Issue 1 Issue 1 Non-Fiction

Cole Mineo

By Z.H. Gill

The articulated bus groans, bending with the road—

A face appears to me inside my head, blurry at first, utterly uninvited, as we pull beneath the Erector Set of the elevated train station: 

His name was Cole Mineo and he said he was related to the murdered actor Sal Mineo; his mother was Sal Mineo’s much-younger second cousin and they’d only met once, she could barely remember it, that’s how young she was, she admitted to Cole, who told me all this. So his name wasn’t even actually Cole Mineo, it was Cole Pakorny, his parents had split, he had sided with his mother in that jamboree, and so he took her name, it was his name, too, after all, it’s a bit brazen of me to suggest otherwise, it was totally within his right to use it as he did, but still it rang oddly to me, Cole rang oddly to me in his totality, the things he said, the way he dressed, the songs he whistled out weakly while we paired up to collect for a labor union on opposite sides of the same street, partners assigned, not chosen. We compared notes at the end of each block. Or we just talked. We drank the Dasani bottles the organizers handed out, which warmed up so quickly in those summer months. I got to know him well enough, but like so many people I’ve come across who call themselves an “open book,” he was hard to pin down. He could be gracious, he could be insufferable; he was never truly honest with me, I thought. We were working as foot soldiers for Local 524; I called it Local 5150, a little joke, and Cole liked this, he thought this was funny. He told this to Mo, a curly-haired woman we worked with, he re-packaged my joke and thought I wouldn’t hear his doing so, despite my standing there five feet away from them right before the morning meeting. She didn’t think it was very funny, perhaps she didn’t understand it at all, at the very least she didn’t understand at all why he said it to her, she smiled a telling little smile and turned her head and hips away from Cole Mineo toward Hugo the handsome campaign lead. We were gathering signatures to save a historic site, an Elks Lodge, oddly enough, in an art deco-ish one-story beige bunker of a building just off the highway. We were fighting to save this monstrosity because a real estate developer planned to raze it and put up an enormous hotel, and the hotels this developer had put up in the area so far were the only ones not to staff union, so 524 gathered us up, us “hapless peons,” Cole Mineo would call us, to try to save the Elks Lodge and keep a non-union hotel out of town. They’d succeeded before, they’d spared a whole city block from destruction down on Fairview, and across town from that a dentist’s office and the lot next to it, a patch of hard dirt in which a man from the university dug up arrowheads and stone tools with eager encouragement from the union, the Local employed any tactics that could stall a project into zoning oblivion. The mayor had promised to build a convention center by the airport, state-of-the-art, and these scum-fuck developers wanted their piece of it all before property values in these parts would make any such efforts unviable. Hugo the handsome campaign lead told us that we could, and likely would, get harassed on the ground today, he said he’d been getting more and more emails, that these emails had been getting more and more “specific,” but he didn’t specify in any way the subject of this specificity, he let a hum of threat and dread wash over us and no one bothered to ask for further elaboration. I, for one, was hoping something might happen out there, some “specific” something, something specifically bad enough for me to receive some sort of payout from someone, from any deeply-pocketed party, but not something specifically bad enough for me to sustain any genuinely permanent physical or psychic damage, I was already damaged enough, and, anyway, I wasn’t afraid of any goon these parties might stick upon us, any real estate G-man, and why should I have been, in broad daylight, in the safety of this bland boring shithole, which was high up in the rankings of the safest bland boring shitholes in all the state? Plus, I was tall, I was “barrel-chested,” is how my FWB described me to her best friend over the phone as I listened in from the shitter. If any G-man fucked with me, I’d sue, and I’d win or settle; no more signature-gathering for me, then. The organizers handed out printed reams of addresses, the fine residences of fair registered voters, our door-knocking duties for the day. Cole Mineo and I were assigned the outlying houses around Old Town, which wasn’t really that old, just another slippery developer’s ploy to jack up the property values around there. We had fewer houses to hit than usual, but just as much ground to cover, as the streets over there began rolling up into the dry hills. We decided to take the bus over there, leave our cars at the rented field office, so vile NIMBYs couldn’t sic tow trucks upon them. I paid for Cole’s fare, he’d bought me Burger King one evening a week or two earlier (it all blended together). Over our chicken fries that night we talked about college; he’d dropped out of Santa Barbara City College two years earlier, he’d only gone there to follow a girl from his high school who’d matriculated to UCSB. He didn’t say if she was in on this plan, this arrangement, and I didn’t ask, and my guess was no, knowing Cole. He didn’t call her his girlfriend and I didn’t want to know anything more, plausible deniability being the governing force of our relationship thus far. He asked me about school, too. I told him about a recital I gave my senior year at Mathews College, for the Technology in Music Arts Practicum, before which in the single-use restroom attached to the recital hall I’d slashed at my forearms with razor blades I’d ordered from Amazon (the tops of my arms, not the bottoms, I hastened to point out) so I could “perform” a Max patch on my laptop which randomized in real time splices of Tammy Wynette songs (I titled the performance Soft Touch)—it was something approaching collage—as I slowly bled onto my keyboard, more and more steadily over the course of my 12-minute performance. When I finished, I shut my laptop to turn off Max MSP, and thus the music, abruptly; I’d lost a good deal of blood by then. The crowd was silent, concerned. Afterward, my computer wouldn’t turn on, I’d ruined it with my own fluids. I received a High Pass in the practicum, perhaps because the instructor was so afraid for me. Cole Mineo drove me home afterward in near-total silence (my car had a flat I hadn’t yet addressed). The only thing he said was, “Let’s see some music sometime,” when he dropped me off. Which, if anything, was the coolest takeaway he could have had from my recounting of that recital, that artful cry-for-help. I told him we could go to a house show, there was always one coming up. (We never did, not together.) On the bus now, Cole told me his mother had asked him the night before to begin paying her rent, he’d moved back into his childhood room. He was humiliated by her request, he told me. The bus shook as it took a wide turn over rough road. No one seemed to notice. Cole asked me, then, if I’d ever consider getting a place with him. I told him I couldn’t refuse staying with my sister rent-free, which wasn’t even true, I have no sister, and I made a mental note to remind myself never to bring Cole Mineo inside my sublet, to keep up this ruse. I could tell Cole whatever I wanted because the stakes were so low between us, at least they were for me. Sometimes I told him of my life with a sharp, urgent honesty, like when I told him about my recital; much of the time, I made shit up, I wanted to see if he’d push back at anything, if he’d question me—and, of course, he never did. In return, I granted him a similar grace. 

After that summer, I never saw him again, and never thought about him, not until just now, as I gather myself here in the back of the bus–another bus full of humans I’ll never see again either. I rise from my seat, preparing for my transfer to the train above, carrying myself away as soon we stop and the doors slam open.

Z.H. Gill lives in Hollywood, CA, with his cat Hans. Find his recent writings at X-R-A-Y and Back Patio Press.

Issue 1 Issue 1 Poetry


By Raphael Rae

poem "THE CASK OF WANT & NADA" by Raphael Rae

Raphael Rae is a poet, essayist, painter, disabled transsexual communist, and New School MFA program dropout. Their work has been published in Witness, Passages North, Delicate Friend, Peach Magazine, and elsewhere. Find them online at or at

Issue 1 Issue 1 Poetry

The Sum of Human Experience as Contained in the Autocomplete Results for “chill/lofi beats”

By John Waddy Bullion

jazzy / jazz based / neo jazz / jazz hop / vibes / to wake up to / for mornings / to drive to / to focus to / for productivity / quiet / warm / cafe / instrumental / vibes / for background music / for studying / for deadlines / for working late / for your evening commute / energetic / upbeat / wine drinking / vibes / to make dinner to / to smoke bowls to / for lounging / for chilling / for cuddling by the fire / for sexy time / wordless / lyricless / insomniac / vibes / to relax to / to decompress to / to read the Bible to / to fall asleep to / for nighttime / for stress relief / for dreaming / for hot beach days / for quiet afternoons in Chillville / sleep / morning / focus / chill / endless / endless / vibes

John Waddy Bullion’s writing has appeared in BULL, HAD, the Texas Review, Maudlin House, Rejection Letters, and Vol 1. Brooklyn, among other fine places. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his family. Visit him online at

Issue 1 Issue 1 Poetry

Remaining Nameless

By Thad DeVassie

The wife has the prettiest of names but refuses to respond to it, hates when I speak it. This started early on when she would call me on the phone, back when phones were used for placing calls rather than texts, connecting to apps, serving as a portable clock. She would leave a message, first on an answering machine, later on voicemail, saying it’s me or hey gimme a call. Formalities of getting to know her voice behind me, her name all but disappeared. She became the girlfriend, then the wife. It explains why when acquiring our donkey we didn’t name it. It was just our donkey with no other donkeys to confuse it with. Along the way my name also evaporated. The wife doesn’t use it. The donkey can’t speak. Among those who know and don’t know me, I am addressed by a series of man-isms, the PG versions of which include dude, buddy, guy, G, homie, bro, my brotha, my man, and mister (children), or Mr. (strangers). I hardly know who I am anymore. My name was and still is George-Rupert. Not just George, not just Rupert. They are punchlines on their own, in the wild, conjuring up cartoonish caricatures that rightfully might fit. That’s what the wrong name can do. But the brilliance of a hyphen, creating something faux-sophisticated. On the rare occasion someone calls me George-Rupert I assume they are from the government, that I have landed in some kind of trouble. It is reason enough not to reveal or respond to my own name. I’ve embraced being nameless. There’s no compulsion to be known. Truth be told, it is helpful in dodging a helluva lot of incoming missiles, most of which arrive with a vengeance, leaving behind collateral damage. Nameless or not, it is never sufficient cover.

Thad DeVassie is a writer and artist/painter who creates from the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of SPLENDID IRRATIONALITIES, which was awarded the James Tate Poetry Prize in 2020 (SurVision Books), and YEAR OF STATIC (Ghost City Press, 2021), a micro-chap containing 11 original paintings and micro prose. Any other accomplishments that could be listed here remain inconsequential in the big scheme of things. His written and painted works loiter at

Issue 1 Issue 1 Poetry

What Builds Up

By Sarah B. Appel

When I’m questioning my own voice and the language it’s formed by, I look for the gaps. Places of rigor and obsession that shift the way I see picking at those wounds. It’s not that I want to be that ghost but I also don’t always want to be touched.

Awfully manipulative that fear and admiration. 

Might have been paralyzed in motion. One might say that. I wonder where the difference is. Less resistant and dirty, depraved, passing secrets. They swear it was a spirit – an apparition that burnt and hacked away at them until they choked each other up. 

Those fears no longer matter – I want to misbehave.

If a parasite misbehaved it would suck no one dry. That organizing of thought as infrastructure enacts this rooting – partially eaten things that change surrounding structures of predation. No longer sure what they keep themselves bent over, they are the spies no one meant to make. And this thing of moving people away from dirt is not a metaphor. But the facts of their cuts and holds bring nothing back. 

It just hurts wrestling control of yourself.


As long as I’ve been alive, there have been reasons to explode my own colon. Antibodies wade these waters, convinced that their intestines belong to the environment outside. Nowhere near or around what is built up sloppily as the body. 

There are responsibilities in the objects we keep of things that sway between our comprehensions of them. Like the thought of bending toward the ground to find whole stories tied up in a bow presented as food. Bites jolt the memory and keel over my meat.

Soft thing in the knees that could kill a person. 

But I still use this energy when I wake up alone and take possession of another body. Straddle between there and other places to get scorched and cool down. To shift channels of my body away from the ocean and leave a trail of spit in the air for the cells of them which are still intact on the surface. 

That amount of control hardens.

Will our sacrifice be the terrain we have struggled over? I guess my father was tired of being used against his own walls too, and walking on snow he’d shoveled away. A corner of territory unmarked, melting down and binding itself to the side of a mountain. Loosening agreements of bargaining to collectively ascend. 

The light in the kitchen finally goes out. 

These territories map our channels of focus. Not talking about it is the calcification of a weapon as gendered as the pace and distinction of leisure and convenience. Seasonal as textile or the reasons to spend time outdoors and a fascination with the nature of a body engaged to something. Layers of inculcation generating impossible matter and forcibly eating their own numbers. 

Let the currents complain about it, the architects say, no one understands them. 

Sarah B. Appel is a South Philly-based poet who received her BFA in Poetry from Pratt Institute with a minor in performance. She lives with two feline life partners and generations of lead build-up in her water pipes. She writes on subjects of sexuality, family, capitalism, living with chronic illness, power dynamics and generally attempts to interpret the politics of her life.

Issue 1 Issue 1 Non-Fiction


By Adam Shaw

My dad, my brother, and I watched TV for five days after Mom’s funeral before Dad finally snapped. He turned off the semifinal of an axe-throwing tournament mid-throw, set the remote next to the half-empty Chardonnay Mom had been drinking before she died, and told us we were going to the Cozy for a beer. My brother had never heard of the place, asked if it was new. I dismissed it as a relic, something up there with the house on 27th Street that he stripped to the studs, rebuilt, still drove by thirty years after moving. The Corvette he sold when he found out Mom was pregnant. My half-brother Mike. 

We agreed, though, and Dad drove us. Said he’d do it if one of us promised to drive home. 

The Cozy had no indication of open or closed, hours or dress code, just a front door decal stating It’s cozy time! in yellow swooping script, something you’d expect out of a family-owned diner, an antique store. Places your grandparents take you on a Sunday afternoon out. 

Isaac asked Dad if he used to drink there, and he laughed, grabbed the doorknob and pulled it open. A hanger jingled from the other side, green suede, bells and tinsel, dead lights. The inside of the building was red leather booths and mirrored walls, a pool table in back with a cigarette machine I didn’t think was legal but probably didn’t matter. Dad shuffled up to the bar, sunk into a stool and sighed like he sighed into his recliner at home. A rip in the side pulled open under his weight, the stuffing white like bared teeth. I snarled at it. My brother hit me on the arm, asked what was wrong with me.

Dad ordered a Budweiser. Stopped the waitress before she could open it, asked for a Bud Light. “Because of my blood sugar,” he added. Isaac and I ordered the same. 

Above the bar, a TV showed baseball highlights. I pointed out the Cubs, my granddaddy’s team. Mom’s dad. Dad raised a hand to catch the waitress’s attention, asked if she could turn on axe throwing instead. “To see how it ends,” he told us.


Dad asked us back to the Cozy a few weeks later to celebrate my birthday, that fall to watch Indiana Pacers basketball, that winter to eat holiday dinners. We told him one day that we wanted to meet up with our friend Brad, grab a bite to eat, and he invited himself along, told us to change our plans and send Brad to the Cozy. We agreed every time, ordered Bud Lights, nursed them and watched TV.


The Cozy offered a breakfast special for a while, maybe just a week or two. I didn’t come around enough to know for sure, but Dad invited Isaac and me a year or so after Mom’s funeral. He announced it the way one might announce a relative getting married, eyes wide with such excitement that it stood him up taller, loosened a couple strands of his combover. 

The door creaked when we entered, its bells and garland in a heap on a nearby table. The tinted windows let in more light than I thought they would, highlighted creased menus, names carved into walls, booths that sunk in the middle from drunks falling into them, sucking down beers, sucking face. Dad hustled to the bathroom for a piss and a guy stumbled up to my brother and me, shook our hands and told us what a good guy our dad was, thanked us for his service in Vietnam as if we had anything to do with it. As if we didn’t show up two wives, two divorces, two dead children later. He apologized for the loss of our mom, said Dad spoke little but highly of her. Asked us what happened. I opened my mouth to rattle off a summary of the autopsy, but Isaac cut me off. Put an arm across my chest and everything.

“She was sick,” he said.

Dad came back and we settled in at the bar, ordered a round of Bud Lights. He introduced us to Davey, who told him we’d just met. “My boy’s a doctor,” Dad said. Grabbed my brother by the shoulder and shook him the way one might a kid after his first home run. “You believe that?”

“God damn,” Davey said. “And the other one?”

Dad opened his mouth, stopped. He thought about it, ran his tongue in and out of holes where teeth used to be. You can both want someone to know something about you and soak in their discomfort when they don’t, slide into it and let it soothe you, quiet the noise between your ears. Mom had died not knowing my job; I wondered if Dad would do the same. 

I told Davey, my dad, and my brother what I did. The bartender asked for our order, saved them from having to respond, saved me from having to explain it to them. Dad asked for biscuits and gravy, Isaac the same. I went with eggs and toast. We sipped our beers while we waited for the food, and Dad told us about a woman who’d reached out to him on Facebook, young with a name he couldn’t pronounce. Said she’d seen that he’d lost his wife. The bartender offered us shots, something with orange juice, and told my dad that any woman would be lucky to have him. I wondered if the Facebook friend was a catfish, whether it mattered if it made him feel good. 

Dad declined the shot. “Because of my blood sugar,” he told her. 

Our food came not long after. I took two bites of eggs, ate half a piece of toast. My dad cleaned his plate, the rest of Isaac’s too. 

‘“That was terrible,” he said as Isaac drove us home. “It’s good to see ‘em try, though.”


At some point the bartenders started calling me “Richard’s boy.” They cracked Bud Lights for me without asking, slid them across the bar and asked if I wanted fried pickles, anything on the TV. Dad and I talked the Corvette, red, 1972. The time off he took from the factory before Mike died of leukemia. The house on 27th, how he tried to finish it before I was born but couldn’t, gated off rooms to keep me safe until he could. 


Dad died a couple years later. The night after the funeral, I told my brother that we needed to go to the Cozy. For him, I said. We’d spent the last week getting drunk for ourselves. Visiting old college bars. The brewery down the road from the city jail, the Wrigley-themed sports bar with three buck mugs of Old Style. The piano bar with two-dollar wells. Nothing but Keystone Light on draft. 

Isaac told me the Cozy had closed, and I told him to fuck off. He thumbed around on his phone, held it front of my face to prove it. I dialed the number, listened to three chimes that preceded a message that it had been disconnected. Isaac tracked down the website, something like, but the domain was for sale with an ad that you could buy it for twelve bucks. We searched on Facebook, tried to find a girl we used to work with who’d posted that she’d dated the owner, but they were gone. Isaac talked me into DT Kirby’s instead, then the Knickerbocker, then the place that used to be Hunter’s Down Under but had become something else even though everyone still called it Hunter’s Down Under. We ordered Bud Lights at every stop, toasted to Dad, perused the food menu for something new, maybe a breakfast schedule, but nothing stuck out. The settings became a blur of creaking bar stools, flickering neons, whiffs of cigarette smoke or fried food. We talked about the time I drove through the garage door, the time my brother kicked in the front door, the way we both came out of our doorway transgressions with nothing more than a “damnit boys.” We ordered another round because we could have been better, should have been better, would have been worse if our kids did the same. 


I was on my way out of town a couple days later when I made a last-minute turn across two lanes of traffic to take the long way up South Street to US-52. It earned me the blare of a horn, a middle finger out the window. I drove a few miles up the road to the Cozy, lot empty save for burger wrappers, empty forties. Through a window I spotted a glimpse of movement, the craning of a neck as someone took a swig. I parked across two spots by the door, turned off my car and tossed my keys into a box of photos we’d displayed at the funeral. 

A closed sign hung on the door, the word “permanently” scratched across its top in black ink. I went to the window, pressed my forehead against the glass. Inside, a pair of shoulders hunkered over the bar. Atop them, a sliver of light shone from a patch of skin a combover couldn’t reach. I went back to the door, grabbed the handle, pulled. A deadbolt rattled in the frame. I tried again, punched it when nothing happened. Shook the door and screamed until I couldn’t, put my head against the cold wood and sobbed out what I had in me. Fog formed on the door in a shape that reminded me of a dragon breathing fire, and I wondered what it would mean to be a dragon breathing fire, to incinerate the door, tuck my wings, walk inside. I stepped back, wiped the fog with the soft edge of a fist and spotted the edges of a decal in its wake. It’s cozy time!

I went back to the car, flipped through some photos while the heat of my tears melted from my cheeks. Found one of Dad on the couch spooning my brother and me when we were little, maybe five years old or so. Our eyes wide, focused forward. In his glasses, I caught the reflection of the TV, a speck of light I couldn’t decipher. I ran my thumb over it, imagined Dad’s arm around my body, the warmth of it, the smell of his factory, of aluminum, sweat. The firmness of his bicep under my head, the tickle of his beard on the back on my neck. Pulling my brother into me and me into him.

Adam Shaw lives with his wife and daughter in Louisville, Kentucky. His work has previously appeared in Pithead Chapel, HAD, Rejection Letters, and elsewhere. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram @adamshaw502.

Issue 1 Issue 1 Fiction

J O H A N N  M U R K

By Bill Whitten

Bergamaschi, a furniture mover who wrote books that sold modestly in France and Germany, stood by the open rear door of his illegally parked Mercedes LP Truck outside the Carlton Arms Hotel on E. 25th Street.

Aged thirty-nine, six-foot-one, one hundred-eighty five pounds he looked at his watch and sneezed. It was May and his body was in revolt. A Linden Tree was in full flower above him. He sneezed again.

A tall man in his forties with brown hair, wearing a grey three-piece suit approached him. “Well, that should do it.” The man was carrying a black briefcase in his left hand and pulled a wheeled navy suitcase with his right. He stopped, lifted a hand – covered in smudges of blue ink – above his brow to shield his eyes from the sun. “Do I pay you now or upon completion of the job?”

Bergamaschi picked up the suitcase, threw it in the back of the truck and pulled down the roll-up door. More than a dozen legal file boxes were stacked and strapped against the truck’s back wall. Each box was stenciled in white letters: J.MURK CONFIDENTIAL. He placed a padlock over the handle. “When we’re done.”

“Can I ride with you? Or does that violate a law of some kind?”

“You can ride with me, Johann.” Bergamaschi smiled and pointed at Johann’s shoes: “Watch your step getting in. It might be tricky in those Bruno Magli’s…”

On Park Avenue South, as Bergamaschi navigated his truck among the yellow cabs and bike messengers, Johann began to weep.

“Should I pull over?”

Exhausted, dislocated, breath rattling in his throat: “No, no I’m fine. It’s just that today is my wedding anniversary and my wife served me divorce papers…” His baritone tremoloed, his chest heaved, “…only yesterday.” 

“I’m sorry to hear that…”

“My work, as my wife sees it – I’m a clinical psychiatrist – has destroyed not only my own life but hers as well. Columbia is currently attempting to fire me. I’m a tenured professor so lucky for me that will be nearly impossible. But they are discrediting me and she believes that due to the phenomenon known as guilt by association, her standing as a top-tier mathematician has been called into question.” He wiped tears from his cheeks with a monogrammed handkerchief. “It all has to do with a book I wrote – Interventions and Abductions – that has become a best-seller. ”

Bergamaschi slammed on the brakes as a UPS truck careened across the lanes in front of him. “What is the work you’re doing? What is the book about?”

Johann nodded his head as he pocketed the handkerchief. “I’ve spent the last decade interviewing and writing about the victims, or should I say, experiencers of alien abduction. This field of interest has possessed me. It feels as though I have no choice in the matter, as if I’ve been called to do this work.”

Bergamaschi looked past Murk at the side-view mirror on the passenger side of the truck as he attempted to change lanes. “You might think this is strange, but there is someone I know – an experiencer as you say – who might benefit from talking to you, if you’re interested and not too busy.” 

Murk closed his eyes, leaned back against the seat and took a deep breath. “I think it goes without saying that I’d be very interested.”


The two men sat at a table in Leshko’s on Avenue A. They stared out of its dirty windows as they waited for their coffees to arrive. A woman with tears streaming down her face, a nameless rapture in her eyes, paced back and forth on the sidewalk. She was followed by a man with a shaved head, dressed in black clasping a small white Chihuahua to his chest. There were dark circles beneath the man’s eyes and tearstains beneath the Chihuahua’s. Occasionally, the world revealed a strange, undeniable consonance. 

“The young man I’d like you to talk to is a painter. I met him through his girlfriend who lives in the apartment building next to mine.”

A waitress appeared. Young, blonde, Polish: “Your coffee gentlemen.”

Bergamaschi smiled: “Thank you Zuzanna.” He paused, lifted the cup, blew on the coffee. “He was scheduled to have a show at a gallery on West Broadway. Not a top gallery by any means, but his paintings would have received quite a bit of attention. At the last moment he backed out and then…like in some melodramatic movie from the 1950s…burnt all the paintings.”

Johann’s was a handsome, pockmarked, olive-skinned face. On some men, acne scars are almost a kind of decoration. Think of a statue pitted by time or disaster. Johann was one of these men. He stirred milk into his coffee, raised his eyebrows. “But why?”

“He claims that the subjects of his paintings were directly the result of…how do I put this…alien intervention. According to his girlfriend he claimed the aliens have been visiting him since his childhood. In the course of their interaction the aliens have shown him things; images from a vast archive that is essentially the history of human civilization. He’s seen the Crucifixion, the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, the construction of Ai Kanoun as well as the Great Pyramids, the Battle of Somme, the beheading of Robespierre…an endless list of events and occurrences that were, according to him, imprinted directly onto his mind. These events became the subjects of his paintings…Even the idea of painting itself was suggested to him by the…the…aliens.”

Johann could not take his eyes off the man with the Chihuahua: “Most of the experiencers that I encounter feel that an urgent message about the fate of humanity has been delivered to them and it must be communicated to the rest of the word…before it’s too late.”

Bergamaschi nodded, sipped his coffee. “Prior to moving to New York from Missouri, he was a landscaper, a housepainter. He was fired from a job after he painted an image of an extra-terrestrial on someone’s garage door. He hitchhiked here, met the young woman I mentioned who encouraged him to paint. His paintings are – or were – like a crazy combination of Basquiat and Henri Rousseau. One gets the impression that this young man is being propelled through life by a force outside of himself. His girlfriend fears that something terrible is going to happen.”

“More terrible than the burning of his paintings?”

“Yes. Perhaps I could bring you to meet him? He doesn’t like the City and has moved to a town called West Stovefield, about an hour north of here.”

Johann had shifted his gaze from the man with the Chihuahua to the woman with tears streaming down her face. “The apartment you just moved me into is almost completely empty. There is one coffee cup in the cupboard, one can of Budweiser in the refrigerator. My only plans are to read the Zibaldone alone on my futon at night. Arrange for me to meet your friend. The sooner I get back to work, the better.”


The two men exited the Taconic State Parkway in Bergamaschi’s beige D-100 pick-up and approached West Stovefield along the narrow two lane Harvey Door Road as it wended its way along a tunnel-like corridor of birch, pine and elm. Occasionally, on the left or the right, the men saw in the perpetual sylvan twilight a grim looking double-wide rising from the earth. As often as not, a pick-up truck was parked nearby. Perhaps, somewhere on the adjoining property, a satellite dish pointed at the sky.  

Mark Finger was staying in a rented farmhouse on the edge of West Stovefield near its northern border with Granville. Grey with white shutters, it rose above rutted, fallow fields, the only structure visible for miles. Finger’s blue Chevy pickup truck was parked beneath a towering Oak. From the tree’s silent, gray branches a frayed rope swung in the wind. Perhaps a tire once hung from the end of it.

Finger stood on the front porch as Bergamaschi steered the truck along the dirt driveway. He was in his mid-twenties. Dark hair swept back from his forehead. Beneath a black t-shirt, broad shoulders and a narrow waist were visible. Except for a discolored, cracked front tooth there was a symmetry to his face and body.

Through the open window of his truck Bergamaschi observed the rhapsodic blue of the sky, the vapor trail of a fighter jet, the rustle of leaves in the wind…

Finger ran down the steps, across the lawn and stood outside of the truck waiting for the men to get out. He was laughing. He pointed at Murk. “I know who you are. I have your book.”

Murk climbed out of the truck, shut the door to the pick-up, smiled and began to laugh as well.

Bergamaschi leaned against the door of his truck. “What’s so funny?”

Murk: “Certain essential aspects of the world are accessible only through laughter.”

Finger: “Sometimes fear is laughter.”

Murk: “To laughter you can only oppose laughter.”

Bergamaschi followed the two men as they walked toward the house. “My grandmother used to say: madmen are the salt of the earth.”


“I want them to leave me alone. I’ve had enough. I reject them.”

The three men sat at the kitchen table, drinking from cans of beer. 

Murk drummed his fingers on the tabletop. “Of all the experiencers I’ve encountered, more than half of them have expressed the desire to be left alone. It’s the same with mystics or visionaries: exposure to another reality can be unbearable.”

Bergamaschi stood up from the table and pointed toward the kitchen window. “Look.”

A woman, barefoot in a white linen suit crossed the lawn. Her hair was black and gleaming, her skin ivory, her eyes like bodies of water reflecting the sky.

In her left hand, held between thumb and index finger, a paperback copy of Interventions and Abductions. As she walked, plants broke through earth and rose to attention. Their flowering was violent, the colors jarred like wrong notes played on a piano. She continued to walk, grass sprouting at her feet, fog rising in front, behind her. 

She did not speak, but the three men heard her voice. “To survive you must transform the nature of all that exists and enter a completely new order of things. Debasement has been your fundamental principle of existence. The best painting, the best art is initiatory. It heralds a new world and helps bring it into being. We must guide you to a zone in which a new conception and a new birth can take place.” 

The woman continued walking until she was no longer visible. Bergamaschi once again sat down at the table. In the instant that followed the men were without memories, without plans. An interval of unknown duration passed as time rebuilt itself around them. 

Finally, Murk began to scribble in his notebook. He spoke in a hoarse voice: “There is a taxonomy of aliens; we know of the Greys, the Lizards, the Little Doctors and the ones like her called The Nordics. Sometimes they appear to our sensory organs as over seven feet tall.”

Finger was slumped in his chair. “They’re in the barn, they’re in the trees.” He gulped his beer.  “You hear noises at night. You might think it was crickets or toads or birds but it’s them. They won’t leave until I start painting again. They’ve made that clear.”  He stood and walked to the refrigerator, pulled open the door, retrieved another beer.  He pointed his chin toward the kitchen door. “If I drink myself to death or blow my head off or burn this place down they’ll be shit out of luck.” He gulped half the beer, then paused.  “But, that’s not what I want…I want to be…” He grimaced: “I want to be normal.”

Bergamaschi closed his dark eyes, rubbed a hand over the black stubble on his cheeks. “Why don’t you start painting again? I’d do anything to get rid of them…”

Johann closed his notebook. “Come with us when we go back to the City. I just moved into a large two-bedroom apartment that’s almost completely empty.”

Finger shrugged. He placed the empty can of beer on the table in front of him. “Let’s go shoot some guns. It’ll clear our heads, make us feel better.”


Murk put his right hand against the dashboard and braced himself as Finger jerked the wheel and steered his pick-up truck down a rutted dirt road.

They passed remnants of a shade tobacco field, then the charred skeleton of a tobacco-drying shed. 

Like a sullen teenager Murk frowned and stared straight ahead. “I always promised myself that I would never fire a gun.” 

“That’s pretty silly”. Finger turned and grinned. “Just a little farther now, Dr. Murk.”

The truck hit a rut and the three men’s heads nearly banged against its roof.

“Should we be firing guns after drinking alcohol?”

“It’s the best time to fire guns. The type of people I grew up with were always armed.” He lifted his hand from the steering wheel and tapped one of the rifles affixed to the gun rack. “These are tools; like a paintbrush or hammer.” He pulled up a pant leg. A derringer was visible in a boot holster.

Murk sighed. “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Finger laughed. “Whatever.”

Wedged against the passenger-side door, Bergamaschi was bored. “Why is that the aliens are so intent that you in particular, should paint?” 

“You heard her. They want the world to know that our technology has enslaved us and compelled us to participate in our own destruction.” 

“But why you?” 

Finger turned toward Bergamaschi and shrugged. “No clue. I have a feeling it’s just their cover story. They’re after something else. Doc Murk might know what that is.” He patted Murk on the back. “Stop shaking, I’m about to put a loaded gun in your hands.” 

Up ahead, like a beaver’s dam, a small mountain of brush blocked the road. 

“Here we go, gentlemen.” 

Finger stepped out of the truck, shut the door, leaned against it and pulled a pack of cigarettes out of the pocket of his t-shirt. The sky was darkening. The holiday feel of an impending thunderstorm penetrated the air. He took off running. Thirty yards away from the truck he went about setting up a dozen empty, green Genesee Cream Ale cans. He jogged back to the truck, opened a door, removed the two rifles from the gun-rack and laid them on the hood of the truck. He pulled a gym-bag from behind the driver’s seat, removed a loaded magazine, popped it into an M-1 and handed it to Bergamaschi. 

“Patty Hearst’s favorite weapon, give it a try Mr. Bergamaschi.”

As Finger and Murk stepped aside Bergamaschi put it to his shoulder. Bergamaschi pulled the trigger. There was no evidence of the .30 caliber bullet striking anything near the row of cans. He lowered the weapon, rolled his shoulders and once again took aim. As he did he recited:

“Where there are no gods, the phantoms reign.”

He began firing. One after another, cans flew from the log as if pulled by a string.


An enormously tall, thin blonde-haired figure wearing a white tunic-like garment and fluorescent orange running shoes wandered in the distance, slightly to the right of where Finger had placed the targets.

Finger held a .44 Magnum at arms length. The gun discharged. Beer bottles exploded in the distance. “That’s Zaoos; he hardly ever shows his face.”

Bergamschi sat on the truck’s tailgate drinking a beer. “What happens if you shoot him?” 

“I’m pretty sure he dies.”

“Why don’t they intervene directly; cure disease, stop the aging process, disarm the nuclear bombs, clean up the polluted oceans etc etc etc.” 

Murk held a beer in each hand and drank first from one, then the other. “As Mark has said, they may in fact have other goals aside from our salvation. Some insist that their only interest is in maintaining themselves. Their true work is to use humans to propagate their own species with what have been called ‘hybrids’.”

Finger snorted and fired the Magnum.

Murk emptied a beer can, then crushed it in his fist. “When they first started visiting you did bright lights appear outside your window? Accompanied by a strange hum?”


“Did they de-materialize you?”

“Did they then transport you through walls or windows?”


“Did they take you to a mother-ship with gleaming modern appurtenances or a room that seemed like an ancient shrine or altar?” 

“Ancient shrine.”

“Did they perform medical interventions?”

“Harvest your sperm or take tissue samples?”


“Did their ship, as far as you understood, come from the stars or the oceans?”


Lightning flashed, claps of thunder quickly followed. A bit like a priest, a bit like a ballerina Zaoos wandered in the distance. His voice cleared a space in their brains: “What we seek is neither thick nor thin, neither short nor long, neither flame nor liquid, neither colored nor dark, neither wind nor ether, doesn’t stick, is without taste, without smell, without eyes, without ears, without breath, without mouth, without measure, without an inside, without an outside. It does not eat and is not eaten.”

Murk, holding his head in his hands, ran back to the truck. “We are not able to endure these creatures. Like Semele we’ll go up in a puff of smoke! I have a splitting headache! Let’s go! Back to the farmhouse and then the City. Please! My head!” 


Upon returning to Manhattan, both Bergamaschi and Murk were bedridden for a week with headaches and fevers. Finger, on the other hand, was afflicted by a kind of hyper-restlessness; he did not sleep and drank around the clock. He stayed with Murk for three weeks, then his girlfriend (who, after the burning of the paintings and the end of his art-career had become his ex-girlfriend) for two weeks, then with Bergamaschi for ten days. After that, he disappeared. For weeks following his departure, Bergamaschi dreamt of him. He thought often of Finger’s pathetic even poignant desire, which was both commonplace and exceptional in a city like New York: I want to be normal

The dreams usually ended with a vision of a vast conflagration. One morning upon waking Bergamaschi wrote down the details of his dream in the notebook he kept by his bed:

The house burnt, in the middle of all that empty space, like a torch. Windows popped, exploding outward, broken glass tinkling like ice-cubes on the frozen lawn. It seemed as if the house had been designed for only one purpose: to burn dramatically on a summer night beneath a sky full of stars. 

The old Oak went up along with the house. The rope acted as a wick and the tree, illumined by orange-red flames, bent in the wind as if it was dancing. 

A flaming branch fell on the hood of the truck. Then another. Soot rained down from the sky, plasma-like flame crawled upward from the windows, searching among the eaves…


Bill Whitten is a musician and writer.  He is the founding member of St. Johnny, Grand Mal and currently records under the nom de guerre William Carlos Whitten. His latest album Ecstatic Laments was released in June 2022. His book BRUTES, a collection of short fiction was released in January 2022.

Issue 1 Issue 1 Fiction

The God’s Truth

By Max Hipp

At Uptown Cups, Elle explains I’m never there for her. I’m only interested in my imagination. I don’t know how to be present.

She works at the mayor’s office and I snuck into city hall the other night through the propped-open smoker’s door, on a hunch. I heard her throaty moans. Echoes of skin slapping bare skin.

“Also,” she says, “you never hear a word I say.”

This conversation makes me wish I could saddle up a palomino and kick a dust trail. I’m no cowboy, but I want to ride toward fierce horizons.

She says, “I’ve tried this every which way. I’ve really been trying. But I feel like you’re not trying at all.”

I imagine her in the apartment across town, resenting me for still being in the house we bought together. Every morning I journal about the anger, about her and the mayor. I’m trying to write a novel about it, which abates the anger not one bit.

“I think we’re in the end stage,” she says.

“Sounds like cancer,” I say.

“It sure does.”

I was raised by Southern Baptists to fake nice until death, but it feels like nothing should end until I tell her off. Just when I’m about to do it, a man flings open the coffee shop door beside our table. He’s in faded saggy jeans with a plaid button-down opened halfway to reveal a smooth chest in a haphazard, non-erotic way.

“My mama died,” he says, his voice a thick twang. “I haven’t eaten in three days.” A few fat tears plop into Elle’s purse. “To tell you the god’s truth, I was thinking about killing myself.”

I know about grief. If I can’t save my marriage, I can still do good, I think. Maybe prevent a suicide.

“Let’s go outside a minute,” I say.

Elle gasps. “We’re in the middle of something. This conversation needs closure.”

On the sidewalk, women glide by in yoga pants as the small man cries among the boutiques and law firms. His name is Ernest. He found his mother dead. Part of him wants to kill himself to be with her.

“That would create problems for people who love and need you,” I say, feeling wise, tending someone else’s life.

“I got kids,” he nods. Then he says, “What I need is a drank.”

He stinks like a brewery already, though I’m not judging.

I pluck a five-dollar bill from my wallet. “I’ve got my wife at the coffee shop or I’d join you.” I want a beer but remember Elle’s constant disappointment. Somehow my marital transgressions seem more problematic than hers. During fights, I used to blast off down country roads in a Chrysler LeBaron, my phone lighting up from the floorboard.

“You don’t understand.” He starts crying again. “Don’t nobody understand.”

I ask if he has family to call. He dials his sister. I back far enough off to eavesdrop while providing the illusion of privacy. He tells her about suicide and not eating for three days. He explains he’ll wait on a bench by the bank then hangs up, cries again.

I grab his shoulder.

He puts his arms around my neck. “Can I hold you a minute?”

I’ve never held a crying man. I worry how we’ll look from a passing car. And how will it look? A man in need held by a man who hears his every word.

I embrace Ernest while he bawls on my shoulder. His knees buckle and I hold him tighter. If only Elle could see me—present with this stranger. I glance at the coffee shop window but her face and hair are a blond blur. She always says crying is weakness. I don’t mean to talk bad about her, but she’s obsessed with heated leather car seats and alpha males and will retreat to her bedroom to vibrate herself on the highest setting.

He asks, “Could you hold me up?” Before I answer, he pretzels his legs around my waist and hangs like a child, heavy and cumbersome. His scalp smells like earwax, but I can take it.

Delighted shoppers carry bags out of Miss Behavin’.

Ernest climbs down, straightens his shirt. “I need me a drank. That’ll help.” He asks for my number, but his phone screen is dark. He swipes up anyway. “It was on three percent,” he says. “Must’ve died.”

It crosses my mind he’s faked the conversation with his sister to ditch me after getting drink money. I don’t want to believe it. Don’t want to be so skeptical of humanity.

He dredges a pen from his back pocket. I duck into the Blind Pig for a copy of the local rag, write my number and circle it.

“It’s going to get better. You just need family right now.”

He thanks me. Small and frail, he shuffles into the bar.

From the sidewalk outside the coffee shop, Elle’s profile is in the window. She sits up straighter when I’m not around. There’s a pleasant curve in the small of her back. Whenever I approach she hunches her shoulders. She scowls creases into her forehead.

As I descend the Blind Pig stairs into cool AC, I feel some creature leap off my chest and flap away. My lungs breathe a hundred years younger.

Ernest grips a High Life at the bar like it’s giving him heat. He spots me. “There he is!”

Here I am. A good man who once loved Jesus, Elvis, Reagan, and John Wayne. But what you love rides off. It fords technicolor rivers without you.

“This is my pal,” Ernest explains to the bartender.

I grab a stool, order a PBR tallboy. “How long until your sister gets here?”

“Who?” he asks.

Max Hipp lives in North MS and has a short story collection forthcoming from Cool Dog Sound. @maxissippi on IG & bluesky. @maximumevil on whatever twitter is now.

Issue 1 Issue 1 Non-Fiction

Unwell Beings

By Lauren Lavín

Another wasted weekend leaned over the toilet, acid and bile sputtering out, unable to keep even water down until way past dark. My husband says we had a great time the night before, and I’m sure he’s right, but now I’m thrown off my medication cycle and will forget to take them on time, which will make me forget to eat and sleep, which will spill over into subsequent days, causing bigger disruptions in the cycle, which may as well be a part of the greater cycle at this point. Rhythmic bumps, reminders to start again. He wishes I were better at managing my health, at handling my liquor. Actually I don’t know if he does, but I also don’t know if I do. 

It sounds worse than it is when I describe it, the drinking, I’m sure, and I wonder what is normal. I am a dirtbag most days. I often forget to brush my teeth or wash my face until like 1pm if I do it at all. I don’t know if I have anything to say anymore, or if there’s a reason to say anything. I am unsure if it’s possible to do or to know anything in a way that matters, or if even that matters. 

Krissy sends me a video of two cats in the place she’s housesitting, and a text-as-caption that reads, “Unwell beings.” We became friends by writing for the same satirical music publication so I hear whispers of a joke set-up and read wry observation in even our normal and serious exchanges. The cats are sitting in the window, backs to her, both thumping their tails against the wall. 

I’ve been trying to help Krissy understand cats. One is twitching the end of its tail, which I tell Krissy means it’s intrigued. The other is thumping its whole tail against the wall—annoyed. 

That’s how I feel when my body’s thinnest innermost contents fight their way up my esophagus, yellow and alien-tasting, to drop pathetic in our filthy toilet. I twitch, unsteadied by curiosity, thump my elbows on the lip of the bowl and hold back a sweaty fistfull of hair, annoyed by the perfect circle of brown dried blood from some past period against porcelain, only visible from this familiar hunched angle. I should clean more. Mold and dust seem like worse problems on this end of the coast than they were down south. I am looking for something without moving toward it. 

I told my two friends Mark, also from the satirical music publication, that I’d work on a summer playlist over the weekend to swap with them. They made theirs already. Instead I spend the days working on a music video and drinking and drinking, punch the first few cans open in the morning while we mix corn syrup and food coloring into fake blood and I keep insisting we add cocoa powder, corn starch, things I pull from the dark backs of cabinets. I pretend to be dead and pretend to kill, I hide in Aaron’s bedroom and bag his head in black plastic, paint my friends’ faces and bodies cold sticky red, laugh loud and sit in unusual chairs to make room for rare company, and have no memory of the night ending. 

Later, when I’m between vomits, Michael asks “Do you remember me telling you to slow down?” I don’t, and I wonder if we are both lying. 

He has a point when he says it’s impossible to make me happy, sometimes. Or maybe he means that it’s impossible for me to feel happy. This is the kind of thing I am always asking him to define and specify for me, especially if we are arguing, which we do often in good and exciting ways but which we also do badly, particularly when we drink, and the asking feels like an automatic thing, a setting whose lock has been activated, an uncontrollable cycle.  “I can tell you’ve been drinking because we’re talking in circles” is a common refrain of mine, whether or not I have also been drinking. 

Dreams are uncommon when I take my medications on time, and sometimes I choose alcohol over meds because together they’re a bad mix and because the alcohol got there first that day. I dreamed last night that I was loading an old sewing machine, winding red thread around the bobbin and urging the whining of the motor through my foot, the cause of the spinning of the small plastic wheel. 

It might not be true, what I said earlier, about being a dirtbag most days and about how eternally I am unraveling shit with Michael. It might be that those days stand out more than all the ones when we are both up in the morning, when he makes eggs or I make oatmeal, when I go to work feeling good and come home feeling good, when we pass a guitar or a book back and forth and I tell him “I would like to marry you again and again.”

“I can’t fucking do this again, I don’t want to,” I insist to his back, meaning “drink alcohol,” but really I don’t mean it, I mean “be this sick again,” because what I believe should be a normal mild hangover keeps snowballing into a day or several without eating or meds, adding beads to a string of sick and useless moments. I’m telling it to him like it’s his fault but really I want a witness, and hate knowing I don’t mean it, that I’ll dry out for the week and we’ll be right back here. 

It’s tempting to believe that the misstep here is trying to keep up with a career drinker who is older than me, but then I remember how far back my string stretches, the uncountable beads from nights blacked out and driving between cities, showing up to work still drunk, compromising my body for the better part of a decade, and I wonder if I’ve ever been able to hold booze or if it’s something that has always poured straight through me. 

Words have meaning, but I don’t know what “alcoholic” or “addicted” means. It means my mother, who said “Today is my sobriety chip day” each and every year on my birthday. It means her constant, sobering reminders of the evils of alcohol and dangers of being born into a family of addicts, but never seeing her take a sip. It means no explanation for her terrifying rage. 

With Michael I guess I’m twisting it into meaning that I must be twisted into it, too. It means he will bring me home one of the drinks I like as a treat in a few days after I say I can’t do that again. He dries out sometimes for a month or so, forgives himself the occasional drink, so I do, too. For him, but not for myself. I resent the treat drink but accept it anyway, and other times ask him to bring me one. 

When Michael and I had our first fling or fell in love or whatever, he told me in the low privacy of my bedroom floor, “People pay attention to you when you speak. You should really check in with that.” It felt flattering and warm but at the same time like being handed a responsibility.

And now I seem to recall that responsibility when I’ve gone too far, too vivid, in my exorcisms. I say things like “I don’t like you when you drink” like I’m throwing a rock into a nest of ants and “Then again I am drinking when I don’t like you when you drink, so maybe it’s more like, when I drink I don’t like who you are when you drink” like I’m sweeping the ants back in. 

You have to say things out loud, or at least write them, or at least I do. I think everyone knows Vonnegut said that. 

“If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” 

As I bemoan the time lost to making myself drink until I’m sick, the parts of the music video shoot I don’t remember and the ill uselessness that follows, I forget that the video is for a band I am in, and that it’s the band I’ve been wanting to be in since I picked up a guitar twenty years ago, and that the man who truly sees all of me is also in the band, and is married to me, and that he wants to help me make art all day, and that it is as if I am living a dream I dreamed for myself before I had consciousness. 

Or perhaps this is the magical thinking Allison told me is linked with types of anxiety and obsession disorders. No one can convince me that I wouldn’t be able to befriend a pack of wolves in the wild, for example. But then again, I also have fantasized about being eaten by wolves, a death I feel would make me more useful to something else than perhaps I have ever been in life. So either way is fine. 

Allison is also a comedy writer from the satirical music publication, and it occurs to me that at no point did I used to dream of a life with this many comedy writers in it, swapping sobriety advice, favorite records, tales of mental illness, and punching up one another’s lines by asking “What did you mean when you said this?” 

Words mean something, which is why Michael said he was an alcoholic right off the bat, and so easily, because it isn’t the most important thing about him in the way that my mother made it seem like the most important thing about her. Sometimes you have to work backwards when you are untangling knots. 

It’s like those string games kids do, cat’s cradle and all those, how you’d have to undo all your steps and go back methodically to figure out how to get it right. Patterns and tension build into brief moments that almost look like magic when you catch them at the right angle, like at my best friend Kate’s wedding, after I returned to the barn dance floor from getting her husband to smoke me out and she was sad no one was dancing with her, the flood of sunlight that broke through clouds when Michael appeared like a vision dancing wild among us, when the radiation of his exuberance drew in more dancers and I felt the exact same feelings of shock and pleasure I had wrestled with, had not understood, the first moment we met: “That’s my husband.” 

I am a dramatic, anguished pile on the couch. Downstairs, where it’s underground and cool, Michael composes vibrant, meditative music, all crystal glimmers and electric humming that floats through the floor. Then it falls silent, and he comes upstairs. 

“Do you want to come write next to me?” 

So I follow him down, where he asks my input on these long ambient compositions, and I am of use, and my high-pitched spinning slows to a stop. I tell him the music is perfect to write to. I’m doing it now.

Lauren Lavín‘s work appears in Fourteen Hills, Triangle House Review, HAD, The Hard Times: The First 40 Years (Mariner Books), and elsewhere. She lives and collaborates with her husband in Seattle.

Issue 1 Issue 1 Fiction

Exorcism@the dog park

By Adelaide Faith

I told her last session, if you look at a group of humans, and they’re smiling, it’s either fake, or they’re out of their heads, on something. I told her to picture a pack of dogs. When I could tell she was doing it, I said, now how do they look? Are they happy? What’s happening with their tails? Can you see?

You can buy sleeping bags for dogs now, and I’m deep down inside my dog’s sleeping bag in the back of the car. My dog is back here too, she’s in the sleeping bag for humans. We’re parked at the side of the road right next to the dog park, and it’s five minutes short of midnight. There’s take out Chinese Chicken to share, but we both have our own water. It’s 2018, the Year of the Dog.

It’s quiet, and I take my phone out of my pocket and open YouTube. I type in: Exorcism of the Bridge@Eastham Rake. It’s mutated audio dialogue, it’s Mark Leckey. I take the lid off the tray, I take one piece of chicken for myself, I give one to my dog. I press play, turn the volume down, make like it’s a background track, some kind of karaoke. And then I start to chant.

In the name of Panhu and Wiro ku, and Goofy the anthropomorphic dog. In the name of Cerberus, Anubis and Fenrir… I invoke all these names. I call upon their powers to start a transformation, to cast out the appendix! Out, non-functioning Jacobson’s organ, out! Out, cone-dominated retina, out! Out, inability to see UV light, out! Out, disappearing of the tail at 8 weeks, out! Out, verbal communication… you’re no great loss. Supernumerary phantom limb, don’t cling to me, golden worm in the ear, come into my mind… this is a bad species, after all.

Everything in the back of the car gets clear, though it’s midnight, and I stop chanting. I sit on my phone to mute it. I see there’s rice everywhere. It’s going to have to be cleaned up, with something, maybe with my mouth. My dog takes the phone from under me and opens YouTube. She searches for something else, the sound of an ice-cream van. She’s always seemed to like that sound. She selects the Mr. Whippy Greensleeves tune. I like it too. I feel like going home.

Adelaide Faith is a veterinary nurse/dog walker from Hastings, UK. Adelaide’s short fiction has recently appeared online at Forever Magazine, Hobart, Maudlin House, ExPat Press and Stone of Madness Press. She is currently writing a novel about obsession, half told through therapy sessions.