Literary as hell.

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“Monsters and Kings,” by Rebecca Kirschbaum

Monsters and Kings

Written by Rebecca Kirschbaum


The gentle town of Kingsburrow has a handful of stoplights, an unstimulated police force, and an elderly man who tiptoes out of his house every morning for a predictable stroll. On Main Street, there are a handful of unordinary buildings cloaked in unassuming shadows. The town is aged, overgrown with vines and shrubbery, filled with potholes and cracked cement. Grass and dandelions grow up through the cracks in the sidewalks. A few stone fences remain from the Civil War and they line the yards of the largest houses. Children often whack at the stones of the old fences with sticks they pull from old dogwood, oak, and maple trees.

Ironically, or maybe predictably, Kingsburrow is only known for its monsters.

A little after eight, the night descends into Kingsburrow and the lights of the stores begin to go out, one by one. Here, it might seem the most wretched of threats are the feral cats, who roam the broken sidewalks, seeking a miniature victim. Ask that old man on Maple Street, the one who sits on his porch, in his rocking chair. If you sit with him as he rocks, long into the night, you will notice he is at ease as he sips at the end of his pipe. He will tell you, “Lightning never strikes twice. This town’s as safe as it’s ever been.” Continue reading

Dining for One by Brian Doyle

Click here to read Dining for One, a new short play by Brian Doyle.
Dining for One will be produced by the Midtown International Theatre Festival’s Short Play Lab Series on October 25 and 26 the Roy Arias Studios, 300 West 43rd Street, 4th Floor, in New York City.
It will be directed by John Camera and will feature Guy Ventoliere, Destiny Marie Shegstad and David Wetter.
More details may be found at


Brian Leahy Doyle
Brian Leahy Doyle is a director, dramaturge, writer, and teacher of theatre. Brian received his undergraduate training at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville, where he majored in English and minored in theatre with an emphasis in dramatic literature. He earned his MFA in Theatre, with emphases in Directing, Dramaturgy, and Voice, at the University of Utah. While at the University of Utah, he was the first resident dramaturge of the Pioneer Theatre Company and was largely responsible for initiating this position. After graduate school, Brian moved to the East Coast and worked as a dramaturge for the George Street Playhouse and the Whole Theatre. He then began an active freelance directing career, staging plays in such regional theaters as the Whole Theatre, Cincinnati Theatre Festival, and Louisville’s Classics in Context, and such off-Broadway venues as the Irish Arts Center, Riverside Shakespeare, the Open Eye, the 92nd Street Y/Makor, and the New York premiere of composer Aaron Jay Kernitz’s The Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. As a writer, his articles have appeared in New Hibernia Review, The Steinbeck Review, Theatre History Studies, and Didaskalia, His book, Encore! The Renaissance of Wisconsin Opera Houses, published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, focuses upon the renovation and restoration of historic theaters in Wisconsin and has received a National Indie Excellence Award, a National Best Book Award, a ForeWord Review Book Award, and the Theatre Historical Society of America’s Outstanding Book of the Year Award. He currently teaches at Mercy College and is serving as lyricist and book writer on on a musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession with Michael Dilthey. An evening of his one-act plays will be presented this fall at the Players Club in Manhattan.

Excerpt from Love Poems

The Furious Gazelle is continuing to serialize Charles Bane’s new book of poetry, Love Poems. You can find more of his poetry here.

You A Certain Chord

You a certain chord or
movement of a dance as
you crash in a tide and spill
like music or drugs into blood
and we down onto sheets,
your hair in kapok roots and
I think what bird is this, with
wings outspread, crying under

When I Despair

When I despair, I hold
to you, the you that
cannot imagine floes or
among the masses one sees
everyday pained in
newspaper photos, the loss
of all. What can’t be
endured is separation.
I write, but you are my
religion too and I think
if the world could only glimpse
one face, all would be remade.
Is this not so? Can we walk with
all the population on the boulevards,
and lay all together with our
hands across our chests, looking
at the stars?

Charles Bane, Jr. is the American author of The Chapbook ( Curbside Splendor, 2011) and Love Poems ( Kelsay Books, 2014). His work was described by the Huffington Post as “not only standing on the shoulders of giants, but shrinking them.” A writing contributor for The Gutenberg Project, he is a current nominee as Poet Laureate of Florida.

Time Unraveled by Breann Landry

I sat in the front room of my ground-floor apartment, hands clasped around a mug of hot coffee, staring out the window and thinking thoughts too melancholy to be revealed at a first meeting. I would not have you, the Reader, think too ill of me right away. I did not drink the coffee; I never drank coffee. I made a mug of it every morning, habitually, and then sat huddled round it, occasionally inhaling the fragrant steam, warming my hands till the mug grew cold. A mug of hot water would have done the job as well, but somehow I could never break the habit of making coffee, partly perhaps because Jane had done so. But Jane was one of the melancholy thoughts into which you, the Reader, have no business poking your nose just yet.

There came a single, heavy knock at the door, and I knew Oliver must be there. Oliver could never manage to do things quite like other people. Who else of my acquaintances would pay a visit at seven-forty-five on a Saturday morning? No one. So I knew, from the timing as well as from the knock, that it was Oliver, before I opened the door.

Oliver stands about five foot three, two inches below my own height, with a slight, active physique, like an exuberant gnome. A professor of philosophy, who dabbles in psychology and physics and has a penchant for science fiction of any kind, he is vastly intelligent and must have done an incredible amount of reading in his time, most of it speculative. He can source any reference from Verne, Freud, Goldman, and hundreds of others, and unlike Doyle’s detective, certainly knows something about the solar system, though I have wondered whether other information as generally known may have somehow escaped his notice. As, for instance, the time.

“I remembered we had agreed to meet for lunch,” he said, without greeting or preamble, beaming beneath his spiky grey hair. “I hope you won’t mind that I am a little early.”

“Not at all,” I said, making way for him to enter the little sitting room. The distraction from my own thoughts was a welcome one, and truth be told, I found Oliver’s company less of an imposition than that of most other people, perhaps because I had once shared similar interests. He, for his part, did not seem to mind (or notice) my habitually chilly and pessimistic demeanor, which put most people off; his own enthusiasm more than made up for it. I drew a second chair up to the kitchen table, drained my rapidly-cooling mug of coffee into the sink, and set a kettle to boil for tea. Oliver was a tea-drinker.

“So about time travel,” he began, as I filled the kettle, and I could tell he was bursting with some new topic of conversation, probably a new book in his favorite genre, on which he would bring to bear all the arguments of his trade, in true Oliver style. I was to be the sounding board, the devil’s advocate, the non-professional whose flawed arguments he could dismantle, which was fine with me. His next statement, however, took me by surprise, as he leaned forward across the table to give it more emphasis.

“I think it’s possible.”

“How so?” I asked, thinking this must be some rearrangement of the usual order of events, in which I would be expected to question his arguments so that he might prove how false they were.

Oliver leaned back in his chair and chuckled.

“The power of the mind, Rebecca. You might say it’s all in your head.”

I was puzzled now.

“What do you mean?”

“Ah,” he said. “I used to dream of finding a means by which it might be possible to travel in time. I thought the answer lay in science. Now I see that I was quite wrong. It’s not science—at least, not strictly speaking.”

This was sounding odder and odder. However, I played along.

“So, science can’t give us a means of traveling in time, but epistemology can?”

“In part,” said Oliver. “And in part what might be called psychology—in the literal, not the common sense, that is: the study of the soul—and in part, simple human nature.”

“I wouldn’t call that simple,” I protested. Certainly not explicable. “Do you mean us to meditate our way into the Eternal Now? Shall I get out my yoga mat?”

“Only if you find it helpful,” said Oliver serenely. Probably he did not know what yoga was; few science fiction writers and fewer metaphysicians address it. The solar system.

The kettle whistled. I poured tea into two separate cups and brought them to the table, tea bags curling brown curvescent lines into the hot water, like serpents on a Chinese dragon tapestry. Oliver drew his close, inhaling the steam with absent-minded pleasure; I remembered how he had once called tea “the nectar of imagination”.

“The main principle of the thing,” he began, “is the power of human memory—and emotion. Suppose that you had a powerful emotional attachment to something in the past, as it was in the past. We all have them: one never wants the house one grew up in to change or be destroyed. Or it could be something smaller: a favorite childhood toy, an heirloom, even a lost limb.”

“Could it be a person?” I found myself asking.

“Definitely,” said Oliver, giving me an approving nod. The student had thought of something the master had overlooked. “That might be even better: emotion and memory would tend to be stronger where human relationships are involved. The key is that the attachment, the memory, must be very strong, and the thing must no longer be as it was in the cherished past—if it were still the same, or equally beloved in its current state, there would be no need on the subject’s part to use it as a link to the past.”

He took a sip of tea.

“Wait,” I said, still feeling that I must be missing something, expecting that at some point the conversation would turn around and Oliver would begin arguing against what one must presume to be impossible. But he was already discoursing again.

“With the help of hypnosis, or meditation perhaps”—here another nod, presumably to acknowledge my previous reference to yoga; he must have known what it was after all—“the subject may be able to enter a state in which he relives vividly former experiences to which he has a strong emotional attachment. Such things have been known to happen, for example, in dreams: soldiers returned from war often relive traumatic experiences vividly in sleep, and sometimes waking. Since these experiences were traumatic, they naturally have no desire to revisit them. The experience has been lodged irrevocably in the physical and psychological structure of the mind, which causes the subject to relive it when certain physical or psychological conditions are present.”

“You are saying that there would have to be a strong positive emotional attachment to some event in the past?” I said, struggling to grasp what exactly Oliver was getting at. So far, this was by far the strangest of our many strange conversations.

“Not exactly. A bride, for example, might desire to relive her wedding day. No, an event is too ephemeral, too immaterial. That is why I say the attachment must be to some object in the past, and preferably mingled with some revulsion, or negative attachment, to that object as it exists in the present.”

I shuddered a little. No need to mention what physical entity had come to my mind.

“To relive the past,” I said, “in one’s own mind and in reality are two somewhat different things.”

“But are they really?” asked Oliver, hunching forward over his cup of tea, bright eyes glinting between its curls of steam so that he really did look like a gnome or goblin, an uncanny creature. “Remember that a memory is a physical thing—a pattern of connections in the brain. The stronger the connections, the more vivid the memory. The recreation of a memory is the reconnection or recreation of those patterns. Over time some memories can be erased for lack of use: the connections disappear. By the same token, every time a memory is consciously revisited, its connections become stronger, more real.”

“Only within the brain doing the remembering,” I said.

“Ah, but how do we know?” asked Oliver. “If the physical world inside the brain is affected, why not the physical world outside the brain? The trouble with traumatic memories unintentionally relived,” he went on, sipping meditatively, “such as those of war heroes, is that the subject, or victim, is incapable of altering the memories. The negative emotion caused by the remembered events is too strong. And with positive memories, the emotion is usually not strong enough; the memory-imprint on the brain is less clear. In either case, the ability to change past remembered events is impaired. And of course, the only way we can know that a subject has truly traveled back in time is if events in the past are altered.”

“Time travel,” I said mechanically, for my thoughts were madly circling as he spoke, swirling in ever tighter spirals round a single point which was yet too tremendous to be defined.

“To the past only, of course,” said Oliver lightly, as if he had said “on Wednesdays only, of course.”

I sat up straight, shaking my head to clear the thoughts away. “I’m afraid I’m still missing your main principle. I don’t see how it is possible.”

“A student gave me the idea,” said Oliver. “Several years ago, I think it was. To begin from the beginning: I posit that human memory is the strongest physical force in the world.”

I opened my mouth to contradict this and closed it again, realizing that in the context of my own life, at least, it was very nearly true.

“Next, that as with any physical force, the stronger can affect the weaker more certainly than the other way around. Finally, that just as only diamonds can cut a diamond, so the only thing that can change human memory is itself.”

“But human memory is formed by past events,” I said.

“As diamond is formed by pressure,” said Oliver patiently, “and from coal, that is to say, from the physical substance of our brains.”

I was no longer quite sure what to say. A terrible thing was forming in my mind; I was half-afraid that anything further he might say would render it pressingly possible.

“Theories of time travel relying strictly on physical forces—time machines and the like—are doomed to failure,” Oliver continued, lapsing into the usual style of his lectures. His face was sharp, keen, absorbed; genius was clear on it as on a page of Aristotle or a portrait of Einstein. He was in his element; I was the spectator. “No physical force is capable of breaking or reversing the forward flow of time, because, in the physical world, the only time that ever exists is what we call the present. All physical forces are therefore limited to the present. Not so with the mind of man. I am skeptical of those who claim to be able to see the future, but there is no doubt about our ability to see the past, in varying degrees of accuracy, and even, under the right conditions, to relive it. I see no reason why the reality of a memory consciously altered should be limited or confined, so to speak, within the mind of the one remembering.”

“So memory can change the past,” I said.

“According to my theory, yes. Of course, it had yet to be tested.”

“I’ll do it,” I said.

Any suspicion that my offering to act as his test subject was what Oliver had intended in coming here was immediately removed by the expression of surprise and of something else—worry?—that replaced the intent, detached one on his face. He did not answer at once. Presently he pushed his teacup aside and reached across the table to cover my hand with his. It was an unprecedented gesture.

“Rebecca,” he said, his face crinkled in concern, “God knows—if there is a God—I would trust you with this experiment of this nature more—perhaps more than myself. You have experience and intellectual gifts suited to such an attempt that I will never have: I admit it freely.”

Hearing myself praised by this man of genius somehow made me feel more hollow and stupid than usual.

“As I said before, we cannot envision the future in the way we can the past, and so cannot travel to it. This would also hold true of the future of any past time to which one travels, since it would of course differ from this current present—unless one made every action and every choice precisely the same as they were the first time.”

Something in the words or the way he said them made me think, uncomfortably, that he knew more about my personal history than I had supposed, or had permitted myself to fancy.

“Which would be difficult if not impossible,” Oliver went on, “since no memory is completely perfect and since acting with foreknowledge of what may happen can bring about quite different results. So to travel back and alter past time would necessarily mean reliving all the intervening time between the point at which the first change occurs and now; I mean the now that will be.”

He smiled a little at his own joke. I had the feeling that he was trying to warn me, but all I could think of was that it was a chance.


*          *          *


I walked to the graveyard alone. Oliver had said it would be best to go alone, since only one person at a time could travel by memory anyway, and another’s presence would only be a distraction. And he had said I should get as near the object past affection and present revulsion as possible. Mercifully, he had been careful to give no hint as to what he thought that object might be. So I knelt on Jane’s grave, shoulders hunched under my hood. It was drizzling, and the tree beneath which her grave was placed dripped, heavy, swollen drops that fell with a tangible splat on the top of my head and shoulders. I had not been to the graveyard in years; I had avoided the whole area, even though the act of avoidance itself served to etch the painful memories more deeply in my mind. Well, memory would serve its purpose now. I bent my head, shutting out all exterior senses: the sound of the rain, the damp chill and smell of wet last-autumn’s leaves, the growl of passing traffic and the faint, bitter taste in my mouth (can thought literally taste sweet or bitter? Mine does, or did…), focusing only on the internal ones, bringing to mind that day in all its unbearably vividity….


*          *          *


            It was the seventeenth of April, a Monday. It was sunny: the first real day of sun we had had that spring, watery and faintly warm on my cheek as I walked past the graveyard on my way home from a class in Aristotelian logic. I distinctly remember thinking that perhaps the light and warmth would help Jane as I had not been able to, thinking what a miracle that would be, and quickly dismissing the thought from my mind before hope could grow too strong. I no longer trusted the pretty spirit very much; it had disappointed me too often in recent months.

            The apartment I shared with my sister was two or three blocks on past the graveyard, just out of sight of the spire of the little community church to which it belonged. It was unnecessary—a bother, really—to walk all the way home after my morning class when I would have to return to the university a few hours later for a meeting with one of my professors; I could have studied much more effectively there; but I did not like to leave Jane alone for so long. A premonition, perhaps? All I know is that the thought was as vivid again as it had been all those years ago, somehow existing by itself alongside my newer knowledge of what was to come—or, if I could help it, would not come.

I caught my breath for a moment as I felt my hand reach in my pocket for the key to the apartment building, and my feet lift one by one to climb its concrete steps, realizing that Oliver’s mad genius had been proved right: past was living again, and I was living in it. Immediately thereafter followed a sudden fear that I might fail to reproduce some action perfectly as I remembered it, for I had no intention of changing anything but the one thing which I had come to change, which ought, needed, to be changed. But it was not hard; after all, I was remembering myself as a healthy, happy, nineteen-year-old student, and so did what she would do. It occurred to me that I probably would continue to do as she would do—as she did do—unless I specifically willed otherwise: I, the self remembering, who floated now somewhere between living past and living present, outside the bounds of the real but by no means detached from it, or lacking power over it. As my past self unlocked the apartment door, this other self took a moment to revel in the godlike power of the human mind, the recreative potential it had now unleashed. If anyone could travel back, knowing what ill had been wrought and with the power to change, what wrongs since the world began might now be undone…?

The apartment was unlit, the blinds drawn, the room chill and empty-feeling as the day outside had been light and warm. The furniture, the clock ticking on the wall, the bare spot in front of the door where the carpet had worn away, were just as I had known them so long ago. Nineteen-year-old Rebecca stepped across the room, switched on the lamp, and instantly winced. Clothes, books, and a half-finished research project lay in guilty mounds on floor and couch and coffee table, the remains of at least two meals on the dining table, and from what I could see of the kitchen, similar piles of cooking- and cleaning-related untidiness there. I had not cleaned in several days. There had been too much to do to prepare for my classes, I thought by way of excuse—there was still too much—Jane might have tidied, but of course Jane would not, I reminded myself, batting the thought away before I could become aware of the resentment it harbored. With a sigh, I bent to drop my satchel on the floor, opened the blinds—the sunlight would do at least one of us good—and began straightening the room. Studies would wait; meanwhile I took a brief pleasure in the physical action of cleaning. More than half the mess was Jane’s. My books and papers lay in at least relatively neat piles, out of the way of our traffic, but her clothes and mugs and whatnot had been dropped anywhere, carelessly.

“You shouldn’t bother,” said Jane’s voice, and I looked up. She had come silently into the room while my back was turned, my pretty, tidy, much-adored older sister. Her hair was dirty and unbrushed, her clothes had evidently been slept in, and there were purple shadows under her eyes.

“It needs to be cleaned,” I said.

She crossed the room, drew the blinds again, and slumped down on the couch. “That’s a change.”

I made no answer, knowing too well the route such conversations were wont to take.

“You should have stayed at the school.”

“I didn’t want you to be here alone all day,” I said without thinking.

“Why? Because I’m sick and can’t take care of myself? Because I’m crazy and might murder somebody while you’re gone?”

“Don’t talk like that, Jane,” said nineteen-year-old Rebecca, struggling to keep her voice calm as she replaced a stack of Jane’s detective stories on the bookshelf.

“Why not? Isn’t it true? Isn’t that what you thought?” Her voice was jeering now, provoking. She wanted a reason to rage at me.

“No, that’s not what I thought. I didn’t like to think of you sitting here in the dark by yourself. I wanted to make sure you got some light and food and human conversation today.”

I reached for the blind-string again and began slowly to raise them.

“Because I can’t do those things for myself,” said Jane bitterly.

“You haven’t been,” I said.

“I don’t need you to do them for me.”

There was a lull again. I felt a slow rage boiling inside me, familiar because I had felt it before, twenty years ago, which was also now. I struggled to quench it, as I had struggled twenty years ago, as nineteen-year-old Rebecca had struggled for the last six months and more, and as she still struggled. I loved Jane. I loved Jane. She was my sister. I tried to call to mind the image of her a year ago, or two or three, but the memory of the friendship we had shared then burned like a black hole, swallowing its own tears and adding to the bitterness. For the first time I wished that I had chosen to go further back in time than this day, so that I might see those times again, but another part of me still insisted, as it had insisted all along, that I could bring them back, and better than before.

“Come to the school with me this afternoon,” I said finally, setting down a now-folded afghan. Jane unfolded it and wrapped it around her feet, curled up on the couch. “We can get dinner at the cafe and get Jeeves from the library to watch on my laptop when we get back.”

“Looking like this?” said Jane with a laugh. “No, thanks.”

“You can change and shower first. I can be a few minutes late for my appointment. Dr. Knott won’t notice.”

Jane got up, letting the afghan slide to the floor.

“Stop pretending you care,” she said, and turned to go into the kitchen.

Something snapped in me, and I sprang across the room, seized her by the shoulder, and spun her round to face me.

“How can you say that?” I hissed, anger boiling and seething over at last. “How can you say that? When have I ever stopped trying? You’ve stopped—you’ve given up—you don’t care if you have a sister any more, maybe. You used to and you don’t any more,” I choked for a moment and went on, “you’ve changed, it’s like I don’t know you. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong.”

“Don’t pretend,” said Jane dully. “If I dropped out of existence right now, or died, it would be better for you. And Mum. And Dad. Everyone who knows me.”

“Don’t talk like that,” I said, my voice shaking in real rage, but also in fear. “You’re talking like a crazy person.”

Jane’s head jerked up. The dullness in her eyes vanished, replaced with something I did not recognize, and she lunged at me. The action was so unexpected, so unprecedented—never, even when we were children, had she ever laid a finger on me in violence—that I was shocked. My arm flew out in instinctive self-defense, and without my consciously intending it, struck her full in the face. She froze, staring at me for a shocked instant, and then turned and ran away to her room without a word. I would wonder for years afterward whether my blow had really been unintentional, or some of my long restrained anger at the stranger my sister had become had in that moment broken through….

But no. That was my memory of the event, the thing I had come here to change. With a tremendous effort I, the older self who knew what was to come, chose to remain still and turn my cheek.   Jane’s hand, not mine, struck her sister’s face forcefully enough to leave a bruise. Relief flooded through me as I watched her turn and vanish into her room. I picked up my wallet and key and left the apartment for my appointment with Dr. Knott, each breath a sigh of gratitude. All would be well now. Jane would come back. She would. She must.

I was so distracted during my meeting that I hardly knew what I or my professor said, but I do recall at one point consciously altering something. Dr. Knott asked me, in an aside from our discussion of Aristotelian logic, what I thought the most powerful force was in the world.

“Human memory,” said my remembered self, distracted by the memory of the incident that had just passed.

“Human will,” said my remembering self, full of the godlike power of averted catastrophe.

I bought chow mein and sweet-and-sour pork dyed that impossible, artificial red, at a little Chinese take-out place on the way home from the school. I climbed the steps lightly, still feeling like a god, fumbling for my key; opened the green-painted front door; opened the door to our apartment.

Jane was hanging from something tied to a hook in the cracked, water-stained ceiling. Her body was limp and her face was black.


            My nineteen-year-old self rose from her knees where she had fallen on the carpet, shaking, got up on the stool that had been kicked from beneath Jane’s feet, and fumbled with the leather belt to undo it. The corpse fell unbreathing to the floor. I did not know how to do CPR, but I bent to feel for a pulse and to breathe into her lungs, twice. Her face was cold. Tears now streaking my face, I reached for the phone. I should have seen this coming.

I should have seen this coming. I should have known that undoing one small sin would not be enough. I had failed Jane in some fundamental way, else she would never have become a stranger to me. I must go back again and fix it. I must go back. I must go back. I knew already from my memory that Jane was dead, that the paramedics came too late, that horror that would follow on their pronouncement would never be undone. I must go back quickly, before they came again. I knelt by Jane—no, it was not Jane any longer, it did not even look like her, those horrible black, swollen features—I knelt by the corpse, and bent my head, straining to remember….

*          *          *


This is the point at which you, the Reader, lose all respect for your narrator. You may continue to read her—nay, most likely will, because of the human taste for the dark and sordid if for no other reason. Misery loves company. Hence my recording of this tale.

To my dismay, I found that I could go no further back in time than the morning of the day Jane died. The events of that day had overshadowed earlier memories too much for me to recreate them. I forget how many times I returned to the sidewalk by the graveyard, reconstructed the events of the day in an attempt to see that Jane’s life was not ended. Once I called my mother. She would not believe me. My father, who had not seen Jane in several months before her suicide and did not know how she had changed, merely laughed. The emergency line I tried to call advised me to take her to a hospital, but how could I? I dared not plead with her not to take her life for fear I should then have caused her to, indirectly, by suggesting the idea. I tried staying with her constantly, ignoring her tart remarks and her pleas to be left alone, but always eventually I would have to go to the bathroom or fetch a drink, and when I returned she would be swinging from the ceiling. Or slitting her wrists. I watched her kill herself four different ways. Always the paramedics were too late. Always I was left kneeling by her limp body, racking my brain for a way to change it all so that I would not be at fault. But there was none. Finally I had to admit it. There would always be pain, there would always be guilt and regret. I could only choose to go on despite it, or not.


*          *          *


I moved to a different apartment, finished my B. A., earned my Masters and eventually my Ph.D.   The school at which I had studied had a sort of satellite campus in a different part of town and, offered a teaching position there, I accepted gladly, grateful to be out of sight of the things that reminded me of Jane while still in easy distance of both my divorced parents. Dr. Oliver Knott was teaching on the satellite campus now, and we became reacquainted, as fellow professionals this time rather than as teacher and student. I was aware—perhaps because I had missed it before—that he cultivated my friendship on purpose, sensing but choosing to ignore the barriers I put up against the most of the world; for besides himself I had few friends. Perhaps it was the inevitable effect of so great a loss at a young age; perhaps the madness which had stolen my sister from me took a longer, slower form in the branching neurons of my own brain.

Twenty years passed, slowly.


*          *          *


I sat in the front room of my apartment, staring out the window and sipping from a mug of hot coffee. I drank coffee now, partly for enjoyment’s sake and partly because the mild stimulant acted as a sort of tonic, easing the cloud of gloom that lay habitually over me, making the day bearable. Perhaps that was why Jane used to drink it too.

A single, heavy knock came at the door, and I started, realizing that this was the day. I had grown so used to my relived life by now that I had almost forgotten. A sudden cold fear passed over me that perhaps my choice to go back in time, like Jane’s death, was an irreversible event for me, and a strangling horror at the thought that I might have to relive the whole episode again, and again and again, for eternity. But superseding this came a fierce and fragile determination to see that that did not happen, and more, to beg Oliver never to tell anyone about his discovery, never to tempt anyone else with that terrible choice. I got up and opened the door, still feeling strangled, but struggling to find my voice. Oliver said something which I did not hear, but only nodded a vague assent, as I automatically filled the kettle, set it to boil, and took my place at the table across from him.

“So about time travel,” he began, leaning forward across the table.

This was the moment.

“I’ve been reading a very interesting fictional piece on the subject,” he said. “A physical impossibility, of course, but nevertheless a most fascinating topic to ponder.”

I blinked.

“Don’t you believe in it?”

Oliver looked at me curiously.

“No, of course not. A physical impossibility, as I said—and those are by no means as common as most people seem to think.”

“The power of the mind,” I fumbled, “The power of human emotion. Human memory as the strongest physical force in the universe. Don’t you believe that?”

“Human memory?” repeated Oliver. “An interesting thought, but problematic. Decidedly problematic. I should rather posit the human will as the strongest force in the universe. One may contest that the will is not physical, but still…”

The kettle whistled. I got up to pour us both tea.

Breann Landry is a poetess, a student of dead languages, and an amateur actress. She lives in an old, old apartment in a small, small town on Vancouver Island, the most beautiful place in the world, and publishes all her stories and poetry on a personal blog, Gaily in the Dark, which her friends read and almost no one else.

The Hands of Our Brothers by Paul Lewis

The Hands of Our Brothers is a short play by Paul Lewis. Click here to read.

Paul Lewis is a Seattle-based playwright, composer and lyricist whose staged work includes musicals, a children’s opera, and full-length plays. His ten-minute plays have been staged across the country, and include Guess What? which won the Audience Choice Award at FUSION Theatre’s short works festival, “The Seven” in 2012; Music Box; Timmy Perlmutter Goes Flying; and Oblivion, which won the Audience Favorite Award at the 2013 Driftwood Players Theater Festival of Shorts, and which is to be published in “The Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2014” (Smith & Kraus)Paul’s musical The Hours of Life premieres in Seattle in December.

The Rocket Scientist by Matthew Laffrade


Michael hated going to dinner parties, fundraisers, or any other formal gathering where he’d meet strangers. During introductions and pleasantries he’d always be asked what he does and he would have to reply with “rocket scientist”. At some point in the evening someone would always say “it’s hard but not as hard as what Michael does!” A slew of laughs would follow.
People would always ask him what he does “exactly”.
“So you’re a rocket scientist huh? So are you like an engineer?”
“Oh, so more like a physicist then?”
“No. I am a rocket scientist.”


At this point he’d always feel the urge to slap people, an urge he came close to succumbing to on multiple occasions after a few scotches. What bothered him most is that people never got so detailed in their employment inquiries with others.
“What do you do?” they’d ask.

“Banker” the person would reply. That would be that. They may get more specific but it never got further than:

“What kind of banking?”
“Oh bonds and such.”

Not much by way of explanation and it really doesn’t say what the sorry sack did for a living “exactly” but it would do. It always did. This went for doctors and lawyers as well.

When Michael shared his frustrations with a friend, the friend, meaning well, told him to just say scientist when asked next. So he did. The exchange went like this:
“What do you do?”
“I’m a scientist.”
“What kind?”
This is when the usual conversation would end. But not in Michael’s case.
“So what do you do exactly?” the person had asked.
Was it because all little boys wanted to be astronauts and that is why they’re so intrigued? Michael was at a loss. He wanted to start making up jobs. Not boring one word answer types but if people really wanted to talk maybe he could say he was a lion tamer or a mime or something.
As it stood he was driving to a fundraiser for some charity that helped provide scholarships to kids who excelled at the sciences. He white knuckled the steering wheel with both hands. Only when he removed his left one to wipe the sweat seeping from his scalp down his forehead did he realize his hands were cramped.
He turned down a side street and parked. The sun was setting and people were shuffling home from work or out for some fun. Michael wondered what they all did for a living. Did it even matter, he thought. Why should what I do be who I am? I am more than a rocket scientist, or much less for that matter. My existence is a constant rally of going to work and enjoying my job and going out and hating everyone who asks me about it. Why can’t I be content with people’s inquiries and describe to them the joys and successes that I experience in my work? Why do I hate them for their genuine curiosity? Why do I feel like some circus sideshow?
He locked his car and started walking. He came across a bar and went in. It wasn’t his usual type of place. Not low-brow or run down but certainly not the high class leather chair watering hole he was used to. It was more middle of the road. What a better place to keep to myself, he thought.
The waitress asked him for his order and not what his employment was. For some reason he expected that for some odd reason she would ask.
He spotted her; Jane was her name, from across the dining room area where he was seated. She was at the bar, drinking something he’d never seen and reading a newspaper. Michael had always been a little intimidated of women. He thought it was an inherent trait of the nerd. And to him the rocket scientist was atop the nerd pyramid, a messiah of all things lonely men cling to. He had had women before but usually other scientists or the like. He had never just approached a woman before that wasn’t somehow linked to his profession. He downed his pint in one gulp and went and sat next to Jane.
“Hi, I’m Michael,” he said extending his hand.
“Jane,” she said eyeing him in his tuxedo. She met his hand and he shook it like you would the father of a date not a woman whom you met in a bar.
“May I join you?” he asked, shocked by his own bravado.
They sat in silence for a moment, taking each other in.
“May I ask why you’re wearing a tuxedo? Attending a special event tonight?” she asked.
“No, it’s the only thing that fit me.”
“I don’t get it. Was that a joke of some kind?”
“No. Thirteen years ago I lived here in this city. After building up a successful beginning in a career as a pilot I was on a two day break in Amsterdam. I went to a market on the first morning I was there and I met a man. A monk. I was eating a pear and he asked me how it tasted. It was good I told him. He asked me how the crunch was.”
“The crunch?” Jane asked.
“Yes, the crunch. He asked me about the quality of the crunch. It was fine I said and began to walk away. How about the grower, the person who picked it, the person that brought it to the market and sold it to you, do you think about them when you enjoy this fruit? Do you take a bite at a time and enjoy the different textures, the skin, the meat? He was asking me all these questions in the middle of a busy market. I would have thought him crazy if it weren’t for the attire from the monastery that he wore.
“I told him that I didn’t think much when I ate, I just ate to feed my body. He told me that I can feed my soul with food as well. He called it mindful eating. He invited me to the monastery for dinner that night.”
“And you went?”
“At first I wasn’t going to. I was tired as anything and I’d be flying out the next night and just wanted to enjoy my downtime. I thought about it though and figured I had nothing to lose. It’d be a story to tell at the least.
“So I went to the monastery that evening and I really didn’t know what to expect. It was a nice place, not too far outside the city. I didn’t even know they had monasteries there. I thought I’d be the only regular person there but there were other regular people, mostly locals and from speaking with them some of them had eaten there before.”
Michael took an extended sip of the pint handed to him by the bartender. He couldn’t believe what was coming out of his mouth. Where was this all coming from? He felt the dim light of the bar in his bones, he heard the slightest movement of a chair or the clink of a fork hitting a plate. His senses were heightened. He felt so alive. He looked at Jane who was listening intently. She was intrigued and he was so exhilarated. He was beginning to get an erection from it all. He took another sip and continued as much for the woman who hung on his words as for himself who didn’t know where this was going either.
“So I was lead to this great dining hall and we all sat at this grand hand carved table. There was about 30 or 40 monks and about a dozen lay people there. The atmosphere was relaxed and so exciting. It was so new. I was soaring to feelings I had only felt in the fleeting moments of my youth.
“After everyone was seated someone hit a small gong near the head of the table. Another monk, whom I assumed was the leader came in and addressed us. He told us that we were here as their monthly open house to teach people about mindful eating. We were to eat our meals slowly he said. To properly observe our meals we were to put our utensils down after each bite. We must consider our food, truly experience each atom of it. We were to not speak at all unless addressed by him, who was referred to as Sifu.
“A few monks came out from a side room which I assumed housed the kitchen. They placed before each of us a small bowl of a rice and vegetable mixture. It was fragrant and colourful and we were instructed to observe the mixture of food. Think of the farmer who grew the broccoli, the trader who first introduced the spice to this part of Europe, the truck driver who brought the rice to the Netherlands. We were to observe all of this for about five minutes before eating. By the time we were told to pick up our forks I was salivating.
“I took my first bite and swallowed within seconds, without truly appreciating the food. The texture, the flavours, the experience. I sat in anguish looking at my fork waiting for the instructions to take another bite. It was madness I thought and fought the temptation to shovel my food and plow through the meal.
“By the second course I began to get it. I tuned out the world and I believe I ate for the first time in my life that evening. It’s such a reflex, a filling of an urgent bodily need that I never truly enjoyed it before.”
Michael sat silent for a few moments and Jane silently sipped her drink taking it all in.
“That sounds so serene. That is a truly fantastic story. I don’t mean to get off the topic of the monastery but you had said all this was about the tuxedo?”
“Absolutely. I was so amazed by all of this. So absolutely filled with a desire to feel. My whole life up until that point was a series of moments lived to attain a means whether it was social status or career advancement or what have you. What I learned there was I could live for the moment. Live for what I am doing now. I was so preoccupied with living for the next moment I let every single second of my life pass me by. I never left.”
“You stayed at the monastery?”
“Yup. It wasn’t easy to convince the monks let me tell you. These monks were 30th, 40th generation Buddhist monks and here I was a pilot from the western world trying to convince them to let me stay. They thought I was some yuppie trying to do something to impress my yoga class or something. I went for a walk through an orchard that night with Sifu and he said he’d let me stay for one week. That one week got extended for thirteen years.”
“Why did you leave?”
“A few weeks ago I was walking with one of the monks, one whom I had grown very fond of in my time at the monastery and he asked me why I didn’t leave? Now I understand this may seem a tad abrupt and even offensive but it was direct and sincere and real and from the heart. In this city we are so consumed with people’s ulterior motives we look for underlying meanings in everything they say. If someone is direct we see it as rude. What we fail to understand is when two humans have a genuine love for one another, a genuine compassion for one another’s well-being and happiness such annotations and backhanded compliments cease to exist. If we know that every word spoken is thought through with the same intensity we take each bite of our food with then we shall truly hear the speaker and must consider their words with the same thoughtfulness and soundness for which they thought them with.
“So when he asked me that question I truly thought about it. So much so in fact that it took me over a week to answer him and in that time I didn’t utter a single word. What was I doing there? What was I accomplishing in my time and what did I hope to achieve staying there? I awoke one morning and just realized I had accomplished all I could there. I wasn’t a monk, never claimed to be, and never planned to be. I was just a man who wanted to learn to live. I learned how. It was time to go out and practice what I learned. I told Sifu and I left this morning. The clothes I had come with were too big and Sifu had this old tuxedo lying around for whatever reason even he could not remember. The others found it fitting that I would return to the western world in a tuxedo of all things like it was some sort of royal reception.”
“Well that explains the tuxedo,” Jane said with a smile.
Michael couldn’t believe what just happened. What struck him was this was the first woman he had had a connection with in years and it was built on a lie. Very unlike the fake self he had created.
“So tell me Michael what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know. I doubt I can go back to flying as I’ve been away much too long. I’ve always had an affinity for science. Maybe I’ll become some sort of scientist.”
He waited. With a trembling hand he took a sip of his pint and stared at Jane, waiting with cocoons birthing butterflies in the pit of his stomach for the dreaded follow-up question. She never asked. She didn’t seem to care.
Matthew Laffrade’s fiction and poetry has been published in various publications including The Wilderness House Literary Review, Sassafrass Literary Magazine, Verse Wisconsin, The Coe Review, Hitherto, and Requiem Magazine, amongst others. He is also the recipient of the University of Toronto’s Harold Sonny Ladoo Book Prize for his novella Past Present. He is currently at work archiving his work at He lives outside of Toronto, Canada.

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The Author’s Autopsy by Stacey Lane

Photographer: Michael C. Moore. (2013)

Briana Osborne and Jennifer Royer in The Author’s Autopsy at Changing Scene Theatre Northwest in Bremerton, Washington. Directed by Pavlina Morris and Kyle Boynton. Photographer: Michael C. Moore. (2013)



Stacey Lane

Lane’s plays have been performed at over four hundred theatres on six continents. Her scripts are published with Furious Gazelle,  Dramatic Publishing, Playscripts Inc., Pioneer, Eldridge, Smith and Kraus, Heuer, Brooklyn Publishers, Next Stage Press, Manhattan Theatre Source, JAC Publishing, Thunderbolt Theatre & Film Productions, Seraphemera Books, San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, Sterling, Freshwater, Poydras Review, The Quotable, Euphony Journal, Germ Magazine, Mock Turtle Zine, Indian Ink, The Other Otter, Monologue Database, Actor Point, Canyon Voices, Whoopee Magazine, Steel Bananas and Scene4.  She is the recipient of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Residency Grant, the Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District’s Literary Artist Fellowship and winner of the Unpublished Play Reading Project Award at the American Alliance for Theatre and

Friedrich Nietzsche Ruined My Life by Leonard Crosby

Friedrich Nietzsche Ruined my Life

Leonard Crosby

I ran into her on the steps of the Yerba Buena gardens, across from St. Patrick’s. At first my mind refused to believe it. Told me calmly, your mother lives in South Dakota, she can’t be in San Francisco. It’s just some other red-haired, middle-aged women who also happens to own a golden retriever—

“Well hey!”


“Hi honey, how are ya?” She put her arms out to embrace, the leash looped on a wrist.

“Wait, what—”

“How are you doing sweetie?”

“Good, good, I’m just . . . What are you doing here?”

She came in for a hug. For a moment I thought she might have been some crazed look-alike but was too shocked to move. When we embraced, I knew for sure. Had that mom smell. Clean laundry, Panteen-Pro-V, and the slightest hint of fifteen-year-old perfume. Moose sniffed my leg excitedly.

“Well I meant to call you, but with the flight and packing and everything I just couldn’t. And running into you on the street? Small city huh?”

“You’re out visiting?” I said.

“No, I’m moving here.”

“You’re what?”

“Moving to SF. I just got in yesterday.”

“But that’s crazy. Where’s dad?”

“Oh your father,” she said, with a tilt of her head. “Well honey, I’m sorry to say, but we got divorced.”


“Well not really, not yet, it’s still in the works. But we’re going to.”

“Mom, you’re serious?”

“Well yes, honey. Look I’m sorry. But it just had to be. I couldn’t go on living like that.”

I swept a hand over my face. “Jesus, what happened?”

She rested her free hand on her hip. “Well, I’ll tell ya. I woke up three weeks ago and realized I just had to get out of that life. Now I love your father, but he’s not a growing man. He’s not gonna try new lifestyles, or push himself. Because of that we just don’t fit anymore. But he’ll be all right. He’s got the house. And he can go back to fishing if he wants.”

“Stop stop stop. You’re serious? You left dad and flew to San Francisco? And you took the dog?”

“Well you know your father, he doesn’t take care of any of the animals. Besides he’ll be out on the boat a lot. Your Jason’s already found him a crew in Alaska.”

“Mom! How did this happen?”

“Honey calm down and I’ll tell ya. I was talking with Sharon—one of the nurses I work with at the VA—and she told me about this philosophy class she was taking—see she going back to finish her B.S. in per-dentistry—anyway, it was all about this German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche—”

“Christ not Nietzsche—”

“Yes that’s the one! You’ve heard of him?”

“Yes, mom.”

“So maybe you know what I’m talking about. Well, I got to reading some of his stuff. Pretty confusing at first. But Sharon explained about the Will to Power and all that, how it was really about self-actualizing yourself, about self-overcoming. You know, taking on new challenges and experiences. At first it seemed so wrong, what with his rejecting Christianity and all that. But I lay up thinking all one night about how I’d been raised Lutheran, how all those ideas got forced on me when I was little and didn’t know better and I just snapped. I sat up and thought, hell, I’ve been holding myself back all this time. Working forty hours a week and raising kids for thirty years. Time for something new. I’ve lived in nothing but small towns, why not see the city? I’ve been married, why not be single? Why not try painting or take up ballet again? Hell why not sleep around, maybe meet some younger men?”

“Oh lord—”

“Or a girl even, I’ve never done that. Always thought about it. So I figured San Francisco would be perfect. Plus you’re here.”

“So you really are moving SF?”

“Well yeah, where else? I’m certainly not gonna stay in Hot Springs.”

I shook my head. “Mom you can’t do this.”

She pointed a pale finger at me. “Now don’t start. You of all people shouldn’t be trying to limit my reality.”

“Mom, wait. What, what about Emily?”

“Oh your sister’ll be fine. She’s an adult now. And she’s in college.”

“She’s only eighteen! And she’s in Minneapolis, all alone.”

“Oh come on now, she’s in a dorm. I’d hardly call that alone. Don’t worry honey, she’ll be fine, she’s a smart girl. Oh stop looking at me like that.”

“I just can’t believe it. You’ve been married for thirty years.”

“Only twenty eight. And I enjoyed most of it, I’ll give you that. Your father was a good husband. But now I’m ready to move on. And I’m so tickled I meet you out here, taking Moose for a walk. Say, you want to see my new place?”

“You’ve already got a place?”

“Yeah, in Nob Hill. I’m sharing an apartment with two other divorcées, Sharon and Kate. They’re real sweethearts. They’re taking me out dancing tonight. Well what’s the matter? Aren’t you happy to see me? Say, what are you doing here anyway?”

“I was meeting someone.”

“A girl?”

I sighed. “Yes.”

“See? You’re doing it too. Have you read Nietzsche?”

“Yes, mom. So what are you gonna to do then?”

“Oh well I’ve got a job at the city hospital for now, but I’m going to go back to school next fall. I got into CCA, just like you! Maybe we’ll be in some of the same classes. I’m starting with painting and theater . . .” She gestured to cross the street. “Come on, I’ll show ya the apartment.”

I followed her in a daze, my date forgotten.

For the next week my life came to a standstill. Every day I skipped writing classes and cut homework helping her get settled in Nob Hill. Then I saw her less and less as she made friends at the hospital and started going out with her roommates more and more. Three weeks later, after being incommunicado for a week, I was at the Makeout Room, on a Friday, with my friend Paul.

“Bro,” he said, nudging my elbow at the bar. “Check out that red-haired cougar on the dance floor.”

Hating too, but drawn by some force beyond my control, I turned to look. There she was, in a green skirt and heels, salsaing with a tall man with slicked back hair.

“Too old for me,” Paul said. “But she’s certainly got some moves.”

“Bartender,” I screamed. “Double whiskey. Now!”

“Hey man, are you OK?”

“No, I’m not OK, we need to get the fuck out of here. As soon as I drink this.”

“What the fuck’s the matter dude? Do you know that lady?”

“Yes . . . No. She’s my . . . Oh goddamn you, you syphilitic bastard.”

“Who the fuck are you talking to?”

“Look,” I said, spreading my hands out on the bar top. “All I’m gonna say is, fuck, man, Friedrich Nietzsche ruined my life.”

Paul put his hands up. “Who the fuck is Fred Nietzsche?”

“Trust me bro,” I said, head bowed. “You don’t want to know.”

Leonard Crosby is a writer, tutor, and gardener living in Oakland, CA. His fiction has appeared inFiction BrigadeSamizdat Literary JournalStar82 Review, Hothouse Magazine, and Eleven Eleven. He co-hosts the One Lone Pear Tree reading series in San Francisco. He can be contacted at:

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