Everyone kept talking about that damn elevator. What’s so great about that elevator?

One day, I started listening to what people were saying about it:

I heard it has a great tall ceiling made of mirrors, and your reflection is never flawed.

I heard it goes vertical and horizontal.

Two lions guard the way. They are not mean, but they are very loud.

O no, no, no. It has been broken for years.

I noticed more and more people were talking about the elevator after the town of Sirena decided to have La Reflexión every night after sunset. La Reflexiónmeant everyone would have to think of their sins. Suddenly, everyone was sinning and talking about each other’s sins. Everyone laughed at their neighbors, comparing their sins to those of the others. Some people ate cake and talked about their sins. La Reflexión was working.

For one week, I watched the elevators. People were coming in and out and saying La Reflexión sent me.

This was their ticket. The Senoritas would come, usually without their husbands, running off with sneaky smiles. Maybe they have the Lotería there! they said. Then they ran into the elevators. Sometimes when the doors closed, I heard them screaming. Some of them sobbed.

Now and then a woman or man would come in very tired. Like yesterday’s lady. She was only 30 and had packed a small bag filled with photos, a crucifix, a few pairs of underwear. She also came with an avocado and sat down right at the doors. She skinned it, halved it and then ate it slowly, licking out the insides. Her skin was made from light, the kind that showed no terror — only acceptance. Si, she said, and went in, dropping the green skin to the floor. I didn’t hear her scream.

Who needs underwear where she’s going? someone said. They’re not going to let her keep that cross there.

She’s not going anywhere, another man said.

It seemed everyone had something to say about the woman with the avocado and panties. Then when they got in, they screamed too.

Some people run in and press the buttons in a panic, as if the elevator will never come. Lit circles flash white, white, white, up, down, sideways. What is on sideways? Their eyes are wide and salty and from the front, I can see the moon pooling through the back of their heads. They are no longer human; they are only sadness. These people only come to ride it at night after La Reflexión. They crawl to the doors, beg for them to open. Most of them never get in, so they turn back to go home, defeated.

One lady, Vela, she comes after dinner, filled on tortas and horchata. Also, tequila. She brings cakes with her and puts them on the elevator. She says someone will want to eat the cake — it’s true, everyone smells it and runs in to eat it. Sometimes, she turns them on to their first cake. Only a few people say no, I don’t like it.

Vela brought her mother the other night. The poor old woman was propped up in her wheelchair, her head fallen over her shoulder. Vela straightened her up and plucked some whiskers from her face. I couldn’t help but notice how time recedes. Vela tucked a photograph of her brother — she calls him Sabatino — into her mother’s hands. Go madre, she says. She rolled her mother in with a chocolate cake, pressed a button.

The she told me all about the man in the photograph. Sabatino choked on sardine pudding at his second wedding, o Dios santo! And then Alva, his wife, she killed herself in the bathtub. She goes home with the fish in her fingers and puts the hair curler in the water, and she holds the little fish, o puta, puta, puta. She got the fish from his mouth. She wanted to love him forever. You can’t go to hell for loving someone, can you?

Yeah, I say, no sé.

Every day from then on, Vela came. She came to watch the elevator, but never got in. She just brings her cake on a plate and rushes over when the doors open, sets it down on the floor and tip-toes ten feet back, squeezing her eyes shut until the elevator beeps and goes away. No sé, she says, I don’t know where it goes. Sometimes the cake is nicely made, the icing spread equally over the bun. Sometimes the cake looks like she pieced it back together, using icing as glue from the inside.

I think everyone should have some cake, she says.

Whenever she brings the cake to the elevator, everyone wants to crowd inside and eat it. It makes me think of my family. I don’t want them to be tempted by the cake. I wonder if my father would eat cake, or if he’d ever eat bony sardine pudding. I used to think of him as a man who would never eat those crazy puddings that could kill you. I used to think he would never eat cake just because someone gave it to him. He changed slowly over time. Now he says God made the ocean, and the ocean made sardines. So we should eat them, he says.

I ask him if we should eat people too.

Don’t be crazy, he yelled.From then on I found it difficult to love him.

Floor seven is all ghosts, says the new bell boy. He was only hired yesterday, but he knows all the floors by heart. Floor one, most people go to floor one, he says.

It has been a few days, and La Reflexión is still sending people to the elevators. They come in talking about their big sins, fixing their long socks and sewing their loose threads before getting in. I cried because none of them ever come back. Some of them just try to get some cake, but the doors close.

This elevator smells like madre, one woman said. And then she was gone. It must have been all the sugar, the cakes, the icing.

On the last day, when I couldn’t stand to look at the elevator any more, a girl by the name of Ojala came in with her mother. It was the day of her Quinceañera, and the day that her Grandmother gave her the bath soap she’d always wanted. It smelled of lilies and skin, she told me, like woman. She took her first real bath and there was blood between my legs. Her mother was proud but held her daughter’s hand very tightly. Their knuckles were white.

The bell-boy told Ojala that she would go to floor three. When he did, her mother came apart. Her socks rolled to her ankles, and her nostrils flared. She became very angular looking, like an old woman carved while screaming. She lay a worn creature now, her purpose lost as her child followed the scent into the elevator.

Ojala! Ojala!

But the girl disappeared, going sideways to floor three. She would be there for a very long time, her mother knew. Maybe forever.

Not floor three.Por favor, she says, por favor.

The bell boy only stood there with the desire to eat the cake. It was getting to him. He wanted to go in, to taste it. Was it chocolate? Was it pistachio? cinnamon? plantains? He wanted to press the button and wondered if Ojala had some.

Ojala loves cake, the mother hissed. Everyone should love cake! Mad and heartbroken, the mother rolled over and cried big glass into the floor. It was so shiny she could see herself in its reflection. Her blood was pooling. Someone would have to clean it up and get her in the elevator too.

I cried, thinking of my bathtub at home. I wanted to find out which floor I could visit if I put something electric into my lily bath.

I thought about it for a long time. I feared elevators, and something about water and electricity made me think about the beginning, not the end.

“Never as then, amid suicides, hysteria, and groups of fainting people, have I felt the sensation of real death, death without hope, death that is nothing but rottenness, for the spectacle was terrifying but devoid of greatness.” — Lorca


Lisa Marie Basile is the author of the forthcoming A Decent Voodoo, (Červená Barva Press, 2012) and a chapbook, Diorama (Wisp Press). The Poetry Society of New York will release her chapbook, Andalusia, on Brothel Books. She has been published in Pear Noir!, Word Riot, Prick of the Spindle, elimae, Foundling Review, amongst others. She is the founding editor and publisher of Patasola Press and currently reads poetry for Weave Magazine. She performs with the Poetry Brothel as Luna Liprari and is an M.F.A. candidate at The New School.


Marjorie Maddox Haffer

Before the paramedics arrive, the father tucks in his four-year-old daughter and surrounds her with twenty-two stuffed animals and assorted photographs. In five, she is sitting in his lap. In eight, she is at an amusement park. In two more, she is hugging a stuffed lamb. In one, she is eating Rice Krispies. Her head is carefully propped on the bed’s ruffled pillow. Later, the police count a dozen stab wounds. If Shout were applied immediately to the sheets, the stains would dissolve into temporary.

At the playground, the week before, she played with my son on the short slide, both too afraid of heights. Her father waved when she reached the top. My son gave a thumb’s up, his victory temporary when he slipped and fell. There was no permanent damage.

At home, we cleaned the un-bleeding knee, adhered Spiderman bandages. My son asked about the little girl, if she’d made it down OK. I had forgotten to look but answered immediately. He did not question my truthfulness.

In the future, when my daughter trips and breaks her nose, we ignore the speed limit getting her to the hospital. My son worries about the police, watches out the window for their flashing disc, insists he can hear a siren. Inside the emergency room, the nurses look at me suspiciously. They ask me again how it happened. Before this conversation takes place, I will need to rehearse a scenario.

Today, I wait impatiently in the waiting room, reading Power Ranger books to my son. When he falls asleep, I scan the local paper, looking for the trial, how long the father will be in. After an hour, the nurse asks why I’m there. “No reason,” I say, trying to sound temporary.

Memory often re-arranges events, adds elaborate details. More often than not, the effect is permanent. You will forget this detail immediately after it is read.



Marjorie Maddox is the director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Lock Haven University. She has published several books including Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award). Her poems, stories, and essays can be found in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, and American Literary Review, among other journals. She is the co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (PSU Press 2005). Her short story collection, What She Was Saying, was a finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter Book Award. Marjorie lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, PA.


p style=”text-align: justify;”> 

Buy Nothing Day

Mickey Hess

by Mickey Hess


Instead of buying nothing, he bought something. Tents in the Wal-Mart parking lot, protesters demonstrating for one day of no purchases. He declined to participate in the non-action.

Jean-Paul Sartre has been dragged to a Buy Nothing Day demonstration. His niece is an activist. She is yelling at the influx of customers, begging them not to go into Wal-Mart. She covers her face with a camouflage bandana. Sartre does not cover his face. There is no need. He is unrecognizable.

A man calling himself Diddy will introduce Sartre as the keynote speaker, but Sartre will not say anything. When Sartre is introduced, he will hide behind a fat woman.

Cardboard signs declare that Wal-Mart is killing small business, that it has racist business practices, that it builds Wal-Marts on Aztec ruins. On these cardboard signs, wordplay is king. Sprawl-mart. Appall-Mart. Some of them don’t even make sense.

P. Diddy is late. The activists look at their wristwatches. Wal-Mart’s mechanical doors open and close.

It is the day after Thanksgiving, the biggest shopping day of the year. Consumers are looking for bargains, but really they are looking to be part of something. Sartre’s niece and her friends have linked arms to form a human chain across the front of the soda machines.

P. Diddy arrives by helicopter. He lands on the Wal-mart roof and rappels down the side of the building, dressed in clothes that all bear his own signature.

The activists cheer.

P. Diddy adjusts his sunglasses. “As I stand here, the best way to describe how I feel is that I’ve arrived this morning to a party that’s been going on all night. Now I know the party has been going on for some time, and even though I am late, I am right on time.”

He holds up a magazine with his face on the cover. “We read magazines so that they filter all the crap out there and tell you what you need. We pay them money to do this … we trust them. People are going to buy phones, subscriptions and downloads … a thing that they want, but someone has to tell them what they need. That’s what they will pay for.”

Sartre’s niece, Samantha, is making out with an activist boy. They have lifted their bandanas to kiss. Another boy is lovingly decorating a brick to be thrown at the Plexiglas windows of Wal-mart. He asks Sartre to autograph it.

Sartre searches for his sister in his niece’s face, for his ancestors, his grandfather.

P. Diddy unfurls a large chart. “Billions of dollars every year on music, on fast foods, on cosmetics, on soda, and yes, on consumer electronics and wireless communications technology. I’ve been doing my thing while you all have been playing with your cellphones. It’s all about the cellphones … cellphones, cellphones, cellphones.”

Sartre has become distracted, watching a small boy ride a mechanical dinosaur. The child is unaware of Buy Nothing Day, unaware of the quarter his activist mother has furtively dropped into the dinosaur to propel it into motion and stop her son’s screaming. The boy is four years old, wearing a tiny Che Guevara shirt.

Most of you are familiar with the book Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan,” P. Diddy continues. Sartre raises an eyebrow. “How you received the information changed the way you perceived the information … Not wanting to appear stupid, I waited a few minutes to see if I could figure out what it meant.”

Sartre has not prepared a speech. In fact, he came here with no intention of speaking at all. Say nothing day. Not interested in attaching his name to a cause.

P. Diddy announces Sartre, but he is hiding behind a fat woman.

When Sartre doesn’t appear, P. Diddy continues. “Try sitting in a car with no CD player or radio or 10 speakers … it won’t be easy. It will happen. It takes time, but everything is moving faster than it was two years ago.”

Instead of buying nothing, he bought a small plastic keychain. He dropped in a quarter and turned the metal crank of the keychain machine.

No one saw him except for the four-year-old, who began crying for his mother to buy him one too. The keychain was shaped like a monkey.

* This story samples P. Diddy’s speech at on Mar. 14, 2005 at the cellular industry’s annual confab in New Orleans, and Jean-Paul Sartre’s refusal to deliver a speech at the Nobel banquet in 1964.


Mickey Hess is Associate Professor of English at Rider University, and the author of Big Wheel at the Cracker Factory (Garrett County Press, 2008), which was featured as “Critic’s Choice” in The Chicago Reader, described as “thoroughly humorous” by The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and mentioned online at The New Yorker, Poets & Writers, and USA Today. He has a regular column — “I Will Blurb Any Book Within 24 Hours” — at TheRumpus.net, and his stories and essays have been published in Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: Best of McSweeney’s Humor Category (Knopf, 2005), and such journals as McSweeney’s, Ninth Letter, Punk Planet, Fourteen Hills, Quick Fiction, Fringe, and The Rome Review. He won third place of 1,400 entries in the McSweeney’s 20-Minute Stories Contest. Further, he is the author of Is Hip Hop Dead? The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Most Wanted Music (Praeger, 2007), and the editor of Greenwood Press’s hip hop reference series, for which he has published two edited collections: Icons of Hip Hop (2007), and American Hip Hop: A Regional Guide (2009).