Car Dumb Dogs

April 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

Car Dumb Dogs
Steven Gowin

Sometimes car dumb dogs buy the farm. We hated a car chaser out there in the corn and beans, out on the dusty gravel roads of the Midwest.

But, terrible as the killings were, we all expected those idiot dogs to have gotten it sooner or later; what tears you up though, is whatever got into them.

Dogs are too smart to chase cars; so pride… a possession… something dark, unnatural, wrong… makes them do it. It rips the fabric of order, slashes it, really, violently.

They dart out of nowhere, fly out of hell; you hear them yelp and thump up into the wheel well making the car buck a little, terrifying and final.

Car dumb… time after time until the end… the chaos flooding in… that’s what wreaks the balance, what destroys salvation.


Note: “buy the farm“: US slang meaning to die in battle or a fatal crash.


Steven Gowin is a corporate video producer in San Francisco. Until recently an atheist, he now attends the Holy Church of Sauna and urges everyone to get in touch with the Holy Roast. 

Image: Connection, By Leigh-Anne Fraser


Trail Riding

April 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

Trail Riding
Vivian Wagner

The granite-tasting fine mountain dust rose around us as we rode through the forest on our red Hodaka motorcycles – mom ahead, me strapped to my dad, facing backwards in a metal-framed backpack. The rushing air smelled of pine sap, gasoline, stale cigarette smoke, and adrenalin.

Suddenly, my parents slowed and stopped, our bikes sputtering, coughing, rattling. I heard a screech of oiled metal on wood and jerked my head to look over at the edge of the clearing, where men were using a large dirty yellow machine to rip branches off a felled pine, its majestic corpse stretched along the edge of the forest.

Maybe it was the painful sound, or the dead tree. Or maybe the faint realization that no matter how much my parents seemed at the center of the universe, there were machines much larger and more dangerous than their little trail bikes. Things, even, beyond their control.

I started crying, softly at first, so my dad couldn’t hear me over the motorcycle’s engine. Then louder, until he called out, impatiently, “What’s wrong back there?”

“I’m scared, daddy,” I wailed, each sob drawing in a fresh breath of dust and exhaust.

He laughed. “It’s OK,” he yelled back. “Just loggers.”

I watched tearfully as the men sawed through the tree’s branches, one by one. A few minutes later, we roared out of the clearing, our bikes straining to climb the hill, me watching the loggers grow smaller, my dad focused on the rough trail ahead.


Vivian Wagner teaches journalism at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review Online, The Pinch, Willows Wept Review, and other journals, and she is the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington, 2010). For more information about her, visit her website at

Image: Birch bark, by Sandra Jensen

Élan Vital

April 15, 2012 § 12 Comments

Élan Vital
Charles Rammelkamp

I was only eighteen and deferential to people I regarded as “grown-ups,” maybe because I grew up in a little town in Iowa and was going to college in another little town in Minnesota. I’d just completed my freshman year. It was why I put on my super-polite voice to ask the lady with peroxide hair if I was in the right waiting line for the bus from Laredo to Guadalajara. I was going down there for the summer for a college art program, making pottery and learning Spanish. Plus, I was afraid she’d be brusque with me, annoyed. Afraid she’d say, “Get lost, kid. Can’t you see I’m busy?” But no, she seemed genuinely pleased to be asked. Yes, I was in the right line. She herself was going to Mexico City, where she lived. For a person my parents’ age she was in good shape, not unattractive. “My bus is over there.” She pointed. I thanked her.

“What are you reading?” she asked before I could turn away.

I glanced down at my book. “Creative Evolution. It’s by a French philosopher named Henri Bergson.” It made me feel smart to say this, and I was glad this was the book I was holding rather than the usual unsophisticated junk I read.

“Mmm,” she said, as if she knew all about Bergson and the élan vital, a concept that seemed so mystical and sexy to me, humanity’s natural creative impulse that drives the evolutionary process, according to Bergson.

“Bergson was Jewish, but he converted to Catholicism.”

“Jewish men have circumcised penises,” she said. “Is it true that most men have uncircumcised penises?”

I didn’t know what to say. Why was she asking me this? She must have seen my confusion.

“I’ve read that circumcised penises are more sanitary.”

But this didn’t help much. I continued to stammer and shrug.

“Look, if you get to Mexico City, give me a call.” She wrote her name – Barbara – and her number on a piece of paper and handed it to me. “Bye!” she said. “Nice meeting you!”

Later that summer I went to Mexico City. I dialed the number she’d given me, but a man with a Mexican accent answered the phone and I hung up. I was pretty sure I’d dialed the right number, even though she’d written it in pencil and it had faded some since she’d written it. I never tried to telephone again, but I continued to take the piece of paper out of my wallet, just to remember her.


Charles Rammelkamp lives in Baltimore, Maryland in the empty nest with his wife, his daughters having grown up and left home. He edits The Potomac, an online literary journal –  A collection of poetry entitled Fusen Bakudan, which involves missionaries in a leper colony in Vietnam during the war, will soon be published by Time Being Books.

Image: Ferris Wheel, By Leigh-Anne Fraser

An Obscene Embrace

April 7, 2012 § 4 Comments

An Obscene Embrace
Stephen Martin

I wish I knew his name. He’s the pursuer who I pummel until he is a bloodied mess yet he won’t stay down, he won’t die, he keeps coming. I smash him with any weapon to hand: clubs, fists, teeth. I literally tear him apart. I pull him to bits and throw him to the wind. I stamp him into the ground, but he can’t be stopped, he’s indefatigable, he’s a golem. His pursuit is endless. I run from him slamming doors, pulling behind me tables chairs anything just to slow him down, just to stop him laying hands on me, that is the worst thing; but no matter what I do, no matter how fast I run, there is no escape. He reaches out and pulls me close. He holds me tight as if he’s part of me, as if we belong together. It is an obscene, an unbreakable embrace.


Born in Brighton England, Stephen now lives in Australia where he enjoys the climate, people and red wines. Although currently undergoing rehab for a knee injury, Stephen usually tours Australia with his partner, caravan and camera. Stephen’s flash fiction has been published in the Canberra Times and he has published photographs in Birds of Canberra Gardens and on a number of ornithological websites.

Image: Halton Falls, By Leigh-Anne Fraser

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