Michael A. Ferro//Hot Enough
“I posted something about that. Did you see it?”
“About the attack?”
“Yeah, wasn’t it horrible? God, it was so sad,” the woman said. “Did you see what I posted?”
“No, I don’t think I saw it, but yeah, such a tragedy,” Sarah said, shaking her head down toward the table.
These things had been happening more frequently as of late. It felt as if the world were heating up — literally and figuratively — billions of people as tiny molecules no longer content to coexist in accord, instead predestined to begin bouncing off of one another, agitated, the space between them growing and pooling with uncertainty. Sarah lightly stirred her coffee and looked back at the other woman.
“So what did you say?”
“In that thing you said you posted.”
“Oh, it was an article from some news site about why they want to attack us. From NPR, I think.”
“I see. So what did it say was the reason?”
“Oh, you know, it was just about how they’re pissed off because of the way we live, I think. It had a lot of likes.”
“What were some of the things it said? Did it explain why they’re so angry?”
The woman set her cup and phone down on the table, readying herself.
“Well, I can tell you one thing,” she began, her voice noticeably louder. “The way we treat those people is insane! Just ridiculous! All these new rules and regulations on them. Making them do this and that. Calling them all horrible things, like they all did it together or something. Disgusting.”
“Oh, I agree. It’s terrible. It’s misguided to paint everyone with the same broad brush.”
“I know!” the woman said and threw her hands up.
“Is that something the article mentioned?” Sarah asked.
“I don’t know, but it’s sick is what it is. A few psychos act crazy and attack and here we go trying to tie ‘em all together into one big knot. The real problem is the way we treat them. We need to make them feel welcome.”
“Sure, I agree. But is that why the radicalized ones attack us?”
“Probably! How would you feel if everyone you met demonized you?”
“I honestly don’t know; I can’t imagine.”
Sarah took a sip of her coffee, surprised that it was still hot enough to burn her tongue. She could now see the steam rising off it.
“I mean, don’t you feel like they have good reason to be pissed?” the woman asked Sarah. “We practically invite them to attack us. We ask for it, treating them like garbage.”
“I can certainly understand why some of them feel persecuted. I just don’t know why this is all happening now. It’s all so intense.”
“It’s because of how we treat them!” The woman was practically yelling. “It’s no wonder!”
“I don’t know,” Sarah said. “It’s all so confusing — this new world.”
The woman’s phone buzzed and she picked it up.
“You should read that article I posted.”
Lisa Renee//The Blue Van
I’m a child in my father’s blue van,
the electrician’s van, Daddy tapping
jazz on the wheel with the right hand,
the left hanging out the open window
clutching a Camel, hot swamp city pressing
in and there! a hitchhiker, a hippie
or a beatnik, a rumpled man somehow
named by the man thrusting his thumb
and my Daddy stops, always stops, his open
hitcher’s heart ever willing to ferry the haunted
walkers, the needy talkers, the stalking
strangers and help whatever they may need.
I’m a child of the screaming headlines, the moving
picture nightmares painting portraits of the danger,
stranger! Those men, always men, with their thumbs
and unwashed clothes and violent secrets, weapons
in their bags, mayhem on their minds, a little child
like candy for their cineplex horror fantasies. Daddy
invites them in, invites them all in to the blue van
and I retreat deep into the metal cavern to hide
among the cables the clamps the boxes and ladders
that swing and clank at corners and stops. Deep to ponder
this odd kinship that my big-hearted life-lit daddy finds
with these wanderers and await the end of their line.
By the time I could drive, I was a drunk. I got fall-down, boob-flashing-smashed every day, every week, every night. I drank at sixteen-year-old Sydney’s house, whose parents travelled and left her in charge. I drank at Mike’s lake, on a six-by-six dock on a stocked pond outside of Lynchburg city limits. I drank at Megan’s, whose mom let us party in her high-ceilinged living room. I drank on hand-me-down couches at newly-graduated Drew’s apartment. I drank with my boyfriend Joe in the clearing by the tracks off Harper’s Ferry Road, our faces lit by the glow of his headlights. I drank at someone’s uncle’s unfinished house, which lacked a working bathroom. I drank in an old cow field, listening to crickets and watching Orion wheel over the Virginia countryside. I drank, and I drank, and I drank.
Seven years later, if I don’t drink, I shake. I cry every morning, my head aching with hangover, my body weak. One day, it’s too much to take, so I swallow as much Xanax and vodka as I can and wake up in the psych ward to the fever of withdrawal. Six days later, I’m released to the care of my parents with a pamphlet on twelve step meetings, an appointment with a therapist, and no clue how to live without booze.
So I go to a meeting. They tell me I need to get God to stay sober, and I balk, because I know power speaks in hummingbirds and pebbles, not pews and prayer rugs. They say that’s okay, tell me to find my own conception of God, tell me I need a sponsor, tell me I need another meeting tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.
In between meetings, I try to find God. I look in a blue plastic pool, baptizing myself in water dotted with flies. I look in the cathedral ceiling of trees, dropping to my knees and waiting, eyes raised. I look in a sunrise that springs up in orange and pink. I look in the green sheen of a fish. I look in all the beautiful places I know, but no spirit stirs me.
At home, on the stoop, I think about drinking. I want the taste of fire behind my teeth, want my belly full of burn, because un-drunk, I feel empty. At the meetings, they say to do two things if you want to drink: call your sponsor and pray.
I call. I ask, “How can I pray if I haven’t found God?”
“Pray anyway,” she says.
I thought the finding had to come before faith, but that’s backwards. God didn’t show up until I acted like I already believed, praying not to God but to open air. And then I saw God in my grey coffee cup. In the cracked cement walk. On a runner’s slick back. In a cat’s yellow eye. In a chipped flowerpot. Between my palms. Then God entered my mouth, and it flooded with gold.
Noriko Nakada//Final Days
In the days when your departure
but your outcome was still unknown
as machines pressed air
in and out of your lungs
and triggered your heart to beat
I whispered in your sedated ear
urging you to acknowledge
an impending arrival.
The night before there had been the taking
of an unexpected test
and the surprise prospect of a new life
so I hoped this news
might delay your departure
might be something to fend off what was coming
but there was never an acknowledgement
never the happy spark in your eyes
of grandmother-hood all over again
and days later your departure
seemed a cruel trick
with this new life swelling toward arrival.
Cathy Ulrich//Real Japanese Girls
If I were a person who passed out pamphlets in Japan, I would be one of the quiet ones. I would say please take one and push the pamphlets out in front of me. They’d be advertisements for hair salons or restaurants or sketchy Japanese lawyers with cheap ties.
Sometimes the pamphlets wouldn’t be pamphlets at all. They’d be cheap paper fans or packets of tissue. People would always accept the packets of tissue. They’d tuck them into their purses or the pockets of their jackets. I’d be so grateful.
Domo, I’d say, domo.
If I were a person who passed out pamphlets in Japan, my pamphlet-printing boss would be disappointed in my performance. He’d remind me that our customers were relying on me. He’d tell me to pass out the pamphlets with more panache. He’d use the Japanese word for panache, which is maybe panache, only pronounced different.
Sumimasen, I would apologize. I’m sorry, Taisho-sama.
My pamphlet-printing boss would like being called Taisho-sama. He would puff up with pride. He would remind me about panache. He would say: Why can’t you be more like Tanigawa?
Tanigawa would be the best at passing out pamphlets. He would come back with empty hands before his shift was over and ask for more pamphlets. The Taisho-sama would be so proud of him.
He’d tell us all: Be more like Tanigawa.
If I were a person who passed out pamphlets in Japan, I would know that Tanigawa was just throwing them away when no one was looking. I’d be the only one who knew, and Tanigawa wouldn’t even care. He’d know I’d be too shy to say.
You’re like a real Japanese girl that way, he’d say.
Tanigawa would like real Japanese girls. When they’d walk by, he’d tell them: Oi, baby, you’re so sexy I want to die.
He’d write his phone number on pamphlets. He’d hand them to the real Japanese girls.
He’d say: Call me.
If I were a person who passed out pamphlets in Japan, I would never write my phone number on pamphlets and tell people to call me. I would have a Japanese boyfriend. He wouldn’t be anything like Tanigawa, except they would both have slender noses, so sometimes I would see Tanigawa out of the corner of my eye and think, for a moment, he was my Japanese boyfriend.
Tanigawa would see me look. He’d say: Oi, American girl, what are you looking at?
He’d say: Do you want some of this?
If I were a person who passed out pamphlets in Japan, some of the real Japanese girls would call the phone number Tanigawa gave them. They’d meet him at a love hotel. They’d say call me and he’d say sure, but they wouldn’t mind if he didn’t.
Just a one-time thing, they’d say to their friends.
They’d think of it as some romantic thing, giving in, this once, to their passion. They’d reach into their purses and their hands would brush up against a packet of tissues, and they would blush. They would be, in that moment, more beautiful than they’d ever been, the most beautiful they’d ever been.
If I were a person who passed out pamphlets in Japan, I would convince my Japanese boyfriend to meet me in a love hotel after work.
Just this once, I’d say. Just this once.
It would have a vibrating bed, and mirrors on the ceiling. There would be a complimentary glass of cheap champagne on the bedstand.
Do you want some? my Japanese boyfriend would say.
Sure, I’d say. Hai.
And when we spilled it, because of course we would spill it, in a room with a vibrating bed and a mirrored ceiling, I would get a packet of tissues from out of my purse. He would take it from my hand.
Domo, I’d say. Domo.
Charles Tarlton//Alexander Graham Bell
I watched an old man fumbling
with a cell phone at the Mall:
I couldn’t be sure
if it was him or me making the mistakes.
I imagined a child
on the other end
calling out to him
Grandpa, is that you?
He just stared into the dull glass.
Then, he held it to his ear
hesitated and spoke numbly
“Hello, this is
Rodney Burns, yes,
that’s right, Burns.”
And then he held the phone
at arm’s length and studied
it closely. Suddenly, it rang,
or rather played some tune on cymbals,
over and over. He shook it
and held it to his ear.
Samuel Vargo//Haunted House
The HUD-assisted apartments they say, are haunted.
Built on an old Native American burial ground,
The bones won’t let the tenants alone, especially at night.
They say if you drive through here well into the darkness
You can see ghosts of Indians dancing in the moonlight.
Sometimes ghostly children swinging on a swing set
Greet you like phantoms in an old country graveyard.
I dated a girl here once; she was nice but had three kids
By two different fathers and I just couldn’t handle
All the dysfunctional gavagai.
The two girls and the boy were fine, but their dads
Weren’t. They were real assholes, in fact.
One told me he was going to shoot me,
And that was that. . . .Case closed.
“If you’d rather be alone, that’s fine,” she told me one morning.
– She gave me a ring after I’d not visited for over three weeks.
So I told her I’ve been alone all my life and I’ve adjusted to it.
“It’s like telling me I should have a Lear jet, it would make my life
So much easier. Well, I don’t have a measuring stick
For such a thing. You know what I mean?”
“I’d rather be alone,” I told her on my last visit. And when I left,
There was a horrible pounding and rattling from an apartment
Down the hall. I saw another tenant, and nervously said,
“Those people in 305 are trashing that place.” And he said,
“Ain’t nobody lives in 305. It’s been unoccupied over a year.”
I felt uneasy for a bit, then reasoned maintenance was rehabbing
For a new tenant. I walked briskly down the hall and to my car.
I saw that woman a while back. We walked past each other
Without saying a word. I was exiting and she was entering
A department store. Her three kids tagged along behind
Like ghostly apparitions on a phantom swing set.
– I never looked back, but something caused me to question if she did.
Duende could only be present when one sensed that death was possible.
— Federico García Lorca
I take flamenco dance lessons. Every week I stare into the mirror, avoiding my pale
reflection which conveys no Spanish intensity or passion as far as I can tell, and focus on my
teacher and classmates. I see long, black hair, graceful arms and beautiful neck lines, eyes that
flash like river water. When I look at the women around me, I try to forget myself. I let the
percussive music enter my critical, multitasking, exhausting brain – slowly at first, the way wine
swirls into a clear, waiting glass. The music takes over and my body follows, awkwardly, but
earnestly. I didn’t know it when I started these lessons, but I’m reaching towards duende, which
is known as a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity, often connected with
At first, I was drawn to the classes as a way of getting away from my kids. I had just left
my job in Canada, moved to a new city in the United States, and realized I was stuck being a
homemaker. I couldn’t work as I didn’t have the requisite visa. I tried throwing myself into my
job as full time caretaker, but being a homemaker is rife with paradoxes – like parenthood. Like
anything. I love my children with a ferocity that hurts but I don’t want to spend all day playing
legos with them. They’re my number one priority but I long for something to occupy my mind
other than their laundry.
Flamenco dancing is no joke. When women dance, it can look sexy and feminine, but
underneath the polka dotted dresses they wear panty hose. They wear their hair in a painfully
tight bun. They wear dangly earrings hitting their faces as they turn. Most notably, they have
nails on the bottoms of their high heeled shoes. I wanted so badly to attain that sexy strength, that
“So, who can tell me how many beats are in this copla?”
My teacher turns to the class expectantly, clapping with the music. I’m taken out of my
reverie, reminded again that there’s so much I don’t know; that flamenco isn’t just about pretty
hand movements and polka dots but is an intricate, complex art form of rhythm and musicality
that takes a lifetime to master. I hope my teacher can’t tell I’m sweating because I don’t know
the answer. I’m reminded that flamenco, like anything worth doing, calls for patience, practice,
perseverance, confidence and humility.
I suffered through depression when I first moved to the United States. I had trouble
trusting my decisions, couldn’t believe I might know what’s best for my children. Much of the
problem stemmed from seemingly endless tasks that go nowhere combined with a lack of
validation or feedback. My kids never said “you’re doing a great job balancing your own needs
with our never-ending demands,” or “all the things you do for me are going to set me on a
positive course for the rest of my life.” Even so, I knew the problem ran deeper than that. I’d find
myself at the park with a group of women and men and we’d commiserate over our difficult jobs.
And yet, while we could all agree that it was hard, they didn’t seem miserable like I was. I didn’t
know why I wasn’t happy staying at home – why I’d stand at the door crying when my husband
left for work. Wracked with guilt and regret, my already tenuous sense of self was dissolving
I make the mistake of looking in the mirror, and think I should give up. I’m too blonde,
big and clumsy for this dance. I love my long black and red skirt, as well as my red shoes with
nails in the heels. But I look ridiculous. Like a fraud. This feeling isn’t new for me. I moved
around as a kid and have always been the perpetual outsider. I developed a habit of changing
cultures like someone else changes shirts, but in my case, the shirts never really fit. Someone
answers the teacher’s question: “twelve.” Of course – twelve beats in this copla, and we get on
with the practice. I stomp my heels in a tacón, I pound my toes in a punta, and try to move my
arms and hands in floreo, hoping no one can see how out of step I really am.
Sometimes the rage took over. I tried not to let my kids see it, but there were occasions
when it proved difficult to control. As I exited a gas station in my station wagon, a man in an
SUV behind me honked at me. I suppose I was taking too long to pull out. Alone in my car, I
decided to do what any sane, rational person would do and flipped him the bird, mouthing
something like “take this, asshole” in the rearview mirror. The big man in the big SUV
immediately pulled up beside me, and I expected to see a gun pointed at my head. Instead, he
looked at me in shock and disappointment, unable to believe what a nice, blonde homemaker in a
dirty family station wagon had just done. Then his face contorted, he mouthed the word “bitch”
and flipped me one, too. The rage and fear coursing through my veins dissipated and I began to
laugh – a crazy laugh. I had turned into a cliche of myself.
I love the dances with complicated footwork. Call me an optimist or a sucker for
punishment, but they’re rhythmic, pulsing and angry: the perfect balm for my nerves. The waves
of music inspire different nuances: a gentle sway of the hips turns into a quick turn which turns
into a sudden throwing of an arm – a gesture that screams expletives. These are the dances where
performers look the most intense, not least because they’re concentrating on impossible
footwork, but also because they’re ostensibly channeling a primal life force.
One day my four year old son asked me why his father is “better” at “everything.” I tried
to hide my initial shock, and with a shaky voice asked him “do you really think he’s better at
everything?” to which he answered, “no, you’re better at cooking, and… chatting.” I know this is
partly of my own doing. When my son asked me to build an intricate pulley system for balls and
levers, I couldn’t be bothered and told him his father would help him. I may have mentioned a
few times that my husband is better at building things, fixing things, and figuring things out. One
time when I had the energy to build a house out of legos, my son rubbed my back and said “I
knew you could do it!” I loved his compassion and enthusiasm, but I was also a little irked.
Perhaps I needed to change the way I talked about myself… the way I saw myself.
Flamenco is made up of Cante, Baile, Toque, and the Jaleo, which basically means “hell
raising.” The palmas is considered an art in itself and it’s used in conjunction with the footwork.
This is all brought together with Duende – magic. It takes magic to develop the musicality and
rhythm that is required to successfully dance flamenco.
In a previous life, I was remunerated and respected. I worked in various professional
capacities on issues relating to migrants and refugees, because, in some strange way I could
relate to the emotional challenges they faced: the feeling of being uprooted, isolated, and
misunderstood. I knew what it felt like to be dispossessed of a home. I knew what it was to yearn
to belong. I hated myself even for thinking that – how could I compare my privileged life to one
of exile, persecution or economic desperation? What do I know of anything? What right do I
have to say or do anything? The cycle of self-loathing is a difficult one to break.
The first flamenco dancers came from Roma Gypsy backgrounds, landing in Andalucia
in the fifteenth century, only to experience eventual persecution by Catholic monarchs and the
Inquisition. The dancers were, in part, transmitting the essence of their struggles. The dances
were community get-togethers, family gatherings, deep expressions of a culture and its
oppression. And the Roma held steadfast to their culture despite ongoing persecution.
One day, in class, rehearsing with live music, I suddenly have the sensation of leaving my
body. I’m not tired, I know the steps without having to think too much about them, and I’m no
longer a person desperately clunking my way across the floor. Instead, I move with what feels
like considerable grace along with other, more experienced dancers. My dress flows around my
legs and my steps fall in perfect time with the rhythm. I am music and freedom and expression
and passion. No one else sees this, but it doesn’t matter. I feel it.
I look at my son’s big brown eyes with their long lashes, his mop of curly hair on his
sweaty head, his little voice proclaiming big statements: did you know sea cucumbers spill their
guts to smother their predators? Words too large to be coming out of a small mouth. I don’t
know why, but his every action fills me with the utmost tenderness, so much I want to cry. His
little hand colouring a picture of a zombie, cutting out the paper with his left hand while using
pink, right-handed scissors, and I wonder why I’m sad. Is it because my hours of stomping and
clapping don’t make any difference in the world? Perhaps it’s about accepting the fears, shadows
and darkness; the going nowhere; following the synchronicity that we can’t see. Perhaps it’s
about accepting the missteps that happen in between the right ones.
Allen Forrest//The New World Boy at Window
Born and bred in Detroit, Michael A. Ferro was awarded the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award for Fiction and received a degree in Creative Writing from Michigan State University. His fiction has appeared in Chicago Literati, Random Sample Review, Viewfinder Literary Magazine, Points in Case, and is forthcoming in The Corvus Review, Splitsider, and elsewhere. Additional writing can be found in various outlets online through his website: www.michaelaferro.com. After traveling, working, and writing throughout the Midwest, Michael currently resides in rural Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Lisa Renee is a poet and essayist, living near a big lake in New York. Find her writing in Exposition Review, The Hairpin, The Billfold, and on Medium. She is also managing editor of nonfiction at daCunha.
Emma Faesi Hudelson has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Butler University in Indianapolis, where she now teaches. She lives with three dogs, two cats, and one husband in a house by the woods. Her work is in BUST, Booth, The Manifest-Station, and Feministing, among others.
Noriko Nakada writes, blogs, tweets, parents, and teaches middle school in Los Angeles where she grinds out creative non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. She has two book length memoirs available and has essays and poetry published in Specter, Hippocampus, and The Rising Phoenix Review.
Cathy Ulrich is a writer from Montana. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals, including apt Magazine, Booth, Lunch Ticket and Superstition Review.
Charles Tarlton has published a number of poems in such online and print magazines as: Jack Magazine, Shampoo, Review Americana, Tipton, Barnwood, Abramelin, Simply Haiku, Haibun Today, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, Atlas Poetica, Blue and Yellow Dog, Shot Glass, Sketchbook, Six Minute Magazine, Cricket Online Review, Red Booth Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Inner Art Journal, Skylark Tanka Journal, Ekphrastic Review, and Ribbons. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee.
Samuel Vargo worked full time for more than 20 years as a print news reporter and editor. He also taught English at a number of colleges and universities as an adjunct professor for about a decade. He has an MA in English and a BA in Political Science. Vargo was fiction editor for Pig Iron Press for 12 years and a collection of his short stories, “Electric Onion Head and the Rotating Cyclops of the Month” by now defunct publisher Literary Road, had an Internet presence for eight years online.
Michelle Sinclair is an MFA candidate at Chatham University, but recently moved home to Ottawa, Canada.
Allen Forrest–Born in Canada and bred in the U.S., Allen Forrest has worked in many mediums: computer graphics, theater, digital music, film, video, drawing and painting. Allen studied acting in the Columbia Pictures Talent Program in Los Angeles and digital media in art and design at Bellevue College (receiving degrees in Web Multimedia Authoring and Digital Video Production.) He currently works in the Vancouver, Canada, as a graphic artist and painter. He is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University’s Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation’s permanent art collection. Forrest’s expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on canvas.
Additional work can be found here: