My Grandpa is Cursed by God by Jason Melton
I get depression and pain, and it is funny—just 
kidding. It’s really no fun.

If I tell anyone about it, they 
immediately deflect it. Like, 
“yeah, I have pain too,”  
or “yeah I get sad too.”  
“You need to stop worrying.” 

And I’m like “great.” 

So I’ve mostly stopped talking 
about my depression and pain. 
And I am more entertaining!

But just so you know, the pain starts
above my ass and spiders down into
my calf like an electric shock. 

I went to the doctor, and she said 
“it sounds like you’re getting electrical shock
pain.”  Same shit over and over. 

God could completely remove the pain if he wanted. Just saying.

I told the doctor, “No I’m not on prescription drugs at this time. But if you want I 
can make you cum harder than you have ever cum in your life, your life?”

Just kidding.

I thought, ‘This x-ray will reveal that I have full-blown AIDS.’  Just kidding.

Now the doctor has got to answer this question: Would you trade your life, your 
life, in order for me to make you cum harder than you will ever cum in your life, your life?
Just kidding.
Your life?

I got an x-ray and felt nauseous. 

It revealed nothing. No bone damage. No reason for the pain. No AIDS. 

Same shit over and over.

***

So far, one person cares about my depression and pain. She even got me a pinwheel for distraction. 
 Staring at the colorful pinwheel is nice. 

Very cute girl. Very intelligent with a good memory. Knows a lot of Bible stuff.

She even told me she would pray for me. 

And I’m like “great.”

***

My grandpa believes that he is cursed by God, and he might be. I don’t know fucking God. Maybe God hates grandpa. God wrote a book that says he is really really nice, but I don’t know fucking God and I’m not just gonna take his word for it, ya know? 

I told that cute girl that my grandpa thinks that he is cursed by God. We were almost alone in the back room of a bar. A single red lamp almost lit the space around us. 

I said, “My grandpa thinks he is cursed by God. And he probably is. I mean, God might not be cursing him on purpose. Maybe God just doesn’t care.” 

With God as my witness, my grandpa’s real name is Old Dirty Bastard.

Just kidding.

My grandpa’s real name is Jay-Z.

Grandpa Jay-Z takes care of my disabled aunt, Missy Elliott. I don’t know what her disability is. I know she had a seizure when she was very young. She still has seizures sometimes. She has trouble walking. She has trouble with a lot things. 

She watches the news but only for the weather. She likes Chicago sports, watching the weather on the news, and collecting stuffed bears.

Sometimes she says “hey mister!” 

And she is expressing disapproval. But I like it. 

“Hey mister!”

Same shit over and over.

Anyway, I am explaining all this to that very cute girl. She has a good memory. By the way, her name is Fiona Apple. I’m explaining that Jay-Z thinks he is cursed by God, and that’s a terrible thing to think because Jay-Z is a very old man.

I think that it makes the situation much worse that Jay-Z is a very old man. To believe in God and think he hates you. All while preparing for him to knock on the door to your coffin.

Fiona Apple gave me a pinwheel. For distraction. It was colorful and reflective, even in the dim red light of the bar.

***

It was supposed to be that when Jay-Z dies, Lil Kim would take care of Missy Elliott. Missy Elliott needs to be taken care of, and Jay-Z is preparing to meet the God that hates him. But suddenly, Lil Kim died. Lil Kim was Missy Elliott’s sister. Jay-Z’s other daughter. My aunt. 

And it was very sad for all of us. 

Sudden death from a kidney infection.

Who will take care of Missy Elliott when Jay-Z is dead.

Does God control who lives and dies?

God could have given Hitler a kidney infection. We didn’t need Hitler to take care of my aunt, ya know?

These things happened. And it could be because of the curse from God. Ya know what I mean? I really think Jay-Z is cursed by God.

***

Although, my grandpa (Jay-Z) may have stopped believing that he is cursed by God. He says things, now, that don’t make much sense.  He asks the same questions over and over. 

On Thanksgiving, he couldn’t remember why people were visiting.

We were visiting because of Thanksgiving.

Same shit over and over.

***

I wonder if you can completely forget about God. I will ask Fiona Apple tomorrow. 

What would happen if you completely forgot about God.

And someone said “God be with you.”

And you would be like, “Oh yeah. God. I forgot about Him.”

In between now and then, maybe Fiona Apple will pray for me and Jay-Z.

And God will say “Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh. Okay. Uh huh. Uh huh.”

***

I really like Fiona Apple. 

Very cute girl. Very intelligent with a good memory. Knows a lot of Bible stuff.

But I can’t believe in God without hating him.

Fiona Apple loves God. 


Maybe God is cursing me too. :-)
Full Issue Here

My Grandpa is Cursed by God by Jason Melton

I get depression and pain, and it is funny—just 

kidding. It’s really no fun.

If I tell anyone about it, they 

immediately deflect it. Like, 

“yeah, I have pain too,” 

or “yeah I get sad too.”  

“You need to stop worrying.” 

And I’m like “great.” 

So I’ve mostly stopped talking 

about my depression and pain. 

And I am more entertaining!

But just so you know, the pain starts

above my ass and spiders down into

my calf like an electric shock. 

I went to the doctor, and she said 

“it sounds like you’re getting electrical shock

pain.”  Same shit over and over. 

God could completely remove the pain if he wanted. Just saying.

I told the doctor, “No I’m not on prescription drugs at this time. But if you want I 

can make you cum harder than you have ever cum in your life, your life?”

Just kidding.

I thought, ‘This x-ray will reveal that I have full-blown AIDS.’  Just kidding.

Now the doctor has got to answer this question: Would you trade your life, your 

life, in order for me to make you cum harder than you will ever cum in your life, your life?

Just kidding.

Your life?

I got an x-ray and felt nauseous. 

It revealed nothing. No bone damage. No reason for the pain. No AIDS. 

Same shit over and over.

***

So far, one person cares about my depression and pain. She even got me a pinwheel for distraction. 


Staring at the colorful pinwheel is nice. 

Very cute girl. Very intelligent with a good memory. Knows a lot of Bible stuff.

She even told me she would pray for me. 

And I’m like “great.”

***

My grandpa believes that he is cursed by God, and he might be. I don’t know fucking God. Maybe God hates grandpa. God wrote a book that says he is really really nice, but I don’t know fucking God and I’m not just gonna take his word for it, ya know? 

I told that cute girl that my grandpa thinks that he is cursed by God. We were almost alone in the back room of a bar. A single red lamp almost lit the space around us. 

I said, “My grandpa thinks he is cursed by God. And he probably is. I mean, God might not be cursing him on purpose. Maybe God just doesn’t care.” 

With God as my witness, my grandpa’s real name is Old Dirty Bastard.

Just kidding.

My grandpa’s real name is Jay-Z.

Grandpa Jay-Z takes care of my disabled aunt, Missy Elliott. I don’t know what her disability is. I know she had a seizure when she was very young. She still has seizures sometimes. She has trouble walking. She has trouble with a lot things. 

She watches the news but only for the weather. She likes Chicago sports, watching the weather on the news, and collecting stuffed bears.

Sometimes she says “hey mister!” 

And she is expressing disapproval. But I like it. 

“Hey mister!”

Same shit over and over.

Anyway, I am explaining all this to that very cute girl. She has a good memory. By the way, her name is Fiona Apple. I’m explaining that Jay-Z thinks he is cursed by God, and that’s a terrible thing to think because Jay-Z is a very old man.

I think that it makes the situation much worse that Jay-Z is a very old man. To believe in God and think he hates you. All while preparing for him to knock on the door to your coffin.

Fiona Apple gave me a pinwheel. For distraction. It was colorful and reflective, even in the dim red light of the bar.

***

It was supposed to be that when Jay-Z dies, Lil Kim would take care of Missy Elliott. Missy Elliott needs to be taken care of, and Jay-Z is preparing to meet the God that hates him. But suddenly, Lil Kim died. Lil Kim was Missy Elliott’s sister. Jay-Z’s other daughter. My aunt. 

And it was very sad for all of us. 

Sudden death from a kidney infection.

Who will take care of Missy Elliott when Jay-Z is dead.

Does God control who lives and dies?

God could have given Hitler a kidney infection. We didn’t need Hitler to take care of my aunt, ya know?

These things happened. And it could be because of the curse from God. Ya know what I mean? I really think Jay-Z is cursed by God.

***

Although, my grandpa (Jay-Z) may have stopped believing that he is cursed by God. He says things, now, that don’t make much sense.  He asks the same questions over and over. 

On Thanksgiving, he couldn’t remember why people were visiting.

We were visiting because of Thanksgiving.

Same shit over and over.

***

I wonder if you can completely forget about God. I will ask Fiona Apple tomorrow. 

What would happen if you completely forgot about God.

And someone said “God be with you.”

And you would be like, “Oh yeah. God. I forgot about Him.”

In between now and then, maybe Fiona Apple will pray for me and Jay-Z.

And God will say “Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh. Okay. Uh huh. Uh huh.”

***

I really like Fiona Apple. 

Very cute girl. Very intelligent with a good memory. Knows a lot of Bible stuff.

But I can’t believe in God without hating him.

Fiona Apple loves God. 

Maybe God is cursing me too. :-)

Full Issue Here

The Goat Bridge by Brian Kelly
  2008 was a year of great failure, and I was on my way out of Portland Oregon. I quit waiting tables before I could get fired for habitual tardiness.  It didn’t matter that I lived four blocks away from work: I was acutely apathetic. Although it was everywhere in the press, the market crash hadn’t made an impression on me, didn’t make me feel grateful to serve brunch in a hip town, or fortify my work ethic. Rash changes were risky even with the aid of unemployment benefits coming in every week due to hourly cutbacks. However, I was tired of the hiding.  
   I kept a bottle of Smirnoff vodka inside a small red locker in the basement of the hotel where I worked. At the beginning of a dinner shift I would go downstairs and quietly fill a sports bottle with half iced coffee, half vodka. I would visit that locker at least two more times before leaving the building; and I’d let the stress of the yelling, the clanking plates, and the extra long ticket times wash over me. I returned curt attitude to whoever I wanted because I was highly inebriated. 
Just before a migraine would set in, when all the iced tea filters and the sauces were well stocked, glasses polished and cash collected, I would go to a bar down the block and drink more until I couldn’t remember who I had met or what time it was.  Every conversation outside of work was always about work: who we hated, why we hated him or her, and how the restaurant should be run by someone who knew what that hell was going on, someone like me, perhaps.  ‘I would do it,’ I hiccuped, ‘if I didn’t have to take the pay cut.’
But I stopped doing all that. I quit and hid in my basement room, pacing every day for a year within four walls of white cinder block dankness, occasionally looking out one small window to the garage. Barely any natural light shone through that window because there was always a car blocking my dismal view.  The basement was a cell but it was big enough to walk around and collect thoughts and talk to myself like a corporate executive conducting a board meeting of one .  
I wanted to start writing and be the next great American novelist. But of course that didn’t happen. That never happens! No one in their right mind sets out to write the Great American Novel and does it. Not even when he buys a typewriter on ebay and prepares giant pitchers of French press coffee and drinks all that coffee and reads all the books by Chomsky, Pollan, Dewey, Russell, and Steinbeck.   
The waking hours of a depressed person are incompatible with society.  I awoke each day at four in the afternoon as the house started its healthy pulse, roommates returning from their day jobs to fix dinner and converse. Their footsteps overhead bothered me.  I was paranoid that they would discover I had no job or worse; that I was walking around in a smelly bathrobe drinking too much coffee and not socializing. I’d wait quietly until the house went silent and then I’d start to work. But the work suffered because I was always tired and too careful not to wake anyone. 
Artists should not be afraid, and I was terrified. My girlfriend no longer wanted to touch me because she saw the fear. However, she still cared for me urged that the solution was simply to get out and get another job. But I didn’t have any desire or money to get another job, and my attitude embraced the idea of homelessness more than corporatism.  When my mother called and I told her that, she told me to fly home. I reluctantly complied. 
In Arizona my mother was excited to have what appeared to be a man living with her. That excitement lasted maybe two hours before I could see that we were both depressed. She had lost her job too and was struggling to find something in hotel management. She was six months out of work surviving with the help of her parents who had employed her after the layoff. They needed help getting around and had four caretakers living at their house around the clock fetching things, running errands, sorting the mail, and, of course, moving them to and from the bathroom when they needed assistance bathing and shitting.  
I tried to stay busy by turning my frustration on my mom’s dormant house. It was too much house to care for with only two people living in it. I emptied the garage and made it my own study. Then I went to work clearing dead branches from overgrown trees. When that was finished I mixed mortar, bought bricks and repaired her fireplace. Then I moved on to more niggling tasks she didn’t care for like rummaging through junk drawers and taking the rust off old pennies. I organized every drawer to the point she didn’t know where anything was because I had set everything in a new ‘proper’ place.  It was stir crazy behavior resembling that from within the basement in Portland. My mother saw this, sat me down, and told me that it was the time to do something. I had to get another job. 
Uncle Terry and I were vegans when we went to work on the goat bridge. But we practiced veganism for different reasons. I was an idealistic twenty-something who had read too much Peter Singer and Michael Pollan. He was a working class foreman and recovering alcoholic who didn’t read but lost a tremendous amount of weight, easily 85 pounds, when the new the lifestyle took hold. My Aunt Grace confided that it was like he was 30 years old again and had gone back in time to the seventies when he fucked like a rodeo bull. Grace made sure that he kept the body he had recovered.  She prepared healthy meals of quinoa and grilled vegetables, gave soothing rubdowns and encouraged him to keep working hard.  
The market crash had sent Terry back to the construction site, back to working with idiot carpenters who were dodging the law and carrying license plates from different states along with a revoked driver’s license from a 4th or 5th D.U.I. offense. Terry had done well transitioning to real estate as the housing bubble grew. But it was no longer a flush industry.  The country’s debt had poisoned that well. Terry hung up the suit, grabbed the hard hat and went back to long days, sometimes 12 to 14 hours on site only to rest for 3 hours and be back again early the next morning before sunrise. 
The company Terry worked for made bids on federal works projects from the state and retained one that called for the construction of wildlife bridges. These bridges would preserve the habitat for the indigenous mountain goats crossing to and from their water source and grazing land in the Mojave desert.  The one obstacle keeping these goats stranded on one side was the state highway 21, a congested two-way stretch of traffic that carried tourists and hopefuls from to the Hoover Dam to the glittered land of Las Vegas.
Terry offered me a job on this project after several conversations between my mom and Grace. He told me I’d go in as a day laborer, which on the construction site meant that I’d be a bitch. I carried scrap, lifted huge pieces of plywood, pulled out nails and emptied them into salvage buckets. I moved anything that needed moving.  And everything had a ridiculous name that sounded like everything else. I’d scurry away asking myself, Did he want the  ‘t-whipper’ or  ‘beam gripper’; and when I didn’t know I asked around like a shy foreign exchange student, sometimes even pantomiming the tool I needed for the crew’s amusement. 
I went into this job hoping to come out a man surrounded by men who made things with their bare hands and climbed dangerous heights with no fear, spit on the ground, cursed at each other and came back the next day to repeat it all again. But I didn’t come out a man. Instead I got away from myself and focused on the bridge. There wasn’t one moment, not one time did I ever see a mountain goat standing on a hill with its horns wrapped around its face. But I liked to imagine a creature who didn’t know what was going on all day for several months until the trucks cleared out and the men went away and there was nothing left standing but a new road leading to water. I imagined that animal would have instinct and would know that the bridge was for him. I hoped the same for myself, that when I returned to wherever I was going to live, there would be a new bridge set for me, and I would have the goat balls to plant my feet on the bridge and cross it even if I didn’t know where it was leading me.

Full Issue Here


The Goat Bridge by Brian Kelly

  2008 was a year of great failure, and I was on my way out of Portland Oregon. I quit waiting tables before I could get fired for habitual tardiness.  It didn’t matter that I lived four blocks away from work: I was acutely apathetic. Although it was everywhere in the press, the market crash hadn’t made an impression on me, didn’t make me feel grateful to serve brunch in a hip town, or fortify my work ethic. Rash changes were risky even with the aid of unemployment benefits coming in every week due to hourly cutbacks. However, I was tired of the hiding.  

   I kept a bottle of Smirnoff vodka inside a small red locker in the basement of the hotel where I worked. At the beginning of a dinner shift I would go downstairs and quietly fill a sports bottle with half iced coffee, half vodka. I would visit that locker at least two more times before leaving the building; and I’d let the stress of the yelling, the clanking plates, and the extra long ticket times wash over me. I returned curt attitude to whoever I wanted because I was highly inebriated. 

Just before a migraine would set in, when all the iced tea filters and the sauces were well stocked, glasses polished and cash collected, I would go to a bar down the block and drink more until I couldn’t remember who I had met or what time it was.  Every conversation outside of work was always about work: who we hated, why we hated him or her, and how the restaurant should be run by someone who knew what that hell was going on, someone like me, perhaps.  ‘I would do it,’ I hiccuped, ‘if I didn’t have to take the pay cut.’

But I stopped doing all that. I quit and hid in my basement room, pacing every day for a year within four walls of white cinder block dankness, occasionally looking out one small window to the garage. Barely any natural light shone through that window because there was always a car blocking my dismal view.  The basement was a cell but it was big enough to walk around and collect thoughts and talk to myself like a corporate executive conducting a board meeting of one .  

I wanted to start writing and be the next great American novelist. But of course that didn’t happen. That never happens! No one in their right mind sets out to write the Great American Novel and does it. Not even when he buys a typewriter on ebay and prepares giant pitchers of French press coffee and drinks all that coffee and reads all the books by Chomsky, Pollan, Dewey, Russell, and Steinbeck.   

The waking hours of a depressed person are incompatible with society.  I awoke each day at four in the afternoon as the house started its healthy pulse, roommates returning from their day jobs to fix dinner and converse. Their footsteps overhead bothered me.  I was paranoid that they would discover I had no job or worse; that I was walking around in a smelly bathrobe drinking too much coffee and not socializing. I’d wait quietly until the house went silent and then I’d start to work. But the work suffered because I was always tired and too careful not to wake anyone. 

Artists should not be afraid, and I was terrified. My girlfriend no longer wanted to touch me because she saw the fear. However, she still cared for me urged that the solution was simply to get out and get another job. But I didn’t have any desire or money to get another job, and my attitude embraced the idea of homelessness more than corporatism.  When my mother called and I told her that, she told me to fly home. I reluctantly complied. 

In Arizona my mother was excited to have what appeared to be a man living with her. That excitement lasted maybe two hours before I could see that we were both depressed. She had lost her job too and was struggling to find something in hotel management. She was six months out of work surviving with the help of her parents who had employed her after the layoff. They needed help getting around and had four caretakers living at their house around the clock fetching things, running errands, sorting the mail, and, of course, moving them to and from the bathroom when they needed assistance bathing and shitting.  

I tried to stay busy by turning my frustration on my mom’s dormant house. It was too much house to care for with only two people living in it. I emptied the garage and made it my own study. Then I went to work clearing dead branches from overgrown trees. When that was finished I mixed mortar, bought bricks and repaired her fireplace. Then I moved on to more niggling tasks she didn’t care for like rummaging through junk drawers and taking the rust off old pennies. I organized every drawer to the point she didn’t know where anything was because I had set everything in a new ‘proper’ place.  It was stir crazy behavior resembling that from within the basement in Portland. My mother saw this, sat me down, and told me that it was the time to do something. I had to get another job. 

Uncle Terry and I were vegans when we went to work on the goat bridge. But we practiced veganism for different reasons. I was an idealistic twenty-something who had read too much Peter Singer and Michael Pollan. He was a working class foreman and recovering alcoholic who didn’t read but lost a tremendous amount of weight, easily 85 pounds, when the new the lifestyle took hold. My Aunt Grace confided that it was like he was 30 years old again and had gone back in time to the seventies when he fucked like a rodeo bull. Grace made sure that he kept the body he had recovered.  She prepared healthy meals of quinoa and grilled vegetables, gave soothing rubdowns and encouraged him to keep working hard.  

The market crash had sent Terry back to the construction site, back to working with idiot carpenters who were dodging the law and carrying license plates from different states along with a revoked driver’s license from a 4th or 5th D.U.I. offense. Terry had done well transitioning to real estate as the housing bubble grew. But it was no longer a flush industry.  The country’s debt had poisoned that well. Terry hung up the suit, grabbed the hard hat and went back to long days, sometimes 12 to 14 hours on site only to rest for 3 hours and be back again early the next morning before sunrise. 

The company Terry worked for made bids on federal works projects from the state and retained one that called for the construction of wildlife bridges. These bridges would preserve the habitat for the indigenous mountain goats crossing to and from their water source and grazing land in the Mojave desert.  The one obstacle keeping these goats stranded on one side was the state highway 21, a congested two-way stretch of traffic that carried tourists and hopefuls from to the Hoover Dam to the glittered land of Las Vegas.

Terry offered me a job on this project after several conversations between my mom and Grace. He told me I’d go in as a day laborer, which on the construction site meant that I’d be a bitch. I carried scrap, lifted huge pieces of plywood, pulled out nails and emptied them into salvage buckets. I moved anything that needed moving.  And everything had a ridiculous name that sounded like everything else. I’d scurry away asking myself, Did he want the  ‘t-whipper’ or  ‘beam gripper’; and when I didn’t know I asked around like a shy foreign exchange student, sometimes even pantomiming the tool I needed for the crew’s amusement. 

I went into this job hoping to come out a man surrounded by men who made things with their bare hands and climbed dangerous heights with no fear, spit on the ground, cursed at each other and came back the next day to repeat it all again. But I didn’t come out a man. Instead I got away from myself and focused on the bridge. There wasn’t one moment, not one time did I ever see a mountain goat standing on a hill with its horns wrapped around its face. But I liked to imagine a creature who didn’t know what was going on all day for several months until the trucks cleared out and the men went away and there was nothing left standing but a new road leading to water. I imagined that animal would have instinct and would know that the bridge was for him. I hoped the same for myself, that when I returned to wherever I was going to live, there would be a new bridge set for me, and I would have the goat balls to plant my feet on the bridge and cross it even if I didn’t know where it was leading me.

Full Issue Here

The Goat Bridge by Brian Kelly
  2008 was a year of great failure, and I was on my way out of Portland Oregon. I quit waiting tables before I could get fired for habitual tardiness.  It didn’t matter that I lived four blocks away from work: I was acutely apathetic. Although it was everywhere in the press, the market crash hadn’t made an impression on me, didn’t make me feel grateful to serve brunch in a hip town, or fortify my work ethic. Rash changes were risky even with the aid of unemployment benefits coming in every week due to hourly cutbacks. However, I was tired of the hiding.  
   I kept a bottle of Smirnoff vodka inside a small red locker in the basement of the hotel where I worked. At the beginning of a dinner shift I would go downstairs and quietly fill a sports bottle with half iced coffee, half vodka. I would visit that locker at least two more times before leaving the building; and I’d let the stress of the yelling, the clanking plates, and the extra long ticket times wash over me. I returned curt attitude to whoever I wanted because I was highly inebriated. 
 Just before a migraine would set in, when all the iced tea filters and the sauces were well stocked, glasses polished and cash collected, I would go to a bar down the block and drink more until I couldn’t remember who I had met or what time it was.  Every conversation outside of work was always about work: who we hated, why we hated him or her, and how the restaurant should be run by someone who knew what that hell was going on, someone like me, perhaps.  ‘I would do it,’ I hiccuped, ‘if I didn’t have to take the pay cut.’
 But I stopped doing all that. I quit and hid in my basement room, pacing every day for a year within four walls of white cinder block dankness, occasionally looking out one small window to the garage. Barely any natural light shone through that window because there was always a car blocking my dismal view.  The basement was a cell but it was big enough to walk around and collect thoughts and talk to myself like a corporate executive conducting a board meeting of one .  
 I wanted to start writing and be the next great American novelist. But of course that didn’t happen. That never happens! No one in their right mind sets out to write the Great American Novel and does it. Not even when he buys a typewriter on ebay and prepares giant pitchers of French press coffee and drinks all that coffee and reads all the books by Chomsky, Pollan, Dewey, Russell, and Steinbeck.   
 The waking hours of a depressed person are incompatible with society.  I awoke each day at four in the afternoon as the house started its healthy pulse, roommates returning from their day jobs to fix dinner and converse. Their footsteps overhead bothered me.  I was paranoid that they would discover I had no job or worse; that I was walking around in a smelly bathrobe drinking too much coffee and not socializing. I’d wait quietly until the house went silent and then I’d start to work. But the work suffered because I was always tired and too careful not to wake anyone. 
 Artists should not be afraid, and I was terrified. My girlfriend no longer wanted to touch me because she saw the fear. However, she still cared for me urged that the solution was simply to get out and get another job. But I didn’t have any desire or money to get another job, and my attitude embraced the idea of homelessness more than corporatism.  When my mother called and I told her that, she told me to fly home. I reluctantly complied. 
 In Arizona my mother was excited to have what appeared to be a man living with her. That excitement lasted maybe two hours before I could see that we were both depressed. She had lost her job too and was struggling to find something in hotel management. She was six months out of work surviving with the help of her parents who had employed her after the layoff. They needed help getting around and had four caretakers living at their house around the clock fetching things, running errands, sorting the mail, and, of course, moving them to and from the bathroom when they needed assistance bathing and shitting.  
 I tried to stay busy by turning my frustration on my mom’s dormant house. It was too much house to care for with only two people living in it. I emptied the garage and made it my own study. Then I went to work clearing dead branches from overgrown trees. When that was finished I mixed mortar, bought bricks and repaired her fireplace. Then I moved on to more niggling tasks she didn’t care for like rummaging through junk drawers and taking the rust off old pennies. I organized every drawer to the point she didn’t know where anything was because I had set everything in a new ‘proper’ place.  It was stir crazy behavior resembling that from within the basement in Portland. My mother saw this, sat me down, and told me that it was the time to do something. I had to get another job. 
 Uncle Terry and I were vegans when we went to work on the goat bridge. But we practiced veganism for different reasons. I was an idealistic twenty-something who had read too much Peter Singer and Michael Pollan. He was a working class foreman and recovering alcoholic who didn’t read but lost a tremendous amount of weight, easily 85 pounds, when the new the lifestyle took hold. My Aunt Grace confided that it was like he was 30 years old again and had gone back in time to the seventies when he fucked like a rodeo bull. Grace made sure that he kept the body he had recovered.  She prepared healthy meals of quinoa and grilled vegetables, gave soothing rubdowns and encouraged him to keep working hard.  
 The market crash had sent Terry back to the construction site, back to working with idiot carpenters who were dodging the law and carrying license plates from different states along with a revoked driver’s license from a 4th or 5th D.U.I. offense. Terry had done well transitioning to real estate as the housing bubble grew. But it was no longer a flush industry.  The country’s debt had poisoned that well. Terry hung up the suit, grabbed the hard hat and went back to long days, sometimes 12 to 14 hours on site only to rest for 3 hours and be back again early the next morning before sunrise. 
 The company Terry worked for made bids on federal works projects from the state and retained one that called for the construction of wildlife bridges. These bridges would preserve the habitat for the indigenous mountain goats crossing to and from their water source and grazing land in the Mojave desert.  The one obstacle keeping these goats stranded on one side was the state highway 21, a congested two-way stretch of traffic that carried tourists and hopefuls from to the Hoover Dam to the glittered land of Las Vegas.
 Terry offered me a job on this project after several conversations between my mom and Grace. He told me I’d go in as a day laborer, which on the construction site meant that I’d be a bitch. I carried scrap, lifted huge pieces of plywood, pulled out nails and emptied them into salvage buckets. I moved anything that needed moving.  And everything had a ridiculous name that sounded like everything else. I’d scurry away asking myself, Did he want the  ‘t-whipper’ or  ‘beam gripper’; and when I didn’t know I asked around like a shy foreign exchange student, sometimes even pantomiming the tool I needed for the crew’s amusement. 
 I went into this job hoping to come out a man surrounded by men who made things with their bare hands and climbed dangerous heights with no fear, spit on the ground, cursed at each other and came back the next day to repeat it all again. But I didn’t come out a man. Instead I got away from myself and focused on the bridge. There wasn’t one moment, not one time did I ever see a mountain goat standing on a hill with its horns wrapped around its face. But I liked to imagine a creature who didn’t know what was going on all day for several months until the trucks cleared out and the men went away and there was nothing left standing but a new road leading to water. I imagined that animal would have instinct and would know that the bridge was for him. I hoped the same for myself, that when I returned to wherever I was going to live, there would be a new bridge set for me, and I would have the goat balls to plant my feet on the bridge and cross it even if I didn’t know where it was leading me.



Full Issue Here

The Goat Bridge by Brian Kelly

  2008 was a year of great failure, and I was on my way out of Portland Oregon. I quit waiting tables before I could get fired for habitual tardiness.  It didn’t matter that I lived four blocks away from work: I was acutely apathetic. Although it was everywhere in the press, the market crash hadn’t made an impression on me, didn’t make me feel grateful to serve brunch in a hip town, or fortify my work ethic. Rash changes were risky even with the aid of unemployment benefits coming in every week due to hourly cutbacks. However, I was tired of the hiding.  

   I kept a bottle of Smirnoff vodka inside a small red locker in the basement of the hotel where I worked. At the beginning of a dinner shift I would go downstairs and quietly fill a sports bottle with half iced coffee, half vodka. I would visit that locker at least two more times before leaving the building; and I’d let the stress of the yelling, the clanking plates, and the extra long ticket times wash over me. I returned curt attitude to whoever I wanted because I was highly inebriated. 

Just before a migraine would set in, when all the iced tea filters and the sauces were well stocked, glasses polished and cash collected, I would go to a bar down the block and drink more until I couldn’t remember who I had met or what time it was.  Every conversation outside of work was always about work: who we hated, why we hated him or her, and how the restaurant should be run by someone who knew what that hell was going on, someone like me, perhaps.  ‘I would do it,’ I hiccuped, ‘if I didn’t have to take the pay cut.’

But I stopped doing all that. I quit and hid in my basement room, pacing every day for a year within four walls of white cinder block dankness, occasionally looking out one small window to the garage. Barely any natural light shone through that window because there was always a car blocking my dismal view.  The basement was a cell but it was big enough to walk around and collect thoughts and talk to myself like a corporate executive conducting a board meeting of one .  

I wanted to start writing and be the next great American novelist. But of course that didn’t happen. That never happens! No one in their right mind sets out to write the Great American Novel and does it. Not even when he buys a typewriter on ebay and prepares giant pitchers of French press coffee and drinks all that coffee and reads all the books by Chomsky, Pollan, Dewey, Russell, and Steinbeck.   

The waking hours of a depressed person are incompatible with society.  I awoke each day at four in the afternoon as the house started its healthy pulse, roommates returning from their day jobs to fix dinner and converse. Their footsteps overhead bothered me.  I was paranoid that they would discover I had no job or worse; that I was walking around in a smelly bathrobe drinking too much coffee and not socializing. I’d wait quietly until the house went silent and then I’d start to work. But the work suffered because I was always tired and too careful not to wake anyone. 

Artists should not be afraid, and I was terrified. My girlfriend no longer wanted to touch me because she saw the fear. However, she still cared for me urged that the solution was simply to get out and get another job. But I didn’t have any desire or money to get another job, and my attitude embraced the idea of homelessness more than corporatism.  When my mother called and I told her that, she told me to fly home. I reluctantly complied. 

In Arizona my mother was excited to have what appeared to be a man living with her. That excitement lasted maybe two hours before I could see that we were both depressed. She had lost her job too and was struggling to find something in hotel management. She was six months out of work surviving with the help of her parents who had employed her after the layoff. They needed help getting around and had four caretakers living at their house around the clock fetching things, running errands, sorting the mail, and, of course, moving them to and from the bathroom when they needed assistance bathing and shitting.  

I tried to stay busy by turning my frustration on my mom’s dormant house. It was too much house to care for with only two people living in it. I emptied the garage and made it my own study. Then I went to work clearing dead branches from overgrown trees. When that was finished I mixed mortar, bought bricks and repaired her fireplace. Then I moved on to more niggling tasks she didn’t care for like rummaging through junk drawers and taking the rust off old pennies. I organized every drawer to the point she didn’t know where anything was because I had set everything in a new ‘proper’ place.  It was stir crazy behavior resembling that from within the basement in Portland. My mother saw this, sat me down, and told me that it was the time to do something. I had to get another job. 

Uncle Terry and I were vegans when we went to work on the goat bridge. But we practiced veganism for different reasons. I was an idealistic twenty-something who had read too much Peter Singer and Michael Pollan. He was a working class foreman and recovering alcoholic who didn’t read but lost a tremendous amount of weight, easily 85 pounds, when the new the lifestyle took hold. My Aunt Grace confided that it was like he was 30 years old again and had gone back in time to the seventies when he fucked like a rodeo bull. Grace made sure that he kept the body he had recovered.  She prepared healthy meals of quinoa and grilled vegetables, gave soothing rubdowns and encouraged him to keep working hard.  

The market crash had sent Terry back to the construction site, back to working with idiot carpenters who were dodging the law and carrying license plates from different states along with a revoked driver’s license from a 4th or 5th D.U.I. offense. Terry had done well transitioning to real estate as the housing bubble grew. But it was no longer a flush industry.  The country’s debt had poisoned that well. Terry hung up the suit, grabbed the hard hat and went back to long days, sometimes 12 to 14 hours on site only to rest for 3 hours and be back again early the next morning before sunrise. 

The company Terry worked for made bids on federal works projects from the state and retained one that called for the construction of wildlife bridges. These bridges would preserve the habitat for the indigenous mountain goats crossing to and from their water source and grazing land in the Mojave desert.  The one obstacle keeping these goats stranded on one side was the state highway 21, a congested two-way stretch of traffic that carried tourists and hopefuls from to the Hoover Dam to the glittered land of Las Vegas.

Terry offered me a job on this project after several conversations between my mom and Grace. He told me I’d go in as a day laborer, which on the construction site meant that I’d be a bitch. I carried scrap, lifted huge pieces of plywood, pulled out nails and emptied them into salvage buckets. I moved anything that needed moving.  And everything had a ridiculous name that sounded like everything else. I’d scurry away asking myself, Did he want the  ‘t-whipper’ or  ‘beam gripper’; and when I didn’t know I asked around like a shy foreign exchange student, sometimes even pantomiming the tool I needed for the crew’s amusement. 

I went into this job hoping to come out a man surrounded by men who made things with their bare hands and climbed dangerous heights with no fear, spit on the ground, cursed at each other and came back the next day to repeat it all again. But I didn’t come out a man. Instead I got away from myself and focused on the bridge. There wasn’t one moment, not one time did I ever see a mountain goat standing on a hill with its horns wrapped around its face. But I liked to imagine a creature who didn’t know what was going on all day for several months until the trucks cleared out and the men went away and there was nothing left standing but a new road leading to water. I imagined that animal would have instinct and would know that the bridge was for him. I hoped the same for myself, that when I returned to wherever I was going to live, there would be a new bridge set for me, and I would have the goat balls to plant my feet on the bridge and cross it even if I didn’t know where it was leading me.

Full Issue Here

Alex Kumin
My breath punctuates the silence louder than I want it to.  Well, almost silence. Why do all hospital clocks sound like metronomes beating to the tune of my anxiety? Yeah, the doctor will be in “shortly”, but we’d like you to take this time to think about each second individually. Feel that uneasiness seep into your core.   
You know how when you’re nervous, you get a lump in your throat? And then doctors say, no, no, silly girl, that’s not a nervous lump. That’s cancer. 
She sits down next to me.  Were it not for her lab coat, I would have assumed she was on her way to a high rise downtown (read: Financial Analyst Weekly stock photo fresh).  I chose a more casual jeans/t-shirt combo for my biopsy extravaganza. After our brief exchange of hello’s, where we pretend like she’s not about to shove a 6-inch needle in my neck, we get started with the process of shoving a 6-inch needle in my neck. 
They told me over and over that it was “the best cancer to have” because of its treatability, which is why I felt embarrassed about the fear that rooted itself at the pit of my stomach throughout the whole process.  I quickly got surgery and treated it. I was a senior in college, but the hospital on my campus was great, and everything got taken care of.  It wasn’t the best way to round out those four years, but I had a friend who was going through breast cancer at the time, so it definitely wasn’t the worst. 
 The gel is cold, but the touch of the ultrasound hand piece on my neck is oddly warm.  Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the grainy black and white semicircle of the ultrasound image on the screen.  This is like every pregnant woman at the doctor stereotype I can think of, except she’s looking at a fetus shaped tumor instead of the miracle of life.  My darling little cancer baby.   
After I graduated, I moved out of the country for a year.  I was anxious and unhappy in general.  I compared my experience to that of those around me; I felt sorry for myself about what happened, then hated myself for complaining about it.  I should have felt more grateful, I could have had it worse. Much worse.  
 That’s the needle? Shit. That’s so much bigger than I remember.  You’re fine. You’ll be fine. 
 I came back home and moved to a new city.  I still wasn’t happy, but I pretended to be.  At every turn, I beat myself up for how I felt. What did I have to be unhappy about? Life had been good to me. Sure, a few bumps in the road, but nothing that hadn’t been experienced and conquered by others.  The shower crying got excessive. So I busied myself. I found a job that I loved. Then I found a hobby I loved.  Then I found out the “best” cancer came back.   
 Ok, breathe. Not too much. Don’t move. “Yeah, go ahead.” 
 Breathe. The smell of the alcohol swab lit my senses on fire. Everything ignited.  My heart started to mambo in my chest, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep still.  I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO MOVE. It was real again. The pain was too familiar. What if it spread? Don’t cry. I hated that I had to do it all again. The doctor’s visits and blood tests and ultrasounds and biopsies and scans and injections and radiation and questions and waiting and HOLY HELL I’M GOING TO GO INSANE. The only thing I could focus on was the needle. Why does it feel so hot? It was excruciating in a way I’d never felt. How long does she need to be in there? Just take what you need and get out. Please. The pain was a contradiction. It was focused and dull at the same time. She’s moving it around?? Why is she moving it around?? DON’T MOVE, ALEX.  
 When the needle came out, it felt like it was pulling me with it.  My face was hot and I was still holding my breath like the good doctor asked.  I felt like a fish on a hook, at the mercy of this now non-sterile spike.  Not so bad, right? Could have been worse? I was too tired to beat myself up this time.  
 Just breathe. You’re done. Get your parking validated before you leave. Don’t cry. It wasn’t that bad. Don’t cry. Where did you park? Over there. Okay. Good job, kid. Not crying. Don’t need to cry. Okay, maybe a little. Maybe a lot.
Radiation treatment again with team M.D.  
You’re going to be okay. 
Round two wrapped up by the fall.  When I started telling people that I was in the clear, it surprised me to see how relieved they were.  To me, it was still “just” thyroid cancer. Comparatively, I thought, it was better than skin cancer. Better than breast cancer. Better than lung cancer. I failed to see that comparatively, no cancer would have been the best option.   
Let yourself smile today. Genuinely. 
I started taking into account the massive blow it had inflicted on me, physically and emotionally, and so I started to let myself off the hook. Nothing happened overnight, but the subtle changes started to surface. Less anger and frustration, more thinking and understanding.  The grand scheme of things fucks with everyone in a different way.  I don’t get to decide what comes my way, but I certainly don’t have the right to imprison my happiness as a toll based on some insane notion that I haven’t suffered enough. 
Fire is fire. 
You ever burn yourself on a candle, and then wonder how something that small could leave such a blistering pain on your body? For whatever reason, I ignored the fact that the heat of a single match has the same capacity to burn me as that of one hundred.  I got scorched by, what I deemed to be, a small flame. It still hurt.  Could it have been worse? Yes.  But I don’t need to add kindling to that fire.  It could have been better, too.

Full Issue Here

Alex Kumin

My breath punctuates the silence louder than I want it to.  Well, almost silence. Why do all hospital clocks sound like metronomes beating to the tune of my anxiety? Yeah, the doctor will be in “shortly”, but we’d like you to take this time to think about each second individually. Feel that uneasiness seep into your core.   

You know how when you’re nervous, you get a lump in your throat? And then doctors say, no, no, silly girl, that’s not a nervous lump. That’s cancer. 

She sits down next to me.  Were it not for her lab coat, I would have assumed she was on her way to a high rise downtown (read: Financial Analyst Weekly stock photo fresh).  I chose a more casual jeans/t-shirt combo for my biopsy extravaganza. After our brief exchange of hello’s, where we pretend like she’s not about to shove a 6-inch needle in my neck, we get started with the process of shoving a 6-inch needle in my neck. 

They told me over and over that it was “the best cancer to have” because of its treatability, which is why I felt embarrassed about the fear that rooted itself at the pit of my stomach throughout the whole process.  I quickly got surgery and treated it. I was a senior in college, but the hospital on my campus was great, and everything got taken care of.  It wasn’t the best way to round out those four years, but I had a friend who was going through breast cancer at the time, so it definitely wasn’t the worst. 

The gel is cold, but the touch of the ultrasound hand piece on my neck is oddly warm.  Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the grainy black and white semicircle of the ultrasound image on the screen.  This is like every pregnant woman at the doctor stereotype I can think of, except she’s looking at a fetus shaped tumor instead of the miracle of life.  My darling little cancer baby.   

After I graduated, I moved out of the country for a year.  I was anxious and unhappy in general.  I compared my experience to that of those around me; I felt sorry for myself about what happened, then hated myself for complaining about it.  I should have felt more grateful, I could have had it worse. Much worse.  

That’s the needle? Shit. That’s so much bigger than I remember.  You’re fine. You’ll be fine. 

I came back home and moved to a new city.  I still wasn’t happy, but I pretended to be.  At every turn, I beat myself up for how I felt. What did I have to be unhappy about? Life had been good to me. Sure, a few bumps in the road, but nothing that hadn’t been experienced and conquered by others.  The shower crying got excessive. So I busied myself. I found a job that I loved. Then I found a hobby I loved.  Then I found out the “best” cancer came back.   

Ok, breathe. Not too much. Don’t move. “Yeah, go ahead.”

Breathe. The smell of the alcohol swab lit my senses on fire. Everything ignited.  My heart started to mambo in my chest, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep still.  I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO MOVE. It was real again. The pain was too familiar. What if it spread? Don’t cry. I hated that I had to do it all again. The doctor’s visits and blood tests and ultrasounds and biopsies and scans and injections and radiation and questions and waiting and HOLY HELL I’M GOING TO GO INSANE. The only thing I could focus on was the needle. Why does it feel so hot? It was excruciating in a way I’d never felt. How long does she need to be in there? Just take what you need and get out. Please. The pain was a contradiction. It was focused and dull at the same time. She’s moving it around?? Why is she moving it around?? DON’T MOVE, ALEX.  

When the needle came out, it felt like it was pulling me with it.  My face was hot and I was still holding my breath like the good doctor asked.  I felt like a fish on a hook, at the mercy of this now non-sterile spike.  Not so bad, right? Could have been worse? I was too tired to beat myself up this time.  

Just breathe. You’re done. Get your parking validated before you leave. Don’t cry. It wasn’t that bad. Don’t cry. Where did you park? Over there. Okay. Good job, kid. Not crying. Don’t need to cry. Okay, maybe a little. Maybe a lot.

Radiation treatment again with team M.D.  

You’re going to be okay. 

Round two wrapped up by the fall.  When I started telling people that I was in the clear, it surprised me to see how relieved they were.  To me, it was still “just” thyroid cancer. Comparatively, I thought, it was better than skin cancer. Better than breast cancer. Better than lung cancer. I failed to see that comparatively, no cancer would have been the best option.   

Let yourself smile today. Genuinely. 

I started taking into account the massive blow it had inflicted on me, physically and emotionally, and so I started to let myself off the hook. Nothing happened overnight, but the subtle changes started to surface. Less anger and frustration, more thinking and understanding.  The grand scheme of things fucks with everyone in a different way.  I don’t get to decide what comes my way, but I certainly don’t have the right to imprison my happiness as a toll based on some insane notion that I haven’t suffered enough. 

Fire is fire. 

You ever burn yourself on a candle, and then wonder how something that small could leave such a blistering pain on your body? For whatever reason, I ignored the fact that the heat of a single match has the same capacity to burn me as that of one hundred.  I got scorched by, what I deemed to be, a small flame. It still hurt.  Could it have been worse? Yes.  But I don’t need to add kindling to that fire.  It could have been better, too.

Full Issue Here