Across The Wire

Schrodinger’s Lil Chonker

By Coleman Bomar

We took out the cat, a Main Coon with auburn fur, and named her Minerva. We stashed our cruel brains in the box with poison, neither alive nor dead, finally able to sleep. 


Coleman Bomar is a writer from Middle Tennessee. He has a chapbook out with Gob Pile Press.

Across The Wire

The Flood

By Denise S. Robbins

“The Singularity will doom us all.” Samuel says this at a moment of conversational pause. The dinner party goes quiet, for swiveling heads make no sound. Everyone waits for Sam to explain himself. But he’ll wait. He’ll wait until someone asks. The windows are open and someone, somewhere, is drumming. Cars bring their own accompaniment in quick swells. 

Polite little Ariana, in a quiet voice: “What does that mean?” 

Sam takes a deep breath, making his mustache quiver. His eyes are still and serious, fixed on Ariana’s, who flinches slightly but keeps his gaze. “When AI intelligence surpasses our own,” says Sam, “there will be no hope for the human race. Unless we’re lucky enough for our superintelligent robo-overlords to be gentle. Perhaps they’ll let us, as slaves, have dinner parties, like we’ll let our future children play House, as long as they don’t get out of line.” He rubs his belly as if he were the pregnant one. The others glance at his wife Carmela, standing on the other side of the room, whose flowery wrap dress expertly hides any stomach bulge. 

“Hey man, you shouldn’t say that,” says blue-haired Lennie. “The word slaves.”

“This may be my last chance for anything I say to mean anything at all,” says Sam. 

Carmela shoots her husband an angry look. Earlier she had explicitly asked Sam not to talk about Doomsday during his birthday Shabbat. He ignores her gaze. 

“Let’s start eating,” says Carmela, trying to remind herself how nice she felt ten minutes ago, when pockets of conversation hummed around the room, an underlying current of sound, like when you realize the fridge is churning, but it’s the way voices converge into a low, cheerful drone. When her guests poured their second drink and became flushed with happiness as they hovered around the fresh baked challah like it was a newborn baby. When she lit the Shabbat candles and the fire reflected in Sam’s eyes before he moved to hug her from behind and rub her newly pregnant belly. 

“But Elias isn’t here yet,” says Sam.

“He’s never here yet,” says Carmela. “Food time. Plates on laps, I’ll bring it around.” A nice big dining table is something that can always be put off, the lack of it ignorable until you have a dinner party, so they are sitting on couches around a coffee table. Carmela removes the noodle casserole from the oven and scoops a hefty portion onto each plate, along with one ripped handful of challah. She worked hard on this dish, and expects praise in equal measure to the effort she put into it, but no one seems to notice as she hands them a plate, everyone now in rapt attention as Sam explains calmly why every argument against the Singularity is wrong. 

Lennie says, “We’ll create a kill switch.” 

Sam shakes his head. “You think they won’t foresee that and reprogram themselves for it not to matter?” 

“There are four different cheeses in this,” Carmela announces, taking a plate for herself. “Mozzarella, pepperjack, gorgonzola, and bleu.” 

“Isn’t gorgonzola a type of blue?” says Lennie. 

“Bleu,” says Carmela, nasally, “like bluh.” 

“So is it a type of bluh?” asks Lennie.

“I’m not sure,” says Carmela. “You could Google it later. Now for the Motzi.” She leads the blessing of the bread and everyone takes a perfunctory bite of challah. “Leave room for cake!” 

“Cake?” asks Sam. “What flavor?” 

“It’s a surprise.” 

The AI conversation continues as if it never stopped. Ariana is unconcerned about the internet advertisements: in fact, she likes how the internet seems to know exactly what she wants to purchase next, and gives her good deals, too. Lennie jokes about a robot accidentally setting off a nuclear apocalypse. Carmela sits back and disengages. She’s scarcely hungry, after hours of taste testing, and it seems the others share her lack of appetite, except for Sam, who eats his dish in big bites between words. He goes back for seconds, peeking in the fridge on the way back. He sits next to Carmela on the loveseat and kisses her on the cheek. 

“Chocolate cake! You know me so well, honey. Thanks for the party.”

“Why, because it might be your last before the Singularity?” Carmela says half-sarcastically. 

Sam’s smile disappears. 

There’s a knock at the door. 

“Elias!” Carmela checks her watch. “Who had eight o’clock?” 

“I said 8:05,” says Ariana. 

“Cheers to Ariana.” Carmela pours herself another glass of sparkling apple juice. “Door’s unlocked,” she calls out. The knocking continues. “Okay, I’m coming.” She opens the door to see Elias, in a pea coat and baseball cap, dripping wet.

“There was a storm,” says Elias with a grave countenance. 

“We didn’t see it,” says Carmela. 

“It unleashed itself on me during my walk over.” 

“It must have missed us. Can I get you a beer?” 

“The strongest you’ve got.” 

Lennie hands Elias his recently opened bottle of 9.5 percent IPA. “I took one sip but I hate this,” he says. 

Elias drinks deeply, then removes his coat and hat, putting them on the floor in a corner. “Sorry I’m late. I fell into a deep depression after reading this week’s parsha.”

“The Torah portion one about Noah’s flood?” says Carmela. “Why should that worry you? Hashem said explicitly it would never happen again. The rainbow covenant and all that.” 

“Just look at me,” says Elias. “I fell into a flood of emotions, then became wet to my core. The Great Flood is upon us once more.” 

“Yes. It’s called the Singularity,” says Sam. “You’re right about the parsha. Doesn’t bode well for us! Hashem decided humanity wasn’t good enough and flooded the Earth except Noah. But Noah was a nobody.” 

“He had faith,” says Elias. 

“Sure. That was his only quality. He believed what he was told. He built the ark. He was like a robot himself. Is that what’ll happen to us? The only survivors will be mindless slaves. He knew he had no personhood. That’s why, after the flood receded, he became an embarrassing, naked drunk.” 

“Or maybe it’s because everyone he knew was dead,” whispers Ariana. 

“Drunk and naked?” says Lennie. “Noah sounds fun.” 

“No more talk of floods or singularities!” Carmela stands up and claps her hands. “We’re here to celebrate Shabbat and Sam. That means relax. Everybody, why do you love Sam? Let’s talk in turns.” 

The room is quiet. 

“Don’t everyone talk all at once,” says Carmela. 

“Come on, Carmela,” says Sam, “let’s just get back to food. How about the cake?” 

“Yes! The cake.” Carmela cuts the cake but no one touches it except Sam, who stares with beautifully greedy eyes as she gives him a large piece. The conversation picks back up, the discussion flowing into divots and streams, veering around how to win the robot war and landing on they all plan to live their final day alive. 

When Ariana returns from the bathroom, Carmela rushes over to grab her before Ariana can re-immerse herself in AI talk. Carmela tries to think of any other other conversation topic, and finds herself telling Ariana about childhood home movies her mother recently sent her. “I haven’t seen myself with such clear eyes until this week,” she says. “I was deeply afraid of being left out. Yet I always seemed to be sitting on the sidelines by choice. The funny thing is I’ve watched these videos before. Years ago. I used to rewatch them all the time. But I never got that feeling out of them, the one I have right now, where I understand myself. How much of who I am was shaped by the way I interacted with my brothers as a kid? I wanted to be one of them but I was too small. Then I spent my whole life trying to fit in, without thinking about any sense of individuality. Only in recent years have I found that. I had to push back against my own nature. It’s just fascinating—and terrifying—to think about how much can shape a child’s life.” She rubs her stomach. “So much is out of our control. Some of it is in our control, or at least we think it is. Like, I get to decide how many years until our second child. But I have no idea how much that age gap will affect them. Sometimes siblings are better friends the further apart in age they are. Sorry, I’m going on and on.” 

“No, it’s interesting,” says Ariana. 

“So what traumatized you as a child?” 

Ariana thinks for a moment, then says, “A robot clown toy.” She shudders. “Horrifying.” 

“Here’s how we do it,” says Lennie on the other side of the room with an empty beer in his hand. “We convert everyone to Judaism. Even the robots. Then we require all technology to shut down once a week. Then we’ll have Saturdays to plan the rebellion.” 

“Not good enough,” says Sam. 

“And Friday nights, too,” says Lennie. 

“We’re not supposed to work on the Sabbath,” says Elias. “We’d lose our favor with Hashem.” 

“I think Hashem would understand in times of war,” says Lennie.

“Robots wouldn’t believe in Hashem,” says Sam. “They only believe in themselves.” 

“But we created them,” says Lennie. “What’s simpler than that? We are their creators. So they have to listen to what we say about Hashem. The idea of Hashem will be beyond AI comprehension. We know it doesn’t make logical sense. God. Robots are all ‘one plus one is two.’ That’s true when you’re talking about matter and particulars. But sometimes it’s more than that. We’ll know this. They won’t. Boom. We win.” 

“It’s time for the game!” calls out Carmela. “Who knows Sam best?” 

“Carmela,” pleads Sam, “can we play later? We’re kind of in the middle of something.” 

“I’d like to play,” Ariana says feebly. 

“What’s the point of playing when Carmela will automatically win?” says Lennie. “Obviously you know him best.” 

“I’m not playing,” she says. “I’m judging.” 

“Who died and made you judge?” says Lennie. 

“Just pick a side,” says Carmela. “Blue couch or green couch.” 

Lennie is sitting in the middle of the two couches, on the floor. Elias is on the blue, Ariana on the green. Lennie leans to the left towards the blue, collapsing on his elbow at Elias’s feet. “Dudes rock.” He holds up his hand for a fistbump with Elias. 

“Two groups fight for honor bestowed upon by the Birthday Boy,” says Sam in a booming voice, joining Carmela to stand by the door. “Which side will win? Which will fall into shameful decrepitude?” 

Elias’s phone rings. 

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” says Sam. “Your team loses one point for breaking the Sabbath.” 

“Oh, really?” says Elias. “Looks like your internet…box… thing is plugged in. Don’t you lose a point?”

“The Birthday Boy loses no points,” announces Sam. “He only grants them.” 

The storm comes suddenly. A burst of rain enters the open windows, splattering the plants in the windowsill. Carmela rushes over to close the windows. The rain leaves angry wet marks on the stomach of her dress.

“I told you it was storming,” says Elias. 

“No one doubted you,” says Carmela, flicking the water off her flowing dress, carefully, surrounding the spot where her future baby lives. 

“I should be going,” says Ariana. 

“What?” says Carmela. “The game hasn’t started yet. You’re going to walk in this?” 

“My Uber’s on its way. My dog is scared of storms.” 

“Okay, at least the teams will be even now. Elias versus Lennie.” 

“Right,” Lennie scoffs. “And we are absolutely excited about playing this dumb game.” 

“Hey, hey, HEY.” Sam stands up and puts his hands on his hips. “This is not a dumb game. This is the best game in the world. Once it gets going.” 

“Right,” says Lennie. “We’re definitely going to start playing it.” He gets up and slices a piece of cake. 

“We never sang the birthday song!” Carmela realizes with distress. “Don’t eat the cake! Don’t eat the cake! Turn out the lights!” Sam turns out the lights and hears drawers opening in the kitchen. “Sam, where are the candles? Turn the lights back on!” Carmela rummages through the kitchen drawers, then runs to the closet to search the boxes of knick-knacks. Old Halloween costumes and unused streamers fling to the ground, piling up at her feet. 

“How should I know?” 

Lennie’s already eating his cake. 

“Don’t eat the cake,” commands Sam. 

“Nothing in this house is organized!” Carmela cries, suddenly, bursting into tears. She’s never cried in front of anyone before, but now she can’t stop the angry sobs. She’ll blame the pregnancy hormones later. Hell, she’ll blame them now, and fight the urge to squeeze her stomach. The others grimace at one another, wondering if they should comfort her, leave, or pretend they don’t see what’s happening. They sit in silence as she continues to cry, turning boxes upside down, rifling through assortments of Tums and old journals. Sam directs his guests to their coats and offers his two spare umbrellas. Carmela hardly hears as the door opens and closes, wading deeply now into the suitcase closet. 

Sam walks calmly through the kitchen, peering into the top shelf of the pantry, the one too high for Carmela to reach. The box of birthday candles is hidden behind a bag of whole wheat flour. 

He brings it to his wife, now lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling with a blank look. Her cheeks are red and wet with tears. The windows in the bedroom are still open, bringing in small puddles from the storm. 

“Hey. Hey, hey.” Sam leans over her and strokes her hair back. “Look what I found.” He shows her the candles. 

“We need a real table,” Carmela says softly.

“We don’t need a real table.” 

“Yes, we do.” 

“Okay. We can buy one.” 

“Better plates, too, and wine glasses that match.” 

“Of course.” He begins massaging her temples.

She moans. “I’m sorry I ruined your birthday.” 

“I had a great time. And now I get to go to bed early, get a good night’s rest? Score!” 

Carmela moans again, but this time a smile emerges at the side of her lips. The modem beeps, complaining about a dying battery. “We’re terrible for not unplugging the modem,” says Carmela. “We’re the worst.” 

“So said the man who’s never earlier than two hours late.” Sam reaches down to Carmela’s dress, pulling it up over her belly, exposing old white underpants. 

“All my cute undies are in the hamper. I didn’t want to ask you to do laundry today.”

“These ones are adorable,” Sam says, and puts his ear on her stomach, as if listening to the ocean. 

“Our son’s in there,” he says. 

“Yeah.” Carmela picks up a strand of Sam’s black hair. 

“Hey Mel?” Sam says into her stomach.


He squeezes her hand. “Let’s name him Noah.”

Denise S. Robbins is an author and teacher from Wisconsin. Her writing has appeared in Barcelona Review, Gulf Coast Journal, and more. She teaches a workshop about climate change fiction and has a novel and story collection in the works. Also a Substack. See more at

Across The Wire

Pothole Eyes

By Jon Berger

Valentine’s Day

Pothole emergence time

Miles Teller drives down to Detroit

Miles Teller refers to Detroit as NPC land


Driving an NPC car 

Ass packs an asphalt truck

You know the type

The road crew who shovels asphalt into the potholes on the highway

The asphalt is hot and steaming and molten and black

They take up a lane of traffic and have a giant blinking arrow sign on the back of the truck 

But the NPC people cannot see the Asphalt truck

Miles Teller keeps driving on I 96

Because this happens all the time in Detroit

Miles Teller Hates Detroit

Miles Teller Hates Traverse City

Miles Teller lived in Traverse City when he was too young to remember

He moved because a bunch of Detroit people bought second homes in Traverse City 

And Miles Teller’s family could not afford to live there anymore


Driving in Traverse City

Is just like driving in Detroit

Miles Teller drives everywhere in Michigan

In every condition

Miles Teller can feel the curvature of the earth when he drives

Miles Teller drives a delivery van with over 300,000 miles on it

With brakes that go to the floor

Miles Teller delivers tools or parts or some bullshit to machine shops

Miles Teller does not know what he is delivering


Miles Teller’s boss 

Sits in his office and watches

Right wing conspiracy theory videos

On YouTube 

Miles Teller’s boss owns a bunch of tactical guns 

Miles Teller’s boss doesn’t know anything about tactical guns

Miles Teller had to tell his boss which caliber of bullet each gun shoots

Miles Teller only owns two old hunting rifles

That were given to him by family

Miles Teller’s boss is an NPC

Miles Teller’s existence is an unbearable burden on the world

Just ask everyone in the world

Everyone yells at Miles Teller and tells him what to do 

All the time

Miles Teller gets yelled at everyday

When Miles Teller gets back from Detroit, he has to figure out what all this paperwork from Detroit means

Nobody else knows what the paperwork means and the order for the tools is always wrong and Nobody knows why

Miles Teller is standing in the warehouse and all these people start crawling out of their cubicles To yell at Miles Teller as a group crucifixion activity

Miles Teller gets accused of stealing parts for CNC and Mills and Lathe Machines

Miles Teller doesn’t know what CNC, Mills and Lathe Machines are

Miles Teller did not steal the parts 

And even if he did, he would not know what to do with them

Miles Teller imagines that if he did steal the machinist parts, he would try to create a giant mech Robot in his basement and use the robot to gain freedom

When Miles Teller gets yelled at, he doesn’t do anything

He just stands there motionless and without expression

But his eyes change

Miles Teller’s eyes sink in and become pot holes

They don’t see anything in front of them


They see tentacles reaching up from the dark below

They see a beast sunk so far down it has intertwined with the core of the earth and the earth can’t get rid of this beast and overtime the earth has learned to rely on the beast for survival

The tentacles shoot up from the core of the earth and through Miles Teller’s feet and then out of Miles Teller’s eyes and the end of the two tentacles have mouths and inside the tentacle’s mouths Are serrated teeth. The mouths open and hiss and venom drools down to the floor and one of the tentacles chomps off the head of a sales person and another tentacle chomps off the head of someone who works in the billing department

This makes everyone feel uncomfortable around Miles Teller

Miles Teller’s boss calls him into his office and tells him that he can’t shoot evil tentacles out of his eyes and bite people’s heads off anymore. If he keeps doing it, he will be fired

Miles Teller reminds his boss that he makes the same amount of money as unemployment benefits provide

The eyes of Miles Teller’s boss are not connected to the beast at the center of the earth. Instead, they’re connected to a cotton candy machine at a community center downtown

Hot Pink and Baby Blue cotton candy blooms out of Miles Teller’s bosses’ eyes. His boss screams in terror and tries to keep the cotton candy from spilling out

While this is happening Miles Teller begins to tell his boss how a junkie has recently stolen sentimental belongings from his mother, who is sick

Miles Teller’s boss is sobbing now and the cotton candy is coming out of his eyes and is getting wet and deflating kinda like how cotton candy does when you eat it. But instead of saliva its tears

Miles Teller tells his boss he needs to take a couple days off work to locate the junkie and get the stolen items back or get revenge

Miles Teller is good at locating people like this

Miles Teller still has lawyers call him and ask him to locate people for them but Miles Teller hates lawyers

Miles Teller is owed favors by the most bellicose spirits in the cosmos

Miles Teller’s boss wretches his head back, holds the sides of his head and screams in agony as more cotton candy comes out of his eyes and melts from his tears and runs down his stupid face

Miles Teller’s boss shoos him out of his office and tells him to do whatever he wants

Miles Teller leaves work

It is a blizzard outside

Miles Teller’s Ford Fiesta is stuck in the snow

Miles Teller furiously shovels snow out from around his piece of shit car

Once unstuck, Miles Teller drives down the decrepit and abandoned and snowy streets

The icy shovel is in the back seat of his car. Ice is melting off the shovel and getting the seats

Miles Teller has thoughts of taking the shovel and digging all the way down to the core of the Earth and untangling the beast and bringing it up to the surface


Jon Berger lives in Saginaw, MI. His short story collection GOON DOG is available at Gob Pile Press. His poetry collection SAINT LIZARD is forthcoming at Gob Pile Press. He tweets @bergerbomb44.

Across The Wire

I Came to a Place of Rough Neglect and Left Myself There  

By Scott Mitchel May

Notes From The Scene

We found a pear.

We found it near the lobby’s desk and it was chewed.

Chewed and also rotten. 

By the time we found it.

She was behind the lobby’s desk.

She had a gunshot wound to the head and the bullet was lodged in the wall behind the desk, behind where she was standing.

Unclear if she was given a chance.



I’m so sick of this shit, this cocked-up shit; the whole world is full of this cocked-up shit.

We found a tooth.

In a drawer.

Of the desk.

Renaud says it’s a baby tooth.

Bagged and logged into evidence; file #46568.

Other than that, nothing of note.

I hate

The Doins’ Within the Room

“He said he was comin’, so he is comin’. Watch cable and chill the fuck out.”

“My momma says don’t trust nothin’ you can hold and I can’t hold HBO and I can’t hold happy-horse-shit.”

“Your mama was an ignorant Gypsy whore.”

“Be that as it may…”

“He’s comin’”


“When what?”

“When he gets back from the place.”

“What place?”

“Don’t make me say it.”

“What place?”

“The gettin’…”

A knock at the door snags his attention and eases her mind. There is a green-yellow light outside and the shadow it casts against the cement looks about right for who they are expecting. They hold still. Quiet. The rate is $7.50/hr. They are running low on time.

“Get it, damn you!”

“Well, now how do we know it’s him back from the place?”

“How do we know? Who the fuck else is it gonna be?”


“What do we got so good that intruders would want to intrude upon it?”

“We got the stuff; when he gets back.”

“He ain’t back. Or, he is but we ain’t let him in. Either way, we ain’t got the stuff.”

“They could know we gettin’ the stuff. They could be knocking and anticipatin’ us gettin’ the stuff. We answer, they hit us, we wait with them, then, when he shows, they kill us and him and take the stuff.”

“You are a dumb-fuck.”


“Yeah, ok.”

He answers the door and when it opens wide enough he is hit on his head with the butt end of a Maglite Flashlight that takes four D Cell batteries and is knocked unconscious and They come through the room’s door with guns drawn which they use to glue her to the bed and they yell “Don’t move a fuckin’ hair or I’ll…” and the rest she misses because she’s watching him bleed and she’s thinking that this is the stupidest time for him to be fucking be right about something he speculated on.

Notes from the Scene

Her dress is hiked up and she’s not wearing underwear.

They never tell you how you’ll feel in the academy about such things.

Roderick finds a shed pubic hair three feet away but it’s brown and hers are yellow.

Fuckin’ hourly rate shit-hole.

A casing is found.


Varmint round.

Must’ve put it right to her forehead.

No explaining it otherwise.

A chill to the air.

Her face is pocked with a lifetime’s regret.

Her teeth are a shattered ruin.

No witnesses.

No one left around.

The no vacancy light is on.

The rats know when to do their thing and go.

Rm 465 has been swept.

A bowl of pears was found.

More  Doins’ Within The Room

“I keep tellin’ everyone he ain’t back! He took the money and he left.”

“That he did.”

“You got money! You got dope!”

“We ain’t got shit!”

“He’s right.”

“Don’t you motherfuck to me!”

“I ain’t motherfuckin’ to nobody! If I was high, you’d know it.”

“We wait.”

“I told you…”

“Shut the fuck up, Leonard!”

“All I’m sayin’ is I never get credit for when I’m right.”

“I tell you plenty!”

“You never tell me squat!”

“I tell you all the damn time, you just ain’t listen!”

“Never say you’re sorry neither…”

“Well, I’m sorry you got us hogtied, that’s for sure.”

“I hate you so much.”

A knock at the door. He is back from the place from which things are gotten. One of them bites a pear. They answer.

Notes from the Scene

Three bodies upstairs.

All shot in the head.

Three .22 casings

Looks like four coffee mugs.

They were waiting a while.

No clue who did this.

Three males.


Coke, likely.

Three out of state Drivers Licenses.

God damn it.

Nothing left to do but the paperwork.

See you down the road a piece, Scumbags.


Scott is the author of the short story collection DeKalb Illinois is a Paradise What Eats Its Own (Alien Buddha 22), the novels Breakneck: or it happened once in America (Anxiety Press 23) and Awful People (Death of Print Feb 24), and the novelette All Burn Down (Emerge Press Oct 23). His short stories and essays have appeared in many magazines across the internet.

Across The Wire

Love Taps

By Michael McSweeney

The game started at the intersection in South Montford, the place where drunkenness and fire melted away James Rainville three months before. We called it Love Taps and the goal was to hit the car ahead of you with your bumper but not cause any damage. I drove the swamp-green shit-box sedan my sister smashed to hell before my parents gave me the keys. G sat beside me smoking the last of our junk weed out of a crushed and pocked cola can. P’s straw-blonde hair sprouted in the window of the truck ahead of us and the wind rocked the stoplight above the intersection. Zack Sweeney, you coward, G said. Tap that bastard’s bumper. Give it a love tap. I shoved deep the lingering anxiety of my father and his father, now mine, and nudged the accelerator. The shit-box scampered half a foot. Then G shouted, Just fucking do it. I hated the smell of the junk weed and I hated G for wasting our money on it. Then I kicked the gas pedal and the shit-box lurched and we banged against P’s rear. P twisted and I saw his foul fury face and then the light glared green and the school bus behind us bellowed and we raged up the long blight nightmare of old proud Montford Main. When we reached the baseball field, the only place that didn’t demand your money for a welcome, P was ready to rough me up until G calmed him down and explained the game. P’s scowl bloomed into a grin and that night we chased our tails north and south through Montford’s endless house-pimpled mazes. G’s girlfriend C got in on it, too. C was born for it, a hot holy maniac who’d banshee her dad’s busted-up minivan into the oncoming lane and hum a $15 throwaway cell phone across your hood. Those nights we built towering bonfires in the old construction yard and cackled when the cops failed to uproot us. My mind boiled and I never slept before dawn. C and I fucked atop the brick-and-mortar bones of the ruined middle school on the hottest night of summer, the night G’s appendix tore itself apart. Three weeks later G’s parents sold their house and he was gone, right before the market burst. Dissipation, everyone. I called the number C gave me but each time a confused woman asked if my name was Tom. I pushed the shit-box harder each night, 85 mile-per-hour demon runs down Montford Main. This has to be a record, I shouted, it has to be. I wanted to wrench the wheel leftward, one last love tap for the last driver alive. I wanted the difference between the machine and me to dissolve at the place where stop signs demanded my silence, far from the highway crossing that split my town like a crucifix, me just a foot and a final drop of gas, handbrake as busted as a young friend’s promise, dashboard lights too dim to be understood.


Michael McSweeney is a writer and editor from Massachusetts. His first novel, Heroman, is forthcoming from Expat Press.

Across The Wire


By Bram Riddlebarger

Mariner Market
Cannon Beach, Oregon

“Why don’t you guys wait outside?”

Less question than directive.

“I’ll get the tide map and be out in a minute.”

I grabbed my son’s hand and left without any beer.

I saw a pair of seagulls in the parking lot in the back of a truck. The truck had a cap, but the rear window was missing. The gulls breached the entry. A mound of household goods filled the bed.

“Get all your stuff and get out!”

“But I don’t want to.”

The gulls rummaged the debris. The larger gull dislodged a package of Tide washing machine tablets. The gull tossed the Tide, but the Tide stayed in.

No one paid any attention to the gulls. Everyone in Cannon Beach was used to the tide coming in and out every day.

Making no headway the bird tried to fly, but the Tide was too heavy. The small gull got in on the action. Crows swooped down. A group of tourists murdered the saltwater taffy across the street.

I shooed the gulls away.

The gulls asked who was going to do their laundry now. I tossed the package through the invisible rear window.

“Get all your stuff and get out!”

She held the tide map in her hand.

“But I don’t want to.”

Buckling up I saw the owner of the truck, a case of beer like a household good, thwart the gulls of their soapy desire.

I wondered out loud what would make those gulls so fixated on that Tide.

My youngest daughter said

“They longed for that Ocean Breeze.”


Bram Riddlebarger lives in SE Ohio. He’s written a number of books including Golden Rod and A Settled Ship in an Ocean of Hills. “Gulls” will be in a forthcoming collection titled The Way It All Must End.

Across The Wire

Instructions from Store Manager of Orange Julius on the Day The Mall Closed Down

By Dan Leach

If you sit around thinking 

about where all this is going

you will never do anything at all


Dan Leach has published work in The New Orleans Review, Copper Nickel, and The Sun. He has two collections of short fiction: Floods and Fires (University of North Georgia, 2017) and Dead Mediums (Trident Press, 2022).  His first book of poems, Stray Latitudes, will be released by Texas Review Press in 2024. 

Across The Wire

My Life

By Yuu Ikeda

B, C, D,

B, C, D,

B, C, D,

B, C, D,

_where is the start?

_where is the next stage?

_where is the end?


Yuu Ikeda (she/they) is a Japan based poet, writer. She writes poetry on her website. Her latest poetry chapbook “Phantasmal Flowers in The Eden Where Only I Know” was published by Black Sunflowers Poetry Press. One of her big dreams is to write while traveling around the world. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @yuunnnn77

Across The Wire

The Water Bearer

this land belonged to the 
lenape, the Susquehannock, 
the massawomeck — long 
before you were born. 

and they had names for water:
moi, oneega, o:ne:ka’. names for
mountain and for mud. they spoke
a polysynthetic syntax, now frag
-mented, not unlike their people. 

but language, like the dinosaurs —
like parents — can become extinct, 

can leave traces: the not-quite
noumena, the narrows, a word
water- wind-gap carved through
tuscarora quartzite, proving 
presence with absence. 

these same landscapes made
you. this mid-atlantic geography
of arundale clay and Gettysburg
shale — of fossilized stone of
star-tooth sauropod — built up
your bones. a bloodline more
ancient than the old line. for 

you are of the sisku hanne, a
slow-moving muddy river 
swirling with alluvium. you are of the floodplains embracing 
a drowned river valley. 

you are of the youghiogheny, an
affluent river flowing in a contrary direction. you are carving a waterline
of transgressions, with more twists and turns than an oxbow — and i’m 

wading through your brackish waters, swept along the rapids toward a watershed-sink where everything you
touch inevitably meets its end. 

and when you open your lips to speak, it’s with a tangled tongue heavy with words that spill like streams from your deepwater delta mouth.


The line “you are carving a waterline of transgressions” is adapted from the poem “exhibits from The American Water Museum” by Natalie Diaz.


Natalye Childress is a writer, an editor, and author of The Aftermath of Forever (Microcosm Publishing). She lives in Berlin, Germany. Find her at or @deutschbitte.

Across The Wire

Oaxaca Studies

By Wallace Barker

Levantate Campesino

zocalo draped in colored
flags and flashing
christmas lights

nativity feels near
emaciated beggars
we had mole three ways

and chapulines with pico
wide pedestrian boulevards
are a relief after narrow

sidewalks and coughing engines
i want to buy a t-shirt that
says “¡levantate campesino!”

but i am not a campesino
and my support for their struggle
seems theoretical at best

a wildman covered in grime
walks past us in the plaza
he is naked from the waist down

a tiny old woman sleeps
on the sidewalk within
a barrier of plastic bottles

a makeshift wall for her protection


Dios Nunca Muere

we walked down steep concrete
steps to playa carrizalillo
at the bottom were men in fatigues
carrying machine guns

the beach was hot and crowded
only shade from umbrellas
above greasy plastic chairs
we found a narrow dirt path

leading over beach rock to
a small cove shaded by palm trees
two young men with bleached hair
sat on a towel lightly kissing

i felt we were intruding but we snorkeled
and observed the tropical  fish
i hit my knee on some rough coral
emerged with blood running down my leg

we took a whale watching tour
on a boat called “angelmar”
and found a pod of humpback whales
including two young calves

when they breached the surface
a fleet of tourist boats rushed over
we watched the whale flukes emerge
then disappear beneath dark waves

el capitan told us the fluke means
they are diving deep and unlikely
to resurface in such a crowded area
dolphins escorted our boat to shore

we walked across
playa manzanilla
to our rental house
we swam in the pool

just us this time
just our little family



clean light over the ocean
mesmerizing the violent surf
conjugating spanish verbs

sometimes current events
sneak into my consciousness
with the balcony doors open

i heard voices from the beach

in the morning we will return home
if god grants safe passage
we will leave the man who carries

a bucket around the tourbus parking lot
sits on the bucket to polish hubcaps
while the drivers read papers

the beach dogs skinny but
happy in a languorous way
they splash in the surf

scaring the gulls who peck sand
i wont sleep with the beach voices tonight


Wallace Barker lives in Austin, Texas. His most recent book “Collected Poems 2009-2022” is available from Maximus Books. His debut poetry collection “La Serenissima” is available from Gob Pile Press. More of his work can be found at