink sake out of small mason jars. There are kids and they fall asleep on the floor. The keyboardist takes the tube out of his melodica and bangs it between the legs of the keyboard. The tempo increases, the musicians are at a presto, if they go much faster they might have heart attacks. We might have heart attacks. We are on speed. We are on ecstasy. We are on drugs that we didn’t even know existed. Elliot slaps the keys on his sax without air, he takes a swig from his water bottle, swishes, swallows, then blows into the bottle and makes cooing sounds, like doves.
At intermission I buy Miles two CDs and Elliot’s book because he’s out of cash. He’s grateful. I say, It’s for the art. We talk to the guys and Miles is delirious with pleasure. He says, This is my friend Kaila, she’s a writer and she’s really into bohemian poetry. We talk about the Beats and musical telepathy. I am tired and hungry and thirsty but we stay for the second set. We talk to Ken about the heartbeat of the music. We need the heartbeat, otherwise how can we live, Ken says. He gives a little laugh and flashes his teeth. He stands close to me and I back up a bit. Ken talks about polyrhythms and Africa. Miles says, You guys inspire me. Ken invites us to eat with them after the show. We sit on the floor with couscous, falafel, hummus. It is good. They are gracious and kind people. They can make music out of anything.
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Kaila Allison is a senior at New York University studying Creative Writing and Psychology. She has published fiction and nonfiction in Potluck Mag and Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.
Posted by E.S. Wynn
Love And Marriage
By Christine-Marie L. Dixon
The problem, darling, is that if I married you, you’d expect me to go to church every Sunday and iron your ties and while you wouldn’t expect me to cook dinner every night you’d hint about how nice it would be to have a home cooked meal every so often. And after a while we’d stop having sex because I’d be tired or you’d be tired or we wouldn’t want the kids to hear and sooner or later we’d stop spooning in the middle of the night and I would complain about your snoring so you’d move into your own bedroom down the hall. We’d grow old together like a spinster sister and a bachelor brother and leave the bathroom door open and I would stop shaving my legs and you’d stop working out and I’d develop a chronic shopping habit and you would become addicted to watching football and we’d stop making margaritas and sidecars and just stick to beer because opening a bottle is easier than mixing a drink.
It’s not your fault, darling, that you’re just the tiniest bit dull. In your last life you were a monk and you only masturbated twice, once when you were 16 and once when you were 57 and other than that your sexual experience was limited to the dirtier parts of the Bible and a night spent at your brother’s house when you overheard him fucking his wife who may or may not have been a lesbian but that’s beside the point
We would have been a good couple if we were farmers and I could churn butter while you planted crops and we could grow old and gray like that painting you like so much (you know the one I’m talking about) the one where the man is holding the pitchfork and the woman looks like she’s constipated. But as it is, I’d rather not drive a minivan and I think I might be a little embarrassed to take you to my high school reunion because of the way you laugh. It might be cute now but after a few years I suspect I would stop saying anything funny just so I wouldn’t have to hear that helium-propelled giggle that seems to fall out of your nose.
But… have a nice life and all.
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Christine-Marie L. Dixon is a writer and musician from Detroit.
Posted by E.S. Wynn
After The Wedding
By Jessie Marie Widner
Be gentle and strange, these are the things you tell yourself until the day you remember the suicide you planned three years ago, the suicide planned with the hand of the artist, the whole thing based on the idea of blood on white silk. But it had to be nice silk, expensive, raw silk. Once when you were younger you cut your hand and let it drip into a bowl of milk. You think about this often. It was fleeting of course, because once there was too much blood the milk went pink and it was no longer romantic. But no one wants to hear about that.
The night before your wedding you go to your sister’s house. She lives alone in a bungalow only a ten-minute walk from the apartment you and Edgar share. Your sister is a more tragic woman than you; she was pregnant once, and painted her house in pastel colours. It was three days before the baby shower that they told her the baby had died. They had to induce it, stillborn. You weren’t there when this happened; you were spending the summer in Paris with a man you no longer speak to. Your sister’s husband had left two years after the baby died. He told your sister that she was too different then from the woman he had married.
The walls are still pastel. Elaine never speaks of her sadness, in fact she smiles more than you do. You suspect she is easier to get along with than you are. You love her; she is the kind of person anyone would find hard to criticize. When she opens the door and sees your face she takes your hands. She takes you into the house. You sit on the sofa while she makes tea and when your voice comes it comes from far away.
“It’s not that I don’t want to marry Edgar, I do. I love Edgar. I don’t see why he would want to marry me.”
Elaine sits next to you. She’s your sister but she’s much older than you and you don’t look alike. “You can’t be serious,” she says, “You know he loves you. You’ve always known that.”
“It was in the fitting room at Holt Renfrew,” the police officer says. Elaine’s hands are shaking, “They found her quickly. I’m terribly sorry for your loss.”
“It’s my fault,” Elaine says after a little silence, “I encouraged her to marry him.”
The two police officers, a man and a woman, both white, both wearing paint-by-numbers sympathy on their faces, stand up. Elaine is sorry to see them go, even though she doesn’t know or particularly like them. She is aware of her loneliness, her sudden fragility like a yolk within her. Karen was a girl made of eggshells. Elaine opens a window to let the cold air in. The police officers are still sitting in their car. She wonders if either of them have ever lost anyone dear to them. Surely everyone has at some point or another.
Elaine doesn’t like to feel sorry for herself, but she feels in this moment that she’s been dealt a bad hand. She thinks about Karen, younger, prettier, dead. She thinks about how her own life has become contained, in this house, in the drawers of her desk, the books on her shelf, the food in her cupboards. She doesn’t go out very often. One forgets there are many ways to die.
“I won’t be a minute,” Karen is standing in the darkness, her hair longer than last time, dressed in a white pantsuit, an outfit she would not have been caught in before she died.
“You’re dead,” Elaine says, “What are you doing here?”
Karen moves soundlessly but she looks more or less flesh, blood, bone. Elaine takes her forearm as Karen moves past her into the house. She is warm to the touch.
“I don’t mean to burst in on you like this,” Karen says, in the living room now, her hands buried wrist deep in the couch cushions, “It’s just, I think I left something last time I was here.”
Karen cries out softly and draws her hand back out of the sofa. There is a thin line of blood across the side of her index finger. She smiles, “oh, I found it.” She reaches back in and pulls out a long razor blade, holds it up in front of her face.
“No,” Elaine says, stepping forward, “that’s not yours.” Karen appears to not have heard her. She walks towards the door. “You can’t leave,” Elaine rushes after her but Karen’s already standing at the door, one hand holding it open.
“I really must be off,” she says, head turning towards the night, “I’m sorry to bother you in middle of the night.”
Elaine watches her sister walk down the garden path, open the front gate, shut it behind her, and continue across the street. Before she disappears she turns and waves, smiling wide. The smile fades last, a glint of white teeth in the dark, empty street.
- - -
Jessie Widner is a writer based in Toronto, Ontario. Her work has appeared in the University College Literary Journal, Shorthand, and Lantern Magazine. Additionally, she is the founding editor of Klipspringer Magazine.
Posted by E.S. Wynn
The Islamic State and The Third Reich:
A Contrast in Efficiency
By Donal Mahoney
As any capitalist knows,
you must spend less
to make a profit,
which is why I admire those
running The Islamic State.
compared with those
who ran The Third Reich.
Who can forget the Nazis,
a terrorist group other nations
observed for years before
anyone did anything.
The Nazis gobbled up
land and people until
other countries stepped in.
Millions died, most
of them not Nazis.
The term "terrorist" wasn't used
when the Nazis herded Jews,
Gypsies and Gays into camps
and then into gas chambers.
The Nazi way cost money.
The Islamists know better.
Islamists take no prisoners,
have no concentration camps,
spend no money to gas victims.
Islamists chop off heads
or shoot infidels in the back.
Heads, torsos, bodies bake
and return to dust in the sun.
Once they're finished in Iraq
the Islamists may go to Gaza
and show Hamas how to win
without buying rockets.
Islamists get the same results
the Nazis did for less money.
They may not be capitalists but
they know how to cut expenses.
- - -
Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney has had work published in various publications in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his earliest work can be found at http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com/.
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