Table of Contents
3 Letter from the Editor
6 Fiction – “Two Sessions with Rebecca” by Carol Smallwood
11 Drawing – “Birthday” by Peter Roman
12 Fiction – “Overdose” by Matt Denniss
16 Drawing – “Ladies of the Zoot Suit Riots” by Peter Roman
Letter from the Editor
This is where I write something nice about issue 10 and spring and things blooming or thawing or something euphemistic about bunnies or at least something exuberant about not having to wear scarfs and hats unless we want to, something about the sun on one’s skin like something almost forgotten and regained, of standing on the tallest building just to get closer to it, of this physical quality of being warmed, and then all of a sudden we’ve started talking about what transactional means, this process, this physical action of carrying out, of carrying through, of the drive and the performance, of belonging to this result of operating across, of playing, of achieving something, of negotiating an agreement, of working something out, whether an act of God or a business deal or a sexual act or all of the above, and then we’ll have planted something with every intention of continuing to grow, and it will be magical. Warmest,
– Christina Phelps
Matt Denniss is an environmental scientist who balances the cold scientific methodology of his professional life with the colour and warmth of words and music. He is hungry and angry but not fat or mean. He likes storms at the end of a hot day and writes short stories while listening to distorted guitars. Matt’s work is nestled in at Regime Magazine, The Tincture Journal, Word Riot, Vibewire, Flash Fiction Offensive, Zinewest, and Hypallage, among others.
Peter Roman was born in Finland but grew up in London suburbia. He studied illustration at West Herts College and worked on crime novel covers for Severn House for a number of years. Now based in York, he works as a primary school teacher and creates illustrations influenced by books, silent narrative, and random mid-20th century photographs. You can view more of his pictures at www.petersillustration.blogspot.co.uk
Carol Smallwood’s books include Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching, foreword by Molly Peacock (McFarland, 2012), which is on Poets & Writers Magazine’s list of Best Books for Writers; Divining the Prime Meridian (WordTech Editions, 2014); and Bringing the Arts into the Library (American Library Association, 2013). She has also founded, and supports, humane societies.
5.7.2013 – trans lit mag begins transmitting issue #10, “transactional.”
Two Sessions With Rebecca
[Excerpt from Lily’s Odyssey (print novel 2010) published with permission by All Things That Matter Press. The first chapter was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award in Best New Writing.]
I told Rebecca, “I got a letter from the American Psychiatric Association saying Doctor had died in 1982. I’d tried his old address but my letter came back so asked them because I wanted that dream he asked for when I left for Barryton—the one he said ‘had everything in a nutshell.’”
“How’d it make you feel?”
“Sad, surprised. A sense of irony and waste of all his knowledge. Self-congratulations that I’d survived. Like part of me had died – so many things. I wonder what really happened? He was still young, and why now, when I could face what happened since I’m leaving?” The last time I’d seen him was in a restaurant at his suggestion because my lawyer wanted me to be done with therapy.
I tried to smile, swallowed away the lump in my throat, and continued, “Henrietta at the public library said that you get jobs through contacts but I want my record to get one for me. I’ve cleaned my desk at work so I’ll be ready when my new job comes. I so wished my last book would’ve made more money so I’d been able to afford a new car.”
“Just take one day at a time.”
“I look forward to the mail every day but most likely a job will come by phone. I still worry about Aunt Ida’s cat and avoid applying for jobs anywhere in her area.”
“What does Jenny think of your plans?”
“So much is happening with her right now and I’m glad. Last night Charlie came over and seems a nice boy. I shook hands with him and asked them to sit down at the table I was working. I picked a paper up and started reading off questions for him to answer about himself and he was pretty surprised.”
“She’s looking less of a filly when she wears pantyhose ‘cause they hide her bruises from track. She’s got her first job at White Owl Inn and there seems to be a bond between us now because of Charlie that’s neat. I don’t feel the sense of rivalry with Charlie I felt with Mark’s girlfriends. She wears a braided string around her left ankle he gave her.”
I noticed the headline of the paper on the coffee table about Gary Hart’s affair. The 6:30 evening news reported that if it’d been 20 years ago it would’ve been kept quiet, making me wonder if disclosure of the private lives of public people was progress or just a way of attracting readers. The realtor said I should get about $40,000 for my house and recommended having the bank here finance the house I’m going to buy so I wouldn’t have to wait; if I don’t invest money from this house into another I’ll be taxed $3400.
That morning when I’d hung blankets on the line, the neighbor leaning over in his garden looked like a sketch in the evolution of man. Leaves would soon come out and make a roof that swayed like curtains and kept you company; you knew they’d be gone in the strong winds of fall but they didn’t seem to mind.
When I ironed, spiders spun webs as even and delicate as hairpin lace.
In the next session with Rebecca I said, “The University of Illinois-Urbana called for an interview and will pay for my mileage and place to stay. I’m not sure if the kids could get in but they said to take it.”
“It has a very good reputation.” I saw several curled papers in the basket so she must do her paper rubbing between her right thumb and index finger with other clients as well.
I nodded and said, “I’ve gotten fifty-three job rejects so far but thirty applications are still out. I called about flying to Urbana but would have to transfer twice and they would pay for mileage if I drove. If the kids couldn’t get into Urbana, I’d hope something else came up.” I’d gotten a map out and made a route to get to Urbana to avoid going by Aunt Ida’s.
Someone knocked on the door. Rebecca returned upset and said, “I have to leave right away to admit a sexually abused woman to the psychiatric ward in Allena since Centerton’s all full. The woman’s father was coming and set her off scratching to make herself bleed.” Rebecca grabbed some papers and as she guided me out she added, “She took all the medicine she’d been hoarding.”
That evening, Oprah Winfrey on 60 Minutes, said that if she didn’t make it in TV she’d made it in something else – that the process was important, the trying and growing. Still, she could say that – she’d made it.
The next day Aunt Hester and Uncle Walt stopped by when I was getting some tan for my interview. And told me I shouldn’t be lying on the ground and to, “Be sure and speak up at the interview. Christamighty! Don’t be meek.” He walked to my windows, rubbed a coin on them and said, “You better pay attention to your windows and do some caulking.”
That night I dreamed about a woman who fell from an airplane. She walked around talking but nobody could understand her.
by Peter Roman
by Matt Denniss
He twisted slowly as if he’d been smacked in the face, and his eyes rolled into his head. Then he fell flat and hard, like a thousand year old pine in the forest, crunching on the forest floor. He was motionless and awkwardly positioned, like a hit and run victim, and soon his face turned white then a little blue.
Abigail screamed. She and Tammy watched as Damien fell. In the dimly lit room the girls looked at each other. They were best friends, and the absolute, unrivalled, biggest fans in the world of Damian and his band The March. In fact, they were fans before the band had a name, when they were playing covers at unpaid gigs as the Elastic Band. Now Damien was on the ground and to Abigail and Tammy, it seemed as though he wasn’t getting back up.
‘Is everything okay?’ Mr Richards strode into the room and flicked the switch on the ceiling light, his eyes darting around the room for an explanation of the scream. He stood above Damien like a school teacher standing above a troublesome pupil and said, ‘Why can’t we throw a fucking album release party without one of these fucking louts getting too smashed to bother talking with the press or the fans.’
‘Is he okay?’ asked Tammy, who was now clutching Abigail’s arm. ‘He fell down hard.’
‘He’s just had too much to drink is all,’ replied Mr Richards, who was now tapping Damien’s body with the side of his foot. When Damien didn’t move, he kneeled down beside his client and stared at his lifeless face. ‘Jesus, I don’t think he’s breathing.’ He then checked for a pulse.
‘Are you a doctor or something?’ said Abigail.
‘No, but it doesn’t take a doctor to know this he’s in serious trouble. Quick, lock that door; we don’t need any of the press seeing this.’
When Mr Richards said this Tammy gasped and Abigail whispered, ‘O…M…G.’
‘I said, one of you lock that fucking door.’
But before either of them could follow the order, the door swung open again and in walked a man that looked as though he would have fit in seamlessly on stage with The March.
‘Here he is,’ he said with a wonky smile, revealing a blackened tooth. The man closed the door and locked it. ‘My friend here thinks he is a god. One EP and then a record deal and he thinks he’s fucking immortal.’
‘I’m sorry, who might you be?’ asks Mr Richards.
‘I’m Laz. And this rockstar here owes me money.’
‘Don’t talk about him like that,’ said Abigail.
‘This is obviously not a good time. You need to leave,’ Mr Richards said to Laz.
‘This fucker bought a fifty worth of heroin off me but said he only had twenty on him and that his manager would fix me up later. I came to the party so I could cook it up and get high with him, but the lousy bastard couldn’t wait. He’s gone and snorted it all.’
‘Jesus. Are you saying he’s overdosed on heroin?’ said Mr Richards, eyes wide with panic.
‘Yeah. That’s right. Now, where’s his wallet,’ Laz said approaching the body.
‘Listen, you little shit, you’re not gonna touch Damien or his wallet.’ Mr Richards stood face to face with Laz, who considered his words, smiled, took one step back, reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small knife.
‘No, you listen, you old fuck. I need my money. I got a kid you know, he’s as annoying as fuck but he still needs to eat. And I’m trying to run a business. Now you either get outta my way so I can take the wallet, or point me in the direction of his manager who owes me thirty bucks.’
‘I’m the band’s manager. And I don’t owe you shit, rat.’
‘Why are you arguing about money?’ Tammy said. ‘Someone call an ambulance.’
‘It’s too late,’ said Laz, relaxing the knife, ‘our friend here is walking the tightrope. Any minute now he’ll err a little further to one side and slip away.’ He said this with a grimace; it wouldn’t be the first time he’d seen it happen.
Mr Richards held his phone to his ear and thought to himself that this was no way for a band’s breakthrough album promotion to begin. Or was it? And that’s when the light bulb clicked. He stared into space for a moment and ignored the voice on the receiver asking him if he needed the police, an ambulance of the fire brigade. He hung the phone up.
‘What are you doing?’ cried Abigail.
‘All of you, just shut the fuck up for a moment.’ He stood there scratching at his jawline, then, and as if winning an argument in his own head, he smiled and began to nod. ‘Nobody leaves this room until the paramedics take Damien out in a body bag.’
The two girls and Laz just stood dumbstruck.
‘This album will have the sort of media attention that no promotional budget can buy. With both hands Mr Richards frames a headline in mid-air, ‘Dead Rocker’s Final Masterpiece.’
‘You’re out of your mind, old man,’ laughed Laz.
‘And think of the money we’d make,’ said Mr Richards, frantic, with the genius idea reaching fruition in his head. ‘Yes, yes, that’s it. We can each sell our story to any of the papers and magazines.’
‘I could make more than thirty bucks, right?’ asked Laz.
‘Ten times more.’ Mr Richards assured him. ‘And you girls, you ever wanted to be part of rock and roll history?’
‘It would be kinda cool to say you were there when the guy from The March died,’ Abigail said.
‘And I can say he wrote the song ‘Infinity’s Daughter,’ off the new album, about me,’ said Tammy.
So, the four of them reached an agreement: nobody was to enter or leave the room until they were all certain he was dead.
‘But, we need a consistent story,’ began Mr Richards, ‘so this is how it will go. I was sitting in the room discussing what Damien thought to be The Marchs’ key influences, when –’
‘But we were in the room with him,’ Abigail interrupted, ‘and he was about to tell me he loved me.’
‘No, he wasn’t, he likes me so much more,’ said Tammy.
‘Just listen, we need to decide on a realistic –’
‘Oh, I’m fucked, then,’ Laz interjected. ‘I can’t say I was here to collect money for the drugs that killed the motherfucker.’
‘Then don’t, you moron. You can say you’re a friend who was just hanging out. Maybe you were in here talking with the girls over in that corner.’
‘Gross. Didn’t you just say realistic? We would never talk to someone like that.’
‘Well, I wouldn’t talk to you bitches either.’
‘Listen we just need to…’
And amidst the arguing there was a single cough, which seemed to reverberate around the room like a giant church bell. The four of them became silent, which made the second cough more pronounced. It was Damien; he had rolled to his side, vomited and was now coughing the residue and acidic taste out of his mouth.
‘I need some water,’ he muttered.
Mr Richards’s sighed and Laz cursed. The four of them looked down at Damien who was now spitting on the carpet, then sternly at each other.
Mr Richards pulled a twenty and a ten from his wallet and Laz disappeared, like a cockroach when the light turns on. The girls shuffled out of the room and went back to the party looking for the cute bass player, and Mr Richards knelt down and said, ‘I’m here for you buddy, you’ll be alright.’
Ladies of the Zoot Suit Riots
by Peter Roman