Preparation for Departure

Beth Bates

The year before you leave, rack up the frequent flier miles trying to find a buyer for your business. If you can unload it, you will be free. You can retire.

Test-drive a Lexus. Inhale the leather scent of luxury.

Rise each morning at 3:00 a.m., and on a yellow legal pad scrawl fragments of notes that reveal your fractured thinking in the weeks preceding your death. Unraveling the mystery of your sudden departure will keep your family occupied when they gather for your funeral, and the notes will provide clues.

Two months and fifteen days before you leave, fly to Denver for your daughter’s wedding. In your hotel room, look her in the eye and assure her that if anything should happen to you, her mother will be fine. Financially. Sound nonchalant.

The day before the wedding, treat the groom, groomsmen, and your sons to lunch at the Best-of-Denver barbecue joint. Offer to buy them all sweaters from Brooks Brothers on your walk back to the hotel.

At the reception in the penthouse ballroom of the Denver Petroleum Club, take your little girl into your arms for the father-of-the-bride dance. With a jazz trio playing “Unforgettable,” ask, “Are you happy?” Just to finish that business. This will be your last dance, so speak tenderly and make it a good one.

Return to your legal pad at the kitchen table in Indy. Continue reading

Lists | Beth Bates | 1 Comment

Fragmentation + other stories

Edited by Jana Waring and Ryan Rivas

2011, Burrow Press
119 pages, paperback
Reviewed by Nathan Huffstutter

The air is festive. Loose shirts and drinks in red Solo cups, new friends and old. Some lug cameras, some clutch notepads, some even bothered putting on shoes. A deejay spins, head-nodding, cool, he’s not out to steal the show. Milling about the brink, the revelers peek over the ledge, trading shrugs and smiles. This thing they’ve built, they’re planning to send it hurtling down and no one’s sure if it’ll hold.

Introducing their communal construct, editor Jana Waring writes that Fragmentation “began with a simple idea – a hunt for Florida writers, preferably those with a stash of never-before-seen short fiction.” Among the Sunshine-Staters she corralled, Annalemma editor Chris Heavener, PANK Huckster Gene Albamonte, noted Y.A. author Edward Bloor, and Waring’s own Burrow Press co-editor Ryan Rivas. Continue reading

Reviews | Burrow Press, Fragmentation, Jana Waring, Ryan Rivas | 1 Comment

Contributors Elsewhere: We Built An Online Cooling Center

Maybe a screengrab from Encounters At The End of The World will help cool you a bit if you can’t get to one of your local cooling centers.

Did it work? No. Okay. We’ve also got a contributor roundup for you.

Contributors Elsewhere | Andrew Roe, Ben Loory, Julie Innis, xTx | Leave a comment

Available Now

Brand New Issue | Aubrey Hirsch, Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, Christopher Dungey, Eric Smith, Erin Fitzgerald, Faith Beck, James Silas Rogers, Jason Jordan, Julie Innis, Ken Poyner, Nathan Huffstutter, Sam Rasnake, Sutherland Douglass, Vanessa Blakeslee | Leave a comment

Hard To Say by Ethel Rohan

2011, PANK
Reviewed by Kenny Mooney

I began reading Ethel Rohan’s Hard to Say (PANK 2011), a slim volume of very short fiction, with very little exposure to her previous work. I’m not sure what I was expecting from those fifteen little stories, but it’s fair to say that I was unprepared for just how deeply I would be affected by them. Spread over fifty-three pages, they document a tale of life in an Irish Catholic family, and although each story is an individual, they have been deliberately ordered so as to run in chronological order, taking you from the narrator’s birth to her new life in the US and her struggles dealing with the emotional turmoil of a dying mother.

The book opens with “Crust,” a story that appears to set the tone for the rest of the book, and hints, with its talk of bloodletting as a form of medical treatment, at the emotional bloodletting that is to follow:

“Open, bleeding, my body rumbling and raged, and drums started up inside me, faster, louder, till I was throbbing. Speak, the ancient beat commanded. Speak! I gurgled and strained, my drowned tongue the rope in a tug-o-war. Through bubbles of blood, my voice finally sounded, garbled and halting at first, but then stronger, surer, till at last the words tumbled forth like warriors. Till I was shouting. Till I was heard.”

It reads like these stories are words that needed to be written, that needed to be heard. Perhaps silent for too long. This blood-soaked prologue segues into “Fresh From God,” in which we realise not all is well in the family. The birth of a new child should be joyous and celebrated, yet the mother here is weary and her thoughts are of cigarettes and brandy. Continue reading

Reviews | Ethel Rohan, Hard To Say, PANK | Leave a comment