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Cover
Table of Contents
Editor's Notes
Donations
Submission Guidelines
Website

Stories & Essays
Balance
_
By Alison Baumy
Contemporary Cultural Differences...
_ By Ninni Siurua
Eclipsed Yesterdays
_ By Clyde Windjammer
Healthy Guy
_ By David J. LeMaster
Immortalis Letum
_ By Sophie Davis
Last Call For Salvation
_ By Angela P. Markham
My Fault
_ By Ro Thorton
Pacific Northwest
_ By Aaron Hellem
Q-Q Ca Choo
_ By Billy Pilgrim
The Best Laid Plans
_ By John A. Ward
The Ecstasy of Cooking
_ By Sam Nolting
The Girl With the Green Umbrella
_ By J.R. Earlebeck
The Gods of Houston
_ By Rebekah Frumkin

Poetry
Athena's Owl
_ By Amberly Mason
But I Have Never Known This
_ By Kaleen Love
Clouds On Your Floor
_ By Savannah Bobo
Crowded Lobby
_ By M. Blair Spiva
Ever After
_ By Bennie Johnson
Important Questions
_ By P.T. Bell
Migration
_ By Sarah Wassberg
Moon Goddess
_ By Kristina Diane Smith
Oldest Profession
_ By Ashley Polker
On Visiting Hay-on-Wye
_ By M. Blair Spiva
Sodom and Gomorrah
_ By Jessica Fannin
Wal-Mart
_ By P.T. Bell

Art & Photography
Jeremy Harker
_ Paintings
Douglas C. Knight
_ Photography
Jed Knox
_ Paintings and Drawings
May Ann Licudine
_ Paintings
Danny Malboeuf
_ Paintings
Alex Stanbury
_ Photography

The Gods of Houston
By Rebekah Frumkin


What Nixon remembered most of the vacation was Missy Elle’s nosedive into the canyon. Momma Laurent had been driving, and everyone knew Momma Laurent was no good since the deep scratch she’d gotten on her cornea weeks ago. She had to wear a huge black eye patch that obscured half of her face. She’d kneel, bare her fingers, and smile, flattening every crease in her mouth.

“Arrggh. I’m the lost pirate of the Indian Sea!” she’d scream to Nixon and Reagan, who both jumped. “You boys scared of pirates, aren’t you?”

“We were just playing pirates,” Nixon lied. He had really been telling Reagan about the woman next door whom he’d seen her naked through her living room window. She’d been watering plants, their leaves making patchwork shadows on her back, folding nicely to her spine.

“You are scared of pirates,” Momma Laurent said, producing a cigarette. “Pirates pillage villages and make love to the women there.”

Reagan was about to say something, but Nixon pressed hard on his stomach with the naked ball of his foot. “I know. But you’re not a pirate. You’re just a Momma with a bum eye.”

Momma Laurent laughed and rubbed her eye shadow with her cigarette hand. “Well, I got this eye shot out just like a pirate, didn’t I? So can’t I be a pirate?” When she was met with no response, she took a long drag and nodded to Nixon. She had scratched the eye out when it met with a jagged edge of wood trying to fix the latch on the garden gate. “Show me how you boys play pirates.”

Nixon made Reagan, who seemed infinitely smaller and stupider than him, stand on his tiptoes and pretend to walk a plank. Nixon never once moved his eyes from the stern skyscraper of Momma Laurent.

“Walk the plank, matie!”

Reagan was walking back and forth, trying to blink back tears. He looked forlornly at his toy truck. He couldn’t seem to make the jump into the ocean.

Momma Laurent sat in the front of the truck with Missy Elle. They were in Utah, Missy Elle having decided that they could all benefit from mountain air because it was supposed to do something to the lungs. The cab was small, and Reagan kept on hiccupping. Nixon had held his finger-gun to Reagan’s forehead, but apparently the idiot was no longer afraid of death.

The road was narrow, and Missy Elle was consumed with the mountain vista. As they sidewinded up the crest, she pointed several times to dried trees, ebbing hills of pines or the occasional emaciated deer staring obliquely through the white globe of an eye. Missy Elle was broad and beautiful; having just eaten dinner, she was comfortable with sitting still and observing. She wore heavy coveralls and heavier makeup. When she pointed at something she liked, she always used the finger with the warped, peeling fingernail. This unnerved Nixon.

“Look at that. Would you look at it?” she pointed to a small brook meandering next to the road. She turned to Momma Laurent. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”

Momma Laurent shook her head and clucked. “It’s all for you, baby. Momma can’t see nothing with one eye. It’s all for you.”

Missy Elle turned back to the boys and smiled. “Are you two enjoying it?”

Reagan pressed his face to the cab window angrily. “Looky,” he sang quietly. “Looky, looky, looky.”

Nixon smiled. “He’s making fun of you.”

“Who is?” asked Momma Laurent.

“Reagan. He’s making fun of Missy Elle.”

Reagan snapped back from the window and raised both his middle fingers at Nixon; he couldn’t raise the middle without the ring fingers joining in, so he looked pathetic. Nixon clapped.

“Idiot.”

“Shut up! Momma….”

“Shut up, the both of you,” Momma Laurent said. A cut of her face, her sequined eyes, appeared in the rearview mirror. “Stop it now, both of you, or I’m going to gut you like a pair of trout. I’m not kidding.”

“Look,” Missy Elle hummed.

Missy Elle was pointing at a series of trees naked from controlled burning. “Pull into the rest stop, Momma. I want to look at these trees and the valley.”

Momma Laurent navigated off the road and stopped. Missy Elle emerged from the car and stood on the very edge of the mountain, touching the leafless tree. There was hardly room enough for her to leave the side of the car because the cliff was so narrow. She was haloed by a break in the clouds, a thin knife of sun, making her broad frame appear suddenly effulgent. She raised her arms and called something incomprehensible into the valley below her. When she lowered her arms, the skin behind her armpits ballooned.

“Come back in the car,” Reagan said softly, his breath a dewy O on the windowpane. “Come back in the car, bitch.”

“Don’t say that,” said Nixon. He began poking at the back of Momma Laurent’s head, he was so bored. Momma Laurent lit a cigarette.

“I don’t know how she’s so interested in nothing,” she said. “I wish I could be more like that.”

Missy Elle called once more into the deep valley. Nixon rolled his eyes. He could feel sweat forming on the inside of his thighs. Before leaving for the drive, he and Reagan had been eating vanilla ice cream in the hotel room. He had left his unfinished bowl in the fridge and now ached for it.

“Hurry up,” Nixon said.

(Turn the page)