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The Battered Suitcase November 2008

  The Battered Suitcase

  November 2008

  Volume One - Issue Six

  Published by Vagabondage Press LLC

  Copyright 2008

  Copyright for all art, poetry, lyrics and short stories in

  The Battered Suitcase are owned by their authors

  and their work is published by permission.

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only,

  then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of these authors.

  The Battered Suitcase - (c) November 2008

  Published by

  Vagabondage Press, LLC

  PO Box 3563

  Apollo Beach, Florida


  The Battered Suitcase

  Volume 1 – Issue 6 – November 2008


  Letter from the Editor

  I Love Ginny Sousa - Pete Carter

  Nervous Harold and the Implausible Impala Incident - Karl Koweski

  Poetry by Janet Thorning

  Poetry by Jane Chakravarthy

  Boy in a Red Sweater - Aurora Lewis

  One More Chance - Paritosh Uttam

  Photography by Jakez Daniel

  Lullaby - Cynthia Miller

  Poetry by Sean Patrick Hill

  Poetry by Jan Melara

  ICU - Angie Pelekidis

  Poetry by Luigi Monteferrante

  The Things We Tell the Silence - Stephanie Kraner

  Photo Art by Anton Krueger

  Walk in Fire - Michelle Reale

  Poetry by Arka Mukhopadhyay

  Poetry by John Sweet

  Poetry by Joe Quinn

  A Slow Moment - Yvonne Zheng

  Break Aside - Kristi Yorks

  Poetry by Chris Darley

  Cola Hard Cash - Bronwyn Mauldin

  Photography by Steffan Fossbakk

  Get a Free Copy of The Battered Suitcase


  Volume 1 – Issue 6

  November 2008

  Letter from the Editor

  As the nights grow longer, sometimes we're left wondering if those summer days could have been better spent. In a last ditch, desperate effort, we even change our clocks and fool ourselves into eking out a few more hours of precious sunlight.

  In November comes an accounting of the harvest - time to tally up the gains and losses of our efforts and a time to face the mistakes of the past, before ushering in the new year. All the things we should have done, the things we shouldn't have said, the moments we never seized, the ones that lay abandoned, but still worrying, in the long grass of those distant summers. Every bad decision, every preventable accident, every injustice that can never be righted - we need to face them, if only so we can let them go.

  We need to forgive ourselves and we need to move on.

  Because sometimes tragedy needs to be embraced until we can allow ourselves to celebrate again. Sometimes we need to accept our mistakes and our faults before we can build a brighter future.

  This month's issue of The Battered Suitcase examines those moments of regret, those lingering memories of lost opportunity, lost love and lost hope. It is populated with stark, but not ungentle portraits of people facing uncertain futures and unchangeable fates -- all of them teetering on that shaky ledge between hope and despair. And only they can choose which way to fall.

  Here's to a brighter future.

  We have to go into the despair and go beyond it,

  by working and doing for somebody else,

  by using it for something else. -- Elie Wiesel.

  Here's to falling on the side of hope.

  Fawn Neun

  Executive Editor

  The Battered Suitcase

  I Love Ginny Sousa

  Pete Carter

  I love Ginny Sousa.

  I used to watch her from my apartment window, which overlooked the bus stop, while she waited for a ride to work. I’d hold back the aluminum foil lined curtains and watch her waiting patiently. Never worried, never hurried.

  The first time I ever saw her was in line at K-mart. She rang up a lady buying two packs of men’s underwear. I still wonder if she bought the underwear for a specific man or maybe to have around, just in case.

  When the lady left, I put three rolls of duct tape, a heavy duty bar-b-cue apron and some Christmas tree spray down on the belt. It was hard to place the items on the checkout counter without having them fall over, because the oven mitts I wore were loose, but Ginny helped me put them upright.

  “Cooking out today?” She said. She has red hair that ends in little ringlets and dark-brown eyes that seemed to smolder.

  It was an ironic thing to say because it was pouring rain out, but then again, I never venture outside when it isn’t raining. Too many things happen.

  “No, just picking up supplies.”

  She has a dimple on her right cheek that always seems to appear just before she smiles. It’s as if the dimple knows that the smile is going to appear.


  I wanted to invite her to a cookout right then, even though I didn’t own a grill. Perhaps Mrs. O’Loughlin, who had buried three husbands and replaced each one with five cats, would lend me her hibachi.

  But instead, I waited until she bagged my purchases and said, “Thanks”.

  I thought about her that night while I was watching TV. I have a VCR tape I like to watch that shows eight hours of a hearth burning brightly. The flames lick the TV screen like a faithful dog, its tongue feeling around the inside of the box.

  I like to watch the flames and figure out their code. There’s a language in the blaze, a story that begs to be told. Sometimes, I’m so close to understanding it; hearing the pitched whine, pleads to be released. My thoughts turned away from her and the conflagration and brought me back to the fever I had gotten years ago.

  I caught the flu on a Thursday and never got rid of it; the virus had captured my DNA. I lay in bed for three weeks with a Dura log slowly burning its way through my stomach and at last finding home there. After it broke, I had to wear pot holders on my hands to keep the fire that moved within from getting out.

  My thoughts always turn back to there. But I can’t help think that there is something she can do to save me.

  That’s why she seemed so beautiful to me. I could see the fire within her, too. She moved like a wave through the crowds, bright and glowing, like an ember after the fire has long been doused, radiant in the ash; waiting for fuel to come to life.

  After the bus stop burned, I had to stop watching, but I know she’s there every day; brightly infectious, luminous in an ashen tide.

  I love Ginny Sousa.

  Pete Carter lives on Cape Cod where he did most things wrong until he married. After twenty years and two children, he decided he is much happier being right, if only occasionally. He writes short stories most often and has published on Wild Child, Bewildering Stories, Theatre of Decay and Oddville Press. When not writing he enjoys car repair, building, painting, plumbing, reading, debating, fishing and computer repair. His site is

  1Nervous Harold and the Implausible Impala Incident

  Karl Koweski

  I pounded on the screen door five solid minutes before Nervous Harold opened the back door and shambled onto
the screened-in porch. He paused there a moment, scratching his ass with one hand and the peach fuzz on his chin with the other. Itches satisfied, he grabbed a Hefty bag full of empty beer cans and unhooked the latch allowing me to open the door for him to pass. Nervous Harold moved so awkwardly, I knew opening the screen door, carrying the cans, and walking, simultaneously, would likely result in a face plant on the stairs and a bag full of cans scattered across the yard.

  “Keep knocking like that, you’ll wake my brother and he’ll stomp us both.” Despite the anxious tics and spasms, Nervous Harold spoke slow and syrupy.

  “If you’d leave the screen door unlocked, I wouldn’t have to knock so loud.”

  “Hell, no. That damn Greek across the alley be in here grabbing up my cans in a heartbeat.”

  He set the bag down on the edge of the driveway and retrieved a sledge hammer from the garage.

  “Let’s bust some cans!” He called, his teeth jutting out in all directions as though they were fanning out to search his mouth for dead bodies.

  Busting cans was all kinds of fun for Nervous Harold. For me, not so much. I was responsible for spacing the dead soldiers out along the driveway in five rows, four deep, with enough room between so he wouldn’t get his feet tangled up and bowl the cans over with his face. He’d come behind me dropping the eighteen pound sledge on each can, squawking in delight if there was enough stale beer left in a can to spray out a boozy halo. Then I’d scoop the broken bodies with a snow shovel and dump them into the blue plastic fifty five gallon drum beside the garage.

  “Ain’t you afraid the Greek’ll just steal the cans outta here?” I asked.

  Nervous Harold chuckled derisively. “I’d like to see him try to pick up that fifty five gallon drum.”

  We crushed forty cans before his older brother, Barry, stuck his head out the bedroom window. A dutch boy hair-do framed his mean, pimply face. “What the fuck you doing, retard?” Barry yelled.

  “Busting cans.” Nervous Harold leaned against the handle of the sledge, trying to appear casually cool wearing red sweat pants, a Ford T-shirt and an unbuttoned brown and yellow flannel shirt.

  “What are you, a fucking bum? Busting cans? I oughta bust your fucking head. Let me hear another can get crushed and you can kiss off playing Atari until you’re twenty-five.”

  “How’s it going, Barry?” I asked.

  I looked up to Barry mostly because he was sixteen, three years older than Nervous Harold and six years older than myself. Also, he owned both an Atari 2600 and a Colecovision, which seemed like wanton avarice to me who’d only recently come by a second hand Atari thanks to a college-bound cousin. And, supposedly, Barry could claim to owning the largest O gauge model train set lay-out in Northwest Indiana. I say “supposedly” because I wasn’t allowed in their basement and the basement windows were painted black so I couldn’t spy through them.

  “Check his pockets before he leaves,” Barry said simply, then slammed the window shut.

  “Bust my f’n’ head. I oughta bust his f’n’ head while he’s sleeping,” Nervous Harold sulked.

  “Check my pockets,” I said, mock innocently. “I wonder what he meant by that?”

  Since I began associating with Nervous Harold earlier in the year when my mother finally allowed me to cross the street unsupervised, I’d been systematically stealing model car parts, hot wheels, several Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures from Nervous Harold. During one deliriously courageous afternoon I separated him from his favorite Star Wars toy, Yoda, and his fastest electric track racer. Not because I owned an electric track, I just didn’t want him to have it.

  He sprawled out on his stairs and I sat beside him. He took out a crumpled pack of Raleighs filched from his mother’s purse last week and shook out two stale, creased cigarettes. With trembling fingers he withdrew a box of matches from the same flannel pocket. After six attempts he managed to strike a match against the box and light our smokes. I followed my first inhale with a prolonged bout of cough and wheezing.

  “Shhh...” Nervous Harold’s wet, puckered mouth sprayed spittle. “If I get grounded off the Atari til I’m 25, I’m gonna run you over.”

  “With what? Your wagon?”

  I pointed at the red Radio Flyer wagon parked outside the garage door. It doubled as his aluminum can transportation as well as his only means of wheeled locomotion. His equilibrium was such that he couldn’t ride a bicycle ten feet without tipping over or colliding with a telephone pole. When there were no cans to pull the five blocks to Zurzolo’s Recycling, Nervous Harold slowly wheeled himself up and down the block by sitting in the wagon with one foot hanging over, propelling himself along while he kept the handle bent back in his hand for steering. I’ve never seen anyone ride a wagon in such a fashion before or since. He resembled a cyborg slug without all the charisma. My dad, being less charitable, thought he looked like a retard and warned me against associating with him which is why I only hung out with Nervous Harold during the twenty three hours a day while Dad was at work or at the bar or sleeping.

  “I gotta get them cans to Zurzolo’s today,” Nervous Harold muttered. “Hey! Can we bust some cans at your house?”

  I took a second draw from the cigarette. It still tasted like shit but at least I didn’t hack my lungs out this time. I watched the smoke curl out from my nostrils. I could get use to this, I thought. Cigarettes from Nervous Harold’s mom and a couple nips off my dad’s stashed pint of Smirnoff and I’d be set.

  I blew the smoke at Nervous Harold’s face. “Are you kidding? My dad’s sleeping. He’s gotta work tonight.”

  “We ain’t gonna be that loud.”

  “Tell that to your brother.”

  “Damn. Damn. Damn. Darn. What good are you to have around? None. That’s what. I gotta get these cans busted and taken to Zurzolo’s before my ma gets back from work so she can take me to Woolsworth. They got a sweet 1968 Impala model I need to get. It’s sleek as hell and I need it.”

  “What for? You’re only gonna mess it up.”

  “Don’t say that.”

  “It’s true. All your models you ever try to build always come out looking like Mad Max cars.”

  His latest attempt at model building, a 1970 Pontiac GTO according to the box, didn’t look much like anything except one of those anonymous cars you’d find in the center of the track once the dirt settled following an Illiana Speedway demolition derby. Glue opaqued windows kept the interior a mystery. Glue splotches pocked the body. All I could say about the engine was that it was located under the hood. He’d even managed to screw up the tires, giving the vehicle an off-kilter slouch. He kept the GTO in a clear plastic display case to keep the exposed glue from attracting dust.

  “At least I can afford to buy a model. You wear the same shorts every day.”

  “You’d be better off buying shorts cause your models suck.”

  “This one’s gonna be different. You’ll see.”

  We stubbed out our cigarettes. There really wasn’t much else to say. I knew I’d pushed Nervous Harold as far as I could without causing a hissy fit.

  “You wanna play a game?” He asked.

  “Sure. On Atari or Coleco?”

  “No, you know you’re not allowed inside. It’s a game me and Barry came up with.”

  I shrugged. Since my first encounters with Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and Dig Dug, games involving fresh air and imagination had lost a lot of its charm for me, with the exception of swatting lightning bugs with wiffle ball bats. That never got old.

  “All right. Lay down in the grass and close your eyes.”


  “Trust me.”

  “What the hell kind of game is this?”

  “Me and Barry play it all the time. It’s fun.”

  If Barry had a hand in creating the game, that was good enough for me. He didn’t strike me as the sort of sixteen year-old who would waste his time with idle nonsen
se. Not when there were so many video games to play and model trains to run.

  I laid down in the grass, stared up at the clear blue sky. We were upwind of Amoco refinery today and the pollution wasn’t quite so thick. It seemed I could see a mile high.

  “Close your eyes,” Nervous Harold said.

  “I am.”

  “No peeking.”

  “I ain’t, goddammit.”

  Nervous Harold hunkered down, pressed his ass against my face and farted.

  I immediately went spastic, slapping and kicking the ground. Nervous Harold let off my face. His face was scarlet. He was laughing so hard he wasn’t really laughing at all, just trying to suck air.

  “What’s wrong with you, man?”

  “I got you. I got you.”

  “You son of a bitch. Now it’s my turn. Get on the grass.”

  I didn’t have to fart but I’d shit on him before I’d allow this outrage to go without retaliation.

  “No way,” Nervous Harold said. “That’s not how the game’s played.”

  “New rules.”

  We can’t change the rules mid-game.”

  “Why the hell not?”

  “Because that’s how Larry made the rules. Besides, I think I’m gonna go inside. They got a Three Stooges marathon on channel 48.”


  “You heard my brother, though. You gotta turn out your pockets. Make sure you ain’t up to any more thieving.”

  “I’m wearing shorts. I ain’t got no pockets. Idiot.”

  Nervous Harold entered his house in triumph. I crossed the street and walked the half block home with my head hung in shame, watching my ratty sneakers eat up the cracked sidewalk. Getting outsmarted by a borderline retard didn’t sit well with me. It left a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak.

  I didn’t go inside when I got home. I would have liked to have gone in and watched the Three Stooges marathon provided I wouldn’t have to sit through any episodes featuring Shemp. With one television in the house, it didn’t matter what I wanted to watch. This time of day, Mom would be firmly entrenched on the couch watching All My Children or General Hospital or One Life To Live, the Three Stooges for middle-aged women. Rather than eye gouging or noggin knocking, however, the shows concentrated mostly on adultery and characters taking turns surviving near death experiences so they could lie, fashionably bandaged, in hospital beds plotting their revenge.

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