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Adelaide Literary Magazine is an independent international monthly publication, based in New York and Lisbon. Founded by Stevan V. Nikolic and Adelaide Franco Nikolic in 2015, the magazine’s aim is to publish quality poetry, fiction, nonfiction, artwork, and photography, as well as interviews, articles, and book reviews, written in English and Portuguese. We seek to publish outstanding literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and to promote the writers we publish, helping both new, emerging, and established authors reach a wider literary audience. A Revista Literária Adelaide é uma publicação mensal internacional e independente, localizada em Nova Iorque e Lisboa. Fundada por Stevan V. Nikolic e Adelaide Franco Nikolic em 2015, o objectivo da revista é publicar poesia, ficção, não-ficção, arte e fotografia de qualidade assim como entrevistas, artigos e críticas literárias, escritas em inglês e português. Pretendemos publicar ficção, não-ficção e poesia excepcionais assim como promover os escritores que publicamos, ajudando os autores novos e emergentes a atingir uma audiência literária mais vasta. (http://adelaidemagazine.org)

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Published by istinadba, 2019-06-14 14:04:54

Adelaide Literary Magazine No. 24, May 2019

Adelaide Literary Magazine is an independent international monthly publication, based in New York and Lisbon. Founded by Stevan V. Nikolic and Adelaide Franco Nikolic in 2015, the magazine’s aim is to publish quality poetry, fiction, nonfiction, artwork, and photography, as well as interviews, articles, and book reviews, written in English and Portuguese. We seek to publish outstanding literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and to promote the writers we publish, helping both new, emerging, and established authors reach a wider literary audience. A Revista Literária Adelaide é uma publicação mensal internacional e independente, localizada em Nova Iorque e Lisboa. Fundada por Stevan V. Nikolic e Adelaide Franco Nikolic em 2015, o objectivo da revista é publicar poesia, ficção, não-ficção, arte e fotografia de qualidade assim como entrevistas, artigos e críticas literárias, escritas em inglês e português. Pretendemos publicar ficção, não-ficção e poesia excepcionais assim como promover os escritores que publicamos, ajudando os autores novos e emergentes a atingir uma audiência literária mais vasta. (http://adelaidemagazine.org)

Keywords: fiction,nonfiction,poetry

INDEPENDENT REVISTA
MONTHLY LITERÁRIA
LITERARY INDEPENDENTE
MAGAZINE
MENSAL

ADELAIDE FOUNDERS / FUNDADORES
Stevan V. Nikolic & Adelaide Franco Nikolic
Independent Monthly Literary Magazine
Revista Literária Independente Mensal EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR-CHEFE
Year IV, Number 24, May 2019 Stevan V. Nikolic
Ano IV, Número 24, maio de 2019
editor@adelaidemagazine.org
ISBN-12: 1-950437-70-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-950437-70-2 MANAGING DIRECTOR / DIRECTORA EXECUTIVA
Adelaide Franco Nikolic
Adelaide Literary Magazine is an independent inter-
na onal monthly publica on, based in New York and GRAPHIC & WEB DESIGN
Lisbon. Founded by Stevan V. Nikolic and Adelaide Franco Adelaide Books LLC, New York
Nikolic in 2015, the magazine’s aim is to publish quality
poetry, fic on, nonfic on, artwork, and photography, as CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS IN THIS ISSUE
well as interviews, ar cles, and book reviews, wri en in
English and Portuguese. We seek to publish outstanding Dylan Mar n, Jeff Schneekloth, Mike Pasley,
literary fic on, nonfic- on, and poetry, and to promote Bruce Kamei, John Gallagher, AN Block,
the writers we publish, helping both new, emerging, and
established authors reach a wider literary audience. Alethea Tyler, Chris an R. Fennell, Deirdre
Fagan, Conor O’Brian Barnes, A. Elizabeth
A Revista Literária Adelaide é uma publicação men-
sal internacional e independente, localizada em Nova Her ng, Daniel Picker, Olivia Du Pont,
Iorque e Lisboa. Fundada por Stevan V. Nikolic e Ade- Margery Bayne, Connor Bowen, Ivanka
laide Franco Nikolic em 2015, o objec vo da revista é Fear, Mitchell Waldman, Ken O’Steen, Larry
publicar poesia, ficção, não-ficção, arte e fotografia de Hamilton, Kris ne Sarasin, Aimee Hardy,
qualidade assim como entrevistas, ar gos e crí cas Day McKnight, Libby Belle, Sarah Moore,
literárias, escritas em inglês e por-tuguês. Pretendemos Alan Berger, Keith Hoerner, Michael R.
publicar ficção, não-ficção e poesia excepcionais assim Morris, Patrick Hahn, Andrew Chinich,
como promover os escritores que publicamos, ajudan- Juanita Tovar, Christopher Harris, Valerie
do os autores novos e emergentes a a ngir uma audiên- Angel, Stephanie V Sears, Molly Blumhoefer,
cia literária mais vasta.
John Casey, R. Nikolas Macioci, Chic
(h p://adelaidemagazine.org) Scaparo, Jeremy Gadd, Megha Rani, Annie
Schumacher, Richard Weaver, Diana Anhalt,
Published by: Adelaide Books, New York John Raffe o, Elana Wolff, Valerie Patric,
244 Fi h Avenue, Suite D27 Olivia Du Pont, George Payne, Jose Manuel
New York NY, 10001 SÁNCHEZ, Jules Elleo, Gabrielle Amarosa,
e-mail: info@adelaidemagazine.org Monty Jones, Emily Brumme , Roger Singer,
phone: (917) 477 8984 Kevin Cahill, Ashley Green, Cathryn Essinge,
h p://adelaidebooks.org
Donald Illich, Kimberly Crocker
Copyright © 2019 by Adelaide Literary Magazine

All rights reserved. No part of this publica on may be
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without wri en
permission from the Adelaide Literary Maga-zine
Editor-in-chief, except in the case of brief quo-ta ons
embodied in cri cal ar cles and reviews.


CONTENTS / CONTEÚDOS

EDITOR’S NOTES NONFICTION
WHAT IS ALCHEMY? By Stevan V. Nikolic 5 WEST AFRICA: MANY TRUTHS WITHIN
THE BACKGROUND NOISE
FICTION by Joram Pia gorsky 141
SHADOWS IN THE SEA by Dylan Mar n 7
COUSIN ‘ITT’ by Bruce Kamei 12  by Keith Hoerner 151
REPLAY VALUE by Sean Gallagher 22 BLOWING UP THE WORLD
A PEBBLE IN YOUR SHOE By AN Block 27 by Michael Robinson Morris 152
THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER THE WASHOUTS By Patrick D. Hahn 156
by Alethea Tyler 37 HOME FREE by Andrew Chinich 159
SOMETHING TO LEAVE BEHIND By Chris an HOLD HER ONCE AGAIN
R. Fennell 44 by Juanita Tovar 161
DRESSING THE PART by Deirdre Fagan 54 THE TROUBLE WITH GERRY
“THE LAST DAY OF GUSTAVO BUSTAMANTE” by Christopher Harris 167
by Conor O’Brian Barnes 61 VALERIE MAUD GOLDMAN
A QUIET MAN by A. Elizabeth Her ng 65 by Valerie Angel 176
FIRST SPRING SEASON by Daniel Picker 73 I WONDER WHERE THAT VIDEO IS NOW
CORA by Olivia Du Pont 80 by Molly Blumhoefer 184
PIT STOP EXISTENCE By Margery Bayne 82
VALIDATION by Ivanka Fear 91 POETRY
NOTHING FOR YOU HERE by Mitchell DOMINION by John Casey 189
Waldman 97 NIGHT HYMN by R. Nikolas Macioci 192
MOVIE LIFE by Ken O’Steen 99 THE UNFOLDING OF A DESTINY
THE LOVE PAINTER By Larry L. Hamilton 108 by Chic Scaparo 196
A HARD CALL TO MAKE by Kris ne COME THE COMET by Jeremy Gadd 199
Sarasin 111 ASK A CHILD, ASK A BUTTERFLY
THE NIGHT WE MET by Aimee Hardy 120 by Megha Sood 204
GPS by Day McKnight 126 WHITE CAKE by Annie Schumacher 206
AFTERMATH by Libby Belle 128 PABLO PICASSO by Richard Weaver 209
HOME By Sarah Beth Moore 134 NOT A PRAYER by Diana Anhalt 212
HUNG JURY by Alan Berger 137 DIVINE by John Raffe o 216
CALM by Elana Wolff 219
WORK OF ART by Valerie Patrick 224

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Adelaide Literary Magazine
COME TO ME AND LET ME HOLD YOU
by Olivia Du Pont 227
OUR OWN by George Payne 228
TODAY I TRAVELED TO THE PAST
by Jose Manuel SÁNCHEZ  230
LEAVING BUCHAREST by Jules Elleo 233
PICTURE NEGATIVE by Gabrielle Amarosa 234
PROPERTY by Monty Jones 237
POSITIVE by Emily Brumme  241
DRIP by Roger Singer 242
THE DOORS by Kevin Cahill 244
FINGER BY FINGER by Ashley Green 246
ANNIVERSARY by Cathryn Essinger 248
SAVIOR by Donald Illich 252
WORDS UNSPOKEN By Kimberly Crocker 255

4


WHAT IS ALCHEMY?

What is Alchemy? Is it magic, philosophy, or a successor of natural sciences; on the spiritual
science? What was its original meaning and level – as applied system of philosophical
purpose? For the most of people today the teachings; and on the absolute level – as a
word “alchemy” is associated with the medieval “blueprint” of Crea on and its workings.
wizards in a dark and ominous laboratories trying
to discover the formulas for the transmuta on As the prac cal discipline, Alchemy is
of metals and for the “elixir of life”. But the story regarded as the precursor of the modern
of Alchemy is much more complex and starts sciences, but with the mys cal or spiritual
thousands years earlier, extending over three components. Numerous procedures, methods,
con nents, hidden deep in the mists of me. formulas, and devices, created and developed
by Alchemists, are s ll in use in modern
It is the story of the lifelong devo on of men chemistry, pharmacology, medicine, and
of different cultures and races, throughout the physics. They are credited with the iden fica on
ages, in finding the answers on the basic and of many chemical elements and the forma on
crucial ques ons of human origin, existence, of the basic periodic table. Their contribu on to
and purpose. Their devo on was inspired by a metallurgy was significant as well, par cularly
vision of the perfec on of human beings, freed in developing methods associated with the use
from all illnesses, ailments, and limita ons of of fire to purify or change physical a ributes of
both mental and physical abili es, realizing the the metal. Most of those interested in prac cal
powers hidden in the deepest levels of their Alchemy today are pursuing research in holis c
consciousness. medicine and much less in the transmuta on
of basic metals into gold. So, in many ways,
The etymology of the word “alchemy” is prac cal Alchemy today could be regarded as
mysterious as the Alchemy itself. While most proto-chemistry. However, new and exi ng
researchers refer to the Arabic word “al- discoveries of modern physics and Quantum
kimia” associated with the Ancient Greek word theory are causing that contemporary physicists
“chemeia”, most likely derived from the Ancient are turning more and more their a en on to
Egyp an “khmi” (meaning: black earth), there the Alchemical herme c concepts of our inner
are those who believe that the origin of the world and of the universe in order to explain
word alchemy lies in the Ancient Greek word some puzzling aspects of their findings.
“chumeia” ( meaning: mixture).
On the spiritual level, as applied philosophical
Trying to define Alchemy is almost impossible concept Alchemy is a process of inner separa on,
task taking into account the immensity of its transforma on, and new integra on. Our
complex content. Some mes it seems that minds and our bodies are nothing else but
the only way to give a proper defini on is by vessels for purifying and transforming many
perceiving it on three different levels: on the levels of our consciousness. By changing our
prac cal level – as both forerunner and the

5


Adelaide Literary Magazine

own consciousness, we change our rela on
to the universe. Famous Alchemist Paracelsus
describes Alchemy as “the voluntary ac on of
man in harmony with the involuntary ac on of
nature”. We can say that Alchemy is a broad
philosophical vision of the whole crea on, built
on the universal correspondence system. It
is a mys cal quest, with the main objec ve of
libera on of the soul from the world. Alchemy
teaches about unity of existence underlying
mind and body, psyche and ma er. It is an art
of resurrec on of spirit in the realm of ma er
that raises our consciousness about who we are,
where are we coming from, and where are we
going. It is a method of aligning ourselves with
the whole of the crea on.

On the absolute level, as a “blueprint” of
Crea on and its workings, it is the concept
rooted in the ancient Herme c philosophy,
of the complete unity and interac vity of the
existence of man and the limitless reali es of
the vast Crea on in all its perfec on, beauty,
and harmony.

(From The New Alchemy by Stevan V. Nikolic)

6


SHADOWS IN THE SEA

by Dylan Mar n

She’s like a wave; mesmerizing from afar, Outside, the wind hits our faces, and her
charming up close, and exhilara ng when hair starts to blow. She looks at me in sur-
you travel with her, but deadly if you aren’t prise, and then back out towards the cat-
careful. And there she is, si ng across from aclysm some call the city. Endless towers
me on a silver bullet of serenity. rise up from the ground, kissing the clouds,
while cabs and cars alike crowd the streets,
Dark brown hair. Dark brown eyes. A face crushing the concrete. And then there’s the
made of marble. A body made of clay. And a sound; shoes stomping, horns honking, si-
beau ful black negligée barely covering the rens shou ng, children cha ng, sewage
threads that hide beneath. My best friend, sinking, and everything in between. It all
stunning me with her smile. These are the mixes together to form a stew strong enough
things I see while the train glides along the to make the most durable ears go deaf. But
tracks, taking us and all the others that I to us, the sound is soothing. It makes us feel
cannot see with it to the big city. at home, and we swim through and flaunter
on to our des na on: the sky.
She throws her legs onto the seat that
had laid bare beside me, and I throw mine Walking into the hotel, I hold the door
onto the opposite side, mirroring the tracks for her, follow the path laid out in front of
below and beside us. My cheeks rise, and us, and head for the elevator. Once inside,
hers do the same. We start to talk, and the I hit the “R” bu on, rest my back against
words curl and cross in the air like yarn be- the wall, and wait. She starts to dance and
ing s tched into a new sweater. She makes sing in excitement, crea ng a crescendo of
me laugh, and I her. These nights are al- a once be er song. I try to quiet her, seeing
ways perfect; these Saturdays we spend that we are nearing our floor, but it is of lit-
together. tle use. She is a free spirit that can only be
willed by a worthier warrior.
When the train stops, we rise from our
seats, wait by the door, and exit as it opens. The doors open and the man outside
She takes to the stairs, placing her hand in them guides us to the true outside. Swim-
mine as her heels trace along the edges. It’s ming through like sharks, we make our way
only when her feet seek stability that she there and take two seats. I order the stron-
looks for it in me. As the stairs end, so does gest drink on the menu, while she orders
her hand, disappearing once again, only something more fun. Turning towards me,
to return later when the ground starts to she raises her glass in sync with her cheeks
shake. and her teeth start to show.

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

“Well, here’s to—rekindling our friend- There’s no circle at the end that’s going to
ship for the—40th me.” magically appear and lead you the other
way. The only thing that changes is you and
Her smile only widens with every word your ability to see what’s in front of you.
that leaves her. It’s an infec ous smile, ca-
pable of cap va ng even the most lost soul. “I can’t wait to live here. I love this city. I
My lips curl up, while my eyes stay sagged, love being here.”
and a few light laughs escape me. Then,
a er clinking our glasses and chan ng our All I do is smile. And then, suddenly, she
cheers, we take our drinks, down them just curls closer, puts my arm in hers, and rests
as fast as the elevator rose, order another, her head on my shoulder.
and race over to the railing.
“I love being here with you. I wish we
Standing twenty stories high, eyes set could do this every day.”
wide, drinks in hand, it’s like we’ve stepped
into a new existence. The city that sits below With you.
us is something else now. A different plane,
it’s not the same when you stand above it. “That would be nice.”
The buildings no longer loom over you like
Then, she bounces off me, bulges her
tanic tombstones. Now, at eye level, they eyes out, and stares at me square.
exude a different kind of beauty. Each on
their own is simple, but as a whole—as this “We should just do it. Yeah.”
crazed compound, this myriad of millions,
sprawled together as one complete body— The moonlight radia ng off the buildings
it’s breathtaking. Yet all that changed was hits her as she transforms into a bewitching
the angle of our necks. beacon of light.

“What are you thinking about?” “What?”

“Architecture.” “Move here! Get a li le two bedroom
close by. We wouldn’t have to waste me
“What?” on the train anymore. We would just be
here. Every night.”
“Nothing.”
Standing there, thinking about, it was
“Do you like my ou it? Do I look pre y?” a nice thought, but I knew it would never
work. On paper, it seemed almost perfect.
“Stunning.” Who wouldn’t want to have their best friend
to come home to every night? To laugh with,
She says nothing in return. She nev- talk to, eat dinner with, in the place you call
er does. My me with her is nothing but a home. But all it would take was one thing,
one-way street. I drive down it, faster and one person, one hand holding hers, leading
faster, never looking back, as if the road will her through that entrance, into the place that
change when I get to the end. But roads was supposed to be ours, to place that paper
don’t change, and neither does life. You on a pike and burn it where it was wri en.
drive down that same road, over and over
again, thinking it will be different this me, “Maybe one day.”
thinking you won’t crash and burn when you
get to the end, but the road doesn’t change. “We should do it. What’s stopping us?”

“I mean, first off, we can’t afford it.”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“So, we’ll get be er jobs. Something over “I don’t know what you want me to tell
here.” you.”

“I also just don’t think it’s a good idea.” “I don’t want you to tell me anything.
There’s nothing for you to. It’s like you said—
“Why not? We already spend all our it is what it is. And it hurts. But there’s noth-
me together.” ing you can do about it.”

I say nothing in return, staring off into “I just wish you wouldn’t get so worked
the distance instead. From the corner of up over me. I’m not worth it, really.”
my eye, I can see her looking at me, her lips
drawn down. We stand in silence, slowly s rring our
drinks. I start to ponder all the things my
“Talk to me.” therapist has said. All the things my friends
have said. All the things my damn parents of
“About what?” all people have said. And I start to think that
maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s my heart
“What’s bothering you.” that’s wrong.

“Nothing’s bothering me.” “Maybe we should just end this.”

“Then why are you being so quiet? And “End what?”
ac ng like it’s such a burden to be with
me?” “This.” I point to her, then myself.

“I’m not ac ng like that.” “What?” Her heels are nearly digging
through the floorboard at this point.
“You are. I give you affec on and make
this grand sugges on that I find so exci ng “I’m always going to want more, and
and all you do is stand there and sulk.” you’re never going to feel the same. I just
don’t think it’s worth it.”
Is this who I am? Someone who needs
to be pulled like a puppet in order to talk? “If you really cared about me, you
Can I not just say what’s on my mind? Must wouldn’t be saying this.”
I always force someone to drag it out of me,
ac ng like I’m not aware of what I’m doing? “That’s not true.”
Ac ng like I’m not the one playing puppe-
teer; manipula ng them with these moods “Well, it seems pre y clear to me that
so that they’ll be the one to ini ate me, it is.”
instead of me ini a ng them. Is this who I
am? A coward? “Why do you even care? You just said
you’re sick of my sulking. That’s not going
“I just...it just hurts some mes to know to change. You’re always just going to be an-
that I’ll never be enough for you.” noyed by me.”

“You are enough for me... I’m just not at- “I’m not annoyed by you. I love you. And
tracted to you in that way.” I care about you. You make me happy. I just
get frustrated that you get so upset over
“And, therefore, not enough for you.” me. It’s silly.”

She stops looking at me and turns her “I love you too, but I think it’s best if I
head, staring down at all the other small just try and move on.”
people below.

9


Adelaide Literary Magazine

My feet leave the ground as I turn from ly hard to be around you. I can’t be happy
her vantage and plant my foot towards the when I’m looking over at you and I see how
entrance. As my other foot rises, she takes miserable you are. How do you think that
hold of my arm, forcing it to fall back where makes me feel? You think I don’t want to
it was. Looking back at her, I see her eyes make you happy, too, just because I don’t
have started to swell with water. also want you in that way? Because that’s
bullshit. I wouldn’t be telling you all this if I
“I don’t think our friendship is worth giv- didn’t care. Especially a er all that shit you
ing up on.” said to me.”

Deep breaths. She pauses and takes a deep breath.

“I can’t live on a friendship. Some mes “We’ll get through this, alright? I’m not
the only thing that keeps me level, keeps le ng you walk out of my life.”
me projec ng this false contentment, is
knowing that I make you happy. I hold onto Brows furrowed, heart sinking, I stare
these small memories of your smile and up at her, into those hazel hollows, but the
these small spurts of affec on like they’re words don’t follow. So, she con nues.
enough, but I can’t keep holding onto a hap-
piness that isn’t my own.” “You’ll find that person. You just have
to have some faith. You act like it will never
“So, you’re just going to throw it away? happen, but just look. Look.” She pulls me
Because I can’t be everything to you, I have closer to the railing and we turn our eyes
to be nothing?” over the metal. “Look how many fucking
people are out there! I know it’s cliché, say-
“I... I can’t—” ing ‘there’s so many fish in the sea,’ but it’s
true! Just think of how many other pre y
“You can. All you ever say is ‘I can’t this, girls we passed just on the way here. One
I can’t that.’ It’s such bullshit, and I’m red of them will be the one for you. It might
of hearing it. Tell me this: do you have fun not happen today. It might not happen to-
when we’re together?” morrow. It might not even happen this year,
or in five years, but it will happen. You just
“I do.” need to hold on, okay?”

“Then what’s there to be sad about? She always uses this analogy. Everyone
Look around. You’re in the best city in the does. But the sea is always darkest when it’s
world, with your best friend, and instead full, and I’ve never been able to find solace
of enjoying it, you’re staring out into space, in the shadows.
stuck in your head, ac ng like an asshole.
And instead of just telling me how you feel, “Okay.”
the person who’s always there for you, you
just blame me and try and push me away. I guess there’s just no escaping this. This
I know this sounds harsh, but what kind of “friendship.” This prison. This endless pur-
friend would I be if I wasn’t straight with suit. Traveling down a road that will never
you?... I get it, okay? I understand it’s hard. change. Maybe the only way out is just that.
But you have to understand that your be- To crash into the end. To escape. To use the
havior affects those around you. You’ve only method guaranteed to relinquish my-
said all you want to do is make me happy, self from this madness. She will never let
but when you’re in that mood, it’s honest-

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Revista Literária Adelaide

you go. She will always ring you back in.
You have to do the one thing you’ve always
feared the most, yet fantasized about just as
much. This pain will never end if you don’t.
She will never be able to cure you. And no
one else will be able to either. She’s wrong.
There is no “one” out there, wai ng for me,
as I’m wai ng for her. There’s only me. And
I am broken.

Staring out over the railing, watching all
the ny people pass through as the wind
ruffles through my hair and my best friend
stares over at me, I stand and wonder...is
this the way?

About the Author:
Dylan Mar n is a University at Albany
alumni who currently lives in the New York
metropolitan area. His passion for fic on
tends to gravitate towards the characters
involved, and as such, his wri ng tends to
focus on the characters as well. For more
of his work, please go to h ps://www.dm-
wri ng.com

11


COUSIN ‘ITT’

by Bruce Kamei

“Can I have a Rover here at sixty-nine and spec on hall, hung overhead. Tak walked
seventy?” an immigra on inspector asked past the endless queues of people want-
over the radio. ing to get admi ed into the United States.
Walking back and forth and being called to
“What’s the problem?” asked INS Act- individual booths to answer ques ons the
ing Supervisory Immigra on Inspector inspectors did not know regarding admissi-
Takeshi Tsukemoto. Sixty-nine and seven- bility was normal. Most were simple, some-
ty was the immigrant booth, where immi- thing he thought the inspectors should al-
grants arriving at Los Angeles Interna onal ready know.
Airport would bring their immigrant visas,
wait their turn, have their right index finger At the northern end of the inspec on
printed, and have their photo taken. The area, Tak saw Inspector Deeba Mir behind
immigrant visas had already been approved the table of sixty-nine and seventy. An older
by the State Department, so the inspec- man of Middle Eastern descent and another
tor’s job was to verify the informa on on person wearing a black burqa were standing
the visa was legi mate; it was the easiest on the other side. Deeba was right, cover her
assignment for an inspector. He recognized burqa with floor length hair, a hat and sun-
the voice to be Deeba’s, who usually did not glasses, and she would look like Cousin I ,
call unless there was a serious problem. “I thought Tak. On top of the desk was her im-
have two flights coming in, and I’m the only migrant file. Most immigrant visas files con-
supervisor here on primary.” tained fewer than fi y sheets of paper; this
had two folders, each twelve inches thick.
“Cousin ‘I ’ is here. Her husband is de-
manding to see a supervisor.” “You supervisor here?” the man asked.

“What’s a Cousin ‘I ’?” asked Tak. “Yes, what’s the problem?”

“Cousin I from the The Addams Family. “She woman,” he said poin ng to Deeba.
The short one covered in floor length hair
who wears a bowler hat and sunglasses. “Yes, I’ve no ced that,” said Tak.
She’s not wearing the hat or glasses now.”
“She woman. In my country, woman not
“What? I’m coming over now.” He assist man.”
walked across the inspec ons floor, passing
fi y individual inspec on booths. A huge “Sir, you don’t have a choice. We are re-
America flag, almost the length of the in- ally short handed today, and Inspector Mir
is the only inspector I have to work here.”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“What your name? I am American ci - why Deeba, a cer fied public account, was
zen, I report you! working as an inspector. But the LAX immi-
gra on officers were grateful that she was
“My name is Tsukemoto. Please feel free here since no one else could speak Urdu.
to report me. Inspector Mir will even pro- Pakistanis with fraudulent passports, fraud-
vide you with the address to file the com- ulent visas, and no passports were arriving
plaint. If you don’t want to be assisted by in greater numbers everyday. The record
Inspector Deeba, you will have to wait un l was last week, sixty Pakistanis with no pass-
you wish to cooperate,” said Tak. ports on one flight. Deeba was transla ng
over twenty-four hours straight. Tak almost
Tak waved Deeba over to the other side asked her out several mes in the last three
of the booth. “Get his name, date of birth, years but couldn’t a er becoming a super-
his passport number, and her alien num- visor.
ber.”
As an immigra on inspector for the last
Deeba want back and retrieved the im- five years, and three months as an ac ng
migrant visa. “His name is Bilai Abassi, her supervisor, Tak quickly learned where term
name is Parisa. His US passport number is “Ugly American” had come from. An hour
767987541, date of birth of April 10, 1941, later, a Military Airli Command flight from
and her alien number is A 070 4923 912.” Clark and Subic Bay bases from the Philip-
Tak wrote the informa on in his note pad pines brought in US soldiers and Filipina
and placed it into his shirt pocket. Docu- wives, most of whom required waivers for
ment everything to cover your ass, his first pros tu on. The Military Airli Command
training officer Joe Koys c had told him. today brought eighty Filipina brides; Tak as-
signed two more inspectors to assist Dee-
“What’s his problem?” he asked Deeba. ba. Tak heard what he always hears from
the soldiers: “Get your ass to the baggage
“He’s a Pakistani hillbilly. They can’t claim and get the bags!” “I told you to sit
stand to have a woman tell them what to there!” or “I’ll beat your ass for that!” And
do. They make women wear that tent in the later today, tomorrow, and the next tomor-
name of religion. It’s really all about power row will arrive plenty of bald and pot bellied
and control.” Americans with brides young enough to be
their grand daughters from Thailand, Korea,
“She can’t be Cousin I ,” Tak said to Philippines, China and everywhere else.
Deeba. Pre y disgus ng, he thought but learned
early that he had to follow the law and not
“Why?” what he thought. “Don’t think about too
much, it’ll kill you. There isn’t a damn thing
“Because Cousin I was a male.” you can do about it because it isn’t illegal so
they’re going keep on coming in. You can’t
“Only you, and only you, would remind care about those cases,” said Joe Koys c.
someone of that trivial of a detail,” said
Deeba. “He wants to talk to you again,” said Dee-
ba over the radio.
“It’s not a trivial detail. It’s a fact.”
“What for!”
Tak before walking back to the primary
heard Deeba speaking Urdu to the man. The
man stood there, arms across this chest not
saying anything. Tak never could figure out

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

“He’s demanding an explana on for why in wheelchairs, a lot on oxygen, and some
the MAC flight got served before him.” on gurneys with IV tubes in them. Almost all
asked about if they could receive Medicare,
“On my way.” Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income,
or state benefits with the receipt we gave
“You racist!” said Bilai Abassi. them. It wasn’t just Korean Air, for the ma-
jority of Asian airlines brought immigrants
“Sir, how am I racist?” just like them. Tak knew that they were po-
ten al future public charges thus inadmis-
“You help all Asians before me. You Asian sible but couldn’t prove that so he had no
so help your kind first. You not like Middle other choice than to admit them. As his first
Eastern people?” training officer said, “Just do your job. You
only fight for the cases that really ma er,
“Sir, they cooperated, and you didn’t. I and you can do something about it. They’ll
have other flights with more immigrants be plenty of them.”
coming now. You can cooperate now with
Inspector Mir or wait again.” “He wants to talk to you again,” said
Deeba over the radio.
“Okay. I okay her help me,” Abassi finally
said. “What now?”

Tak knew Korean Air passengers were in “He wants to know why a male officer
the inspec on hall since the LAX Port Direc- didn’t helped him.”
tor Art Alvarez had come to the inspec ons
area, the only me he came. Tak thought of Not another walk across the hall to the
him as a Neanderthal, wearing full bird col- immigrant booth, thought Tak.
onel epaulets. He was short, portly, and had
crooked front teeth. He walked to the back of “Two males here and not help me. You
the hall where the passengers would enter tell one come back and help me. I call con-
into the inspec on terminal and sat along gressman and lawyer,” said Abassi.
the back wall where four to five young Ko-
rean Air agents would take turns si ng next “Sir, call whomever you want! I sent
to him on both sides, and rub his chest and those two officers because they were tem-
inner thighs. Tak knew that those girls were porarily needed here. I no longer need
specifically hired for Alvarez since Tak had them here so I sent them to other more im-
never seen those girls helping their passen- portant du es. Sir, you really ge ng on my
gers like the older women and male Korean nerves! I’ve got more important issues than
Air agents. They, and Alvarez, would leave listen to your whining!”
a er all the Korean Air passengers le the
inspec on area. Korean Air wasn’t stupid, “You not talk to me like that! I call con-
they knew what Alvarez liked. Rumor had gressman! You very rude. You hear me?”
it that two million dollars in fines against
Korean Air disappeared when Alvarez in- “Sir, all I hear is your crying! Like some
tervened on their behalf. Some inspectors li le child crying when he doesn’t get his
contacted internal affairs, but his buddies in way. So be quiet and do what Inspector Mir
internal affairs refused to inves gate. tells you.”

Whenever Korean Air came, they brought Abassi started gasping for air. “Demand
a lot of immigrants. Most were elderly, many see your supervisor. Now!”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“Wow,” Deeba whispered to Tak. “Known “Sir!” said Tak. “I had enough of your crap.
you three years and never heard you talk to No picture, and you’ll never leave here. Un-
a passenger like that.” derstand!”

“I’ve never seen a character like him be- “That my religion. You have no right ques-
fore.” on my religion.”

A er Tak wrote the incident in his note “Sir, if you don’t want to follow our rules,
pad he went back to the opera ons office as Assistant Port Director said, you can just
to inform his supervisor Bill Andersen of the get back on the plane and get the fuck out
situa on. Everyone referred to Bill as Wild of here!”
Bill Hickok. He was a thirty-five year veter-
an of the INS and known for his knowledge “I call lawyer!” Abassi went to the bank
of immigra on law, but also known for the of phones near the bathrooms.
thumbnail size warts on his face. Some days it
seemed he had more or less warts and some Abassi came back and sat on a row of
larger or smaller than others, depending on chairs, grinning.
the day. Bill was also known for his unique
methods to deal with difficult people. Tak “We screwed up,” Deeba said looking at
and Bill went to the immigrant booth. the file.

“You his supervisor?” asked Abassi. “What’s wrong.”

“How may I help you?” asked Bill. “Look,” she said poin ng to the biograph-
ical informa on on the visa. “He’s forty-sev-
“He racist. Help other Asians before me. en, and she’s fi een. Is that legal?”
File complaint.”
Tak examined the two thick folders. Abas-
Bill leaned into his face. “If you’re not si twice pe oned for a fiancé K-1 visa and
happy with our service, might I suggest that both were denied for the two had not seen
you get the hell right back on the plane and each other in two years. The appeals were
go back wherever the fuck you came from! also denied. Apparently, she was betrothed
If you need assistance, my inspectors will be to him when she was two years old. A er the
more than happy to drag your sorry ass back denials, he married her in Pakistan to get the
on the plane. Is that clear! Have a nice day.” ‘Green Card,’ which was approved, but the file
contained a note from a State Department of-
“Thank you Assistant Port Director An- ficer expressing his concerns about her age.
dersen,” said Tak.
Tak went back to the opera ons office
Bill walked back to the office. and asked Bill about the legality of a fi een
year old being pe oned in as spouse.
Half an hour later, Deeba called again.
“We’ve got another situa on here.” “Unfortunately, there’s no regula on
about how young a wife can be in the Immi-
“What now?” gra on and Na onality Act. Those fucks in
Washington and our asshole poli cians felt
“You really need to come.” it was improper to impose our cultural val-
ues onto those from other cultures. Them
“What’s the problem?” asked Tak. shits! You really can’t do anything unless
something else come up,” said Bill.
“He’s refusing to have her take off the
hood for the picture.”

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

“Like what?” “Sir, there’s also the fact she’s fi een
years old”
“Like if she admits it was marriage fraud,
or she’s ge ng paid to pretend she’s his wife “Age doesn’t ma er—nothing in the law
just to get the ‘Green Card.’ Be crea ve and about it. Stamp her in!”
look for any opportunity to take advantage.”
Tak took out a copy of Immigra on and
An hour later Alvarez came to the in- Na onality Act placed at the table. “Sir, Sec-
spec on hall. Tak knew if wasn’t good since
the Korean Air girls were gone. “What’s the on 235 states, ‘Challenge of Decision-The
fuck is going on here? Just got a call from decision of the examining immigra on of-
a orney Steve Butcher who said his client is ficer, if favorable to the admission of any
being disrespected and harassed.” alien, shall be subject to challenge y any
other immigra on officer and such chal-
“It him!” yelled Abassi. “I humiliated. He lenge shall operate to take the alien whose
racist not respect my religion.” privilege to be admi ed is so challenged,
before an immigra on judge of a proceed-
Tak took out his note pad and read back ing under Sec on 240.’ Sir, I’m challenging
what occurred. “He wouldn’t take off the your decision.”
hood so we can’t take the picture.”
“Who the fuck you think you are? I can
“Do a waiver!” fire you right now!”

“Sir, there’s no such waiver in the Immi- “Sir, you can’t. I’ve passed my career
gra on and Na onality Act.” three-year condi onal phase. Unless I com-
mit a crime, I can’t be fired.”
“I’m making the waiver,” said Alvarez.
“Read the law, Tsukemoto. You always
“Sir, you have no such authoriza on.” carry that book up your ass and recite from
it. If you find a regula on about age, I’ll agree
“I’m the Port Director! I can do whatever with you. Un l then, stamp her in!” He le .
I want!”
Takseshi saw Bill si ng by the booth
“Sir, I would feel be er if we consulted listening. Alvarez was correct, he thought.
our a orneys about that?” Bill said there was no requirement that
a spouse had to be eighteen or older. He
Alvarez waived Abassi to the desk. “I am couldn’t prove that it was a fraudulent mar-
so sorry for the disrespect my officer has riage, nor could he prove that Abassi was
commi ed. He will be severely disciplined. I some sort of trafficker of underage wom-
have spoken to your a orney who said you en, nothing to prove she was inadmissible.
are most coopera ve and will do whatever “Inspector Mir, please take her picture and
is needed to accommodate us. A picture of print, and stamp her in.”
your beau ful wife is required so I must beg
you to remove the cover. Please!” “I’m doing this under protest. Will you
use your stamps so it wouldn’t back to me
“You wonderful compassionate man. as the culprit who let in a minor?”
You in charge for reason. You humble so I
allow her face be seen for picture.” “Yes, use my stamps.” Tak wrote down
the situa on in his note pad.
Alvarez gave Abassi his business card.
“Take the picture and stamp her in! That’s
an order.”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

Deeba printed her, holding Parisa’s hand. statement that nearly took two hours, Pari-
A er the hood was removed for the picture, sa o en in tears while giving a statement.
it was apparent she had been crying, tears “She has a lot of guts telling us about the
running down her cheeks. Parisa then whis- bastard,” said Deeba wiping away her own
pered into Deeba’s ear. tears.

“What!” Deeba said. She pulled Parisa to “That’s why she’s going to survive,” said
the other side of the booth. the woman officer.

“What going on?” yelled Abassi, star ng Abassi kept yelling and standing up un l
to walk to the other side. one of the inspectors pushed him back into
the chair.
“Get away! Someone get this clown
away from her.” Two hours later, the LAX officers hand-
cuffed Abassi and read him his Miranda
“Inspectors!” Tak yelled to three inspectors Rights. “You’re being detained pending an
walking past the booth. “Keep him there!” inves ga on for mul ple viola ons of Cali-
fornia Penal Code 261, Rape; mul ple viola-
Deeba and Abassi kept yelling at each
other in Urdu. Parisa sat in a chair, cying. ons of California Penal Code 261.5, Unlaw-
ful sex with a minor; viola ons of California
“What did she say,” Tak asked Deeba. Penal Code 288a(b)(1), Oral Copula on un-
der with person under 18; viola ons of Cali-
“The bastard has been raping her since fornia Penal Code, 288a(c)(2)(3), Oral Copu-
they got married and told her he’s going to la on by force, fear, or threats; viola ons of
rape again tonight! That asshole!” California Penal Code 422, Making Terrorist
Threats.” Officer Milstead told Abassi. “You
Tak saw Bill go back inside the office. Tak sick bastard! Wait un l you get to county
followed Bill and told him the situa on. jail tonight and the inmates find out you’re
a child molester. You’ll be walking funny to-
“Stamp her in! Admit her!” morrow morning.”

“What are you talking about? I can’t ad- “Will the rape charges s ck since it hap-
mit someone knowing that the asshole is pened outside the United States,” ask Tak.
going to rape her?”
“Don’t know, but I’m stacking the charges.
“Just do it! But keep her here un l I tell It’ll prevent him from making bail any me
you!” soon. Let the District A orney’s office figure
it out. We can at least try. I know the Ter-
“Bill, I’m disappointed in you.” rorist charge will s ck since he threatened to
rape her here.”
Five minutes later, four Los Angeles In-
terna onal Airport police officers arrived. The four officers carried Abassi out of
the inspec on area, Abassi screaming in
“You rang? Dispatch said you got a rapist Urdu.
and child molester here,” said Officer Mil-
stead to Bill. “Did you stamp her in yet?” Bill asked.

“Tak has the case,” said Bill. “Shouldn’t we just defer her inspec on
instead admi ng her?”
“Hi Leon, let me brief you,” said Tak.

Deeba had her arms around Parisa’s right
shoulder, with a woman officer taking a

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

“Damn it, Tak! Do what I say! Listen to DC every year. So far, he called the Commis-
me! Admit her so she can get benefits here! sioner, the District Director, and our a or-
She most likely wouldn’t get anything if she neys about my inspectors pu ng their nos-
were deferred.” es into something they had no business in.”

“What are we going to do with her? We “And you, Tsukemoto, I find that you
can’t released her to the bastard’s family.” can’t differen ate your personal feelings
from what’s in the law! You’re no longer an
“Already called Sharon Petros, head of ac ng supervisor nor will you ever be a su-
Children Services. She’s coming down here. pervisor! You openly disobeyed my orders.
Already briefed. We go back a long me. From now on, you’ll only be working prima-
Sharon ain’t going to let that freak near ry. I’ll make sure you’ll rot out there.”
Parisa.”
“Look, ‘Art!’ I stamped her in, just like
“Bill, I’m sorry about what I said to you you said. In fact, I wrote it down,” said Tak
earlier. taking out his note pad.

“A er thirty-five years, you learn a few Deeba poked him with her elbow.
tricks.”
“And you, Mir, if it weren’t the fact you
Tak sat with Deeba and Parisa un l Sha- just passed your three years career condi-
ron Petros arrived. Sharon and Bill hugged
each other. Deeba agreed to go with them onal proba on, I would have fired you,”
for the night. Bill authorized the over me. said Alvarez. “I know you two are ght but
stay away from him if you want to go higher.”
“You know you just blew that promo-
on,” Deeba said to Tak. “Yes sir,” Deeba said and poked Takeshi
once more.
“Do I want the job? Yes. Can I handle any-
more of this shit? I don’t know. It’s one thing “What were we supposed to do, ‘Art?’
to say the bad guys are shoo ng at you, but I asked Tak. “She said she was being raped, a
never knew my side would also be shoo ng fi een year old minor. We couldn’t just re-
at me. I never expected anything like this, lease her to that clown.”
I’m just trying to do the right thing.”
“Easy,” Deeba whispered to Tak.
The next morning Bill, Deeba, and
Takeshi were summoned to Alvarez’s office. “We’re not cops here, “ said Alvarez.

“What the fuck did you do? I got a call “ Look ‘Art,’ we could prosecute him un-
from his a orney. You know who he is?” der Title 10, United States Code, Sec on
920, Rapes Generally. I looked it up.”
“No,” said Tak and Deeba.
“Those rapes happened out of the Unit-
“Do I care?” asked Bill. ed States. We have no jurisdic on.”

“You damn well be er care!” His carot- “ ‘Art,’ Title 10, United States Code, Sec-
id arteries on both sides of neck were pul- on 920 doesn’t say if the rapes need to be
sa ng. “He’s the president of the American inside of the US. Also, they’re a lot of feder-
Immigra on Lawyers Associa on in Los An- al statues pertaining to sexual abuse. Why
geles. He invites me to their monthly lun- don’t you ask our a orneys downtown?
cheons. He meets with our Commissioner in Maybe one of those statues can apply here.”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“You now have the en re federal code yer? And you, Andersen,” said Alvarez with
of regula ons also stuck up your ass? Who’s his arteries s ll pulsa ng. “You’re the sec-
going to prosecute him? Inspectors don’t ond line supervisor! What do you to say for
have the authority to prosecute for any- yourself?”
thing but Title18 and Title 8. FBI has all oth-
er jurisdic on!” “I guess you won’t be invited to that lun-
cheon this month. How would you know
“You’re wrong! We have full authority about prosecu on? You’ve never been an
to prosecute any federal law. That’s why we inves gator?” asked Bill laughing.
have special agents downtown,” said Bill.
“What!” yelled Alvarez. “This isn’t about
“I can’t ask inves ga ons to dedicate me. Because of you three, Abassi was raped
three agents for three to six months. Fuck in jail last night! His lawyer is considering
no! Get on with reality! These people been suing us!”
doing this for centuries, it’s their problem. ”
“Was it as good for him as it was for them?”
“I can’t believe you said that. Are you
out of your mind!” said Tak standing up. “You be er watch your mouth! I’ll be
“She’s fi een! She’s been raped! She’s go- watching you, and I’ll fuck you for any li le
ing to con nue to get raped again unless we miscue you make.”
do something about it. And she’s here! That
makes it our problem!” “Go ahead,” said Bill standing up. “You
fuck with me, and I might just call a press
“Touché,” said Bill standing and applaud- conference and show all the pictures I have
ing. “Wondered when you’d grow some hair with you with those young Korean Air girls
on your balls.” rolling on top of you. And don’t think I ha-
ven’t researched the missing two million
“ ‘Art,’ “ said Tak. “Did you even ask if dollar fine, have you? You know I’ve taken
they take the case?” down higher fucks than you, so you watch
it! Forgot to tell you, Tak’s my photographer.
“I don’t need to ask. I already know the He’s Japanese you know. He also has pic-
answer. I’ll also bet those state charges will tures. You gonna fire his ass now?”
be thrown out! Those airport cops don’t
know what fuck they’re doing.” “Thank you Bill, you’re a fucking genius,”
Tak said a er Alvarez yelled at them
“At least they’re trying to do something!”
said Tak. “Unlike someone else.” to leave. Tak thought Alvarez’s arteries
were about to burst.
Bill shook Tak’s hand. “Alert! Hair grow-
ing fast. You’re going to look like a Sasquatch “You shut up, listen, and look. All these
pre y soon. ” clowns think they can do and say whatev-
er they want, not knowing they’re leaving
“Abassi threatened to rape her last night a trail of their crap. They’ll lie to you, stab
in California. That’s within the California you in the back, and smile at you while
Code 422, Making Terrorist Threats,” said Tak. they fuck you. You pick up that crap and
“That’s enough for the locals to prosecute.” put it in a bucket. When they try to fuck
you, pour that bucket over their heads.
“Now you also have the California Penal That’s how you have to deal with these
Code up your ass. Must be ge ng crowd- fucking high up climbing poli cians; that’s
ed up there. When did you become a law-

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

the only language they understand. I’ll be the vic m so she can obtain public services
in the office.” en tled to any ‘Green Card’ holder. She is
now in care of a Pakistani foster family who
“Since when you get so brave?” asked said she is star ng to laugh again. To show
Deeba to Tak, both walking out to the pri- our gra tude, Port Director Alvarez will be
mary line. “Only yesterday, you referred to our guest of honor at our next month’s lun-
Art as ‘Sir!’ “ cheon. The INS Commissioner from Wash-
ington and the Los Angeles District Director
Bill told Tak that he would be si ng in will also a end the luncheon to present
booth ten on primary. Only a er Alvarez Port Director Alvarez awards.
le , Bill had him become a Rover or go to
Immigra on Secondary to handle compli- “You can’t make this up,” said Deeba.
cated cases. “Why don’t to take that small camera you
bought the other day and take pictures of
“I love my booth,” said Tak si ng in Alvarez ge ng his awards?”
booth ten at the far south side of the in-
spec on hall. “No one calls me or asks ques- The next morning, at booth ten, Tak
wrote LAX Child Exploita on Task Force on
ons, and I don’t have to walk up and down several pieces of paper with a pink marker
this place. My feet no longer swell up,” he and hung them along top of the booth like a
told other inspectors. horizontal banner.

A week later, Deeba woke up Tak and A er the Korean Air passengers le the
showed him an ar cle from The Pakistan inspec on area, Alvarez passed by booth
Link, a Pakistani American newspaper, that 10. “What the fuck is this? Take it down!”
she bought that morning at a Pakistani mar-
ket while shopping for breakfast. The ar cle “ ‘Art,’ check this out,” said Tak, holding
read: a camera. “Has a wicked built in zoom lens.
Took some great photos today. Perhaps I
The American Pakistan Founda on (APF) can go to the luncheon and take photos of
commends INS LAX Port Director Arthur Al- you with the Commissioner and District Di-
varez for being instrumental in the arrest rector. I can brief them about the your Child
of Bilai Abassi, a naturalized United States Exploita on Task Force. ”
ci zen, who tried to bring in his fi een year
old wife, Parisa, who had been betrothed Alvarez’s caro d arteries began to pul-
to him when she was two years old, into sate. He le , mumbling to himself.
the United States. Abassi had apparently
sexually assaulted her. While betrothing is Tak no longer cared about old guys mar-
s ll prac ced in Pakistan, the APF certainly rying girls young enough to be their grand
does not condone sexual a acks, especially daughters, the soldiers bringing in hook-
on minors. This arrest was made due to the ers, nor the ones who eventually go on to
newly formed Child Exploita on Task Force become public charges. He contemplated
that Port Director Alvarez had created. For staying at booth ten and not working any-
the last several months, Port Director Alva- where else but decided against it for he
rez procured intensive training for a select could conduct cases in the future that really
number of highly mo vated inspectors to ma er, knowing now that own side will be
ba le this prac ce. Port Director Alvarez shoo ng at him.
also had his inspectors admit, not defer,

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Revista Literária Adelaide

About the Author:

Bruce Kamei is a re red US federal immigra on
special agent. Prior to becoming a “Fed,” he
received an MFA from Wichita State University
(long me ago). In his 25 years as a Migra, he
experienced and saw situa ons that most
could not even imagine, and how it affects
both the immigrants and agents.

21


REPLAY VALUE

by Sean Gallagher

“All the talk about Zoltan, it’s not really ship, where yet another unfortunate soul
worth it,” Max said to Grant, trying to douse wound up corroded.
out the conversa on he viewed as point-
less. “What else is playing?” “…I mean, that had no good fight scenes—
just no replay value at all—like, NONE! I’m
Levi, Grant’s roommate, sat next to him, sorry, guys!” Grant said. Levi smiled, thinking
his head slightly bowed from embarrass- maybe there was some hope for Grant in his
ment. He wasn’t keen on le ng Grant’s social circle a er all.
intricate observa ons dominate the eve-
ning because he knew all too well Grant’s “I should have known, though. Like, last
constant discourses on all things geeky, week I was looking through all my old Blu-
and Melody, Phoebe, and Tara were unfor- rays, shows and movies and stuff I hadn’t seen
tunately caught in rapt a en on. Max and in years! Some seriously had like an inch of
Sheila, the lone married couple, had moved dust on the case. I sold them to the store on
on, their heads buried in the listed wine se- Wayward and 45th? You know, near the mall?”
lec ons.
Sheila nodded without eye contact, and
It was as if the local pub near the theater the other girls had lost interest and were
they’d just exited had turned down its white eyeing a pair of bartenders that resembled
noise volume to let Grant go on and on. Levi second-string college quarterbacks.
had had enough ou ngs with Grant to re-
main worried. “And I made like a hundred bucks!” Grant
con nued.
A short discussion of the flick was tol-
erable for Levi as long as no one else was Levi shook his head quickly. They were
around. Earlier in the week, the group had losing them. They were losing all of them.
all heard Grant’s trailer-based praises for Most importantly, Levi was losing Melody.
Zoltan: The Soul Corroder, the sci-fi B-movie
they’d just been subjected to. The plot was “So Mel, do you guys come here a lot?
incoherent, the effects terrible, and the act- You know what’s good?” Levi asked.
ing awful. Levi (and Melody, si ng next to
him, he no ced) managed to fall asleep in “Oh sure! I mean, the fish tacos are like
the middle, but laughed themselves awake a vice of mine!” Melody said. Her laugh, re-
during one of the many ill-conceived fight garded as annoying by everyone else, was
scenes on the bridge of Zoltan’s doomsday endearing to Levi’s ears.

“Fish tacos, eh? I’ve never tried them—”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“And the last corroding scene? I mean, I “Oh, so that gives it a pass? You have some
apologize on behalf of everyone who ever serious double standard issues, Grant!”
thought this movie would be ANY good!”
Melody interrupted. “No, I agree, Grant, there’s a me when
there’s a purpose and then a me when
Grant stood up and pocketed out change, they’re just trying to mess with you—you
which in this case amounted to a couple of have to be in on the joke, right hon?” Max
pennies and a nickel. Polite laughter greeted said, nudging Sheila, who couldn’t look less
this. excited, intently focused on her smart phone.

“Yeah, it really was terrible, Grant, how “Max is trying to be cute, he knows I love
about next week we see something that we those movies, but…” she said, turning to
all agree on, maybe Bridal Engagement 2: face her husband, “…he’s not.” Sheila stood
The Other Groom? I heard it’s got something up fast and walked away, the phone resum-
for everyone.” This was said by Phoebe, ing its place in front of her face. Max waited
who was the quietest member of the group. a beat, then walked a er her. Levi thought
Where her affecta on waived, her words maybe this could be a good thing, a er all.
steered the conversa on away from Grant. Only the single folks remained.

“Well…” Grant said, and this me Levi “I think we might head out too, actually,”
kicked him hard in his shin. Grant jumped Tara said. Melody sighed and nodded.
as if he’d been stung by a hornet.
No. This can’t happen, Levi thought. Any
“Okay fine, maybe something different!” ideas he had to salvage the conversa on crum-
Tara said. bled in his brain as the three ladies packed up
their purses and made their way out.
“No, I think that’s fair,” Levi replied.
Beads of sweat were forming on his brow. “I “Oh well, you wanna check out All-
did hear it was actually good…” Around Electronics? I have to swing by
there,” Grant said with a shrug, checking his
Now Max laughed. “Oh come on, Levi, watch. Levi was s ll intent on watching as
put up a li le fight! We can see our own Melody walked away.
thing!” he said. Didn’t Max realize that Levi
didn’t want to argue with the ladies? “It’s be er if you just let them go, call
up Melody later!” Grant suggested. “She’s
“I suppose that I could try something good people, unlike Sheila. Can you believe
different, I mean it looks like it might be a her? No replay value. At. All.”
contender for worst flick in years, but the
bo om has to be set somewhere, right?” Levi shook his head and glanced at the
Grant reasoned. menu again.

“How can you even know that?” Melody “You s ll want the fish tacos?” Grant asked.
asked, not smiling anymore. This was not
good. “Especially a er what you just had us Levi folded up his menu. “No,” he re-
watch?” plied. “I’ve had them before and they suck.”

“Okay, that’s a good point, but that ***
was supposed to be terrible on purpose…”
Grant began. It was too bad that Levi’s conscience was on
overdrive because of the favour he owed

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

Grant from last week. He now felt obligated “They all provide replay value! And since
to tag along inside All-Around Electronics, a pop song is the most potent example, I’ll
which was a more literal store name than play this in the car to prove my point,” Grant
the owner probably intended—nothing said, grabbing the greatest hits CD again.
more or less than a refurbished warehouse,
filled with the latest gadgets and gear. “I’d really rather be talking to Melo-
dy…” Levi began, but Grant was already
Levi checked out the music sec on, on his way to the checkout. A girl stood at
saw nothing he really liked, and made his the ready, smile half-interested. Her name
way back toward Grant, who was pawing badge read Carrie.
through the discounted CD bin.
“Find everything okay?” she asked.
“So you’re looking for some replay val-
ue in games, too?” Levi couldn’t believe he “Yeah, I think so, but your gaming selec-
was indulging the discussion any further, on was a bit on the light side,” Grant re-
but he hoped it would get Grant moving out plied.
of there faster.
With a wave of her hair, Carrie turned to
“Well, isn’t that the point? To squeeze all her computer. “Is there anything in par cu-
the good stuff we can out of anything, expe- lar you were looking for?” she asked.
rience those highs over and over? Why do
you think drugs have always been around?” “Not really, just saying in general.”
Grant replied, shaking his head at the selec-
“Okay, then.” Carrie swiped the CD with
on and making his way over to the aisle of the scanner and smiled. Grant was familiar
cheaply packaged music singles. enough with the store to guess what was
coming next: a comment about his musical
“I mean, look at this thing!” he said, pull- selec on.
ing out a country greatest hits compila on
and handing it to Levi. “Every track on here is “Love this! I think I might pick this up
like three minutes long, but has the poten al today, I’m glad my shi ends soon,” Carrie
to be listened to again and again. That’s the commented.
whole point. Nothing ever changes. So you
can get more out of this than, say, a double al- Grant nodded his head. “Yeah, I’m not
bum or a whole concert. That’s what pop sin- too into them, but wanted to prove a point
gles are, kind of a grasp at perfec on, right?” about replay value to my buddy here…” he
said, but Levi was gone when Grant turned
“Wow, you’re reading way too much into around to face him. “Wow, it emp ed out
this,” Levi replied. “This stuff’s terrible any- fast here!”
ways. I hate country.” He tossed it back in
the bin. “Yeah, it can be that way,” said Carrie. “I
know this sounds kinda weird, but can you do
“But the concept is the same. The hook, me a favour and go check on the other copies
the chorus. Or at a movie, the special ef- of this and like guard one of them for me?”
fects, the ac ng, the dialogue. In a book,
the wordplay, the twists of the plot. They’re Grant looked around again, doing a dou-
all the same thing,” Grant explained. ble take. “Guard them from who?” he asked.

“Meaning what?” Carrie’s smile rolled high on the le side,
twitching her nose, making her facial ex-

24


Revista Literária Adelaide

pression a li le flushed. “You never know,” The apartment was five miles away.
she answered.
Grant was going to kill him, if he ever got
“Sure, just a second, I’m not sure where out of here.
my friend went to…” Grant said, and pulled
his phone out of his pocket to text Levi. Oth- “It’s not typically anything I talk about
er contents spilled out along with it, right with customers, but they don’t understand
on to the checkout counter. Carrie picked how much you can get out of a li le piece of
up the cket stub. entertainment, you know? I mean, why do
you think I work here?” Carrie asked.
“You saw Zoltan? How was it?” she asked.
“Pay is good?” Grant suggested.
Grant turned to answer and saw Levi out
of the corner of his eye, on his own phone Carrie leaned so close to his face that he
in the parking lot, likely talking to Melody. could smell her breath, which was full of cig-
“Ummm…yeah, it was good,” Grant said. are e smoke. “Pay sucks! But it’s enough, I
The truth would open up a conversa on he guess—lets me get discounts on anything I
didn’t want to engage in. want here.”

“Really? I heard it was terrible!” Carrie Grant heard the car squealing out of the
said, sliding the CD back and forth between parking lot, the light drizzle that had started
her hands. amplifying all sound outside. He went to-
ward it, through the remainder of the line
Grant shrugged his shoulders. and straight for the door.

“Come on, you really think it was good? A “Don’t you want the CD?” Carrie asked,
couple of my friends said they couldn’t even cres allen.
make it through the first twenty minutes!
But I tend to like that cheesy kind of stuff.” “Not anymore,” Grant said, and flipped
up his hoodie. It was going to be a long walk
Grant’s eyes wandered back to Levi out- back home in the rain.
side, who was now waving his arms in an
over exaggera on. ***

“Aren’t you guys closing? My friend’s Grant’s sweatshirt was ninety percent
ge ng impa ent,” Grant commented. soaked when he passed by the outlet mall,
the stragglers running to their cars through
“He can wait,” Carrie said, and Grant the downpour. There was the theater again,
could not believe what he was hearing. and there was the café next door where
he’d talked his head off again only an hour
“Wait, what?” before. As he s ll had a mile to go, he decid-
ed to take a break, grab some soup to warm
“Come on, just be honest, you really hat- his bones and take the chilly bite out of his
ed it, didn’t you? It’s not the kind of thing soul.
you could watch even once, right? I mean,
did you fall asleep? Did you seriously even It wasn’t un l he had his soup in hand
finish it?” and was looking for a table that he no ced
Levi and Melody si ng at the exact table
Levi had thrown his hands up in the air they’d been at earlier. When he realized
in what looked like frustra on, then jumped
in his car.

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

that the rest of the group was also si ng at Levi shook his head. “Nah, it’s my room-
the table, he wasn’t sure whether to scream mate, I’ll probably just kick him out or
or laugh. something. I’ll se le it later.”

“That was such a terrible movie,” Melo- Melody scrubbed a paper towel on his
dy was saying. head. “I would if I were you,” she said.

“Okay guys, very funny, I get it. Recre- They gathered their things and le the
a ng the whole conversa on like I’m not group, hurrying to Levi’s car. “I hope there’s
there just to mess with me?” Grant asked, a big puddle next to him, I really do!” Melo-
nudging in and plopping down in a seat. He dy said as they got into his car and took off.
did no ce one difference: Levi had his arm
around Melody now. “…Wow, what a meltdown,” said Shei-
la, back at the table, holding Max close.
“Not really, we just wanted to know “Promise you won’t overreact like that to
what it was like without you here,” Melody anything, especially something like Zoltan.”
said, and Levi hugged her closer.
“All the talk about Zoltan, it’s not really
“I know, it’s boring, isn’t it?” Grant asked, worth it,” Max replied. “What else is playing?”
but no one laughed.
About the Author:
“Sorry about the car, but you can make
it home,” said Levi. “Only make yourself Sean Gallagher received a BA in English from
scarce when you get there, Melody and I Hope College in 2004. He has self-published
want to hang out, so don’t be watching Lord two books on Amazon, has been published
of the Rings for the thousandth me.” under Fur ve Dalliance Literary Review and
lives in Mesa, Arizona.
Now everyone laughed. Grant thought
about his next ac on for a few seconds,
shrugged his shoulders and then, mimicking
the clumsy bartender ten feet away, slow-
ly poured the cheesy potato soup all over
Levi’s lap and his head. The group made
a collec ve ‘OOOOOHHHH’ but nobody,
Grant no ced, tried to stop him. Some of
the excess soup, s ll steaming, spilled on
to Melody’s skirt and, unlike Levi who was
too stunned to move, she screamed bloody
murder.

The café manager (who was much stron-
ger than Grant predicted) tossed him light-
ly out, back in the rain. It was a torren al
downpour now and Grant laughed as he
walked away, unhurried, at the same pace
with which he arrived.

“You want to press charges, man?” the
manager asked.

26


A PEBBLE IN YOUR SHOE

By AN Block

“Look at you,” Jonas says, rubbing his thumb co. Instead, she gives off a clean undiluted
gently into Shelley’s palm, as she eases her- scent of lilac water.
self into the Mercedes, “all lovely in blue.”
“You’ve quit smoking?” He holds up two
“It’s my new color,” she tells him. “I’m off sets of crossed fingers.
the black.”
“I smoke when I’m nervous.” Her eyes
Beneath her coat, Shelley wears the same dart from the restaurant’s shu ered win-
frilly peasant blouse as last me, she has on dows to her clasped hands and back. “Now
glossy fuchsia lips ck that accentuates her that most of the insanity’s hopefully over,
plump heart-shaped lips again, and she’s s ll I’m a li le less hyper. No, that’s an under-
lecturing without pause when they arrive at statement. A lot less.”
the faintly musty dark-paneled restaurant
he’s chosen about why she hates Trump and “One would imagine. Congratula ons, if
Hillary, but Trump a hundred mes more, of they’re appropriate to offer yet.”
course, about Rachel, Andy and Shari Bloom,
and the unconven onal accomplishments “Almost.” As she closes her eyes, the
of her progeny on the con nents where wobbly gray mustached waiter fills their
they’ve ventured lately, along with a flood of water, spilling a few ice cubes on the table.
insigh ul self-observa ons each has made “So much nega vity though, playing the
stretching back to grade school. blame game for such a long me. His legal
people versus mine, and you try to maintain
“They’ve always known who they are,” your sanity, but they keep pushing, Can you
she repeats, and Jonas notes how scrupu- exaggerate a li le, and it’s exhaus ng. Arbi-
lous she is to dispense equal measures of tra on’s a noble idea, it just doesn’t work.”
praise amongst her far flung twenty-some-
thing explorers. This maternal pride in her “I’m sure it takes its toll. And, I can at-
children’s self-knowledge, does it cons tute test, being newly single is an adjustment.
an updated 2016 version of, How about my But, things could be worse, you could also
son, the doctor? he wonders. have a pebble in your shoe.”

“Wait, Shari’s the oldest?” Jonas asks, She stares, unblinking, into his glowing
interrup ng a story he’s already heard and eyes.
then, l ng forward, it comes to him that
Shelley’s skin no longer exudes stale tobac- “It’s an old saying. You care for an adult bev-
erage? I’m sorry, I forget: do you like wine?”

“Water is fine.”

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

“Water’s fine, Charles,” Jonas tells the “The art of the deal,” he says. “It’s been an
hovering waiter, who meets his serene adventure star ng over at my stage of the
gaze of contentment, nods and shrugs, as game. Not sure a quiet introspec ve type
though it makes no difference to him one like myself is cut out for sales.”
way or the other.
He laughs, then marvels at how perfect
“But what do I tell Jeff? He said specifical- the day’s been, but this being spring in New
ly to send Mr. Haim a bo le on the house.” England, rain’s coming tomorrow, of course,
and he can sense her eyes glazing over.
“I’m not a drinker,” Shelley explains.
“Weekends only and one glass is my limit.” He tears into the warm crusty bague e
the waiter has delivered, asks if she runs
“Mine too. One at a me. Followed by an- alone, and where her route takes her, but
other two, or three.” He pauses, his mouth Shelley remains so fogged in thought, she
gaping, an cipa ng a simpa co reac on. misses it and doesn’t respond.

“Feel free,” she says, reaching into her A fidgety lull follows, she wonders why
purse. “Go for it.” he’s grinning, he shakes his wrist, checks
the illuminated face of his watch and then, a
“That’s okay, I can survive abs nence for propos of nothing, blurts, “I hate my name,
a few hours. Probably.” He holds his tremu- Jonas! Yuk!”
lous hand parallel to the table, as she glanc-
es at it, then turns away. “I do love my emp- “You mustn’t say that. No!” She wags
ty calories though, in whatever form. We her finger and sniffs back a sudden tear that
are okay,” he tells the waiter. “A-okay. Thank startles them both. “It’s a dis nc ve name.
Jeff for me, most graciously. So, you always Shows character.”
se le in for dinner at five-thirty?”
“Sorry, I never told anyone that before.
“I’m an early riser. Did I not men on? Su- Even Lena,” he says, rubbing his chin, as
per early. Hit the road running at five-thirty- though this surprises him as much as her
five this morning, did eight miles plus, six reac on does. “Or, should I say, especially
point five yesterday. It’s my therapy. But, I Lena.”
never get really hungry. The way my stom-
ach is lately? Lunch is my big meal.” “Who were you named a er? Do you
know?”
“Oh, you glu on, you allow yourself two
whole leaves of le uce at noon me, eh? “The magnificent Dr. Salk, inventor of
With extra sprouts?” the vaccine. Before I took the stage my
mother and father, who married late in life,
Shelley shudders, scans the otherwise had a boy they lost tragically at age five to
empty dining room, then nods, to signal polio. A real wunderkind.”
she’ll be taking a breather and is now offi-
cially passing the conversa onal baton. “Oh,” she says, wiping at another tear, her
voice faltering, “how terrible. Forgive me,
Jonas sparkles as he recounted high- I don’t know why I’m so emo onal tonight.
lights from a mee ng he’d go en earlier I’m not usually what one would call fragile.”
with a smirky trust fund millennial who’d ig-
nored six previous emails, the nephew of a “Why? One could think of several rea-
friend his boss has known since childhood. sons. If I may be so bold, you strike me as an
excep onally empathe c person.”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“I majored in psychology. All I ever want- “What’s he like?” She thinks for a mo-
ed,” she says, breaking down. Her eyes fill, ment, the waiter approaches, his pen poised
she sniffs twice, turns aside and makes no and Jonas sweeps the air, gesturing for him
effort to dry her cheeks. “All I ever wanted to withdraw. “A devoted father. Passive
was to prac ce therapy. To help people.” though, low energy. Very judgmental, ar-
rogant, spiteful too. And, completely unro-
He reaches across the table, squeezes man c. He comes from money, but dresses
her limp hand, beams, and then lets it go. like a schlump. I’m s ll resen ul, and will be

“Sorry. I’m so embarrassed.” Shelley tells ll everything’s finalized, but a li le guilty
him he was named Jonas for a reason, a er trashing the father of my children like this.”
which their conversa on slogs inexorably up-
hill, as it did on the two previous occasions, “Of course, I understand. And your Dad?”
to the for fied ba lements of her marriage.
“An aggressive egomaniac a orney with
“My mother, of blessed memory, was an acid tongue. He put my poor mother
right all along,” Shelley says. “I picked the through hell. So, I ran in the opposite direc-
exact wrong person.”
on and chose someone safe. Ha-ha.”
“Hmm.” Jonas nods as though she hasn’t
spoken these iden cal words the last me. “I’m sorry, mother, this man does not
A cloud of déjà vu, a wave of nausea, en- sound at all like your type.”
gulfs him, as she con nues.
“My type? Rachel, give it up, cookie, it’s
“That’s what most of us try to do: heal over with daddy. Finit. I told you, Jonas is
wounds inflicted in childhood. Of course, in cute, he’s charming, he has a playful qual-
our early twen es, we’re hardly equipped ity, and a constant cheery smile. Not to
to analyze our a rac ons, we think what- men on piercing blue eyes. If that’s not my
ever our parents say is some irrelevant type, what is.”
myth. We’ve liberated ourselves from the
chains of tradi on, love conquers all and “Really? How slick is it flashing a Rolex?
anyone can change, under our enlightened I just don’t want you to over-react or jump
influence.” into a thing with some bon vivant playboy.”

“Ah, the dreams of youth,” he says, sup- “Who’s jumping? You forget who you’re
pressing an impulse to ask, Where have I talking to? Okay, he started out a li le
heard this recently? “Prac cally every date I goofy, too much small talk, his shoes could
had before mee ng Lena, the first order of use some improvement, and the smile can
business was to compare signs. One young get a li le gra ng. But, all of a sudden, over
woman requested a birth cer ficate so she dinner, listen to this, Jonas announces that
could verify the precise me of day I was he hates his name.”
born. Turned out it was a li le too early. An-
other threw the I Ching and, based on what- “Hmm, that is somewhat interes ng,
ever judgment it dispensed, she bailed on I guess. More depth than I would have
me holding two front row mezzanine ckets thought. But weird too, don’t you think?”
to some play she said she’d been dying to
see. So, what was Alan like? Why was he the “Lost his wife about a year ago, I believe.
wrong person?” I don’t know, a er the first two mes I al-
most didn’t text him back, this being on the
market again is no picnic, but I forced my-
self and something felt a li le less awkward

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

last night. No, a lot less. He takes my mind so the boat keeps lis ng side to side. Shelley
off all the legal wrangling.” is dressed in a halter and a er they exit the
canoe, he lets his palm linger on her broad
Rachel sighs. “And, who introduced you sweaty back.
to Mr. Smiley-Face?”
“You gave me a work out,” he says, pant-
“We got matched. Courtesy of the inter- ing. “Wow.”
net.”
She smiles over her shoulder.
“Ooh, smooth move, missy! So, what
does this character do when he’s not en- “This all seems a li le unreal,” she tells
tertaining you, trying to charm your pants Shari, her entrepreneurial daughter.
off?”
“How so, mama?”
“Stop it! Some form of sales. He’d been
in business for himself, or some family busi- “Well, there’s some definite chemistry.”
ness, I guess, but he ended up having to liq-
uidate the company.” “Yikes!”

“Wait, did you not always-always-always Shelley keeps checking her phone but
teach us ‘salesman’ is synonymous with doesn’t hear from Jonas for almost a week
‘weasel’?” and when she finally loses her internal de-
bate, breaks down, and texts him, he replies
“Rachel, please! He’s not your typical to her terse message within minutes that
salesman, it’s called Investment Opportuni- he’s been dispatched to some hick town in
ty Associate, IOA.” Cow Hampshire for brainwashing, a Next
Genera on Selling workshop that entails
“Indeed. Where’d Mr. Blue Eyes take you?” reading and regurgita ng a bunch of dopey
self-help manuals, doing trust exercises and
“Some dark old school restaurant. To salesmanship role plays. He says he needs
show off, I think, that the manager knows to speak to her, which they set up for his
his name. It was sweet.” drive home that Sunday night.

Rachel laughs. “That’s what their job “I can’t stop thinking about you,” he
is, Mom, the manager knows hundreds of says, shortly a er hello.
names. My advice: keep your guard up. Cul-
“Yeah? Me too,” she says. “I’m feeling
vate an air of mystery, and do not talk with the same way.”
your hands.”
Their next date, the following Thursday
“Oh, that’s me, an inscrutable femme a er work, is dinner at the Gardner Museum.
fatale. How about if I smile sweetly and be-
witch him with my demure overbite? Well, “One of my all- me favorite places,” Shel-
we’ll see if he even calls again. A er a re- ley tells him, once they’re seated. “How’d
jected kiss, men generally don’t.” you know?”

For their next date Jonas suggests a Sat- “But Madame, it’s all in your dossier.”
urday ou ng, canoeing down the slow-flow-
ing Concord River, followed by a picnic “You’re staring at me.” She touches her
lunch. He sits in the back to steer, but strug- pearl earring. “Is everything okay?”
gles to keep up with her fran c rowing pace,
“Sorry. It’s just that you’re so beau ful.”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“Jonas.” She reaches her hand across the “Good ques on. Hopefully, he’s not go-
table and he takes it in both of his. She looks ing to give me the boot.”
into his eyes. “This is too soon for me.”
Shelley’s next day calendar is so full of
He leans forward and kisses her finger- early morning appointments, it isn’t un l
ps. lunch that she sees Jonas’ three messages.

“Some mes,” he says, “the first house “Well?”
you look at is the one you should buy.”
“So, I didn’t get pink-slipped, or even
“Agreed. But some mes,” she says, “it yelled at. The bad news: yours truly is now
only appears to be.” obliged to slave away several more hours
per week in his capacity as the new Reliable
More dates follow, more dinners, more Division Area Sales Supervisor!”
kisses, and more discussions exploring how
drawn to each other they have begun to “Oh, swee e, congratula ons!”
feel. The correct approach, Shelley declares,
is to take things one step at a me. “Finally I see a future with this organiza-
on, but it’s making me supers ous. Two
“Oh, I beg to disagree,” Jonas responds. earth-sha ering developments, bang-bang,
“I think there are steps we can skip.” one a er another? Life isn’t like that, is it?”

“You’re so not supposed to ask your “I’m the last one to say what life is like,
mother that,” Shelley tells Rachel. “I’m but some things I do know are meant to be.
maintaining a strict air of mystery, young You’ve heard the word bashert?”
lady. But the answer is: no!”
“I have. And, I have a theory, that we
Shortly therea er, on a Saturday trip to weren’t intended to meet un l we did. That
Portland that evolves into an overnight, the our ming was impeccable.”
hard “no” melts into an empha c ecsta c
“yes.” And then what follows in rapid suc- Jonas texts Shelley a dozen mes on an
cession is Yes, Yes, Yes-Yes-Yes! average day. His messages are exuberant,
and although she can’t always respond, she
“Oh, we are so a couple, swee e,” Shelley is overjoyed at how eager he seems to catch
tells Shari. “I can’t wait for you all to fly back her up on all the latest news at his compa-
to the nest in December and meet him.” ny. It seals their connec on. Whenever she
does find me to answer, it’s to offer en-
A few months a er they’ve begun couragement.
spending weekends at Shelley’s house in
Winchester, as well as one or two week “Don’t hold back,” she tells him, “I want
nights, Jonas calls to cancel a dinner date. to know everything. About all the salespeo-
ple you’re managing.”
“Belson, the head honcho, the Execu ve
Son-In-Law, insists I meet him downtown. I As weeks pass, they see each other less
protested that I had a standing engagement frequently. His communica ons grow less
with the love of my life, but the boor over- detailed, their tone begins to darken, and
ruled me.” Jonas some mes goes several hours with-
out reaching out at all. Shelley can’t deny
“That is annoying. What’s so urgent?” how the change bothers her.

31


Adelaide Literary Magazine

“Why me?” she asks him at what seems sprawls across her bed, turning the pages of
like random one night over dinner, savoring an instruc onal manual, “crazed sex maniac
a glass of Garnacha. once the sun descends!”

“Are you serious? You’re incredibly fasci- “You know, Shari and I were comparing
na ng, everything about you. Not to men- notes,” Rachel tells her, “and we find it in-
credibly disturbing that you and Mr. Won-
on gorgeous. You are a dream.” derful always get together at our house and
you’ve never seen where he lives. What is
“To you, apparently, for some miracu- that?”
lous reason. To everyone else though, I’m
a soon-to-be divorced middle aged mother “Are you two global ci zens conspiring
of three who prac ces old fashioned talking against your poor defenseless first world
therapy on mildly neuro c pa ents, and mother? It’s a ny bachelor apartment out
runs compulsively to stave off ge ng even in the s cks somewhere in Weymouth, a
dumpier.” wall-to-wall mess, he says. He’s phobic that
if I so much as set foot inside, the grunge
“Read my lips: you’re a wondrous vision and clu er would creep me out so much I
of absolute perfec on.” would totally dump him.”

As he con nues, his open mouthed smile “What? I’m sorry, but that sounds really
broadening with each compliment, from bogus.”
the cute bump on her nose, to her irresist-
ible shoulders, to her warmth and generos- “It does, a li le. So, what should I do?”
ity, Shelley sinks from pride, to discomfort,
to a sense of foreboding. Does my darling “Barge in on him.”
Jonas live in a fantasy world? she wonders.
What do I really know about his past? Is this “Don’t you think it’s me,” Shelley asks
just a glib sales type talking? Or, is the prob- Jonas, “to meet my children?”
lem all mine?
“Well, yes and no,” he says. “It’s not like I
“It’s good, no great. He makes me feel could just fly off to Argen na with you. Much
like a princess in some fairy tale,” she tells less Nepal. Mainly though, I’m afraid they
Shari. “We talk about everything, and he’s won’t like me and it’ll screw everything up.”
passionate, yet gentle. You know how
stressed your mother gets though. If some- “They’re all home for the holidays, so
thing could possibly go wrong, that’s all I that’s just around the corner. And what possi-
think about.” ble reason would they have not to like you?”

“Mom,” Shari says, “it’s not that I’m not “Isn’t that obvious?” he asks. “My name:
happy for you, I am, but please, I do not Jonas.”
need to hear yet again how inconceivable
it seems at your age that you’ve re-discov- The following Tuesday she doesn’t re-
ered your libido. Are you at all aware the ceive one text.
hard me Dad is having with this? How de-
pressed he is?” “Maybe that’s healthy,” he says, when
she asks what’s wrong.
“Mild mannered sales supervisor by
day,” Shelley says, pouncing on Jonas as he “You seem distracted lately. You’re s ll
smi en, right? You’re not star ng to pull
away from me, are you?”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“Pressure at work,” he says, “it’s relent- confessing that he hated his name, he deliv-
less. Look, I can’t just depend on you for ered the news with upturned cheeks and an
happiness, I need to work on being happy even broader grin than usual.
inside myself. Managing slick salespeople
isn’t easy, but with this promo on, it’s all on Her husband Alan’s legal team keeps rais-
me. This is my shot to be successful.” ing issues that delay finalizing their divorce
se lement, out of vindic veness, she’s sure.
She finds his explana on, intended to One night, a er a par cularly conten ous
reassure her, chilling. mee ng, Shelley wakes screaming, having
dreamt that she’d torn the skin from Jonas’
“Would you like to explore ge ng some face to reveal a shapeless horrifying mass
help?” of worms, pus, blood, bones, and crawling
insects, and when he holds her, it’s all she
“That’s your scene, not mine. I think I could do to keep her eyes shut. From then
just need some me.” on though, she can’t suppress the fantasy
that she’ll do something, she has no idea
“Excuse me? Time?” what, to banish the smile from his face, to
see what’s underneath.
“Sorry. Bad choice of words.”
“You know, we’ve talked about Alan, ad
For the most part their conversa on re- infinitum,” she says, in her kitchen, following
mains light and playful as the leaves turn a brisk Sunday a ernoon walk, “but never re-
color and fall, but although Shelley nev- ally about Lena. The details are very shadowy
er prods him, Jonas’ reluctance to discuss to me. How long has she been deceased?”
his work issues con nues to worry her. It’s
as though a barrier has arisen separa ng “Whoa!” Jonas says, winking. “Hold on,
them, and she can’t help but fixate on the swee e, who ever said she’s deceased?”
stark contrast between the inner turmoil he
feels, and the smile always ligh ng his face. “What?” Shelley’s eyes flash. “You’re
She pictures it dozens of mes daily, and frightening me.”
each me a psychiatric pa ent that she’d
once treated comes to mind, a young man “I told you I’d lost my wife, a er a long
diagnosed with “Smile Mask Syndrome.” hospitaliza on, not that she’s dead.”
She worries that beneath Jonas’ cheery ex-
terior, serious trouble lurks. “Are you fucking kidding me? You’re not
a widower?”
The clinical research on Compulsive Smile
Disorder she uncovers indicates an unbal- “No need for profanity, my dear. You ap-
anced individual with dark secrets to hide, parently misunderstood.”
one who could snap at any me. In extreme
cases it suggests a personality organized en- “But, that’s what you said! You did!”

rely around concealment and decep on. “Oh, our first spat. I remember dis nctly,
you asked if I’d ever married and I told you,
Who doesn’t have a hidden side? she yes, I had, but that I’d lost my wife recently.
reasons. Couldn’t his smile just signify a To insanity.”
sunny personality? Can’t anything be just
how it appears? Or, might Jonas simply be a “No,” Shelley screams, “you did not say
sweet, innocent soul? She recalls that even insanity, no way, you said she was dead!
when he men oned his brother dying, even And what the hell are you smiling for?”

33


Adelaide Literary Magazine

“Forgive me. Is it my fault though, you “What’s funny? Oh, God! Is your name
kept tuning in and out on our first few dates, even Jonas? Is anything real about you?”
not listening? How could I be sure what you
heard? Look, things had been bad with Lena “How much I love you.”
for years, she’d been sleeping around, and
then she lost her mind, slit her wrists, and “I need to process this,” she says. “There
she required hospitaliza on. So, absolutely, is one non-nego able, though: you must
I lost my wife, whatever remained of her. get a divorce. Wait a minute, are you even
That’s all I said: I’ve recently lost my wife. separated?”
But, you obviously spaced out.”
“Divorce is out of the ques on. I want to
“No, you misled me to believe she was do the right thing, I just cannot afford it.”
dead.”
“I’ll loan you the money.”
“Before she a empted suicide the first
me, we’d been talking divorce for years. “I couldn’t accept. Not with you s ll pay-
And then I faced the prospect of caring for ing your lawyers through the nose.”
a drug dependent basket case I didn’t love
and who didn’t love me. Which, out of obli- “Okay,” Shelley says, “you need to leave
ga on to her father, I resigned myself to for- right now and think about how everything
ever, but it was hell, un l you came along I’ve just learned affects me, then come up
and I fell head over heels at first sight.” with a plan on how you’re going to exit your
so called dead marriage officially.”
“I can not believe this. You’re not di-
vorced?” Jonas calls the next night and suggests
he visit, but Shelley insists that they talk on
“I can’t afford to be. For years she was the phone instead.
high all the me, and then she cracked up and
tried taking her life not once, not twice, but “My best friend,” he says. “The love of
three mes. They kept her ins tu onalized my life, and you won’t see me? Please try
for months. Prior to which, she wrecked my and understand my perspec ve.”
business, well it was my father-in-law’s orig-
inally, but we had to dissolve it, and dispose She deadens her voice. “Just tell me,
of the house and most of our possessions to have you even told her about us?”
pay for her extravagances, her addic ons,
and later her medical bills. I have no money, “And the point would be? To send her
I’m paycheck to paycheck, and as you’re well over the edge so she succeeds in killing her-
aware, divorce lawyers cost a fortune so I’m self, like her mother did, and then I’d have
on like a ramen only diet at home.” that on my head? We don’t talk. At all.”

“Ramen? Driving that Mercedes?” “Is she violent?”

“Company car.” “God, no. Just against herself. She’s a
word-slurring, medicated mess.”
“The gold Rolex?”
“Okay, Jonas,” she says, “I’m thoroughly
“Look closer, it’s called a replica. All our drained from this, I need to sort everything
fancy dinners: advances on my commis- out. Don’t call me anymore, I’ll call you.”
sions, for which I remain seriously in the
hole. I’m not proud of it.” She waits to inform her children un l the
following week when they all gather. Andy
shrugs, he’s been incommunicado mostly any-

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Revista Literária Adelaide

way, and doesn’t seem to care, Who’s Jonas “Do you?” the therapist asks. “Really?”
again? he asks, but her girls unleash torrents
of indignant fury. She reveals only half the sto- And then, on a brilliant spring day much
ry, but both explode, urging her to ditch him. like the one where he’d confessed to ha ng
his name a year before, Jonas appears out-
She spends most of ten days with them, side Shelley’s office bearing a bouquet of
distracted, ignoring his calls, and at night, pink and white roses, as she is leaving the
trapped between sleep and a fran c wake- building.
fulness, she keeps re-visi ng whatever signs
she might’ve missed. Did he sweet talk me “These are for you,” he says, as she sets
into seeing what I wanted to see? Is this a her teeth, tears rising.
once in a life me chance I’ll regret always
if I just walk away? Or, is it something I did? “Excuse me,” she says, pushing the flow-
ers away, “I have somewhere I need to be.”
He emails two weeks a er New Year’s to
say how all he wants is to not hurt anyone, “Five minutes?”
especially her.
He leads her in silence to a coffee house,
She doesn’t respond. Weeks pass, during both of their necks bent like mourners, and
which she resumes seeing her therapist. Jo- they sit at a high top table upon which Jo-
nas calls three more mes. nas places the roses. The only other cus-
tomer is a disheveled, overweight man with
“You know, Mom,” Rachel tells her, “I
feel for you, I really do, but let’s move on. nted glasses and a walrus mustache who
You can do be er than this con ar st.” seems somehow familiar to Shelley. He sits
hunched over a laptop, looks up and takes
“Con ar st? There are so many things in her crossed arms, as well as the bouquet
we don’t know, things we never can. About forming a border between her and Jonas.
ourselves and others. No one’s perfect.” He raises his mobile phone.

“True, Mom, but he’s obviously missing “Did that fat person there just snap a pic-
something major in his life, like you are. That ture of us?” Shelley asks. “Do you know him?”
doesn’t make him the right person. He’s a
liar. This vast emp ness you say you’re feel- “Excuse me?” Jonas says. He isn’t smiling.
ing will be filled. Just like we can always “Look, I may not be psychologically savvy
make things worse, it’s also our choice to like you, but I’ve done a lot of soul-searching
make them be er.” lately and have come to a realiza on. All of
us go through life thinking we know who we
Shelley isn’t sure. All she knows is that are, thinking we’re in the driver’s seat steer-
the longer her divorce proceedings drag on, ing, it’s human nature, but we’re actually just
with each new procedural snag, the more ac ng how we think we’re supposed to. Me,
she keeps re-living the good mes with Jo- you, everyone. It’s a sript we’re handed.”
nas, before his promo on.
Shelley shades her forehead and covers
He calls again, his voice message calm, pa- her eyes. She refuses to cry.
ent and unwavering, but she doesn’t respond.
“Since you’ve shut me out I’ve tried to
“I wish he would leave me alone al- strip away whatever roles I’m inadvertently
ready,” she tells her therapist. playing and all that’s le is, I don’t know, a
mystery. A terrifying blankness.”

35


Adelaide Literary Magazine

She looks from the bouquet, whose About the Author:
fragrant scent she longs to breathe, up to
Jonas’ lined narrowed eyes. “Our ac ons AN Block teaches at Boston University, is
reveal who we are, and what we’re made Contribu ng Editor at the Improper Bosto-
of,” she says, turning to face the man she’s nian and a Master of Wine. Recent stories
just caught scowling at her, as he appears to have appeared in Buffalo Almanack (re-
be doing each me she scans the room. She cipient of its Inkslinger Award for Crea ve
feels dizzy. Is this an old friend of Alan’s? A Excellence), Umbrella Factory Magazine (a
legal inves gator? Pushcart Prize nominee), Lowesto Chron-
icle (a Pushcart Prize nominee), Sols ce,
Jonas shi s in his seat. “My one certain- The Maine Review, The Junto, Constella-
ty,” he says, barely above a whisper, “is that
we belong together. Don’t judge me harshly. ons, Contrary, Per Contra, Litbreak, The
All I know is my love for you is indestruc ble Broadkill Review, Projected Le ers, Falling
in a way I never would have thought possi- Star, KYSO Flash, Brilliant Flash Fic on, Tor-
ble in my first fi y-four years on earth.” rid Literature, The Hungry Chimera, Menda
City Review, Amarillo Bay, Literally Stories,
Shelley can’t catch her breath. Rising, Drunk Monkeys, New Pop Lit, The Citron,
she points at him. “I know what you’re do- DenimSkin, Burningwood Literary Journal,
ing, I know what you’re doing, Jonas!” She Crack The Spine, The Bicycle Review, Lakev-
picks up the flowers, and tries to steady iew Interna onal Journal of Literature and
herself. The overweight man, could that be Arts, Flash Fron er, Blue Bonnet Review,
Alan, in disguise? He’s smirking, self-sa s- Nite Writers Interna onal Literary Journal,
fied. On her way out she turns to him, puts Down In The Dirt, The Binnacle and several
the bouquet on his table, and says, “Here, others.
these are for you.”

36


THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER

by Alethea Tyler

One, two, three, four taps against the side “Nothing.”
of her thigh. To ground her. To calm her.
Four was the perfect number. Divisible by She knew he knew she was lying. He was
two. The age of untouched innocence. Not very good at that. Sensing her compulsions
too large, but not insignificantly small. A with a telepathic intui on. He didn’t say
number that made sense in her mind. She anything which simply meant he was leav-
liked the number four. In fact, she liked all ing her to be, but not that he didn’t know
even numbers because they possessed the exactly what she was doing. 14 years they
ability to fold perfectly in half. In 8th grade, had known one another. Married for eight.
she had won the spelling bee because the He knew because Jose prac cally knew ev-
word had been eight le ers: rutabaga, a erything. Prac cally. Seconds cked by. His
root vegetable. It was the uneven words breathing went from deliberate to heavy.
she had struggled to remember.
Centuries later, Jose’s steady snoring re-
Her husband had a six-le er name: Jo- verberated in the air. Cau ously, she draped
seph. But she called him Jos, with an e: a leg over the side of her bed, scooching
Jose. She never spelled it out for him in fear out from underneath his heavy arms. She
that he would recognize the oddity that pulled the covers over his face and thanked
controlled her life. As if he didn’t already. God she had married a heavy sleeper. She
fumbled with the light switch, heavy fin-
They were lying in bed, his curly mop gered, contempla ng if she shouldn’t. But
pressed in between her breasts. He was not the thought of crawling back to the warmth
snoring which meant he was not asleep, of her res ng husband without doing it par-
but they rested in perfect silence. A mutu- alyzed her.
al understanding for the need of s llness
hummed in the air. She was wai ng. She al- The light switch went on.
ways waited for him to fall asleep. Their du-
vet clung uncomfortably to her skin, to the Once. She forced her eyes to travel the
insides of her sweaty palms. Tenta vely, she room, grazing over their bureau tucked
reached out a cream-polished pointer fin- away in the right-hand corner. Just beside
ger to run along the threads of their sheets. the door.
One tap, two taps, three taps, four taps.
Twice. Darkness, molasses thick envel-
“Whatcha doing?” Jose’s head li ed oped her.
from her chest. Her ribcage locked as she
fumbled for an explana on. Three mes. Now she saw the armchair,
an impressive Victorian style that they had

37


Adelaide Literary Magazine

found at a thri shop for 48 dollars. A fair The nights were the hardest for her.
price to pay. When Joseph lie draped across her body
but inaccessible, his mouth unable to ex-
Four mes. tricate confessions from hers. When her
mind wandered to the darkest corners of
Dopamine trickled through the synapses the room where shadows loomed like sil-
of her mind. Sa sfied. houe es. Rather, a silhoue e. His silhoue e
which snaked itself underneath the covers.
She lied back down in their bed, pull- His untrimmed fingernails brushing against
ing Jose’s arms across her once more, rest- the inside of her body, raw. From the ages
ing her head against his chest to hear the of five to eleven. Some mes it was not just
even bea ng of his heart. She closed her fingernails, it was a hot tongue that reeked
eyes, but couldn’t sleep, her mind furiously of bourbon or a protruding appendage that
si ing through the syllabus of her new kin- she could not understand. She’d count the
dergarten class. There were 26 kids. They seconds every me. A distrac on. It never
had been at 25 which her boss claimed was lasted long, but was always uneven. She’d
maximum capacity, but she had begged close her eyes and think about what it had
with swollen eyes and he had given in. been like to be four. Some mes he’d stop
and push the sweaty, stringy strands from
“This kid needs to go to a good school. the corners of her eyes, stare into her pupils.
His mom is a single mom struggling to make The worst part. And then he’d start crying.
ends meet! She wants something be er
for him. We have room. We can take him. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m so sor-
Please.” ry. There’s something wrong with me.” His
calloused hands would swallow his face, his
He had even go en a scholarship. On shame and she’d be drowning in the current
his applica on the name read Joe. Close to that dragged her from viola on to a desire
Joseph, but not close enough. She had ac- to comfort. The la er always won. She’d
cepted the odd in favor of the bigger even grabbed his salt-soaked palms and hold
weighing a three-le er name against a them against her cheeks.
25-person class.
“It’s okay, dad. I won’t tell.” It was a line
There were four teachers. Paid decently. he had force fed her for those six years be-
They were all in their 30s, just like her. fore he died. She knew when she repeated
it, he’d stop crying, chest ballooning full,
Well, she was 32 to be precise. The per- knocking her off of him by leaving. Each
fect age. Especially to have kids. She had
been wai ng for 32 since she was a li le girl me she was emp er. She didn’t know if
playing house, swaddling plas c baby dolls. her mother knew. And didn’t want to know.
She had waited because her mother had It would have been too painful to ask. Be-
had her when she was 21 and look how that sides, they didn’t talk about much. Not
had turned out. It was something she had even about her father’s death; a drunken
always known about herself: she wanted car accident.
to be a mother, to have the power to nur-
ture and protect, to stand by her children She had been in the backyard, playing
as they ba led through life, flowering into with their dog; a shelter dog she had named
independent, func oning adults. She was Ruffles because that had been her favorite
32 and wai ng.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

snack. Her mother had pulled the porch about it. One night when she had had too
door open and told her what had happened much white wine to drink she had opened
robo cally. And she hadn’t asked ques ons up like a broken lock, vomi ng in mate con-
because of the guilt that pooled like ba ery fessions all over his floor. She was 20 and he
acid in her stomach… all of those mes she had been the first person she had told. He
had palmed her eyelids shut, wishing such had taken the back of her swea ng neck and
an atrocity would occur. Her mother had pulled it so that his forehead rested upon
closed the door and they had each retreat- hers. He hadn’t tried to kiss her. All the pieces
ed to their perspec ve rooms to emote. And did not fall back into place. She knew there
returned to each other numb and silent. She was pieces that had been fingered away, edg-
was twelve, but realized that with his death, es of her that had been pocketed and buried
the secret had been sealed. Her mother deep in the ground along with her father. But
had taught her it was improper to scorn the right then, she let her half-finished self fall
dead. And so, from a young age she learned asleep in his lap. She didn’t even touch the
that silence was the best and only solu on light switch. That was the night he had first
with topics that were unbearably emo onal. told her he loved her.

In bed, she lied. Trembling despite her He was not a perfect man. There were
husband’s sweaty body. She wanted to mes he grew frustrated with her sensi-
wake him. Turn the lights on. Let him hold vi es. Times he wanted to touch her but
her ghtly so she would be reminded the she could not stand the idea of flesh upon
weight of the reality she now occupied. But flesh. Times where she had lost her mind.
then she would have to turn the light off Stopped ea ng, stopped sleeping, stopped
and on and off and on again. talking. He had gone crazy trying to make
her laugh and when that failed, he had
When her mind had grown red of shaken her, begging for his love to return
coun ng numbers, she fell asleep. She’d to the ghostly body he held. Which she
go en to 1,232. had detested. But he apologized and she
verbally forgave him breaking the spell. He
In the morning, Jose woke her. Overflow- was not perfect. But he was pa ent and un-
ing with vitality as he set the coffee mug on derstanding. He didn’t lust a er adventure
their bedside table, the steam prac cally or flirt with other women. And that night
glowing in the suburban sun beams that fell when he hadn’t kissed her, she knew he was
through their window. They had picked a a man she could trust.
nice neighborhood hoping they would have
children to fill the second and third bedroom It was the second day of school. Thursday.
with. It was the tenth house they had looked Joe sat along the edges of the classroom,
at. No sexual offenders nearby. A good public quiet. The other kids were out at recess.
elementary, middle, and high school within
close proximity. A park just around the corner. “Hey guy...you okay?”

“You look red.” He looked at her with eyes distant. And
she fought the swimming memories of her
“Didn’t sleep well.” five-year-old self that threatened to break
the surface.
He said nothing. He knew. She knew he
knew. But he knew she wouldn’t want to talk “Yeah.”

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

He didn’t say anything else. She offered One, two, three, four. Deep breath. In for
four crayons and a blank sheet of paper four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale
which he accepted with jelly coated fingers. for four seconds. One, two, three four. An-
Together, they colored in silence. She didn’t other deep breath. In for four seconds, hold
ask him a lot of ques ons. When she was for four seconds, exhale for four seconds.
five, she hadn’t liked to talk. She knew the Her heart slowed, but she felt flushed from
other teachers were worried. They had con- her scalp to her toes. She ran her hands
ferences before school started and he had under water un l they were rigid and pink
been a common topic. with cold. Then three more mes. But not
for the germs.
“How do we help him? Losing a father at
that age…” Steadied, she re-entered the classroom.
All the kids were back from recess, their
“He needs extra support.” high-pitched sounds and syllables crea ng
symphonies. She felt weak at the back of
“He may have a hard me adjus ng.” her knees.

It had been too much for her to think The day came to an end too quickly. 3:05
about. She had spent those moments star- was the worst me. Two odd numbers, zero
ing at the Keurig coffee maker, the yellow- didn’t count, and the parents would flock to
ing linoleum les, the flickering fluorescent the classroom. Babies on hips, cellphones
lights. They had asked her to weigh in. But plastered against ears, adoring children
she could not bring herself to speak, just flinging themselves against mothers and fa-
shrugging her shoulders. An act of person- thers, reaching out for affec on with chub-
al mercy that had come across as indiffer- by fists, boas ng about their latest drawing
ence. Later, she had caught them whisper- or factoid. And protec ve hands cocoon-
ing. They thought she didn’t care. They had ing li le fingers would take them home.
found her silence selfish and weird. They Where fortunate parents would get to look
didn’t understand. upon gloriously gleeful faces and wipe nos-
es and give baths and read fairy tales and
She paused to grab a purple crayon to fill children’s books. Fairy tales she had favor-
in the giraffe’s tongue and shot a cau ous ited and memorized for her future children.
glance at Joe. His skin was perfect, adorned Children’s books her and Jose had bought
by a sma ering of freckles underneath his the first me she had go en pregnant that
eyes and on top of his pointy, poreless nose. now lay hidden in their empty room. The
His dark hair fell across his forehead, obscur- room that was wai ng. She was wai ng too.
ing his brown irises which focused intently on Her belly wishing to swell. She was late. A
the coloring page spread out on the plas c, month or so. Maybe the third me would
red table. He sensed her looking at him and be different. Maybe this me it would work.
met her eyes with his, giving a half-smile. She was too afraid to hope.

“I like zoo animals. Last summer my One tap, two taps, three taps, four taps.
mom took me and my brother. He’s seven.” Jose arrived promptly at four. As always.
She didn’t like to drive. Other cars swerved
“I like zoos too.” But before she could unpredictably. She couldn’t tap while driv-
say more, she felt a twinge in her chest, ing. It was too much. And Jose was a good
her throbbing pelvis, excused herself to the
bathroom and began to tap.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

driver. Their friends in college mocked him. And he hadn’t stopped. She recognized
Grandma. They’d chuckle and he’d reach there were bad associa ons with even
over and hold her thigh with long fingers. numbers and le ers too.
He knew she didn’t like to go too fast.
At school, she’d sit in her desk, watch-
When they got home, Jose cooked dinner: ing ma ed heads of hair run around the
spaghe and meatballs. A Thursday classic. room, tonguing the number 31. 31 percent
A erwards, they rested on the couch, listen- of pregnancies ended in miscarriage a er
ing to Frank Sinatra. He planted kisses down pregnancy was confirmed according to one
the long of her neck, her larynx saturated of the websites she visited o en. Last week,
with the sounds of pleasure. They made love. she had taken a pregnancy test. Jose had
With him, she didn’t count the seconds. gone out with his friends. She had clutched
the small, brown bag to her chest and slop-
With every passing day, her secret ex- pily torn through the flimsy box. Two per-
panded. She’d race to the bathroom in the fect pink lines had appeared. She was preg-
hopes that it was morning sickness and not nant. But how long would it last?
her relentless anxiety that rose like bile
from the back of her throat. She hadn’t told him. Scared to tell him,
even more terrified of vocalizing hope. The
Jose started to no ce. She ate very li le first me, she had thrown herself into Jose’s
and talked even less. He was hesitant to ask arms, screaming.
ques ons. The first two mes had nearly
caused an implosion. And he had stuck by “Oh my god. Oh my god! Jose! Jose!
her side. Bringing water to her parched lips, Look!” It had been the happiest moment of
respec ng her need for silence. He had act- their life.
ed stoic, but she knew it had killed him just
as much. One night, when she had gone to She didn’t want to think about that now.
fetch an orange from the fridge at an unrea-
sonable hour, she had found the bed empty. She was 32 and wai ng. And her hus-
He had been crying so ly and quietly in the band was wai ng which hurt her just as
room that had painted yellow in naïve excite- much. They’d talked about having kids since
ment. She had let him grieve alone, knowing they were 18. Not with each other. Not at
her presence would cause a shi in a en on. first. Not un l they had fallen in love had
She knew he deserved to grieve too. the fantasy extended to having kids with
one another. Kids loved Jose. And he loved
When it had been too long to go unasked them back. Recently, she’d seen him with
he men oned her period. But she couldn’t his friend’s baby cradled in his muscular
bring herself to answer him. Instead, she arms. The baby had been crying and then it
had gone to bed. That night she tapped had stopped. And she watched as it looked
against her heart. One tap, two taps, three up at his clean-shaven face, his forest green
taps, four mes. Intertwining her rigid fin- eyes, his long, perfect nose, and smiled. Its
gers, she prayed to a god she did not believe li le feet kicking, li le toes wiggling from
in. Six le ers over and over, quietly, so Jose underneath light blue socks. The baby had
would not know. Please. A word that rarely smiled and Jose had smiled. And sudden-
made it past her teeth. One me, when she ly all the oxygen le her brain. She placed
was seven, she had said the same. Please. an arm against the counter to hold herself
steady. All their friends had kids.

41


Adelaide Literary Magazine

It made her occupa on complicated. feared it to be. She scrubbed out the sink.
Somedays the sight of kindergarteners And then scrubbed it out again. And a third
le her elated, but other days it mocked
her. She didn’t understand. Her mother me, before the pain became unbearable
had been 21. Her father 25. Fer lity issues as something started to fall out of her.
were not gene c. She had dared to ask her
mother this a er the first baby they had She rested in the bathtub in their bath-
lost. Her mother laughed as if the possibili- room, naked, her heels on each side of the
ty was ridiculous. Jose had asked his father faucet, the fixture emi ng a light dripping
too. He had even go en tested, but she noise. She counted. 16 drips before her
couldn’t bring herself to do it. Didn’t want body began to leak too.
to have that emo onal conversa on with a
doctor. She was 32. She wasn’t old or un- Her body was leaking, the betrayal roll-
healthy. Didn’t smoke or consume copious ing down the ceramic, swirling around the
amounts of alcohol. She had waited, she drain. Her fists opened and closed as she
had married, she had established a career, rocked back and forth, banging the back
she ached for children with every atom that of her skull on the edge of the bathtub.
comprised her body. For chubby cheeks She closed her eyes, but the color of blood
and li le shoes. For a kindergartener of her was burned into the darkness of her eye-
own. And all she had go en were glimpses lids. Blood swam around her ears, contort-
of it. ing the sound of her heart beat, her taste
buds watered from the imagined metallic
The third week of school, Wednesday, flavor.
she knew it was going to happen. She had
woken up late, thrown her hair in a bun, She thought about the two children she
yelled at Jose for not waking her, and spilled had already lost. The third that was pouring
the coffee. Which was followed by more out of her.
yelling. She was mad he had forgo en to put
it in the to-go cup. And he had go en frus- Her breathing became uneven. The pain
trated that she expected him to put it in a seared through her abdomen, shot down
to-go cup today when every other morning the tendons in her legs, contracted the
she drank from a mug. All day she tapped. muscles deep within her. She wouldn’t let
She went to the bathroom eight mes. Her herself cry, didn’t want the tears to fill the
stomach twis ng, convulsing. bathtub. Terrified she’d drown herself in all
the things that could have been; the devel-
At lunch she called Jose to pick her up. oping fetus, her blossoming hope. She had
He did so without asking. At home, she lay been stupid to think it could have been any
in bed, staring at the ceiling, coun ng the different.
paint par cles that resembled popcorn ker-
nels. Jose had gone back to show a couple This was how Jose found her.
another home. She cleaned the kitchen to
pass the me, running a sponge over gran- “Oh fuck. Fuck, baby?” He fell to his knees
ite counters, over stainless-steel applianc- at her side. She turned her neck, indifferent-
es, over her stomach, a emp ng to wipe ly, saw who it was and a empted to push her
away the vile. Hoping it was not what she mouth into a smile, but instead began to cry.

“Jose, I’m sorry. I’m so… sorry.” Her rib-
cage shook no ceably with every contrac-

on of her body.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

He knew exactly what was happening. About the Author:
He had seen it before.
Alethea Chiara Tyler is sophomore at
He ran the water slowly, making sure it Colorado College pursuing a degree in
was warm before taking the shower head Crea ve Wri ng. She has wri en and self-
and bathing her. Lathering her hair with published three novels which are available
shea bu er shampoo and condi oner. on Amazon. In her free me, she likes to eat
Sponging the bloody insides of her thighs. copious amounts of sushi, to go thri ing, and
She let him. Gripping his arm as he did so. to dance with her dog.
And a erwards, he took her hands in his,
guiding her from the bathtub, wrapping her
in plush lavender towel.

He picked her up in both his arms and
she rested her head on the top of his shoul-
der. They sat on the bed, but he didn’t let
go. Cradling her. Like a child.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please don’t
leave me. Don’t leave me. I’m so sorry.” She
repeated over and over again, unconscious
of how much her breath trembled under-
neath the weight of her grief. He didn’t let
her tap against the side of her thigh, sooth-
ing her by rocking her back and forth, hum-
ming. The noise soothed her, calming her
manic cells.

“I would never leave you. It’s okay. These
things happen. We can try again.”

She knew they wouldn’t. Rather, they
couldn’t. One more me and she would dis-
integrate. A fourth me. And if the fourth

me failed…a fourth failed pregnancy. She
loved the number four. She wouldn’t be
able to withstand it.

And she knew he knew it too.

43


SOMETHING TO LEAVE BEHIND

By Chris an R. Fennell

It was the surname that got me thinking: I Two months in and I suspect that Gil
wonder if he’s related to Tommy Mountjoy, was coming to the realisa on that here
a guy I went to school with. When I asked if was a stayer and, while his rants con nued,
he’d heard the name, Patrick beamed at me they were tempered with a sprinkling of
from his desk. good-natured banter, usually reserved for
late on a Friday when the paper was all but
“He’s my son!” put to bed. One Friday, following a par c-
ularly tense week during which our printer
It turned out that Patrick was estranged went on strike and the rival paper beat us to
from Tommy–had been for ten years–and a council corrup on story, I even caught Gil
was eager to know his whereabouts. and Patrick sharing a private joke.

“I haven’t seen him in at least fi een,” I “Looks like you’ve tamed the beast,” I
said, watching the hope recede into those whispered, handing Patrick some sports
craggy folds. photos to scan.

“Oh well,” Patrick said, in a tone that “I hope so. I have to sit next to the grumpy
suggested he’d been down this road before. prick.”
“I’m sure he’s doing okay. Wherever he is.”
“True.” Then the remark that was to
Patrick had been at the paper just on change everything: “Say, I went to school
two months. In those days we went through with a Mountjoy.”
typese ers like F1 drivers go through tyres.
This was due to the impossible working From then on Patrick made sure he
condi ons forced upon us–but mostly the joined me at smoko–not that he expected
produc on department–by the paper’s anymore leads, although I’m sure part of
owner and editor-in-chief Gil Daisley. Al- him was wai ng for me to turn up to work
though responsible for news, Gil had tak- one day and announce that I’d bumped into
en it upon himself to supervise the paper’s Tommy at a club or a party somewhere. The
layout, which meant he spent more me thing is: Tommy and I were from different
harassing the poor typese ers than he did social circles, which in high school is tanta-
ge ng a scoop. While this gave us report- mount to living in separate states. Tommy
ers a much-needed reprieve, it did nothing had his friends–most of them into surfing
for the layout folk who copped a steady and any pursuit where there was the pos-
barrage of abuse. Rather than seek outside sibility of mee ng girls–while I belonged to
interven on most just quit. Except Patrick.

44


Revista Literária Adelaide

that disparate bunch of loners and misfits Check out the cartoons I had published in
collec vely known as nerds. The Herald.”

“I remember him being a good drawer,” My eyes widened. “You were at The Her-
I said, watching Patrick’s face brighten out ald?”
the corner of my eye. Like father like son. I
didn’t have the heart to tell him that Tom- “Mate, this gig’s just so I can stow a bit
my’s talents had mostly found expression away for my re rement.”
through a spray can and black felt- p pen;
that his artwork had mainly adorned public Patrick stamped out his cigare e. “I’ll
buildings and front fences. leave the address on your desk.”

“Wonder if he’s kept it up,” Patrick said, #
looking over his shoulder before ligh ng an-
other cigare e. Gil made a song and dance The house was about what I expected from
about smoke breaks, threatening to dock our a man who lived alone. The grass was in dire
pay over lost produc on me. This despite need of a mow and junk mail was strewn
the fact that Gil frequently disappeared for across the yard. Some of the weatherboards
extended periods and came back with some- had been stripped bare in prepara on for
thing stronger than coffee on his breath. repain ng; the rest were so badly flaking
the paint would come off by simply running
“I take it you don’t speak to Tommy’s your hand over them.
mother.”
I tread carefully along the verandah,
Patrick gazed out across the car park, which looked as dry and bri le as dri -
which served our building and a handful of wood. At least the stained-glass windows
other businesses including a mower shop, are all intact, I thought, rapping on the door.
a Chinese takeaway and, the bu of many
lame jokes over the years, an adult book I heard the pa er of footsteps and
store. Gil o en asked me to keep an eye out strained to see through the leadlight.
for any local luminaries seen loitering out-
side the la er. “What if they’re wai ng for There was a blur of movement at the
their steak-and-black bean?” I said, know- end of the hall, so I knocked again. Harder.
ing that by keeping an eye out Gil meant
keeping a camera handy. “Who cares? It’s “Down here mate.”
how it looks that’s important.”
Patrick stood in the driveway, grinning.
I could tell that Patrick was less than “My place is out back. This is Mrs Dawes’
comfortable talking about this aspect of his house. She’s deaf by the way.”
private life so I changed the subject.
I followed him down the driveway where
“Why don’t you drop over Friday night? a second, smaller house stood behind a wall
I usually have a couple of cold ones. Watch of bougainvillea. Actually, it was li le more
the footy.” than a bungalow; one of those fibro jobs
knocked up for an aging rela ve or, in this
Patrick sucked down his cigare e as if case, as a cheap rental.
he could suddenly hear Gil approaching.
“Or why don’t you come over to my place? “She live alone?”

“Unfortunately, yes. Her husband died
last year. I’ve been trying to help her do the

45


Adelaide Literary Magazine

place up, but with the paper and all I hav- ies were having as I simultaneously flipped
en’t had much me. through Patrick’s cartoons and strove to
maintain sensible conversa on.
Anyway, welcome to my abode.”
“How long were you with…?”
There was barely room to move inside.
A er weaving our way through mountains “The Herald,” Patrick said, as glassy-eyed
of old computer equipment and stacks of as I no doubt was yet ten mes more inured
books and magazines, we reached a small to the stuff. “I started there in ’83 and fin-
kitchen where Patrick took the six-pack I ished up around ’89.”
was holding and slo ed the cans in the re-
maining space of his bar fridge. He kept one “Grade six,” I said, staring at an exagger-
and cracked it open for me. ated proboscis on one of Patrick’s poli cal
caricatures. The thing seemed to be moving
“Not having one?” across the page.

Patrick shook his head. “Been dry for “What?”
ten years.” He picked up a glass of orange
fizz and led me to his bedroom, which was “Huh?”
about the only place he could entertain
guests. There was one other room–this tak- “You just said grade six.”
en up by a home-made sailboard with what
appeared to be a plas c shower curtain at- “Oh yeah,” I said. “I was in grade six
tached to the mast. when you le The Sun.”

“What the…?” “The Herald.”

“Don’t ask,” Patrick said with a wry grin. “The Herald,” I repeated, struggling to
“Let’s just say I was chemically enhanced stay on track. “So you were a cartoonist in
when I built it.” those days.”

“But you don’t drink.” “Not at all. I was a typese er same as
now but one day the staff cartoonist dropped
“Right,” Patrick said, clearing a space on dead at his desk and I was the only one mad
his bed. Then, reaching under, he brought enough–or insensi ve enough–to finish off his
out a Tupperware container with a rath- skit.”
er pungent aroma emana ng from within.
“Care for a cookie?” “You’re shi ng me.”

# “Never.”

“These are good,” I said, thumbing through I went back through the album. “Is that
the scrapbook of cartoons Patrick had cartoon here?”
penned for The Herald. “I mean, they’re as
good as what you find in the dailies.” “A er that they used to call on me when-
ever the regular ar st was sick or on leave.”
“They were in a daily.” Patrick stared at some indeterminate point
in the distance. “So Tommy was a good
“Oh yeah.” drawer then?”

I seldom used grass myself, so you can “What about this one?” I said, holding
imagine the effect a couple of hash cook- up a sketch of an inflated dollar sign on a

46


Revista Literária Adelaide

string escaping from the hand of a poli cian “It goes to sleep on me some mes.” He
dressed in a schoolboy’s uniform. gave it a shake then spoke in my ear. “I take
it you got home okay the other night.”
Patrick frowned. “Much too late. That
was drawn just before the recession hit.” He “I don’t normally use pot,” I said, glanc-
grabbed the book off me and for seconds ing about quickly. “So if I appeared kind of
a erwards I sat there with my palms out- weird the other night…”
stretched as though I were s ll holding it.
“I hadn’t no ced,” Patrick said, as amused
I must have zoned out for I became sud- as I was shamefaced.
denly aware that Patrick was wai ng for me
to answer a ques on. “Although you did go kind of green there
for a bit. Just kidding.”
“Did Tommy ever men on me?”
Just then Angela the recep onist ap-
I saw rather than heard the ques on, peared in the doorway. “There you are. Gil
looming towards me in large block le ers. Pat- wants you to take the camera down to the
rick must have wondered what I was staring kindergarten. Apparently there’s a big pro-
at. “I don’t think so,” I said, more intrigued by test over plans for a phone tower next door.”
the way those le ers sat there in mid-air than
Patrick’s despera on to reunite with his son. “Great,” I said, summoning all my Mon-
If I’d been more lucid I might have no ced a day morning lack of enthusiasm. “Chan ng
stray tear form at the corner of his eye, dan- mums and howling toddlers.”
gle there for a second or two, then fall onto
his open scrapbook. But the next thing I knew “Say, what are you doing next Saturday?”
Patrick was offering me the Tupperware dish.
I looked at Patrick to see if he was joking.
“Another cookie?” Weekend plans didn’t figure in my thinking
un l at least Thursday.
#
“I thought I’d see if that deranged sail-
On the Monday, Patrick flashed me a know- board in the spare room actually floats.”
ing grin as I strode past his desk on the way
to the tea room. It had taken me all week- #
end to feel normal again. Plenty of sleep
and plenty of water seemed to do the trick. Alas, we never got to christen Patrick’s dubi-
Not much different from an alcoholic hang- ous-looking cra –at least not together.
over really, except that I had an unusually
strong craving for sweets the next day. When Saturday did finally roll around I
had the mother of all head colds and was
At smoko I followed Patrick out to the camped out on the couch in a sea of blister
car park. “What’s wrong with your leg?” I packs and ssues. And a er that?
said, watching him limp out the door.
Well, things kind of went back the way
It seemed the weekend hadn’t done much they had been before we discovered we had
for Patrick either. His lived-in face looked a common denominator. Having exhausted
even more haggard this morning as he turned my recollec ons of Patrick’s only child, our
around on his troublesome right side. rela onship resumed its original status:
that of work colleagues. That’s not to say
we didn’t s ll enjoy catching up at smoko

47


Adelaide Literary Magazine

to compare notes on what we got up to on “I’ve given Gil two weeks no ce but the
the weekend. Perhaps if I’d been more par- way he’s been ac ng I wouldn’t be surprised
if he got someone in sooner.”
al to a smoke–or in this case a cookie–we
might have kept up our a er hours revelry; Patrick shrugged. “So take some me
but I was foremost a drinker and, well, Pat- off.”
rick had given that up long ago.
We stood there watching the occasional
In the end it was a job offer that snuffed car crawl past. It was late autumn and the
out any chance of us taking Patrick’s pot-in- only traffic was local–although this didn’t
spired crea on for a trial spin. For some me seem to affect the adult book store, whose
I’d been keeping my eyes and ears open for designated car spaces were always full.
a vacancy at another paper or, be er s ll, a
PR job. While I’d grown accustomed to Gil’s By the way Patrick remained there, not
idiosyncrasies, the way one gets used to a bothering to light up again, I sensed there
cantankerous old aunt, seeing out the rest of was more he wanted to say. I wasn’t wrong.
my career in a parochial seaside town where
an unfixed pothole was big news didn’t pro- “Now that you’ll be working closer to
vide much scope for the Bard in me. Not to the city, do you think you could do me a fa-
men on my bank balance. You can measure vour?”
a journo’s income by the size of the classi-
fieds sec on and ours was all of one page. “Sure,” I said, wondering what he could
possibly want up there that wasn’t available
So when the chance came to jump here–short of some exo c species of weed.
aboard the Southern Metro Star, a chunky
weekly covering the south-east and boast- “Can you keep an eye out for Tommy?”
ing one of the city’s largest real estate li -
outs, there wasn’t much to think about. #

Gil met the news not with his trademark A year passed. A new job meant new ac-
profanity but with a calm indifference that quaintances and somewhere between
grew into an unse ling aloofness over the chasing news stories during the week and
coming days. I wasn’t worried about not covering local sports on the weekend I man-
ge ng a reference–I had plenty of contacts aged to grow chummy with Melinda, a sales
from four years of repor ng at a local level– rep in the adver sing department. We went
but I was concerned about a possible act of out a few mes but the magic soon waned
sabotage in the form of a spiteful phone call when she had me wri ng ad copy for the
to the Star’s head office. spring feature. By this me I was star ng
to miss the seaside hamlet whose charms I
Patrick, however, put me at ease. “Gil didn’t fully appreciate un l now. Tyrannical
can be a mean bastard but he wouldn’t go bosses aside, I’d made some good friends
that low.” He limped over to the car park to in that part of the world and, owing to the
stamp out his cigare e. veracity of my repor ng, had gained a level
of trust among the locals. Though any fanta-
“Your leg s ll giving you trouble?” sy of returning quickly faded once Thursday
arrived and I had my pay cheque in hand.
“Yeah. I’m seeing a chiropractor tonight. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t go back for
He thinks it might be back-related. So when a visit…
are you shipping out?”

48


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