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By Robert M. Speiser

From the middle outwards, or from a semi-vacated center where oceans never roll or signal, it moves towards the periphery like a spot of scum on the bathtub that everyone avoids until the mark spreads, or at least its ideas do, until the spot becomes a network of rust and mildew disguised as wisdom and righteousness because one old, great book, or rather a group of pale-skinned men in authority who interpret this book as such, says that everyone should have a gun, or two, or three, but no one should kill a sacred human with barely a heartbeat because, yes, that is a sad shame that causes grief without bounds, but so does a decaying natural ecosystem of systems that has been around for several million years, not including the last 13,000 years of homeostasis, where white bears and Costa Rican yellow frogs did not ask to fill their gas tanks connected to catalytic converting devices recently invented, nor did they get a vote on which species is king, for the catalytic converter is but a euphemism, a rationally controlled one, signifying change of change of agents of change, like a pretty sunset changing into the mystery of night, like a wondrous worm changing into a dazzling butterfly, like underground fossils changing into an atmospherically clogged septic tank of unseen particles the great book does not provide a plumber for, because the book was written, supposedly, 2000-5500 years ago when we were in the middle of our reliable 13,000-year homeostasis, regardless if unwanted babies were being born, most likely into a forgotten, less than literate class that did the pillar building, baby nursing, and other “dirty” work for the king of kings, the same ones the yellow frogs and white bears never voted for until selected “wise men” and woman 2100 years later put on black robes and those utterly stupid fuckin middle of the country white smiles with teeth that say, ’’cause my daddy and granddaddy said so,” even though daddy also followed their own wise men who created catalytic converters with all speed and no bounds ahead until it’s easier to look backwards at that great book from 2000-5500 years ago that said all homo sapiens are holy, unless they are descendants of colonized people who get stopped by police and complain because they only afford the cheaper models of catalytic converter chariots, because there was some other great book, or was it a parched document, that said all men should carry weapons, even if said weapons automatically release death to tens and tens, if not hundreds of holy humans, because those people are already born and, thus, have sinned deeply and probably come from our former colonies, so they are great sinners, especially if they look at the rolling oceans, which are rising, because we come from the middle of nowhere outward, which is the middle of that great book from which, thankfully, somehow, there is no exit.

Robert M. Speiser is a writer and English Instructor in the Santa Barbara area, where he teaches at Westmont College and Hancock Community College, works towards his MFA at Lindenwood University, plays guitar, hangs out with his family, rides his bike, and dreams of someday living in Portugal.

Art by Jeff Kallet.

By Sophie Amado

Perhaps it was the monotony of pulling a keg tap (watching beer flow like Niagara while droplets landed on once-dried clothes, clothes that were subsequently sticky and rancid-smelling, stewed with sweat the rest of the night); or perhaps it was the wastefulness of throwing out plastic twelve and sixteen-ounce rimmed cups for cheap beer and vodka sodas or crisp whiskey cokes served too late on Friday night; or maybe it was the repetition of preparing Jameson neat, Jameson on the rocks, whiskey gingers, Vegas bombs, vodka Red Bulls, vodka tonics, or gin and tonics; or perhaps it was the way regulars thought everyone should know them by name, their entitled selves greeted the bar staff with a familiarity they had not yet earned (her name out of their mouth); or perhaps it was hearing Mariah Carrey’s “All I want for Christmas is You” from November through February, over and over and over and over, on the jukebox; or perhaps it was cutting her finger while slicing lemons, or how some customers placed crinkled dollar bills on the bar and asked her to take what she needed for the Coors tallboy they wouldn’t remember drinking and wouldn’t remember tipping on that makes tending bar an absurd, irritating, and lucrative profession, that has been passed down from generation to generation.

A proud Chicago native and past Fulbright Scholar, Sophie Amado graduated with her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago, with her BA in English/Spanish from the University of Iowa, and writes content professionally and creatively in her spare time.

Photo provided by Sophie Amado.

By Amy Zaranek

Military spouses—all of us, Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force, Space Force—have heard the stories of divorce, separation, one or both spouses cheating on deployment, moving alone, moving while pregnant, moving while pregnant and alone, and of course, there’s the PTSD, he or she waking at night yelling or sweating, bolt upright with wild eyes and hands balled into fists and you, unsure if you should whisper or soothe or if this is like sleepwalking and waking them from combat will only make it worse, and then there’s the addiction, this life itself—that ship in a bottle floating in its own stagnation no matter how high the waves rise, how much the world shakes, how many jets and helos take off or how many missiles launch into conflict from sea-sprayed decks, all of them encased by glass with only one way to come back down—and sometimes there’s a community to lean on through it all, a revolving door of other spouses and partners dealing with the same things, but sometimes it’s quiet and sometimes there’s not even a base at all, not even a net to cast into the few inches of liquid holding the ship when either of you goes overboard, and that’s when, with shaking hands, both of you need to still the bottle (before the ship capsizes), to dust off the mantel or bookshelf or TV stand, to put it back on its pedestal, to keep it from shattering.

Amy Zaranek is a Navy wife and MFA graduate living in Detroit, Michigan.

Art by Jason Gaidis.

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