Dark by Ron Estrada
There’s another part in the Bible that isn’t actually in it. It’s only there in the boy’s own imagination. But it feels part of it, all in line; it’s when he’s praying. His mom used to pray with him at his bedside when he was a kid. She’d kneel, they’d both kneel and say the, “Now I lay me down to sleep,” part and then the boy would go and then she’d go with their own parts. Over the years she would take a step back, then watching him do the whole thing by himself while she stood in the doorway. And then she wouldn’t be there at all.
The room, to the boy, never felt like God. Outside did. And that’s what he started to do, go outside to pray at night. He’d kneel on the garden ground, pull his sleep pants up to his thighs if it was wet or there was snow and would pray aloud. He was alone; his mom still wasn’t around. This was in one way. In another, he felt less alone than in his room. He thought of other kids outside saying their prayers, all of them, and him, alone, together alone.
He’d finish and wipe off of his knees, go back to his room. He prayed for a lot of things. He didn’t pray for this, out loud, but hoped it: that he’d be so tired when he got back to his bed that he wouldn’t have to think of anything.
Turning In by Bill
Greetings and salutations. I've got my hands clasped together, and I am kneeling on the box. My calves are cramping, and I just want to get home and open the box of cookies that I received at work today. I'm not going to share any of them either. They were given up for me, and that, for once, must be made whole.
Johns and solicitations. Send down another crate of nails, hammer together another dozen mangers, have some left over and throw them in if it starts to look low. Cash in hand as they open the door, cash in hand as they leave. Wreaths on the doors are ok, but never put one in the room. Orchids and daisies are a must.
Senators and procrastination. We are easy in the speeding, dangerous in our breeding. We gave up on the low-life a long time ago, lost our illusions that the hard edges framing the pimps was the cream we needed for our coffee. Where the dervish whirled we gave them the air from our lungs and the sweat from our brow. We ran our hands over them and set every nerve in their body blazing with our adoration. They spun us around and made us dizzy watching them. Our heads faded to weightlessness, the world that should have been still on either side of our ears spiraling downward. Their twirling ideas seemed to float across the air toward us. We raced out into the night and took to the roads drunk in amazement, ascetic in our contempt. We took the back tires off the road and watched the snow blow past the windows, paying for the gas with plastic coins and novelty belt buckles. The shopkeeps stared at us, bemused, wishing us away on whatever endless quests they never hoped to take.
Family drama and libations. Hate is just like love and should be saved for someone special, should be forced to gallop away to Mercia, perhaps Mantua, imagining in the fires stacked dangerously high with logs the world spinning in the heart of the nemesis. Bells ringing unstruck as boots scrap across the floor, we'll hang the cards around the door, sip from a warm mug, imagine chains rattling across the cellar, and sleep.
Some Other Family by Beth
My mother resented going to Canada for every family vacation. It was where my father had gone with his parents, and he loved it, and he was the one who made the money. Mostly we went to Prince Edward Island, with the wide beaches made of soupy clay, the lines of endless gentle breakers, the dune grass. Like my mother, I hated the ocean – all those endless waves going same, same, same, and over, over, over.
My mother sat at the picnic table in the shade, near the swingset, and my father and brothers ran around on the beach like idiots, and when my mother had cleaned up the cookout she’d cooked in the metal grate next to the picnic table, when she had settled back in the beach chair she insisted on carrying with her everywhere (even on the rare occasions when we flew somewhere), and had taken out the latest National Geographic, I would go away from her, a few feet at a time, until I was on the edge of the woods, and then until I was just behind the front line of trees that the park’s caretaker took care of, and then until I was all the way in the woods, so far in that I couldn’t hear the ceaseless sound of waves and wind and gulls and my mother angrily turning the thick pages of her magazine.
So far in that I couldn’t have heard her even if she noticed I was gone and called to me. So far in that one time I came out almost to the other side, to some other family’s campsite. And I crouched and watched the family, with their pop-up camper and their radio tuned to a baseball game, which I guess had to have been the Blue Jays, or maybe the Expos. Their kids were playing, jumping up and down on a board-and-rope bridge over a little stream. The boy jumped down hard and the girl popped up and laughed, and they did it over and over but the parents never yelled at them to cut it out. And while I was crouching down there, the back of my legs started shaking and I thought about what it would be like to be a major league catcher, crouching down all through a game. But I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t leave until I could see that the sun was going down, leaving only the tops of the trees still in sunlight. And the last thing I saw before I turned to go was the dad, throwing a baseball up high, so high it could still catch the sun.
Prayers from the People by Alan
“In that high place in the darkness the two oddly sensitive human atoms held each other tightly and waited.”
- Sherwood Anderson from Winesburg, Ohio
While Julio hoped and hoped and hoped for his hometown team to turn it around, the Vanderveese twins’ continued reverence for the saint hardened like a statue in the shadows of a sunny afternoon in Minnesota. They were identical but (remarkably) of different gender. If you don’t already know, this type of thing is quite rare. The miracle arrived after the zygote split. And some say they’ve been praying since. It was as if they weren’t meant to be, but yet here they were – two ghosts materialized, two platonic lovers swimming through time, two angels with one wing.
Meanwhile, half a country away, Julio resisted the urge to purchase season tickets because he didn’t want “that undeniably empty feeling that comes with deep faith in something that simple cannot and will not come true.” Apparently, money ups the ante in the card game of belief.
There is a third player in this tragedy. Her story is currently being written. But you, dear reader, can bet your bottom dollar that her address lies smack in between those of Julio’s and the twins’ and that she’s also searching for someone or something deeply, painfully, in the middle of the night.
Overshadows by Johanna
Moishe had been planning this since Black Friday, examining the architecture, street lights and general proximity of the courthouse. He had no doubts holding him back as he sketched out his plans – the approach, tools and timing of the particular deed. The day of was crisp and clear so that the night was just as he hoped it would be, a moonless sky embroidered with sequins. On the courthouse steps, he entered the display of the nativity scene and, with great care, moved baby Jesus into Mary's lap so that he could use the stool Jesus was perched upon. He tugged at his tzitzit, straightened his yarmulke, and stepped up onto the stool. The red and green lights reflecting off of the old stone building provided enough light for him to string his rope over the four by four framing of the manger and wrap it taut around his throat.
He thought of his mother, a long time ago, before he converted to orthodoxy, before he prayed and kept kosher, when Hanukkah was still an important holiday. He saw her standing over the stove frying latkes and singing the dreydl song on repeat; she only knew the first verse. The house was strung with blue and white lights and their menorah took up the entirety of their small kitchen table top. Over each candle, they sang prayers and when it was time to open presents, she beamed over her children with anticipation. The excitement of a new toy kept him entertained until bedtime when he and his brother were allowed to listen to one hour of radio. He put down his new set of Lincoln Logs and settled into the couch. From the corner of his eye, he could see a flutter of his mother disappear into her room as the story of Saint Nick played across the airwaves and captivated his young imagination.
Transcription by Lyle
Norman reads from a transcript in front of the congregation. On a large screen, a photo scrolls across a screen slowly, like a codex.
Concerning cement statue #4. Began Feb 9, 1959 by artist — same. Inspiration — same. Finished Feb 18, 1959.
Concerning cement statue #5. Began Feb 18, 1959 afternoon by artist — same. Inspiration — same. Finished Feb 27, 1959.
Concerning cement statue #6. After a brief hiatus, artsit — same — began Feb 29, 1959. Inspiration — varied them of same with geometric variables equal but inverse. Note light on subject cement statue #6. Possible ramifications of light: 1. enlightened status 2. severe torture 3. both 4. sunburn (holding some kind of cultural significance) 5. the cement equivalent to sunburn: fading. Finished March 17, 1959.
Concerning cement statue #7…
This transcription continues for three more hours at which point the congregation rises in silence, bows briefly first to Norman, then to their neighbors, subsequently removing themselves from the room in single file. By the time Norman comes out, the moon is at its apex and a single very dark cloud floats very slowly under the bottom edge of the luminescent tumor. Norman sighs in relief, closes the large wooden doors behind him and turns the key in the lock.
A Winter Intercession by Forrest
Hail Mary, I’m full of grapes, and my sled is with you. Tested are you among mushers, and blessed is my Fruit Of The Loom. Holy Shit, Mother of Mountains, pray for us sledders, now and at the hour of our descent. Ah-men!