‘Fragments’ by Steven Tutino

“Art is the highest expression of my being. I was born to create. I live freely through art. I think in color and dream in color. Color has significance for me because color is the expression of spirit. There is a spiritual significance to color and the merging of colors that blend and fuse while still retaining their distinctiveness. When I create, I am no longer a stranger in the world, but a welcomed guest. The feeling of creating a work of art is absolute fulfillment, the sense of having acquired an inner peace through the integration of mind, body and spirit. Art conquers and washes away fears and anxieties. When I create, I am no longer divided or cut in two. Rather, I am wholehearted, blissful bliss pouring out of my being into love of all things. I am whole and young. I give a sigh of relief. I am at peace with myself, a freely-flowing unity, lover of all things. I am real. I am alive. I am myself. I am reaching toward Spirit. Art is about a spiritual quest, the attainment of a purity and dignity in the reaching toward Spirit. Painting is like dancing in color, through color, with color. It is discovery, revelation, Being, Truth, Goodness. Art is the hunger-mark of my being. I create in freely flowing streams. Nothing scares me anymore. I am no longer broken. There are no broken pieces inside. Pursuing art is pursuing the attainment of a higher good, a good that is dignifying and ennobling and that enables spiritual growth and transformation. Art can lead to a transformation in one’s outlook on life. It can lead to an expansion of horizons. It is a true conversion experience. Art is a marker of the human spirit, the desire to create meaning in the act of pursuing what is valuable and worthwhile. Art is Love. Art brings communities together. It forges communities by bringing people engaged in the pursuit of meaning and a higher, more noble good, together. And together, they sustain one another in their pursuit of wisdom and their longing for the discovery of knowledge and truth. They support one another in the pursuit of a common goal. Here we see a community united, devoted, in love… Their is a spiritual truth in the desire to communicate more fully what it means to live and die for art, what it means to live and breathe like the wind and surrender oneself to the fury of sunrises and the fury of a thousand kisses and the fury of a fiery love, ardent and noble and true that it leaves you clinging to the other more fully.”

 


STEVEN TUTINO is currently a graduate student at Concordia University in the process of completing an M.A. in Theological Studies. He obtained a double major from Concordia as well in Honors English Literature and Theological Studies. His poetry has appeared in Concordia University’s Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality, The Paragon Journal, Halcyon Days, Perspectives Magazine and Founder’s Favorites. His artwork has appeared in Word in the World, The Paragon Journal, The Minetta Review, Beautiful Minds Magazine, GFT Press: Ground Fresh Thursday, Michael Jacobson’s The New-Post Literate, The Omnicult, November Bees: Journal of art and literature, Inside the Bell Jar, and Hour After Happy Hour Review. Steven currently resides in Montreal, Quebec.

Copyright © 2019 by Steven Tutino. All rights reserved.

‘The Innocents’ by Caroline Misner

Innocents

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

Ted placed his face in his hands and closed his eyes. He needed a moment to think. Perhaps two. Perhaps more.

The day had been a disaster from the beginning. Sylvia had awakened that morning to the howl of Nicholas in his cot and she had been in a foul temper ever since. Usually a good mother, despite her wild mood swings that rocked the household from time to time, today she had no patience for the baby or his sister Frieda and least of all for Ted.  He’d become accustomed to her behaviour. Sometimes, all it took was an innocent remark or a gesture that made her feel slighted to send her into a fury.

They had already planned on a day’s outing, somewhere they had never been before, a day’s exploration, preferably to the beach. It was a glorious warm day in late May 1962, perfect for a picnic somewhere beyond the farms of Devon. But Ted had balked at continuing on with their plans so Sylvia had taken matters into her own hands and tossed both babies into the back of the car and revved the engine. Fearing she would do something crazy; Ted had no choice but to accompany them. He let Sylvia drive.

For hours they drove, Sylvia clutching the wheel, her blazing hazel eyes darting across the countryside, heading west and seeking a route to the coast. Ted sat with the map unfolded in his lap and tried to navigate. The roads meandered through hills and farmland, never quite reaching the sea and that had enraged Sylvia even more. He managed to talk her into stopping at a small village to purchase food for the children—a humble meal of biscuits, bread and marmalade and a few bottles of milk and apple juice. The respite from the drive seemed to mollify Sylvia’s frustration, albeit only temporarily. Back in the car, she raged and pounded her fists into the wheel.

“Why do you Brits always keep the roads so far from the shore?” she shouted. “Back in the states you can get to the beach in no time.”

The tone of her voice had set Nicholas to howling again and even little Frieda had tears in her eyes. Ted had tried to calm them as best he could. Sylvia ignored them.

They finally arrived at the base of a jagged coastal cliff hedged in by oak woods and brambles. The shore still seemed a long way off, accessible only by a single path that wound between crops of scraggly brush. Sylvia cut the engine and sprung from the car, slamming the door behind her. Ted followed, hauling babies and grocery bags. He found a small clearing between the beach and the woods and spread a threadbare blanket across the rocky sand.

The tides sparkled brilliantly in the sun, low waves crashing and creaming against Sylvia’s shins. She stood with her back to them, staring out to sea, the hem of her skirt drawn up between her legs and tucked into her waistband. A lone scruffy hound worked its legs up to a gallop as it crossed the beach to chase the gulls that rose, squawking, in the tepid breeze. Ted fed the children and they ate heartily but soon lost interest. Not yet able to stand, Nicholas crawled after his mother, his small hands and knees leaving criss-cross trails in the sand. Frieda padded after them, her milk and biscuits forgotten on the cloth. Ted sat with his head in his hands and wondered what to do next.

It was no use trying to talk sense into Sylvia when she got like this. She was the most brilliant and yet the most stubborn woman he’d ever met. The best he could do was watch the children and wait for Sylvia’s mood to pass. Sometimes, these tantrums lasted for days and the only way to calm her was with the little white pills he kept locked away and doled out as needed. He regretted not bringing the pills with them today.

He lifted his head and saw Sylvia trudging up the beach; Nicholas was perched upon one hip and Frieda’s hand clutched her mother’s. The beach was not what she had expected and the disappointment would likely set her off again.

“I want to go for a hike,” Sylvia said as she plopped the babies onto the blanket.

“Don’t you like the sea?” Ted asked.

Sylvia scanned the undulating water, the pebbled shoreline, the cracked furrowed rocks that lay scattered like uncollected ruins in the nooks and crooks of the inlet. The gulls screamed overhead, safe now from the dog that had abandoned his chase and scampered off to other adventures.

“I hate it,” Sylvia said. “This is not an ocean. Not like the ones back home –too flat, too pale. Where are the big waves, the colourful umbrellas, the lifeguard chairs?”

She headed off into the woods without another word. Ted scooped the children up in his arms and followed. There was no trail to guide them; twigs and acorns cracked underfoot as they made their way deeper and deeper into the woods, Sylvia sweeping branches out of the way with her arms. The roar of the sea faded and a mossy coolness enveloped them, a welcome respite from the heat on the shore.

“Look.” Sylvia paused and pointed into a mound of brush.

A rabbit trap sat nestled beneath the leaves, its sharky jaws yawning open and its teeth gleaming uncorroded; a copper chain snaked round a tasty French bean morsel on the bait plate. It was all too familiar to Ted, having been raised among the farms of the Calder Valley in Yorkshire. As a youth he’d prided himself in being quite the huntsman and had set many similar traps himself. His prey had filled many a Sunday stew pot.

Silent rage-filled Sylvia until she seemed to burgeon—Alice in Wonderland after sampling the bottle. Dull light reflected the mania in her eyes. Without a word, she grabbed the trap and hurled it into the trees, a brown cord whipping behind it like a tail.  The trap snapped shut on impact with the ground and the French bean sprung from it and landed in the brush.

Ted stood aghast at what she had done. It was a desecration, an affront to everything he held and believed in, knowing some poor farmer had probably set the trap in anticipation of his evening meal. But Sylvia wasn’t finished yet. She spotted another trap and another, each tethered together with the same frayed cord as the first. She threw the traps, one by one, into the woods, her face reddening from the exertion and her fury.

“Sylvia!” he gasped. “Stop that! What are you doing?”

“Murderers!” she screamed, tears glazing her ruddy cheeks. “You’re all murderers!  You’re killing the innocents!”

Ted let the babies slide from his arms where they huddled terrified round his knees.  Sylvia was beyond reason. All he could do was let her fury wind itself down. She sobbed, bunching her fists against her eyes once the last trap had been thrown.

“Murderers!” she wailed. “Cannibals! All of them.”

“It’s the way of the land, Sylvia.” Ted tried to sound reassuring but he knew he failed.  “Most people in this county can’t afford fresh meat every day. The traps are a necessity.”

His instinct told him he should reset the traps. Perhaps the farmer who had set them would never suspect. Sylvia raked her fingers down the length of her face; thankfully her nails left no marks. She raised her bloodshot eyes as though beseeching some unseen deity.

“Why is it always the innocents who have to die?” she whimpered.

Ted had no answer to that. Sylvia heaved in a deep breath; her shoulders loosened and her shaking ebbed. The storm was blowing itself out. It would pass soon. But for how long? How long before Sylvia’s grief would overtake her again?

“Oh, Sylvia,” he whispered. Sylvia stepped into his arms and he held his wife close, the warmth of her body as familiar to him as his own skin. Below them, Nicholas and Frieda clutched their parents’ legs as though trying to climb up the trunk of a tree.

And there they stood, in the cool woods beside the sea in Cornwall, a young family, clinging to one another. Ted detected a stir in the brush; leaves rattled. A young brown rabbit scampered through. It paused and regarded them warily. Its whiskers twitched and it scurried on, leaping over the inert snake of the trap’s cord.

 


CAROLINE MISNER‘s work has appeared in numerous publications in the USA, Canada, India and the UK. She has been nominated for the prestigious McClelland & Stewart Journey Anthology Prize for the short story “Strange Fruit.” In 2011 another short story and a poem were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives in the beautiful Haliburton Highlands of Northern Ontario where she continues to draw inspiration for her work. She is the author of the Young Adult fantasy series “The Daughters of Eldox.” Her latest novel, “The Spoon Asylum” was released in May of 2018 by Thistledown Pressand has been nominated for the Governor General Award.

Copyright © 2019 by Caroline Misner. All rights reserved.

‘Indigo’ and ‘The Arcade’ by Phiz

 

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PHIZ is a queer artist and 3D Designer based in London, UK. Her illustrations focus on mental health, feminism and queernesstrying to deal with the big issues through flowers and magic. Through her work, Phiz hopes to give a voice and offer representation to a community who is severely lacking it. Follow her on Instagram@lunaticillustration

Copyright © 2019 by Phiz. All rights reserved.

‘Creatures of a Moment’ by Samantha Thayer

Jarred

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

On Wednesday, I watched her steal a daylily from my garden. On the following Sunday, she chose an orchid.

At first I thought she had mistaken them for hers. After all, our neighboring gardens nearly overlapped. It was on Thursday, I watched as her despairing gaze visited my home. Then, when she failed to see me hiding behind the curtain, she reached over and plucked a tulip.

I respected that she was so careful—as though the flowers were built of shattered glass and she was afraid of cutting herself. She always chose specific flowers. Perfect specimens, regarding every petal. Her visits were infrequent enough to never affect the garden’s growth, as it still flourished with over a dozen breeds of flower.

The reason behind her thievery was a mystery to me. Although she had been my neighbor for years, she hid beneath a dark baseball cap as though she was ashamed to look at the world. But she was not fearful. No, she stood tall and proud. One could gain a moment of confidence just by watching her.

Her name was Ava. That was all I truly knew about her. I had made idle attempts to get to know her, but small talk could only get me as far as knowing that tomorrow might be a little cloudy. Her confidence made her challenging to face. I could never find the guts to press a conversation, let alone a confrontation. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought much about her until she started stealing from me. Before then, I was only aware that she didn’t appear to like other people much. So, I left her alone.

Perhaps I should have confronted her on the first day I caught her stealing. Something had prevented me, however, from swinging open the window and demanding to know why she didn’t take from her own garden. Part of me wanted to see where she went with it, the other half was focused on how depressed she appeared as she buried the flower in her palm. I couldn’t build up the courage to interrupt that, not until Monday came.

In the early hours of that morning, I caught her once more, delicately pulling up one of my flowers, which would now only have hours left before it wilted away. They only existed for a moment in time, after all.

Opening the window felt wrong, but I did it anyways, if only to let in a carefree breeze that swept by me and raced eagerly into my home. I did not welcome it. I was already too focused on the girl in my garden, just as she was focused on me

“Excuse me, but . . . just . . .”

Talking was hard. It was always hard. Fighting my tongue to allow the worlds to roll off, rather than cram them back down my throat, was a constant battle. I suddenly wanted to shut the window in hopes that I could shut out that gnawing anxiety. She was stealing and yet I was worried I had interrupted her.

“What are you doing?” My question fumbled out at last, but the breeze was no longer there to carry the vibrations of my quivering voice atop its vigorous waves. Instead, my words dropped to her, placing a visibly heavy weight on her shoulders.

“I’m sorry.” Unlike myself, she did not hesitate. She paused for only a moment and, in that brief passage of time, I watched her collect herself before she straightened to look me dead in the eyes. “I know what I’m doing is wrong,” she said with the same despairing look she had on Sunday, “But I need this.”

It was hardly an answer, barely the distant cousin of an explanation. I watched her focus on the flower. “What do you do with them?” I asked, borrowing enough confidence to lean slightly out of the window.

“I give them to someone.” The vagueness covered her intentions like a widow’s veil.

“To who?” I asked. “Why can’t you bring your own?”

“It’s not that easy to explain,” she responded.

“Then can you show me?”

I hadn’t expected she would crack, let alone cave. Strange as it was with our usual reluctance to share words, I was frantic that come Friday, there would be more than just a flower missing from my garden.

But somehow—miraculously—an agreement was made and I found myself walking side by side with mystery. There was no connection between us other than our overlapping gardens and stolen flowers. Though, that was enough to lead me away from home on a short leash of curiosity.

Of all the places I could have imagined she would bring me, a graveyard was the last of them.

We entered through its gates, the fences’ sword tips stretching towards the late August skies. I wanted to tell her to turn around. I wanted to tell her that everything was okay. She didn’t need to show me so much. She didn’t need to show me where the flowers went after all. Hell, if she wanted to, she could leave me right at those gates and, come Saturday, I could turn a blind eye when her hand trespassed onto my property to snatch away a rose. But I didn’t say anything; instead, I swallowed my words.

When we came to a little gravestone that had the name “Sebastian” carved into its concrete flesh, I lost all my borrowed confidence.

“He loved your flowers.” As she spoke, she lowered the carnation onto the head of the grave where it would eventually fade away. “We always told him to take the flowers from our garden if he wanted them… but when we weren’t looking he would just reach over to yours and . . . ”

The wind caught her words, sweeping them away as easily as a stolen daisy, leaving us both in silence. The momentary inability to speak was cruel, but I understood it all too well.

“He was your brother.” I remembered him. A head of messy brown hair and a wild smile that lasted even through the vicious effects of chemotherapy.

“He never kept the flowers, he just gave them to people.” Her expression was haunting, as though her eyes saw the past while her body lived in a tormentous present, fearful of her future. “They made him happy, so I guess he thought they would make others happy too.”

I had asked where the flowers went, but I hadn’t anticipated they would be only one of many in a cemetery of roses. A dying garden.

More often than not, I think about that visit. Though the world may have continued to spin around in its usual pattern with merciless ignorance, everything changed for me. I began to sleep with my body curled into a fist of protest. The fleeting memory of a lively smile on a dying body became the centerpiece of my dreams.

Now, every few weeks, I meet with a girl who hides beneath a dark baseball cap to plant a variety of flowers, in our overlapping gardens. Then, on scattered days of the month, I wave to her from the window as she passes by.

Then, on Tuesday, I watched her borrow a daffodil.

 


SAMANTHA THAYER is a creative writer studying both English Literature and Interior Design in Montreal. She was born and raised in a small town that has inspired many of her creative works. When she is not pursuing creative endeavors, she is working in professional pet care or furthering her education.

Copyright © 2019 by Samantha Thayer. All rights reserved.

‘Stray’ by Megan Callahan

Stray.jpg

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

By the time Mariel arrives at the water’s edge, the sun’s hanging low. The sky is slowly darkening like a bruise. Dry leaves scuttle around her leather boots and get caught like weeds in the cracked black pavement. She grips the railing with both hands and spits into the canal, hoping to hawk up the nauseating taste of tobacco sitting on her tongue. No luck. She swallows hard. On the opposite shore, the rusted husk of the abandoned malting factory towers above trees—its graffitied silos mountainous and grey, and beyond them the redbrick sprawl of St-Henri. Mariel looks around, her trained eyes scouring the scene. A woman and her son toss bread to the pigeons. A handful of cyclists weave down the bike path, fewer now that the light is fading. She slips two fingers into her back pocket for the stale pack of Du Mauriers, her first pack in months. She lights up with her brand-new Bic. It’s neon yellow, the only colour they had at the dep, and the sick brightness of it only makes her feel queasier.

Arnaud turns up on foot after her third cigarette. Mariel tilts her head, blows smoke rings into the wind.

“You’re late,” she says. “I’ve been waiting.”

Calme-toi. Y fait pas encore noir.”

Arnaud is nearly a foot taller than Mariel. Broad frame outlined against purple clouds. He’s in plain clothes, like her. Pouched bloodhound face shadowed in the half-light. Mariel notes his pink eyes and the pungent smell of weed. He’s been her partner on the force for nearly five years. He knows her better than anyone else. With a look he sees the fear coiled inside her like a spring. Tight and metallic, ready to pop. As she grinds the end of her cigarette under a boot heel, he’s already rolling her a joint.

Tiens, lâche tes clopes.”

Mariel takes it gratefully. She tips her head back and inhales slow, letting the weed linger in her throat. She immediately feels better. Calmer. The small muscles around her neck and shoulders go slack.

“Fucked up day,” she says.

“Fucked up en tabarnak.”

Arnaud leans his elbows against the railing and peers into the water. A few months ago, a local folk musician drowned near this spot. Accident or suicide, no one knows for sure. Mariel and Arnaud were two of the cops who trawled the canal and parts of the St. Lawrence, dredging up scrap metal and plastic bottles until her bloated body finally surfaced. Dozens of missing person flyers are still stapled to telephone poles and pasted to the crumbling walls of metro tunnels. Mariel remembers the girl from her neighbourhood bar, a tall brunette with a ridiculous bird’s name. She played the accordion and the fiddle, sometimes the guitar. Katherine Kingfisher? Or was it Magpie, or Loon?

C’est la dernière fois que je viens à ton secours.”

The anger in Arnaud’s voice is quiet and razor-thin.

Tu m’écoute? La dernière esti de fois.”

“I didn’t ask to be rescued,” she retorts.

Fais pas l’idiote.”

“Fuck you. I could’ve done this alone.”

Arnaud shakes his head and says nothing. He knows when she’s bluffing. Mariel scowls and kicks a loose pebble, sends it skittering over the edge. Streetlights across the canal flicker to life.

“Listen to me. Okay?”

Arnaud places a callused hand on her shoulder. She feels him shifting gears, speaking her language, manoeuvring her with his Good-Cop voice. His accent barely perceptible after years of night school English. Inside, she bristles.

“This is not the only way,” he says.

“Now you’re being an idiot.”

“You have a choice.”

“Like hell I do.”

Ça va te manger tout cru. I know you.”

Below them the water is flat indigo. Mariel thinks of the drowned folk singer, her long brown hair knotted around her neck. When the divers dragged the body from the riverbed, there wasn’t much left of her delicate bird face. Mariel heard the family had to look for childhood scars, for the distinct cluster of moles between her breasts. The image depresses her. A body soft as cotton, pulled apart by water and air. Even mollusks have shells. She imagines herself naked and wrapped in algae, fish and bottom feeders chewing on her eyelids. Mouths tenderly peeling away her skin.

“The kid’s dad,” Arnaud continues. “He’s a big shot lawyer.”

“Who gives a shit.”

“This isn’t going to disappear.”

Arnaud’s playing Bad-Cop now. Blunt and unflinching. Mariel wishes he hadn’t mentioned the kid. She’s spent the past twenty-four hours working on forgetting. A neighbourhood dealer, one she recognized from night patrols near the park,around eighteen years old. He smirked when she pulled him over and flashed her badge. He looked her up and down and said: salut baby, you can pat me down any day—but that wasn’t what set her off. Maybe it was his peach-fuzz moustache, or the oversized T-shirt tucked messily into his belt—a band shirt that had clearly been worn to death, the printed white letters beginning to crinkle and peel away—Godsp ed Y u! Bla k Emper r!—like some half-finished game of Hangman. The kid showed her his teeth in a too-wide smile, stepped out of the car with one hand in his pocket.

“I didn’t mean to kill him,” she says.

Je sais.”

“I thought he had a weapon. He was reaching . . .”

She remembers how quickly she unclipped her sidearm when the kid moved towards her. The smooth arc of the Glock 17 as it travelled up from her holster. Her aim was perfect. Was she the one who pulled the trigger? Or was it someone else, a doppelganger Mariel, some angry and hateful version of herself that she felt—still feels—swimming below the surface? She left him there like roadkill—took his phone and wallet, tried to make it look like a carjacking gone wrong.

“Shut up,” Mariel snaps, even though Arnaud has fallen silent. “Enough stalling.”

She tosses the butt of her joint and gestures to her partner. She’s pleased to see that her hand isn’t shaking anymore. Not even a tremble.

“Hand it over.”

She can tell he doesn’t want to. He narrows his eyes, shuffles his feet like he’s about to walk away. Finally he reaches inside his jacket and pulls out a plastic evidence bag. Inside is the bullet. Swiped from the coroner’s office. She drops it in her palm, rolls it between her thumb and index finger. Examines the unique markings left by her gun barrel, the lines and grooves as damning as fingerprints. But in the growing dusk, the bullet could be anything: A pebble or a bottle cap. The core of an apple. A quarter thrown in the canal for luck.

Mariel has never been much of a pitcher, but somehow she manages to hurl the bullet far, far out into the murk of the canal. It vanishes into the dark. She doesn’t hear it hit the water. Only a few silver ripples disturb the placid current. She exhales with a feeling that isn’t quite relief. She’s floating in place, strangely untethered, as though the bullet itself had been keeping her on the ground.

“There. It’s gone.”

Arnaud shakes his head, his bloodhound face even sadder than usual.

Gone. Mariel crawls inside the word, lets it cover her like a protective shell. Eventually the bullet will be carried downstream, spewed into the gaping mouth of the river, or washed ashore, nestled between slick rocks, refuse, and weeds. But even if someone finds it, plucks the anonymous piece of lead from the mud, what story can it tell? Mariel clutches the railing, swayed by a gust of wind. Une balle perdue, une balle errante.Now the bullet is simply stray. Like a wandering dog or a strand of hair. Something innocent and without intent.

 


MEGAN CALLAHAN is a fiction writer, book reviewer, and translator from Montreal. Her work has appeared in publications such as PRISM, Matrix, Vallum Magazine, and Québec Reads. When she isn’t writing, she likes to make music, bake bread with her partner, and people-watch from her balcony garden.

Copyright © 2019 by Megan Callahan. All rights reserved.

‘Alley Cats’ by Jeanne D

2019-03-11

 


JEANNE D is a young illustrator and designer living in Montreal. She spends most of her time wondering about her place in this world and likes to stay home way too much. She might be seen sitting near these windows at the National Library, only on sunny days, if you are lucky.

Copyright © 2019 by Jeanne D. All rights reserved.