Important Updates, Announcements, and More About Submissions! – Editor-in-Chief, Kelly Fitzharris Faulk

MAN, you guys are KILLING IT with these submissions – and I’m not exaggerating. The pieces I’ve been accepting are all SO DIFFERENT from one another, but they’re poignant, fresh, and remind me of the reason I started Sick Lit Magazine just about two years ago.

Nicole Ford Thomas has not “left the building” – she and I are still working closely together here at SLM. She’s now the Creative Director, where I let her spread her wings and expand her mind, allowing her ideas and her imagination to grow and flourish. This brings me to my next point: Nicole will be writing a regular column for SLM called Letters From Left Field. 

Along with that, we’re starting our own advice column called Ask The Redheads – When in Doubt? Bitch it out! All questions will be anonymous and will be posted on the site with both mine and Nicole’s input. Any advice questions should be sent to sicklitsubmissions@gmail.com with “Ask The Redheads” in the subject line. You’ll be notified if we pick your question to be featured and also (for a few, select scenarios) enlist a group of your peers help Nicole and myself in our advice to you.

So, now, along with fresh poetry and fiction, we’ll be providing even more fun content for you to delve into!

I’m going to start posting some of your pieces for our “New Beginnings” theme either tomorrow or over the long weekend, so you’ll have something exciting and new to read. I woke up earlier this week with two fairly painful infections (of course, right? Why wouldn’t I? Ha!); I’ve received antibiotics and am hoping to be on the mend by Saturday. If not, I’ll start posting your work on Sunday.  Don’t worry, guys. We’ll get everything up and running soon.

To some of you who haven’t received a response yet: bear with me. I will get to you, I promise.

Who’s excited?

Who’s ready to write again, and actually enjoy it this time? As I’ve said before, throw out that “literary agent jargon” that’s peddled as “Professional advice.”

If I’m being completely candid, I want you to forget EVERYTHING and write me a bold, passionate piece (and then of course, send it to sicklitsubmissions@gmail.com) and if nothing else, your enthusiasm and love for writing will shine through.

Be on the lookout for Nicole’s New Column, Our Advice Column, and some excellent prose and poetry.

Nicole and I sort of have an affinity for all things “fall.” We’re excited for these next few issues and what’s to come for all of us here at SLM!

 

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Cheers, guys! And good luck submitting!

Kelly

(Above: a photo of me ‘at the office’)

 

 

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Feel Like Starting Over? Come Explore Our “New Beginnings” Theme – Editor-in-Chief, Kelly Fitzharris Faulk

It’s….September!

And that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It might mean back-to-school (either as a student yourself, a teacher, parent, or all three), meaning unchecked road rage in the form of crowded, bitchy carpool lanes; it could bring either a markedly busier or slower work pace for you, and September always serves as a lead-in to the holiday season and the harried, frantic conclusion to the year 2017.

*Side note about unchecked road rage- what in the name of Sam Hill is going on?! Not to sound like a disgruntled older woman, but I’m seriously alarmed at the amount of people just absolutely LOSING IT while in their cars. I saw some of the most God awful road rage, of all places, at the drive thru lane at Chik-Fil-A last week. One car cut another one off; sure, they shouldn’t have done that, but the reaction from the woman who was cut off was straight up disturbing. Her blood pressure had to have been close to heart attack level. It is NOT WORTH IT to engage ANYONE like that unless they’ve literally just snatched your newborn baby out of your vehicle. End of rant. *

Whether this year has been one of strife and struggle for you or one of success and triumph, time waits for no one. And the only direction it moves is forward.

Last night, my husband and I watched the movie “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. Its humor has more of a subdued, subtle dryness to it, giving it the perfect opportunity to be in the background and serve as the perfect backdrop to a realistically funny look at what the world might look like right before it ended. Dean (my husband) kept trying to figure this movie out; he was determined to break it down and find its hidden meaning and intent. He kept guessing that the ending would take a drastic turn and the world wouldn’t end at all – that the asteroid might narrowly miss earth, giving the movie “meaning.”

“No, no, no,” was my rebuttal. “The point is that it doesn’t matter how much time we have here or what we think we’re supposed to be doing. If it takes the end of the world for you to ‘find your purpose’ or if you think you need to go backpacking across Brazil in order to find yourself, then you very well could be missing out on the greatness that’s already in your life. In the end, we’ve all got what we need right in front of us. We’ve had the right tools all along, we just didn’t know how to use them. Changing your scenery won’t change your problems and it won’t change you. Being with those who love you and loving yourself are the keys to fulfillment.” (Now, don’t throw that back at me when I’m super stressed out and complain about the annoyances of day-to-day life. Ha!)

All of that being said, each day is an opportunity for us to begin again, to try harder, to live our lives a little better and be a little kinder to one another. Just because you’ve messed up, fallen down, cried in front of your boss, reacted in situations with cowardice or malice as opposed to bravery and kindness, doesn’t mean that you have to live tomorrow that way. Messing up is part of the journey, guys. You’re supposed to do that. You are supposed to bump your head – a lot – in order to find your way. And you’ll keep messing up until the day you die. That’s just what life is. It’s about realizing who and what you are, knowing your shortcomings and your strengths, and using this knowledge to not only better yourself, but hopefully those around you.

That brings me to the reason why I’ve chosen the themes I have for this fall: All of these themes hit close to home for the vast majority of us. If you don’t have one instance where you have faced adversity, wanted to start over, or actually did start over, or witnessed or experienced a good versus evil battle, then maybe you need to get out of your comfort zone.

I’ve received a lot of wonderful submissions. If I don’t get back with you five minutes after you’ve sent me an email, remember that I’m only one person. And chill out.

Here is the official theme schedule:

September: New Beginnings

October: Good VS Evil

November: Strength in the Face of Adversity

Okay, guys, now do your thing and I’ll do mine. Until next time…..

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Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Or, hell, go ahead. 

Cheers, 

Kelly Fitzharris Faulk 

 

 

Calling All Writers! Step “Write” up and get yourself some SLM Announcements! – Kelly Fitzharris Faulk, Editor-in-Chief

Here’s to Life, Literature, and bringing the spirit of SLM back!

 

Sometimes, we’re trying so hard to open a figurative closed door in our lives that we fail to look behind us to see a brand-new, shining, glassed-in sun-room. Forget that old window analogy; this time after God has closed the door, he’s opened up the entire back of your house.

The past is done; it’s gone. We cannot change it, nor can we live there. This is why it’s so important to live in the here and the now and to do your best to see that rainbow while you’re stuck in the mud.

I’m sure you’ve noticed my name change up above – I’M MARRIED! And it is a happy time for me and my family. Soon, I’ll be Kelly Faulk.

Onto the magazine!

I will officially be re-opening shop so to speak for submissions starting NOW and staying open until the end of October of 2017 for short prose (just don’t send me 30 pages) and poetry.

I do have a few themes up my sleeve:

Good VS Evil

New Beginnings

Strength in the face of Adversity 

 

You may begin to submit to any or ALL of these themes as soon as you are ready to do so to: sicklitsubmissions@gmail.com

*Now, remember: When submitting your work to the magazine, please, please, PLEASE, write the genre and theme somewhere in or on your email, write to me as yourself, and be as frank or as candid as you’d like.

Reminder: I want YOUR work. Write as YOU; write what you write best and write the hell out of it.

My mission and my intent have never been to conform to the rest of the literary world; on the contrary, I want to serve as a guide, a mentor, a coach, and a voice of reason in a world filled with chaos and closed doors. Unless I suspect you *might* be a serial killer aside from your day job, I usually make every effort to email you back as soon as I can and to provide you with my enthusiastic feedback, critiques, praises, what have you.

I’m starting this fall with a clean slate and a fresh outlook. If you’ve sent in work before and it’s gone unnoticed and you feel that it’s good and fits one of the themes, send it again. This year has scrambled us all up a bit to say the least. So let’s just start over.

Here’s to new beginnings, a brighter tomorrow, and the freedom to express ourselves.

Cheers,

dkweddingggggggg

Kelly

Frequent Flyer Miles – Editor-in-Chief, Kelly Fitzharris

It’s no surprise to most of you that I’m kind of a frequent flyer – slash – frequent traveler.

The experiences I’ve had while traveling alone (sans fiance and/or my two beautiful children) have been some of the most poignant and interesting ones.

Recently when traveling to my hometown of Niceville, Florida, I met a little girl who was about my daughter’s age. She was a bright, bubbly girl who lived at the far east end of Panama City. She talked to me about inter-dimensional travel, creating worlds in Minecraft, galaxies, planets, light years, and everything else under the sun. I told her that she should harness all of her creativity and ideas and draw them in a journal and compile it into a little book.

A few months ago when I was traveling to Florida, I helped a woman work the Benefit vending machine during my layover in Houston; by the end of our interaction, she hugged me and told me what a bright light I had inside me.

Now, while all of these moments and happenstance meetings are without a doubt fleeting, they’re also special. They’re real. They’re genuine.

I always want to bottle up the way I feel when I have these small yet meaningful interactions so that I can open it up one day and watch it in my mind’s eye as if it were on a movie reel.

I travel back home a lot because my best girlfriend lives there and we have been close off-and-on since high school. Recently, though, my trip was for a less-than-exciting occasion. Her mother was in the hospital dying. Her mother actually passed away while I was there. To say that the occasion was sad and heavy would be a gross understatement.

Which brings me to my next point: life is fleeting. Our time here is relatively short. Why not live as yourself, as a genuine individual, instead of pretending who society wants you to be? Because there, truly, is no right or wrong way to “be.” Liberal or conservative, Democrat, Republican, independent, or apathetic – what happened to the days when we could all be friends with one another despite our religious or political beliefs? Rob Zombie said on Twitter about a year ago that one of his best friends was a conservative Republican. Rob Zombie is not. He said that that never once got in the way of their friendship or interfered with their relationship, even if they argued politics every now and again. He said this in response to Twitter’s outrage at the revelation that he is a vegan.

What have we become as a society, in America (and elsewhere – you guys do it, too), that someone’s choice to be a Vegan would cause such an uproar and elicit such anger and rage? I mean, honestly, what in the good Lord’s name has happened to all of us? When did we all become such a lynch mob, demanding someone’s blood for choosing to live their life a little differently than we live ours?

Kindness. Empathy. Courtesy. Sympathy. Humility. Forgiveness. Love. Unconditional love.

That’s what all of us need to practice more and more in our daily lives, especially these days when these qualities are so hard to find in others. We live in this social media bubble that demands perfection, assimilation, and for everyone to be a carbon copy of the next person; so much so that I rarely even post on Facebook anymore. If your post is not 100% positive, dripping with sunshine and rainbows, you’ll amass hundreds of awful comments verging on character assassination. How’s that for hypocrisy? The reality is that there is not one of us out there who exhibits or lives a life filled to the brim with perfection. That’s because perfection does not exist; it is not attainable.

Each of us has a myriad of idiosyncrasies, issues, quirks, ups and downs, sadness, happiness, anger, and every other emotion that exists. Letting these things out, rather than bottling them up, are what help keep us sane and grounded. That’s why we have friends; they are supposed to serve as a healthy mirror back of who we are as human beings. We’re supposed to be kind and open when a friend confides in us, without judgment or harshness, and also to be forgiving.

You never know what your neighbor, your customer, your cashier at the store, or the homeless man carrying a sign, have gone through that day. They, too, don’t know what you might have been through on that same day. Everyone goes through their own personal brand of suffering.

The next time you find yourself traveling, just ask the person sitting next to you at the airport how their day has been. You’ll be surprised what you might find out: not just about that person, but about yourself.

Cheers,

Peace, love and all the rest,

 

 

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Kelly Fitzharris

 

 

 

Pop Culture Got You Down? Politics? Let’s Party Like it’s 2005. Also, Your Favorite Editor is Checking in ;) – Kelly Fitzharris, Editor-in-Chief

Here’s to New Beginnings!

 

 

A lot of you have emailed recently, asking me how I’ve been doing and checking in on me. Please know that it hasn’t gone unnoticed and/or unappreciated. 

Switching gears just for a moment (bear with me, I have a point to make):

Ever spend an hour scrolling through your Facebook-Twitter-insert-social-media-app-slash-web-site feed only to feel like an empty, hollow, lifeless loser? And then regretted that hour so much that you vowed never to tell anyone you just actually wasted an hour (or more…) scrolling through Facebook? Have you ever stopped to question the content that you are allowing to play on a loop from your phone, PC, laptop, iPad, other device, etc.?

Well…if you answered no…Question it!

I can tell you: spending all of your time on Facebook reading what everyone else is doing can make you feel depressed. Also, spending time on Facebook playing negative videos over and over and over again will also dampen your spirits. Doing both for a solid day or so is nothing short of insanity-inducing.

As human beings, we aren’t meant to be cooped up with an electronic device for hours on end, hunched over, reading canned and regurgitated garbage that may or may not come from a kernel of truth, letting that fill up all of our free time.

The same can be said for trolling a person on the web as opposed to taking the time to get to know them in person. Reading everything that, let’s say, I’ve written or tweeted or even a few of my published works (including an article I co-authored with Dr. Jeffrey Toney, PhD on The Hill, Congress Blog) is no way to get an idea of my character, my current life situation, nor is it an appropriate way to wrongly judge a person.

Here’s the thing about judgment: it’s a lot like assuming. And you know what they say about assuming.

I was raised by two, good, God-fearing parents who, yes, raised me Catholic, and simultaneously raised me to be open-minded, open-hearted, loving and forgiving. And I was also raised never, ever to judge a book by its cover. My father is a graduate of USAFA (US Air Force Academy), won a Guggenheim fellowship scholarship (with which he used to procure his Master’s in engineering from Columbia University in New York City), before he started out his first assignment as a fighter pilot at Langley Air Force Base when I was only 2 years old. He served as an officer in the US Air Force for 22 years before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel and Senior National Represent for the United States. My mother has been a licensed LVN (nurse) most of her life, practicing in both Florida and Texas over the years.

While it’s true that I’ve been through my own personal brand of hell this year and last year, I’ve also recently been absent from this site because, SURPRISE, I’ve been happy for the first time in a long time. I’ve met someone who loves me, loves my children, and who supports me endlessly.

After our first date, about a couple of weeks later, my dog got out of my fence. I called him flustered, driving around shouting the dog’s name with my two kiddos in the backseat. He came over that day with tools, wearing a white shirt and jeans, and met my children. My son went out and pretended to help him fix the fence, carrying his own “tool kit.” It was that day that I knew; I knew it in my heart that this was it. He was the real thing. And he has been ever since.

We’re engaged to be married in August of 2017.

Here’s the thing: you can’t schedule falling in love. If you try and micromanage it and interrupt nature’s way of doing things, that’s a surefire way to ruin it. To kill it. Instead of living in the past and waking up daily with hate and anger in your heart, why not celebrate the present and look forward to the future and hold happiness in your heart for your family?

Life is too short not to.

I recently got back from a trip to see my best friend from high school. I went to visit so I could help her while her mother was in the hospital. Unfortunately…sadly…her mom passed away while I was visiting. As devastatingly sorrowful as that visit was, it has given me a different perspective on life; on family; on, well, everything. My friend’s mom was the same age that my mom is going to be in August.

If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s to shelve the judgments and relish the fleeting happiness that can sometimes bury itself beneath the monotony of our day-to-day grind that most often leaves us feeling empty inside. Acknowledge your own suffering; acknowledge and learn from your own failures before you point outward to project it onto someone else. Someone who might, just might, be a decent person.

***

The future of the magazine is still up in the air. As I’m sure you can probably imagine, my life is filled to the brim with activity, which includes getting married and getting my children registered for school and getting settled back into a routine.

I can promise you that once the dust has settled, I will be in touch.

 

Cheers,

Kelly Fitzharris

Editor-in-Chief

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Changes. – Kelly Fitzharris, Editor-in-Chief, Founder (the creator of this monster ;) )

Readers, contributors, fans, friends, and longtime SLM enthusiasts, this is to all of you: I apologize for my lack of involvement and communication in the magazine as of late. I will explain. 

I know there has been more than a lot of confusion surrounding the magazine’s future and about the fact that we’ve posted a “closed to submissions” notice on the site.

The truth is that I had always told myself that when I no longer enjoyed the work I did here, that I would either walk away or find a way to enjoy it again.

After going through the demise of my 12 year relationship (10 year marriage) where there are two malleable children involved, I’ve found myself broken, shattered, hurt, angry, confused, and on the brink of near insanity at times. Nicole has been on the receiving end of more than her fair share of text messages and phone calls where I broke down. I cried. I told her that I was, in fact, buckling under all the pressure. I couldn’t do it all. I’d failed, in short.

At the moment, I’m feeling rather placid. I want to be hopeful for the future; I want to heal. I want to live my life and be who God meant for me to be. I don’t want to live my life feeling as though I’m letting everyone down anymore (whether it’s in my personal life or in my work life).

SLM (Sick Lit Magazine) will be undergoing a bit of a change over this summer; there will be an overhaul and I will take a few of you with me and Nicole (if you want to come, that is.) We set out to work for ourselves and we intend to do just that. We intend to take the reigns back. Things have gotten a bit out of control in terms of the workload and lack of income.

As I saw my divorce on paper, filed, documented, and subsequently took on the responsibilities of a single mother to two children after my ex moved out, I realized that I could no longer run the magazine as it was going. I realized (with Nicole’s help) that instead of becoming the literary revolution I’d so badly wanted to become, a publication where writers were honored by an acceptance, I was, instead, pandering to everyone else’s whims and wishes. I’ve been the veritable doormat that I swore I’d never become.

As May of 2017 winds down, so will Sick Lit Magazine as all of you know it now. 

Everyone we’ve published will still be on the site, in an archived section. I don’t plan on deleting anything as of yet.

I owe it to myself to find my way back to who the hell I am; I owe it to all of you as well.

Stay tuned to see what Nicole and I are up to on here.

Cheers, 

zzzyy

Kelly Fitzharris

Still in Your Fingertip – by ROB PARRISH

Still in Your Fingertip

We are in bed and you start a message on my back. You move your right index finger at a controlled pace. First a T, then H. Next an I. A slow-curling S follows. Your finger drags off my back. I say the word into the bedding. You tap my back once for confirmation and swipe my skin as if it is a chalkboard, nails slightly digging.

The next word starts with an I and then another serpentine S. I say is, but you double tap. You place your finger firmly below my left shoulder blade and pong out an N, then carve in a crucifix. I correct myself. You follow with one firm tap.

I want to turn around and ask about the use of contractions and if apostrophes should be acknowledged, but you place both of your hands on my back as if you know, that you feel me tense up with the lack of punctuation.

There is hesitation between us. The next word is still in your fingertip. We both know what it is and it does not need to be worked into my skin. A fragment looms.

You once told me thoughts were not meant to be expressed all the time, that three words lose their fervor when used like goodbyes.

You tap twice and collapse next to me.

***

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Rob Parrish’s work can be found in Gravel, The Harpoon Review, The Airgonaut, and Birds Piled Loosely, among others. Rob is an editor at (b)OINK. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his dog, Coltrane.

 

A Stranger Come Home – by HIRO TSUKINO

 

Stranger Come Home

by Hiro Tsukino

 

 

The guy with the window seat smiled and shaped his hand into a gun. He put the barrel against his neck and fired smoothly, gesticulating the glory of the blow out the other side onto the woman sleeper between us. He did this in slow motion and with grace (hand model or magician?). His fist mimed the unfurling violence—blood spray, tubular bits transmuted into globular muck from the heat and force of the bullet, neck bone fragments wild—in a gesture of sprawling digits and a snaky curl of the wrist.

The ten-hour flight from Tokyo to San Francisco would be painful, but not suicide. For me the opposite.

“Bitchin,’” the weirdo said, smiling. He showed teeth.

“Thank you.” I comprehended at last that he’d complimented my tattoo. The Death Star is tattooed on my neck, mid-detonation.

But writing this, months later, I am uncertain if the weirdo meant that his “bitchin’” explosion resembled my tattoo. He’d dropped his head back after the initial shot, then tapped his neck again with the barrel, and dropped his head back and performed this motion a third time (or have I rewritten in recalling?). Meaning (possibly): How bitchin’ would it be to shoot through all three of our necks so the bullet exits your tattoo and bursts into the center aisle to initiate further gore?(?)

It was a long flight. Even I was not myself.

The tattoo was done here, I confessed.

“In the air?” He wasn’t joking.

“In the U.S.—San Fran—” I said— “when I was fifteen.”

I am not the kind of person who chats with strangers on planes, yet I pushed through my introversion and spoke of my teenage rebellion, my hope that my father would not carry me back to Tokyo so irreverently marked. He did so and worse. Those were long days inside skyscrapers that blotted out the sun, and me lost under the lengthier shadow of my father. A matrix of shadow. Deep was his, and so un-there was I, that at night I seeped through the cracks of this steel trap into punk and electronic shows and the life underground. Never long—kidnapped at daybreak by heavy-handed limo drivers. My father being who he is, etcetera. Tokyo was a fun-house mirror and a charcoal suit I will not miss, I explained. I was returning to the U.S. for good, or maybe I would not stop wandering now, I told all this to the weirdo on the plane in not so many words.

I wanted to be a good listener, who I see myself as, so I asked, “What about you? Business or pleasure?”

“Exquisitely inseparable in my book,” he said.

I remember this is what he said because I’d never heard a person use the word “exquisitely.” I smirked in return.

“Talk—tell me about yourself,” he said, reaching into his jacket pocket. Three travel whiskeys lay in my lap (magician).

I began and, despite my introversion, could not stop. This was a cliff’s edge time for me, running on a new life. Not new—deep me, 24/7.

I did not speak of the patriarch. I told the weirdo a little about my music and much more about the zines I had written for and published. Conspiracy zines. With expats. The one I put most heart into was a meta zine on conspiracy and knowledge. Its title: Dietrologia.

“’Nothing you can believe … is not coming true,’” the guy said. He dipped his finger in the air at the word “not,” made squiggles in the air of the rest. I had not seen him drink. Though languid, his motions were precise.

This quote is from Don DeLillo’s Underworld in which he writes of the search for hidden motives. Exactly where I had stolen the title.

“People don’t want to hear it,” I said, meaning the truth, excited that we shared this language. I immediately became paranoid: A coincidence? Was he sent to interrogate me? By my father? The U.S. Government? I was one whiskey in, a lightweight.

“Too afraid?” he said.

“The opposite.” I said this much less excited. “The concept is not scary enough.”

I thought I would say no more.

The weirdo stared at the headrest of the seat in front of him with a crazed grin as if gazing through it, through the skull and brain of the person in front of him, and entertained by the picture show of his or her dreaming mind.

I then shared what I’d learned after years of working on zines. When I published about the secrets of space travel acquired from little gray men from outer space, locked in cells under the Pentagon, people bought. When I wrote about Cthulhu cultists performing virgin sacrifices in high power high-rises of Dubai, about the living city of Atlantis leading sensitives to its rediscovery through ESP, and about the death of American rappers linked to the Illuminati, people bought.

When I published about the immorality of the 1%, about political parties as pro-corporate puppets exploiting labor at home and internationally, about the zombie-ing effect of “present culture” (see titles of current “Top 100 Songs”) to prevent labor from seeing its disempowerment and capitalism’s future catastrophes as inevitable, about our inability to conceptualize the lasting effects of parties and politicians for more than five years forward or backward, about the inability to see that as a problem, about the underfunding of education globally so that the unprivileged are learning less in classrooms about how political and economic systems operate, about these schools serving only to conform us into spectators and not actors, about racism and sexism and classism as subversive tools that keep us blind and divided, about how we uphold these inequalities through fighting and not talking, and about why this is happening, about power securing power, stuffing bank accounts at the cost of human dignity, then no one bought.

“To sum it up—” I said in a sweat.

“Please,” he said.

“People want mystery. If they know what is happening in the world…” we looked to the window simultaneously—high altitude darkness circumscribed by a soft rectangle made of white plastic, “the interest is not there.”

“Suspense!” The guy rocked in his seat and patted the sleeper’s leg encouragingly. I am certain they did not know one another. “Suspension—the state of—disbelief,” he rambled.

“Something like that.” I wiped my eyes, bleary from an unexpected sadness, two whiskeys in. The lost and those not wanting to be found, acquaintances, awaited me in this country. I was not even awaited.

Most passengers were asleep or attempting to sleep at this time in the flight. We both became aware of it and talked in a lower volume.

“What does one do with truth?” he asked. “What do you do with it?”

“Avoid. For a long time. The truths about myself.” Was I still by running from Japan and my father? I didn’t know. I didn’t wholly want to.

“Ever open your eyes at night in bed? Try it sometime. Tonight!” the guy said. “One eye sees darker than the other. Close one, open the other. The rods and cones are different, each eye degenerating at different speeds. Eyeballs are hardware, you see? We are devices of input, and we compile one dark image, one lighter image into a single 3D illusion. So let me ask you: Which eye sees the world as it is?”

The question was very rhetorical because he continued before I understood his point (slow with drink). He’d skipped several logical points ahead as if missing a teleprompter.

“You compile your own—or so you think. Your own Meaning of Life. In you, for you. But what of outside you, now? Outside your little life with its little meaning—what’s the bigger fish, the system that you, we, as data, compile into?”

“I don’t know. Life?”

“Whose objective is?”

“There isn’t one?”

He raised a finger.

“Whatever we make of it?” I answered.

The finger went limp, and his smile sagged into distaste.

He told me to drink the last whiskey and, after, when I’d enjoyed my “brief escape” and sobered up, to get serious about the “red mountain in the room.”

He put in earbuds, and we did not talk for the remaining hours of the flight. My answer, or lack of one, had disappointed him. So I did not (yet) understand the hidden meaning of reality. I knew myself. Didn’t I? The sadness returned. I could not finish the drink. I expected we would shake hands at the gate. I became anxious over it, considering what I would say to make things right, as they had been. To make a friend.

Upon landing, he got up (no bags) and passed me the way one does not see a stranger.

***

Hiro Tsukino is an artist and activist living in San Francisco. He is the editor-in-chief at Future First Magazine and was born in Hiroshima, Japan.

Love, Life, and the Aftermath – Editor-in-Chief, Kelly Fitzharris [Coody]

February!

 

 

It’s the shortest month, the most romanticized month, and it’s also…just…a…month.

 

2017 was a false positive for the vast majority of us; what I mean is that we had inflated, unrealistic hopes of what the beginning of this New Year would bring.

 

 

2016 was hard on a lot of us for various reasons.

 

But our body clocks don’t understand or work like the calendar reads in terms of distress, healing, and even these new beginnings that we paint for ourselves.

 

The start of a new calendar year simply is what it is. Nothing more. Waiting for our circumstances to change, waiting for those clouds to part so we can see the figurative sun unfortunately relies on us and us alone.

 

Let all of this negativity, anger, frustration, and heartache fuel your writing. Write about it. Get it out of you and onto paper!

 

Which brings me to my next point: my personal life. 

 

So, how does one begin the healing process after the demise of a 12-year relationship?

 

I have no clue.

 

I have even less of a clue on how to handle it when there are two children in the mix who always see mommy crying.

 

Of course I’m sad. Of course I’m depressed.

 

Divorce is never easy…and I know it’s especially difficult for the so-called wounded party. That isn’t to say that the other person isn’t experiencing their own roller-coaster of emotions. I just, unfortunately, wouldn’t know.

 

It’s that day when your spouse comes to you in a moment of calmness and clarity, and tells you that they resolutely want a divorce, that you no longer make them happy, and that they don’t love you anymore that bubbles up in your mind’s eye over and over again. It’s impossible to shut out or to forget.

 

I am Daniel (Robin Williams’s character) in Mrs. Doubtfire. When he and Miranda (Sally Field) are standing there in the kitchen arguing, until she just can’t take it any longer and shouts out to him, “Daniel, it’s over! It’s…it’s over.”

 

He comes up with some solutions, all to which she shakes her head.

 

“But we love each other…Miranda? Right? We love each other.” And he says it with such sincerity and pain in his eyes.

 

She shakes her head. “I want a divorce.”

 

And just like that, it’s over.

 

When we (my spouse and I) had our discussion about the divorce, my response was, “You’re the love of my life.” I said it through teary eyes and with a strained voice as he simply said, “I’m sorry,” and walked out of the room.

 

Divorce “ruins” a lot of people – ruins may not be the right word, but it certainly smashes their world apart for a good amount of time.

 

A lot of people are never the same after their divorce; they put up walls that are unable to be climbed by others who attempt to get in and get to know the person while dating. Others do that and more; they turn to alcohol, drugs, any outlet they can get to that will relieve the absolute, utter devastation that the rejection of a divorce brings. This deep level of personal rejection can sit with someone for a very long time; it can stew, it can fester, and it can breed a lot of hate and anger. It can make a person go crazy. And it does.

 

The truly sad part about the majority of the people who are on my side of the glass, the hurt side, is that we don’t even hate our exes or soon-to-be-exes; not at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We still love them and can’t seem to reconcile this cold, unfeeling person in front us who looks a lot like the person who used to love us and be there for us, with the one we knew in our not-too-distant pasts.

 

I remember how I felt any time I went through a break-up with a boyfriend while I was in college; I went through a myriad of emotions, including incessant crying and screaming into pillows before violently throwing things across the room in a torrent of anger.

 

But – it always would dissipate. I would always feel better pretty soon after all of that happened and would simply move on.

 

However; 12 years is different. 12 years, two children, many, many moves from apartments to houses, a dog, a life, and a wife who thought that this was her forever is different than a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Because I’d always blindly believed that he was “the one.” I really did. From the first night we met, I thought, this is it. That’s him.

 

Marriages go through their fair shares of ups and downs. It’s life. Especially with two children. It just is what it is.

 

I thought that this was just like any other time of our marriage that wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows…because life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. If it was, then that’s a lie. That’s not reality. Reality is that there are ups and downs, fights, times where you might look and think that the grass is greener on the other side. But it’s not. It’s just not.

 

“All that matters are the children.”

 

“Take care of yourself.”

 

“Don’t let him win.”

 

When I hear things like this, I think, what the hell are you saying to me? I don’t want advice. I don’t want canned, regurgitated garbage that’s applicable to every divorce where there are children involved.

 

My reality is that a little over a year and a half ago, I quit work so I could stay at home with my children full-time. Within this time, I finished my book, was picked up by a small publishing house and published, started this literary journal, and have met some amazing people along the way. I wanted to be the next great American writer. I guess the joke’s on me.

 

Some of my posts relating to my personal life have been rather middle-of-the-road and painted me as “the bigger person.” But I don’t know if I am this bigger person – I am sad, broken-hearted and desperately trying to crawl out of this hole that I am in.

 

I may not be okay right now, but I know that I will be in time.

 

And so will all of you, no matter what your current circumstances might bring you, no matter what you face each day as you walk out your front door, ready to face the world and give it your all.

 

We all face battles. But putting yourself out there – as you are – is the bravest thing that a soul can do.

Keep Writing.

Keep Submitting.

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Your Favorite Editor,

Kelly Fitzharris [Coody]

 

 

 

 

 

A Girl I Once Knew (Las Vegas Rains) – by FRANCIS FLANAGAN

A Girl I Once Knew (Las Vegas Rains)

Francis Flanagan

 

 

A young woman awakens slowly  

to the endless searing Vegas sun.  

She sleeps in a confined space,   

on a cardboard box, spread out,  

 

with only a tarp for a blanket,  

behind a foul blue dumpster,   

behind Walmart off of Boulder Hwy.  

Her space is littered with trash,  

 

the remnants of the things she steals   

in order to survive on the streets,   

and the shame embodying her life.  

She is sweating, shaking, dehydrated.  

 

Sun-worn from her countless days  

exposed to the ruthless desert heat,  

and from surviving on the streets,   

she rises, hungry, scared, and crying.  

 

She’s been without food and water for days.  

With bloodstained eyes, the pain  

of her past leaves a map of punctured  

and bruised veins on her body.  

 

The poor girl has abscesses now that  

are getting bad, and infected. She needs  

help. She tries to shake off the filth and   

guilt of her lost and decaying world.  

 

She stumbles off to the main street   

with a black plastic bag containing  

everything she owns, and ever will.  

After some time, She hails a cab.   

 

The cabbie knows her and remembers  

that the girl was once strikingly beautiful,   

of body and mind. She is now sick   

and aged well beyond her years.   

 

The cruel streets have taken their toll  

On her, along with the poisons she has  

destroyed her body and soul with.  

She looks away without making eye contact.  

 

From her bag, she hands him a small fold of cash  

earned the night before panhandling and

turning tricks. She reveals her destination,  

and asks for him to wait, she won’t be long.  

 

The cash should cover it, she did ok last night.  

He acknowledges and he knows where she’s  

going, and it is no place she ever needs to be.   

The cabbie looks into the rear view mirror.

 

He tells her she needs to go to the hospital,

and fast. She agrees, but first things first,  

she needs to get well, she needs a fix. That

is usually how the story ends in this town.

 

The next morning is greeted with heavy rain.  

Two chatting Walmart employees quickly  

approach the dumpster to evade the downpour  

as they rush to take out the trash.  

“It never rains in Las Vegas,” one states.  

“It only rains in Las Vegas when an Angel falls  

from Grace and dies” laments the other.   

The two stop abruptly, standing frozen.

Transfixed and aghast, staring down at a

lifeless form of a young girl that was once  

strikingly beautiful, of body and mind, now aged   

well beyond her years, sun-worn and bruised.

  

With vacant eyes, laying under a tarp on   

a cardboard box, with a needle still in her arm.   

“She looks peaceful like she got well,” one whispers

as they run for shelter from the Las Vegas rain.

***

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Francis Michael Flanagan has a B.A. in Economics at the University of California at Berkeley, and is currently enrolled in the Graduate School of Economics at UNLV.  He is serving as a Graduate Student Instructor in mathematical modeling and statistics. Born in Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts and later moved to Southern California, he is a single father of two, who has, at last, returned from his life’s Odyssey, and found home in Las Vegas, Nevada, who loves writing about the dark and seductive side of the city he has grown to love.