Table of Contents
Editor's Notes
Submission Guidelines

Stories & Essays
A Wedding Toast For Daddy's Little Girl
By Miriam N. Kotzin
_ By Debbi Pless
_ By Rachel Miller
_ By Julie Jordan
Hearts Without Armor
_ By Angela P. Markham
Mental Constipation and Brain Vomit
_ By Winnie Khaw
My Best Subject
_ By Ashley Polker
_ By Samantha Rae
Requiem For An Author
_ By R. Holsen
Sometimes It Pours Only Dogs
_ By Saana Tykkš
The Black Tape
_ By Brad Jashinsky

A Slave To Time
_ By Clyde Windjammer
_ By Kaleen Love
Death By My Lover
_ By Jessica Tempestad
I Am A Pineapple
_ By Rachel Miller
Lament For the Lost Soldier
_ By Melissa Augeri
Laundry Arcade
_ By Ashley Polker
Left Silent To Dream of Wine
_ By Kaleen Love
_ By Henry Grieves
Ode To Microsoft Spell Cheque
_ By Arielle Demchuk
Reminiscent of Society As An Individual
_ By Henry Grieves
Ship's Cook
_ By Heather Inwood
The Phoenix
_ By Kaleen Love
The Raven and the Dove
_ By Melissa Augeri
Train Dreamer
_ By Heather Inwood 

Art & Photography
S. Camargo
_ Photography and Drawings
David C. Clarke
_ Photography
Wiltekirra Samaxionn
_ Photography
Anca Sandu
_ Paintings
Austin Tanney
_ Photography
Ray Tsang
_ Paintings
Mark Warren
_ Photography

Hearts Without Armor
By Angela P. Markham

Divinity, Nevada. Two hours out of Vegas, in the middle of a desert. The kind of town that has no reason for existing. As I come into town, I pass the local mechanicís place, a pathetic excuse for a garage, with cars in varying stages of decay surrounding the business. One of them is a sports car with the front end completely totaled and most of the glass busted out. I recognize the car and am grateful; itís the first confirmation I have that Iím on the right track. Since yesterday, Iíve been thinking Iíve been sent on a wild goose chase. I donít stop at the garage. Thereís no sign of human life. The particular human Iím looking for would not stay at a place like this anyway.

I pass the garage and proceed into town. I pass the houses first. Trailers mostly, singlewides that look like theyíve seen their share of natural disasters. No oneís outside, though a few assorted articles of clothing are strung up on laundry lines. The whole place seems dead, like something out of a western right before everyone starts shooting. I canít help but think people are staring at me through cracks in their Venetian blinds as I drive past. Itís a creepy feeling. Iím already uncomfortable, and itís not because of the heat, which is bordering unbearable. I pass a sheriffís office, which is frightening, for it means this dust bowl is the center of whatever county Iím in. Thereís one cop car outside that looks like it hasnít moved in a while, as well as another dusty truck.

As I near the other end of town, where more trailers lie on the outskirts, I finally see who Iím looking for. Iím grateful. I can finally get out of here and back home, where I should have been in the first place. Iíve put a lot in jeopardy by coming out here.

I pull up to the curb and stop the car, shoving the gearshift into Park. For a moment, I only stare. Iím not sure what I expectedóno, I expected someone immersed in desperation, borderline suicidal. Still, as always, Eddie surprises me. Heís sitting on a wooden bench, the kind thatís all hard wood and right angles. His face is buried in his hands, the last two fingers of his left hand covered in gauze and bandages. The fingers are bent at the joints, though only God knows why. No one bends a joint to set an injury. The bandage is bloody. It wouldnít have been a big dealóit wouldnít have been as big of a dealóexcept for the fact that Eddie is left-handed. His dark hair is in disarray and drenched with sweat. As always when itís wet, thereís a slight trace of curl, and thereís dust from the streets in his hair. Hell, thereís dust all over him, on his black shoes, on his black pants, on his white business shirt (which is ripped at the collar), and on his black jacket, which is draped across his lap. The whole town is nothing but dust and Eddie looks as though heís been rolling in it. The bandage on his bleeding hand is filthy, not a good thing, and the blood is fresh. I canít see his face. I donít have to. He is probably bruised, cut in a place or two, a tooth might even be knocked out. Eddie is accident prone, so to speak. He attracts trouble without ever inviting a fight.

Iím usually the one to bail him out; Whitney is repulsed by him when he goes on his self-destructive binges. Eddie never tells Dana when he gets this fucked upósheís got the baby to worry about and thatís enough to handle. Eddie has a lot of friends. Even the people whoíve beat the shit out of him would probably admit to liking him. Heís a popular guy. Still, he knows Iím one of the few people who really care. Sometimes, times like these, Iím the only one who cares at all.

Iíve helped Eddie out before, and Iíll no doubt help him again. Iíve been called out to some pretty weird places at some pretty weird hours to pick him up and bring him home. Today is different. For the first time, Iím wondering what Iím doing. For the first time, Iím wondering why I always come running. Iíve got my own problems. Iíve got too many of my own problems to be worrying about Eddie. But Iím here and I canít turn around. Iíve come too far. Iím parked right in front of him.

He still hasnít noticed me and itís been a while. Iím still sitting in the car watching him and the car is still running. I rented the car at the airport in Vegas, which is another story (one Iíll no doubt dump on Eddie as a reminder of how far out of my way Iíve gone yet again to help him out). Itís a black car, a convertible. The top is down. The windows are down. The air conditioning is blasting. Itís a million and a half degrees in the shade. Iím not in the shade. Iím in the sun. In a black car.

I pick up the car phone thatís located between the seats. I start to dial Whitneyís number. I should let him know Iíve found Eddie alive, if not necessarily well. Eddie isnít well. Heís a mess. I put down the phone. If I call Whitney, Eddie will hear me talking. The last thing he needs to hear is me bitching about his current condition to his judgmental older brother. Eddie trusts me completely.

For the first time, I wish he didnít.

Iím not sure how to get his attention. I sit in silence, hoping heíll notice me. Eddieís emotional highs and lows are legendary. Iím probably better acquainted with them than anyone. Right now, heís so low that I donít want to mess with him. Heís probably straight, too, or getting there. I hate dealing with him when heís straight. Heís too honest. Eddieís a smart guy, good-looking, too. But heís been strung out and strung along for too many years.

There are people out there who call him irredeemable. Eddieís not irredeemable. I donít think he needs to be redeemed at all. Heís one of the most essentially good human beings I have ever known. His only problem is that heís been so far gone for so long that normality, for him, is what societyís morally elite call "a dangerous, self-destructive lifestyle that will lead straight to the depths of Hell."

A lot of these same people, Whitney included, think Iím assisting him on his journey. Those are the people who are trying to "save" him. They blame me for encouraging him with my unwavering support during his fuck-ups. Iím not trying to encourage Eddie. Iím not trying to save him, either. Unlike most peopleóunlike WhitneyóI can see Eddieís point of view, where heís coming from. More often than not, I like his perspective better. Eddie doesnít bullshit. Everythingís either black or white with him. Those shades of gray that everyone else uses to justify their crap do not exist to him. I justify a lot of crap with shades of gray.

But what people think of Eddie, and what I think of Eddie, and Eddieís perspective on life donít explain why Iím in Divinity, Nevada. Why Iím here is irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant is getting Eddie out of Divinity and finding out how he wound up in Divinity in the first place. To do that, Iím going to have to get his attention.

(Turn the page)