Bienvenidos a Pilsen

By: todd Gastelum

One

I was used to rebooting my life: CTL+ALT+DEL and voilà, tabula rasa.

About to turn thirty, it was time for me to move. Once again, I was leaving a boyfriend I’d taken up with in a previous life. Once again, it was me who fucked things up. Now I needed my own place. I was hoping for the top floor of a brick three-flat, preferably with hardwood floors, a bay window, and crown molding. Somewhere near the 18th Street stop on the Blue Line with a view of buckled chimneys, waltzing antennas and the Baroque twin towers of St. Adalbert’s.

That’s not the apartment I found.

My new place was the rear unit on the top floor of an architecturally featureless building, whose ground floor taquería would eventually add another ten pounds to my frame. The apartment had been recently remodeled with a coat of white matte and cheap beige linoleum that still reeked of glue. There were just three rooms: a bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchen/dining/living room too cramped to qualify as open concept. All the doors were standard-issue Home Depot as were the kitchen cabinets and bathroom fixtures. The tiny window over the kitchen sink gazed into a narrow air shaft, and the double-paned windows behind my futon framed an alley with a backbone of splintered utility poles and drooping cables. If I lived a dozen floors higher, I’d have been able to see the lake, but I didn’t and I couldn’t. I had no link to the natural world—only the constant rumbling of big rigs speeding toward the Stevenson Expressway.

Book Review: Alice Anderson’s “Some Bright Morning I’ll Fly Away”

By: Kaia Gallagher

In Some Bright Morning I’ll Fly Away, Alice Anderson proves she is a survivor no matter what life throws at her. Her memoir recounts a decade-long battle to protect her three children from a vengeful, violence-prone ex-husband. The courts provide little help, encouraging family reunification rather than assuring the safety of an abused spouse.

Anderson is no stranger to hardship. Early in her writing career, she recounted her determination to overcome her father’s sexual abuse in an award-winning book of poetry. Human Nature is a harrowing description of a young girl’s fight for a future despite a childhood filled with incest and violence. It won the 1994 Elmer Holmes Bobst Award for Emerging Writers.

Despite her early success as a poet and international fashion model, Anderson is haunted by her past: “Something about [being a model] made me feel used up, consumed, like I was the little girl my father gobbled up all over again, his sexual abuse consuming in a drunken, hungry rage all the best parts of me until I was nothing, but a pretty, performing doll.” She becomes ripe for a relationship with Liam, her ex-husband whom she sees as someone trying equally hard to escape his family demons. Her spiral down into acquiescence is gradual, with an ever-tightening noose that threatens to erase not only Anderson’s very identity but also her life.

Rubber On Wheels


by jim kelly

Side by side at a stoplight, engines revving, roaring. “Teach them a lesson?” Fat Leonard shouts. My big brother, riding shotgun, nods. Turning, he hollers for me to “hold on.” Fourteen, drunk, I have nothing to hold on to. Below me, cement, the floor having long since rusted out, fallen away. For safety’s sake my feet rest on a single, hopping-around piece of jammed-in two-by-four. Junker with a crap paint job, a scrounged joke of a thing with a monster engine dropped in. Engine with more power than this stripped down, rattly ass car was ever meant to handle. Beside us a shiny new, daddy-bought, big engine Buick. Front seat and back, it’s full up with shouting guys. Pointing at us, laughing, calling names.

It’s summer 1964 and the muscle car is king, faster the better. Late nights in a shut down Shell station. The one Fat Leonard runs. His call when to quit pumping gas, close down, then open up for his friends to work on cars. Allowed, if I keep shut, I watch, all eyes, all ears, as my brother and his buddies turn junkyard finds into hotrods. Dross into dreams. A tiny, greasy front radio with a single, broke-tip antennae plays and quits, plays and quits. Somebody shakes it. Somebody punches it. Off and on rock and roll, at no set intervals, all night long. Ragged bits and howling, truncated pieces. Blue air thick, molten at the top of the tire racks from all those cigarettes, one after another. Drained, stomped flat beer cans kicked out of the way, piling up.

Algonquin

by jane katims

I find myself on 44th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, in front of a gallery displaying award-winning photographs by students.   I shade my eyes with my hand and peer through the window of the gallery — inside, a reception party is in progress, glasses of wine poured and passed around, animated conversation, laughter.  A tempting sight, but I prefer to look in on it from the outside, prefer to be free to move away, to feel the spring air, and to let my own thoughts encircle me.  For a moment, I stand on the corner, observing life on the street.

I wander down 44th.  At the entrance of the Algonquin Hotel, a doorman nods, opens the glass doors for me.  In the hotel’s large lobby-lounge, a woman with a beaded black jacket with sequins around the collar sits on a couch.  Her legs are crossed, she holds a yellow iced drink.  A man with a martini sits close to the woman, his arm around her.

Escape From Delhi

by scott morris

I am at the exact furthest point from home possible—zenith or nadir, depending on perspective—standing at the immigration counter at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, body wracked with some stewing South Asian pestilence stirring up the worst kind of hallucinations, trying to get the fuck out of India.

Earlier that night the proprietress of the hostel had given me some expired medication. She assured me it would fix me right up, quiet the internal motion of unwell, that she had seen all this before, but the only difference it made was that I had started passing out periodically, the first time while walking into the train station. I had to lie on a bench for a while to regain enough strength to get through security, all while a circle of Indian men crowded around, shouting offers of every type of service imaginable at this prone and seemingly dead American man. The modern train was built for western tourists, and I was the only passenger, thankfully alone to save myself the embarrassment of having others watch me vomit into a plastic bag.

On Austerity

by F. C. Brown Cloud

Despite his $90k/year coding gig in Silicon Valley, Nate dressed for work in the dark.

This was Classic Nate, mind you. Pre-sex-cult, depressed and reckless and bizarre. Always more than a little tense because, like most of us, he wanted to be loved, but lamented that he’d gotten laid only twice in the last five years. Once by Angela, bipolar friend of a friend who seemed to be bedding somebody almost every night during her episodes. And once by a visiting Israeli his parents arranged for him to meet. He drove her around aimlessly through night, punched the roof of his car when she asked for a cigarette (his pack fell from its perch above the passenger-side sun visor to land in her lap), and regaled her with stories about the United States. I like to imagine that some of those stories were about me. Then, in a parking lot alongside Half Moon Bay, he was shocked to find her climbing over the central console to unbutton his jeans and straddle him. Shafts of sunlight stabbed over the bluffs behind them.

A few hours later, Nate dropped her off at the airport. His life was back to nothing.

Slapping

BY BILL RATNER

I was nineteen, and it was a long time ago, and the only thing I really had to go on back then regarding courtship and intimacy was what my friends said was okay to do and how my parents had behaved long before that. The rumor was, my friend Terry and his girlfriend Caroline were slapping each other around in his dorm room at night, or at least Terry was slapping Caroline—as a thing—more than once. In my memory of it I’ve probably added the part where she slapped him back, because that way it would have at least been even. Caroline was beautiful. She wore backless gowns to the dorm parties and didn’t care how her hair looked. She and Terry were together all the time. I guess she loved him. Terry’s father was a preacher in a large southern town. Perhaps they were the slapping kind.

Dark Matters

By Craig Clevenger

Dark Matters image small

“You’re a smart kid. Figure it out.” — The Hitcher, 1986

Every ghost story is, at its core, about the struggle to be recognized; about the dead—invisible and immaterial—and their efforts to be received by the living, who in turn must do likewise among those not being haunted. Witness the typical second-act protest in a typical horror film: “I’m not crazy. I know what I saw. I was there.” For the living, to be similarly disregarded—to be treated like a ghost—can be worse than meeting one. I don’t write ghost stories, but I do write about characters who are both figuratively haunted and who have in some fashion themselves been rendered ghosts. People call my stories dark.

Afterwards

By Jacqueline Kolosov

Almost it would appear that it is useless in such confusion to ask the night those questions as to what, and why, and wherefore, which tempt the sleeper from his bed to seek an answer—

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

End of Week Twenty-Four by Pregnancy’s Calendar

In these final, amber-lit days of October, the New Mexico aspen and cottonwood trees still hold their yellow-gold leaves. Climbing higher into Santa Fe’s foothills, I roll down the windows to breathe in the gin smell of juniper and scents far less easy to identify in this dry, high altitude air. The last time I was here, five months ago, feathery yellow poppies and purple lupine flanked the steep gravel road leading up to the tiny house at the top. Now it’s all fiddle-shaped scorpion weed and brown-edged yucca and cacti, though I notice some wild gourds growing along the roadside, and red-cheeked flickers with speckled breasts, a male and a female, flitting in and out of the scrub pine.