Well, that was surely a week. As I resurface from yet another onslaught of submissions, I am left with a question. Make that two. 1) Is this record number of submissions for the contest a reflection of the fact that I kept pushing this scary-as-hell thing away for as long as possible and people were (blushing here) waiting with baited breath for it to finally open? 2) Is this record number of submissions, most of which were incredible, surprising, and inspiring a reflection of our literary community? If so, we have nothing to worry about. There are so many great voices speaking up, and they are only getting louder. With an exhale and another gulp of coffee, I present to you, the winners of this year’s Mainline. Yes, it’s a tie.
TWO WAY TIE
i don’t write about race by June Gehringer
Coldwater Canyon by Anne-Marie Kinney
Cheap Yellow by Shy Watson
Deep Camouflage by Amy Saul-Zerby
White Paintings: A Combine by Trevor Dane Ketner
Psychopomps by Alex DiFrancesco
Ha-Ha! Sad Laughter by Brian Alan Ellis
Waves by Troy James Weaver
Running to Stand Still by Kimberly Reyes
What I Can’t Carry, Bury by Nate Lippens
Mother of Flowers by Daniel Beauregard
TONGUE / DREAM / SPINE by Tracy Dimond
Both i don’t write about race and Coldwater Canyon will be published as part of CCM’s 2018 Catalogue.
Four finalists have been selected for publication as part of CCM’s 2018 Catalogue. You will hear from them soon.
Mainline will reconvene next September.
From i don’t write about race:
I don’t write about race.
I don’t talk about race.
My white friends are very supportive.
My white friends perform allyship on Facebook.
My white friends apologize, but neither
as often nor as profusely as
I hide my legs from the sun and
in the shower, they blend into
off the walls.
I hide my legs from the
sun and in the
shower I try
to tell myself:
I’m not one of them.
The day after I graduated college, I took my white
father and my brown mother to the World
War II Museum and we sat
in silence as we read
that the Japanese killed 20
million Chinese people during World War
(How many times have I been asked if I was Japanese?)
My brown mother and
I already knew this. I wonder
what my father knows.
I don’t write about race,
I write about erasure.
I go to a bar with my white
sister and my brown brother. Someone
tells us that we all look
the same, and I wonder
what that means
for me, a white-brown
girl with an uncut
dick. But then I
that I’ve heard this before, that
we all look the same.
I don’t write about race,
I write about gender,
I once killed a cis white man,
and his first name
In Washington D.C., while walking
through the National Mall, I hear a white
teenager joyfully screaming with her
In Washington D.C. I am terrified
to speak, I am terrified to
whisper. I write
poems on my phone instead.
I don’t write about race,
I write about silence.
My white friends talk
about race. They say
all the right
words. I say
I read poems about white
people to rooms full of white
people and they laugh
like they’re in on the joke, they
laugh like they didn’t
make me need
to write these poems.
In a poem I ask
white people everywhere
to please go
home. My white
audience laughs and
I wonder how much
of me is laughing
with them. I wonder
if my father is laughing
I don’t write about race,
I write about erasure.
I write only, and always
(poem originally published by The Wanderer)
June Gehringer is from Omaha. She is the author of i love you, it looks like rain (be about it 2017) and runs a press called tenderness, yea. She loves you a lot. Unless you’re a cop.
From Coldwater Canyon:
In his bed on Coldwater Canyon, with the trickle of the L.A. river snaking silently nearby, Shep tossed and muttered. He was back in his body, the dream forgotten, but still he struggled to move, awake but not awake, desperate and alone. Though he couldn’t open his eyes, he could feel shadows looming, figures towering over him, crowding the room, and hear skittering across the floor—rats, ghosts, it didn’t matter. Everything was closing in. He would cry for help if only he could move his mouth or control his vocal cords. All he could manage was a series of grunts from deep in his belly.
In the darkness, Lionel hopped onto the bed, crawled up onto Shep’s chest and began licking first his ear, then his cheek. He nudged Shep’s throat insistently with his cold nose, and suddenly Shep was freed. His darting eyes opened and he lurched up to a sitting position.
“You’re a good friend,” he gasped, his hand shaking as he stroked the dog’s head.
He held Lionel up to face him, and looked into his wet brown eyes in the moonlight. The dog finally squirmed out of his hands, and Shep let him down. He sat for a few minutes, letting his breath settle while the sweat on his back dried, before getting up and going to the kitchen. He poured a shot of whiskey into a coffee mug and sipped it gently, like medicine, in the dark.
Then he lay back down to let the cycle begin again, the ache in his ankles spreading like falling dominoes through his legs, up through his hips and groin, until the crushing weight settled onto his chest, but that would pass too.
A lifelong Californian, Anne-Marie Kinney completed her MFA in Creative Writing from CalArts in 2008. Her first novel, Radio Iris, was published in 2012 by Two Dollar Radio. A New York Times Editor’s Choice pick, it was called “a spiky debut” and “‘The Office’ as scripted by Kafka” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and was on O Magazine’s list of best new books the month it was released. Her shorter work has been published in journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, The Rattling Wall, The Collagist, Fanzine and Black Clock, for which she also served as production editor from 2011-2016. She lives in Los Angeles, where she co-curates the Griffith Park Storytelling Series.
This one’s been a long time coming. I almost gave up on the contest, what with the intensity of having to read so many manuscripts in one week, and also for the influx of drama spawning from the contest’s admittedly more transparent and immediate nature. It’s difficult to accept rejection, I know, but just because you don’t end up on the frontrunners list, or end up losing your place on the frontrunners list, it doesn’t mean you should blame, shame, and spew hate at all those involved; Mainline is an anomaly. If you don’t win, it is not the reason to lose hope in your writing. I almost retired the contest, but I didn’t, and so here we are: Another week, another round. Are you ready? I’m not, but when am I, really? Starting now, September 25th, send a novel, novella(s), collection, or something totally different, a hybrid of some sort to firstname.lastname@example.org. Around 7pm EST every day, the current frontrunners will be announced on Facebook and Twitter. On Sunday, October 1st, I’ll announce the winner alongside a few runner-ups. Welcome to Mainline. Now, where’s the coffee? We’re coping.
Mainline will reconvene on September 25th, 2017.
Bud Smith – Same Clothes as Yesterday
Julia Madsen – In the Event of Amnesia the City Will Recall
Brian Alan Ellis – Failure Pie in a Sadness Face
Devin Kelly – My Lover, Don’t
Corinne Manning – We Had No Rules
Carleen Tibbetts – Dossier for the Postverbal
From Same Clothes as Yesterday (Bud Smith)
I’ve never been to college. I don’t have any education past high school, but I write.
I’m that weirdo that thinks that anybody can make art and everybody should make art.
It doesn’t matter who you are: Your life can be improved by making some kind of art.
I’ve got no formal training and I’m pretty much the only guy I know working construction who reads books at all, but—
The closest I’ve come to attending college is NYU when I went there with a crew to torch apart the duct work system (big enough to walk through) in the nether regions of the building.
College was in session at the time and I’d walk through the campus in my work clothes, looking at the kids who went there like they were creatures from another planet.
They were looking at me the same way.
It’s been awhile since we’ve done one of these, huh? The last one took place in March, and if we were still running along with what the logo above indicates, there should have been another contest in June. Yeah, but things happened; mostly a lack of time and resources, our energies focused more on the books to be published and the press as a whole. The contest has always brought along this sense of energy and enthusiasm, two things I could really use right about now, and hey, you could say I owe you all one for the missing June edition of Mainline. So, as of today, starting now, September 26th, send me a novel, novella(s), collection, or something different, new, exciting to email@example.com. Around 6PM EST every day, the current frontrunners will be announced on Facebook and Twitter. Sunday, October 2nd, I’ll announce the winner alongside the top 5 runner-ups. Here we go, Mainline. Let’s see what you’ve been working on. We’re coping.
Another Mainline concludes and I am once again humbled by the extraordinary amount of work fearlessly submitted to the contest. It’s daunting to think that this is the FIFTH Mainline. Mainline, an idea that was little more than a wild idea birthed during a typical midday brainstorm, has become this crucial means for the CCM community and the future of discovering new voices. That being said, Manuel and I encountered the gamut of what’s currently both problematic and praise-worthy about the indie lit community. This week alone, we discussed not only the immense amount of quality of submissions but also the future of CCM and what we need to be aware of in the months and years to follow. Again, here at CCM we are amazed and humbled by the community’s voice.
This year, one entry climbed to the top of the frontrunners list and fought tirelessly, the poems contained within the collection settling in well, wowing Manuel and I even more every time we went back to the manuscript for review. This iteration was tough resulting in one of the longest daily frontrunners lists yet (12 frontrunners against last round’s 10). Throughout the week, we were almost certain of a tie, another dual-winner. It came down to a late Friday reread of the finalists; we read each slow and steady, as though they were in their final published form. It was then that Sian S. Rathore’s Wild Heather stood tall.
The fearless fight nearing its conclusion, Rathore’s poetry bled with the sort of coping that we at CCM relate to so well. Thank you, everyone, for putting yourself out there–on the Mainline. I know it’s not easy, and it can be exceedingly stressful being a part of this. I want you to know that you weren’t the only one anxious and exhausted throughout the contest week. For now, we get a chance to breathe. Summer’s just begun but the moment the weather cools down, we will be back at it again, another fight, another chance to be had, on the Mainline.
Wild Heather by Sian S. Rathore
Summertime in the Emergency Room by David Nutt
Oscillations & Destinations by Kris Saknussemm
Thank You, Steel China by Sean Kilpatrick
Exsanguination by Casey Henry
Verisimilitude Fun Lusted by Russell Jaffe
Oliver Brenne by Mark Waclawiak
Forest by Jackson Nieuwland
I Am Heavy w/ Feeling by Alexis Pope and Joshua Young
Sian S. Rathore’s Wild Heather will be published as part of CCM’s 2017 Catalogue.
Mainline will reconvene in October.
An excerpt from Wild Heather:
(from a psychiatric ward in Manchester)
Change to font size 11 because it looks
much classier than 12. Make each word of
my name a shape, elongate my vowels, like
how people say it so-FEE-ah but you’ve
always said it SO-fee-AH. You cling on
to the round sounds that soften and
Oh, boy, I’m feeling tight tonight, my ribcage
bones need loosening up. I’m starving and I’m
coiled up short; I’m boxed up for export.
Tomorrow I’ll be windmills on the pennines
on the brow-line of the sandy hills, the
swoosh that slices silence and unsettling
apex. The votes have all been counted and
the boats are washed up empty. There are no
beds or ships sailing northbound, toward
the diamond stars. Or maybe I just missed them.
The nights have all been empty; recent lights
were first flash blues, second the white sparks
that shoot from my eyes, then to you. I’ve
heard me start to falter, heard my tongue
too thick for eloquence. My thoughts all
cherry plucked from air by vagrant night-hawks.
Yet, there’s still a speeding motorcycle circling
this mind. It’s hot all night. It breaks my back
and makes me hear your name in song, it calls
out loud, like: hey sweetheart, how I miss your
dear heart! and howling cats in
season sing turn back now like con legno
on the e-string, third position, so yes –
I am academic when I study you; your
figured bass and Bach chorale, the tune to A
the crash of plates on kitchen slates, the
microtonal shards arranged in third dimension
decoupage, or are there four? Or five? Or nine?
It was only a matter of when, when would the
outright bliss of speeding be reduced to these
How useless I have become. Hey look, they’re
back in bloom, you said, arranging sweet pea
in a posy, and twisting lilac stalks. I wish
they’d let you in my room. Because of magic
reasons. I hear you eyeing up my legs, and
I remove each layer. Then the skin, and
muscles tear right off the bone and I am bare.
You are here in the bright darkness of 9,
keeping records of my stay. Tell me your news.
Here’s mine: I thought of him all day today
tell me how to quit that, please distract me,
very quickly. I’m feeling very very and by rights
you’re very, too. It’s not that you’re not beautiful
you’re just so beautiful it hurts my feelings.
The red scarves worn by
Isadora Duncan got
trapped in the hub
caps of her open car
which is how she came
to lose her head
she had been flirting
with communism and
now, with physical
“Three Short Breaths”
One day we’ll all join up
by fibre-optic beams and
the trees will be optional
plug-ins and the weather
will be subjectively down-
loaded. Celebrities and
sex offenders will become the
avatars we choose for them.
We’ll watch them dancing, as
they shimmer in the early dusk
to the backdrop of a metallic,
I am waiting in the surgery for the
clouds to come. The doctor calls
the name of a Polish man with a
tooth abscess. He walks through
this tubular terminus and leaves
stage left. A woman sitting next to
me is playing with the pen in her
hand like the defendant’s lawyer
at a murder trial. Director – prompt?
I appear to have forgotten my lines.
I don’t know if there is a metaphor
that can catch the beautiful and
I’m trying to grasp so instead
I’ll admit that I’m thinking about
your penis. I know, I know.
There is still not a word invented
to describe the hand of a poet
writing with a cartridge pen
for the very first time.
It’s a hot and humid Sunday afternoon as I write this, and I’m telling myself that sitting in front of a computer, air conditioning turned way up, readying for a swarm of manuscripts (I’ve got the eye-drops to help stave off eye strain), is preferable to being out in the scalding heat. Could be true, you know; previous iterations of the contest have yielded amazing work from Andrea Kneeland, M Kitchell, Carolyn Zaikowski, Katie Jean Shinkle, Darby Larson, Helen McClory, Tobias Carroll, and Alexandra Naughton. Who will be next? From frontrunners to the finalists, I’m as curious as ever to see what shows up. This is the fifth MAINLINE. Damn. I’m starting to get a little nostalgic. Anyway, you know the deal: One week, starting now, June 22rd, send a novel, novella(s), collection, or something totally different, a hybrid of some sort to firstname.lastname@example.org. Around 8pm EST every day, the current frontrunners will be announced on Facebook and Twitter. On Sunday, the 28th, I’ll announce the winner alongside 3 runner-ups. Ready? It’s hot as hell outside. Stay hydrated. We’re coping.
People, you made it really difficult for Manuel and I. A dizzying array of manuscripts throughout the week, a surge at the end, right as our eyes were bloodshot, our minds scrambled. Yeah, you made it really tough this time. And it’s for that reason that the fourth edition of Mainline breaks all the previous contest records. What does this mean? Well, it means the first-ever three-way tie. Yup. Simply no other way around it. When looking at the battleground of submissions, three manuscripts fought the good fight, always managing to be at the end of that trail of dead bodies, standing tall. Thank you, to all that took part in Mainline. I know how difficult, and stressful, it can be, putting your work on the line like this. What’s important is that you did. You had the guts to do just that. Just because you didn’t win, it doesn’t mean you won’t dominate the next. Keep that in mind and keep writing. You only lose if you stop. Three winning manuscripts. Another Mainline completed. Bloodshot eyes. Trail of dead bodies. Yeah:
Flesh of the Peach by Helen McClory
Transitory by Tobias Carroll
American Mary by Alexandra Naughton
Down in a Hole by Jesus Angel Garcia
The Hoosier by Jared Yates Sexton
A Manual for Nothing by Jessica Anne
They Don’t Know Us Here by Carolyn DeCarlo
The End of Cinnamon by Jordaan Mason
Cured Meat by Polly Trope
These United States by Russell Jaffe
Encyclopedia of Failed Filmmakers by Johnny Damm
Helen McClory’s Flesh of the Peach, Tobias Carroll’s Transitory, and Alexandra Naughton’s American Mary will be published as part of CCM’s 2016 Catalogue.
Mainline will reconvene in June.
An excerpt from Flesh of the Peach:
She stood out on the observatory of the Empire State Building in the failing light, felt delicate and underslept, and awaited something decisive to occur. Maybe she’d be there until closing. Did they close this place? Every night the top of the building glowed different colours. Beacons for the various dread causes. And maybe out of cause-kinship, every night, all through the night, they let fools gather to acknowledge their own.
Sarah’s causes? They were slimy, incriminating, broken, partial. She rummaged in her bag for a candied ginger. Sucked down on sticky fire, and squinted out across the city. I am all alone, she thought, who the fuck could aid me but me? She pulled down the sunglasses from the top of her head. That helped. You should always at least have a bit of poise. It wasn’t that she particularly cared if tourists noticed she had been crying. Just that she was fond of her projections. The kind of person who went to her solitary bed in light makeup and skimpies in order to present fierce aspect. To herself, to anything in the world that might be leering in her window.
It is strange the ease in which you can enact projections. Flip down the shades and step into another life. A gilded life. It could happen, it happened. As if on cue, camera flashes crashed against her raw skin. Longhair swish. She bared her teeth for pictures taken by strangers. The milling crowd jostled her, craning towards the skyscrapers and calling out, that’s the Hudson! Look, a helicopter! Happy enough. A Murmur glut passing through the channel of her body.
Sarah looked beyond the silver of the bars. It was beautiful. All the city in the early evening was lavender and greys of rare distinction, twenty miles worth of it touched by haze. After a while Sarah mumbled to the bars a prayer of falling. How to fall through a cage three metres high. She would have to shred herself. What a scene. People lingered waiting for dusk to flicker into night, others left quickly. She made tiny movements with her hands. She listened to voices detaching from the stream and threading away back inside. Are we doing this, then, she asked herself.
The question was vague because she herself was vague. It becomes a lyric in a city like this one. Sarah’s lover Kennedy had just severed ties. Kennedy had been everything for a while there. A streak of lightning, against an otherwise drab sky. A rooted New England New Yorker married to a man who sounded, in his calls and written messages, limply vile. And violent, now. Out of all options which were preferable – violence done by another or the violence you do to yourself? Sarah felt she was standing on that other ragged side of love, where gravity wore thin the edges of the body. You have to ask yourself the most ridiculous questions. Do you want to live. Is your living a worthwhile act. Do you want an extra shot of caramel. Are you going to be able to pick your teeth right out of your jaw. Who the hell is keeping note, at any rate.
Sarah licked her lips and the wind chilled them. Her teeth pinched her tongue. Yes she still had lips, teeth. She still had her silky black hair, her best treasure. No jumping today. Instead, I am going to leave, she thought. She unwrapped another ginger chew, slid it in her mouth and pondered this decision. Fuck it, I ruined this whole city for myself, but I have plenty more. This is a very American thing to do.
She stared out through the bars with what she assumed was an empty expression. She turned to face the crowd in the same way. Her mother was dead back home in England, that was the other thing. Finally, after a slow war with cancer. And long after their relationship had died. The idea of going back to Cornwall to help with the estate and put on a show beside the other relatives and hangers-on made her feel unsanitary. It grubbied her.
Sarah opened and closed her fists in an effort to jog her blood pressure. She felt the problem in terms of altitude sickness or else chaffed nerves, and when she wasn’t leaning on something her vision trembled. But how lucky she was, her mother had left all those millions to her. Just put it in a clean little envelope, Madam Barrister, thank you very much, like a neat towelette slipped alongside the balled-up pink knickers from last night.
She unwrapped another ginger. Sugar rush helped, fire helped. Working the wad against her back teeth, almost choking her. Two paths had emerged. One home across the pond, and another unseen in the American interior beckoning her. It was an easy choice, all considered.
An excerpt from Transitory:
Some Things I Botched
There was a prompt in front of me and the prompt said “write the saddest poem ever.” I read words three and four as “saddest porn.” Cue fourteen explicit pages with a subplot of dying puppies. It cost me some friends. Maybe more than some.
Before that, there might have been some good news.
There was the Dixieland jazz band that became a grindcore band. Elderly avant-jazz heads told me I was the fastest clarinetist they’d seen. I basked in this, believe you me.
Also noted: the faun I nursed back to health. He lay beside the highway one night when I drove by. Feeding him wasn’t so hard; house-training was harder. Harder still was hiding him from the hunters: that sound of hounds barking outside, the sequential knocks skipping from door to door, the horns in the hallway.
I latched on.
There had been a relationship before that. There had been a we. Then, for a month, all my pillow talk involved mascots. Then there was no we.
Contingent with the clarinet, I gave juggling a try. The band began touring. Bassist Alexi was driving when one sphere grazed his eye. My juggling gear was jettisoned on I-80. There were stern warnings given.
We would hit the road for long weekends: Chicago, Boston, Richmond. Once we linked up with a subway grindcore band called We Stop At Five Dollars. The open road and rest stops. Moonlight clarinet and exhortations to violence. Speedy exits.
The sound of a banjo gone supersonic? You could build a religion around it. Last I heard, bassist Alexi was trying exactly that.
Airfare was booked. The Czech Republic beckoned. The festival circuit loomed. We had an audience there, we were told. An eager one at that.
Three days before we were set to fly, I got a call. I’d been replaced. Someone better. Someone fitter. Someone who could also play the oboe. Someone who didn’t juggle; someone who, at least, didn’t juggle hazardously.
Six days before we were set to fly, I saw the writing prompt. I went to it. Something saddest, I read. I thought: I can manage that. I thought: there are brilliant fragments still to make.
I follow my former band’s itinerary. I feed the faun his oats; we watch the stars. The hunters haven’t shown in weeks. Cue the sound of cicadas; cue all the damage you can muster.
An excerpt from American Mary:
A beautiful stranger washed up on our shores with only death as a companion and she said this is either a horror movie or a porn, and it turned out to kinda be both.
Sunken islands. We are living on sunken islands.
Well, they feel sunken, like hungover eyes peeping only slightly because it’s straining.
Like there isn’t much space to move around in. Like the way you act when we’re in public together.
There is no green anything. I can see the Statue of Liberty from my Philly window, Manhattan’s metallic cones hundreds of stories high like quills jutting, a beastly back and head submerged like it can’t deal anymore, smack needles in sidewalk cracks. I guess I always wanted to live in the big city.
Al those offices. Fuck.
It’s coming soon I think, and I touch that part of my back that doesn’t touch the bed. It’s like a pocket. It’s a space for my hand. I touch that part of my back just above my ass and feel knuckles against spine. Everyone is looking for security.
I know or I don’t. I leave.
I walk outside and join melting faces beginning a crowded commute. I don’t think I’ve ever been good at any of my jobs. I used to think it was because I’ve never been paid enough to give a shit but lately I’ve been feeling like that wouldn’t change anything. I don’t know how some people do it. How can I perform for another first.
We take a deep breath, scrape our f eet, and step inside a bus with no roof, just poles to grasp. Better for everyone, emissions, they say, but really the city is strapped. At least for us. We can complain and we do but it’s like a song. We all know the words and the right time to sing it. Right after exchanging pleasantries.
Old ladies carry shopping bags stuffed with recycling. They mostly crouch or prop themselves on the accordion panels but one standing slips and reaches out to hold my leg for stability. Almost a daily occurrence. I look down and we smile at each other.
You can get used to anything if you don’t care about anything.
Watching pink and orange clouds through an opening. They don’t float or drift, they wallow and stay with you, less like puffs or wisps and more like a neon mashed potato spread, falling heavy and clumping.
Every day is an experiment in distractions. I can’t concentrate on anything outside for too long, it just makes me remember. I try singing songs that I like in my head for comfort and familiarity. Passing where the Schuylkil was, now just a curdled puddle.
Something like a cavity, like sticking a soft spot.
From Strawberry Mansion Bridge dots wade. People with plastic up to ankles col ect cans. Trash is burning, their choking fumes enrobe. The lady curled around my calf rummages through bags for a sheet of newspaper to cover her face.
Outside the still open South street occult shop, patrons wait to grab the last of the bat’s blood. We write our regrets in letters.
We always write letters, it’s the only place we know how to hide.
And… it’s over. Third Mainline and I’m still amazed by how much great work ends up flooding my inbox. It’s dizzying really. So much to read, so much to enjoy. Yet there needs to be a winner and, inevitably, I must become the person that potentially ruins someone else’s day by not selecting their manuscript. I feel as though I need to say this, given some messages I’ve received during the contest period: I really hope no one’s treating this one as a loss. The idea is for Mainline to be more like a mosh pit. Many people enter, with only a few holding strong in the center. Just because you don’t dominate the pit during one set doesn’t mean you won’t dominate the next. Besides, we’re putting ourselves out there for the sake of the craft, right? The set may be over, but the music will go on and on and on.
Now for our winners. Yes, it’s another tie:
The Arson People by Katie Jean Shinkle
Ohey by Darby Larson
Super Moonlight by Tasha Cotter
I Wanted to Be the Knife by Sara Ann Sutterlin
Able To / Always Will by Ctch Bsnss
DIY by Joshua Young
For Promotional Use Only by Dolan Morgan
Parts of the Body by Shawn Wen
Animal in Your Care by Bud Smith
Villain Miriam by Helen McClory
Love Death by Dennis James Sweeney
Alice Fisher by Tim Raymond
Parsnips & Persimmons by Dominic Gualco
Vape by Casey Henry
Postures by Grant Maierhofer
The Play of Shadows by David Peak
Archeological Site by Quincy Ryan Jones
Katie Jean Shinkle’s The Arson People and Darby Larson’s Ohey will be published as part of CCM’s 2015 Catalogue.
CCM will also publish two other finalists (details forthcoming).
Mainline will reconvene in 2015.
An excerpt from The Arson People:
STATE PENAL CODE (Excerpt)
Arson & Burning
Section X00.110 Definitions
Any individual found engaging in the following definitions as it pertains to and is defined by the law could be found guilty of committing First, Second, Third, Fourth, or Fifth Degree
Unless the context requires otherwise, the following terms have the following meanings:
(a) “Burn” means setting fire to, or doing any act that results in, the starting of a fire, or aiding, counseling, inducing, persuading, or procuring another to engage in such action.
997 Jug Factory Road
In the middle of the night this hot summer night Elsie Davis sneaks out of her 2nd story bedroom window, slides herself down the front of the roof, drops herself onto the porch, and sprints through the woods that separates her grandmother’s house and two streets over, a dirt road with no outlet and an extremely steep drop at the end. Before she enters the woods, she grabs a full, red, generic metal gas can and a box of GoGreen! kitchen matches she hid underneath the formica trestle attached to the front of the house her grandmother used for gardening. She called the elderly neighbor to the west earlier in the day when she knew her grandmother was out of gasoline to see if he had any. She always puffed her chest up extra when she had to make phone calls like that, wanted to try to get in touch with a deeper voice inside, the man she knew she was. Even in summer she wears the heaviest clothing, today is a red and black plaid long-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up and black leggings too small for her, which roll down all the time, her stomach lobbing over in parts, she never cared. The neighbor called back but her grandmother answered and that is that. Later, Elsie Davis ate, sat on the corner of her bed until dark, and now she and the gasoline are leaving, around the half-fence her grandparents built to keep the raccoons out of the garbage and she is going as fast as she can through the woods. She is going to set Amber’s house on fire. She is going to burn that bitch up.
An excerpt from Ohey:
In Order to form the United States and establish the People of the United States and Justice, We establish a more perfect Justice. The People of the Union and Justice, We, to form, in Order to form a more perfect People of Justice. The United States of a more perfect Union, in Order to establish the People of We, form a more perfect Justice in Order to establish it. So, We form a more perfect establishing of Justice just as the People of Justice formed the United States before us. We the People of a more perfect Union establish the United States for a more perfect People of it. But in Order to insure the People of a more established Justice feel okay about it, the Union, in Order to insure the People of the Union, forms a more perfect People of the United States. This insures the People of the Union feel insured and a more perfect Union forms. The United States and the form of the Union, to establish Justice, forms a more perfect Union. Meanwhile, the People of the United States establish a more perfect People. The People of the Union, to insure the form of a more perfect Union, establish Justice in Order for the People of the Order to establish the Union. To insure the United States can establish the form of a domestic Justice, the establishment of a more perfect form of Justice insures the United States in Order to establish a more insured Union. So the United States, a more perfect Justice, and a more domestic Union are established. And the United States, to insure domestic form, establishes a more perfect form of itself and the Union of the United States forms a more perfect insurance. The Union, to form a more perfect United States, establishes, in Order to establish Justice, a more perfect and insured form of domestic Tranquility. The form of a more perfect and domestic Union establishes a more perfect Tranquility, a domestic Union, and an established Justice. As long as the established Tranquility feels insured, the form of the Union, in Order to insure a domestic Union, reflects a more perfect Tranquility, and everybody’s happy. So the domestically insured Union forms a more perfect Justice while the domestic Tranquility, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establishes a more insured Order. All of this is to insure a more perfect Tranquility, a more domestic Union, and a more insured Justice. This establishes Justice and insures domestic Tranquility. And that Tranquility, to provide for a more perfect Justice, forms a domestic Union and a more perfect means of establishing insurance. To establish Justice and to provide for a more perfect Union, insure a domestic form, and form a more perfect Tranquility to provide for. The Union and a more perfect form to provide for and insure domestic Tranquility, and establish a form of Justice more perfect than before. Tranquility, to provide for it, and a more perfect Union to establish and insure a domestic Justice everyone can agree on. The form of the Union, a more perfect one, and the Tranquility, the domestic one, insured for it. And the domestic Justice, insured, provides for the common Union and a more perfect Justice established. The common Tranquility across the Union is to insure the more perfect and common Tranquility is provided for. Establish Justice and provide for a domestic Tranquility and a more perfect Justice for the common Tranquility. The common Justice is established to provide for and insure the commonly established Tranquility. Or, rather, a more perfect Justice. Insure the Tranquility provides for the established Justice and the common, domestic Union provides for the domestic Justice. A more perfect and common, domestic insurance for the Union and a more perfect Tranquility. A more perfect defense provides for the established Union as well as the common Tranquility. The common defense provides for the Union which establishes Justice, insures a domestic common defense and provides for domestic Tranquility. Insuring domestic Tranquility is the common defense provided for and the established Justice insures it also. The common Union and the common defense are provided for to insure domestic Tranquility and to insure the Union establishes Justice. Insuring the Union establishes and insures the common defense is provided for by the Union itself along with the common Tranquility of Justice. The established Justice insures, provides for the common defense of, and promotes the domestic Tranquility for the commonly insured. Tranquility provides for Justice while Justice promotes and insures Tranquility, and establishes the common defense of it. To provide for and promote the common establishment, the domestic and the insured, Tranquility promotes itself to Justice and the established defense of the insured. The common defense of the domestic Tranquility is to establish Justice and promote the common defense to provide for the insured establishment. Promote the common Tranquility before insuring Justice for the already provided for. That’s common sense. Tranquility, Justice, provided for and promoted to establish the common defense. Insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common general and the defense of it, plus Justice. Promote the general and provide for the domestic Tranquility of it. Justice, to provide for it and the common general, to insure the general is promoted, to defend the common Tranquility and the domestic commonality across it. The general and the common Justice, to insure a domestic providing for it, to provide for the common defense of it, to promote the general, and to insure Justice is the common defense of it. Justice and Tranquility, the common defense, the domestic general, all promoted. The common general, the domestic Welfare. To promote the Tranquility, the common defense, and the domestic Welfare. This insures the common defense insures the general Welfare and the domestic Tranquility of it. Insure the common Welfare and the defense of the provided for Tranquility provides for the general and the domestic and common insurance. The common Tranquility and the general defense and the common Welfare, the general. The common defense provides for domestic Welfare while the general Tranquility promotes the domestic defense for the general defense it provided Tranquility to. The common Welfare, meanwhile, insures the common defense, provides for the general Welfare and promotes domestic insurance. To secure the insurance provided for by the common defense securely defended by the general Welfare of Tranquility. To secure the domestic commonality is a must. The Welfare and the common Tranquility provided for by the promoted defense and the general domestic should provide for the promotion of the general Welfare securely. As long as the domestic Welfare and the domestic Tranquility are secured, the common defense and the common Tranquility will be domestically provided for and secured. Promoting the general Welfare is top priority. Providing for the common defense and securing the general Tranquility in defense of it. Not to mention the securing of the Blessings of it. To promote the Blessings of it. Securing and providing for the general Welfare, the common defense, Tranquility, and the Blessings. Defend the security of Tranquility by providing for the promotion of the common Blessings. Meanwhile, the general Welfare will have been provided for just as the common Tranquility, in defense of the Blessings, will have been promoted to secure the Blessings and provide for the common Welfare. The general Blessings and the common Blessings, the common defense and the Welfare of it. Tranquility, providing for the common defense, secures the Blessings and promotes the general defense. Provide for the common defense, the general Welfare of Liberty, securely, the common Welfare and the security of the general Blessings of Liberty. The Welfare and the common Liberty secures the Blessings of the defense of a general attitude. Basically, promoting the Blessings and securing Liberty are part of the common defense provided for by the Blessings, in hopes that the defense of the common and general Welfares agree with each other. Lest providing for the Blessings of Liberty becomes the securing of the general Welfare and the general Welfare sees fit to provide for the common defense of it. To ourselves, the Blessings appear common, so the promotion of the general Welfare is secured. The Blessings of Liberty to ourselves is secure. The common defense is secure, and the Blessings are promoted to ourselves and the general security of our Welfare. The common Blessings to ourselves feel secure and common, the defense of the Welfare to ourselves feels promotable to ourselves. Ourselves are the common defense promoted by the general Welfare, secured by the Blessings of a common Liberty to ourselves. The common defense, the general Welfare, the promoted Blessings, ourselves, of Liberty. The Blessings of ourselves feel common. To secure Liberty, the general Posterity of the Blessings, and the Welfare of it, along with the general defense of our Posterity of Welfare, a more general promotion is secured. So Liberty, a more defensive Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty. Liberty, to secure the Blessings of our Posterity, in general, a defense of our Posterity from itself and the promotion of Liberty promote a more defensive security. The promotion to ourselves and our Posterity are a defensive Liberty, a promoted general Welfare, and ourselves to secure and keep secured our Posterity of the Blessings of Liberty. The general Welfare promoted, our Posterity secured by the Blessings. Do ordain and secure the Blessings of Liberty, ourselves for the Posterity and the general Liberty, plus Welfare. Promote the general and ourselves for the Blessings and the Liberty of it. Welfare, to ourselves and the general Posterity, to secure the general Welfare, to promote the Posterity of Liberty and the Blessings of Posterity. The general Welfare and the Posterity of Welfare, to secure the Blessings and the ordaining of it to ourselves and for Posterity. Welfare and Liberty, the Posterity promotion, the general Blessings, all promoted. The Liberty of Posterity, do ordain and secure the Blessings of Welfare. To secure the Liberty of our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Welfare for the general Blessings to ourselves and our security. The Blessings to ourselves establish the ordaining of the Welfare and its generalities. Of Liberty, to ourselves, our Posterity, Blessings secured, do ordain the Welfare to ourselves. Secure the Blessings. Our Posterity and the Liberty established by the Posterity of our general Welfare. Our Posterity ordains and does. Ourselves and our secured Blessings establish the general Welfare of our Posterity. Secure the Liberty before the Posterity establishes the Blessings to ourselves. Do ordain and establish the Blessings to ourselves and our Posterity of Liberty. And here we have the Blessings of this Constitution, to ourselves, and the securing of Liberty in order to do the ordaining and establish it. Although the Welfare is securely established of Liberty, ourselves and our Posterity do ordain the securing of this Constitution of Liberty and Welfare. Our Posterity, established by this Constitution, constitutes the Blessings that established it to ourselves and our Posterity. Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the established Blessings of Constitutions everywhere. Of Liberty, securely, establish ourselves and the secured Welfare of Liberty. Establish our Posterity and this Constitution securely. To ourselves, this Constitution of Posterity establishes Blessings and Welfare. Establishing this Constitution to ourselves secures the United States of America from ordaining the doing of the securing of Blessings to ourselves and our Posterity. The Constitution of the Blessings of Liberty secures this Constitution for the United States of America ordainly. Our Posterity, our Liberty, to ourselves, securely, this Constitution of Liberty, do ordains and establishes Liberty and Posterity to ourselves, to the Blessings, to a new Constitution, established for the United States of America. Establish the United States of America and secure its Blessings, its Constitution, and its Posterity. Do ordain and establish the Blessings of the United States of America.
Today marks the commencement of the 3rd edition of MAINLINE. October’s barely begun but, shit, it’s already getting cold. Soon it’ll be too cold for me to kick it outside with a cigar. Don’t know why I’m talking about weather, though. This is Mainline, and as of October 6th, send me a novel, novella(s), collection, or something totally different, a hybrid of some sort to email@example.com. Around 6pm EST every day, I will announce the top 5 manuscripts on Facebook and Twitter. On Friday, October 10th, I’ll announce the winner alongside 3 runner-ups. It’s getting cold out there, in more ways than one. Stay warm. The third and final edition of Mainline in 2014. Let’s do this.
Here we are yet again, the conclusion of Mainline. Bloodshot eyes and very little sleep but over the course of the week, I encountered a dizzying number of remarkable writing, so much that, at times, I had trouble choosing frontrunners. But there has to be a winner… and this time it’s a tie.
Spiritual Instrument by M Kitchell
In a Dream, I Dance by Myself, and I Collapse by Carolyn Zaikowski
Star Backwards by Timmy Reed
Cut it like a Fish by Troy Weaver
Love Letters by Jos Charles
Youth by Megan Lent
Careers in Science by Chelsea Biondolillo
Mall Brat by Laura Marie Marciano
Man Bites Cloud by Bob Schofield
The Well-Dressed Will (Never) Be Found by Jarod Rosello
Sleeping Lords by Manuel Abreu
Pick How You Will Revise a Memory by Jesse Bradley
Map of Belonging by Tasha Cotter
Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone by Sequoia Nagamatsu
M Kitchell’s Spiritual Instrument will be published as part of CCM’s 2015 Catalogue.
Carolyn Zaikowski’s In a Dream, I Dance by Myself, and I Collapse will be published as part of CCM’s 2016 Catalogue.
CCM will also publish three other finalists (details forthcoming). Yeah, it often works that way.
Mainline will reconvene in September.
An excerpt from Spiritual Instrument:
The sound stays still. A buzzing, in the room, but the man cannot pinpoint where. The spatiality of the sound is problematic: an echo, deep. The man, understanding acoustics, knows that the size of the room prevents this—there are no huge walls or deep pits, nothing that could give reign to the emission; the buzzing, the soundtrack to an insomnia, a dissolution. A question of sleep.
[ ≠ ]
Dreaming, the night before, he had entered a cave off the coast of Northern France, and the cave quickly became a bunker, the bunker a wine cellar, and the wine cellar the hallways of an ornate hotel. The sound of the waves crashing upon the shore unceasing. Opening the door to a room of the hotel, he finds the cave, as if movement could only sit as a zero degree. A refusal of any sort of permutation of space and quest had taken hold of the narrative.
The cave walls loom above him, a much larger space than what would be expected from the tiny opening in the earth that he had stumbled into. The cave glows a glittery luminescence: the world seen through a filter, the soft-focus fantasy of European vampires, lesbian overtures, adolescent sexual awakenings & an antiquated idea of the purity of sex.
Climbing down a wall of rock, the man approaches a pool. The pool glows a neon blue illuminated from below, perhaps by living phosphorescent fauna. Stripping nude, he sets his clothes on a nearby rock and dives in. The water envelopes his body like a viscous murk, like to believe in the invisible would be to believe in god, like the sea captain’s chance encounter with death, die tossed, a number a number a siren the man’s body feels so holy in the water, his frame gliding, fur panting like the limbs of Anthozoa. He swims down, down toward light, toward something he can feel, until at the bottom a sphere glows power and glory, the glory of light, the sun displaced to a pool in a cave, light. The warmth the man feels penetrates the headspace, removes the potentiality that blindness will follow—he opens his eyes.
In the center of the sphere, perhaps emanating the light itself, sits a fragile man, broken, sad, old. The man speaks.
I am going to die, he says. Can you find the right tone for me to carry?
Waking up, tangled in sweat and sheets, the man discovers he is coming, and not only coming, but spasming, splitting the air in contortion, enacting the violence of depths, the spurting not patterned in burst but instead continual, as if man himself could become volcano and spill ruin onto civilization, a ruin powered by the solar complexities of the telluric drama: a satisfaction. The body stills, the room is silent. And with this, the cavernous buzzing regains its presence.
[ ≠ ]
The man walks down the hallways as if there were a fire consuming each room off his path. Afraid to touch the handles of the door, as if they could burn his hands. A smell of rotting flesh, inhaled into the cavity leading to inherent understanding. Ever since the resolution of the war, the man finds it difficult not to exist.
[ ≠ ]
Another day, back inside the house, the man finds his lover still asleep in the bedroom. The loud has quieted. He speaks into the air.
I thought you left hours ago for work.
The man in the bed fails to stir, carries the heaviness of stone—man could be statue and still an object of breath.
I thought you were at work.
The man in the bed, the lover, slowly opens his eyes to the light of the room. The man standing before him seems strange, like a muddy shape, the way an unfocused figure in front of a lighted background hovers like the spectre of death. A doomed reality.
Incapable of emitting noises from his mouth, the lover mumbles a low growl, which soon shifts into glossolaliac tone-mud. The more his voice speaks, the more blood rushes to his sex. The man, still standing, confused by the spectacle but enticed by the vagueness of arousal, climbs into bed with his lover, stripping off his clothes to push flesh against flesh.
The lover stirs his face into a smile too complicated for the man to decipher. A furry ass rubs against the man’s cock, which slowly begins to point toward the space occupied by the idea of God. More sounds come from the lover, but with closer proximity the man realizes that not all the sounds can be sourced from the mouth. The square of the back, the heel of the foot, the chest’s sternum: soon an angelic chorus of voices join one another into the hallucinatory space of desire that the two men find themselves inside of.
Though alarmed at first, the memory of space and time collapsing into being at the denouement of the war strays the man from actual fear. A thought fires that actual fear could coalesce into an exercise combinatory of reality and the non-extant, perhaps echoing both the recurrent buzzing sound of his home & the intensity of the orgasm achieved several weeks prior. Despite speculation, corporeality takes over and tangled flesh drowns out the body’s other sounds. A poetic roar: one could imagine the perverse intensity of a firing squad or a car crash. An effusion of logic that leads to a precipice, an intersection into the impossible. But the paroxysm that had stopped death also erased procreation, so the idea of perversion now sits flat against the endless barrage of a ceaseless discourse coming from a source no longer identifiable purely as “media.”
That is, to say, the two men fuck.
An excerpt from In a Dream, I Dance by Myself, and I Collapse:
HOW TO BECOME A BETTER SOCIOPATH
You are a sociopath. Basically what this means, is that you have an inability to relate to the pain of others. Your emotional system is a different make and model than the norm and, most likely, you have never felt the thing that most people think of as empathy. Many people in civilized society consider this problematic to some degree. Terms often used interchangeably with sociopath include psychopath and antisocial personality.
In this section you will learn to associate images of muddy footprints with your sociopathic tendencies. We will begin by invoking some of your sense-memories of maiming people, which will include the process of having you describe, both out loud and on paper, your maiming memories, as we slowly surround you with pictures of weapons and corpses. We will measure your heart rate and other vital signs to make sure you reach your maximum. When your body reaches this heightened state of arousal in relation to maiming, the bell will ring to indicate the desired association, at which point we will clamp your eyelids open and you will view a panoramic image of a generic muddy footprint.
Now you are to listen to the bell five more times, and each time it rings you will see the image of the generic muddy footprint. As this happens, you should begin to notice an increasing drive to violently confront the footprint. We will do this several times today and you will return for six more weeks of treatment.
RING RING RING RING RING
When we have finished with this series of treatments, your propensity towards violence and its new relationship with muddy footprints should successfully be triggered by the sound of a bell, anywhere, at any time.
Today marks the commencement of the 2nd MAINLINE contest. Due to the immense success of the first, I felt it was necessary to give this insane idea another go around. For one whole week, starting today, June 23rd, send me a novel, novella(s), collection, or something totally different, a hybrid of some sort firstname.lastname@example.org. Around 6pm EST every day, I will announce the top 5 manuscripts on Facebook and Twitter. On Sunday, the 29th, I’ll announce the winner alongside 3 runner-ups. I’ve got the coffee pot on 24/7. No sleep for an entire week. Let’s do this.
—Michael J Seidlinger
Damn, what a rush. One week, a flood of manuscripts. Count me completely surprised by the caliber of talent that entered. It was tough to whittle down the candidates and though I wish I could publish every single finalist, much like Highlander, there can only be one. Thanks go out to every single one of you that entered; you helped turn an insane idea into an adventure.
I’m extremely pleased to announce the winner of the inaugural Mainline contest:
How to Pose for Hustler by Andrea Kneeland
I/O: A Memoir by Brian Oliu
NUMBSKULL by No Glykon
Planet by Stephen Michael McDowell
Careful Mountain by Russ Woods
Asuras by Jayinee Basu
Andrea Kneeland’s How to Pose for Hustler will be published as part of CCM’s 2015 Catalogue.
CCM will also publish two other finalists (details forthcoming). Yeah, I enjoy teasing all of you.
I hope you’ll all be up for tapping into the Mainline.
Mainline will reconvene in June.
An excerpt from How to Pose for Hustler:
Scene 73: Check-in
When no one is looking, I pry nails from the wall with my bare hands and I tuck these in my pockets. When they ask if I have any sharp objects with me, I hand them the nails. I got them here. I say. They were in your wall I say, which proves that I am smarter than them. If I want something badly enough, I cannot be stopped. I don’t want anything. I want sometimes to jump out of the car. I want always to disappear. They also take my deodorant and my lipstick and my cigarettes. I flirt with a nurse who gives me extra cigarettes and lets me have my lipstick back. My roommate screams until they come to get her and they put her in lockup. They strap her down to a bed. The man three doors down is called King Jesus. It is dangerous if you do not call him King Jesus. There is an eighteen year old boy with whiteblonde hair and a Weezer sweatshirt and I want to fuck him, but we build a puzzle in the hallway instead. After lights out, I write obscene things all over the walls of my room with the lipstick. Oh I think after I have done it. This is why they did not want me to have the lipstick and that is when I also realize that giving up the nails had been my biggest mistake.
Scene 114: Group Therapy
I want to fuck all of the girls in my group therapy except for A, who is the therapist and K, who is anorexic. She is probably 70 pounds. She is an attention whore. Half of the day is spent cajoling her into drinking one can of Ensure. There is another therapist who is not a woman and he tries to impress us by telling us he used to be Kurt Cobain’s therapist. He specializes in addiction. I think it might be more ethically wrong to lie to a medicated person than to an unmedicated person. I wonder if he wants to fuck all the girls in the class the same way I want to fuck all the girls in the class. I decide that he cannot want it in the same way since he has a penis and I don’t. I want him to disappear. I hurl insults at him when I am forced to speak. I grind my teeth and hide my face against L’s shoulder.
Scene 86: I am a bad person
The psychiatrist tells me that I have Borderline Personality Disorder. I tell her to go fuck herself. She tells me that I am incapable of ever forming a real and meaningful relationship with another human being. I tell her again to fuck herself. She tells me that my response is symptomatic. I apologize. She tells me that I am trying to manipulate her. I agree that this is probably true.
Scene 20: Fear
I have never taken the bus by myself. I have never been on an airplane by myself. I have never been to a movie by myself. I have never lived by myself. I am terrified of the entire world because everything in it can and will hurt me. I stick a constellation of push pins in the tops of my thighs. Sometimes I gather an armful of my clothing and walk down the street and my husband follows me for three blocks in the car until I get in because I don’t know where else to go. When we get home I scream at him to stay away from me and when he touches me my arms and my teeth go in spasms until he stops trying to touch me and then he tells me that I’m crazy. The pastures on either side of the housing complex smell like the feces of animals. The powerlines cut through the sky and I can hear them humming from the window.
Scene 150: Public Restroom
I have too much medicine inside of me. Everything feels sick all the time. Plants that I know are green look blue. They let me return to work. I work as a receptionist in the same office as my husband. I am allowed to drive a car. I take six pills a day. I cannot drive a car. At lunchtime, a word processor that I am friendly with gets in the car that I am allowed for some reason to drive. I take us to a park. I drive down the wrong side of the road because like I said I cannot drive a car right now. There is medication everywhere. Things are not swishing. Everything rolls. Everything moves slowly so I know we are safe even when the car is on the wrong side of the road. She screams but then she laughs because she sees that I am calm so she must know everything is going to be okay. She takes low-grade methamphetamines and diet pills. She has a tattoo on her hand. She has roses around her stomach. The roses are faded and covered with stretch marks from her pregnancy. We stumble into a bathroom stall and barely bother to unzip our pants before wriggling our hands between fabric and skin. Our work is sloppy and if a man had done to us what we are doing to each other, we would have complained about his incompetence. I suck at her tits. We manage the whole thing without falling down. We are impressed with ourselves. I couldn’t have an orgasm if I tried. I get us back to work without an automobile accident or feeling a thing. Risk has been eliminated. The world is groggy. I take another klonopin. They are better than the valium I used to steal from my mother.
Scene 36: Uncertainty
Almost before the thought is even conceived, it is aborted. This vague sense of a growing list of possibilities floating in every space like a comfort, like a painless happiness, and in an attempt to define these possibilities, it is discovered that the list is a list of only one item, and that item is not a possibility, but a consequence. And instead, substitute: where has everyone gone?; why can’t; is this all; where have you gone?; if nobody is at home today?; if I am not ever home?; everyone is gone, except-
Scene 60: War
I wear a handmade thrift store dress three sizes too big. Adjustments are made to the cloth with binderclips and safety pins. I am blue and flowers and white tights everywhere. I bring the newspaper in and talk about the same thing every week. When she asks me about anything, I talk about the war and I cry. When anyone asks me about anything, I talk about the war and I cry. We discuss sex abuse for five minutes and then I unfold the front page of the paper and I show her color photographs and I tell her that the war is what’s making me crazy and I talk about the war and I cry. My psychologist is an old black woman who will die from kidney failure in less than a year. I love her in a way that I would love someone real if I was capable of it. When her husband calls me to tell me she has died, his voice is clogged with tears and then I feel grief in the same way I felt love and I watch the emotions with a passive interest, through a dirty aquarium glass. I read about the war and I cry. The world floats along.
Scene 103: Cigarettes
I haven’t smoked for over a year but every forty-five minutes they let us go outside and everyone here is a smoker. If you were not a smoker when you came in you were a smoker within the first week. It is unlikely, though, that you were not a smoker when you came in because everyone who is crazy is a smoker. I am not making this up this is science. 90% of schizophrenics smoke and 70% of manic depressives smoke. It’s not called manic depression anymore; it’s called bi-polar disorder. Your dad may have been a Negro and my dad may have been a Manic Depressive but that’s not how the world works today. Everything changes all the time and no one can keep up. Most of the time the world passes by and I feel a swishing motion in my head but sometimes if I smoke enough cigarettes with a large enough group, I can sync with a tiny piece of the world and the swishing stops. Also, there is nothing else to do during the ten minute breaks but coffee and cigarettes. The styrofoam cup I drink the coffee from is the same white as an egret and each time I look at the cup in my hand I feel sick.
Scene 32: Photograph
When was that picture taken? I scream but I am screaming this happily and in my head I’m laughing and maybe I am laughing outside of my head a little bit too because it’s ludicrous, this person who is me who I have never seen in my life and completely serious, he turns to me, he asks What? and I say to him, I say I’ve never had orange hair, did I dye it for the weekend? I don’t remember and his voice is flat, he says You had your hair like that for six months.
Scene: 115: L
I have a relationship L. She is fat and has bad hair. I think I am in love with her. I write her letters that I never give to her. She disappears. The whole of our affair was limited to hysterical phone calls and manic embraces during therapy sessions. Trips to the liquor store to buy cigarettes. She was in love with her father who tried to kill himself when she was a teenager. One night she comes to my house. I get her clothes off and manage three fingers into her pussy. It was ruined before I even turned around to see my husband at the side of the bed, standing over us naked and jerking off. I hate him like I have never hated anyone. She and I both laugh but it is also another reminder that I am probably dead, and then I fall asleep before she does, my head cocked between her stomach and the mattress and my hand still inside of her or almost inside of her. I know now that it was not love because I remember her name and have never looked for her on Facebook.
Scene 48: Ambulance
I don’t remember much about the ambulance ride, but I see now that I had managed to carve “WHOORE” along my inner thigh before they picked me up. I won a spelling bee in third grade, so there is a gray sort of math here somewhere that might indicate how many pills I have taken.
Scene #84: In-Patient Facilities
Maybe half an hour past dusk and I’m crouched down against a patch of cement, staring at the man standing over me. He is also staring. He is smiling. He is talking but I can’t hear him. The man above me I think might be about fifty-something and I don’t know what he’s saying. I don’t care. I am focused on: inhale/exhale. He is becoming angry, he is raising his voice, it is impossible to: inhale/exhale. I wonder where the nurses are. He is large and he is above me. I want to run. Instead, my body stiffens. I curl up fetal, knees tucked inside one arm; the only thing I can do is stare into him, grin. I can hear him now: I shouldn’t be here I don’t know why I’m her I’m talking to my daughter all I’m doing is talking to my daughter I don’t know why I get these headaches and I see the red my daughter was screaming and all I could see was red it’s just I get so angry and then everything goes red and all I can see I don’t see nothing else he’s pleading with me, yelling, and there is nothing I can do for him, I can’t even try, so what else can he do but become angry with me? I understand how much he loved his daughter, how she was the center of everything in the world and a blanket of nausea moves over me. Whatever happened to his daughter, whatever he did to her, I can only think: at least she isn’t here.
Scene 89: Side Effects
Body aches and pains; runny nose; voice changes; nonmenstrual vaginal bleeding; double vision; vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds; crying paranoia; memory loss; cold sweats; confusion; mutism; rapid worm-like movements of the tongue. There are more, but I can’t remember them all.
Scene #48: Lunchtime with E and L
At lunchtime, the three of us pile into his car: a rust brown Pinto that smells like smoke. We’re driving down the street to pick up chinese food and more cigarettes. I lean into the back seat, my head lolls against the window and I listen to you talk through closed eyes. There’s a familiar click, hiss, a crackling of paper. The smell of it fills the tiny car, thick and heavy like sleep and I think about all the good things I’m missing and all the things I want. I think the reason I don’t have those things is because I’m here and if I’m not here I will have those things, but I don’t really know where here is and whether or not leaving means going away somewhere or refusing to ever go anywhere again. My thoughts that I can see are tiny dots of light and there are so many, they are overlapping, they are converging. The car pulls in front of a manicured lawn adorned with several life sized deer statuettes painted like paper maché and both L and E have become excited. Holy Christ, look at the fucking deer! L can’t talk, her laughter is hysterical, it sounds like she’s screaming. Look at the deer, Jesus lord, look at the fucking deer! she is screaming. She turns to me, she is sweaty, her hair is sticking to your pinkish face in clumps. Later, on the phone with me, she screams the same way, while E tries to break through her door. She calls me before she calls 911. This is why out-patients are not allowed to date other out-patients.
Scene #211: Reflection
I see all of it. Every single, separate thing that is beautiful. Escalation and erosion in between, and: if I can catch that same spark of beauty in the flint of her hair.