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Ash magazine issue 1, p.1
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       Ash Magazine Issue 1, p.1

           Lord Haywire
 
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Ash Magazine Issue 1
Ash Magazine, Issue One, March 2008

  Copyright Josh Cook 2008-2011

  Publisher

  Lord Haywire

  Editor

  Michael Guzzetti

  Art Directors

  Sean Christensen & Stefan Saito

  This issue consists of:

  Front Cover Art by Michelle Chorwat

  Back Cover Art by Lord Haywire

  Art by Sean Christensen

  Art by Stefan Saito

  Stories:

  loquor, loqui, locutus sum by Alan Orr

  Memory is a Funny Thing by Christopher Bowers

  The Intrusion of What Appears to be a Spaceship by Brandon S. Wright

  Date of Death by M. S. Smith

  We Glimpse the Zoo by Vanya Schroeder

  Exhale by Joseph Kersian

  House of God by E. C. Hilty

  My Work Excuse by Lord Haywire

  The Gummy Wars by M. M. Garcia

  Giles Criplegate by Evan Cooper

  Ash Magazine is always accepting submissions from artists and writers. Visit ashmagazine.net for news about Ash Magazine.

  loquor, loqui, locutus sum

  By Alan Orr

  On our first date last week, Havila insisted she buy the coffee and a big piece of carrot cake. I would’ve liked to taste them both, but when we sat down she reached her hand across the table and pressed her palm over my mouth. I was unsure of what to make of the situation, so I didn’t say anything. I tried to speak, to tell her to be careful of her dangling sleeve—it was close to touching the carrot cake’s icing. But my words came out as mumbles, and she kept her hand tight on my lips. So I pointed instead.

  She seemed to understand. “Oh, thanks,” she said and swung her chair around the table. “How’s that?”

  I shrugged and nodded.

  Then she told me how her day had been. I listened as she told me about screen printing tee-shirts for a student group she was in. Then she asked me how my day was.

  I spoke a muffled, “Okay.”

  She took a sip of coffee. She said I had the same color of brown of hair as her older sister. Her sister was in New York working low on the chain for an advertising company. For spring break Havila visited her, and while her sister worked, she would go down to the street to smoke cigarettes. It was against her sister’s rules to smoke inside.

  She asked me if I smoked, and I tilted my head from side to side. I wanted to say that I used to buy a pack before going to music shows, so I’d have something to do between the sets. But all I could convey were some low humming sounds.

  Havila’s eyes then danced around the coffee shop for a moment as if she was looking for someone else. She turned to me and said she’d been trying to quit.

  She was smoking close to a pack a day.

  Had I ever heard what Kurt Vonnegut said?

  I shook my head.

  “He smoked Pall Malls as a long term plan to commit suicide.” She said, “I plan to quit for my twenty-second birthday as a gift to myself.”

  I felt a sneeze coming on and I wanted to warn her, but she didn’t seem to understand why I was pointing to my nose. I jerked my head away and put my own hands to my face as the burst came out. While wiping myself with a napkin, I breathed in air through my mouth and it tasted cool. I looked at Havila and opened my mouth, almost starting to speak. But she put her hand back on my face quickly and said, “Bless you.”

  Now she spoke about singing while she ate forkfuls of the carrot cake. She was in an all female a cappella group at the university, and they had their spring concert coming up. She told me I should come, so I nodded. She said that the girls in the group were probably her closest friends at school. They were like sisters.

  Once during her freshman year, she said, she made out with a guy because a senior girl in the group had dared her to do it. When she ended up sleeping with him, he bit her hard just below her collar bone and she punched him in the face. Havila tugged at the v-neck of her shirt to show me the scar. Had I ever done anything like that? She asked.

  If I had, it wasn’t the type of thing I’d want to talk about—especially on a first date. I gave Havila my best blank face. She ate more carrot cake and I remembered how I had once had sex on acid. My mattress was on the floor, underneath the wooden bedframe that came with the dorm room. The girl was on top and I stared up, watching grey metal springs meld into one another.

  Havila put down her fork and placed her free hand over her lips as she quietly burped. She said she knew she should stop eating, but the cake was so good.

  That made me want to try some, but I knew I’d have to make awkward gestures to get the message across.

  “I’ve been trying to lose weight,” Havila said. “Anne, my best friend, just lost five pounds. She looks so good. I know it’s stupid but I feel like we’re in some kind of competition.”

  I was grateful I couldn’t respond to that. I would’ve said something dumb like, you look fine to me. But all I did was nod. I kept staring at the cake; she was making me so hungry.

  She said, “After I quit smoking this summer, I’m going to start running again. I promise.” Havila reached her free hand out and took mine in a handshake. “There,” she said, “you can hold me to it.”

  Just as I was trying to come up with a new way to respond other than my usual nods, Havila said she had to use the bathroom and left the table.

  I breathed big breaths through my mouth as I watched her walk across the room. With about a third of the carrot cake in front of me, I crammed in mouthfuls and washed them down with cooled coffee. Outside the tall panes of glass, I saw the sky was beginning to sprinkle a little rain again. A boy with his mother walked by and I thought if I were younger I’d press my face to the glass and blow.

  I stared off across the tables of the coffee shop and wondered if Havila would cover my mouth if we had sex. We’d leave here and go back to my place or hers. The rain would come down harder, making the air humid, and I’d breathe through my nose as we pushed ourselves into one another. Moisture would gather on the top edge of her hand. I’d try to kiss her when we were finished, but I’d simply be pressing her own hand to her face.

  Havila returned then, looking the same. Blonde bangs jagged across her eyes and a smile on her face. She asked, “Do you mind if we go outside, so I can smoke a cigarette?”

  As I stood I said, “No,” but my words were a mess as Havila cupped my mouth just in time. We walked through the swinging glass doors and stepped into the light rain. I thought if Havila was going to keep this covered mouth thing up, I was going to pretend it was as if we were holding hands.

  We sat in a small brick alcove under a roof. She took out a cigarette from a crisp new box of Marlboro Reds and put it in her lips. Then she said, “I love the sound of a lighter flicking. Listen to this.” She let go of my face and used her hand to cup the flame while she lit the cigarette. I knew for a moment that I could speak, but I listened to the lighter as she told me to do.

  I almost said, I like that, but as the words came out, she slapped her hand against my face with a sting. Maybe it was an accident, but I was put off by the pain. I tried to say so beneath her hand, but she acted as though she couldn’t hear me.

  I made a louder noise under her palm, and she pressed her hand harder into my face. Then I made such a loud noise, that she put both hands on me. And she held her cigarette in her lips. I thought her bangs might drop into the lit end and singe. I would’ve liked to see that.

  When I was quiet for a moment she said, “I just hate it when I can’t figure out what love is. I mean, I know that’s a random thing to say, but it’s been bothering me.”

  My eyebrows went up, and I wondered what the hell was with this girl.

 
; She said, “Once I woke up early in the morning when I knew I was falling in love with a boy. I wrote something in my journal, and then I committed it to memory.

  It went like, to love is to succumb to your purest intentions and endure difficult times as development of the heart. What do you think of that?” she asked me.

  I wanted to hate her, I really did. But I liked what she said. I nodded. She only had one hand on me now.

  Havila said, “I want to fall in love again. Do you?”

  I nodded slowly.

  “Spring is such a good time for this,” she said.

  The rain coming down was so small you could hardly see it.

  “I think I have to go,” she said. “It was fun getting coffee with you, though. I hope I didn’t talk too much.”

  If she could see through her hand, she may’ve seen a partial and confused smile.

  “Okay,” she said. “I’ll call you.” She left and went around the corner before I could say anything.

  Four days passed before she sent me a text message. She said, “Coffee again? Tomorrow. Same place, same time?”

  “Alright,” I responded.

  So now I’m outside the coffee shop waiting—smoking a cigarette because

  I went to a music show last night and I left the pack in my jacket pocket. I take a drag and hope Havila won’t cover my mouth again. But just in case she does, I’m going to stretch out my cheeks, exercise them like an actor before a performance.

  First smile, then frown, and then open as wide as I can with my tongue hanging out. Maybe this time, she’ll at least give me a little hole between her fingers so I can breathe in fresh air.

  Memory is a Funny Thing

  By Christopher Bowers

  It is fact, but none the less has the quality of a rumor- something heard but never seen, known but not understood. The fact is this: my father has cried twice since I was born, 31 years ago. Perhaps there were other times, but these two were the only two that could be confirmed by a witness, namely my mother.

  Like so many women, she was the witness and the peace maker thus bearing the brunt of both my father’s and my own selfish tragedies.The first time he cried was in 1982 and I was seven. A lot happened that year. My father’s father died after forgetting who everybody around him was; everybody, even his wife and his kids. My father’s brother currently suffers the same fate of forgetting, and so too might my father, so too might I.

  My mother, a nurse-in-training at the time, sat alone with my grandfather as he died. I think it was less about being a nurse and more about being a woman, specifically a mother. She knew death was close.

  In high school she had been a poet and her mother had been a closeted artist. So, using her words, my mother painted him a picture to die by. She described the lake house in Wisconsin that he owned. I have only a few faint memories there, but it was his personal Shangri-La. It was there that he smoked his pipe, went fishing, and loved his wife. It was also there that he watched his son, my father, do hot-shot fly-bys with a plane owned by the United States Marine Corp. That was about 1961 and in a matter of months my father would stand at attention on an aircraft carrier for 12 hours next to that same plane. He was waiting, like the rest of the country, to see if Cuba and the U.S. were going to start a nuclear war. It may have been one of his proudest moments.

  History is complicated after all.

  So my mother described a lake, a boat, a sunset, and all the people who had joined my grandfather in Shangri-La. The doctors had been wrong about one thing. Yes, he was going to die, but he would not die without a memory. At that moment, this man who didn’t recognize his own son, much less his son’s wife, shed one tear. He probably couldn’t tell the difference between my mother’s picture and heaven, and truly, there may have been no difference at all.

  From what I hear, my father did not cry then. From what I hear, the first time he cried in the last 31 years was on the night before I went to school wearing my mother’s make-up. I don’t remember the fight we had that night. I don’t remember how it started, how it proceeded or how it ended. I don’t even remember his hand slapping my face. I remember my parents being alone in their bedroom afterwards.

  Apparently, that was when he was crying.

  I remember the gigantic brown chair that I loved to sit in when watching TV. That night I did not watch TV, but I sat in that chair. After their time alone in the bedroom he came out and was noticeably calmer. He asked me to sit with him in that chair. I sat on his lap and he wrapped his arms around me.

  I remember this more like a photograph, without sound and without motion. The next morning I remember my mother putting her beige make-up over the fingerprints on my cheeks. No one at school noticed because after all, my mother’s side was the artistic one.

  The other big event of 1982 was that my mother, finally pregnant after months of not conceiving, miscarried. I was the first to know that I had a sibling on the way, and the last to know this little cosmic letter had been marked “return to sender.” I remember very little about that event. One moment comes to mind however: at seven years-old it was still my ritual to wake up, get dressed, and find my parents. I could see the glow of the bathroom light in their bedroom. I approached, eager to see whichever parent was in there. My mom, still in her nightgown, was on the toilet hunched over, her face red-hot with tears. Again, I remember this more like a photograph- without sound, without motion.

  Somehow, I later connected that scene with her loss, with our loss.

  Eleven years later I found out that this was not just a sad fluke but a more permanent condition on my mother’s part. The way I found out was a tragedy, too. I needed socks. All I wanted was a pair of socks and each and every pair of mine were dirty. My father would surely have some socks I could wear. Having just returned home from a flight, his clothes were still packed. I shuffled through one bag and found not just socks, but condoms as well.

  A few weeks later I found my mother again bent over, her face red-hot with tears. This time she was not pissing out a fetus. She had angry suspicions and was beside herself with heartache. For reasons I still cannot understand,

  I involved myself. I told her about the socks, and the condoms. She became oddly calm and said only this: “Well, that settles it- we haven’t needed to use condoms in over eleven years.” I was then reminded of a slogan from the GI JOE cartoon that, as a child, I watched religiously: “knowing is half the battle.”

  The second time my father cried in the last 31 years was shortly after his mother died. I was not there, but apparently it was because of something I did. I was in Mexico with a woman who I thought I knew, but barely knew. So it goes with young love. History repeats itself, and familial history is no exception. My grandmother also forgot who everyone was in the years before she died. She however was apparently not satisfied with just losing memories, she created new ones too.

  One night, for example, she called her neighbor saying that men were robbing her. No evidence could be found that this was true. So off to the nursing home she went.

  A year passed and then we both got ready for our trips. I was going to

  Mexico and she was going to heaven. I think she had a better time. I wasn’t with her in the moment she died, as my mother had been for my grandfather. However, I was there very near the end. I knew this would be the last time I’d see her with any lightening at all in her brain. So, I told her what any grandson should tell his grandmother: that she was wonderful and caring, that she spoiled me silly and I loved her for it, that I was glad she had been my grandmother and glad she had raised my father… and probably some more true things that I don’t now remember.

  And guess what? Despite no longer knowing my name, she cried one tear, too.

  I wrote down what I had told her in the hospital room and decorated it with a bit more eloquence and fact. This was her eulogy, to be read by my father at her funeral. So about two weeks later, while I was climbing the pyramids of my girlfriend’s ancestors, my fat
her read my farewell, bit by bit. He kept having to stop because he was crying, or so I have heard.

  My mother has since read this story and her only response is, in a sad, hopeless tone, “memory is a funny thing.” The implication was that she does not remember these events in the same way that I do. Maybe my grandfather did not cry on his deathbed. Maybe the Cuban missile crisis wasn’t my father’s proudest moment and maybe he did cry more than just two times in the last 31 years.

  Again, this is only what I have heard but not seen, known but not understood.

  And yet, I still find it fit, in the mythology of my own life, to call it fact. What a subjective world we live in.

  The Intrusion of What Appears to be a Spaceship

  By Brandon S. Wright

 
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