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 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 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.