Candlestick Cousins

Barbara Krasner

 

As I drove into Brooklyn this May day in 1993, I also drove into my grandmother’s past. I rang the bell at Apt. 7F and when the door opened, I faced my grandmother’s 90-year-old first cousin, Evelyn. The confident tone of her voice put me immediately at ease, as if I had known her my entire life. She ushered me into the living room. Light poured in from the ample windows.

“I remember the day your grandmother Eva arrived from Europe,” Evelyn said. If her father hadn’t come to America, Evelyn could easily have been one of those women in our mutual ancestral shtetl, Kozlow, (once Poland, then Austria-Hungary, and since 1918 in Ukraine). She could have covered her head with a kerchief in a pattern that clashed with her dress and oversized sweater. She might have sported lavender anklets squeezed into backless slippers that flapped against the floor. Her home would have lace curtains to let in as much light as possible. But, Evelyn was born and raised in America, New York City, to be exact. She had reddish-blond hair curled away from her face, was a bit plump and perfectly amiable. But there was more to her than that. I studied her, watched her movements. In her younger days, she must have vacillated between proper young lady and cheeky vamp. Everything about her was symmetrical: hair parted in the middle, perfectly spaced eyes and eyebrows. But her lips smirked a bit as if to suggest she had a secret and wouldn’t I like to know what it was.

It did not occur to me as I sat on her sofa in the soft daylight that one hundred years before, Evelyn’s father, Benzion Zuckerkandel, arrived in America at age nineteen in May 1893. I did not know as Evelyn busied herself in the kitchen pouring me a drink that a surprise awaited me on her father’s ship manifest. Only now in 2018 as I checked his immigration record in the Ellis Island database did I find it. Right below Benzion’s entry was one for Henoch Zuckerkandel, twenty-nine years old. That’s my great-grandfather. I never knew he came to America. His passage occurred just about a year after Eva’s birth. I imagine he was scoping out the place before he brought the whole family, which was to have a few more additions before the time my grandmother emigrated. He must have returned to Europe. Maybe he couldn’t make a go of it. Maybe he couldn’t convince my great-grandmother to leave Kozlow, maybe she was pregnant again. The horrors of the Holocaust could have been avoided if only they’d all have come to America.

Evelyn told me how my grandmother knew no English. How exciting it must have been for Evelyn to meet a first cousin from the Other Side of the Pond when she was ten years old, someone who shared a Yiddish name, Chava, with her. I imagine Eva would have used Yiddish with her uncle. She must have been scared, too. She would not have remembered him from Kozlow, having only been a baby when he left. Now she was meeting him as a family man, meeting his wife and daughters.

“Eva stayed with us for years at Lynch Street in Williamsburg,” Evelyn said. “It was like having an older sister.” Eva was ten years older than Evelyn. How strange it all must have felt for my grandmother. No goats or chickens in the backyard. No thatched roofs. Maybe even little Yiddish.

Uncle Ben probably had more room and more money. He had sponsored Eva’s journey. But a widowed aunt on her mother’s side offered her more comfort on the Lower East Side. Here my grandmother could relax with an aunt and cousins she already knew, with people inside and outside the home she could converse with completely in Yiddish.

Perhaps it had been a plan to send Eva to America first and then her siblings would follow. Eva Zuckerkandel was brave to come to America alone. I could not imagine the strength she had to muster to leave home, her parents, and seven siblings. She must have thought she was off to a great adventure, the whole world open to her in a way Kozlow, a shtetl of 700 people, could never be. Uncle Ben paid for Eva’s wedding to my grandfather in May 1918. His Zuckerkandel family home served as her first home in her new country. He had a reputation, so Evelyn told me, of paving the way for family members to come to America. But when Ben sponsored a younger brother, he got more than he bargained for. The seventeen-year-old brother didn’t want to work, although he had been a tailor in Kozlow. After just a few months, he wanted to return home. Ben wouldn’t pay his way. The brother stayed, became a gambler and ne’er do well, and never married. He legally changed his name. “We saw him frequently,” Evelyn said. “But my father refused to talk to him.” Eva would have known him, since he was only ten years older than she was. What she thought of him, I couldn’t say, and my father did not recall him at all.

“I want to leave you my candlesticks,” Evelyn said. “They were my mother’s.” I nearly cried. I barely knew her, and here she was giving what was to me her prized possessions. I knew from my genealogical research that female immigrants left home with two treasured items: a featherbed and Sabbath candlesticks. I also knew as the youngest of four daughters, I would never inherit my mother’s set. Evelyn’s candlesticks witnessed my grandmother’s first Sabbath in America just a few days after she arrived on a fair, warm September Monday in 1913. Perhaps Eva helped her aunt light them. Perhaps she wondered what her own mother and sisters were doing that same Shabbos in Kozlow. Perhaps she recited the ancient Hebrew blessing, uniting her with her non-Yiddish speaking cousins.

But why give the heirloom candlesticks to me? Why not give them to a more immediate family member? As I now think about it, the candlesticks formed a bridge between the Old Country and here, between the immigrant and the American born. Maybe no one else in her family cared about family stories or the past. And then here I showed up, as interested as if I had been one of Evelyn’s contemporaries. I felt at home here, speaking about people long dead but as if I had personally known them all, as if I could see them now milling about the apartment. I was open to the idea of ghosts. They already knew all that I wanted to know about my family’s history. I was connected to them through my DNA and my research, which now served as collective memory.

I needed visual images to make that memory more visceral. Evelyn gave me a snapshot of a pregnant Eva, circa 1924, my five-year-old father standing in front of her, their fingers touching. She’s holding my uncle Harry, the baby, and it looked like she was ready to give birth again. The only photos my family had of Eva were at my parents’ 1946 wedding. Now here she was, proud mama of two boys. I wondered what dreams she might have had then. Did she think about bringing over her brothers and sisters, her parents? Was she already contemplating investing in real estate around town? Or did she worry about how she would run the family business while being a mother? She could not have known that she would develop diabetes and cancer and die far too young. Evelyn also gave me an 8×10 photo of her younger self and a 1957 photo of Ben Zuckerkandel with a great-grandchild.

Evelyn and I continued to write for a few more years. Our letters were filled with news of current family, weddings, and bar mitzvah celebrations. She looked forward to attending these, because otherwise she was bored. No spouse, no children, no sisters. One of her nephews would pick her up and take her to these events. She had become the dowager aunt. In 1996, at the age of 96, she was still living by herself in Brooklyn. Then the letters stopped. I assumed she passed away. Her nephew called me in 2004 to inform me of Evelyn’s death at 101. He knew nothing about the candlesticks. He and I lost touch.

Visiting with Evelyn that May day in 1993 placed me shoulder to shoulder with my grandmother’s America-born first cousin. She gave me her warmth and whatever memories she had. She made me feel my grandmother’s arrival in America. But I still didn’t know the woman who had never held me, never combed my bangs to the side and fastened them with a barrette. She never praised my latest drawing or felt the tingle of my fingertips in hers. Eva never sat with her grandchildren on her knee or celebrated their milestone events. She never got to attend two of her sons’ weddings. No matter how hard I tried, the realization slowly sank in that I would never really know Eva.

KR 37 KRASNER EVA

My grandmother, Eva, with my father in front of her, ca. 1924.

 

kr 37 krasner evelyn z

Evelyn Zuckerkandel in her heyday.

 

KR 37 KRASNER BEN

Ben Zuckerkandel with his great-grandson in 1957.

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About the author:

Barbara Krasner holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches composition and history at Mercer County Community College. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The Smart Set, Jewish Literary Journal, The Manifest-Station, Poor Yorick, Minerva Rising, and other publications.

 

Vultures

Lois Marie Harrod

 

They disappear for days,
the blue-enamel heaven
empty as a pot,
no ripe meat
rising in the kettle,
no random reek.
The canal where we walk
scrubbed of duckweed,
vegetable protein rot.

Then they return
wheeling the steeple,
cadaverine
putrescine
rising on the wind,
great trundles reminding
some somewhere
something is dying,
dead, climatic shift,
black plague.
We sniff our breath,
our armpits,
whiff nothing yet.

 

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About the author:

Lois Marie Harrod’s 16th and most recent collection Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016 from Five Oaks. And She Took the Heart (Casa de Cinco Hermanas) appeared in January 2016, Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. The Only Is won the 2012 Tennessee Chapbook Contest (Poems & Plays), and Brief Term, a collection of poems about teachers and teaching was published by Black Buzzard Press, 2011. Cosmogony won the 2010 Hazel Lipa Chapbook (Iowa State). Dodge poet and 3-time recipient of a New Jersey Council on the Arts fellowship, she is widely published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. Links to her online work at http://www.loismarieharrod.org

 

Ithaca

Lauren Fedorko

 

To be alive when there is so much hate is a marvel.

Toughannock Falls is an unimaginable height—
I consider the length of two hundred and fifteen feet.
Sequoias are comparable in how when you look up
Their treetops disappear into the skies.

The rumored tragedy of Chief Taughannock looms and swirls in dark waters below,
How his loyal body was thrown from the precipice.

The sound it must have made
When it hit the base—
Water: slashing in a whiplashed fury.
Rock: flat and hard.
A few seconds to take everything.

When you’re alive it’s sometimes impossible to forgive.
When you’re alive there is so much that can kill you.

I watch the vultures circle high.
Their shadows casting monstrous versions of themselves
Near hikers’ boots.

 

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About the author:

Lauren Fedorko, M.Ed., is an Adjunct Professor of writing at Rutgers University, teaches AP Literature, and advises a creative writing club for her students. Her passion for writing is longstanding and ongoing, composed mostly of poetry and creative non-fiction. She enjoys exploring, good company, photography, and traveling the world every chance she gets. Her work has been previously published in the Kelsey Review.

 

 

Ouroboros

Tim Waldron

 

Nate Butler was working on his front lawn the day Mr. Paterson died. The unseasonably cool August weather offered a rare opportunity for reseeding the burnt patches of lawn left by an extra hot July. Nate paused between digs to stretch his back and wipe his brow. His next door neighbor sat on a folding chair in his driveway contemplating a blank canvas and arranging his brushes in preparation of his next masterpiece. Mr. Paterson worked mostly in oils and always painted his deceased wife standing in the driveway directly across the street.  The Abernathys, who lived in the home Mr. Paterson fixated on, were not fans of the process. Besides the guaranteed presence of Mr. Paterson’s wife, each painting showed the Abernathy’s home distorted in some perverse or outlandish way.  Mr. Paterson depicted the home engulfed in flames, existing underwater, and made of marshmallows. No matter how ridiculous the split-level behind her was rendered, Mrs. Paterson always stood politely, looking directly at the viewer with her hands interlocked casually at her waist. One of Nate’s favorite paintings was a miniaturized and otherwise completely photorealistic version of the house sitting in Mrs. Paterson’s shadow. Nate observed his neighbor raise a thumb for perspective before getting down to work. After completing a painting Mr. Paterson would take off his shirt, put it on over his head pharos style, and turn his easel to the street for viewing.  Each installation received a fair amount of attention.  The neighborhood was heavily traveled by dog walkers and families on strolls. He developed a regular following of a dozen or so neighbors who made sure their routes took them by his house for a closer look at the work.

As far as Nate and his wife were concerned, Mr. Paterson was a perfectly fine neighbor. He demanded nothing more than polite salutations, and mostly kept to himself. Well, Nate did infrequently complain about the state of their house and yard. Mr. Paterson wasn’t much for upkeep and would often let his lawn grow for months at a time, ignore the fall leaves, and let the walkways remain snow covered after a winter storm. The house didn’t look dilapidated, but seemed run down in some ways. It could use a new coat of paint, maybe a new roof, or some landscaping.

Nate lost track of his own work while angrily staring at his neighbor’s house. How could the old man just sit there and paint while his lawn went neglected? The overgrown weeds were insane. The garage, which was left open during every painting session, was overstuffed with banker’s boxes full of old newspapers and magazines. The site of the calamity agitated Nate’s obsessive compulsive nature.  Nate thought about walking over and offering to mow the lawn, but decided it was too pushy. He would only be asking for himself, to scratch the itch in his own brain, not to help out in a neighborly way. Mr. Paterson stood-up from his chair, arched his back, and stretched to his left, then right. He reached both arms into the air and bowed his back. Mr. Paterson started shaking his left hand. He made a fist and released over and over again it in quick succession. Just as Nate thought, I hope that he doesn’t have a heart attack, Mr. Paterson grabbed his left bicep and fell into his easel. Nate checked the pockets of his shorts, but found no phone.

“Mackenzie,” Nate called out as he ran to Mr. Paterson. “Mackenzie,” he called again.

“Mackenzie, help,” he called one final time.

Nate turned Mr. Paterson onto his back. He was barely conscious, eyes focused on some far away thing, pupils noticeably dilating. Nate heard his pregnant wife approach from the house. She’d called 911, she explained as she hurried towards them, her words forced as she was already winded from carrying her eight-and-a-half-month pregnant frame across their lawn. Mr. Paterson looked over Nate’s shoulder, locked eyes with Mackenzie, and called for his mother.

Mr. Paterson stopped responding.  Nate overlapped his hands and began chest compressions. As he counted to thirty he couldn’t help but notice the scarring on Mr. Paterson’s body. Each mark was medical, clean and straight incisions, flanked by little dots from suturing. Of the three he could see, the only one he could properly identify was the appendix scar. The second was high on his abdomen, maybe a gallbladder surgery, and the last was above his right nipple. At the count of thirty Nate tilted Mr. Paterson’s head back, and placed his hand underneath the old man. He took a short powerful breath, blinked purposefully and told himself to focus. Nate caught site of what would become the last driveway painting lying on the ground next to them.  Instead of another perversion of Abernathy’s home Mr. Paterson had painted a sky-blue blob. Maybe it was a swimming pool from above? There was too much design and purpose to the shape for it just to be a careless blotch. It was both basic and fascinating. Looking at it made him feel calm and detached. Nate pulled himself back into the moment, checked Mr. Paterson’s mouth and throat for obstructions and then administered mouth-to-mouth. He knew as soon his mouth touched Mr. Paterson’s that the body was beyond revival.

“He’s gone,” Nate said.

“Fuck,” Mackenzie said. “My water broke.”

***

At 3:48AM the baby cried, waking Nate from the light slumber of a new parent. His wife wore ear plugs on her “off” nights and did not stir. There was a bottle of breast milk on his night stand, which he grabbed before making his way to the nursery. Despite the abundance of fans and white noise machines, Nate could hear the dull thump of bass coming from the house next door. He picked his four-month-old son, Douglas, out of the crib.  The bottle quickly mollified the tiny cries. Nate walked circles in the nursery doing his best to soothe the sleepy, yet agitated child. He turned on a turtle-shaped toy with plastic blue shell and plushy bottom. A calm and tranquil light shot from its back and projected a brilliant shallow seascape on the ceiling. Douglas, entranced by the light show, settled. Nate paused by the window and looked down to what he and his wife had come to call the party house.  After Mr. Paterson passed, the house went up for auction in an estate sale. The new owner purchased the house as an investment property and rented it out. The boom of bass and roar of a substantial crowd peaked for a quick moment as a young man exited the rear of the house. He stood on the back deck, wearing work boots, tighty whities, and an orange vest. The young man stroked his bushy brown beard, then gathered his long hair with both hands and twisted it around into a man bun. Nate let out a judgy breath. The young man casually sifted through trash on the table. He shook out a few jackets left on chairs, and finally found what he was looking for. Whatever he found was lit, and smoked. He arched his back in between drags, letting his round white belly breach the cold night air. The young man carried himself in a way that seemed familiar to Nate. He had the gait of an ex-football player, someone who may have once been powerful, but had gone soft. In that way, the young man seemed relatable to Nate. The noise spiked again as the door to the deck opened. The murmur of a party patter rushed out. The young man nodded to the person at the door, put out his smoke, and returned inside.  Nate rocked back and forth, counted to one hundred, and returned the sleeping child back to his crib.

Any day that Douglas slept past 6:00AM was taken as a miracle. The Butlers celebrated this reprieve from parenting by lying in bed with their phones inches from their face scrolling through screen after screen of blissfully useless unimportant information.  Just before 7:00AM the short breaths of frustration became audible in the next room. Their dog, Slainte, was similarly shell-shocked by this new addition and groaned from the foot of the bed. Mackenzie mumbled baby as she got out of bed. Her husband followed. She thought he said garbage as he made his way down the stairs, but wasn’t sure, and didn’t really care. Douglas was wide awake in his crib, seemingly chilled-out now that Mom was in sight. She thought about letting him be for a moment, but it was impossible not to pick him up, to not hold him, to not rest her nose against the top of his head and inhale deeply.  Mackenzie sang her good morning song, made up of misremembered lyrics to a tune from Singing in the Rain and he smiled and laughed, which made her smile and laugh.  She held him to her sore swollen breast and bounced him while pacing the room. Mackenzie caught sight of Nate from the nursery window. He was walking away from the trash bin at the curb and over toward the party house. She briefly thought that last night’s festivities may have been the last straw for him. The young man with a beard made his way towards her husband with his hand out. The two shook hands and began to speak. From the nursery window, the exchange seemed pleasant enough. Douglas squirmed in her arms and she said, “Ok,” to him softly. “Shhh, shhh, shhh.”

***

Nate spotted the young bearded guy after dragging the trash bin to the curb. He stared at his new neighbor while contemplating what to do, and how to make an introduction. Should he be indignant about the late night parties? Or should he be neighborly and give the guy a chance to adjust to suburban living? In mid-debate the young bearded guy looked Nate’s way and waved. Nate smiled, waved back, and walked toward his neighbor.

“How’s it going?” Nate asked.

“Good, good,” the young neighbor said. “Sorry I haven’t been by to introduce myself, I’m still getting settled.”

“No, no problem,” Nate said. They shook hands. Nate could smell the booze and smoke wafting off of him. He was still shirtless under the vest, but thankfully had since put on pants.

“Well, welcome to the neighborhood…” Nate shook his head, squinted, and forced a smile.

“Nate,” the young bearded guy said.

“Right, and you’re?”

“Nate,” the young bearded guy repeated.

“I’m Nate,” the two men said simultaneously while pointing to themselves with their thumbs.

“No fucking way,” Young bearded guy said, laughing and leaning back. “We’ve got the same name.”

“Guess so.” Nate grimaced. Young bearded Nate continued to laugh and held up his hand to high-five, which was awkwardly accommodated. “Listen,” Nate finally said. “We have a four month-old, and we’d appreciate it if you can keep the all-night parties to a minimum.”

“Oh, sure.” He stopped laughing. “I’ll keep it to a dull roar.”

“That’s not exactly what I’m asking,” Nate said. He heard an urgent knocking sound and turned back to the house. His wife stood in the center of the picture window, holding the baby and waving him over to her.  “I’ve gotta go.”

***

Mackenzie needed to pump, like whoa. Some mornings were fine and others were an avalanche of pain. It was like gravity had an extra strong hold on her insides, every time she stepped a weighty electric discomfort zapped through her. When Nate entered the house the dog went ballistic and caused the baby to cry. It was just too fucking much. And on top of all the noise her tits were about to explode.

“So the bearded guy next door…” Nate began to say.

“Take the baby,” she said, almost as an afterthought, handed Douglas to Nate and made a slow but determined beeline for her breast pump. The process of putting on the contraption was second nature. The real issue, the thing that made the whole affair an ordeal, was the drain she felt while pumping. In the first month she couldn’t do it without crying. The Let-Down, as it was called on the Mommy Boards was described as a warm tingling feeling in the breast while the baby nursed.  As Mackenzie experienced it, the Let-Down was a hormone surge that arrived in the form of depression and dread. She quickly learned to keep distracted while expressing milk. Her iPad was ideal. She’d read a bit of a book, hit a few websites, and then eventually land back on the Mommy Boards. For the most part the Mommy Boards provided a mix of practical advice, voyeuristic entertainment, and eye rolling commiserating. She created a user account at the insistence of her neighbor Jenny Abernathy. Jenny swore they were a lifesaver when she had her daughter Cindy a few years earlier. Although Mackenzie hadn’t ever directly interacted with others on the board she found it legitimately helpful for a time. The information which once seemed revelatory sat stale on the screen. She’d even gone through months, if not years, of archived posts. After six months they all repeated themselves. It was like an online high school where new moms graduated and a new crop came in, reading the same books, and stirring up the same drama.  The darkness of the impending Let-Down swelled inside her. She logged-in as mothersattva365 and typed a post saying she suspected her husband of cheating on her. She hastily revised it to read that she had found videos on her husband’s laptop. Pornography, she thought to herself, no, bestiality!  She wrote, reread her work, and felt she’d nailed the tone. She hit send.  I found bestiality videos on my husband’s laptop and the dog is acting strange. I’m not sure what to do.  The reaction was immediate and better and more distracting than she could have hoped.

***

Car doors started to slam at all hours of the night, each one set the dog off, and then the dog set off the baby. Mackenzie woke up crazy annoyed. She went through a number of different scenarios subtly differing by degrees. The politest involved some mild stalking and a casual run-in outside, like how Nate met the other Nate.  The most severe involved a bag of Slainte’s shit on their front door and the word Quiet painted in lamb’s blood. Another door slammed. She shot out of bed. There was no time to wait for an opportune moment or for Slainte’s next bowel movement. She heard the sounds of Nate humming a lullaby to Douglas as she crept down the hallway. A warm blue light from the toy turtle’s seascape night-light spilled from the slightly ajar door.  The child’s toy never ceased to catch her eye. She stared at the warm Caribbean colors and rhythmic movement of light calmed her.  Another car door slammed and she was back on her original mission.

Mackenzie put on her winter coat and made her way to the neighbor’s house.  A group of three people were leaning on a running car smoking cigarettes and chatting. They seemed to quiet as she crossed the lawn. One by one they put out their smokes and got into the car. She heard one of them say, “She mad.”

Mackenzie was familiar with the modus operandi of a dealer. It was, after all, how she put herself through college. But, when she was in the game, it was out of dorms and apartments in student ghettos. Shit could be loud at all hours because there were no fucking families. She’d never set-up shop in the suburbs, even back then, she knew better. It was stupid, inconsiderate, and a bad business practice. Mackenzie stopped herself from ringing the bell and opted to bang on the door with a clenched fist. It felt more confrontational and dickish. A young woman answered the door in a bright and spry way that made her question the time of night. She panicked at the thought that it might be too early for the late night noise complaint she was ready to volley.

“Do you know what time it is?” Mackenzie asked sounding as irritated as she could.

“You came over here to ask the time?” The young woman looked over her shoulder to Other Nate, sitting on the couch, and watching TV in his underwear. “Nate, the neighbor’s here.”

“Invite her in,” he said, without looking away from a Friends episode that Mackenzie remembered from its first run – The One with the Flashback. The young woman stood back, opened the door further and motioned for Mackenzie to enter.  Mackenzie squinted at the young woman. There was something about this woman, the way she stood – her couldn’t give a shit attitude, those boots, and that shirt ( but mostly the boots). She liked this girl and she normally didn’t take to other women.

“This isn’t a social visit,” Mackenzie said, walking into the house.

“No?” the young woman asked.

“Do you live here too?”

“That’s right,” she said and offered her hand. “I’m renting a room from Nate, my name is Mackenzie.”

“Is this some kind of joke?”

“Is what a joke?”

“Her name is Mackenzie too,” Other Nate said from the couch. “She thinks you’re fucking with her.”

“I don’t give a shit if your name is Mackenzie or Jesus Fucking Christ,” Mackenzie said. “I know you’re dealing and it needs to stop.” Other Nate and Other Mackenzie kept looking at her, but offered no response. “This is family neighborhood,” she said.

“Well,” Other Mackenzie put her arm on Mackenzie’s shoulder and led her to the love seat. “Sit, have a vape, let’s talk this over.”  Other Mackenzie took an inflated clear plastic bag off of what looked to be the base of a blender and handed to Mackenzie. “We can’t just stop, but maybe we can amend our hours. Say no pick-ups after eleven.”

“No pick-ups after eight, and I won’t call the cops.” Mackenzie put the plunger of the bag in her mouth and inhaled deeply. The neutered taste of marijuana filled her mouth, and a sense of relief, long absent from her life, glowed inside her. She exhaled and leaned back into the love seat. “Not bad,” she said and nodded to Other Mackenzie and Other Nate. They sat there quietly for a few moments and watched television and didn’t talk to one another for a bit. Mackenzie felt happier than she had in weeks.

“What’s that blue light coming from your house?” Other Nate said after a bit. He was looking past the television and out the side window.

“That’s our turtle,” Mackenzie said. “He’s a toy that shoots calming blue light out of his back.”

“The light is hypnotic,” Other Mackenzie said.

“It helps Douglas go to sleep,” Mackenzie said.

“It reminds me of something,” Other Nate said just before dozing off.

***

The most recent cold snap came to an end leaving a rare balmy sixty-five degree December day in its wake. Nate was determined to take full advantage of the unseasonably warm day by walking around the neighborhood with the family. The circular and interconnected layout of their neighborhood was ideal for family walks. Nate, Mackenzie, Douglas, and Slainte could cover five miles of ground, and never be more than a mile away from home. This proved advantageous when Douglas had diaper blow-outs or got sick or any other number of surprising baby related emergencies that frequently caught them by surprise. Midway through their second lap the family hit their stride. Mackenzie pushed Douglas along while Nate assertively steered Slainte past any number of noteworthy sniffing spots. They were coming up on their house and having such a fine time that they decided to keep going.

“You shouldn’t be allowed to own a dog.” A call came from across the street. Nate stopped and turned, finding his neighbor, Scott Abernathy, standing on his lawn in his bathrobe.

“It’s a free country, Scott,” Nate replied. “And quite frankly, it’s none of your business.” Scott was an angry over the hill high-school administrator obsessed with maintaining certain esthetics in the neighborhood. Nate wasn’t surprised that Scott rushed outside and shouted something ridiculous to him. However, he was surprised that Scott was angry enough to march toward him with, what seemed to be, the initiation of a physical confrontation. Nate puffed out his chest and wrapped Slainte’s leash around his hand. Scott’s wife, Jenny, was vigilant and always on alert to temper her husband’s aggressive civic concerns. She rushed out the front door calling after her husband. Scott ignored Jenny until she caught up with him and grabbed him by the arm and turned him to see his three year-old daughter watching them through the window. The two exchanged hushed, but urgent words until Scott threw his hands up in the air and returned inside.

“What the fuck was that?” Nate asked.

“I have to catch you up on a joke,” Mackenzie said. “Have I ever told you about those Mommy Boards?” Mackenzie casually told Nate about how Jenny Abernathy had directed her to numerous mommycentic blogs and message boards that had been of help to Jenny when Cindy was born. Mackenzie forgot that Jenny helped set-up most of her accounts and knew her user name. A fact that was totally forgotten when Mackenzie started to troll the other moms with news that her husband might make the dog lick peanut butter off of his balls. As their largely pedantic argument continued on without a foreseeable end, Mackenzie let slip that she spent an evening hanging out with their neighbors in the party house. The admission was more of a desperate attempt to move on to another topic, rather than a slipup.

“What is wrong with you,” Nate finally interrupted. “We have a kid, you’re a mom. You can’t get high with the neighbors and post nonsense on the internet.”

“Becoming a dad has made you a total pussy,” Mackenzie said. They stood silently looking at one another. Nate attempted to speak, but only mustered a frustrated noise before walking out of the room.

***

Douglas’s crying pulled Nate from sleep. He robotically rose from bed, grabbed the bottle of breast milk off his nightstand, and went to his son’s room. Douglas, as part of his current routine, stopped crying as the door opened. All the books and articles Nate read stressed how he shouldn’t do anything to engage the baby during night feedings, but the sight of his son’s smile made him happy in a way nothing else ever had. He scooped Douglas from the crib, smiled back and baby talked nonsense words, confessed his love, and made any noise that he knew would illicit a smile or giggle. Nate situated Douglas for his feeding, put the bottle in the boy’s mouth and then walked to the dresser. The turtle was not in his usual spot, but it was late, and Nate was unconcerned with the absence. Douglas settled and seemed content with the bottle. Nate continued to circle the room until the boy no longer drank or squirmed in his arms. Semi-confident that Douglas was asleep, Nate stopped his pacing and stood at the side window. He gently rocked the boy back and forth, watch the boy’s heavy eyes. Nate looked up and noticed a familiar looking blue light coming from the party house. The thought that it might come from Douglas’s turtle sent a shot of adrenaline through his body.

Feeling sure and righteous, Nate went into his room ready to wake his wife. The bed was empty.  He quietly searched the house. Each empty room fed a nagging feeling that she’d gone next door. All the anger from their earlier argument became crystalline. He pulled on his snow boots, put on a hunting cap, wrapped Douglas in a blanket, and walked next door. Shock and Awe, he thought to himself. What are they going to say to a forty-year old man standing in his underwear holding a baby? Nothing, that’s what you say to that.

Nate walked out of his front door and through his neighbor’s back gate. He saw the blue sparkling light of the turtle spill out onto the deck. He put his face up against the sliding glass door. No one flinched. He pulled the door open expecting to be hit with noise and pot smoke, but it was quiet with just a hint of something mundane. The room was brilliantly awash in the turtle’s light, like they were all causally sitting in the bottom of a pool. His wife and Other Mackenzie were lying on a sectional couch nearly head to head sharing a vape bag. Other Nate sat in a recliner, legs kicked out, and head back. He held a cigarette with a precarious ash between his fingers, seemingly content to let it burn down to the filter. There was a little girl in the other room, her back to them, busily flipping through the pages of an old photo album. It looked like Cindy Abernathy, but he doubted Scott would ever let this crew around his daughter.

“Mackenzie,” Nate said. “What the fuck?” The two women looked up at him and shrugged. “That’s it? You’re not going to say anything? ” He walked over to the turtle, picked it off the floor and flipped the control switch to off. The light in the room didn’t change. There was a moment where the strangeness of this phenomenon didn’t register. Other Nate started stirring, fidgeting in his recliner like he was trying to get comfortable. He started talking, but it was hard for Nate to make out what he said.  He adjusted Douglas in his arms, feeling him slip a little. He pulled the infant up to his chest. He was now looking at the turtle, registering how it was clearly off, and yet the room still glowed with the brilliant color of its artificial underwater seascape.

“I’ve seen light like this before,” Other Nate said.

“I saw it off the coast at Galveston,” Mackenzie said.

“I saw it off the cost at Galveston, too,” Other Mackenzie said.

“I was in the Caribbean with some friends,” Other Nate said. “We charted a boat out to this old deserted island that used to be a Civil War fort. We were there to get high and drunk and sleep on the beach and swim a little,” Other Nate continued, and as he spoke Nate recognized the story as his own. How he and his friends had done the same thing after college. Part of a month long trip they took.

“We’d just taken the last of the Molly and decided to snorkel. The water was so clear, you could see for a mile. I followed this big sunfish into some pylons left from a dock. I got a little turned around and found myself on the outside of the reef over a deep and empty ocean. I saw this circular blob, like a thicker blue fluid floating underneath me, and I dove for it.” Nate remembered all of this, but he never dove. He saw the dark blue blob floating underneath him like a bubble in a lava lamp and got scared. He turned back towards the pylons, and found his way through them and back to his friends. “I don’t remember what happened after I touched it. I woke up in a hospital in Bimini, alone with no idea who I was. After a few days of calling around they found my stuff at a hotel in Key West. My driver’s license said my name was Nate Butler and I lived in this town.” He took a drag from the cigarette he’d been letting burn down. “I didn’t remember any of that until just now.”

Cindy entered the room holding the photo album open. Douglas was becoming difficult to hold. The baby suddenly became heavier than he could manage. Nate dropped the turtle to the ground and in order to hold his son with both hands.

“These pictures are my future,” Cindy said as she displayed old wedding photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Paterson.

“That’s creepy,” Nate said and then weakly called to Mackenzie as he struggled to hold the baby. The task became impossible.  Douglas fell to the floor. All the fear that ever existed in Nate’s heart surged through his body. The baby landed safely, but before he could pick him back up, Douglas was crawling away. He’d barely ever rolled over on his own. And now he was up on two feet, clumsily at first, and then surefooted after only a few steps and growing in size as he moved further away. The boy was as big as a preteen by the time he was halfway across the room. Cindy, still holding the open photo album, was growing as well. She started walking toward Douglas, reaching out for what was now a fully grown muscular man.  In Douglas’s last few steps towards Cindy the weight began falling off him as quickly as it appeared. He even shrunk slightly. Cindy and Douglas stood next to one another as a frail older couple. They took one another’s hand and stepped into the full blue light of the room as Mr. and Mrs. Paterson.

Nate tried to move towards his son, but found his body felt locked in place. He glanced toward Mackenzie, still able to move his eyes. She and her counterpart were up off the couch and similarly immobilized. Other Nate was on his feet as well, a thin layer of smoke from his cigarette began outlining his body as if he was incased in a thin fog.  He could feel himself start to move under the power of the outside force. With great speed he collided with Other Nate.

***

Mackenzie went cold when she saw Nate and Other Nate smash into one another and disappear. She was so scared that she might have even peed a little. Mackenzie felt the gravity of movement, looked over to Other Mackenzie, who had closed her eyes. Thinking that they were about to be slammed together, Mackenzie closed her eyes too, but she could still see. It was as if she watching her surroundings on a screen in a big dark theater. When the Mackenzies collided, she felt nothing. There seemed to be nothing left of her other than the vague idea she exited, but that awareness seemed to fade as something else emerged. An awareness of everything bloomed. Everything she was and everything that could possibly be in the universe and beyond dawned on her like sun breaking the horizon. She felt Douglas and Nate, her parents, and everyone who ever lived. She felt hydrogen and carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, iron and sulfur; the dust of stars and remnants of the first moments of existence. Just as the very last bit of herself disappeared into the effluvia of the universe, there was light. The perfect blue light of the liquid sphere blinked on in the infinite dark distance. It moved toward her, enveloped her, and blinded her with a painful burst of a billion stars. She found herself running out of the front door of her home watching as her husband futilely tried to breathe life back into their old neighbor’s body.  The memory of what had just happened disappeared quickly. Mackenzie looked on, feeling helpless and frightened. She felt like she was forgetting something, but couldn’t concentrate. She was just somewhere else, she thought, but it was too strange, she was in a panic. She held her hand to her stomach. Mr. Paterson was looking into her eyes and she felt so connected to him, like she knew him more deeply than their relationship could possibly bear. It seemed like he was calling to her as if she was his mother. There was a warm gush underneath her sun dress.

“He’s gone,” Nate said.

“Fuck,” Mackenzie said. “My water broke.”

 

________________________________________________________________________________________

About the author:

Tim Waldron is the associate prose editor of The Literary Review and the fiction editor of Serving House Books. His short-story collection Stories for People Who Watch TV was recently published by New Meridian Arts. His first collection of fiction, World Takes, is published by Word Riot Press. His work has appeared in the Kelsey Review, Bull Magazine, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Lit Pub, The Literary Review, The McNeese Review, The Serving House Books, Mud Luscious Press, Dogzplot, Necessary Fiction, Sententia, Monkeybicycle, Atticus Review, and What’s Your Exit?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing New Algebra

Lavinia Kumar

           Amalie Emmy Noether (1882-1935)
                    Mathematician

She nurtured numbers, conserved them
as though they were hers to blossom
in a greenhouse. Young men flocked
to find her secrets, till they
found their own way to grow.

She was drawn to Math, pretty Math.
She mixed algebra a’s and b’s
with physics, to a new breed
of y’s and z’s – as meticulous,
they say, as tropical orchids.

She dreamed of shapes, colors,
atom bits, and planet whorls,
of truth kernel formulae, rings.
As these tumbled from her mouth,
they re-bred nature’s laws. And were loud.

About the author:
Lavinia Kumar’s books are The Celtic Fisherman’s Wife: A Druid Life (2017), & The Skin and Under (Word Tech, 2015). Chapbooks are Let There be Color (Lives You Touch Publications, 2016) and Rivers of Saris (Main Street Rag, 2013). Her poetry has appeared in several US and UK publications such as Atlanta Review, Colere, Dark Matter, Edison Literary Review, Exit 13, Flaneur, Kelsey Review, Lablit, New Verse News, Orbis, Peacock Journal, Pedestal, Pemmican, Poetry 24, Symmetry Pebbles, Lives You Touch, & US1 Worksheets. Her website is laviniakumar.org.

Abandoned Barn

Lauren Fedorko

 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

 

About the artist

Lauren Fedorko, M.Ed., is an Adjunct Professor of writing at Rutgers University, teaches AP Literature, and advises a creative writing club for her students. Her passion for writing is longstanding and ongoing, composed mostly of poetry and creative non-fiction. She enjoys exploring, good company, photography, and traveling the world every chance she gets. Her work has been previously published in the Kelsey Review.

Late Summer Cascade

Michael Torres

 

KR 37 TORRES WATERFALL

 

About the artist

Michael Torres is a recent graduate from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University and currently works part time at The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association in Pennington and at a local camera shop in Lawrenceville. His primary inspiration for photography stems from his fascination with the natural world.

 

Denali Mountains

Jessie Liang

 

KR 37 LIANG DENALI

 

About the artist

Jessie Liang is a hard-working student studying in the WWP area. Despite her mediocre grades, she pushes to please her parents by doing well in her hobbies which include photography, art and music, and gaming. Jessie is also a hard-core National Parks fan, which inspires her to do well in life so that she can continue visiting these parks annually.

This is what Jessie says about this photograph: “The submitted image is a landscape taken of the unforgettable Denali Mountains that I encountered in a visit to Denali National Park in August. With only one road going in and out of the park, it leaves the park with great amount of undisturbed natural scenery that leaves its viewers in awe. I appreciated the uniqueness to the Denali wilderness, just like every other National Park I have visited so far. Although this image is just one out of the many images taken at Denali, it nevertheless brings back a pleasant feeling from admiring the scenery in person.”

Castle Cone Geyser

Jessie Liang

 

LIANG CASTLE CONE

 

About the artist

Jessie Liang is a hard-working student studying in the WWP area. Despite her mediocre grades, she pushes to please her parents by doing well in her hobbies which include photography, art and music, and gaming. Jessie is also a hard-core National Parks fan, which inspires her to do well in life so that she can continue visiting these parks annually. The selected photo is a picture of the eruption of one of Yellowstone’s many geysers, Castle Cone Geyser. A rainbow appears from the mist falling from the steam of the geyser; nature always does it right.

A Different Time, A Different Mood

Ivana Vranjes Field

 

KR 37 FIELD DIFF TIME

 

About the artist

Ivana Vranjes Field is currently a photographer in the tri-state area. She lives in Mercer County and graduated from TCNJ. She is a self-taught photographer and was recently inspired to start up writing poetry again after taking many years off. Working on film sets was her inspiration behind taking up photography. Seeing the shots being set up and creating the mood within a scene, was very beautiful to watch and very intricate in its own sense, which pushed her towards purchasing a camera and giving it a go. She has earned some IMDB credits for previous independent film work, and currently she enjoys reading books, studying the human mind and the human experience, art, more reading, and a lot of traveling.

Here’s what Ivana says about the inspiration for this photograph: “I was born in Bosnia, and this is a coffee grinder my great-aunt used last year when I visited. I just find there to be a beautiful simplicity in how people used to live. Now food is so processed and everything is factory made, that it just makes me truly appreciate the sense of human survival through the basic human needs, and the tools they used, and still use.”