said Recy said
Anita said Tarana
said you said
The glass breath of winter
caresses my cheek,
as the idea of snow
hangs in the sky,
and my gloved hand
this evening walk
across crackling grass,
our daughter before us,
unhesitatingly alive to the world;
such heaven to be found
Every Other Weekend//James William Gardner
Leon Sheffield didn’t hear the four o’clock whistle. He was still busy attaching the hardware on a new chest of drawers when Kenny Davis walked by. “Hey Buddy, it’s quitting time. Come on.” He grabbed his lunchbox and followed Kenny Davis across the assembly floor to the time clock. “You get Bobby this weekend?”
“Yeah, I got to drive down to Rock Hill and pick him up from Lisa.”
“What are y’all going to do, anything exciting?”
“Oh, I thought we might hike up Turkey Cock Mountain if the weather’s nice, maybe sit up on the rocks and have a picnic.”
“That sounds like fun. I think it’s supposed to be pretty. Darryl has his first football game at eight o’clock tomorrow morning over in Gretna. I got to get there early because I’m helping coach this year.”
“You’re lucky to be able to do that. I mean, spend that kind of time with your boy.”
“Well, it’s a lot of work. I’m coaching the defensive line. We practice five nights a week and then there’s a game every Saturday, but I enjoy it. Darryl’s really turning into quite a ballplayer.”
“That’s great, Kenny. He’s big for his age anyway.”
“Wanda Sue is helping out too. She’s working with the cheerleaders so it’s something we all do together.”
Leon Sheffield took his employee card and swiped it. Then he and Kenny Davis walked out of the plant. The bright afternoon sun gleamed off the cars in the employee parking lot. Leon Sheffield paused to light a cigarette. “You want one, Kenny?” He held out the pack.
“God knows, I’m trying to quit, I ain’t smoked one since Tuesday.”
“I’m sorry, you didn’t say nothing about it.”
“Well, I decided that I wouldn’t. All I do is talk. I get tired of listening to myself. This time though I’m just going to do it. Hey Leon, how long does it take you to get down to Rock Hill, anyway?”
“Right at three hours. It’s about half way, a little farther for me than it is for Lisa, but there’s not much difference.”
“How is, Lisa? Is she getting along all right down there?”
“Yeah, she’s doing real well. She’s got her a good paying job and a nice little townhouse. I ain’t been down there to see it, but she was telling me about it. Bobby seems to like it all right, so that’s good. North Augusta is a right pretty place. The schools are good. You know Bobby started first grade this year.”
“Yeah, I knew that. I’m happy things are going okay. Well, I got to get on to the house and get Darryl to practice. Y’all have a good visit. I’ll see you Monday.”
“Take it easy, Kenny. Tell Darryl I wish him luck tomorrow.” Leon Sheffield walked across the parking lot and opened the door of his pickup. At that moment his phone rang. It was Lisa calling. “Hello?” he said.
“Have you left yet?” she said.
“Hell, Lisa I just walked out of the plant.”
“I don’t want to have to sit there and wait on you tonight. I’ve got plans this weekend. Me and Rodney are going to the beach. Last time you were forty-five minutes late.”
“I’ll be there by eight o’clock or before. I need to stop and fill up my tank is all. How’s Bobby feeling? Is he better?”
“Yes. I kept him home for two days when he had the fever, but he’s okay now. He’s looking forward to seeing you. It’s all he talks about. He said you told him y’all were going to go on a hike.”
“I was thinking about it.”
“Well, remember he ain’t but six years old.”
“I know how old he is. Did you pack his Sunday clothes?”
“Yes, Leon,” she said.
“All right, I’m headed out right now. I’ll see you at eight. Tell Bobby I love him.”
She said goodbye and he hung up. Then he shut the door of the truck, started the engine and pulled out of the lot. In Bassett Forks he stopped for gas and checked his oil. It was okay. The old Chevrolet was running good. That was a blessing. He had nearly a hundred and ninety thousand miles on it, but he couldn’t afford a new one. Not right now with child support and everything. “I got twenty-five on pump three,” he told the cashier. He put a bag of Fritos and a bottle of Pepsi-Cola up on the counter too.
He jumped on the Martinsville bypass and was in Ridgeway when his phone rang again. This time it was his mother. “Hey Momma,” he said.
“I thought you was coming by the house?”
“I ain’t got time. Lisa was blessing me out for being late. I promised I’d be there.”
“Well, I fixed you and Bobby some good ham sandwiches for the ride back. I know y’all will get hungry.”
“Save them and we’ll take them with us tomorrow for lunch. I’ll probably stop in Lexington on the way back at that good barbecue place anyway if it ain’t too late. We’ll get us something.
“Make sure and get Bobby something good.”
“Y’all meeting up in Rock Hill again?”
“Yes, at the Waffle House there. Evidently Lisa has a big weekend planned with that new boyfriend of her’s. They’re going down to the beach, she said. I think the guy’s family has a house down there.”
“Well, good for her. She always did care more about money than anything else.”
“Oh now Momma, don’t say that. Lisa’s a good girl. She’s a good mother to Bobby. She just wants the best for him.”
“She don’t take him to church.”
“I think she does once and a while. You know, she never really went to church herself growing up. Her Momma and Daddy didn’t go. She don’t understand how important it is for Bobby.”
“I reckon all we can do is the best we can,” she sighed complacently. “What time will y’all get back home tonight?”
“Sometime between eleven-thirty and midnight, I would say. Maybe a little later if we stop there in Lexington. You aim on sitting up?”
“Yes, I’ll be awake. Be careful driving. I worry about y’all out so late. There’s so many drunks on the road.”
“We’ll be fine. Don’t worry. I’ll see you tonight, Momma.”
“I love you, Leon Honey. I know this is mighty hard on you.”
“I love you too, Momma.”
The fact was that the trips to Rock Hill were hard on Leon Sheffield. He hated the drive down almost as much as the drive back on Sunday. Oh, he wanted to see his son more than anything, but in a way he dreaded it too. The weekends were so short and they made him painfully aware of how little he was really involved in Bobby’s life. The divorce was never his idea. He wanted to stay together and raise their son in a proper home, but Lisa couldn’t stand it. She wanted out. She looked at their marriage as one big mistake. So, when Homestead Yarns offered her the job in North Augusta she grabbed it.
“Leon, sit down here a minute,” she’d said. “We need to talk.”
In truth, he wasn’t really surprised. He knew how she felt. But, the thought of being separated from his son was almost more than he could stand. That was over two years ago, but time didn’t make any difference. It was just as painful now as it was the first time. It was all he could do not to cry. He’d never do it in front of Bobby though.
Bobby would cry sometimes. He’d say, “I don’t want to go back. I want to stay here with you and Granny.”
“I know Bobby. I wish to the Lord you could. There’s nothing in this world that would make me any happier. Don’t you know that? You mean everything to me.”
More than the almost constant sorrow that he felt was an overwhelming sense of loneliness. It was a void that no one else could fill.
It was a quarter after five when he crossed into North Carolina. He had the window down and his elbow out. The warn air smelled good. He tried to get his mind on other things. He thought about hiking up the mountain and how it was going to be. Then, an idea struck him. He’d call Ellis and see if he and Dale wanted to come along. He reached for his phone and dialed his brother’s number. Ellis Sheffield answered.
“Hey man!” said Leon Sheffield enthusiastically. “What’re y’all up to?”
“Nothing,” replied his brother. “We’re just waiting for Virginia to get supper on the table. How about you? Are you on your way down to pickup Bobby?”
“Yeah, hey listen, I was thinking about hiking up Turkey Cock Mountain in the morning. You and Dale want to come? We could pack us a lunch and eat up on top.”
“We might want to do that. I don’t know. We’re planning to go fishing tomorrow evening down at Doc Waller’s pond, but we ain’t got nothing to do during the day. I was aiming on cutting the yard, but I don’t have to. I’ll see what Dale has to say and call you back.”
“I know Bobby would love to see y’all.”
“I’ll call you back after supper.”
Bobby was crazy about his cousin Dale. He was twelve years old. Leon Sheffield thought that it was a good thing for his son to spend time with his family. He wanted Bobby to feel that he was a part of things. He began to imagine what it would be like with the four of them. He could see Bobby and Dale walking side by side through the woods, the morning sun filtering through the leaves above and sitting together up on the rocks eating ham sandwiches. He played the scenario over and over in his mind.
“Daddy, me and Dale want us walking sticks like you and Uncle Ellis got.”
“Well, we’ll just make you a couple.” Then he’d look around for some suitable pieces of cherry and strip off the bark with his pocket knife.
“Daddy, when can I have me a knife?” Bobby would ask.
“When you get a little older,” he’d say.
“When I’m eight?”
“Maybe so, my Daddy gave me my first Barlow knife when I was about that age.” There were so many things that he wanted to do, wanted so much to share with his boy. Somebody else would be doing those things. Maybe Lisa or worse yet, that guy Rodney.
“Do you see Rodney a lot?”
“Pretty much,” answered his son.
“What’s he like?”
“He’s nice. He’s got real black hair and has a really cool car, a Jaguar. It’s black too.”
Leon Sheffield imagined what the guy must look like. He pictured Bobby and Lisa with him, riding around in the black Jaguar. “What all do y’all do?”
“We go out to eat a lot. I ate a snail!”
“You did? Was it good?”
“Not very good,” Bobby answered. He made a face.
By six-fifteen he was driving through Greensboro. The traffic was bumper to bumper until he got onto Interstate Eighty-Five. Then he was able to make some time. He finished his Pepsi and the bag of corn chips and lit a cigarette. He could hear Lisa. “Don’t you smoke in that truck with Bobby in there.”
“I won’t,” he promised.
He figured that they’d get down off the mountain by about five. His Momma would have supper waiting, Bobby’s favorite, fried chicken. Afterward, they’d get their showers and then sit up late and watch old cowboy movies with the lights off and eat popcorn. On Sunday, they’d go to church. Bobby would sit between them. When the service was over everybody would go to the fish house out on the highway. Bobby would get shrimp like usual. Everything would be like usual. Then they would have to pack up and leave to meet Lisa in Rock Hill at six and the weekend would be over. He began to dread that part already. It always loomed in the back of his mind and clouded everything. Even when he’d say hello he was worrying about goodbye.
The phone rang again as he was getting into Charlotte. “It was Ellis. “Yeah, we’ll go with y’all tomorrow. Dale’s excited about it. What time?”
“Oh, I reckon we ought to get an early start. It’s about four miles from Momma’s up to the top and you know Bobby. He’ll want to stop and look at everything. Y’all plan on about eight. We’ll pack lunch. You don’t have to worry about that. You might pick us up some drinks though.”
“I got that little soft cooler I’ll bring. That’ll keep them good and cold. What’s Bobby like?”
“Mountain Dew’s his favorite.”
“Well, I’ll get some. Dale likes Mountain Dew too.”
“All right, Ellis. That sounds good. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Okay, we’ll see you about eight.
The sun was setting when Leon Sheffield pulled into the Waffle House parking lot in Rock Hill. There was a new black Jaguar sitting there. He pulled the truck up and got out. He couldn’t see anybody through the tinted glass. Then the back door opened and Bobby jumped out. “Daddy!” he yelled. He ran up and threw his arms around Leon Sheffield’s waist. They just stood there and hugged each other for a minute and in that one moment the sadness melted away and everything was all right.
The Fool//Rachel Tramonte
Look at the clouds in the sky featuring
me, me, me and my many mistakes.
I was the one who bought their lies online in the movies at the mall
Buy two tenents get the third, free
Tenets of the school of heterosexual girls
1. it’s okay to drink the blood of boys and men
2. subvert your own pleasure to avoid pain
3. dehumanize subject and object, and repeat
I was the one who thought lightning, the kind you see in het porn
full of its valley inhabitants, was the only spark.
I was the one who sent the idiotic email to the muse:
you are amazing
or I am here waving, drowning
in the preordained dead sea of sex.
I was the one who married the two wrong men;
the one who bled on the published poet’s floor pillow.
I was the one gone, flipping over
the seal in a sea of oil.
I was the one who spent a life’s work on worry.
I was the one who learned that evading authenticity
drains marrow from the bone .and that the shiny black rock
in the center of the heart is meant for a ring you can put on another finger.
I bought the plot of heterosexuality and then closed the book.
Venus Visible from Mount Rainier//Alyssandra Tobin
The mountain’s peaks roll
like a grandmother’s belly,
laughing, bed-shaped, never cold —
Rainier speaks like cellos
& willow leaves landing on lakes.
She writes reminders and texts them to my phone:
— (!) Tonight Venus will be visible without a telescope.
— (!) Tomorrow, 12:30, endodontist appointment. 2:30, haircut.
— (!) Tomorrow Venus will lift a fox up into the sky and graft him onto the stars.
— (!) The next night his she-fox will cry,
will throw stones through church windows.
She will make an altar in your mouth.
And so it all is.
She-fox locks a candle between my lips
& shows me the clean white fangs
that blind her on her favorite nights.
Her prayers hunting upwards,
towards the eyes of the mountain,
to ask Rainier if one day
we may go with peaceful bodies
stolen at the same time
by the same god.
Arika Elizenberry is a native of Las Vegas, Nevada. She’s a published poet and short story writer with her works having appeared in publications like the Thrush, Neon Dreams, Blue Lyra Review, Foliate Oak, and 300 Days of Sun. She is currently a student at Nevada State College working on her B.A. in English.
Edward Lee’s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. His debut poetry collection “Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge” was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection. His blog can be found at https://peanutsfromthecheapseats.blogspot.ie
A native of Southwest Virginia, James William Gardner writes extensively about the contemporary American south. The writer explores aspects of southern culture often overlooked: the downtrodden, the impoverished and those marginalized by society. His work has been nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. Deep South Magazine, Newfound Journal, The Virginia Literary Journal, The Mulberry Fork Review, Straylight Literary Magazine, The Ginosko Literary Journal, The Fredericksburg Literary Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Scholars & Rogues Literary Journal, Constellations Journal of Poetry and Fiction Anthology, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Huesoloco Journal.
Rachel Tramonte lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her partner and their two daughters. Her poems have appeared in Third Wednesday, GFT, The Alembic, Jelly Bucket and other journals and magazines.
Alyssandra Tobin is a poet and short fiction writer who has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Ireland home. She has been published or has work forthcoming in Juked, Figure 1, Bad Pony, Atticus Review, Curbside Splendor, and others, and was awarded the Douglas A. Pinta Award in 2015. She recently finished her MA in Creative Writing at the University College Cork.