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.
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.
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.
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.
“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, 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.
Father tells the story of when, less than one year old, I was parked on the floor of his study. As he sat and wrote, the baby entertained herself. Quietly, he says. He should build a monument—I think—to such mute, nice, unobtrusive daughter giving him no trouble at all. Forget it. Father laughs, smirks and grins, making fun of me as he exclaims with a mocking tone, “Oh, that hair on the carpet!” He refers to the fact that I’d spend uncountable time (hours, he claims and I bet he lies) trying to lift from the rug a quasi-invisible hair, mesmerized by the delicate task I had chosen. Why is hard to guess and a question Father, for sure, never asked himself.
Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. Her work has most recently appeared in Scryptic, Voice Of Eve, Blue Tiger Review, and Projected Letters.
I know what fat girls look like. There are a few fat girls in our grade, the grades below us, like the round girl who always wins the talent show because her mother is always a judge. I do not categorize myself as a fat girl, not in fifth or sixth grade, but I do know my clothes don’t fit right, have a history of fitting poorly no matter what. Part of the problem, I am convinced, is my mother: she doesn’t understand what the other girls are wearing. She is taking me to the wrong stores. If we went to another store, we’d find it, what the other girls have. But I’m not in control here, as much as I want to be. I know what I’m looking for, and I know we keep missing it. Maybe just one more store. Maybe between the dressing room and home, something magical will happen. Maybe if we buy this and I wear it to school tomorrow, I won’t have the same jokes made at my expense. “Meg’s so hot,” the boys say. Even classmates who don’t know what sarcasm is can hear it dripping from their voices, the exaggeration, the italics. “Meg, will you go out with me?”
Margaret Emma Brandl’s writing has appeared in journals such as Gulf Coast, The Cincinnati Review, Yalobusha Review, Pithead Chapel, Cartridge Lit, and CHEAP POP. She earned her PhD at Texas Tech University and her MFA at Notre Dame and serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. Visit her website or say hi on twitter (@margaret_emma).
My racial biases developed in layers with attitudes and perceptions accreting from my earliest years. My parents’ behavior—their words and body language—when encountering someone different in color or features or accent, swayed me in a patronizing direction. Playmates, teachers, relatives, and other adults, through their conduct, instilled an intolerant bent in me. I held disdainful assumptions as truth. Similarity was attractive; I viewed the dissimilarities in the thick lips, broad noses, and kinked hair of African Americans as unattractive. Many spoke with an accent or in a dialect I regarded as signs of being unschooled. My desire to be esteemed by my kind bolstered my distorted sentiments. My posture toward blacks was condescending and smug at best, unreasonable and hateful at worst. A product of surroundings and disposition, I was not unique.
Tom Wade is a retired state government employee. He has been a volunteer ombudsman (advocate) for residents of long-term-care facilities for seven years. His essays have been published in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Communion, Jenny, and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, and Wilderness House Literary Review, and Squawk Back.
After she was married for four years and no children seemed to be coming, my mother did what any good Catholic girl in the 1960s would do: she prayed to the Blessed Mother. She promised if she had a little girl, she’d name her Elizabeth Ann, for Mary’s cousin and mother. She promised she’d name a boy Michael, after the archangel. Then she and my father went to the Angel Guardian Home and applied to adopt.
A few months later, a nun from the adoption agency called and said they had a little girl for my parents, and her name was Elizabeth Ann. A few years after that, the adoption agency called again and said they had a little boy for us named Michael. And in 1998, the story of our names was published in a book called Mary Miraculous: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Touched by Our Lady.
Elizabeth Cone teaches writing at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island. She writes essays and memoir, and has a particular interest in the power of narrative and memory, and what happens when these are disrupted. Her work is forthcoming in RiverSedge.
Essay and Other Nonfiction Workshops at Eckleburg
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.