Stop a Second

It wasn’t a very good time at all, not good.  Edward Whitley stood in the corner like an old floor lamp.  He wasn’t looking at anything.  His beady little eyes just sat there like the last two peas on a plate, lost in some thought, away from everything around him.  Winnie Spencer was passing out homemade peanut butter cookies, a good thing to do, but there weren’t many takers.  It wasn’t that out of place.  This was peanut country.  Everybody loved a peanut.  It’s what made Southampton County tick.

Why is it that the more miserable a time you’re having the slower it seems to move?  It sounds reasonable, even true, but why, really?  Emma Pattersoll’s little girl was sitting on the floor in her best Sunday dress, petticoat and all, playing jacks   The ball bounced and she’d grab one. Then she’d do it again.  George Spencer chewed Beechnut.  He had a sort of slow rhythm to it. The last thing anybody needed was a clock.

Wade and Wayland Bennett were identical twins.  It wasn’t until Wade died that anyone could tell them apart.  “So, that was Wade,” someone said looking down into the open casket.

“Wade was the silly one.  He had a mole.”

The funeral home man said, “I was expecting a bigger crowd.”

“Yes,” said Rosalie Bennett Poole, “I can’t understand it.  Wade was such a good man.  There weren’t no other man like him.”

“People just don’t pay respect the way they used to.  They don’t come out.”

“I know.  I know.”

“I always figured Wade Bennett to be queer,” said Charlie Ingram.

“For land sakes Charlie, don’t say that. Don’t say it so loud.”

“Hell, I thought that was Wayland.”

“Well, it don’t matter now.”

“Cookie?” said Winnie Spencer cheerfully.

 

James William Gardner

James William Gardner writes extensively about the contemporary American south. The writer explores aspects of southern culture often overlooked: the downtrodden, the impoverished and those marginalized by society. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

 

 

The Obedient Daughter

There once was a girl who lived with her parents in a clapboard house in the Bible Belt. One day, her mother died just as she was pulling a weed from the garden, as if the root had been attached to her heart. When the girl’s father found his wife, bent sidelong in the garden, he pulled out his hair and burned the bedsheets in the yard. Oh dear god, I am cursed, he cried. First my son and now my wife?! He watched his daughter as she watched him, her hair like coal- stained cattails, dents in her cheeks and chin, a Kodachrome of her mother when she was young, and he took her into his bed as his new wife.

After several years, the girl passed her exams on the sly and left the town to attend a school near the sea. She learned how to cook and paint and drove a cab for a living; she did not return to her child-home for a long, long time. One day, she received a letter from her father’s hired man, who had tracked her to the city to tell her about an accident in the woods behind the house. Her father had been paralyzed from his neck to his toes. The next day, the daughter flew to her old town and saw her old enemy, laid out in his old bed.

Oh my daughter, he said, I cannot hold you but please make me something to eat for eating is the only pleasure I have left. So the daughter went outside and slaughtered his hound and sliced it into a stew and served it to him. I can only wonder how you made this, her father said and he ate and ate. The servant, a canny Scot, watching from the window, laughed and said, he ets the screps of the welp he fed his screps to. Then he took from the pantry and the barn in measures equal the pay owed him, left the house, and didn’t return.

The father was still hungry so he asked his daughter to bring him another bowl of the stew. When she told him there was no more, he fell into a hard sleep and dreamt about fleas. As he whimpered in sleep, the daughter lopped off his feet and steeped them in a soup, which she fed him in the morning. This is even better than the last, he said. So that night, she trimmed him a bit more, up to his knees, and served him his shins, smothered in mushrooms she found in the forest. Your cooking makes me young again, he said. I feel like I could stand up and run.

So the daughter kept feeding him his chops. She popped off his knees and served them like halved apples, still sizzling from a buttered skillet over the fire. She cut up to his hip and tossed it with his schmocks in a broth and he gobbled it up. His belly removed, she put together a roux and when he ate, it shot down his throat and onto the sheets. Please tell me there’s more, her father said. I can’t seem to fill myself up.

The last night, she sawed off what remained below his neck, smoking his arms over the fire in the hollow of his ribs. He ate greedily when he woke, his au jus running down his chin. She lifted the sheet to wipe his mouth and when he looked down and saw no body underneath, he gave one final gasp and died of fright. The daughter tossed the head into the fireplace and sold the house, taking the money back to the bay, where she bought a brownstone on Balboa. She wrote poems and died many years later, alone and at ease.

Joel Wayne

Joel Wayne is a writer and producer from Boise, Idaho. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, The Moth, Burningword, and Salon, among other places. He was an MFA candidate at Boise State University and has won the Silver Creek Writer’s Residency, the Lamar York Prize, and is a Pushcart nominee. Wayne produces the podcast “You Know The Place” for public radio, serves as a judge for the annual Scholastic Writing Awards, and can be visited at JoelWayne.com.

The Duchamp Dossier

It’s a cardboard box where, for years, Joseph Cornell collected small keepsakes from his friendship with Duchamp. The box contains 117 items of various types: The French artist’s empty tobacco pouch, two cleaners for his famous white pipe, a napkin from Horn & Hardart (one of those automats that was all the rage in the 30’s and where they almost certainly met), letters, photographs, postcards of the Mona Lisa, several yellowed notes in his handwriting, gallery posters and even dry cleaning receipts which reveal Duchamp’s unusual habit of sending everything to the dry cleaner, even socks and handkerchiefs.

The box was put on display for the first time in 1998, on the occasion of the Joseph Cornell/Marcel Duchamp: In Resonance exhibition held in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

No one can explain how Cornell managed to acquire such “mementos.”

 

Allison A. deFreese and María Negroni

 

Writer’s Biography: María Negroni (Rosario, Argentina) has published over 20 books, including poetry, nonfiction and novels. Islandia, Night Journey, Andanza (The Tango Lyrics), Mouth of Hell, and The Annunciation have appeared in English, and her work has also been translated into Swedish, Portuguese, Italian, and French. María Negroni received a Guggenheim fellowship for poetry in 1994, a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in 1998, the Fundación Octavio Paz fellowship for poetry in 2001, and The New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in 2005. She also received a National Book Award for her collection of poems El viaje de la noche, a PEN Award for Islandia as best book of poetry in translation (New York 2001), and the Premio Internacional de Ensayo y Narrativa de Siglo XXI for her book Galería Fantástica. She taught at Sarah Lawrence College from 1999 to 2014, and is now director of Argentina’s first creative writing program, at Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero.

 

Translator’s Biography: Allison A. deFreese (Portland, Oregon) has lived in Mexico, Bolivia and Japan. She has previously translated work by Karla Marrufo, José Castillo Baeza, and other Latin American writers. She has three book-length translations forthcoming in 2020: a translation and trilingual adaptation of José R. Cervantes Carrillo’s A Practical Guide to Learning the Yucatec Mayan Language; María Negroni’s Elegy for Joseph Cornell, and Soaring to New Heights (Renuevo), the autobiography of NASA astronaut José Moreno Hernández who spent part of his childhood in Michoacán and worked as a migrant farmworker in California. She holds an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin’s James A. Michener Center for Writers, as well as an MA in Spanish Translation from the University of Texas at Brownsville (now Rio Grande Valley).