Essays

Hotel Pool, or, Gay Subject Matter

Alone in the pool, surrounded by other people’s children, I think of a way to describe the garbled and bulbous sounds of their high pitched voices bouncing | heightened | distracting and I think: this must be what it sounds like inside a snow globe—the garbled nature of voice trapped beneath a glass dome. Here, the indoor hotel pool is rectangular. The ceiling, high. I enter at the low end, easing my feet into cool water, holding the metal rail in case a loud, raucous embodied voice bumps into me.

 

Heather J. Macpherson writes from New England. Her work has appeared in 580 Split, Gravel, The Worcester Review, Concourse, Spillway, Pearl and other fine places. She has work forthcoming in The Bennington Review and Blueline. Heather is a PhD candidate in Creative Nonfiction at University of Rhode Island.

Beets

 

In Southern Minnesota, my job was to pile sugar beets as they came in from the fields. Truck by truck, twenty-four hours a day, every day—unless it rained too much, and the vehicles got stuck.

Zachary H Loewenstein never meant for things to be like this. He currently
lives in a van and is exploring the maritime provinces of Canada.

The Pact

In this suburb, where fast food chains abound, a landscape I first assessed as soulless, I’m beginning to understand why you loved living here. I’ve been missing the point for too long. You were focused on who lived here, on their stories. You didn’t distance yourself from the people you helped. You sat with them, ate with them, listened to them, joked around with them, and, because you understood that no one is ever that far from distress, you gave what you could to them. They deserved a chance, even a leg up. They were you.

Lori Toppel is the author of THREE CHILDREN, a novel, and co-author of STILL HERE THINKING OF YOU, a collaborative memoir. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Atticus Review, Del Sol Review, and The Antioch Review. She is a graduate of the MFA Program at Columbia University.

Dressing the Mutton

I throw on purple tights and an orange racer-back tank top with the logo of Milestone Running—the San Diego store where I buy my athletic gear—emblazoned on the front. I’m out for an early five-mile run. After I return home and shower, I dress in jeans and a t-shirt for a day at my desk, add a hoodie when I walk out later to the library and grocery store. This is me, age seventy-four, on a typical Tuesday.

My grandmother died when she was younger than I am now. In my memory, she’s an old woman, blue-haired, stocky and shelf-bosomed. In a family photo from my brother’s 1956 high school graduation, she wears a dark shapeless dress under a long shapeless coat, a little pancake hat perched on her tight tinted coils. She dressed her age, like most sixty-something women of her day. In tights and a tank top or jeans and a t-shirt, she’d have caused a stir. She’d have been accused of making a pathetic attempt to pass herself off as younger, of being “mutton dressed as lamb.”

Alice Lowe reads and writes about life and literature, food and family. Her personal essays have appeared this past year in Superstition Review, Ascent, Waccamaw Review, Baltimore Review, Stonecoast Review, Hobart, and Bloom. Her work has been cited in the Best American Essays notables and nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Alice is the author of numerous essays and reviews on Virginia Woolf’s life and work, including two monographs published by Cecil Woolf Publishers in London. Alice lives in San Diego, California; read her work at www.aliceloweblogs.wordpress.com.

Hopkins Pond

Memory plays with our present self, teasing us with the possibility of its mutability; if we remember differently, we may become somebody else, if not in body, in essence. I have many memories I play with, imagine differently, reshape and wrestle, and many I could not mutate if I tried. Perhaps that is the required state of mind, leaving some wiggle room, if only imaginary, and at once confirming the past that is embedded. We exist, can float even, somewhere in between.

Amy Scanlan O’Hearn is a writer and teacher in Southern NJ. Her short
stories appear in Helen, Bacopa Review and Per Contra. She received first place for her poem “Fences” in the Oregon Poetry Association New Poets Category 2014 and other poetry appears in Verseweavers, in MER Vol. 13, and is forthcoming in Panoplyzine. She is an Associate Poetry Editor for Typehouse.

Pinboy

Mine was a career option knocked out from under me by mid-twentieth-century technology, not the silent artificial intelligence that threatens many occupations today, but a clanking contraption of gears, pulleys, and mechanical grippers that made human hands unnecessary.

In my early teens I had worked several nights a week as a pinboy in a six-lane bowling alley one flight up from our small-town movie theater, a narrow place that smelled of shellac, spilled beer, and stale tobacco. I sat on a ledge in a pit at the end of a gleaming wood surface, huddling for safety when the bowling balls came hurtling toward me, my arms and elbows poised to fend off flying pins, then returning the ball with a shove down a grooved shaft. After a strike or the second ball ended the frame with a spare or something like an 8–10 split, I jumped into the pit to press a lever with my shoe, scoop up scattered pins, and arrange them on protruding spikes.

Walter Cummins has published seven short story collections—Witness, Where We Live, Local Music, The End of the Circle, The Lost Ones, Habitat: stories of bent realism, Telling Stories: Old and New. He also has a collection of essays and reviews called Knowing Writers. More than one hundred of his stories, as well as memoirs, essays, and reviews, have appeared in magazines such as New Letters, Kansas Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, Under the Sun, Arts & Letters, Confrontation, Bellevue Literary Review, Connecticut Review, in book collections, and on the Web. With Thomas E. Kennedy, he was founding co-publisher of Serving House Books, an outlet for novels, memoirs, and story, poetry, and essay collections. For more than twenty years, he was editor of The Literary Review.

Condom Races

Shouldn’t I start with the latest, and most jarring, incident? Before character introductions, before the narrative pondering of questions raised, before metaphors for the sadness, disillusionment, even fear aroused? And fear of what? Being wrong to begin with? Sensing a narrow escape? Somehow … being abandoned?

The initial questions already listed, the primary emotions already announced, why is it so hard to simply dramatize the event? Because it was an email exchange, without setting, facial expressions, background noise … details that I know impact a dramatic scene. Maybe my title can do the job of the lead-in hook, and I can continue blathering.

Cris Mazza’s next novel is forthcoming from BlazeVox Books. Her last book was Charlatan: New and Selected Stories, chronicling twenty years of short-fiction publications. Mazza has seventeen other titles of fiction and literary nonfiction including her last book, Something Wrong With Her, a real-time memoir; her first novel How to Leave a Country, which won the PEN/Nelson Algren Award for book-length fiction; and the critically acclaimed Is It Sexual Harassment Yet? She is a native of Southern California and is a professor in and director of the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Flats Fixed

By coincidence, I get two flat tires on the same day. I discover the first one about fifty yards from where I live. Just after I unlock my bike and start to pedal, I feel the rumble of a wheel rim hitting the pavement. The back tire has no air—it is dead flat.

I believe my neighbor punctured my tire because I was joking with him. He’d shown me a photo of a high-tech bike rack that could be installed in our basement. Each bike would have a halter, like a cow in a milking pen. “Look,” he’d said, “the front wheels sit right next to the wall.”

Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of six books, most recently Border Crossings, a poetry collection. His novel Haywire won the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s members’ choice award, and his memoir Guess and Check won the Electronic Literature bronze award for multicultural fiction. He received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Her?!

“PLANK AND HOLD!” the trainer screams.

I make my way to the ground, prop myself up on my elbows, stretch my legs out and get in a plank position.

During the one minute “active break,” my sweat starts to race down my forehead and lands in big droplets on the ground. I can see my reflection in them. As I struggle to “keep my butt down,” my elbows slide on the foam mat.

I’m trying to keep my core tight. I look down, a loose shirt covers my hanging belly.

Once the painful and long minute is over, I bring my knees to my chest and stand on my feet. My muscles ache and my joints crunch.

The main trainer, a young, energetic, potentially psychotic man, comes up to me.

“I want to get some video of you today on the pads.”

Translation: He wants someone to video me sparring with him using boxing gloves.

 

Heather Wyatt is a teacher and writer by day and food tv junkie by night. Her first book, My Life Without Ranch, is out now from 50/50 Press, published Fall 2018. The creative non-fiction title features that love of food, but also explores the dangerous relationship we can all have with it. Her new poetry chapbook Call My Name is out now from The Poetry Box!

She lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with her husband and has a slight obsession with her two dogs. She both graduated from and instructs English at the University of Alabama. She received her MFA from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky in poetry and since 2006, her poetry has been featured in numerous journals. Most recently, her poems have appeared in places like: Jokes Review, Number One: A Literary Journal, and A Walk with Nature: Poetic Encounters that Nourish the Soul. Her short story “A Penny Saved” was published in Perspectives Magazine in 2018. Her essay “Self-Defense” is in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review September 2018 and her essay, “Hot AF” is in the magazine Robot Butt (2018).

Eric Carle, Eric Carle, Let Me Ask You Something for a Change

Eric Carle, Eric Carle, I hope you can see:

This daddy (that’s me) reading stories to three.

Eric Carle, Eric Carle, your words that I’m reading,

they’re the last my kids hear each night before dreaming.

Eric Carle, Eric Carle, please don’t think me a stalker,

even though I know your stories by heart, as do my sons and my daughter.

 

Matt Muilenburg teaches at the University of Dubuque. His creative nonfiction has been featured in Barrelhouse, Southern Humanities Review, Storm Cellar, Barren Magazine, Superstition Review, Atticus Review, and elsewhere. Matt is an associate editor of fiction for Southern Indiana Review and lives near the Field of Dreams movie site.

Essay and Other Nonfiction Workshops at Eckleburg

Personal Essay

Lyric Essay

Body Narrative

Modern Memoir

View All Workshops

Submit Your Nonfiction

We accept polished creative nonfiction/essays up to 8,000 words year round, unless announced otherwise. Preferences veer toward shorter works under 1500 words with an arts and culture focus. If you wish to include a bio, keep it short, under 200 words. Submit your nonfiction.

Essay Collections and Memoir Manuscripts

We publish short works at The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. At this time, we do not publish novel, long memoir, essay collections, story collections or poetry collections at The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. We do offer manuscript workshops at The Eckleburg Workshops. If you are looking to place a manuscript, we can suggest several excellent small and large presses whose excellent books are promoted through our Eckleburg Book Club — i.e., Random House, Graywolf Press, Coffeehouse, Tinhouse, St. Martins Press and more.