Categories
Issue III Nonfiction

[ADAM CHABOT]

Rearview Mirror

I remember the gold bangle, its ovular ends clinging to her tanned, aged-spotted wrist. Around her neck dangled an opulent display of gold and silver chains, perhaps the gaudy byproducts of a retirement slush fund, years of frugality or hard work manifesting in strange hauteur. In her left hand, she clutched a plastic cup sloshing with Diet Coke. 

A firm voice: “Hi. Do you mind? Yeah?” she said. 

She wore a maroon corduroy blazer with angular shoulder pads draped over a black turtleneck Her short artificially dark hair gelled into an undercut pixie made her face look smaller, her chin pointed and prominent, and her cheeks, eyes, and forehead smoother, everything delicately accentuated by calculated applications of beige eyeshadow and rosy blush. 

My four-year-old son, Oscar, and I were seated in a hard-plastic booth at the McDonald’s in Farmington, Maine—it was a father-son day where I let him pick our lunch destination—when this woman strode to us, her footfalls slapping the gray quarry tile. 

“I just have to…” she said, stopping at our table. Then with her free hand, she spread her fingers like claws, reached toward my son, and coursed her fingers through his hair.  

“My… This boy could make you a lot of money,” she said, wide-eyed, incredulous. She believed this revelation of hers could change our lives. 

--- 

Later, my wife was mortified when I told her what happened. 

“You let her touch his hair?” she said. “She’s probably some sort of child sex slave groomer or something.” 

“A child sex slave groomer?” 

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“What was I supposed to do?” 

--- 

Knuckle-deep into my son’s hair, the woman stopped and made an “oh” sound like someone pleased by the turn of a well-crafted poem. Her gold bangle combed the top of Oscar’s head, her ringed fingers hooked strands of hair like dead leaves tangled in a rake. I didn’t know what to do. The woman’s insistence, appearance, her weighty approach suggested a rationale, an ethos behind her violated public etiquette. But, Oscar’s always been a ham: he smiles at everyone, fearless in his childhood naivete. Maybe this woman was just too friendly, anachronistically benevolent to a young boy out to lunch with his father. 

Oscar looked at me undeterred by this woman encroaching on his lunch. To this day, he has never brought it up, never inquired, and by now, he’s likely forgotten the whole experience. 

“Have you considered getting him into show business? TV? Commercials?” These questions must have been rhetorical. She guffawed in disbelief when I replied with a basic “no.”  

“For photos, does he sit well? Take direction? Smile on cue?” she added, releasing her fingers.  

I actually could have answered those questions: “absolutely.” Oscar is very photogenic. My mother has added photos of Oscar in droves to her many overstuffed commemorative photo albums dating back to my infancy. Each book is a collage of elementary school programs, Little League rosters, images from Halloweens, birthday parties, and Thanksgivings, secondhand memories kept alive by a parent who sees value in everything. Even now, she would regale anyone with stories from my childhood as she recalled them. I never have my own memory of the stories, so over the years, I’ve remembered her smile, the way her voice wavers during the story’s exposition or its rises during the climax, her arms gesticulating, flailing with each new phrase. She loved reflecting on her days of wagoning my brother and me as three-year-olds down Main Street in Gorham, New Hampshire where we grew up, a small town where she could relish in a proximal, micro-celebrity status: the mother of twins born on different days. I don’t remember these wagon rides, but I can imagine my mother. The pride. Who wouldn’t want that attention? 

“You boys were something,” my mother once said. “Everyone said so. Everyone knew you guys.”  

Oscar scratched his head while clutching a French fry. This time, the woman waited for my reply, expectant. I said something but I can’t remember what. I know it wasn’t the truth. 

“The boy’s a gold mine. You’d be crazy not to do something.”  

And then she left. The cashier announced an order for a Big Mac. Someone was filling a cup with ice. 

The woman’s claims meant nothing but they existed, audible inside a rural McDonald’s and lingering in my mind like a distant train horn, a story I would tell without a conclusion. On the car ride home, Oscar fell asleep. In the rearview mirror, I could see the top of his head bouncing with each bump of Route 41. I called my mother without a real agenda, just to talk, perhaps for advice, but she didn’t answer.

[about]

Adam Chabot is the English Department Chair at Kents Hill School, a private, independent high school located in central Maine. He has other work forthcoming or recently featured in rough diamond poetry, FEED, The Red Lemon Review, Moss Puppy Magazine, and Windows Facing Windows Review, among others. He can be found on Twitter @adam_chabot.

Categories
Issue III Nonfiction

[LILA DUBOIS]

Good Morning

This morning I stayed in bed until I hated my bed. It was five minutes. I can’t stand myself when I’m not doing anything, so I hated myself for five minutes. I got up and walked towards my closet without regard for my sheets or my pillow or blanket or the dirty clothes I slept with. They will stay there, getting brittle in the sunlight along the veins of the wrinkles. All day, frying up and crisping at the edges. I don’t see the reason to make my bed if I’m just going to sleep in it again. By that logic I will make my bed once in my life. Although probably, that day will come without me knowing it. Hopefully. So then I’ll never have to make my bed. I once asked a magic eight ball at a sleepover when I would die. It said no. I put together that it had to be a yes or no question. I revised. Would I die before friday? It said no. But it could’ve said yes. I wavered on neutral, but wished I dreaded the latter more. My aunt gave me her tarot deck when I was thirteen. It smelled like weed and rainy playground asphalt. She told me no it was not silly, no it was not a fortune telling gimmick, it was a guide from the spirits. An angel kiss. A universe nudge. I liked the idea that a power I couldn’t see for some reason wanted to help me. I tried to be impartial when I interpreted the cards, but that’s impossible. I always do it wrong. I avoid fate at all costs. I avoid pattern at all costs. I won’t do things when it’s decided that I should. I won’t to do things when it’s decided that I must. Sometimes people still make me do those things. Like once, for example, in the backseat of a car. I didn’t say anything, so it wasn’t their fault. The underneath of their fingernails smelled like onion powder. I mostly just laid there, about five minutes. But, of course, since I was doing nothing, I hated myself. For five minutes. Plus when sometimes I still do. But mostly it just feels like there’s magnets in my head all ripping away through my brain to find their pair. I hate feeling helpless to situation. I hate feeling like I’m walking in a hallway where my shoulders touch each wall. I hate feeling like those cows shuffling to the slaughter in the vests for autistic people. I’ll do terrible things to avoid that feeling. I’m selfish too much. I have simultaneous imposters’ syndrome and a superiority complex, though I do best when I think of myself as little as possible. I am easily my least favorite person to be with. My aunt, the one with the hot-boxed tarot deck, is one of my favorites. She’s crazy. In a good, bad, and neutral way. She’s very kind. She talks a lot so she always eventually stumbles upon something really profound. She’s given me lots of good angel kisses and universe nudges that way. I wonder if she knows how much I remember of everything she says, because really I do. I trust her implicitly because I don’t think she’s ever done something she didn’t want to. She’s also very productive. In my opinion, the American economy has ruined the idea of productivity by making it seem like work is the only means to that end, when I’ve found most work - in that sense - to be unfulfilling and fruitless. We’re a wasteful society when it comes to people’s time and energy. Ideally we’ll spend about 85% of our lives living. Give or take 10%. If I ever become so depressed I have nothing better to do than make my bed, you should check in on me. I’d hate to become brittle in the sun.

[about]

Lila Dubois is an 19 year old waitress, musician, and student at the University of Pennsylvania who writes to explore the kaleidoscope of humanity in the seemingly mundane of everyday life (and also, for her own personal sanity). Her writing has been featured in various journals and recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards; her music can be found on all streaming services. She works out of Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Categories
Issue III Nonfiction

[SHANNON FROST GREENSTEIN]

When HIPAA Totally Ruins Your Best Six-Degrees-Removed-from-a-Celebrity Story

Did you just say you want to hear the story about the best celebrity from which I’m six degrees removed?

You didn’t? Oh.

Well, why don’t I tell it anyway??


1st Degree: That Celebrity

So, there was this celebrity, right? Only I can’t say who.

Why, because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), of course. It’ll have to suffice that you obviously would have known of this celebrity, because they were just that talented.

What’s that? No, it’s not Kevin Bacon. I’m talking about me here, and the six degrees between me and this huge celebrity, would you please pay attention?

ANYway, there was this celebrity, this really famous celebrity, and they died. I can’t give you any details, though, because HIPAA totally ruins this story. Let’s just say it was a sudden death, and it was a tragic death, and it was the type of death that people feel entitled to judge because our society views drug addiction as a character flaw.

Shit, was that too much to say? Am I in violation of any medical information protection laws?


2nd Degree: That Patient

So, there was also a hospital patient. I actually don’t know anything about him – apparently, once in a blue moon, HIPAA actually is good for something – but I do know he was in liver failure.

I also know at which equally famous hospital this was going down, but I can’t...yup, you got it, can’t tell you because of HIPAA. Now you’re starting to understand.

But, anyway, this patient desperately needed a liver transplant, and when someone needs a transplant – say, someone who is in the same area as a celebrity who has died, and is in need at the same time that a celebrity has died, and is offered a liver by a donor who passed in the same manner as a celebrity who has died – well, there’s a limited window of time for it to happen.

I’m sorry, what did you say?

No, of course the patient didn’t know whose liver he would receive when his transplant beeper went off, let alone that it could come from a celebrity who had just died in the same city at the same time with the same blood type and a liver to donate.

HIPAA laws, and all.


3rd Degree: That Med Student

Now, moving right along, there’s also a med student in this story. This med student was there when the patient and the patient’s family were told the liver was a match. He was still there when the patient and the patient’s family decided to turn down the transplant, because the donor had passed from a drug overdose.

The med student, of course, did know which celebrity had just passed, in which manner, in which city, and had just attempted to donate a liver.

HIPAA laws, and all.


4th Degree: That Med Student’s Fiancée

And, while all this was going on – and actually for a decade before – the med student’s fiancée had Anorexia.

I know, that came out of left field, right? But I swear this pertains to my best six-degrees-removed-from-a-celebrity story, even though it will totally end up just being ruined by HIPAA.

The fiancée had Anorexia and was spiraling downward; she had a lifetime of trauma, and felt desperately out of control. Wracked with torment, hating her body, hating the disease, she finally made the difficult decision to check herself into a residential program for intensive, fully-immersive treatment.

So, early one winter morning, she and the med student rented a car and drove in the dark to a well-regarded eating disorders facility, though I can’t give you any details about it because this facility is ALL ABOUT THE HIPAA LAWS.

Stick with me, we’re getting really close to the uncanny valley of my best celebrity encounter, removed by only six little degrees. Though, ultimately, I suspect it will be rather anticlimactic, thanks to...well, you can probably guess. #HIPAA


5th Degree: That Nurse at that Eating Disorders Facility

The fiancée would stay in the residential facility for two months, leaving only when her insurance company deemed she was well and refused to pay for further treatment. She worked very hard to heal, endearing herself to every single clinician – except, perhaps, the practitioner dubbed Nurse Rached by all the patients. Nurse Rached was precisely as bad as this moniker would suggest and then some, but – and this is essentially how I came to have such a famous celebrity story, so get ready – she also determined the sleeping arrangements.


6th Degree: That Roommate

Don’t you see what I’m getting at?

...

...

...

Well, women at this eating disorders facility stayed in dormitory-style housing, two patients to a room; and unshakeable bonds tended to form between roommates sharing the intense ordeal of processing trauma. The fiancée met her roommate that very first winter morning, thanks to Nurse Rached’s room assignments, the two became inseparable, and if it hasn’t dawned on you already, that roommate was me.

I mean, I’d love to tell you more about any part of this, but my hands are kinda tied by federal laws guarding medically-sensitive information. They really just decimate this whole story about my best six-degrees-of-celebrity encounter, if you ask me. Which you...sort of...did, though I bet you didn’t expect a story like this, and I bet you didn’t expect it to get ruined by HIPAA in the end.

Anyway, I left a month later, she got married, and we’re still really close friends. I’ll never forget her, just like I’ll never forgot rooming with the future wife of the med student who handled the transplant case for the patient who turned down a donor liver from a very famous celebrity because of the stigma of drug use during that time we stayed at a residential facility for eating disorders.

And THAT’s how I’m connected to...oh, whoops, I almost said it!

Do you even know how many HIPAA laws I would have violated???

[about]

Shannon Frost Greenstein (she/her) resides in Philadelphia with her children, soulmate, and persnickety cats. She is the author of “These Are a Few of My Least Favorite Things” (Poetry, Really Serious Literature, 2022), “Correspondence to Nowhere” (Nonfiction, Bone & Ink Press, 2022), and “An Oral History of One Day in Guyana” (Fiction, Sledgehammer Lit, 2022.) Shannon is a former Ph.D. candidate in Continental Philosophy and a multi-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Pithead Chapel, Bending Genres, and elsewhere. Follow her at shannonfrostgreenstein.com or on Twitter at @ShannonFrostGre.

Categories
Issue III Nonfiction

[MADYSON GRANT ORNELAS]

Trailer Princess

I’m certain no American has actually lived the full suburban experience we were
promised as kids. No guys are throwing rocks at my window to take back something they said and I’m no closer to being invited into the neighborhood bike gang of preteen boys waiting to adopt me into their newest Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I can’t help but feel a sense of loss at the screaming hordes of trick-or-treating children I’ve missed being part of during Halloween or annual cul-de-sac soccer games I’ll never have the pleasure of seeing. In lieu of the traditional travel pamphlet Americana, I was raised on trailer park manners and the rulings of being a landlord’s granddaughter in a trailer park in the upstate of South Carolina. While most parents told their children to study hard and work for a better future, my only rules were “don’t go in the woods or you’ll get shot” and “don’t go near the trucker’s lot or you’ll get shot,” along with “avoid the river on Tuesdays because that’s where the guy from lot six showers after his shift.”

It’s not to say I never had my share of suburban experiences. I’ve lived in America my entire life. I know people with five bedroom houses and real granite countertops whose plastic strips don’t peel off with the melted glue in the summer. But oftentimes, after going to their house, I find whatever connection we’ve had in the first place ends up being lost in favor of pointing out the movie set ability of their home. Every time I come back from one of those houses, I turn into a realtor as I describe the experience to my dad using terms like “open floor plan” and “lots of room for future growth.”

“They put the cereal away in the pantry.”

“But where was their shelf in the linen closet?” He asks, like he just witnessed the election of an untrained parrot to office.

“They didn’t have one. It was just towels.”

“That’s horrible.”

How does one function without the daily ritual of digging under sheets and pillowcases for their Cheerios? Where’s the character building, the immense growth that comes along with finding your Captain Crunch devoid of mothballs for once?



As kids, my brother and I lived perfectly fine in our triple-wide. He had his own room. I had a pink, 8x8 box with what could loosely be defined as the bare minimum of a walk-in closet and a wooden, castle-themed bunk bed I drew stars and ill-formed bobble-headed dogs and cats on. We even had a sunroom, complete with a fireplace and large wire birdcage home to a blue budgie who mysteriously disappeared right around the time we got the animal my dad fondly referred to as the “hell cat.” It’s possible she saw being eaten alive as a better alternative to what my brother and I put her through.

Despite the lack of a mother or clear feminine presence in the house, dishes were washed and put away with minimal complaining and, most days, the laundry was done by a woman who rented one of the trailers down the hill from us. We were the kind of trailer trash that could afford a maid. The top of the hick social ladder, somewhere between antebellum weddings and men who organize 50s era car shows.

It should be noted that, although we were living in a mobile home park, the house belonged to my father. The people to the right of us were true rednecks, with lawn bathtubs and blankets over the windows to show for it. All five homes were rented to tenants by my grandfather so, not to brag, but I was a bit of a mobile home park queen. Seven years old and I could name three different types of trailers and the best manufacturer to buy your homes from. While other little girls were practicing ballet in their multi-floored houses and swimming in neighborhood pools, I was learning the ins and outs of landlord law and the most legal way to kick out unruly tenants.

“You’ll want to make sure they leave the fridge and the stove if they haven’t brought their own,” my grandfather says, right along with teaching me my multiplication tables. “If the ceiling is peeling, let them take it.”

That was the worst thing about the park. Worse than the gun-waving womanizers behind us or the lesbian smokers living by the cattails with the red-eyed retriever. The trash we found cleaning trailers after the fact, when tenants moved on to a different park or whoever would take them. My cousin cleaned out one to move into as soon as he turned eighteen and enlisted my brother, fourteen at the time, to help. The couple formerly in the trailer were a pair of autoshop mechanics, one with an amputated arm from a childhood injury. Along with a stripper pole, bucket of shit, and bags of questionable leather clothing, my brother found multiple CDs in their cases labeled “Nikki and Nubby.” It was a very child friendly place to grow up.



I didn’t have my first encounter with someone from traditional “suburbia” until I was eight years old. A girl from my Sunday school invited me to her ninth birthday party with a shiny, holographic envelope sealed with a Hannah Montana sticker, every girl’s fixation in the early 2000s. We were too young to be caught in the pretty-boy clutches of One Direction or SOS and were charmed by Hannah and the peril of her secret identity, her mechanical walk-in closet and somewhat manic best friend. What’s more, she was attainable. Every other popstar or princess we were told to admire was from a medieval country about 400 years too early for us, or from a city as mythical as Los Angeles or New York. The girl who invited me, Mary Evelyn Gaddis, had officially earned my trust with something as sacred as Miley Cyrus.

Her house was about the size of four double-wides stacked on top of each other. Possibly more. She had real hardwood floors and clean white walls that reached to the heavens, or at least the second floor, with overgrown grey suburban couches spanning the entirety of semi-truck sized living room. The yard outside was perfectly trimmed not by a woman looking to get five hundred bucks off her rent, but her real, teen movie dad who wore polos and cargo pants like all men named “Greg” should.

In her room upstairs, Mary Evelyn sat me next to three other girls all with varying names beginning with M: a requirement I hadn’t previously listed on my collection of things I thought were required to be a rich girl in suburbia. Naively, I thought the only things previously needed were to be blonde, or have a love for Jeeps. But, of course, this was at the point in my life where I was limited to only one elevation in a floorplan. My knowledge hadn’t yet reached the heights of the second floor.

The three girls seemed unimpressed with me at first, despite the disaster they seemed to be caught in with Melissa, Mazie, and Mary Gaston (I know, double Mary’s at one birthday party, how cliché) fighting over the politics of who was actually Mary Evelyn’s best friend and whether they should play Twisted or Operation. It wasn’t until I volunteered false information about a boy Mary Evelyn liked and started a chain reaction of mini backstabbing that cultivated in traitorous knowledge of a love triangle between Gaston, Evelyn, and a boy who played soccer for the elementary church league did they find me interesting. If I didn’t have the means to be part of suburbia, I could at least con my way into it.

The two Mary’s stared at each other from across their Hannah Montana bean bags and went quiet. This, I knew well from my time in the trailer park. Men paid my grandfather for the right to hunt in the woods behind our house, and I had experience with looking predator and prey in the eye as they hauled their prizes up on trucks when leaving the park driveway. While the moment was still and there was no danger, it’s better to leave when you have the chance. Otherwise, you’ll end up with your leg in a bear trap.

I made an excuse to use the restroom as the girls fought over whose right it was to marry Jackson (“I gave him my candy on Halloween”/ “He gave me his dragon necklace!”) and faced the stairs. Through the slats in the banister, I saw her mother drinking on the puffy polyester couch and watching a daytime show of fabulous women in far-away cities fighting over who had the best house or the most successful husband. One of the girls holding a luxury purse complained about her housekeeper not cleaning her baseboards enough, that she could still see the dirt every morning when she took her dog out. I watched as Mrs. Gaddis sprawled between her daughter’s unwrapped gifts and the cheese plate she made for us earlier in the day, picking grapes off one by one and slowly rolling them into her mouth as she stared, listless, at the screen.

“Was that it?” My best friend asks later, while I’m recanting the tale to her as we try to paint my popcorn ceiling purple with nail polish from the top of my bunk bed. She’s hunched over the edge of the railing of the castle bed, reaching vainly with short, childish arms. “She was just laying there? Like a zombie?”

“Straight out of the movies.”

“Scary.”

I watch her cover the edges of the light and lay flat on my back like Mary Evelyn’s mom, all stretched out and emotionless. I spread my fingers and imagine the gifts at my feet and a blanket of wrapping paper, the soap opera on in the background and my daughter arguing upstairs. At my side, Bailey reaches for the center of the lamp. She still can’t reach it. 

[about]

Madyson Grant is a freshman majoring in Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College. Her work has previously been published in the 2020 YoungArts Regional Anthology and the 2020 Kelly Writers’ House Summer Anthology. She has also been recognized for her writing by Scholastics, among others.

Categories
Issue 2 Nonfiction

[CAMILLE LEWIS]

SourCandy

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[about]

Camille Elizabeth Lewis is an avid reader and fledgling writer who lives and learns with borderline personality disorder. Her recent publications include poetry in Anti-Heroin Chic, Brave Voices Mag, and Sledgehammer Lit. She can be found indulging heavily in the Plath fantasia and crossing off days on a calendar until the next instalment of the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series is released. Camille resides in South West England.

Categories
Issue I Nonfiction

[AZIMUTH]

Banjo Epiphany

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[about]

Azimuth is a brother, friend, and globetrotter who occasionally writes and tries to grow things. His work has been published in The Sun magazine, The Daily Tar Heel, and Freedom from Religion News, among other outlets. He dreams of being able to dance salsa again one the pandemic is over, but is settling for very inconsistently learning how to play the ukulele his mother bought him five years ago. A Southern Gentleman at heart, he currently makes his home in West Oakland, California.