Guinotte Wise… High Bridge


High Bridge

He was scared shitless, up this high. But he was scared not to come up, off balance with the bucket of bolts, a drift pin and a wrench. The steelworkers above him placed angle-iron sides and he put the cross pieces on, an X, stuck the drift pin in a hole to secure it while he bolted the open holes. Then he’d tap the pin out, bolt that hole. Three inch angle iron was his footing. Climb up the X, do another one. No one used harnesses. It never occurred to him. OSHA was not a factor in the 1950’s.

He’d heard about steeplejacks and mountain climbers just letting go, relaxing backward to gravity, falling without a sound, no yelling. It was a rapture of some sort, a fuck you to fear. They gave themselves to the monster.

The wind was wilder up here. His hard hat blew off. He grabbed for it reflexively and lost his footing for an instant before he hooked an elbow on the X, hugging it while he watched the metal hat fall. The hard hat turned over and over in seeming slow motion as it fell, smaller and smaller: he saw it hit the deck a hundred feet below, a hundred and fifty, bounce off the plate steel, into the water, flashing in the sun. A couple of men tying steel below looked up, shading their eyes.

He left his bucket hooked to the X, climbed down X by X, slowly, shaking. When he got to the bottom he fell forward on all fours. He saw the foreman’s Red Wing boots, heard his voice, lowered so only he could hear, “You don’t like working high, you don’t have to, son. Hell, I got welders who won’t get up on a stepladder.”


Guinotte Wise has been a creative director in advertising most of his working life. A staid museum director once called him raffish, which he enthusiastically embraced. (the observation, not the director) Of course, he took up writing fiction.

Copyright © 2015 by So-in-so








Pratima Annapurna Balabhadrapathruni… Candy is Bad


Candy is Bad

…., a lollipop is something sweet and sour stuck in a mouth that cannot open out the jaws in an outcry of anguish, or clench teeth in disgust. Candy fills spaces between painful instances and slithers citrusy sugar down the throat. Such cramped quarters. A cobweb glows in the dark and sums up Halloween.


Pratima Annapurna Balabhadrapathruni is a writer, poet and artist from Singapore. In the summer 2014, she participated in the Advanced Non-Fiction Seminar conducted by the International Writing Program, Univ. of Iowa. She enjoys interviewing poets and writers from her website is

Copyright © 2015 by Pratima Annapurna Balabhadrapathruni









Carol Smallwood… After Dirk


After Dirk

My house is now very clean; I can rest in its sterility. There are nights I cannot sleep from wanting him; I must believe I’ll see him again to ward off the chill of fall.

I pace supermarkets while country music singers belt songs of undying love. The last survey I made was pasta: rotini, elbows, rigatoni, bow ties, twists (they also came in colors), angel hair, fettuccine, manicotti, mostaccioli, lasagna, penne, shells (various sizes), ruffles, vermicelli—and then egg noodles and spaghetti also in various sizes. I arranged them alphabetically as I wrote them. And compared prices and brands. Once I surveyed spirals of luncheon meats, rings of bologna, stacked hot dogs: most were a mixture of turkey, chicken, pork, beef, and chemicals. I wrote the chemicals in symbols I remembered from chemistry class. And compared prices and brands.

Most enjoyable, however were facial tissues: row after row of boxes. Flowers were the most popular design. Ultra soft, scented, environmentally safe, strengthened, allergenic, pop-up, baby blue, petal pink, sunny yellow, classic white. I’d pick the most comforting and pretend to buy it.
When I looked at the rainbow of scented candles with matching labels, the meadow flowers candle conjured up the spring with Boyd, the yellow citrus the fleck in one of Cal’s jackets, the blue the shore I paced thinking of Doctor, the purple with Mitchell’s heather.

Across from the candles were the detergents smelling so good you knew their claims must be true. But what did “extreme clean” mean? Was “mountain fresh” better than “spring rain”?”
Deep clean” better than “ultra clean”—or was “advanced action” better? Many had labels radiating rainbows.

Jenny said I looked younger and Mark whistled with raised eyebrows when I wore my new dress to church. I hadn’t washed it because I wanted to keep it the way I’d worn it with Dirk.


Carol Smallwood’s books include Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching, foreword by Molly Peacock (McFarland, 2012) on Poets & Writers Magazine list of Best Books for Writers; Divining the Prime Meridian (WordTech Editions, 2014); Bringing the Arts into the Library (American Library Association, 2014). Carol supports humane societies.

Copyright © 2014 by Carol Smallwood






John McKernan… Meeting Samuel Beckett At The Mortuary


Meeting Samuel Beckett At The Mortuary

“Glad to see you McKernan. Is this your funeral?”

“No Sir I died several years ago Just dropped by to give you this autographed copy of Keats’s Odes.”

“If I stand here too long listening to you my shadow will cheat these tiny wildflowers of the sunlight streaming from the stars.”

“I have never thought of you as a bloody sundial”

“It goes better with all the darkness one encounters everywhere now. I wonder where it all came from.”

“Great Literature is just one vast apology for not committing suicide”

“You can say that again”

“Great Literature is just one vast apology for not committing suicide”


John McKernan is a retired comma herder. He specialized in depleted semicolons and the repair and recovery of derelict exclamation points. He lives in West Virginia where he edits ABZ Press. His most recent book is Resurrection of the Dust.

Copyright © 2014 by John McKernan




Sleeping Rough… by Charles Tarlton


Sleeping Rough


Norma Desmond said it best: “You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!…”

“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”


         Marie smiled and scooted down the bench, closer to the camera.
         “I was fifteen,” she said, straight into the lens, “when my stepfather came into my bedroom late at night….”
         “Whoa!” Gary said, and turned off the camera. “I just want to hear about how you started sleeping rough,” he said. “This is a documentary on what it’s like to live out here, on the street.”

         Marie smiled and said how sorry she was, then she adjusted herself on the bench again and prepared for another take.
She was dressed in a long, faded, and flower-patterned beach dress, waist-length fake fur jacket, and sandals with socks. Her hair was half in greasy dreadlocks.
         “Okay,” Gary said. “Let’s try it again.”
         His SONY video camera was so quiet you couldn’t tell when it was “rolling.”


         “The first guy I moved in with,” Marie started up, “was nice to begin with, but he started beating me regularly within a couple of weeks.”
         “No! No!” Gary said, and switched off the camera again. You could only tell when the camera was off because the light on its side clicked off automatically.
         Gary opened his script and read a few paragraphs of his instructions to himself.
         “This is where you’re supposed to tell me about what it’s like ‘sleeping rough,’” she said to Marie. “That’s what we want to know about. Okay?”
         Marie reached for her absolutely sweetest voice. “I am sorry again,” she said. “All the parts of this seem to stick together. I have a hard time separating them.”
         “Okay,” Gary allowed. “Shall we try it again?”
         The light blazed up and the camera was on.
         “I hadn’t been in the women’s center for even two days,” Marie said, as if reading from a prepared text,” when this Mexican pimp had me turning tricks for smokes”
         “Oh, shit, Marie,” Gary yelled and forgot to turn the camera off. “Why can’t you stick to the plan?”
         “My life never had much of a plan,” Marie said into the camera, which was still recording. She seemed to sense that posterity was waiting in the wings.
         “I started out a pretty normal kid,” she said, “but then my mother and father were divorced and my mother married this asshole….”
         “Stop! Stop! Gary screamed and just managed to get the camera turned off after a couple of fumbling efforts.
         “What part of ‘sleeping rough’ don’t you understand?” he demanded.
         “Okay, okay, I get it,” Marie said, and reached over and switched the camera back on by herself.
         “The rock bottom truth this time.”
         Gary smiled and looked into the viewfinder on the camera. “Go,” he said.
         “Well, I had a pretty strong taste for bourbon right from the start,” Marie began, “but I soon graduated to weed and from there it was an easy leap to smack and cocaine.”
         “Fuck it,” Gary said under his breath, and just let the video keep on rolling.
         “I was really a wreck, you know,” Marie was saying into the camera. “and I ended up sleeping outdoors next to a garbage can in an alley, asking myself: ‘What’s next? There’s not much left to lose.”


Charles Tarlton retired from college teaching and turned to poetry and flash fiction. In the last couple of years he published a bunch of poems and flash stories and was nominated for the Pushcart by Muse-Pie Press.

Copyright © 2014 by Charles Tarlton