"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.

3 Poems by Anthony Hagen

Cough Drop

“I never went fishing,” said the doctor. “Instead, I did homework. For my son, I have bigger plans. I’ll catch a fish for him one day.” I brought home a vial of medicinal balm. You insisted on putting bread in the refrigerator, to reduce the likelihood of infectious spores. You went for the discount toaster, so it’s still cold in the center. I could guzzle down broth in the time it takes for you to toggle the thermostat. When there was still time for it, we would take strolls down the muddy embankment, wade in the shallow region, and catch tiny minnows in our palms. Now there is nothing but cinnamon and ginger ale on ice. “There seems to be a problem with your prescription,” said the doctor on a call. “The most obstinately intellectually devoid among us have seen fit to saddle me with ill advice. Cease all ingesting of the tablets. Come to my office as soon as possible. You know my extension.” We tried to lug the couch into the parlor area, but could barely lift it up before dropping it again.

Sneeze Guard

It was the first morning of frost, and I noticed the leaves broken beneath my shoes. I was in the midst of negotiations with the CEO. “Sentimentality blooms like flowers nowadays,” he said. His office was adorned with a large oil painting of several multicolored horses on a plain. I was complimenting the décor when, without warning, he blurted, “I am no longer able to continue this conversation,” and ran out of the room. He left half a mug of black Italian dark roast coffee. It hung in the air. I was tempted to drink. It was early. You always advised me out of speaking and into listening. Your gift of that nice leather chair helped me, to such an end. Out to lunch, we could see the glistening tubs of chopped pork behind the glass. That tone you set, the one that always wakes me up, took all the germs from me. I can constrain myself with a necktie, and fall in love with my shirts, but everything flows, and flows like rain. The CEO left me an odd voicemail. “I have not yet begun to fight,” was all it said. Thanks to you, we are never wanting for the newest scents. For that, I am thankful.

Impeachment Proceedings

Frequent stops: gas hub, feeding station, rubber emporium, discount cattle outlet. Communiqués to party headquarters, screaming matches via fax machine. “I’ll murder this job before it murders me,” you said. “What do you suppose they make figs out of?” I said. We departed the fruit barn just in time for the industrial fudge squirter. “Obscene?” you said into the phone. “Of course it’s obscene. Don’t distract from the real issue at hand.” Onward to the semi-legal explosives warehouse. “I can’t look at anything colorful,” you said. “I must look away.” At the hospital, scrubbed nurses stitched my wounds while chatting about the recent banking scandal. Outside the room, doctors stared at clipboards while chatting about the latest baseball scandal. “I have my own life too, you know,” you said, perhaps into the phone. Machines next to my head beeped like flugelhorns.
Anthony Hagen holds an MFA from Hollins University. His writing appears in CalibanBoston Accent LitClarionBird's ThumbThe Hollins Critic, and DenimSkin. 

"7" by Rax King

The following is the seventh recitative in Rax King's The People's Elbow.
I think about kissing The Rock a lot. I think about what a huge person he is, but how tender he’d be, and what his smile must look like when it’s shy, when it’s nervous. In my waking life, it’s always me who’s shy, it’s always me who’s nervous, and it’s always me who’s smiling. I believe that he kisses like I do.

He’s so big he’s so big he’s so goddamn big. Masculinity in macrocosm. No man exists who’s as big as The Rock is in my imagination— there wouldn’t be enough food in the world to feed that man if he were real. He’d starve. My outsize feelings can only thrive in the context of unreality. My body can only thrive in the careful grip of a man the size of an SUV. It goes without saying that The Rock is not in love with me.

 Calculate how much he’d weigh at that size. Calculate the weight of even one single hand. Understand that any human, any real human, would be crushed to death instantly by a hand like that. Imagine it stroking your shivering gooseflesh back into itself, hot but not sweaty, firm and heavy and correct. There, now. Don’t you feel better?
Buy the full chapbook here and read the other twenty nine recitatives. Thanks.

3 Poems by William Repass

Sound Horn

Exhibit Y? Photogenic proof—albeit

pixelated—stumps even a rigged jury, painting pictures of a land florid with fauna. Out past the lumber mills, past the lumber yards, past the chugging auto saws and acrid plumes; out beyond the slope of thistle, of stumps and mist and rust: the land of boon, sprouting honky tonks. Yes. There. Where the towing just ain’t enforced. Parp parp!

For it was then the blowhard caption horned in, reports The Bugle, sounding off “On the Recent Spike of Oryx Sightings: a Symbology of Cornucopiæ.” And almost... well it almost... sneezed up a hunk of manna.

Almost. Instead: a helical tusk sur le bout de la langue. Magisterial companion to our rotating cast of carousel mounts. Cast in brass, that is. Talking animals?! Shorn affidavit. Political allegory?!—a horse shoe crabbed by narrow margins, purely milling.

Poof! And as for this “protrusion”?

Crushed to a fine, glittering powder, cut with poppy, pressed into neat pills, patented by Little Big Pharma, and finally, sold. Antidote to the common cold—

the only side effect, excessive swearing.


Scum Purse

Interest you in a gimlet? Consider this, technically, your official welcome to the pond. This sump sunk dead center some dead aristocrat’s Cartesian garden. Pring has prung. Our vegetative hat grows knobbly as a sacful o’ limes, disbursing a twist of ignoble gasses. Common slaw—a fish wife fragrance,

available for limited time only. We may be bottom feeders but, I tell you this, that our pond has got a whole lot going on. Iridescent scales but in whose flavor? Lil’ fishies nosh big fish, neck ticklishly, in the shape of exfoliage and trashy novels. Deconstructed salad days, if you will. These turgid whiskers not for naught.

What you might call in technical terms our common craw chews common slaw for us. Now that’s what I call haute couture!


Thud Aplomb

Rex ink hole hot off the machina—itself squamulose w/ prefeathers. Gothic curly cues amidst which the character, extinct to us, returns. That’s P as in pterodactyl. Equipped with the advanced new pulley system, can we not master the past faster? Monarchist! Your philtrum is awash in slobber. Suchlike behavior reads illegible, a glandular feint. Shrink peccadillo.

Newtonic fig squelch and ensuing dropsy paroxysm, averted both. Thanks, air plane gluey foot pads. Don’t suppose you happen to know the where bouts of my cockatoo, exiled since last December? Lizards affix all over. After tarring afterfeathers, gravity pules.


Any last words? You just never know. At this late hour, any word

at all could wind up famous somewhere down the line 

“You and what anvil?”
Originally from Los Alamos, New Mexico, William Repass lives in Pittsburgh and works as a projectionist and film librarian. His work has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Bennington ReviewDenver Quarterly, Hobart, Small Po[r]tions, and elsewhere.

"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.