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

Stories & Essays
Copy Machine Repair Guy
_
By D.E. Fredd
Corrupted Youth
_ By Kurt Kirchmeier
Dragon's Breath
_ By Lionel Cheng
Even the Damned Deserve to Love
_ By Anna Cortez
Gifts
_ By Jocelyn Johnson
House of Cards
_ By Steven J. Dines
In Doubt
_ By Stephanie Thoma
Lipstick
_ By Michelle Baron
Old Biddy
_ By Claire Nixon
QuinceaŮera
_ By Hester Young
The Fiddler and the Faerie
_ By Samantha Rae
When Barky Smiles
_ By S.E. Diamond

Poetry
2 A.M. Window Shopping
_ By Chris McGuffin
Alison
_ By Harriet O. Leach
Cloudy New Year's Morning
_ By Richard Fein
Not Easy
_ By Samantha Ogust
On Hearing Li-Young Lee Read His Poetry
_ By Foster Dickson
Prelude and Coda
_ By Richard Fein
Rainy Night Meditation
_ By Harriet O. Leach
Retreat
_ By Richard MacAleese
Silage Team--Machete Thirst
_ By Leland Jamieson
Starlight
_ By Richard MacAleese
Stolen Phone
_ By Jorge Jameson
The Abandoned Playground
_ By Richard MacAleese
Thought Provoking Baked Crescent
_ By Chris McGuffin

Art & Photography
Daniel Bravo
_ Paintings
Tove Hedengren
_ Photography
Peter Huettenrauch
_ Photography
E. Hunting
_ Drawings and Digital Art
Robin McQuay
_ Drawings
Iris Onica
_ Paintings
Pete Revonkorpi
_ Digital Art
Roy Wangsa
_ Photography

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Gifts
By Jocelyn Johnson


This is my gift to you, my mother whispers,
We will have two Christmases
.

And itís true, days after the first one we have Christmas again. She unpacks 30 meticulously packed boxes of decorations: handmade ornaments, glass bobbles, strings of white lights.

But for the second Christmas the presents are only empty boxes dressed in ribbons. The fireplace turns on with a switch. My father stands like a coat rack in a corner, a wool jacket draped over his arm.

My mother is at the center of my memory, coaxing smiles from behind the glistening eye of the camera, more focused this second time. At three years old I donít realize it, but this production is not for me. The second Christmas is for those precious photographs, which my mother felt needed redoing because of an error in clarity or light. The second Christmas is for the scrapbooks.

***

I am told now that there is a whole community of scrapbookers: women who meet on Sundays, suitcases of supplies under their arms. Like my own mother, these womenís memories are too precious for plain photo albums. Their family lives must be laid out at jaunty angles, titled with gel pens on black acid free paper, kept safe under plastic.

Growing up, I only knew that my mother spent hours with my image every night. She worked at her desk, under a circle of lamplight, after I was in bed. When I woke from a bad dream, Iíd find her there.

***

My parentsí wedding portrait hung in the foyer. When I was young, Iíd study it. Upstairs my parents yelled and cried but in the picture my father was handsome and laughing into my motherís lacy bodice.

My father kept coming home later and later until one evening, when the ground was covered in snow, he didnít come home at all. After days passed my mother removed that portrait from the hallway. It left a dusty silhouette, which she eventually scrubbed away. For weeks I stood in front of the newly empty space, trying to see my fatherís face there. In truth, I donít remember much else about him.

What I do remember are the freakishly neat rows of trees in our neighborhood; saplings supported by stakes, positioned so that one day they would become an allťe over Maple Street.

Every street in my neighborhood is a dead end. Every street is named after a type of tree and demarcated with saplings not much taller than I am on my bicycle at nine.

We kids in the neighborhood watched new houses go up: toxic siding, tufted pink insulation, pressure-treated wood. Dark-skinned men in angry machines bullied the earth around these houses. They kept pushing the soil into new configurations, so that eventually all of the old trees--the real trees--died and got ground into mulch; their gravesites buried beneath rolls of new sod like they never existed.

I also remember weekly trips to the craft store, the parking lot and expanse of black asphalt punctuated by bright painted lines. The aisles of the store are long and too cool for summer. This time my mother has brought me under the pretense of buying decorations for The Fourth of July, but we never even visit the section of flags and sparklers.

Instead, my mother heads straight to the scrap-booking supplies. We circle like sharks until I am so frustrated that I start to cry. ďBe a big girl, now,Ē my mother says. She forces open a pack of crayons from an adjacent aisle and hands me a coloring book we havenít even paid for. I plop down on the cold linoleum, my lip jutted out like a Mylar balloon. I use red, white, and blue crayons to color inside the lines.

Bored at the Store, my mother muses as she digs in her purse for one of several disposable cameras she keeps there. Then she thinks better of it. I am too old for this type of picture, she must think. At the checkout a gaggle of girls in front of us shimmy and shake; they brandish American flags and silvery pom-poms.

***

I donít have a friend over to my house until I am twelve years old, and even then I know better. ďLetís hang out tomorrow afternoon at your place, Carlie,Ē my best (and only) friend, Jala, says. I say okay before I catch myself. The neat dimensions of the meeting, between 4:00 and 6:00 pm, make it almost feel safe.

There are several instant cameras in our house and countless disposable ones: five in the foyer, three in the living room, one in each bathroom upstairs. In the dining room, my motherís workshop, there are fleets of disposable cameras, sheathed in plastic. The day that Jala is supposed to come over I try to collect or cover them all.

I also plead with my mother to stay out of my bedroom. I banish my mammoth collection of teddy bears from their nest on my bed. The bears arenít mine anyway, not really, even if I do sleep among them and chew on the pink oneís ears while I sleep. My mother has given me one bear for my birthday every year of my life. She says each one represents something about me.

Every year the bears come and I allow it, like I allow the incessant photographs and the questions asked:

Do you have a new favorite color, Carlie?
Which star do you have a crush on?
Who is your favorite teacher and why?

(Turn the page)