ISSUE #109: Kayli Scholz, Christopher Brown, Killer Whale

Posted: Monday, October 26, 2015 | | Labels:

Art by Christopher Brown

by Kayli Scholz


“This is happening, Trish,” Brooke says. “Are you even listening?”

Not closely so much, no. My girlfriend, Brooke, home at dusk and pouring out the details of her emails she punched out to her dickhead office staff. “They're all bullies,” I say, but that isn't good enough. Sometimes what could you say?

Issue #109 soundtrack: Killer Whale "Why Can’t We Be"

I peel back the lace curtain in the kitchen of our bluegrass hammock-like trailer town, looking at the half-collapsed bleachers in the grass. The meadow has been blanched down to weeds for a long time, and lately there'd been a grazing. It wasn't a rabbit and it wasn't a deer. It wasn't a person. My nerves are wound up like a coiled spring, ready for recoil.

“I'm sick of this shit,” Brooke says. “The corporate drama circuit is a fucking gut punch.”

“Rough Friday.”

“Rough Friday? I really don't know what's wrong with you.” Brooke sniffs into the milk carton, deciding it isn't sour enough to throw out. “This isn't an after-school party squasher, Trish. This is my work.”

Yeah, well. Brooke was a new HR manager and gave everybody a self-important cold lip, but turned into an electrical storm when somebody looked at her funny in the grocery checkout. That's how some people were, all churned up all the time, a furious bullshitter. The drag of Brooke's cadence indicated a 'here we go again' when she thought a sensitive neurotic time of mine was near.

No, this time I'm not a fink. Here is my proof, and I'm looking at it through lace curtain. It isn't the antidepressant, not the mood stabilizer, not the new sleeping pill. I take my phone out and shoot a video of a skeletal body moving up the edges of the saplings above the husks, across the street and down the dipped brook.

“Just what are you doing?” Brooke says, as if the phone is the bother.

“I invited Scott and Mindy over. There's an extraterrestrial out there.”

“Jesus Christ,” Brooke hunches over the dishwasher, clinking glass.

I can still see the old version of swing and sandbox, the baseball diamond and the clearing stump of tall corn. I film The Thing, and it floats like a drift wind. There's a cutting sound that drags with this Thing, but it's nothing but a hum in the background of Murder, She Wrote on the TV, turned up all the way.

I don't get upset about things. Brooke would get up in arms over a waitress that didn't put her coke refill down gently, but she worried about me? I wanted her to be gentler. But I'm crazy looking out the window at an alien? What does it matter, nothing lasts forever.


I was a semi-fuckup but I had passion behind the fuckups. Trish would never screw me over, and fuck me, could I say the same for myself? That was the roll of the dice. Sometimes you had to stomp your foot and yell about the delivery clerk. Cussing about Phil in the mail room made coming home to Trish easier. She was sick upstairs – in her head, the worst place for the lights not to come on during a storm.

I think my problems help her with her problems. When she suffers, I suffer everywhere. I hurt my back lifting her spirits up. I spy on her to make sure she's keeping up with life, with her meds, with her shit. When I touch her, I feel the earth move under my feet, sang Carol King, and me too before the paranoia takes its spin. I double-check what we've got in the refrigerator, no caffeine. Caffeine kills. If she wants to smoke a doobie with me, you got it like rocket, but if she starts on coffee again I'll spring a leak.

I call and tell Scott and Mindy not to come, that it's just Trish doing her thing again. They address their concern and I'm all, no, no, no, I got this. They want to come over anyway and I say alright, have it your way. They're newlyweds and our best friends. When you're married you have the same friends, and even though Trish doesn't care about my work drama, she knows good people.

I make egg salad, put some garlic bread in the oven, get out the bourbon.


To be fair, there is a groveling figure among the husks in the video Trish shows us. Brooke gets so fed up, she finishes eating and goes outside to weed at eight o'clock at night.

“Is it a landscaper, I wonder?” Mindy says, squinting at the laptop screen. “Could it be that?”

“At six-thirty on a Friday night? Repeatedly for fourteen days, traipsing around like a field cat? No way, girl,” Trish says, stiff as a wood plank.

“Why does it appear angular – pause – what's that?” I say.

The zoomed-in look of the shaggy dark trees makes the extraterrestrial business sound almost credible.

“What about calling the Parks and Recreational department? Or the property manager of the trailer park?” I suggest. The way it came out sounds like a classroom order.

“You think I haven't thought of that?” Trish stirs. “With my history? With the pharmacy in our spice cabinet? I'll be humiliated up the hill.”

What she meant was possibly psychiatry, or prison, but I wasn't positive. Once Trish tried to commit suicide by climbing a tree and putting a shotgun to her temple. It was unloaded. When was that again? I'd say to Mindy some nights, pretending I couldn't remember the date of March 29, 2004. What sticks with you are dates that made you quit your day and run for help. Early summer had spread itself over the land, the sky went on for days as I'd grappled with my faith.

“Play it again,” I say, trying to ignore the alien as clear as glass in the frame.


I go out like a trooper into the summer night, infested with moths and sticky mosquitoes, dogs barking in the distance at the neighbors' weekend hollering. I feel up to no good like a big burly man was going to stop me from going out there. “Oh please, dangerous is your favorite word,” I'd hissed at Scott, who thought Trish's video should be uploaded to an online media channel and let the free world put their two cents in, share, inform to inform. “Stranger danger, relax, she's fucked in her head.”

Trish was mentally ill, a loaded gun at the end of the day. She'd spent more time in a psych ward than she had in a nine to five job. Additionally, aliens don't exist!

The sky is crowded by trees in the torn-down smear of the stricken field. This sudden crystallization of anguish comes over me like a furious twitch when I hear the distinct clicking sound, like a motor running on its last battery. I say 'Hello?!' like a polite auntie coming over unannounced.

I quit smoking five years ago because I was scared of the arsenic, our most important areas of the brain seem the most delicate, making fear not only lucid but attack-like with hallucinations if you get enough in your system. Driving, mopping the floor, when you were looking for aliens in the corn. Does Trish still smoke? No, she was a clean eater or something now. Scott showed me a blog about it.

And then I became very ill after what I saw in the trees, and returned to the trailer.


We watch the video again and this time I send it to my cousin, Sal. Sal lives in Ruskin, Florida, where UFO sightings are all the time and not news. I'm happy for a minute because I know Sal will text me in the morning and tell me cross my heart and hope to die, I believe you, kid.

I stretch out on the couch while Mindy is out trying to be a friend and prove my point, and ask Scott if he wants any frozen key lime pie.

“Just … how far can we go with this do you think?” Scott says. “Will they set up camp? Will the authorities be involved and to what extent? Camera installation?”

Brooke snaps. “This isn't 90210, have you looked around? Where do you think the cameras would go?”

Scott acts as if he hasn't heard her, giving her a wink that means something. “We can't demand media attention from this. Other people have to see it for action to be applied.”

“Thank you, Scotty, thank you,” I say, feeling the floor seesaw underneath me.

Mindy comes back and she talks to Scott. The crickets are singing outside, mating, who knows, getting as worked up as our dog, Pudding, feeling the reverberation of an attack piloting in the near future. Animals know before humans.


I've cried in every room of this place, including on the toilet, around the sink, down on my knees by the washing machine. Most of the tears have been for Trish, and now she's convinced we have to escape to a hotel for safety? We could be harvested? We have to figure out a game plan? What form of insanity is that? I've choked on my ass all day, babysitting co-workers, hustling for lost emails with proof numbers, and I come home to Trish telling me she's been watching over an alien all day.

Do you know Pudding hasn't been walked?! Our baby Bulldog, holding in her pee. Another bladder infection on the way, cramping my wallet. My anger is a sharp pulse in my throat. Could enough sulking fix this? I strike the kitchen window with my palm, hard, everybody looking up.

“We can take a walk together instead,” I say. “Then we can think about the hotel.”

I love her, I love her, I love her.

“I'll call the Parks and Recreation department first thing tomorrow morning.”

Kayli Scholz is a short story writer from Ft. Lauderdale. Her fiction has been published in The Fem, Atticus Review, and the forthcoming Minor Literature[s]. Follow her on Twitter.

Christopher Brown is a musician and artist living in Austin, Texas. For the past year he has developed a Candy Minimal photo series, which is entirely shot and edited on his mobile phone. His work was recently featured in Mashable. Follow him on Instagram.

Killer Whale is based in San Francisco and self-released the Ocean Blood LP in January 2015. For more, click to Killer Whale's Bandcamp.

ISSUE #108: Sara Levine, Claudio Parentela, Magnetic Poetry

Posted: Monday, October 12, 2015 | | Labels:

Art by Claudio Parentela

by Sara Levine

The block had changed. Money, of course. New demographic. The check-cashing place was now a baby boutique. Ed's Plumbing, in whose window a dusty clock-face toilet seat had, for fifteen years, told the time wrong, now sold gelato. She tried for indignation, distaste, a rueful sense of loss, but a smile played over her lips. Where to go first? Her eyes scanned the new shops.

Issue #108 soundtrack: Magnetic Poetry "Not Alone"

On an impulse, she stepped into the salon, hypnotized by the oxblood walls, plump black leather chairs, gilt-framed mirrors. Stylists glided up and down the narrow corridor, self-contained and subdued, like servants in an enchanted castle.

No, she didn't have an appointment, she had only been walking by on her lunch hour, but if by chance—

"One of our junior stylists is available," said the receptionist.

The stylist was fifteen years younger than Helen, blunt-cut bangs, hooded eyes, cheeks lightly spangled with glitter. Helen shook her hand as if they were about to begin a life-long partnership.

"I don’t know what I want," Helen said brightly. "Something different."

Mandy washed her hair with a reticence that was almost truculent, then led her to the station, where she began to pull a comb through Helen's hair.

Non-conciliatory, Helen thought, trying to find reasons to stay in the chair. Exactly what I need. Unforgiving. She’ll make it better.

"I’ve worn it this way since I was twenty," Helen said.

Mandy combed and combed, examining each section so carefully Helen feared that she had found a nit.

"Is it way too long? I want a surprise, so whatever you do is fine. I’m due for a change. I’m not sure he really sees me anymore. My husband. Of course a man doesn’t have to look at you to—. Oh, never mind. You're probably too young to even know what I’m talking about!"

"You’ll have to take those off now," Mandy said, meaning her glasses.

With her glasses off, Helen could only make out a blur in the mirror. She heard the shhh-shhh-shhh of the scissors and listened sleepily to the techno music, which stringed the air with beads. Minutes passed, Helen didn’t know how many. Mandy’s hands put something in her hair, a thick waxy styling product that smelled like grapefruit, the stringent smell wafting up, the girl’s hands rough as she pulled the wax from root to end, so hard that tears sprung to Helen’s eyes. Abruptly, without warning, came the brash heat and nerve-shearing sound of the hairdryer, the nozzle close enough to burn her ears. Then Mandy said, "All right, take a look," and, as if roused from sleep, Helen fumbled for her glasses.

There she was. Mandy stood behind, her face impenetrable. The bulk of her hair was gone, and what remained had been tweaked into a spiky landscape around Helen's face, which momentarily looked like somebody else's face, shock-eyed and pale. Mandy unsnapped the cape and pumped down the chair with her foot.

"How do you like it?"

Helen instructed herself to be calm. Don’t say anything. You asked for it. Be gracious!

"It's very nice," she said. "It's certainly different."

"Six inches," Mandy said, nodding at the damp nests of hair on the floor.

Face hot, legs faint, Helen paid the receptionist, stuffed a tip of thirty percent—there! that’s fine—into a tiny envelope, and slipped out.

Her lunch hour was over. Newly blind to the charms of the neighborhood, she reeled down the sidewalk like a drunk, shaving a little too close to other pedestrians, bumping into baby strollers, confounding shoppers exiting the doors. At a bank she paused to look at her reflection in the black-tinted windows. Ungodly! She laughed, the barking laugh of a seal, her face breaking into a thousand points. Abruptly she sobered up, patted the hair, its stiff waxen texture unfamiliar, like a plant, and hurried along. As a girl she had loved to pull the head off her Barbie and put in its place other heads, the head of Ken, or Skipper. This was a perfectly plausible head, she mused, just not mine. But why should a change of hair change everything? A sob rose in her throat and she stopped again, retreated into the doorway of a kitchenware shop, and rummaged in her purse for a pocket mirror. She peered, aghast. I don’t know my own face, she thought.

At the office, she settled immediately at her desk, and others came with papers to sign, questions to settle, complaints to make about the speed of their new wireless. She waited for a remark, but the others gabbled on as usual. For years she had done nothing more than trim her hair two inches, and still somebody would say, "Get a haircut?" as if to acknowledge that Helen was an object of consideration. With this haircut had she removed herself from the range of their concern? When Cynthia, who noted when Helen wore a new shade of lipstick, leaned over Helen’s desk to discuss brochures and made no mention of the hair, the question was settled. The haircut was worse than she'd thought. Like a goiter, or a rash of acne, the world politely conspired not to mention it.

At two o’clock Helen called her husband. He didn't answer his cell. He never answered his cell anymore. She left a brief, casual message, and hung up. At two thirty she called again, as if seized by a great event. Then she called his office. The new receptionist answered, a young woman who had been hired just for the summer, who spoke in a tight and garbled voice as if she had just drunk lighter fluid. She was competent, Jason said, but nervous.

"He's with a client. He's at lunch, I mean. I believe he went to lunch with his wife."

"This is his wife."

"Shit," the receptionist said. "I’m a terrible liar."

Helen pretended not to have heard.

"Thanks, I'll call back," Helen said.

She hung up.

What I need is to really look at it; I didn’t look at it when Mandy first showed me, only because the hair seemed, oddly, at that moment, to belong to her.

She left her desk and went to the office’s private bathroom. On the way she passed Cynthia's desk, but Cynthia, pretending to be busy, didn't look up.

Her fingers stiff, her breath audible, she produced her pocket mirror, stippled with face powder, and held it up to study the angles. What had she done? Her hair, her perfectly fine hair, gone, gone, and for this! She groaned, pinching and pulling at her cheeks. What did this haircut reveal to the world, if not that she hadn’t a clue who she was? That she wanted something different but had no idea what? Battering herself with such thoughts she seemed to swell, like a tick filling with blood. You idiot, she thought, what self-respecting person gives a teenager with scissors carte blanche to their hair; you might have just as well have made an announcement to the world: I am unhappy, I am desperate, my husband is having an affair!

This thought brought her a sense of shock and relief— as if she had been choking on her own saliva and finally swallowed.

She slid to the cold tile floor and wept, her head dizzy, her voice absurdly hoarse and whimpering, a child’s cries. At last she quieted, smoothed her clothes, washed and blotted dry her face—impersonally, as if she belonged to someone else—and tugged a bit on the hair to see if it might be arranged. The haircut was lousy, but she could compensate, of course. She would get in shape; she would dress better; she would treat this unfortunate haircut as a release, as if her former style were in fact a crutch. I’m a constitutional liar who has decided from now on, I’ll tell the truth, Helen thought. This god-awful hair, she said aloud, with sudden affection. Why not be free? I'm not old, I could leave him. Wouldn't it give Jason a shock if she made a scene? She would pack up his things and when he came in, cut him cold. I know about your stupid affairs, she would tell him. It had been in the back of her mind— the hushed phone calls, the new email account, the long hours with clients about whom he never had much to say. Hatred rose in her throat. That morning, after her alarm clock had gone off, Jason had flung an arm over her torso and trapped her in a neuter embrace, his mouth half open, expelling little gusts of bad breath. Kick him out.

Oh god, she said and laughed aloud at her own dizziness, fragility. What on earth was the matter with her today?

A haircut does not have to change everything. She tugged again on the bangs and smiled to herself. Hats, she thought.

Sara Levine is the author of the novel Treasure Island!!! and the story collection Short Dark Oracles. She teaches at the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and sometimes remembers to post at

Claudio Parentela an artist and freelance journalist based in Italy. View more of his artwork at and follow him on Tumblr.

Magnetic Poetry is a Moscow-based pop synth duo comprised of Oksana Ivashinina and Dmitry Ivashinin, who are also husband and wife. For more, visit the band on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Twitter.