"Hedera Helix" by Dylan Morison

The dog’s got a tumor and Lydia can’t afford to have it removed. After they tell her, she feels her face move unnaturally, imagines all her hair must be standing on end. The nurse just smiles sadly and asks what she wants to do. “I want to go home,” she says. It’s not until the car is idling in the driveway that she begins to cry. 

Hedera Helix, commonly called English ivy, is an evergreen climbing plant found through out Europe and Asia. It is often considered invasive due to its ability to grow quickly under a variety of adverse conditions. Dropped by a bird, the seed germinates and sends a single shoot up out of the ground, searching for sunlight and something to grab hold of. If it can’t grow up, it will grow out.

She’s been trying not to imagine this for years. “Oh no,” she thought to herself as the puppy was placed into her arms for the first time. Another thing to love that would someday die. Running across the yard, each year bigger than the last, she imagined the dog running across interstates and highways, playing frogger with her sanity as she stood helplessly by. Every time she passes dead animals on the side of the road she sees the dog’s mangled body. She flinches at the thought, tries to bleach her brain of potential tragedies. The dog pushes her cold nose into Lydia’s eye sockets when she’s asleep. 

First there’s the juvenile stage. The first year, the ivy wont grow much at all. The second year, it begins to pick up speed. The plant attaches itself to surfaces through a series of aerial rootlets with matted pads. The vines creep upward and outward, worming into cracks in brick, between the grain of rotting wood, and underneath laminate siding and roof shingles. In nature, ivy slowly chokes the life from larger trees by taking sunlight and nutrients for itself instead.

She had thought she might learn some great lesson on accepting death but the dog doesn’t seem to have noticed she’s dying. Lydia lets her dig holes in the backyard. She hunts for moles with unwavering intensity. Occasionally one winds up dead on the porch, its guts stuck to the ground and dry from the sun. Lydia picks it up with a paper towel and discreetly drops it into her neighbor’s back yard. The dog has stopped eating as much. Lydia’s stopped eating, too. The tumor’s growing. The dog begins to walk with a limp. Lydia imagines that her own hip hurts, too. 

Healthy ivy can grow three feet a year, both upward and outward. Once firmly rooted beneath the siding or cinderblock foundation of a house, it can be difficult to remove and potentially dangerous. As roots are pulled from a surface, they tend to take it with them.

They say all dogs go to heaven, but she knows this can’t be true. Her friend comes over and says “You should put her down— it just isn’t right,” but the next morning, the dog is playful. What will she do with the body? At night she listens for the snoring at her feet, holding her breath in the dark as the dog stops—is this the moment?—and then begins breathing again. She breathes out long and slowly and wonders if this is dying: just watching something waste away forever until there’s nothing left of either of you. 

Once mature, the ivy flowers and produces small clusters of purple-black berries. Black-birds and thrushes rely on the berries for food and are responsible for seed dispersal in surrounding areas. After many years, ivy can grow over 100 feet, and completely overtake a building.

Dylan Morison
is a fiction writer currently based out of Baltimore, MD. Her work has appeared in The Feminist Wire and Opaque Quarterly. If she’s not at work as a professional chef, she’s out exploring the world with her family. She has an adorable dog named Bunny.

"Any old Lavardis Nadler in a phone booth" by Benjamin McPherson Ficklin

Here in a phone booth we have Lavardis Nadler. He picks up the plastic receiver. But, really, this could be Sadie Baum-Swensen or Danez Fenty or Cynthia Aldritch or Patty Mendéz, et cetera, et cetera[1]. There’s no dial tone, but this person, they/her/him, decides it might help to spin a few random numbers in the rotary dial (2, 8, 5). They avoid looking out the glass door at the hotdog restaurant, not that this phone booth is across the street from a hotdog restaurant or anything. It, this red phone booth, is actually within the unassuming hotdog joint that one enters by walking down a short flight of stairs. They, our nervous person, hears the soon-to-be hotdog eaters drunkenly chit-chat while they shuffle in line, the squirting of ketchup and mustard, the dings and buzzes of the pinball machines outside the glass door of this phone booth, but Sadie (or Lucas or whomever this person is) doesn’t hear anything from the receiver. Nothing within the phonebooth happens. Except for maybe the lotioned or wedding-ringed or even finger-missing hands of our person becoming sweatier. There’s a glob of relish on the tiled floor. They move their tennis shoes or stilettos away from it. They look out the glass door. Nobody seems to be paying special attention to our lonely person in a phonebooth. Deborah, still pinching the receiver to her head, plucks her cellphone from her purse. He tries to turn it on. Nothing. Any hope of a kiss or a goodnight hug seems as dead as the device. It had been a hard day or month or year or decade. They need something to go right. Travis slips the phone into his back pocket. But they knew this would happen, as that’s what always happens when your cellphone dies and you’ve not had the opportunity to charge it. Alberto knocks twice on the opaque wooden wall to his left. Maybe it kinda sounds hollow. Nothing happens. Now she can smell the relish, and he worries they might smell like relish if this wall ever swings inward and gives them access to their internet date. And Cedar/Doug/Kaya/Sharleesa thinks of what simple and understandable explanation it will be: Sorry, my phone died when I was reading about this huge wildfire happening on the West Coast and there’s all these crazy pictures of (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Boise, et cetera) where you can’t even see half the buildings. Not even the fucking sky[2]. But really Van/Terance/Satomi/Damian/TJ/Kenna had been looking at those photos, the photos of the wildfire, when they were waiting for the subway, and then, after boarding, while they were rattling with the other hand gripping a metal pole, they were surprised to find their phone, which they were very (almost painfully) aware was at 3% battery, again staring up at them with headlines and photos of other disasters: the 8.1 earthquake off the coast of Mexico (the first one, not the one that happens a month later), the Lesser Antilles devastated by Hurricane Irma, the Houstonian recovery efforts (Hurricane Harvey), the flooded Floridian streets. But here, crammed into the phone booth, the only image Jessa/Toni/Menen/Abraham/Pihu/Jack remembers is of one of one of the islands: palm trees, brick walls, shacks, high-rise hotels laid flat as if the hand of some god[3] swept backward against the land, pushing the isle’s humanity into the sea. But this person (who again finds their dead cellphone in their hand) can’t remember what island that was, and they don’t want to seem hysterical if their/her/his date is actually sipping a cocktail on the other side of this (potentially false) wall. She, Jen or Jenny or Jennifer, dials 7. Nothing. They dail 6. Nothing. The last text Hassan’s “match” sent through the dating app was something like, Text me once you’re in the phone booth and I’ll let you in. And then there was a winky face. The only information Monica remembers regarding the location was hotdog restaurant and East Village, and he’s already looked inside four other places that sell hotdogs before finding this one, and what are the chances there’s multiple hotdog restaurants with phone booths within their walls. Actually, she thinks, within this metropolis (chaos) the possibilities seem pretty good (infinite). Somebody knocks on the glass wall. Our person, this sweaty ambiguous person[4] in the phone booth, looks out at the stranger[5] and shrugs before even noticing who it is.
[1] Not to say it could be anybody. But we could say it’s any New Yorker, or any American visiting New York, or any person visiting or living in America from another country, which I guess means anybody capable of physically being in this place (the place this story occurs in), which is anybody.

[2]Though, note, the exact articulation, the parlance of this preconceived explanation would vary drastically depending on a combination of idiosyncrasies and cultural conditioning. I mean somebody from London might substitute “bloody” for “fucking”, or imagine it all in a Southern or Jamaican accent, or Ni el puto cielo, en serio, or 私は何も見ることができなかった。クソみたいな空でさえも。

[3]And by “the hand of some god” I really mean the power of any god, or any omnipotent force that inspires awe with such intensity that personal nihility is felt when considering one’s self relative to this force’s power. And spirituality, this force makes one feel spiritual. See: Allah, Thor, Satan, Haile Selassie, Science, Nature, et cetera.

[4] Perhaps a sort of you. Like a person like you but native to Florida. Like you’re a Cuban American. Or maybe you’re Mexican and you were brought here by your parents; maybe you thought you were safe and going to aspire to romance unbothered; maybe you were introduced into a reality you never asked for but never resented too much—the hand you were dealt sorta thing.

[5] Perhaps another sort of you. And don’t you just hope you’ll be kind, patient, maybe with a bit of useful knowledge (like you should dial 1), but mostly just patient and kind.
Benjamin McPherson Ficklin was born in Portland, Oregon, and now spends his life travelling. Outside of his writing, he works as a gongfu tea-master, lumberjack, commercial salmon fisherman, abstract photographer and ulu farmer. His work has been published in Lomography, Autre, Oregon Voice Magazine, and all three anthologies by The Stonecutters Union.

Excerpts from "Nashville Notebook" by David Bersell

David Bersell's "Nashville Notebook" is out June 2nd. The chapbook alternates between flash essays and journal entries, exploring the loneliness and ecstasy of a young writer. Here are some of the journal entries.

I am 28 and live in Nashville, Tennessee, where I help run a restaurant. An independent press just agreed to publish my first book.  

It's the day after Halloween. I'm writing in a yellow notebook made from a vintage picture book. "Christmas, 1959 Mike from Grandmother." The woman in Prague who is not my girlfriend sent me the notebook for my birthday. 

I’m writing about falling apart, writing for the first time in years. Because it's the only way I know how to save myself. 

Our wounds are also magic.

"Dad, is that you?" says the train jumper, looking me in the eye, trying to get a rise out of me. 


He blocks the sidewalk. 

"Dad, you left me at the liquor store in '96." 

"Son," I hear myself say, "I'm sorry."                    

I finally understand why adults love fireworks; fireworks look like flowers.                        

I’m thinking about my mother
teaching kids who just don’t get it
or don’t want to or are high
or hungry. I have been all four
at once, whispering
please come back.

Filmmaker and artist Mike Mills couldn’t stop drawing fireworks after his father died. 

“I read that fireworks were first used in China in the 12th century to scare away negative spirits. I envied a world that not only recognized spirits but scared the negative ones away with small man made explosions.” 

All the stars in the sky are not dead.
David Bersell is the author of the essay collections The Way I've Seen Her Ever Since (Lettered Streets Press) and Nashville Notebook (Ursus Americanus Press). David studied writing at the University of New Hampshire, University of Maine Farmington, the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, and the Tin House Summer Workshop, which he attended as a nonfiction scholar. He lives in Brooklyn.