Storychord's Full Issue Index, 2010–2017

Posted: Thursday, November 9, 2017 | | Labels:

Storychord published a total of 150 multimedia issues -- each featuring a piece of short fiction, paired with visual art and a one-song soundtrack -- from March 2010 through October 2017. As of November 2017, editors are no longer releasing new issues, but we encourage you to browse our full archives, listed below by year, which will remain available indefinitely.

As always, all featured work remains copyright the respective authors/artists, and contributors should be contacted directly for permissions. Additional questions can be e-mailed to Storychord's founding editor, Sarah Lynn Knowles, at

Many thanks to all of Storychord's contributors and readers throughout these seven years! It was a pleasure curating these multi-media storytelling experiences during that time, and we hope you will continue to enjoy and share the offerings below well into the future.









ISSUE #150: Jennifer Fliss, Colleen Blackard, 2ndHand

Posted: Monday, October 2, 2017 | | Labels:

Issue #150 Guest Editor Joy Baglio is founder and director of Pioneer Valley Writers' Workshop in western Mass., which offers one-day and multi-week workshops in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as community literary events. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House, The Iowa Review, TriQuarterly, New Ohio Review, PANK, Tin House's Flash Fridays, and elsewhere. Within the last year, she was runner-up in Ploughshares' Emerging Writer's Contest, winner of F(r)iction's winter flash fiction contest, and a finalist for scholarships and fellowships from Tin House, Bread Loaf, and Smokelong Quarterly. She has been an editor and reader for a number of literary magazines, including Conjunctions, LIT, and Slice. She's currently at work on her first novel. Visit her at, and follow her on Twitter.

Art by Colleen Blackard

by Jennifer Fliss

Though I knew it to be my street, there was something unfamiliar that I could not grasp. I found myself looking into shuttered windows and tripping on uneven concrete on the ill-lit block, brick facades hovering above and to the sides and in front of me. The sidewalk narrowed so that I found it necessary to step into the street to move forward. Even so, I carried on toward my house, where I could at least be on more familiar ground, or perhaps, before then, I would bump into one of the neighbors and I could ask them for guidance.

Issue #150 soundtrack: 2ndHand "At Long Last"

When I shuffled down the street, however, I encountered no one, and I decided it would be best to approach one of the houses, ring the bell, ask what was amiss, and perhaps they would recognize me.

I stopped in front of number 52. The door appeared ajar with a sliver of light pouring from the perimeter of it, though as I got closer, I could see the door was not, in fact, open at all. It was closed, but I could hear muffled voices and unclear conversations. I was about to manage the steps when someone behind me said, “Hello.”

I turned to find a young woman of indeterminate age, dressed as if going to a party, standing under the dull streetlamp, her hair a fluorescent red, her face in shadow.

“You're early,” she said. “We were told you wouldn’t show up until eight.”

“Is that so? Well, I'm sorry. I wouldn’t want to be late.”

“You're Bernard, right?”

“Yes,” I said, somewhat perplexed.

“Andrew told me about you. He said we’d get on quite well. We’re all very excited.”

“I'm surprised someone would think we’d get along well without me even being aware of the situation,” I said. “In fact, I’m not aware of any party. Is it for anything in particular?”

“Well it can’t be so important an event if you don't know about it,” she said and patted my arm with her delicate palm.

“I know of many important parties,” I said. “But I don’t know of one this evening.” I looked up at the closed door of number 52 when a rat scuttled right over my feet. I stumbled back ungracefully.

“Rats,” she scowled. “A surprise on such a lovely street.”

“Yes, a surprise,” I said, and I carefully walked up the five steps toward the door and turned back to the girl.

“It will be a great party,” she said. “I am sure of it.”

I knocked on the door, my own hand feeling somewhat disconnected from the rest of me. I looked down at my hand, turning it this way and that. The small bit of light that I had seen from behind the door was now extinguished, and the door finally did open, but only slightly. A faint din issued forth and a large eye framed in thick curling lashes appeared at about four feet, glaring first at my chest, then up to my face.

“Bernard. You're early, you know that?”

“I've only just gotten back to the street and noticed it was quite dark and empty and wondered if you could help.”

The eye thought about this and abruptly shut the door. Shortly thereafter, the murmuring in the house silenced entirely. With the exception of the buzzing street lamp, the only sound was a gurgling issuing rather embarrassingly from my stomach.

I turned back to see the girl still standing there, by the streetlamp. She lit a cigarette. The small burst of flame settled into a brief glow every few moments. The streetlamp above her haloed red hair buzzed and then flickered out and then back on and then kept up its quivering, leaving only a single, steady lamp on the street running a few doors down. Then the door of number 52 opened wide, but the owner of the eye and short stature had disappeared. Even still, I left the girl behind and pushed into the house.

A diaphanous light filtered into the high windows from the unreliable street lamp. The light was dim, but I could still recognize the space as my own. It was a small, circular room with a large wooden table in the center. Two piles of mail stacked at attention-- one stack of envelopes, one of catalogs and magazines-- all with the right corners lined up, and next to these was a small pewter link bracelet. Instinctively, I grasped my wrist and found only short wiry arm hairs and the pliant leathery skin of an old man.

I could still sense something wrong, but had to run through my walk-through, despite this sense of uneasiness. Beyond the staircase were the doors to the kitchen and dining room, and I could see a light from under them, but that would have to wait. I entered the room to the right, off the foyer, to find my living room. I walked immediately to the fireplace and redirected all four photo frames to a forty-five degree angle, as somehow they had been moved and were all intersected incorrectly.

I ran my fingers along the top of the sofa, straightening the woolen blanket that lay across the top. As I made my way to the study, something softly crunched underfoot. I leaned on a chair and struggled down to find under my loafer, a leaf, a brown autumn leaf, now crushed into the rug, and as I looked, I saw another, and another, and still another leading to the dining room. Nevertheless, I could not abandon the walk-through and so tabled the mystery and stepped toward the window. Now I would open the curtains, and as I did, I saw the girl, still standing under the streetlamp, her cigarette now most likely abandoned on the sidewalk beside or beneath her.

I thought to open the window and call to her, but I was interrupted by someone clearing their throat in the room.

“Would you like to go now or later?” the voice asked, which I now attached to the four foot eye, and it was in fact, I could see, a small man, perhaps of 20 or 30, either really, as both ages were indistinguishable to me, and both fell under the category of “young.”

“Well, I am still in search of finding out what is quite wrong here. Something is very clearly wrong. Awry. Amiss. Afoot. You see, there are no lights in any of the other houses. Or there are only very few. And I’m used to seeing many people out and about, on the front stoops or in their windows, but it’s strange that I have seen no one.”

“No one?”

“Well, except for that girl.” I pointed out the window.

“There shouldn't be a girl out there. Perhaps you are mistaken.”

“No. You can see for yourself that there is a girl out there,” I said to the young man. “Here, look,” and I parted the curtain a little more to make room, but the man did not move from where he stood in the corner, in the obscurity of the dark. He was only a shadow, though his shoes were illuminated by the light streaming from under the door.

“Say, are those your dress shoes?” I asked.


“Why are you wearing your dress shoes on so quiet an evening? Don’t you save them for special occasions?”

“I do,” he said, but then said nothing more as he opened the door to the dining room. I begrudgingly took leave of the window, and the woman on the other side and followed the small man.

Now in the dining room, I could see my arrival had interfered with a certain course of events. Silver foil wrappers crunched into balls and utensils were strewn on the table, which I recognized as my own, as they had the letter “R” for my surname engraved on the handles. Forks and knives were up and down, down and up, and they had a way of disorienting me. I have a tendency to be very particular, to like things in a certain way, and when they are not that way, I get a little thrown off course. I immediately set to lining the utensils up correctly when the small man placed his hand up on my shoulder, for which he had to stretch, for I am a tall fellow, even stooped: six feet at last measurement, down three inches from my younger days.

“Do you think you are ready now?” he asked. I could not say yes, for I had no idea what I would be ready for. At this age you are ready for everything and nothing.

“Who is that young woman?” I asked. “Outside?”

“There is no one important out there,” he said. I put the utensils back on the table and left them there. Most were properly lined up, though not all, and I twitched at the thought of leaving them there like that, tines up, sharps down. It was not in my nature to do so. As I contemplated fixing them, I heard a thump from above, though could not be certain I heard anything at all.

“What was that?” I asked.

“It is not anything,” he replied, and at that moment, in the sparkling yellow light from the chandelier, a flash of recognition shot through me. I knew this young man, although perhaps only as an acquaintance or a character of the neighborhood.

This shot must have flashed outwardly, for he took his hand off my shoulder and stepped back into a corner of the room, his face again obfuscated, though it was not necessary, for he was familiar to me now.

He edged along the wall and indicated I should follow as we made our way out of the dining room, through to the kitchen, which had also seen an incident that left quite a mess that made me feel a bit sick. I was led out the door, down the hallway towards the foyer where the mail was stacked, and then up the stairs. Each step’s particular creak was as familiar to me as my own, and as we went I wondered why I had knocked on the door at all. I usually preferred when there were fewer people on their stoops, shouting as I passed, talking loudly to each other and to no one in particular. I liked the solitude that I was usually never privy to in such a large city. Why did I need to stop to ask what was the matter?

Once we reached the top, at the landing, I saw that all the doors to the rooms were open but one. It was the most beautiful room in the house, an open space with sconces and a large crystal chandelier. The walls were paneled with maple and oak wainscoting, and tall windows framed with gilt cornices looked out at the street and vice versa. It would be a good room for entertaining, but now only held storage for me, old paintings and supplies, inherited furniture, and dusty rugs. Behind the door came a loud humming, and then the white noise was punctuated by a woman's laughter. It sounded horse-like and not at all as I imagined the woman on the street would sound if she found something comedic.

I started to consider the short man my host for the evening, but did not say so. He and I approached the door with the humming on the other side, and he pushed the door open with a large grin. Inside were many faces, and I could immediately tell the owner of the neighing, with her long face and droopy eyelids. Other than that, though, the faces all looked the same, astonished and aglow, and then they shouted, though I could not make out what was being said. I was handed about from one person to another, each more enthusiastic than the last. As I said, I was popular once, but now, all these people made me anxious. Despite the humming, which was louder now, and the occasional horse laugh, I could only make out, above all else, a man in a vest and mustache, looking somewhat like myself in my younger days, in the corner asking where Melinda was.

“She went out for some smokes over an hour ago. I wanted to introduce her to Dad,” he said, but then everything else was clouded in my mind.

“You are okay here,” the small man said. “They will take care of you.” He left me and disappeared into the crowd. The lights were brighter in here, though to tell the truth, I could not determine any of the faces any better and preferred the darkness of the street below.

Jennifer Fliss is a Seattle-based fiction and essay writer. Her work has appeared in PANK, The Rumpus, Necessary Fiction, Hippocampus, and elsewhere. For more, visit and follow her on Twitter.

Colleen Blackard is a Brooklyn-based artist and current recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. She received a BA from Hampshire College, and her drawings have been shown in London, Moscow, Tokyo, New York City, and more. Her work has been featured in such venues as Fountain Art Fair, ACA Galleries, Rush Arts Gallery, Family Business Gallery, Owen James Gallery, and Brooklyn Fire Proof. Her work combines natural, celestial and man-made elements in occasionally surreal compositions to explore light, memory, consciousness and change. Her signature style uses continuous, circular, intersecting lines to create a luminosity that clarifies the subject and gives life to every detail. Whether in ballpoint pen, archival marker, ink washes, or monotype, she is constantly pushing the envelope on the types of atmospheres and effects she can create with these dynamic lines and their interstitial light. Find her online at

2ndHand makes music in western Massachusetts.

ISSUE #149: Samuel Cole, Elisabeth Fuchsia, Emperor X

Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017 | | Labels:

Photograph by Elisabeth Fuchsia

​b​y Samuel Cole

Before this round of sobriety, I was seriously contemplating how to snort my mother’s cellulite, figuring we’d both benefit from the process. Colors had lost all excitement. Seasons had become a series of black and white John Virtue paintings. Days, months, and years had blended into an amalgam of seismic coddiwomple and race course immovability. Party-fun, my kind of fun, craves continuation even when the brain, suffering from actual starvation, begins to lose its mind, its reality, and its two little girls. I’ve always been attracted to desperation. And White China cocaine. Black Tar, too. And booze. All trademarks. All heads. All right. Open vein: insert fairytale. My mother gave up on me years ago. My father died of alcohol poisoning when I was nine. My attorney moved to Barbados, and my parole officer promulgated two options: straight-and-narrow rehabilitation or prison-cell recidivism. For once, I chose temperance over temperament. For me. For Mom. For Dad. For my two little girls. For my exhausting ex-wife. Drink coffee. Stay wired on caffeine. Document the journey in a pocket size journal— I’m on the last page— a gift from Eric, my sponsor/accountability buddy, the strongest voice of influence I’ve ever known. In case I do relapse, at least I can retrace some of the steps I did climb. Step six: We’re entirely ready to have God remove all defects of character. Booyah, if that isn’t me.

Issue #149 soundtrack: Emperor X “Allahu Akbar”

Every morning, I swim a few laps in the Uptown Gym pool— scholarships are offered to the clientele of the Promise Heart Sober House, my and 19 others' slow-track-back-to-civility living situation. Eric says submersion, even with chlorine, helps detoxify maladaptive behavior. After the swim, I walk across the street and order a large caramel latte at the Starbucks inside Target Greatland. Eric says isolation is deterioration’s fondest aspiration. Being alone, he says, like Benzodiazepine, masturbation, and video games, can become a replacement addiction if one isn’t careful. I hate, and love, that he’s been clean for 12 years. He’s forgotten that abstinence to an addict often activates the compulsion to avoid it. Every month I add another shot of espresso. I’m at five. I want to be at six. Eric says seven is God’s magic number. So seven it is. I quit cigarettes, too. All or nothing this time. I can be a bit of an asshole sober. I’ve thanked Eric a billion times for the journal, in which I’ve written a personal mission statement: Stay clean, be kind, and strike up a meaningful conversation with someone new every day. Eric believes meaningful conversation advances a mindfulness narrative. Fucking optimist. He’s handsome, has bundles of hair, works in marketing, and drives a cappuccino-colored BMW. I’m on government assistance with thinning hair, no job prospects, and three pairs of Guinness flip-flops—it’s called osmosis. Keep up.

I spot two teen girls sitting at a red table, slurping strawberry Frappuccinos and giggling about whatever teen girls find funny, probably me. I name the chunky girl Gigi, huge boobs like my Aunt Gigi, and not that I know any, the other girl looks exactly like LuAnn. God, I miss my little girls.

“What can get ya?” Bob, my favorite dead-eye barista, asks.

“Large caramel latte with seven shots please.”

“Seven?” He sounds impressed, holding up as many fingers. “Feeling dangerous today, are we?”

“You have no idea.”

“If you can stand it, you can do it,” he says.

“That used to be my life mantra.”

“Used to? What is it now?”

“Isn’t the weather great today? The birds are singing. The sky’s so open and blue. I sure can’t get enough of days like today, no siree bob.” I talk loud, trying to say normal things that normal people say to a barista. I’m about as normal as a goat without legs. Eric calls us Moment Men, says our troubles begin and end with life’s harshest drug— impulsivity. I have a hard time imagining him stealing his grandmother’s pearls to buy heroin or breaking a cop’s jaw during an arrest for a fourth DUI. He, however, didn’t seem a bit surprised when I told him about an attempt to outrun the cops— blood alcohol level at 0.22, 14 points over the legal limit— driving 105 MPH down Jolsen Road, smashing headfirst into the back of a Sedan, injuring two teen girls who were waiting for a red stoplight to turn green. Eric says an admission of guilt exhumes from rock-bottom collapse first-rate forgiveness. I hope he’s right. He also recommended I title the last page of the journal CLARITY and then wait with expectancy for revelation to reveal itself. He tries so hard to be helpful. What I really need is a mind reader who can rewrite my code and turn me into salient sustainability. Eric says a life devoid of wishes is already dead. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he does get it. I add eight Splenda to the latte and take a seat at the red table beside Gigi and LuAnn. Bring on some meaningful conversation, bitches. I dare you.

“This place is super creepy today.” LuAnn stands, glaring at me for a second before facing Gigi. “I need to get going anyway. My mom’s on her broomstick again about me cleaning my room.”

“Be nice.” Gigi stands. “For real.”

I set the journal on the table and twirl a pen between my fingers, a task designed to prove that I have both the skill and determination to accomplish the task. Eric calls it control-based fidgeting. So what if it is?

LuAnn walks away, disappearing through the electric doors. Gigi lingers. “Cool trick. You a magician or something?”

I stop twirling the pen and set it atop the journal which I slide up, up, up, and away. Go away. But she doesn’t move, ogling the journal and the pen. Fourteen. Ten. Eight. I also like to count backwards, and never in order, another way of conciliating a severe social anxiety disorder. I quit Effexor, too. Eric doesn’t know this. Neither does my doc. Eighty-eight. Three. Four-hundred and six. She steps back. Not nearly far enough. Six-thousand. Eleven. Nine-hundred and fifty-nine. “I’ve definitely been under a few spells in my life.”

“So you believe in the supernatural?”

Nosey little chubster. “Like palm reading and tarot card stuff?”

“Palm reading is for amateurs," she says, "and tarot cards, like fortune cookies, offer silly ambiguity.”

Articulate little bitch. “Do you believe in the supernatural?”

“I’m a mind reader.”

“Really? Are you any good?”

“Did you hear about that school teacher in Lansing who sold research papers to students for profit?”


“Called it,” she snaps. “And that was two months before my paper-trail investigation had even started. I knew that teacher was up to something sinister. I could feel in my senses, keeping after class C and D students who never turned in a research paper a day in their life. And all of sudden they’re A students.” She laughs an unfunny laugh. “No, I don’t think so. Not on my intellect.”

“What happened to them?”

“What do you think happened? They were found guilty and punished because failure gets what failure does.”

Damn. She’s harsh. “How much do you charge for a reading?”

She sits across and pulls from a yellow purse a thick, pink notebook. “Ten bucks for 15 minutes and one dollar for every minute after that.” She opens the notebook. “You got ten bucks?”

I remove from my wallet the 10 dollar bill Eric gave me for an emergency—cash, to be spent on something spontaneous and useful: something unexpected, besides narcotics, that generates joy. I wonder if my little girls have their own thick, pink notebooks. And if so, what, if anything, have they written about me? So many months away. So many failures. So much for being a hands-on dad. Or a positive influence. Or their, or anyone’s, hero. I slap the 10 dollar bill on the table. “I’m in.”

“I’m Sarah by the way.” She turns a page and writes on the top the date, time, and place. Her handwriting, similar to her voice, is a combination of uphill highs and traceable lows. “I don’t do height and weight and age stuff. What I do is observe, ask, process, and offer insight based on germane findings. Are you ready?”

“Insight away.”

“What’s your name?”

“Greg.” I straighten my posture. Eric says good posture conveys the impression of active involvement. He needs to stop reading so many self-help books. And I need to find out what this mind reader chick knows. Or doesn’t. Hmm.

She writes Greg, followed by a question mark. “Mindreader-dot-com says a name reveals what sort of storm percolates within. Typically, the shorter the name, the bigger the cyclone.”

“Actually, my name’s Peaches Honey Blossom Trixie Belle Tiger Lily.”

She laughs. “Good one. Greg.”

“I have to ask, why mind reading and not cheerleading or lifeguarding?”

She studies my face, similar to the way my little girls stare with fascination at the mop-top mannequins at the mall. “Your skin tone reminds me of the color of beer my dad drinks.” She pops her lips. “You ever heard of Duvel?”

“I have.” Wonderful. Now I’m being compared to beer.

“You ever drank it?”


“Is it good?”

“It’s not my favorite, but yeah it’s pretty good.”

“What happened to your teeth? Why are they all chipped and yellow?”

I cover with a hand my mouth. “My dentist does meth.”

“That’s not true,” she says. “What happened to your eyes?”

Fifteen. Ninety-nine. Four. “What do you mean?”

“You have sad eyes. Why are they so sad?”

“Aren’t you supposed to tell me?”

“My dad’s eyes are sad, sadder now that his mom, my grandma, died. Did someone close to you recently die?”

“I guess you could say that.”

“Might that someone...” she pauses, staring at my trembling, dry-from-chlorine hands, “be a part of you?”

OMG. “Mindreader-dot-com is no joke, is it?”

We sit quiet for a short time. Now that her voice is off, I suddenly want it back on. Perhaps she is a mind reader. Perhaps she is clairvoyant. Perhaps she does know the whereabouts of this clarity I seek.

“You have children, don’t you?”

“I do. Two girls named Robin and Roxanne who live with their mother, my ex-wife, in Milwaukee. They’re 12 and 13.”

“I have a sister, too. Her name’s Melia. She just turned 10.”

“Is she a mind reader?”

“She’s a cheerleader and a lifeguard.”


“No.” She smiles. “But she is an all-time brat.”

“That’s too bad.”

“What’s wrong with your hands? Why are they so dry and shaky?”

I set my hands on the table. Eric says transparency, even shaky transparency, is healthier than opacity. “I swim in the morning, and the chlorine hates my skin.”

“My dad's hands shake a lot, too. I think it’s partly because my mom calls him a huge disappointment. But I also think it’s because he drinks too much Duvel.” She scribbles Duvel in the notebook. “My hunch is that you also drink Duvel. Maybe not exactly Duvel, but something within its family.” She stares at my coffee cup. “I also sense that you’re not drinking Duvel these days, drinking instead a substitute liquid to help meet your need for oral, mental, and physical satisfaction.”

I can’t speak. Or move. Crippled by insight. From a pubescent. I finish the coffee and hand-smash the cup as if it were a can of Duvel. “You’re good.”

“I also sense that someone, probably more than one person, has called you a disappointment.”

My stomach turns sour, as do a million neuron synapses exploding like bombs throughout my body, jolting me closer to the many names I’ve been called over the years: disappointment, drunkard, druggie, cheat, selfish, jerk, tool, liar, lost, weirdo, dry, super creepy. The part of my brain that craves addiction ignites, causing my salivary glands to want to go out and find as much instant relief as possible. Stay ardent, Greg. Breathe. Eight. Two. Ten-thousand. Eric says it’s best to forgive (and try to forget) the name calling. He says name calling, even nice names, is a risky exercise because it denotes branding, and branding is a risky exercise because it denotes leaving an everlasting imprint, and leaving an everlasting imprint is a risky exercise because it denotes leaving a scar, which is a wound, which is a cut, which is a trigger, which is a symptom, which is a genetic factor, which is the start, and end, to it all. I understand, though not completely. I believe names have their place, even bad names, clear reminders of the proximity between past mistakes, present struggles, and future authenticity. I want authenticity. My mom wants authenticity. My little girls deserve, and need, authenticity. I grab the journal and offer it to Gigi. “You don’t have to read my mind anymore, not if you have this.” Eric says the most reconciling thing a recovering addict can do to accelerate healing is to give away a most cherished possession, especially one that holds significant meaning. “Everything about me, good and bad, is in it.”

“That I didn’t see coming,” she says, sticking the 10 dollar bill, the journal, and the pink notebook into her purse, hiding my saddest hurts, cruelest blunders, and loftiest hopes. “You're sure you’re ready to give it away?”

“I wasn’t sure until right now.”

“How long have been sober?”

“Four months, three weeks, and two days.”

“Do your little girls know about your problem?”

“They do.”

“Did you tell them yourself?”

“I wasn’t sober enough to tell them, so unfortunately they had to hear it from their mother.”

“Do you think they would have liked it if you’d have been the one to tell them?”

“I think regular dads want their girls to see them as the truth and not as a lie.”

“My mom says my dad drinks because he hates himself. Do you hate yourself?”


“How can you hate yourself when you have two girls who love you?”

“That’s a really good question.”

“Do you hate yourself today, like right now?”

“Not as much.”

She sighs. “I want to ask my dad if he’s got a drinking problem, but I’m afraid of what he might say. I mean, what if he is? Then what will I do?”

“Love him and tell him so him every day.”

“How can I tell if he needs treatment?”

“Maybe you should read his mind.”

“I can’t mind read my parents. Maybe I’m too close, or maybe they’re too far away. But whatever the reason, I have no idea what’s going on with them.”

“Then all you can do is your very best. That’s all any of us can do.”

“It was nice to meet you, Greg.” She lifts the 10 dollar bill from the purse. “Keep it. Buy something for your girls. And keep swimming. Maybe one of us will become a lifeguard after all.”

“I can do that.” Can I? “It was nice to meet you, too, Gigi. I mean, Sarah.”

“Did you say Gigi?”

Damn it. “When I first saw you and your friend, I named you Gigi and her LuAnn.”

“Why Gigi?”

“You know, Gigi Lichtenstein, the top model mind reader from Paris who isn’t afraid to stop and talk to strangers.”

“You want to know the name we gave to you?”

Not at all. Three. Two. One. “Sure.”

“It’s not bad, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Name away.”

She laughs. “Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb.” Leaving me with a heart that can drop, surge, and skip after all. Please God, whoever he is, just let him be sober.

Samuel Cole lives in Woodbury, MN, where he finds work in special event/development management. He’s a poet, flash fiction geek, and political essayist enthusiast. His work has appeared in many literary journals, and his first poetry collection, Bereft and the Same-Sex Heart, was published in October 2016 by Pski’s Porch Publishing. His second book, Bloodwork, a collection of short stories, will be published in May/June 2017. He is also an award-winning card maker and scrapbooker. For more, visit

Elisabeth Fuchsia takes pictures of things that she likes and does other stuff, too. For more, visit

Emperor X is Chad Matheny, who has been performing live and releasing recorded music since 1998. His work previously appeared in Storychord Issue #20, and he performed at Storychord's 50th Issue Birthday Party in 2012 in New York City. Matheny lives in Berlin, where he helps operate Donau115, a small venue central to the Neukoelln neighborhood's booming experimental jazz scene, and volunteers as a music technology instructor with German NGO GSBTB in a program focused on supporting young refugees. For more, visit

ISSUE #148: Christopher M. Hood, Ben Gancsos, Blue & Gold

Posted: Monday, August 28, 2017 | | Labels:

Issue #148 Guest Editor Morgan Pile previously published fiction in Storychord Issue #63. She received her MFA in Fiction from the New School and lives in Brooklyn, where she founded WriteBrooklyn and teaches writing at the Dalton School in Manhattan.

Photograph by Ben Gancsos

by Christopher M. Hood

I don’t want to go into the psychology of it. I’ll just say that whenever I dated someone, I found myself wondering why she was at all interested in me, which led to wondering why anyone would be interested, and then I’d get depressed enough that she would stop being interested. At least with this, I knew what I was getting into. It was out in the open. She wanted a new life, and I wanted someone to share mine.

Issue #148 soundtrack: Blue & Gold "It's Only You"

She came from Wzifistan, escaping the terrible slopes of volcanic Mount Krzal. She was a slight blonde thing with tremendous eyelashes and a little scar along her left cheek, small enough that it could pass for a beauty mark. Her name was Irina, and I was at the airport two hours before her flight landed with a little sign, there to chauffeur her into a new world. She sat up front in the car, though, staring out the window at the strip malls, and when I asked her about the temperature in the car, she said, “I am okay,” and then repeated it, like a mantra.

She made me dinner when we got home. I tried to get her to lie down and rest, but she put her hands on mine and pushed me into a chair. Then she started trying to figure out the kitchen. She opened every drawer, looking for something, then finally made a gesture like she was striking a match and said, “Fire?” I turned the stove knob, the flame sparked on its own, and she smiled.

We had sex that night-- her idea-- and afterward, she lay there and sobbed. For 20 straight minutes. I couldn’t get her to talk or anything. And then she finally said, “I am sorry. You are good at doing sex.”

I waited.

“I think…” She made a gesture with her finger, limp and falling.

“Okay,” I said.

“But you…” She made a surprised face, straightened her finger, and turned it upwards.

“Okay, okay.”

“It is my sister. Why I cry.”

I didn’t know if this was where the con began, or the story of trauma that would be the start of our emotional intimacy.

“How to ask?” She looked troubled.

“Ask me what?”

“You will… engage her?”

It took me a moment. “You mean get engaged to be married? I’m marrying you.” It was the first time I’d said it out loud.

“Her and me.”

“Oh, in America, we can only marry one…”

“Not marry. Just engage.”

She was looking at me, excited now, her eyes green and wide, but my head was spinning. It took us a good two hours, some scratch paper, and a little Google translate, but we got there.

Turns out, there was a mix-up in the legalese when the government people wrote up the regulations for citizenship through marriage for Wzifistani immigrants. They included the words “engaged to be” before the word “married,” and there it was in black and white. You only had to be engaged to an American to naturalize as a citizen.

“Get her engaged to someone else,” I said. “I have this friend…” I didn’t, really.

“No, you are grandfather!” She repeated this a few times, and eventually I figured out what she meant.

The functionary who screwed up realized his mistake. Damage had been minimal. Most people read a thousand online reviews before ordering a new coffee maker. Who would send away for a fiancée, sight unseen? There’d only been one lonely, pathetic soul who’d signed on to the program before it could be fixed. Moi. I was grandfathered in. All I had to do was get engaged, and her sister could come. And the laws against polygamy didn’t apply to engagement.

So, I agreed to do it just to get her over here. Then Irina and I could get married just as I’d planned. After all, my father and his brother came over together from County Kerry on the same boat, the Flynn boys going to America. Although it was a plane, I guess. A boat just seems romantic. Anyhow, my father was so excited to be an American that he named his son the most American name he could think of, the one from the book he’d read: Huckleberry. So that’s me, Huck Flynn, and if I have to put off my wedding to get her sister over to a better life, I’ll do it.

Irina got on the horn, speaking this fast Wzifistani that sounded like a cross between a flute and a typewriter. Her sister was on a plane before you could say naturalization papers. We met her at the airport together-- no sign necessary this time. They found each other as though by radar and hugged for a good two minutes before Irina turned and introduced me to my new fiancée.

“Vesta, this is Huckleberry,” she said. Her English was already improving. Vesta took my hand in her small, damp palms and said something that sounded like tomato.

“Thank you,” Irina translated.

“Tomato,” Vesta said again and pulled me into an embrace.

That night, they cooked dinner together, their voices collapsing into laughter that echoed around the kitchen, but every time Irina looked at me and smiled, as though to say, Don’t worry, we aren’t laughing at you. And I thought, This is the closest to being happy I’ve been in years.

So, when Olga showed up, I worried that our little family would suffer, that there would be a pack of Wzifistani women living in my house, and I would become increasingly irrelevant, once I’d gotten down on one knee for Olga, that is. But it didn’t happen. The more, the merrier. Irina presented me to Olga like I was a prize, like anyone would be happy to know me. And when I had my usual nightmares and woke up shouting, it was no big deal. They’d all seen some serious shit back in the ‘stan, just like I had in Iraq, and so they had nightmares, too. We’d wake up shouting together, then meet in the kitchen and have chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

They started trickling in, a couple a week. My house was full-- it’s only got three bedrooms, and one was full of boxes--but they didn’t stay for long. Just long enough to accept my hand, then they’d head for this apartment complex on the other side of town that was owned by this Wzifistani guy who’d come over decades before. He seemed a little iffy to me, but Irina said he was okay.

The new women would get a little fresh sometimes, as though they figured the only way I would agree to help them is if I was expecting something in the bedroom. Irina said, “It is okay. If you want.” But I told her that she was the only one I wanted. And she looked happy about it, which was a relief. I’d been a little worried that she’d been planning to palm me off to one of the new girls and strike out on her own.

The first one to arrive with kids in tow was Vasilisa, and we had one terrible long moment when I thought I was supposed to put a ring on the finger of her six year-old, but when I called the local INS office, there was an extended pause, and then the guy said, “So you’re the one.” But it was clear there was nothing he could do. Everything I was doing was by the book, so he ended up being decent about it and telling me not to worry about anyone under the age of 16. They could just go with their mothers.

When Sonia arrived, I thought, Is this a guy in drag? But I didn't think so. I think she just had a masculine cast to her bristly face, and who am I to judge? I’ve been working on a paunch for a good decade now, and one of my eyes is all cloudy from that piece of shrapnel I caught in Iraq. And I know what you’re thinking-- lots of guys caught it worse over there, but I was in the first Iraq war, with the first Bush president, the one that we won in about 15 minutes. I was the only guy I knew to come back broken.

But when Stanislav opened the door, I knew for sure he was a guy. After all, he had a voice like rocks being crushed at the bottom of a well and a moustache like a baleen whale. I asked him what he was doing in my house as he stood in my kitchen, straining his mug of coffee for krill.

“You are homophobe?” he asked.

No, I was not.

“Gay marriage okay, yes?”

Yes, it was.

“Then put ring on it.” And he held out his knuckly, work-scarred finger.

So I started buying rings in bulk, rubber ones that stretched to fit anyone. And anyone came, along with everyone. They waited patiently in line for my proposal, as though waiting in lines were part of their DNA. Word trickled back to me that the airlines were scheduling additional flights, that Wzifistani town clerks were running out of paperwork for all the divorces and annulments people were getting before booking those flights. Each morning, there was a crowd outside the house, and Irina was meeting the airport SuperShuttle at the curb with pizzas and bottled water. A lot of them hadn’t eaten in days. A local medical clinic set up a tent in the yard so the refugees could access free care, and Irina bought fabric and a sewing machine and made me a little pillow I could put under my knee when I knelt for each one of them.

But she couldn’t give me the one thing I wanted, the thing that started this whole Wzifistani refugee experience: marriage. As soon as she took me off the market, boom, no more citizenship. The door would close. And yet that’s what I wanted: just a simple existence with a wife. What all the normal Americans seemed to have.

Instead, I had an assembly line. And then the old feeling started to come back. I’d see Irina bandaging some poor refugee’s wound, so kind, her hair up in a ponytail, so lovely, and I’d think, You sucker. Why would you ever think she could fall for you? I was just a means to an end, a proposing machine.

One night, I was deep in the dark thoughts. She was lying on my shoulder, her hair tickling my ear, and she was walking her fingers down my chest toward my boxer shorts. I said, “When are we getting married?” Her fingers stopped.

“What about them?” she asked.

“I didn’t ask for them,” I said.

“They are my people.”

“I’m supposed to be your person. That’s what getting married means.”

“You have to help them.”

“So, that’s why you’re doing this. I knew there had to be a reason you were willing to climb in bed with me.”

She sat up on her elbow, her brow drawn. “Why do you say this?”

“Come on. You’re beautiful. Why else would you be with me?”

“You are handsome and sweet and funny and good at sex.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“What lie?”

“Don’t lie to me! It’s the one thing I can’t take.”

“What lie?” she repeated, and I got out of bed and went downstairs to get a drink, stepping over sleeping Wzifistanis in the hallway and on the stairs, snoring in their headscarves and newsboy caps.

The next day, I ran. I caught the SuperShuttle as it was leaving the house and rode it back to the airport where I bought a ticket to Wzifistan. It cost me a few hundred bucks, and I figured I’d have the plane to myself, that they were just zipping it back across the Atlantic empty to pick up another load of refugees to ship to my house. But the plane wasn’t empty. It was full of people with beards, newsboy caps, and headscarves, but they were all speaking English and the caps and scarves all had a little ironic flair. I realized they were hipsters, rich Americans who’d gotten pinged on their smartphones that tickets to Wzifistan were at an all-time low. I’d been so busy getting engaged to everyone that somehow I’d missed this whole cultural moment, and when I landed in Wzplatz, it was full of New Yorkers and Californians guzzling Wizz, the official lager of Wzifistan, sipping reindeer musk lattes, and talking up the local real estate scene. At first, local hustlers kept trying to give me Uber rides to the thermal pools beneath Mount Krzal or sell me time-shares on a glacial lake. But then a woman with only one arm, begging on the street, saw me, and her eyes opened wide. She said my name, Huck-ell-berry, and she cried and touched her forehead to the pocket of my fleece. She pulled me with her one arm into her hut, just a piece of plywood for a roof, and there on the wall was my picture, cloudy eye and all.

I followed her around for a day, and everywhere I went, people kept saying something that sounded like Crock-Pot. I figured it meant hello at first, but they were saying it all the time, so maybe it was like aloha and meant everything, so I started saying it too. People would smile when I said it and laugh, and finally I met a guy who spoke some English, and he said it meant “grandfather.” Then he pointed at me. I’m only in my 50s, and I thought I don’t look that old, but he repeated it, smiling. Crock-pot. I remembered Irina in my bed calling me the grandfather, and realized that’s what I was. That’s why my picture was on the wall. I was Crock-pot, grandfather, the grandfather clause, the living, breathing, walking, proposing loophole through which an entire suffering people could find new life.

All these people, living in alleys and overturned dumpsters that you’d never even see unless someone took you there, and I realized that they’d been tortured by the old Wzifistani regime, yes, but that wasn’t everything. They were priced out, too, gentrified out of their own country by all these rich Americans coming in. Wzifistan was cool now, but that didn’t help the Wzifistanis at all. It just sold tee shirts and made a lot of dough for the distributing company that had unknowingly acquired the rights to sell Wizz internationally years before when it bought out some Soviet-era distillery. I might be the savior, the one who offered them a way out of this, but I was the devil, too. A butterfly had flapped its wings in my backyard, and now a whole nation was being evicted to make way for the New Brooklyn.

I found my way back to the airport. I had to wade through crowds of people, all waiting to board a plane to my house. I got to the counter, and it broke my heart to hear how much the airlines were charging, how rich they were getting off this whole thing. But I pulled out the plastic and got myself a seat. I still had a good hour before boarding, so I borrowed a phone from this place that was renting rickshaws.

I called my house and asked for Irina. There was a long pause, and I could hear people wailing in the background. It was a terrible connection, all crackles and static, but finally, Irina was there.

“Hello?” she said. “Who is this?”

“I’m sorry I left,” I said. “It must be chaos there.” She didn’t say anything at first. “Are you okay?” I asked.

“I am okay,” she said. “I will marry you.”

“No, no,” I said. “I’m sorry. I was a fool. I understand now. I have a purpose. I am the Crock-Pot. I will get engaged to everyone. You can do whatever you like. You are free.”

I could tell she was crying. Don’t ask me how. The connection was awful, and she wasn’t sobbing, just quietly crying, but I knew. I could even see her standing in the kitchen, bare feet against the tile, one arm crossed against her body, the other holding the phone to her ear, her eyes wet, and I wondered if she could see me, too.

She found her voice. “I was so worried,” she said. “Come home.”

Christopher M. Hood is a graduate of UC Irvine's MFA program and is the Coordinator of the Creative Writing Program at the Dalton School. His work has appeared in the Santa Monica Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, and others. Follow him on Twitter.

Ben Gancsos is a cultural voyeur. Though lacking invisibility, he’s an unheeded presence as a “fly on the wall” observer. Based in New York City, Ben travels frequently to various parts of the country, as well as abroad, photographing architectural exteriors, interiors, and people. For more, visit

Blue & Gold is a Brooklyn-based band comprised of guitarists Alex Kapelman and Chloe Raynes, drummer GG Gonzalez, and bassist Nick Salcido. For more, visit them on Bandcamp, Twitter, and Facebook.

ISSUE #147: Lindsey Baker, Alexis Wheeler, Jon Shina

Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017 | | Labels:

Art by Alexis Wheeler

​b​y Lindsey Baker

The restaurant was like this: rain or sun, we opened every day at 11 a.m. and closed at 11 p.m. I was there most mornings at ten with a cup of burned coffee, crumbs from a pop-tart pimpling the skin around my mouth, flipping chairs off tables and filling the shakers with salt and pixels of pepper. I didn’t mind the work, and I didn’t even get bored. When I was there and we were busy, I sometimes forgot that I could never see Ed again.

Issue #147 soundtrack: Jon Shina “Discovering the New”

The general manager, Mark, was an older man with a bad hip, and he hobbled around the restaurant like a wind-up toy, stopping to reset himself occasionally with a glass of warm Sprite. He was cruel if he didn’t like you, but he liked me. I reminded him of his daughter, he told me once. She lived in Montana with her husband and two kids and flew down every other year for Christmas. I liked Mark because he cared about the restaurant and because sometimes he asked me how I was doing, waiting for a response that sounded real.

Here’s what I did when I missed Ed and I wasn’t at the restaurant: I worked with clay. I made little sculptures that looked like people and animals. Not that I had any training or was a professional or anything. I only liked the way the clay felt in my hands, wet and dry at the same time, the dry heat of the oven as I baked each new piece. I watched television while I worked, laughing along with recorded episodes of talk shows, booing with an audience as if I were there.

Sometimes when my coworkers asked me about myself I would lie and say I was working at the restaurant to put myself through school. I got a late start, I’d say. Nursing, I’d say. I thought it made me sound selfless, like the good Catholic woman my father wanted me to be. He used to read Mother Theresa’s biography out loud to me before I went to bed so that I dreamt of Calcutta, of oozing sores and pulled teeth.

My apartment was up the road from the restaurant. The complex was nestled between two strip malls, one with a Hooters and an Olive Garden and one with a tattoo shop and a Goodwill. My roommate Rebecca worked during the day as a receptionist at a dentist’s office and came home smelling like floss. She went out for long stretches of time at night by herself, never mentioning anything to me, coming home in the early morning hours. I lied and told her that I was from Texas and she believed me.

“Things really are bigger there, right?” she said, holding a corner of my newly-purchased mattress, helping me wedge it into my room. It was the only real piece of furniture I had. “The dentist is from San Antonio and he’s big all over.”

I was young enough to start over after the divorce, or that’s what everyone told me. I quit my job as an executive assistant to a prim woman at a nonprofit, the days spent scheduling her flights to places I never went. I picked Roswell, Georgia, one night when I couldn’t sleep. The restaurant was the first place to call me for an interview, and I took it, throwing myself hopefully into it, like a new diet.

* * * * *

Another thing I did when I missed Ed: I had sex with one of my coworkers named Jeremy. He had a concaved sternum and thin legs, but he smelled good and he always helped me run my food out to my tables, even when I didn’t ask.

Jeremy and I were closing together one night, and the last customer, a regular who sat at the bar sucking Diet Cokes, left. We moved to start stacking the chairs on the tables.

“You live around here?” he asked.

“Yes. Appletree Apartments?”

“No way,” he smiled, breathing heavy from lifting the chairs. “I live there, too.”

I invited him in that night because I was feeling sad, and I didn’t want to face all my untouched mounds of clay. Rebecca would be out late again, only the crash of her keys on the kitchen counter when she got home in the morning before she left for work.

“Mind if I smoke in here?” he asked.

I couldn’t remember if Rebecca was okay with smoking or not, so I just said sure. Jeremy pulled out a grinder and a bag of weed.

“Do you smoke?”

“No.” I used to, I almost added. Ed and I would get high and play Mario Kart for hours, tangled together on the floor under the television, laughing when we failed. Now I didn’t like how everything felt like it was too far away when I was high, like light and air were bugs crawling up on the ceiling.

“Man. That’s good because I spend a lot of money on weed. I started smoking it in high school. Wow,” he laughed, packing a bowl. He had a wart on one of his fingers. “High school was almost fifteen years ago for me now. I bet if I put all that money together, I would have something big. A boat or a house.”

“Maybe so.” I was sitting on the couch next to him and trying to look at the room as he might. Ed kept most of my things in the divorce, and I let him, so almost all the furniture in the apartment was Rebecca’s except for a coffee table I found at the Goodwill. It was cheap particle board, but it had these pretty Asian-looking golden flowers blooming on the legs. “But do you want a boat?”

He considered, holding the smoke in. “Sure,” he said, “who doesn’t want a boat?”

* * * * *

Sometimes while we had sex he kissed my wrists softly. He slept over a few times, but mostly he would pack up his work apron and his weed and head back to his place afterwards. I was pleased with this arrangement because it felt like I was doing something, that I was moving forward in some way. My sister threatened to come visit me often in our weekly phone calls, and if she ever actually did, at least I would have this to prove that I was trying.

Rebecca told me that Jeremy slept with basically everyone in the complex. It was a rare Sunday morning where we were both home, and I decided to make breakfast for her.

I was scrambling eggs when she told me. “Basically everyone?”

Her eyes were swollen, and she was holding up spoons that she froze every night for this purpose. Her robe was open a little, and I could almost see a nipple. It felt like I was back in college, cooking in the community kitchen with my roommate, Marcy, using pans with grease left over from the meals of strangers.

“Mmm. Everyone says so. He’s fucking gross. I don’t know why you want to date him anyways.” She took the spoons off to look at her reflection in the toaster. “Find a man that has money and a real job, something in finance.” We hadn’t spoken this much since I had to ask for her help with my mattress.

“I don’t want to date him.”

“Okay, don’t.” She poured herself a cup of coffee, unwrapping a straw from my server apron so the coffee wouldn’t stain her teeth, and then poured another one for me. I was touched more than I should have been. Maybe Rebecca and I could be friends. “And don’t let him smoke in here anymore. It smells putrid.”

* * * * *

Sometimes when the restaurant was slow, Mark pulled up pictures of mountains on his phone. He was a rock climber when he was young and his hip wasn’t so bad, and he reminded me of this frequently. I looked at the mountains with their crooked points, their millions of dimples, and tried to imagine a young Mark pulling himself up them, sweating with ropes tangled around his hips. I tried to imagine his ex-wife watching him from below, how afterwards they would make love in tents by the fire.

Mark knew about Jeremy, and even though he never said anything, I think he was disappointed in me. Sometimes I caught him looking at me while I rang things in on the computer, while I twisted my hair into a bun, his lips set in a thin line. One day I showed him pictures of my clay sculptures on my phone. There was an orange old lady holding a cane in one hand, the other hand clutching her back at the base of her spine. Another was a small fish, its scales green and blue.

“Can I have that?” he asked. He pointed to it again, and then used his fingers to zoom in on the screen. “Reminds me of this fish I caught. My uncle used to take me out on lake Peigneur when I was a kid. Before it got drained by those miners.” I promised him I would give it to him, and he looked pleased.

* * * * *

That night I watched television while I wrapped the fish up in some pretty orange paper. I printed off a blurb from the internet about how fish are symbols of prosperity and fortune, how in some cultures fish are used in healing ceremonies. I wrote in cursive, Mark-- For your hip! Love, Alexa.

I was thinking about how when you’re a kid, you can only imagine yourself dying young. Being old seems like an impossible reality, irreconcilable with who you are. Then, at a certain age, you start to wish for it. Daydream about it. How calm you must be in old age, how sure of yourself and the world. The way things happen no longer seeming random. Without letting myself think about it, I dialed Ed’s number on my cell phone. It rang once, and I hung up. I waited until another commercial break interrupted the movie I was watching, something about Wall Street, and I dialed it again, this time waiting while it rang and rang.

“Hello?” It was Ed. He sounded tired, and I wondered if that meant he wasn’t sleeping well. I bit a swollen part of my lip, hard, until tears gathered in my eyes. I didn’t know what to say. I hung up and tucked my phone into the drawer of my Goodwill table, tracing a petal on one of the golden flowers.

I couldn’t pay attention to the movie, so I turned it off and put on my uniform for the morning because I didn’t want to dirty any of the clothes tucked in my closet, things I hadn’t worn since I unpacked. I grabbed Mark’s package too, careful not to crease the delicate paper.

The night was cool and damp. Every other street light was dark, leaving the parking lot patched in yellow. Jeremy’s car was there, but I didn’t feel like seeing him, like smiling along with his stoner philosophy. He could talk about the way shadows worked for hours. About how we knew more about space than we did the ocean.

My car smelled like old French fries, and I decided that I would go get some food. That seemed like a normal enough task. There was a diner a mile away that I passed when I got groceries, and I thought they might have milkshakes. A man on the radio was talking about a mattress sale, 40% off, financing options, memory foam that would never forget the contours of your spine.

I met Ed through Marcy at a housewarming party after college. Marcy gave a toast at our wedding, something sentimental and raunchy, something that made my father shake his head. Later I found her throwing up in the bathroom, Ed’s brother holding her hair and whispering into her ear. That was one of the last times I saw her. Ed was quiet and nerdy-looking at the party, but he was handsome and kind, and I let him touch my breasts in our host’s upstairs guest bedroom. He closed his eyes while he did it, leaning in to kiss me and then leaning back, studying the shape like a blind person, learning.

The lighting in the diner was terrible, and it made me feel old. I sat in a booth, placing the little orange package of the fish on the table by the sugar after checking to make sure the table wasn’t sticky. I wasn’t sure why I brought the package in with me, but it felt nice having it there. It gave me a sense of purpose, like I might be meeting someone. It wasn’t too late yet, and the tell-tale slump of drunkness was missing from the rest of the customers. There was a couple sitting together on the same side of one booth, taking turns dipping fries to ketchup. The server wasn’t in a cheesy diner dress or anything like that, just nice jeans and a t-shirt and red sneakers.

“Do you like the burgers?” I asked.

She looked at me, shrugged. “The meat isn’t great, to be honest. I like the grilled cheese.”

“Grilled cheese, please. And a vanilla milkshake.”

She walked off to the back somewhere, and I felt very awkward without my phone to occupy me. It was still tucked into the Goodwill table. I wondered if Ed called back. The number was new and only my sister had it. I thought about giving it to some of my old friends, but I didn’t know what I could say to them, how I could possibly chart out the details of my life now.

If I had my phone, I might have looked up pictures of mountains so I could talk to Mark about them. I was thinking about getting into climbing myself, couldn’t resist the draw of pulling myself up and up, of sweating everything I had ever done out of me.

The door alarm sounded out, and a girl walked in. Short black dress, tall plastic heels, dark makeup messied around eyes and lips. She was blonde. It was almost a costume. She sat in a booth facing me, but she didn’t make eye contact. Her thighs squeaked against the seat as she pulled out her phone, hunched over it and the table, sniffled a little. When the server came over to take her order, she ordered a cup of coffee and a plate of fries. I noted that her eyes didn’t move very much when she talked. How she said thank you without smiling. She moved her hair back, and I saw a bruise on her neck, old and brown like the skin of a banana. I could see her bra through her dress.

I wondered where Rebecca went at night. There weren’t very many places around Roswell where you could go late, except for one dark and damp Mexican club in the middle of a strip mall, next to a Title Max that never seemed to close. I pictured her there with the girl in the next booth, pictured them dancing together, passing a Corona back and forth and taking sips, the easy sharing of close friendship. How they would laugh together and check their lipstick in the single bathroom stall, how the men might track their movements across the sticky room.

I got up and went over to the girl. I wanted to talk to someone.

“Excuse me,” I said. The girl didn’t hear me at first. She was reading bubbles of text messages, monologues so long they went out of the reaches of the screen.

“Hi,” I said, trying to make myself sound young. I couldn’t remember how to do this, how to branch across to another woman, how to initiate friendship.

She looked up at me.

“Hi,” she said. Her voice had the same dead chill as it did when she spoke with the waitress. Her hair was loose and willowish around her face and I realized she was far younger than I had thought, one of those girls who bloomed early and fast.

“I was wondering if I could borrow your phone to make a quick call. I lost mine,” I said, the lie coming to me simply, “I was at a rest stop off 400 a while back and someone took it from the bathroom counter. I need to call my husband and let him know I’ll be there soon.” I thought she might invite me to sit down. She kept looking blankly at me. “I don’t want him to worry,” I added.

The server brought my milkshake and my food over to where I was sitting and looked questioningly at me, and then at the girl. “Are you moving, or?”

“She’s just borrowing my phone,” the girl said quickly. She handed her phone to me, the case thick and jelly and pink.

“Thanks.” I went back to my booth. The girl’s phone was unlocked, and I pulled up the screen to dial. I didn’t know who to call. I thought about calling Marcy in Virginia and reminding her of those nights we spent sitting on the roof of our dorm sharing a blanket and a cigarette. Instead, I went to the screen with the girl’s recent calls and found someone named Lover embellished with several pink and blue hearts, someone the girl called a lot. I put the phone up to my ear and listened to the ring, for the third time that night, and inhaled sharply at the sound of the man’s voice.

“Hello,” the voicemail greeting said, his voice smoky-sounding, “you’ve reached Dante. Leave a message.”

I waited in the silence after the beep for a minute before I said, “Hi, it’s me.” I looked up to see if the girl was listening and she was, watching me closely, an eye of caution. “Just wanted to let you know I’ll be home soon.” I imagined there was someone listening on the other side. “I love you, babe,” I said, and hung up.

I got up and passed the phone back to the girl, smiling brightly down at her. “Thanks, I mean it. He gets so worried if he doesn’t hear from me.” She looked blankly back at me. “You know how that goes, I’m sure.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I know.”

“Thanks again. I really appreciate it. Let me buy you your food.” I could tell I was pushing too hard, that becoming friends with this young girl was already an impossibility. I tried, instead, to give her a motherly look. “I insist.”

The girl looked dully at me and then back down to her phone. “That’s okay. It’s cheap anyways.” I wondered if Dante, the girl’s Lover, had listened to the voicemail yet. I wondered if he knew the girl well enough to tell our voices apart, and decided he had to.

I went to the counter and asked the server for a box and a to-go cup for my milkshake. After piling the food into the Styrofoam, careful to wipe the grease off my hands, I pulled out two twenties and put one on my table and one on the girl’s. “Thanks again, sugar,” I said, as if that was how I talked all the time. I grabbed the orange package and stepped out into the night. The street was mostly empty, spread out in either direction like a lightless desert highway, the trees still and stiff like cacti. Maybe I’d ask Mark to take me out to dinner tomorrow, after the morning shift, somewhere easy and bright, somewhere people his age went. I’d present him with the package and the little green and blue fish and he would smile, with tears in his eyes, remembering the way things used to be.

Lindsey Baker lives and writes in Atlanta, GA. Her work has previously appeared in The Molotov Cocktail and Blood Moon Rising Magazine.

Alexis Wheeler is an abstract artist living in New York State. Alexis has spent the last 25 years working as a hairdresser, and has been the owner of Crown Salon in New York City for the past 8 years. Her work with clients in the salon is about helping them bring their inner selves to outer expression, using a combination of texture, intuition, artistic technique, and connection. This process informs all of her other creative endeavors. When working in a visual art form, Alexis is relating to her internal space and the tools that inspire her: shapes, forms, colors, as well as repetitive patterns found in nature. In this way, she is following intuition, creating work that resonates with the universal quality of emotions and memories. For more, visit or follow her on Instagram.

Jon Shina used to live in Brooklyn, and now lives in the hippie woods of western Massachusetts. He is of Iraqi decent and is extremely depressed these days. Jon Shina has played shows for over a decade (playing in China and Thailand as well as all over the USA). He has done many things with VICE over the years, and he even wrote record reviews for the magazine. Jon wants to make everyone feel ALL the emotions when they listen to his music. You can find more of his work at: