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By Madison Trowbridge

When I was in high school and I’d fall into another deep depression, my father would knock on my bedroom door—a quick, gentle tap tap tap—before opening it and stepping into my bog, my thick soup of crusted pants and shirts and bandanas saturated with oil, warm and heavy air finally getting a chance to shake clammy hands with the air of the rest of the house, spilling lazily into the hallway in muddy puddles around my father's ankles, and he'd slog through the knee-deep muck of dirty laundry and chip bags and stench to sit heavily at the edge of my bed, sending a cloud of spores blooming into the air, and he’d smile at me, tired and simple and a bit sad, and he'd say, “You're rotting in here,” which was a phrase we both knew quite well, and I'd say, “I know,” taking special care not to shift my arms and release the plague of locusts onto him from the nooks between my ribs and my shoulders, and he'd put his hand in my hair, slick and sectioned into bundles of greased locks that tangled amongst themselves, but he dove his hand into the muck anyway, stroking the scalp of the girl buried underneath the thick weeds, surely in her grave, flesh rotting away as they spoke, but still he stuck his hand in and grasped for her skin, reaching, and have you heard of the bog bodies, ancient corpses preserved in peat bogs, some so well-preserved that you can take their fingerprints, many with nooses strangling their throats, lost in the depths of the marsh, and covered in stink and gunk and rot, lying asleep for hundreds or thousands of years, buried in fetid blankets quilted with peatmoss and mud, but farmers and biologists find them and bring them to museums, and one of them is known as the Bocksten Man, who is known for his well-preserved clothes and head full of hair, and I'm sure when they pulled his body from the wet peat he was stinking and falling apart, but they cleaned him up and

pulled the earth from his face and found his mop of blonde hair and loved him, fawned over his strands that were so recently covered in oils and festering debris and mud, and I wonder about the farmer that found him and what he saw when he found that strange lump catching on the crooked metal fingers of his harrow, raking through the dense moss which was suffocating the man underneath, plunging into his upper half, and I wonder if those steel fingers combed through his ratty, dirty hair as it tilled away the thick debris, kissing the corpse of a man whose father never came and wormed his fingers into the fen looking for the son that lied motionless in the quagmire, and after all this time you'd think the slime and rot would have sloughed away his skin and melted his bones and eaten away his golden hair, but those scientists carved their fingers into the stew of decay and found him, and said, “Oh my God, he's in there, there's a person in there, someone’s baby is in there,” perfectly preserved, still recognizable after all these years, just sleeping beneath the mud, and I wonder if that man’s father was able to find him today if he would be happy to see that the bog wasn’t able to totally compost his son, even though parts of his child really did rot away, organs and friends and years of youth he’d never get back, if he’d still fawn over how well preserved the rest of it is and how if you don't mind the decay you can still card your fingers into your child’s blonde hair, and I wonder if mortality didn’t exist and the child was still alive under the rot he would be grateful to his father for braving the gunk and grime to clean him up, making him get up and get dressed and taking him to get a cheeseburger, just the two of them, father and child, for peeling away the moss from his eyelids and reminding him to shower, making him go to school, loving and kissing the baby that was only asleep under the marsh, not dead, heart-wrenchingly grateful that his father loved him so much he was always, always willing to painstakingly unearth the child underneath all the rot.

Madison Trowbridge is rambling, raving, recent graduate of Ball State University with a great love for the flash nonfiction essay.

By Kik Lodge

Once you’re out of bed and seated next to me, and I’ve pretend-twisted the key over my lips and activated the pulley, jerking the ladle that rolls a golf ball down the plank and into the hole igniting the flame that burns the photo of us at Greenling (where all the lies started), once the heat has released the salted butter down the inclined plane to fuse with the thesaurus and – my favourite bit – started the domino of books that bites into spine after spine until the wood-hammer taped to your copy of Ulysses comes down on play and activates the Dictaphone where a message says ‘I am leaving you’ in every language other than English, you will sigh, propelling me upwards and out the door.

Kik Lodge writes short fiction in France; her work has featured in The Moth, Tiny Molecules, The Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, Slegehammer Lit, Ellipsis Zine, Splonk, Bending Genres, Janus Literary and Litro.

Art by Si Egan.

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.

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