By Danny Fisher
I’m in bed frolicking, as adults do, head at the wrong end of the bed, feet in the air, engaged in full-on naked frolicking with the new man in my life, when a voice from my kitchen floats up the stairs, “Danielle-a, are you here? You busy?”
I forgot that she was going to stop by; I also forgot she has a key. I get out of bed and shut the bedroom door. My new boyfriend does what he does best.
“Who the fuck is that?” Wide-eyed, he searches for his underwear, tossing blankets and pillows in a flurry of fabric.
“That would be my mother,” I say. I am forty-three years old with two grown children. The cat’s out of the bag regarding my virginity. My mother knows. My boyfriend cannot grasp this fact.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he mutters as he hops around on one foot, his found underwear pulled up mid-thigh, pants dangling off the other leg. I cock my head and watch as everything dangles.
“Babe, relax, I’ll go down there. Just chill,” I say. I slip on a negligee. “If you jump, you’ll probably break a leg,” I add, just in case he decides to try something stupid. Then I go downstairs and greet my mother.
"My mother is the lady who taught me that panty lines were tacky. She oozes the kind of sex appeal most women fake."
“Hey, Mom.” I kiss her cheek, “I forgot you were coming up.”
“I told you I had that doctor’s appointment.” She pulls back and notices my attire. “That’s cute. You look skinny. Were you sleeping?”
“No, I was fucking.”
My mother is the lady who taught me that panty lines were tacky. She oozes the kind of sex appeal most women fake. In response to my declaration, her eyes light up.
“Oooh!” She leans toward the staircase as if to catch a peek. “Is he coming down?”
“Uh, well, he’s kind of shy. The thing is, Mom, he’s a little younger than me.”
She raises a brow.
“Thirty. He’s thirty, but he looks twelve. Okay, not twelve, but not thirty. He’s cute. He’s Asian. He’s a cute Asian.”
“The Asians always look young,” she says. She walks to the bottom of the stairs. I’m not sure what she’s about to do, but there’s no stopping her. A force to be reckoned with, that one.
“Hey, you up there! You best put your pants on and come down and meet me! Don’t make me come up there!” She smiles at me and winks.
I go upstairs. The boyfriend is fully dressed, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Are you fucking serious right now?” he says.
“Do you really want her to come up here?” We both take stock of the surroundings. There is the bed that looks like a tornado hit it.
And then there is the paraphernalia. Our eyes lock on the paraphernalia. He looks at me. I shake my head, no. There is no time to dispense with the paraphernalia. She will come up here, my expression says. She will see it. She will comment on it. She will not pretend she didn’t see it.
“Fuck,” he groans and follows me downstairs.
“Mom, this is Pat,” I step out of the way of their meeting. “Pat, this is my mother, Mona.” My mother approaches him, wraps her bony arms around him and squeezes as if she were being reunited with a long-lost love. Pat’s brown eyes shoot daggers at me over her shoulder. Mom stands back from the embrace, leaves her hands resting on his upper arms and says with a bright smile, “So, Danny tells me you two were fucking?”
The boyfriend laughs—in that way that says he is dying inside—then nods.
My seventy-three-year-old mother squeals in delight and dances a jig, old lady batwings wagging, toes tapping, shit-eating grin plastered on her face. “Oh, how I wish I was young again and could spend my days in bed with a cutie like you!”
Somehow, we dated for almost two years.
Danny Fisher is a current degree candidate at The Mountainview Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.
By Elodie Reed
I searched for action in the tidal pool but could only find periwinkle snails. My friend Laura, visiting from Washington, D.C., had never been to the coast of Maine before, and I wanted to show her a crab or something else wriggling and obviously alive. I sat on the edge of the long, narrow, water-filled gash in the grey rock and stared down.
It only took a minute of staying still before I saw just how much the snails squirmed along the damp rock walls, at the water’s edge, and at the bottom of the pool. The brown, beige and lilac spiral shells spun like dials, adjusting this way and that, as each set of dark brown antennae probed the way forward.
“I think I’m stepping on them!” Laura, who had also discovered the periwinkles, tiptoed over wet rocks a few feet away. She let out a cry whenever her sneaker landed with a particularly crispy crunch.
“They’re everywhere,” I agreed. “I didn’t realize how much they moved.”
"The brown, beige and lilac spiral shells spun like dials, adjusting this way and that, as each set of dark brown antennae probed the way forward."
Before we left Maine, Laura and I drove through Portland, where a bearded man in a blue flannel shirt stood beneath a stoplight and held a cardboard sign that read: “Fisherman Out Of Work.” The light was still red, so I reached into the backseat for our box of snacks and rolled down the driver’s side window. I held out the box.
“What is it?” the man asked.
“Granola bars and fruit leathers.”
He grabbed a Chewy bar, said thanks and moved on to the car behind ours. As I waited for the light to turn green, I wished I had met his eyes, which had been shaded by the baseball cap crammed down over his long hair.
“Wow, I don’t know if I would have done that,” Laura said. She didn’t sound critical – more like, wondering. I considered all the old arguments I used to make inside my head: it might be unsafe; he might sell the food for drugs; there might be a better way of helping him.
“I used to not stop and tell myself I’d donate to a homeless shelter when I got home, but I’d always forget to do it, ” I said. “Now I just try to acknowledge people, and offer them food if I have it.” The attempt, even if small and imperfect, always felt better than doing nothing.
“Something similar happened to me last week,” Laura told me. She had been riding the subway, she said, when a non-verbal woman in an electronic wheelchair got stuck between the doors while she tried to exit the car. People rushed in to help, but once they got the woman out, everyone left. Laura lingered and watched the woman continue sitting near the edge of the platform. She seemed to be having a hard time getting her wheelchair to go.
“I didn’t know if I should go and try to help,” Laura said. She worried she might mess up and accidentally send the wheelchair onto the tracks. Laura eventually decided to go over anyway and, after communicating with the woman through hand motions, found the correct switch on the wheelchair.
“I can’t believe I was thinking of just walking away and not helping her.”
At the tidal pool earlier that day, I noticed, with some pity, a single periwinkle clinging to the dry rock directly across from where I sat. I thought it might be dead, left behind by the receding tide now six inches below. At first I looked away, back to the mollusks quivering in the water; but then I returned to the lone snail. Hadn’t it stuck to a higher spot just a minute ago?
Little by little, the periwinkle’s slime trail lengthened in a sideways, descending slant. It followed one lateral groove in the rock for half an inch, stopped, turned around, lowered down to another groove, and repeated the process all over again. After ten minutes of tracking this razor-thin switchback path, the snail finally reached the waterline.
I would have stayed for whatever slow-motion happened next, but I heard Laura shifting from foot to foot behind me, waiting out my snail antics. As we walked to the sandy part of the beach, I couldn’t stop thinking about the overwhelming effort and time it took for snails to do something, and what a wonder it was that they attempted anything at all. Perhaps their trick was that they didn’t think about it.
Elodie Reed is a current degree candidate at The Mountainview Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.
By Garrett Zecker
You know the old joke: “What happens in a room of new MFAs and their mentors after graduation?”
Punchline: “an effective milieu of exteriority...set to music.”
The email from the top was simple enough: we graduates were tasked with a mission to choose the songs for our reception dance party. Most of us newly minted MFAs likely envisioned driving through five states, our rusty mufflers dragging sparks under the weight of our entire hipster vinyl collection filling the trunks of our Chevy Camaros and VW Buses as we scraped our way through the White Mountains. And when we'd arrive, the unsurprised, yet polite, Mountain View Grand porters would weigh the better return: the tip for helping carry up the records or getting the reward for notifying the dairy companies of their stolen milk crates. It was clear to me, however, that we now live in the twenty-first century. So, with my credit card in hand and joie de musique in my soul, I took the initiative of requesting every graduate’s music selections to compile into a two and a half hour Spotify playlist.
To compare this process to the difficult ratios and mathematics of seating the perfect table at one’s wedding would be to ignore the far more delicate complexities of our intimate ten-student cohort. In short: it was so much harder.
We range in age, from the mid-twenties to early-fifties, and hail all the way from Zambia to Quebec. We come from Utah. From Florida. From Texas and Montana. From Massachusetts and Vermont and Ohio and New Hampshire.
Weeks before graduation, the emails came flooding in. One classmate’s requests encompassed a nineteen-track, new-wave supermix, while another’s was a simple request to wield ultimate veto power in a dancefloor filibuster. I examined each message, listened to each song I’ve never heard. Country, hip hop, showtune remixes, sixties folk, classics. Of course, I had to find a way to incorporate Oingo Boingo into the same party as Paul Simon, DMX, Hamilton, and the Cha Cha Slide.
But I wielded a secret power. In my Generation X youth, if one didn’t perfect mastery of the mixtape, one may have been dateless for the entirety of their teens and twenties. Friendless. Destined to die alone. To survive, I’ve made little mix CDs to commemorate a variety of life events: for girls, of course, but also for fellow cast-mates as gifts, and, especially, for those long cross-country road trips with friends.
Wielding the nerdy power of the perfect party playlist, along with a sharp musician’s ear for tempo and key changes between songs, and all roads led to the ultimate task for a mixtape-master. Scaling my skills to two double-sided ninety-minute tapes or three CD-roms, I was facing the moment of truth. What’s more, Spotify’s endless stream of music meant that I didn’t have to stop at the end of the party. We could dance until the sun came up. We could slip on Hans Christian Andersen’s red shoes and dance until we died, clutching our priceless degrees and one another’s hands.
The resulting list was beautiful revelry. In the dark June night, we danced and drank wine. Then we danced some more. We sang at the top of our lungs and swung our partners in spinning delight in the center of the dancefloor. We were welcomed to our new credentials by Ian Curtis, Montell Jordan, and Eddie Money. Our hips swayed to Bowie, Bruno, Busta, and the B-52’s. We wobbled, skanked, cha cha’d, and shook our tailfeathers. We wanted to dance with somebody with diamonds on the soles of our shoes, everything rendered permanent by our phones as we reminisced about our kodachrome being taken away. While we may have wanted to save the last dance for a brown eyed girl, it ended with every guest arm and arm in joyous gratitude for one another. We blessed the rains down in Africa with our voices. The Piano Man brought us home in unison.
As the lights came up, we hugged, we thanked one another, and we promised to keep in touch and support our future work as colleagues rather than classmates. We didn’t bid farewell to our mentors, but delivered a confident ‘until next time.’
The party is over. The mixtape is dead. Long live the party, and long live the mixtape. From here, it never ends.
Garrett Zecker is a graduate of The Mountainview Low-Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction. You can follow him at http://www.garrettzecker.com.
The Literary Magazine of Southern New Hampshire University