“ Elliptical” by Ross Mcmeekin

Blogger: M. Ramirez
Journal/Magazine: Hobart (online)

Ross Mcmeekin’s flash fiction story “Elliptical” is an interesting read because it takes an ordinary setting of a gym and turns it into a nostalgic memories of childhood heroes.  The Author in this flash fiction is exploring the individuals that exercise at the local gym he goes to.  The story begins in a middle of an action, which is the elliptical.  The elliptical serves as concrete setting while the experience takes place.  The experience is that he learns about the regular old man that he has been exercising with for a while and finds out that he is a legend in wrestling.

The main image that grabs my attention was the mechanical braces that the old man exercising was wearing. These braces are used to help with the mobility of the elderly.  This was an automatic clue that the writer gave in order to imply that the man was in fact older. Some other images that strike me the most was towards the end when the story began to slow down.  One image that Mcmeekin threw in the story were the intricate details of the monitor that appears on every elliptical.  Mcmeekin’s flash fiction begins with the attention of detail of the physical presence of the elliptical and then visits again with another detail description.

The writer’s diction contributes to the meaning of the story by keeping the dialogue very distant between the older aged man and himself. The main character shows to us his age when he describes the young people running up and down the basketball court while acknowledging how good of “shit” they still have.  This reveals to us the way that he is beginning to pass his prime physical appearance.  The writer probably wanted to invoke these feelings to focus on the difference between the ages of the people presented in the flash fiction.  It also draws out the issue of the different stages of the human body deteriorating.

The writer for this specific flash fiction had little to no rhyme.  The flash fiction does start off the with the action verb “Lugging”.  Lugging sounds very similar to luggage, which entails that the old aged man, was struggling.  Struggling and lugging do sound similar and can have meaning to the way in which he was portrayed.

This piece inspired me that people are far more important that the physical realities of the world.  The gym is a common place where physical fitness is achieved for cosmetic purposes.  “Elliptical” goes beyond the cosmetics of a gym and dives into the history of the people that go to gyms.  I would like to think about this story in terms of that its a not necessarily  about the gym but way more about the people

December Contest Winner: “Legacy” by Shawna Mayer

December Contest Winner “Legacy” by Shawna Mayer

Thank you to everyone who submitted their stories for the December contest. We received many great stories and it was difficult to choose just one winner. Keep writing! We will announce the January contest soon.

by Shawna Mayer

Woman in bathing suit hugging a snowman - 1924 (from Library of Congress)

“In those days mixed marriages were unheard of.”  Grandma slapped the picture on the table like an ace next to a king in a hand of blackjack.

The picture showed my Grandma in her bathing costume hugging the neck of a snowman on the beach.  Her parents had hated the idea of their spritely, effervescent daughter hitched to a cinderblock of ice with nothing to his name but a carrot nose and a ratty old hat.

“Pop was ready to disown me when Charlie and I announced our engagement, but Ma talked him into coming to the wedding, and by the time your father was born, it was clear he’d made his peace with us.”

The first time Grandma told me this story, she’d been baking Christmas cookies all day and smelled of vanilla and rum.  I’d helped and still had bits of dough in the crevasses of my fingernails.  Snuggling more deeply into her lap, I reached out to caress her long white braid.

“Charlie, wasn’t any ordinary snowman.  He exposed himself to the sand and the salt air that day all because he wanted to make me happy.”  She looked down at me, and raised an eyebrow.  “Hear that sweetie?  When it comes time for you to pick, make sure you choose one that’ll risk something for you.”  I nodded seriously, recognizing wisdom was being imparted.

“He must have been cold to hug,” I said.

“Yes, but it never bothered me,” she said, “Because he always kept me laughing, and we could talk about anything.  Every moment we spent together was precious.”  She sighed.  “Then two years after Charlie melted, I met Stanley.  He adopted your father and raised him like he was his own son.  I was very lucky to find two such good men.”

“Now, I want to show you something.”  I climbed out her lap and she led me down the narrow basement steps, past the washer and dryer and work bench piled with broken appliances.  We stopped in the very back corner in front of the ancient deep freeze.  She propped the lid open and dug around, shifting the blocks of meat, until finally she said, “Here he is.” The light glinted off a silver box in the palm of her hand.  She lifted the lid and inside was a small chunk of ice.  “Touch it,” she whispered, “It feels like velvet.”

Tentatively, I reached out.  Maybe it was only the power of suggestion, but she was right.

After Grandpa Stanley died, we had to auction off the antiques, and in the decade that followed Grandma had a series of strokes that stole more of her each time.  When we finally had to sell the house there was only one thing left that I wanted.

Tonight, as I cuddle up in front of the TV next to my husband Steve, the silver box is nestled deep in my freezer.

Steve gasps, “Your feet are like ice cubes.”  I smile.  It runs in the family.

Mikko Harvey’s “Cannonball”

Story Title: Cannonball
Author: Mikko Harvey
Magazine: Juked
Blogger: R. Romero

While reading this fictional story I did not quite understand where it was going. The title is “Cannonball” and throughout the story clearly states that the character is talking about being shot out of a cannon; however, I was not sure what the point of this story was. I reread some lines in this story and I tried to see if there were any references that I may have not picked up on and this metaphor: “how the cannon stood for human resilience,
and how I stood for all humans”, popped out the most to me because it clearly states that this character was an idol of what all humans go through. To figure out this struggle I looked further and saw this line: “I hear the air is like a warm blanket when you’re in it. People are so afraid of falling that they don’t enjoy flying, but the truth is, they’re the same”. This line made me think of how people perceive things in a negative manner and that all situations have a good and bad, it’s just the interpretation that makes the difference. Therefore, the downfall of humanity is how people think. This character has been thinking about this cannon shot as a “doom” or an unhappy ending but really he can think of this as a way to help humanity or to show how people can really have a positive outcome in situations. After trying to analyze the meaning of this fictional story, I see that the character is facing a lot of decisions that help the fellow society around him.

In my opinion this would not be my favorite story to read because it was quite confusing. I was not sure what the other was trying to get at and the story itself did not really interest me.

Linda Simoni-Wastila’s “The Abridged Biography of an American Sniper”

Story: “The Abridged Biography of an American Sniper”
Author: Linda Simoni-Wastila
Magazine: SmokeLong Quarterly
Blogger: A. Schafer

The Abridged Biography of an American Sniper by Linda Simoni-Wastila is instantly engaging, and the attraction I felt at the beginning held steadfast up to the last word of the story. Simoni-Wastila’s attention to detail works double-duty in this short story, developing the main character, Jeremiah, as well as connecting elements of the story over different segments of the sniper’s life. In the third paragraph, Simoni-Wastila packs a concise but revealing amount of detail into Jeremiah’s backstory, especially in the first line; “When he was 17, Jeremiah packed up his crossbow, arrows, and guitar and took Sheila up to the foothills that curved down to the edge of the farm.” Simoni-Wastila establishes a concrete sense of place and character and introduces a new relationship between two characters all in one line. Although the story boasts a separate official opening, in my mind this is where the story really begins.

Simoni-Wastila develops the relationship introduced in the third paragraph in an intricate way, using the love of two characters to set up the rest of the essential relationships in the story. Simoni-Wastila’s strategy takes shape with the line, “he thought of Maryam then, of the way she chewed the wooden end of the brush when contemplating a painting, of Martin watching him teach John power chords on the guitar, and for the first time since he arrived in Afghanistan, Jeremiah felt the space in his chest swell.” It is this passage that introduces the reader to the feelings Jeremiah has for Maryam, critically shaping a major conflict in the limited space the writer employs. This allows Simoni-Wastila to phrase the line in Self-Criticism so succinctly; “after the baby died, after Sheila left.”

Simoni-Wastila’s organizational mastery provides effective character development despite the shortened length, and brings forth necessary details in refreshing ways. From the sniper terminology to the type of bread Jeremiah is eating, the story is rich with description, and communicates remarkably deeply, due in part to Simoni-Wastila’s reiteration of images. One line, however, mystified me, and I was unable to fully understand its influence in the story, despite my continuing assurance that it played an important purpose. In the opening, Simoni-Wastila writes, “All three sons forgot about the pistol, although they knew it was kept in a box with a combination lock for safe-keeping. The mother did not forget about the pistol.” In this parable-style opening, I find it difficult to ignore that Jeremiah forgot about the weapon that the father kept for protection, not hunting, and I wonder about its message regarding Jeremiah’s plight in the conclusion. Despite my lack of wisdom in interpreting this matter, I found the entire story flowed like a much longer tale, due to Simoni-Wastila’s reiteratino of images and concise, revealing details.

Doriane Laux’s “Second Hand Coat”

Poem: Second Hand Coat
Poet: Doriane Laux
Magazine: Blip
Blogger: D. Glazebrook

I was first drawn to this poem because of the title.  I expected it to be about a coat that was found at a thrift store.  I was completely wrong but I liked the poem because of how strange it is.

It’s about a woman who meets a man at the beach, goes home with him hours later, then sleeps with him.  She finds out that his wife committed suicide in the bed that they’re laying in and it doesn’t seem to phase her.  The man gives the woman’s mother a plant from his house and gives the woman a coat that belonged to his wife.  The man seems pretty wealthy since the coat he gave away was described as having a cashmere lining and when the woman got pizza sauce on the sheets he said he would just “use it for packing”.  The relationship between the man and woman is pretty much all based around sex.  At the end of the poem, the lady moves on and meets a guy named Sam and does the same thing all over again with him.

It seems like both the man and woman are both “lost” souls.  The woman seems insecure and just needs guys around to show her attention; “giving my body away like bread”.  It’s obviously not a big deal for her to sleep around and insinuated that she does this often.  The man seems like he may be depressed after losing his wife because he just keeps giving away all of her stuff and took down all photos of her.  The man and woman would just eat in bed and smoke cigarettes.  This sounds like something someone with lack of hygiene and/or drive would do.  The man also kept giving away all of his and his wives belongings; didn’t care to keep anything.

Images that stuck out to me was when the man told the woman that his wife committed suicide in that bed and that “he’d woken soaked in her blood”, just before that, the woman said “I didn’t look at him or touch his hand”.  At the end of the poem, when referring to her “new fling” who is a garbage man, she said “and he’d say, dead pan, nothing at all in his voice at all, Yeah, yeah darlin’, it’s me”.  She has no emotional connection with these men what so ever.  It shows that this woman probably has serious insecurities and is just hanging out with men who show her any sort of attention.  When the man had a party, his friends turned down the music while the woman had an orgasm. Then the poem also said he flirted with the woman’s mother.  The poem kind of describes him as a womanizer, like he has women over all the time doing this.

With this being a block poem, the author’s voice kind of drags and rambles on which makes me feel even more detached from the men she speaks of.

Keith Montesano’s The Author as Man Who Stares Out His Window with the Others…”

Poem:The Author as Man Who Stares Out His Window with the Others as John Rooney and His Men are Gunned Down in the Street in Road to Perdition
Poet: Keith Montesano
Magazine: The Collagist
Site: http://www.dzancbooks.org/the-collagist/2012/9/9/the-author-as-man-who-stares-out-his-window-with-the-others.html
Blogger: R. Romero

This poem is interesting to me because the poem is spoken through a narrator and the narrator describes what they see, which is based off a movie. The title of this poem tells you exactly what was going to happen and be said. I found the usage of the scene from a movie to be an interesting subject matter that the narrator focuses on to get to the point that everything people see, they might not always understand. The subject of curiosity or not understanding something shows the deeper meaning that Keith Montesano was trying to portray.

The narrator describes a scene where men are being shot in an alley that is between two buildings. In these two buildings families look out their windows to witness this shooting and no one does anything other than watch. I found this interesting that no one freaked out, called police, or anything. There was no sign of panic. The way the poem is written by using commas, makes this poem fast pace and gives the reader as sense that everything happened to quickly to understand. This ties to the end where the narrator says how everyone understood little of what they saw. Linking the style, grammar and scene of how the narrator speaks gives the sense of everything happening to fast and that people do not always comprehend the things that happen in front of them.

This poem begins by saying how “we” can get what we want if we wait, but waiting only turns into getting what we do not deserve. I think this message in the first two lines is meant to set up the movie that is going to be used. John Rooney in the Road to Perdition is mob enforcer who seeks for revenge on the person who killed his family. This makes more sense once I looked it up because the scene in the alley is meant to be John Rooney who is seeking revenge. I believe the movie is supposed to be an example that follows the deeper meaning that is presented in the first two sentences and tied up in the end with not understanding what you see.

Nancy Reddy’s “The Case of the Double Jinx”

Poem: The Case of the Double Jinx
Poet: Nancy Reddy
Magazine: Anti-
Website: http://anti-poetry.com/anti/reddyna/
Blogger: L. Dunbar

The title of the poem once again intrigued me to read it.  I am realizing just how important titles can be.  I love the word Jinx, how it looks, how it sounds, and what it means:

jinx |jiNGks|
a person or thing that brings bad luck.
verb [ with obj. ] (usu. be jinxed)
bring bad luck to; cast an evil spell on: the play is jinxed.

I also believe that you can jinx yourself, so I decided to check out this poem.
The first stanza of the poem starts off with a reference to Nancy Drew- who I LOVE.  The images Reddy creates in this poem really come to life in my head, because I can relate to many of them.  I like how she creates the image by using “you’re” and “you” because you can really put yourself in those shoes.  The first stanza makes the “you” seem confident, smart, and pretty much perfect, but that changes as the poem goes on. The consistent use of alliteration helps the poem flow, and I love how it sounds out loud, for instance “wasp-waisted, daredevil dectetive, eagle-eyed, the smugglers are setting sail.”

The image of “He’s a wishbone saved beside the kitchen sink.” Really sticks out to me because my grandparents ALWAYS have a wishbone sitting above the sink.  This poem is almost personal to me because of how I can relate to the images she creates, but is not quite personal because I have never been in that situation.

I don’t quite understand the Jinx that the poet refers to, but in my opinion, the poet believes that “you” jinx yourself when “you” obsess over things you cant control.  “You” try not to jinx yourself by thinking or speaking of the man, but in the end “You” do.  Later in the poem she writes, “She’s a foxtrot.  She’s a jinx and you can’t speak.” I believe this means that the situation “you’re” in cannot be controlled, and you can try to not think about something, but your obsessions can easily take over your mind and your life.

Peter Berghoef’s “Blessings”

Poem: “Blessings”
Poet: Peter Berghoef
Magazine: Hobart
Website: http://www.hobartpulp.com/web_features/three-poems
Blogger: M. Adeolu

I was instantly attracted to this poem because of the title itself. “Blessings”, being a Christian myself, I am very fond of them. I love everything about them, and how you can share them with others and they will be eager to receive them their selves, so they find a relationship with God .I am usually the one who will be caught saying such things as “team blessed” or “too blessed to be stressed.” People see blessings are in a variety of ways. When reading this poem I illustrated each sentence as several images individually. For example “eating oysters in a velvet room” the reader would envision this as having a meal in a luxurious room. It is a fantasy we all hope for. My personal Opinion of this piece is that the actual blessing the author is trying to perceive is the ability to fantasize, regardless if he or she even has these goods.  It is being able to dream or wishful think.

The last sentence “You must be waiting for a bus.” struck my attention. What I think this means is being able to have time on your hands. Allowing one’s self to daydream, which summarizes the entire poem itself tying back to wishful thinking.

The poem begins off with the phrase “You must be in bed or buried.” I believe Peter Berghoef began the poem like this because he wanted the reader to decide what to them is a blessing, to be dreaming or in heaven. I came up with that conclusion because “ bed”; that being the place where we all dream, where we are at peace. The only place we can travel the impossible in our dreams.  And when we are “dead” most people think of the place we would be it being Heaven. Where life is bliss filled with blessings.

We can learn from craft because we view blessings differently. Through the structure and dialogue it begins with just an idea and shows us how we should take time to have patience and enjoy those things. As well as have time to daydream.

Stacia M. Fleegal’s “Post-Apocalyptic”

Poem: “Post-Apocalyptic”
Poet: Stacia M. Fleegal
Magazine: deComp
Blogger: R. Murphy

Stacia M. Fleegal’s “Post-Apocalyptic” is a short poem, but it provides more than enough story to keep the reader wondering. From the first line, it provides a sense of secrecy and urgency. It doesn’t explain what kind of apocalypse happened or how long it has been like this. The beginning line and a half thrusts the reader into the situation, just as the narrator and the rest of “us” were most likely forced to adjust after the apocalypse.

The way that the lines break in the poem also convey the sense of urgency. It gets across the idea that the narrator is continuing to talk, and that they aren’t pausing for anything. There isn’t a single line that ends with a period, and so there is no real pause for a specific image except for the fifth line and at the end. The fifth line has a pause to highlight the bleak sentiment “or wait to die”, reminding the narrator and the reader that they might not survive this apocalypse, and that they could die at any time. The phrase redefines the verb live, showing that the narrator isn’t necessarily happy that “we” still survive, that their death is inevitable and only slowed by their effort.

Even though the “we” and “they” are never clearly identified, there is still a sense of caution and wariness conveyed, with very divisive language. The sentence “They are hunting us” tells the audience that the “they” are smart enough to hunt, but possibly carnal enough to be brutal about it.

The lack of context also makes me think of the 1954 novel I Am Legend, in that we immediately side with the narrator because we are given no other point of view. As with the novel, perhaps we and the narrator have judged wrongly, and that perhaps “they” have a good reason for it, as the vampiric creatures did in I Am Legend.

Another word choice of interest was the fact that Fleegal only uses plural pronouns, “we” and “us”, and that there is no “I” or “my”. In these post-apocalyptic times, there must be unity, no matter the relationships of the people involved. The priority is on the survival and unity of the community, not the feelings and status of the individual.

The language used throughout is vivid, hard, and at times overwhelming. The building has its back against the woods, as a person might have their back to a wall for protection, as at least you can’t be ambushed from behind– except in this case, depending on “them”, it could be worse that the building’s back is to the woods. The hard language comes in line seven, with “candy bars, or paper scraps, or vodka” with hard consonants being repeated over and over, with the k sound in candy, scraps, and vodka a harsh sound for a harsh reality. The explanation of the things to remember almost give it an overwhelming feeling, because if you avoid one, you could forget another and be snagged or shot.

The piece was very effective in bringing its reader in, and with each passing sentence I felt as if I were drawn further and further into this world that Fleegal created. I could see the building falling apart next to the water, and I could see the almost hopeless maze of traps to keep “them” out that unintentionally hindered “us”. It created a wide, bleak world in a matter of sentences that left me wondering on the future, for both “us” and “them”.