On this morning the lake was absolutely silent and there was a thin fog that hung above as though a heavy breath had been whispered over the water that spread like glass save for the thin ripples of Walter Vassar’s oars that kissed the glass like water and shattered it instantaneously. This morning was not unlike any other April morning. At this hour the neighbors slept quietly with their occasional lovers and their distant spouses. They would not wake for another hour. The fires from the stone chimneys had died to smolders and the soft scent clung to the shores of the lake. All the while Walter pulled the oars faster and closer to his muscular chest, wrapped in wool, he rowed.
It had been so long since he had known the briskness of the morning air. He had become accustomed to it, yet this morning he was very aware of the nature of the lake and it’s soft skin and its ripples like cold eyes that watched him and resented him for disturbing its silent rest. He knew he was waking it up.
The ripples of his rested oars stared at him as he let them rest just above the water. It was at this moment he thought of who may be behind the lake and the cold and the glass eyes that stared at him, just as he had each day for the last four days. He wondered if it was that breather who had left the heavy breath that hung above the water. He wondered if it was that same breath that had blown up his own lungs and Davi’s and if had been that same breath that had let Davi’s lungs not fill and that same breath that let Rosie bleed out, and that same breath that had taken the last of Walters courage to not follow them.
Walter pulled the oars toward himself harder again. He knew it best not to think to long. Nothing good would come from thinking too long.
“I hadn’t seen them in forever, and perhaps ever. I mean people change in ten years. Who was I in college? Drunk? That skinny kid, full of bloodlust? Half awake? You ever look back at yourself, maybe after 5 years, and think: ‘Five years ago I was an asshole.’”
Jim put a cigarette in his mouth and looked across the room. Jasmine was naked on the couch. He looked down at his feet. He was naked except for a pair of off-white briefs that looked deflated. His toes had pink dividers so they didn’t touch. He hadn’t put anything on his nails, but had been curious about how they felt. He liked them and so he had spent the evening fucking Jasmine with the toe dividers in. Jasmine didn’t come. She never did. She wasn’t paid to. She was paid to sit there, and be there.
Jasmine, who really does not matter, worked for Grapevine Escorts, which was really a phone number in south-Denver that offered New York priced girls with less experience and taste, but out this far west there really was nothing better. They were at least educated, which is why Jim would even want her around.
Jim does matter. James Andrew Hull. Accountant. A good one at that, worked at Hawthorne & Hubert, until last week, when the IT guy, bastard, ratted him out for a large stash of porn on his work computer.
“What was I supposed to do? You know how much of a pain in the ass it is to upload to an external hard-drive? Do you?” he said this to Jasmine. She shook her head and then snorted a line of coke off of a DVD case on the bed.
“Do you?” he asked again.
“No.” she shook her head and her tits bounced a little bit. They distracted James.
“Give it here,” he said taking the DVD case and tapping out another pile of coke and arranging it into a neat line with his American Apparel membership card.
“I wonder if I’ll tell them about it?”
“Who?” asked Jasmine touching her tits.
“At the dinner. David’s always an asshole about this kind of stuff.”
“Don’t tell them then.”
He kissed her on the mouth and then turned the TV on. She left sometime around 2am.
By: Dylan Lenz
The English Oak above me was courageous to plant itself so near the slope that broke near its roots, but it was mighty and held fast and grew deep. I was tired and my back was sore so I sat down and made my notes and I ate the food I had packed when the air was still cold before the sun rose. I looked up and in its shade I was content.
After a time I stood. I walked around the tree and I saw a beaver’s lodge in the water but I could not see the animal itself. A forsythias bloomed down the path and it made the air sweet. A light wind blew.
I found the lowest branch and it was easy to climb so I made my way upwards. Looking out over the lake and the woods and the dwindling orchards, I could see a storm coming in. The wind was brisk now, but it was warm so I knew I should make my way home before the rain began. The sound of nails being driven made me uneasy and Lydia was waiting for me, but I lingered and I was afraid because it all seemed so fleeting.
Born to nothing we will dream as kings and oh the kingdoms we will build. It was times like these that David Lowe would recall the last words of Harry Bradshaw but it was not the time for memories of better men and simpler times.
He stood before the union offices. The Pacific Shipbuilders inhabited a small corner of the second floor of a building that was not grand, or worth discussing. The union was not trying to impress anyone and that impressed Lowe. Part of him was jealous that the minimalist simplicity was not afforded to men who could command it with the wealth and power they had collected. David Lowe would have been perfectly happy in an old office in an old factory with a single chair for himself so those who met with him would have to walk or stand and not waste his time. After all time was short, and there never seemed to be enough.
David was to meet with Solomon Schule the president of the PSU. David liked Solomon. Once they had been friends. David had been a groomsman, but that was years ago when they were young men and ambitions took them in different directions through different means.
David opened the glass door and took the stairwell on his right. The stairs smelled of cigarette smoke. He liked that. There was a certain honesty about the stairs and the fact that their simplicity made them timeless. There are things you can’t change, and things you can’t make better. Thought David. Things like shoelaces. No matter how hard you tried shoelaces would always be around. Same for ships. The world will always need ships and shipbuilders and shipbuilders will always need men and Solomon had the men David needed.
When David came to the door of the office he paused a moment and checked his watch. He was twenty minutes early. He entered.
“David Lowe to see Solomon Schule,” he said to the woman behind the desk.
“He’ll be a few more minutes Mr. Lowe,” said the woman, she said it flatly but David could detect a touch of reproach. He nodded and took a seat near the door and waited quietly. The window across from where he sat reflected his image just enough that he could make out how he looked. His shoulders were broad and filled his suit nicely. His hair had bleached out slightly over the summer and turned a coppered blond that was done up with ease to look as if it formed naturally. Lowe’s face was attractive enough, with masculine features that made him look older than he was as a young man, and younger now. His eyes had sunken slightly and circles formed under them so that in the half light of his office when he worked late he seemed haunted.
David pulled his eyes from the window and looked about the office. He had not seen it in a number of years since he had fired a large number of workers from Pacific and ended up dissolving his contract with the union. The men who came back were not unionized and their wages were cut. That was when Solomon Shule had also dissolved their friendship. Lowe had liked Shule enough to offer him steady work as a Vice-president of labor for Trans-Pacific Shipping and with it a nice office and competitive salary that was more than the union could offer. Shule was an idealist. He stayed with the Union. Lowe liked him all the more for that and regreeted that he had lost one of the few people he could call in the middle of the night to run his ideas past. If David was in Shule’s position he might have done the same thing.
The walls were aquamarine and starting to show their age. At onetime the building had been new, the culmination of enterprise and labor to a polished final product. In its time it had been an expensive place to lease but with the loss of production the service of the doctors and lawyers moved on as well. The building was not meant to impress the men who came here. The men who were shipbuilders were not rich men, and they were not proud men. They were workers men like David had been who would sit on an I beam forty feet in the air without a harness to weld rivets to steel. They were worth every penny that Trans-Pacific Shipping had cut from their wages but the economy tanked and David couldn’t help that.
Lowe looked across the office at a painting of a sailboat on an inlet. It was a watercolor and the ship was just a pair of black sails against the light blue water surrounded by mountains. The boat reminded David of the first one he built years ago with Harry Bradshaw, when it was appropriate to dream of better times and better men.
As a boy, the lake house seemed like a foreign shore though it was only at the end of the street. The Bradshaw’s who lived there seldom poke with the neighbors but from time to time were known to ask if their guests could park along the lesser yards at their annual Labor Day event. The neighbors would let them and offered a good-mannered exchange and then the Bradshaw’s would retreat to the city and not be seen again until the following summer when they returned to the lake house.
David lived with his mother on the small farm at the end of Franklin Rd. The farm was twelve miles out of town under the foothills where the end of the lake met one of the creeks that fed it. His mother had inherited it when her father died and they moved back to Washington from Portland. Colleen had refused to sell the farm and instead hired a few men to help seed and harvest and had David help her with the day-to-day chores. One of the hired men, Carl had stayed on after the last season had ended. Colleen would smoke and drink with him late in the night and then they would make for the bedroom where David could hear. In the summer on these nights Daivd would sneak out of the house and sleep on the couch on the porch. There was a bug light on the other end so the insects did not cause him much trouble and the hot air made it easy to sleep.
At three in the morning I hear him coughing. I get up and go to the other room. He is lying on the bed I used to sleep in. A white sheet thrown over top of him are a swill of white arcs that crumple with his legs. The sheet is transparent almost, soaked in the sweat that delicately covers his brow. He coughs again and again and I go to him. He’s asleep still.
His face is unshaven. White stubble covers his chin with bits of black and dark brown thrown haphazardly from spot to spot. His eyes are closed tight and make the deep wrinkles at the corner. I take the mask from the side table and lift his head to slide it on. I turn the oxygen on. His chest clams to a smoother rhythm and I get up to leave the room.
“Thank you David,” he says as I leave.
I go back to my grandfathers bedroom and look at Sara who is also asleep. She’s pregnant and sleeping on her left side in the middle of the bed. I go to the window and look out of it.
It’s December in Washington State. We’re an hour from Grand Coulee, past the mountains where the hills roll for miles toward Reardan and then Spokane. The flatland on nights like tonight, when a soft wind comes up and the last of the moon is being covered by the delicate lace of the clouds, I feel at ease. It’s quite, and it makes me glad we moved out West.
By: Dylan Lenz
In three minutes everything could change. Lutz stood up, barely. His eyes were swollen. There was a small cut under his right eye brow, so he kept his glove glued to his forehead. He was tired. They both were.
In the previous hour Lutz had left the locker room. He had made his way into the ring. He had lasted eleven rounds with Arcemdes Fletcher. Fletcher was a bit of a wash-up. A good fighter none the less, but for the most part a wash up who had had a chance at his title shot against Povetkin but wasn’t able to make the grade Lutz just needed this win, this win and the chance would be his.
Fletcher feinted right and came at his body. His hooked wrapped hard into Lutz’s ribs. He shook it off and backed up taking a step to the left as he did. Frankie was in the corner shouting at him.
“Jim, One-Two! One-Two,” Frank repeats.
James Lutz nodded as Fletcher hit him again in the mouth. Then he returned it. One Two. His jab hard into fletchers forehead snapping his neck back, then his right hard and fast right on top. Fletcher stumbled. Lutz didn’t give him a second to find his footing. He was on him. One-two. One-two. Simple. Basic. Fletchers left foot rolls and the Ref steps in between the two men.
He starts to count, “One. Two. Three.”
The crowd stands up.
“Four. Five. Six.”
Fletcher is on his hands and knees trying to put his left foot into the canvas and lift himself up. He stumbles.
“Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.”
Lutz throws his arms in the air. Fletcher stays on his knees as people flood the ring as the final bell sounds. One hundred and eighty seconds.
When my grandfather died my grandmother did not remarry. Instead she lived alone for the next twenty years, with the occassional child or grand child staying for a time when money was tight, or hearts were broken. She was alone and rather content.
Ten years before her death she was asked to accompany an old friend to an event. He was a recent widower and didn’t want to go to his Christmas pary alone. They had a brilliant time and danced most of the night. They did not fall in love.
For the next four years the two aged gracefuly, though not without the occasional health problem. My grandmother’s children and grandchildren strayed farther and farther from her and she was left alone like her gentleman friend. They would give each other company, holiday together, watch the news, and fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon.
They fell in love, though not the same sort they had expereinced in their twenties, sixty years prior. They did not stay up at night thinking of one anohter, they did not sneak away to kiss in the cupboards of their parents houses, they did not weep when the other went off to war, nor plan to bear children or any of the actions thereabouts. They were companions, nothing more, though at times he professed he would marry her in an instant.
When he came to die in the spring of their fourth year he said to her,
“My love for you is without bounds, and so we should not bind one to the other, but know my love that forever I will love you and think of you. “
- Truman Capote - Re: Editing
Benjamin McGregor weighs two hundred and forty seven pounds. Most of which catches me on the left side of my jaw. I’m dazed for a second then push my glove up to my cheek before he’s able to come at me again. He’s six foot seven, he has five inches on me, though I have five pounds on him. Five pounds and a bum shoulder that seems to tear open every time my jab fails to make contact with his head.
I move my foot to duck out of another hook, but I’m too slow and his reach cuts over my shoulder forcing me to tilt my head. It hits my neck as the bell rings. End of the sixth round.
I go to my corner. Frank throws up the stool and I take a seat while he talks into my ear. He wants me to keep my left hand up and go for the body with my right hook, right under the arm. I look across the ring.
McGregor is standing. He shifts his weight back and forth from one leg to another rolling his shoulders back trying to show off. Trying to intimidate me. He’s the biggest I’ve ever fought, not the heaviest, but the strongest, and that reach, man he can reach. I swear under my breath, spit again into the bucket that Frank holds under my mouth while Bruce shoves a Q-Tip into the gash under my eye.
McGregor Breathes through his nose. I’m panting form my corner trying to slow my heart rate This is going to be the seventh round and I’m a brawler. He should have been knocked out by the third. I’m not made for this. I’m fast hard blows, I’m the inside. I’m not supposed to last this long.
Frank slaps the right side of my face a second before the bell. I stand up.
“Get that hook un there, under the arm. That’s your chance.”
By: Dylan Lenz
Eyelids frozen, knees fall, He waits.
Concerning Fallen Leaves
The promises of a colorful autumn and colorless winter would have moved him north, but the lipless whispers of his mother disenchanted the majesty of such a notion. He had envisioned himself sitting before some window, midday, looking on some stubborn maple as it lost the last of its leaves. He would wait while the last of its fellows departed the rough skin, then ponder the metaphysical world that filled his meandering mind. He would wonder if God were present, or just a pleasant ideal put on a shelf until tragedy struck or confidence waned. He would think of his father’s unchallenged conviction, while his fist wrapped steadfast around his leather-bound scripture with the worn gold pages. Each one dog-eared and torn as they had taught was good form in Sunday School. He would listen to the murmuring questions of Sara’s daughter, and would rake the fallen blades of that mighty maple, standing above, now devoid of its former glory, nonetheless present. Just the same he should keep pondering such, years from leaving this relentless summer.
By: Dylan Lenz
Colleen fell in love with Frank and the relative fame that came with him being the lone pitcher for the high school baseball team. He tried other sports, and had a knack for football, though only in a minor capacity that did not allow him to nessicarily be the star of the game. His father convinced him along with the varsity coach in his sophmore year, that he would make a great addition to the team, and could go far. Frank’s popularity was accompanied by the fact that his father owned a cabin on Lake Roosivelt and Frank would keep the more well known youth of Reardan entertained on long weekends. The fact that baseball was a minor sport in the small town didn’t make Frank anyless desirable a companion, and Colleen was happy to tag along on his coattails.
By Dylan Lenz
It’s like Carl wanted me to prove something. That there was something in me, a latent aspect of my self that I was yet to meet, something hidden that needed to get out. Sometimes I think that if I look down at the rug on my mothers kitchen floor long enough, the pattern will change and this will be a different house. It doesn’t change. My eyes get tired from looking. Still I can’t find that part of myself that Carl wanted me to find, that part that will forgive.
My mother, Barb, seems to think that Carl has changed. She tells me that he even quit smoking, he’s been taking classes, trying to find some sort of salvation for what he did. I don’t figure that she is lying, but Carl hasn’t changed. Maybe to her he has, but not to me. I know that other side, that darkness that sits just behind the smile he throws her, the way he used to when he would take me out to the garage.
Carl used to tell her he was making me into a man. That he was going to show me how to use tools and how to fix things. He never showed me any of that. He just pulled my pants down and then his, and then after told me to wait a few minutes before I went back in so he could look at me.
When Barb finally figured it out she didn’t take me away. Instead she asked Carl about it and let him dissuade her for the reality of what was happening in the garage. The next time he brought me out there he slapped my head as hard as he could before he dropped his pants and made me kneel in front of him. Then he pushed his cigarette into my shoulder three times until it went out.
By: Dylan Lenz
A Guide to Loving Your Neighbors
I will wake up early, before the alarm. I will go there in silence; my purposeful steps will not move the loose gravel and weeds across the drive. I will see her there, working away, her slight figure hunched over some complication in her hands. Again I will be quiet and quiet I will remain. I will have rubbed dirt on my arms so I will smell like the garage and the yard, then I will wait and watch without worry. I will stand behind her, hidden by the car.
She will turn at some point and see me. She will jump, but not scream. She knows me; she will smile politely and show me the true depth of those wrinkles. She will ask what I want, the smile never leaving, and I will move closer. Once in reach I will shove her head against the concrete floor, hard. When she fights I will over power her. She will lie on the cool ground, still breathing. I will start that ’79 Cutlass and return to my house.
She will not wake but I will watch. I will sip my tea and kiss my husband goodbye. He will walk to the train and drink the coffee from his thermos. I will call the children to wake as I cook breakfast. They will rise and dress in silence. Their voices will be horse as they greet me at the table. We will say a prayer and I will clean my plate, ravished from my earlier deeds. I will drive them to the bus stop and hug them tight. They will wish me a good day, and I will smile, knowing it will be.
I will watch the bus depart then return home. I will clear the plates from the table and wash their place-mats, covered with peanut butter smudges and toast crumbs. I will load the dishwasher and wipe the counter. I will look outside across the back alley and see her garage door ajar.
I will walk over to her house and knock at the back door for appearances only, and then go to the garage and rattle the knob. It will be locked to look as though she intended to leave. I will go to the big door that she would pull open each morning, and force the rusted pulleys to let me in. I will smell the exhaust and rush to the car to turn the key. I will touch her throat, then her wrist, then dial 911. I will wait twenty-seven minutes for the ambulance and another twelve for the police officer. He will seal the garage and take my statement. I will be the good neighbor. I will be comforted and have my arm rubbed by the crowd that will have gathered. I will keep a hand on my heart when they load her in the back.
When home, I will make another cup of tea and treat myself to the extra tablespoon of sugar. I will watch television. I will warm up leftovers, roast beef with turnips and asparagus. I will call my mother and tell her what happened. She will be shocked and amazed, then call all of my sisters to gossip.
The children will come home and do their homework, then go and play in the yard. My husband will come home and tell me about his day. I will mention mine, and he will hug me tight. We will sit at the table and my husband will say Grace, my children won’t peek. Later I will tuck them in and kiss their heads.
“Goodnight mom.” They will say from their beds.
“Sweet dreams.” I will reply from the door.
In bed I will make love with my husband. He will kiss me deeply and I him. I will go to sleep soon after and not wake once.
Then again I could go back to sleep and wait for the alarm, then wake and cross the alley. She will be in her garden and will greet me with the same genuine smile and show me the true depth of those wrinkles. I will apologize for my son stealing all of her roses. She will tell me not to worry and tell me some story of her own son, now in his sixties, doing the same years ago. She will be the good neighbor. She will comfort me and invite me in for tea. I will go home and send my husband and children off to their days. Later I will return and we will go out for lunch in that ’79 Cutlass. It will be her treat, and I will smile and again apologize.
She will drive us back, then rush to the house for something. I will look out at her garden absent of the flowers that are now in a vase in my dining room. She will return and load my arms with potatoes and jams. I will hesitate but she will insist. I will return home and make a cup of tea, treating myself to the extra tablespoon of sugar.
When we take out our trash we will wave. She will wish me a goodnight, and I will smile, knowing it will be.