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

Stories & Essays
...gone tomorrow
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By jp Rodriguez
Barbie and the Burn Scars
_ By Dion OReilly
Bright Lights
_ By Nicole Exposito
Cricket Theory
_ By Sophia Alev
Dieciseis
_ By Kate Delany
Fines Double In Work Zone
_ By Brian Stumbaugh
Guy and Doll
_ By John P. Loonam
Lake
_ By Erlynda Jacqui Chan
Lala's Diner
_ By Nicole Exposito
Laundry
_ By Allison P. Boye
Love Story
_ By Cynthia Burke
Magic Bags and Forgotten Princesses
_ By Ken Goldman
Squirrels
_ By Benjamin Buchholz

Poetry
Baking Bread and Other Subtleties
_ By Leland Jamieson
Corpus Christi
_ By Taylor Collier
Early Cold
_ By Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb
Ekphrasis at the Mall
_ By James Owens
Games In Your Uncle's Den
_ By Robin Stratton
My Spanish Rose
_ By Jose Rivera
Northern Lights, Southern Soul
_ By E.F. Kramer
Posted on Fifth Avenue
_ By J.R. Salling
Sirens
_ By Naiya Wright
Summer Sojourn
_ By Cheryl Butterweck-Bucher
The Himalayan Sunset
_ By Rohith Sundararaman
Time Decays, Clots
_ By Kristine Ong Muslim
Turn
_ By Terrance Schaefer
Where You Rest
_ By Stephanie N. Barnes

Art & Photography
Bissan Alhussein
_ Paintings
E.W. Hung
_ Photography
Papa Osmubal
_ Drawings
Linda Pakkas
_ Drawings
Anastasiya Tarasenko
_ Paintings
Filip Wierzbicki
_ Paintings and Digital Photography
Nancy Xu
_ Paintings and Drawings

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Fines Double In Work Zone
By Brian Stumbaugh


You know he's going to talk about it. You know it from the moment he pulls away from the curb, leaving your modest, split level ranch behind. You know it with a certainty that hangs over you like the muggy haze of the July morning that has slicked up your back, and has dampened your arms. He's early, as usual, and in the ten years that you've worked with him you are finally prepared early enough to be waiting. You slide your travel mug into the cup holder, the sleek metal bullet of coffee that will serve as your lifeline on the trek to Syracuse, and ease the seat back. Two hours. You can do it.

"Good morning," he grumbles, loosening his tie against his Ford's feeble air conditioning. His shirtsleeves are rolled up to his elbows, and his suit coat is in the back, draped over his briefcase and an empty car seat. A bright red puppet peeks out from the coat's arm, a Sesame Street doll, you think, the one that giggles. Your oldest son would have wanted the doll, too, when he was younger, but now he's too old. The oldest girl, a junior higher, begged for the doll at Christmas, but you held firm: too old for things like that. She understood, you think.

"Morning," you offer back, not convincingly, even to you. You hate these meetings, these drives, these inevitable talks about her. Stew is your regional coordinator, you his district manager. You are in charge of ten sales reps, he is in charge of you and two others like you. You are low on the pecking order, being the newest manager, and must deal with Stew at least twice a year. The other two pull rank every time and beg out of the bi-annual sales meeting, but you suspect that Stew likes your sympathetic ear, at the very least that’s what the others think, and that is reason enough to be hauled off to middle New York. You know he'll bring up Stephanie. It has been three years since his divorce. It was devastating to him. You heard all about it. You always do.

As you watch Stew navigate the Thruway tollbooth you wonder how he made it to the spot he's in. He's in his late thirties, balding, not as saggy in the middle as most, though, and possessing of a seemingly unprecedented lack of initiative. He seems never to finish a project, at least the ones you're privy to, but has a mean streak that never fails to encompass you when things go poorly. If his interactions with his ex-wife were anything like the interactions he has with you, it's little mystery why he's a divorcée.

Stephanie and Stew were married right after you started working with Stew; you were the rookie sales rep and Stew was the latest district manager. The wedding was a grand affair; the president of the company even showed up for the reception. Stew and Steph, as they cloyingly referred to themselves, were the hit of the company social scene.

For a few years they seemed happy. They threw a housewarming party the September after they were married. You always seem to remember how close they clung to each other then, slipping in and out of the shadows of their back yard. They were always hugging each other, or kissing each other, or walking loop armed through the crowd. At that point you had been married for seven years, your boy was five, and your girl was one. You rarely made it out to parties. You rarely made physical contact in public, hell, in private for that matter. You rarely spoke to each other. It was a hard year. You remember that at the party the two of you put on the mask of being happy, not as happy as Stew and Steph, but happy nonetheless.

When it turned ugly, it came in quick shots. He was dark, blustery, spouting off at anyone who crossed him. She stopped coming to functions. Before long he stopped talking about her at all.

"Ready for today?" Stew asks, shooting a rapid sidelong glance at you. He's flustered with the lane shifts and construction that dot the Thruway now in the summer season. Inevitably, he compares the drive in July to the drive during the winter, which always ends up sounding the same.

"Yeah, I'm set," you reply, trying to appear interested in the new bridge going up ahead. Workers scurry over the steel planks that cover the expanse of the road, riveting, nailing, hammering; forging a new pass over the span. You think this is real work, substantial work, work that leaves behind a record of its passing. Often, the mental work you do leaves you empty. Sales are sales, numbers on a page. You never really feel the cold edge of a sale. Never drive the rivet home. "I was able to do the cost projections like you asked, but the totals were a bit screwy. Are you sure Jerry was on the mark with his numbers?"

"Jerry's an asshole." Stew and Jerry haven't been friends since the divorce. You know that, prior to the big fall out, Jerry and his wife were tight with Stew and Steph, but when the shit hit the fan, Jerry had a somewhat sympathetic angle for Steph. Stew never liked him after that. It didn't take Jerry long to transfer out, but the intimacies of a small company left plenty of room for interaction. None of it was good. "He probably overestimated again, just to bring down our end. I'll check it out before you go on."

"Nice bridge, huh?" You bait Stew when you get bored, and, as always, he bites. It passes the time. He sucks in air over his teeth, readying for his assault.

(Turn the page)