Life Goes On

By Roberto Loiederman (Editor’s note: This is the third and final installment of this serialized story. Read parts one and two.)   April, 1968 – At sea, approaching San Francisco Bay We’d been at sea for more than three weeks and I had a bad case of channel fever. I hadn’t seen a woman in weeks and was hungry to touch and be touched: to be held in a woman’s arms—to feel that I was safely home after a long time at sea. What would my first night back be like? A party, welcoming me home after a seven-month absence? Drugs, sex, and loud thumping rhythms, all rolled up in an orgiastic package? What actually happened… well, I could never have imagined it, not in a million years. * Eight months earlier – San Francisco In September, 1967, I rented a roomy apartment together with three couples, close friends, who staked out the three bedrooms, leaving me with a small, perfect room with enough space for a floor mattress and the clothing I’d need for ship-work. The flat was on Potrero Hill, on Arkansas Street, across from a pocket park where I’d sit, looking down at the harbor. After a month, I went to the SIU hall on Fifth and Harrison and caught a job as an ordinary seaman on the SS Del Alba. The night before I joined the ship, I took acid and climbed into a mesh hammock we had strung up in the living room. My apartment mates—Les, Choo-Choo, Paul, Cheryl, Greg, Nancy—gently tucked the wide meshes of the hammock around me so it felt as...

Audubon Journal

By Christopher Woods   You watched him as he kept messing with the cord that ran from the oak tree in the middle of the yard to the new bird feeder. You thought it would never hang at just the right height to please him. You kicked the ground with the toe of your tennis shoe. Then, every once in awhile, you would bend down and snare a weed growing between the bricks of the walk that crisscrossed the lawn. You broke the weeds off at the surface, knowing they would be back again soon. To him, this yard was a miniature Versailles. That is what he called it. To you, it was all pretense, so much like the other yards in the suburban neighborhood.   “Looks fine,” you told him, even if he hadn’t asked your opinion.   “Maybe,” he replied, unsure, as he tied the knot in the cord. “I don’t want it to be so high that we can’t reach it to refill it.”   “So who can refill it?” you asked, kicking the ground again.   “It will be my job,” he said, without emotion.   “Good.”   “Okay, that does it,” he said with a tone of accomplishment. For a moment he stood back, studying the feeder hanging in the still July air. “Now, let’s go inside, fix a highball and wait for them.”   So you went inside for a “highball.” He was from another era. You always knew this. But only in the last few months had you decided how much of a mistake it had been to come live with him....

Better Than Six

By Kerri Pierce 10:00 a.m. The sky is ominous. Bruised. Like a scraped-up leg. (Like that time she flew off the bike and he came running.) A hidden sun stains the low-lying clouds: green, black, blue, gray, reddish-yellow in places. The sky looks grotesque. (“Your leg might need stitches,” the doctor said.) She’s got to stop for gas. The fuel gauge is nearing empty. The gas station’s a block away. Might as well be a mile. Both directions, bumper-to-bumper. (At the sight of it, she’d cried. For the beat up leg as much as the pain.) The road here in downtown is red brick, not asphalt. Orange, white, and purple flowers wilt in planters that’ve been placed at intervals along the sidewalk. The shopping center to her right currently caters to people with high end tastes in pet food, antiques, and garden gnomes. The businesses there rotate in and out. Twenty years back, she remembers, it housed a record store, a travel agency, and a dry cleaners. All that’s left is the Corner Diner Café. Its one-story façade is more or less unchanged. The cracked shutters are blue. There are flowers on the sill. The Corner Diner Café has outlasted economic up- and downturns, not to mention the recent trend in gentrifi-beautification. It’s been fifteen years since she was here last. 10:05. Beneath the bruised sky, everything appears deserted. Somewhere up ahead, just a mile or two away, a funeral is about to happen. Right now, it’s hard to believe anything can happen. At the moment, on the storm’s edge, everything appears suspended: the lights brighter, the outlines starker....

That Kind of Mexican

By Edward  H. Garcia “You’re not that kind of Mexican,” his father said more than once. David Alvarez knew that made his father sound like a racist. A more nuanced analysis might have concluded he was an elitist. His father would have said he was a realist. It first came up when, as a teenager, he had announced to his father that he would be earning money for a car that summer by picking cotton at a farm next to his cousin Tony’s place in the country. His father must have felt he was telling his son a home truth. The men and women he would be picking next to, the ones with deeply creased, mahogany faces and hands, who had stooped over cotton plants and beets and squash and cabbage since they were children would pick him into the ground. As they did. Years later when he came home from college ready to protest the working conditions of those same pickers and join his friend Domingo as a Guerrillero de Aztlan doing whatever was necessary to fight the gringo farmers, his father once again reminded him that he wasn’t that kind of Mexican. At the time David had no idea what he was. He had a degree from a good university in sociology, no real prospects for a job, but the certain knowledge that if he asked them, his parents could arrange with their friends to get him something with the county or the state. He knew that Mingo had no such certainty—to make a living for his wife and little boy, he had had to apply for...

Testimony of the Scribe

by m. pinchuk   The following was read into the record of the Court of Inquiry by the Clerk, with the assent of the Presiding Magistrate. I verify that I am the Chief Scribe of the Capital City, and I attest to the following: On a day not unlike today, a stranger visited my office in the early evening, shortly before closing time. His manner of speaking was awkward, indicating a lack of familiarity with our language. He refused to give his name, saying only that his time was limited and it was urgent that I record verbatim what he had to say. I attest that I have transcribed his words faithfully, and a copy of the transcript comprises the majority of my testimony. I apologize to the court for my absence, but I remain indisposed.   — Transcript of the Stranger’s Tale —   My errors have been those of naïveté and poor judgment, as I expect will become evident from the honest accounting that I now give to you. Up until this time I have been blameless, but alone I am responsible for the action I shall shortly undertake. It is unlikely that a precise determination can be made as to where everything began, so I must relate what I know and what I think to be important. Some might argue that I should have been alert to the signs, but of them I was unaware. My failings in this regard are understandable, not willful. However, it is clear that others may weigh the evidence and calculate their own conclusions. In the days I believe to be...

Thanksgiving on the Bosphorus: Hamams and Sacrificial Altars

By Angela Smith Kirkman I have an hour to myself with my notebook, and I’m stretched out on the ottoman like a cat. A warm fall breeze flows through the lofty windows of the flat we’ve rented in Istanbul (not Constantinople). As I put the final touches on today’s translation work, I alternate between sips of Turkish coffee and bites of syrupy baklava, which my husband, Jason, and our three kids brought home yesterday from a bakery in the neighborhood. This afternoon, as part of their homeschool lessons, Jason has taken them on an expedition in search of the city’s finest Turkish delight; we’ve grown addicted to the petite jelly confections. Turkey is the seventh country on our family’s big field trip around the world, and highlights thus far have included hiking the Inca Trail, riding camelback through the Sahara, getting chased out of a mosque in Tunisia and robbed at gunpoint in Bahía, living on a vineyard in Portugal and sneaking into a dilapidated communist headquarters in Bulgaria. Our time here in Istanbul has started off with a bit of a bang. We fled Bulgaria—country number six—just in time to escape the swine flu. Or so we thought. By the time our Orient Express pulled into Istanbul’s Sirkeci Station, the swine flu had all five of us in its grips. We spent our first week in Istanbul mainly exploring the Sick Road—the trail we’d blazed between our beds and the bathroom. Things started looking up last week, though, and as soon as we were each able to go a few hours without running to the bathroom, we broke...