Photo © & courtesy of Nicole Provencher
Road Dream by Nicole Provencher
I am driving through the desert. It is hot and the cotton fabric from my t-shirt is wet and wadded against the small of my back. In the seat next to me my husband rests his elbow on the ledge of the car window. He is grinding his teeth and refusing to look in my direction. We left all conversation somewhere between Nevada and this stretch of highway 50. The strangeness of our silence blends with the images blurring past my driver’s window. I see a fifteen foot tall wooden nickel half fallen into the sand, 1,000 shoes perched in the branches of a tree, a gnarled buzzard ripping the entrails from something once warm and covered with fur, and finally a trio of high school boys pissing on a curb.
The gas station looks passable. We need directions. I watch his face in the passenger side mirror. We sit in the car for a full minute before he acknowledges me in the reflection and fumbles with the door handle to exit the car. He walks toward the door of the gas station and stretch my legs, rolling my ankles back and forth as they pop. In my rearview I see trio of boys walking into the lot. One of the boys raises his chin in the direction of the store. The others quicken their pace.
They catch him as he is coming out. The first boy pushes him up into a wall. The drink in his hand appears to float before falling, creating liquid branches in the sand at his feet. The second boy shoves a palm into the back of his head, catching hair in a fist and snapping his head back. He rolls my husband chest first into the wall and presses his neck against the rough seams of the brick. I watch and cannot move. The backs of my legs itch against the vinyl of the seat. I hear only one sound when the third boy moves something into his side and moves the body to the ground. The boys run into the desert. They disappear into the sun.
Later I would dream of the same stretches of road. A fifteen-foot tall nickel, shoes rocking in the wind, the gnarled buzzard, three boys, and what could have been, but was not quite, a sound.
Republican America by Lyle
Mother ballooned up in the summer 1987. Reagan stepped up the war on drugs in 1986 making mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offences. I don’t mean ballooned figuratively. Father, a good ole boy to be sure, had “accidentally,” as the story goes from the rather one-sided perspective, jabbed her with a some kind of needle connected to a tank of helium. What were they doing with helium? The prisons were filling up with people arrested on drug-related charges. Many were non-violent offenders. That’s the story my father told to his sheriff buddy: “I tripped with the thing in my hand and... it just happened so fast.” Reagan was in office for eight years. My father never shed a tear and neither did I, always the obedient son: inculcated, indoctrinated, inseminated. My father still tells the story of his wife, the Democrat, and the canister of helium. Kaboom, he says.There’s never a dry eye in the house.
Preside by Forrest Roth
They kept the stockyard of American Presidents forever full, lined by barbed wire, under lock and key. From a distance you could still see Reagan first, then Kennedy, then Washington and FDR and others jostling for favorable position, then a hidden assortment of the better-knowns, the lesser-knowns, the mostly forgotten, the terminally mediocre, and the non-existent. Was McKinley despondent because everyone wept for Lincoln in a theater while he was merely killed on a promenade in Buffalo? Could Carter dream of toppling the Ayatollah in Tehran with a gung-ho squad of Navy SEALs? Did Nixon wish he had Teddy’s big stick during the lonely hours of evening? Would William Henry Harrison ever find himself? When we cared to write our papers about them, our teachers had told us, “Stand there. Be in their presence. The topics will come through the chain-link fence.” And so they did, but we felt the need to shower instead before returning to class empty-handed. We were academic failures and miscreants. Disrespectful. Unworthy. But the American Presidents were all out there, we protested without success, awaiting the casual visit of our flashlights. We could be students of the ceaseless yet.
Over It, With or Without by Bill
Isn’t that made to wonder, with awe set to scale growing as the proportions strain out, leaving a viscous paste on the bottom on the bowl. I won’t get inside of your head. I don’t want to take anything away from this, using the puddles at your feet to wash clean my short term memory so I never have to think about it because you are getting too good at this and I need to live, which i can’t do with that awareness taking up the floor of my brain’s living room. You’ve already set fire to one bookshelf in there and flipped over my desk. I’m pretty sure you’ve been reading my signed comics, since there are smudges on the bags and the tape is torn. Time meant never having enough furniture. No, it didn’t actually mean that, how could it? Where would time put a chaise lounge? How many crystal punch-bowls could you possibly hope to keep track of once you start storing them in extinction event limestone cave bunkers?
Madness is a brain full of hope, saturated by blindly impotent will and encased in a rose-colored case sitting atop an ivory pedestal in front of a waterfall. Upstream is a missile plant and the turtles are so full of PCBs they have to be declared toxic waste sites. That tingling you feel when you bath in the pool isn’t a mystical healing solution so much as hydrochloric acid. All of your turbines are coated in soot and all of your tears have more sodium dioxide in them than saline.
The future to you is essentially a sandwich. It’s lunch. It’s being caught up in the middle of the day and not wanting to make much of a fuss so you slap a couple pieces of bread around someone’s dreams, spread a little of their past around it, and dip in a soup you had made from their ambitions and the sweat of their brow. You leave half the sandwich uneaten and wait until it has grown stale before you throw it out. When the cleaning lady comes in to empty the trash you grope her, and slap her across the mouth because you thought she looked at your shoes, then you settle back down in the fine leather chair behind the desk and get back to work.
The Head and the Fence by Alan
The head rose above the fence in broad daylight, and it was (not only for this particular head but also for all the heads like it in its general vicinity) a kind of daylight that might make a person cry for, indeed, these heads had not seen daylight for quite a long while. No. These heads had not suffered capital punishment but rather punishment for the capital and of the capital, and for this reason, these heads were special heads. And for this reason, quite a long time is a relative statement understood only by a person (or a head) on a certain side of the fence.