Across The Wire Vol. 2

His Heart is Like an Open Turnpike

By Jon Doughboy

Chris Christie gifts Zelensky handwritten lyrics to Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” as “inspiration” while inhaling cold borsht at a state dinner surrounded by dour looking-icon paintings of the geniuses of Slavic history framed in glitzy gold, then burrows inward and downward, like the history of 20th century literature, entering the maze-like intestines of memory, wading through layer after layer of performed selves—the attack dog attorney, the lobbyist, the Governor, the scandal-maker shutting down bridges to crush disobedient mayors and making unapologetic rogue picnic trips to shut-down beaches, Romney’s potential bestie, Trump’s plus-sized lapdog, a would-be sportscaster, and the current long-shot candidate campaigning to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee—Christie is inhaling borsht but yearning in his heart of hearts, brain of brains, gut of guts, for a deep-fried ripper from Rutt’s Hutt, the snap of the crispy hot dog skin, the sun bouncing off dilapidated guardrails and the hot and cracked Clifton pavement, the cool yellow relish, the onion ring grease soaking through the paper plate, the ice bobbing in the red birch beer, and he travels under the Hudson of memory via the ARC Tunnel he aborted but which lives forever in his imagined accomplishments and he’s suddenly a giant, Gargantua astride the Garden State, and he’s bellowing across this armpit of America that he knows and loves and hates and lives and breathes, “It’s my life, it’s now or never,” and who does this Zelensky think he is? Has he ever even heard of Rutt’s? Has he ever swum naked across the Passaic? Has he ever crushed the throats of the Hudson County political bosses? Has he ever won an eating contest against the entire Genovese crime family? “My heart is like an open highway,” he’s singing and all his Jersey brethren join in, a chorus to their beloved big man, from their cars stuck in the Holland Tunnel and idling on the turnpike and speeding on the shoulder of the parkway, and a charm of goldfinches roosts in his cavernous nostrils and violets bloom out of his ears, “Better stand tall when they’re calling you out,” and it’s raining fat beefsteak tomatoes and assorted bagels, “Don’t bend, don’t break, baby, don’t back down,” and with his massive, life-giving hands, he is sowing liberty and prosperity from the Tri-State Rock to Cape May Point, the Delaware River rushing along to his right, the Atlantic eating into the sandy shores on his left, as he marches towards D.C., towards relevancy, the presidency, his destiny—“Mr. Christie, sir, about NATO, as I was saying, are you aware that a single F-16 could…” and the ripper is once again cold beet soup and Bon Jovi isn’t playing and Trenton is 4,700 miles away and Chris isn’t an attorney or a governor or a giant, he’s just a man sweating into his dark suit and getting pricked by his American flag lapel pin under the judgmental eyes of icons he doesn’t recognize, talking about military tactics he doesn’t understand, and singing softly to himself, “I just want to live while I’m alive.”

Jon Doughboy is New Jersey’s Poet Laureate currently completing a writing residency at the Walt Whitman Travel Plaza on the southbound side of the turnpike. Watch him relish his rippers @doughboywrites

Across The Wire Vol. 2

Drinking At Home

By Phil Earle

The morning after, I decide it’s over. Making breakfast and doing the dishes at the same time, I say to myself, “Never again.” The baby on the hardwood between my feet pulls a pan from the cabinet and the crash sets my eyes herky jerky. How nice it will be, to be past this eight drink a night prison. How liberating to break the shackles of this routine: drinking and vaping and checking baseball scores, then YouTube NFL highlights, then rearranging my golf clubs. Not Leaving Las Vegas, but Staying in Milwaukee. 

I pick up the baby and hold her. My hand covers her entire back. Middle finger snug between her shoulder blades. A cube of butter collapses in the hot pan. Yesterday I started drinking at 4:37 PM. The headache stabs as feet pomp pomp pomp down the carpeted stairs. One, two, three kids—Where is the juice? Shit. We just ordered groceries but had forgotten the juice. Juice the life blood for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, for smoothies, for everything. The boys amble to the table like it’s a board meeting.

Out the picture window, Beth kneels in the garden. She planted corn and squash and beans and lettuce and strawberries and a wall of tomatoes outside of the garage. Every day the vegetables seem to multiply. The sunflowers grew fifteen feet tall and bowed so far into the neighbor’s yard, Beth had to tie them to the fence with twine. She likes to talk to me about her garden, usually when I am on my phone, ordering vintage band t-shirts or Super Nintendo games, checking the scores. 

I make eggs like every morning: scrambled for the children, fried for Beth, and Diet Coke for myself. Then I am holding the baby in the crook of my arm and bending over to pick up toys in the long grass of the yard. I am up and down the stairs doing laundry. I am taking all the children to the park while Beth works in her office with the door shut. I am up the steps, down the slide. I count to ten thousand, check baseball scores. Check my high school friends on social media. Some have become fascists. A black butterfly flutters up and away across the playground. I walk around the jungle gym to make sure my kids didn’t get their necks caught in the monkey bars. I count to five hundred and watch them swing sticks at each other. They wear the jeans and sneakers and haircuts of older boys now. A strong slow breeze moves around my face. The baby grabs at it. There are cigarette butts below the bench by the playground, and I imagine hitting that smoker so hard that they shit themselves. There are still two Coors Tall Boys in the fridge, I think.

By 4:50 PM, the van is parked for the night, and I drink White Claws in the shadow of the garage door. A ghoul with a stomach like a Chevy rusting and forgotten in a riverbed. Alone for a moment with the heat and the gardening supplies and ripped inflatable pool toys, I commune with the smell of gasoline and my sweat. Then I vape weed, and then the Juul, and then I reset the sprinkler out in the stiff, blanched grass of our yard.  

The boys are busy in the basement and Beth is inside breast feeding the baby when a rabbit hops under the swings, and stops between the lawn chair and the fire pit. I hit the Juul and record the bunny on my phone. It’s big marble eye records me back to infinity. A black butterfly, like the black butterfly from the park, swoops down and lights on me, walks down my arms until my trembling hand sends the butterfly skyward, tottering upward, along the garage gutter, between the power lines, up and up, racing the airplanes to heaven.

“I have to grab a couple things for dinner,” I tell Beth. She wants me to go, and knows how much I like riding my bike, knows how I need my privacy, though it worries her.

On the hill overlooking the airport, a plane comes in, and a plane goes out. What looks like a death ray rotates on the top of the control tower. The panorama is inspiring, then uninspiring as I watch the traffic move down Layton, the smoke billowing from the power plant in the distance. Notice the small plane tooling, remember the Hardee’s I cannot see. The Great Lake I cannot see. I drink one of the White Claws I’ve just purchased but hold it close to my bag, in case a cop is around. 

I have written down inside myself a disappointed prayer: a summation of desperately low bar hopes. I thank whatever god that I will soon be over this, one day. Then Don from work texts me, asking me to cover for him tomorrow, and I fill my belly with White Claw, crush the can and quick open another. A plane comes in. A plane goes out.

Chicken sizzles in the pan with yellow, red, and green peppers. I chop a handful of mushrooms. Then an onion. All for curry. Beth comes down and kisses me. The baby is sleeping. My gut is rotten but I still eat chips and pretzels and dip and sour gummy watermelons at the sink while the chicken fries. I listen to my football podcast. I have another drink in my hand, twin to the one on the workbench in the garage. I move back and forth between them. 

After dinner, I am tired. Beth and the boys play piano in the living room. I lay on the floor and my legs ache from all the standing. I take the boys up for bed and they fight me. I yell at them, want to cry but don’t. Their pajamas are getting too small. Lightning fills the sky outside their window, illuminating the tin Jurassic Park Raptor Containment Area poster I ordered for them off Amazon. I fall into a short narcotic sleep with my arm around one. Then I stumble down the stairs an hour later, or maybe years. 

I look at myself in the bathroom mirror, older now, hair messy in a ponytail, a scribbled self portrait. Then I try to brush away that sick-sweet White Claw smell for Beth until my gums start to bleed. 

I look at the darkened ceiling above our bed. Beth and the baby are asleep beside me. A twist of blanket keeps my bad right foot elevated. I listen to the noise machine hum, the cars ghosting through our neighborhood. I already feel hungover.

Phil Earle works as a fry cook down by the port. His writing has been published at Fence, Post Road, Beloit Fiction Journal, Juked, Hobart and The Millions.

Across The Wire Vol. 2

The Blur of Things

By Sophia Popovska

Sophia Popovska is a poet and translator currently living in Germany. She works as an Editor-at-Large for Asymptote Journal, and her work can be found in Circumference Magazine, GROTTO Journal, and Farewell Transmission, among others

Across The Wire Vol. 2

Two Poems

by Michael Gerard

Spikes on Your Lapel

Spikes on your lapel
Rocks popping 
Trucks stopped
Slugs draped in 
Vinegar finesse 
Limbs trudging
Across outhouse
Snake oils of 
Reputable sources
Heaven sent critical
Acclaim dropped in
Your lap, slit from my
Decrepit gums and rotting
Can you smell the bile?
Till the filth?
Carcass stains on the 
Living room floor
And all over the 
Entrance rug
Look at me and my
Jumpy nouns
What a party 
For you
Edgy types 



I’m a fucking loser and a bozo
Hanging from the dry cleaner
Rack sipping winner’s champagne
Of beers like a broke ass painter
Of houses in the suburban desert
Stuffing dry snuff up his nostril
Puffing through the apple pipe he found
Behind the Texaco station
I’m a fucking charlatan and a fraud
No sense in dropping in tonight
I won’t be home and neither will my
Bitterness, as I bring it with me everywhere 
I go

Michael Gerard is the author of Rust on the Water Tower, Rust as a Constant, a poetry booklet published through Gob Pile Press. His poetry has also been featured in publications such as The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and Literary Yard and he is the author of books of fiction such as Switchboard Rot (Anxiety Press) and After All (Sweat Drenched Press). Michael currently resides in Kansas City.

Across The Wire Vol. 2

Age of Wellness

By Sophia Popovska

The crest of day urgent in the middle of boredom
Revolution a relic,
Reanimated performance
Spiral or pendulum
A spiral in a pendulum – the trick of a shrink
Its arc an ark
Oceanic oneness cancelled
An ocean of ones, harking to the navel
Semiotics of the gut, the fractals of probiotics

An Arcimboldo assembled from
Superfoods, journals
Vomit of basement-faced 
Healthy bodies
Rising against the rising against
Rising again

And again, sterile
Steered through clean streets
Filed between empty spaces, politely vacant
Clean, whole, descending into the soft static of evening
Coherent dreams of minor adjustments
Fixing the universe a little at a time

Sophia Popovska is a poet and translator currently living in Germany. She works as an Editor-at-Large for Asymptote Journal, and her work can be found in Circumference Magazine, GROTTO Journal, and Farewell Transmission, among others

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.

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

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