By Ellie Gordon

the arrival of Nick in his famous burgundy Buick, recalling the time he ran over my foot when I attempted to tuck-and-roll because he was in a hurry and I refused to make him slow down on my account, the assured thunder of a Chrysler 426 Hemi drumming through his hood, the elastic hole at the bottom of the rear passenger side door, my seat a velvet pouch wedged between the upholstery and child lock, my head rested against the window warmed by July’s sun, the hum and rhythm of rigid pavement rumbling up from the grooves of new tires through my feet to the back of my neck, peace, comfort in knowing Nick became a master mechanic despite only recently graduating from our community college’s automotive program, the miracle (a word I hadn’t used with any sincerity in ten years and two days before tonight) he never got injured when he’d switch to cruise control and climb onto the outside of his car while a friend took hold of the steering wheel, how he was now defying science and God by drifting around dirt road corners with the Buick’s whole back half teetering along the edge of the cliff skirting Lake Whatcom, fording six feet of water without flooding his transmission, ascending the Chanterelle hiking trail switchbacks at 60 miles per hour, me being unable to say anything else when we reach the viewpoint except "In my dreams I die in accidents,” the Douglas Firs blackening against the sunset, Nick getting sentimental for once and saying "Even though the world is going up in flames, I'm going to miss the place,” how I want this to mean he’d come to terms with his ugly demise, the jack giving out beneath the weight of his girlfriend's ride and crushing him, the warmth of his body when I pull him into my arms, his light yet lasting kiss on my cheek, losing him again when I wake, memory as usual blurring first at the edges, forgetting Nick was a notoriously irreverent jokester, that the dream was less a chance for me to say goodbye and more an elaborate gag where he waits more than ten years and two weeks after death in order to surprise me by peeking over my shoulder as I write for the first time the part where he kisses my cheek, his bold voice booming “WOW GAAAY,” my laughter confined yet absolving as prayer.



Ellie Gordon has published work with Hobart After Dark, Daily Drunk Magazine, Wondrous Real Magazine, and others, but is mostly known for their appreciation of werewolves.


Photo by Jason Thayer.

By Ania Payne

A frail gray mouse runs out from underneath the fridge and I chase it outside, the dogs chasing behind both me and the mouse, and a man who lives in a neighbor’s shed across the alley sees us and opens our gate with his good arm that’s not in a cast to let himself into our backyard, the bottoms of his Batman pajamas dragging through our muddy yard because we’ve finally gotten some rain–it’s been so dry–and he smokes a cigarette with no hands and as he tells me how much he loves our dogs (especially our husky) while the cigarette bobs up and down in the corner of his mouth but never falls out, I hear his own husky howling from inside the shed that he lives in–I think your dog is crying, I say, I’ve got a Zoom call in fifteen minutes, no, you can’t come inside because we’re social distancing, yes, the dogs like you very much, c’mon dogs, gotta get to that Zoom call, yes, my husband has your phone number written down somewhere, I’m sure he’ll text, ok bye, and I drag the dogs inside and he shuts the gate but I see his eyes still peeping through the holes in our wooden fence while his own dog continues to howl from his shed, and I wonder if we’ll all emerge from the pandemic like that–in our pajamas, struggling to read social cues (we had fooled ourselves into thinking we were so stable)–and back inside the house I open my computer but I don’t really have a Zoom call, just remorse, and the dogs chase the cats upstairs, but they’d be thrilled to go back outside and get pet by the neighbor again, they’d greet him with such pure dog joy.



Ania Payne lives, writes, and teaches in Manhattan, Kansas where she lives with her husband, Great Dane, Husky, and backyard chickens.


Art by Jeff Kallet.

By Nick Olson

It started out with the bowl cuts, obligatory for that time period, every kid the same, and then the buzzcuts via wall-plugged clippers, sweaty in the bathroom, hair collecting on skin and floor, and your dad trying to teach you how to shave, years before you’d shave legs and pits, years before the eventual gelled-up spikes, insisting it’s not a phase, and the fascination/excitement of longer hair, even if you did feel compelled by gender norms to wear it up, make it shoot out of your head in all directions the way you wished you could shoot out of that tiny town, to just be Away, and then the experimental bleach-blonde tips, the duckbills, buzzcuts again when those didn’t work out, and the pain in your stomach when it was all gone, hair in the trash, later that year kissing a boy and not telling anyone, hearing in your head the chorus of slurs that the other boys would use, had already used before, and then doubling down, growing it out real long, teenage Catholic rebellion at the all-boys school, being taught that you’re an abomination, spending religion class picking apart the dogma, forcing questions your teacher can’t answer, but doing so well on homework and tests that they have to give you an A anyway, then growing it till it breaks dress code and you’re forced to bring out the clippers again, making it through somehow to graduation, to distance, to trying every style imaginable, getting a job and making a little money and saving up and abruptly moving very far away, and kissing more guys, letting the shame curl away like smoke from the cigarettes you’d share with them, sickly sweet, and not cutting it anymore, not a single lock: hair down to your shoulders, hair like a queen of the silver screen, and months later, long after the move, it was finding those old clippers in a long-forgotten box, finding them, and taking them away, and oh how beautiful it was when they disappeared, when you let them drop, finally, into the trash.



Nick Olson is the author of Here's Waldo, Editor-in-Chief of (mac)ro(mic), and a Chicagoland transplant now living in North Carolina who's been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, Fiction Southeast, and other fine places; find him online at nickolsonbooks.com or on Twitter @nickolsonbooks.


Art by Jay Baker, an artist from Colorado, living in Oregon by way of New Mexico; he records music as Tom Foe.