__

<< PREVIOUS

NEXT >>


__

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
Quinceañera
_ 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

_

(Continued)

Like the interviews you read about glossy women in glossy magazines, I am documented too. I wonder if all the details in the world even begin to get to the bottom of me. My mother’s questions are all wrong, contrived and pointing, but on good days I answer them anyway. My clipped responses seem even more insignificant in my mother’s neat script, documented in the scrapbooks.

I have even timed my mother working from the family room in 30-minute increments, measured out by afternoon sitcoms. Each scrapbook page takes her nearly three hours to finish. Each binder holds 50 pages at least. Twenty books chronicle the first three years of my life--three hours of my mother’s life traded to document three minutes of mine.

“I won’t come up while your friend is here, if you don’t want me to, honey,” my mother promises. Palpable disappointment weighs down the corners of her eyes. “But this is a big deal, this is your first friend over,” she says. Before I begin to feel too guilty, her face slips into that familiar, wistful smile. First Friend Over, she repeats, like a line in a poem, or the title to a collection of short stories. This cadence, too even, balls up in the pit of my stomach like crumpled paper.

But that afternoon my mother is good. She greets Jala at the door, her lipstick freshly applied, her apron ironed and slightly askew. After that, my mother excuses herself to the kitchen where something in the oven already smells rich and sweet.

On our way to the staircase, Jala and I pass the dining room. Jala cranes her neck to look inside. “What the f is that stuff?” she whispers, “Is your mom a serial killer or something?” I sink my fingers into the crook of her arm. I want to pull her upstairs, but instead we stand frozen in front of my mother’s workspace.

In contrast to the rest of our house, all the surfaces in the dining room are covered with materials: rivets and raffia; photo corners and wheat glues; specialty scissors. Overfilled corkboards, heavy with my image, line the far wall. A full sized paper cutter, with its jaw swung open, gawks at us.

I look past everything to the fat leather binders that hold the finished scrapbook pages. They tower in tall stacks in front of the bay window, in case of fire. A timer goes off in the kitchen and Jala flinches from my grip.

“You okay, Carlie?” Jala asks. Her eyes are still two headlights illuminating the spectacle of my mother’s workspace.

“I am,” I say as if waking up from a dream. “But I can’t hang out with you today.”

***

Leaving, Jala looks bewildered. I watch her disappear before shutting the front door. Then I find my mother in the kitchen, staring out a back window.

“My friend, Jala, she had to leave,” I say to the back of her head.

“Oh. That’s too bad. The cookies.”

“I mean she had to leave because of your room.”

“Don’t be silly, dear.”

“Why do you have to have all that stuff?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Carlie.” I want to believe her, but something knowing flashes in her eyes.

“Why is our house so weird?” I continue, “Why are we so weird?

Why are you so weird? I want to say.

My mother’s face looks empty as a frame.

“Do you want a cookie?” she finally offers.

I shake my head and run upstairs, crying.

***

When I come back down I see the sad curve of my mother’s back in the dining room. I make a show of closing kitchen cabinets noisily, but she just sits.

“Mom, you wanna take some pictures of me in a little bit?” I finally say. Her smile is weak at first, then, reaching for an instant camera in her purse, it hastens. I pose for her in front of the front door that is safely closed to the world now. I laugh high and shrill for my mother behind the camera, and in turn she grows giddy.

When we are done, she sits back in her favorite chair and labels the pictures she has just taken. Carefully she places them in a manila envelope, dates it, and puts it in her files.

“Could you manage dinner tonight, Carlie, honey?” she asks “Something frozen, maybe. It’s just that I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

I look around and see that, except for her workshop, our house is immaculate. The laundry is folded; framed photographs on the mantle want for dust. My mother is a model housekeeper and a fulltime nurse, but her real work is capturing me. I’ve snooped through her filing cabinets and she is years behind.

(Turn the page)