“Hold onto your hearts, folks, this eminently readable tale about the redemptive power of pre-genital love is sweeter than an ice cream soda served with two straws.”
– Don De Grazia
By Don De Grazia
“Valentine” was my stripper name. One day, after my lunchtime shift at the Hun-ee-Suckle Gentleman’s Club, I put my tassels and g-string back in my locker, got dressed, and walked to catch the bus to that shooting gallery in the abandoned building, so I could trade in the crumpled dollar bills that all those gross men had thrown at me. You know–for a fix. As I walked to the bus stop, I saw a piece of notebook paper floating in the gutter. It was all folded up into a triangle, like how kids do when they play that football game where you flick the paper “football” back and forth on the desk. It reminded me of the time I played that game in 3rd grade with a boy named Tuck. Tuck liked the crusts cut off of his peanut butter and jellies. He wouldn’t eat a PB&J if there was any trace of crust on the Wonderbread. Tuck was the only boy in class who didn’t call me “Tubs” because I was so chubby back then. It was like he was blind to all that baby fat. It was like he saw something beautiful inside me. (more…)
When Veronica tells me she’s leaving, as she’s saying the words, I begin to imagine all the ways she might die before I get up the nerve to tell her I love her.
At first, they’re your average, run-of-the-mill death-scenarios. Appendicitis. Meningitis. Brain Aneurism. But then they become more specific, more uncommon. Black Widow Spider. Anthrax Exposure. Freak Nuclear Explosion. There are so many possibilities. I know them all by heart, every last one of them. These facts and statistics used to give me a certain sense of control, but now they’re turning against me. They’re making me feel helpless again. (more…)
It’s my first night of welding school. I’m standing in a simulated shop with twenty-three men. We’re all in our twenties, all go-getters who’ve taken the initiative to learn some skills to get better jobs.
But they’re all standing in a huddle as far away from me as they can get; unified in a wordless pact to freeze me out. It’s clear that they resent my intrusion—playing with fire is a macho way to spend your Thursday night but the badass factor drops down to zero if there’s a pussy in the posse who’s trying to pretend she’s one of the guys. (more…)
Every year at about this time I teach Romeo and Juliet to a new crop of freshman English students, and every year, I fall in love with the play all over again. As a general rule, I’ve found that my female students are much more forgiving of Romeo’s streak for the melodramatic (this is especially true after I show them clips from Baz Luhrmann’s version of the movie, where Romeo is played by a very young, very sexy Leonardo Di Caprio). The boys, on the other (more…)
I loved Julie Sadowski because she sat next to me. I loved Ilana Shabanov because she shared a sandwich with me once. I loved Eileen Dougharty because I saw her at the dime store and she might have waved at me. In my community of Arcadia Valley, Missouri, there were 42 girls in the fourth grade class and that year I fell in love at least 50 times. (more…)
Of all the days, it was on my birthday when I realized that Steve had a crush on the pretty girl that worked at Dunkin Donuts.
“Come up to the counter. I don’t bite unless you’re into that sort of thing,” she said.
“Sometimes,” he said to her. (more…)
You should know that if you ever go to Japan, you will never, ever pour your own drink. A carafe of crystal clear sake will be sitting on the table in front of you, and should your hand even flinch in its direction, should you even glance at your glass – your Japanese friend Emi, sitting next to you in the booth, or her kind-of-sort-of boyfriend Haru-san, sitting across from her, or perhaps your date, a ladies’ man with a glittering smile named Katsu-san, will immediately take the carafe (more…)
I’m going to make an embarrassing confession here. In seventh grade, I was majorly obsessed with a boy. Now, when I say majorly, I mean majorly, and when I say obsessed I really mean obsessed. I know being a bit dramatic about a crush at that age isn’t exactly shocking. Unless you get all puberty fueled psycho about the whole thing. (more…)
I’m six-foot-three. It’s a fact. My official medical records prove it: Matt Martin is six foot three.
I’m just tall enough to get poked in the eye by a low-hanging tree branch while shooting a coy smile at a girl. Just tall enough to resist the urge to strangle every person who puts their seat back on an airplane and just tall enough to sometimes get uncomfortable when I have to sleep next to a girlfriend. (more…)
I was almost a Navy wife. And by almost I mean that I was dating a Navy guy for a while, say two and a half years, and the two of us would talk about our inevitable marriage over and over again, never tiring of the topic. By the time I turned nineteen, we had planned our small, backyard wedding that would take place in my quaint suburban town in New Jersey. Our friends and family would be dressed in their nicest clothing and they’d all smile and give nice speeches, toasting the two of us, the love we’d sustained, throughout (more…)
May 28th 2007
Mason comes over to my mom’s house and we watch M in the basement. His hair is short, and he’s wearing a pink button-down shirt. I keep thinking that he’s way too attractive to be hanging out with me. When he walked through the door, my mom silently mouthed, “He’s cute.” (more…)
May-Nell Wilson opened the bag of Wonder Bread, bypassed the heel, took out the first slice, and then gently fed it into the side of the chrome Toast-O-Lator. She tucked a loose strand of her graying hair behind her left ear, leaned over the kitchen counter, and watched, as intently as a child, as the machine swallowed the white bread like a silver snake’s head devouring an egg. She listened to the low hum as the internal coils heated. They sounded so satisfied. (more…)
By Gary Beck
When love has departed
and only bitter dreams remain,
I think of midnight meetings
as we groped like two deaflings,
eager to touch each other,
until there was no more past. (more…)
Let’s talk about love. It’s what all the cool kids are doing, right? It is February; time for love stories and big plastic heart-shaped things swinging from store rafters. But let’s really talk about it for a second. Let’s talk about what love means to you. To me love is a fucking huge concept. It’s this stretchy, luminous thing we strive for every day. Whether or not we’re apt to admit it, love or the desire to find loves tends to be one of the biggest driving forces in everything we do. My first attempt at love was with a guy named Ethan and we were together for three whole years. That’s great right? (more…)
When I was 16 or so, my dad started suffering from seizures and strokes. In the middle of the night I would hear commotion outside my room and immediately know it was my brother calling the ambulance while my mom smoothed down my father’s hair as if it was expensive silk.
But this is an essay about love, you’re thinking. I know that. Bear with me. (more…)
Dan Deacon was playing the Logan Square Auditorium but I wasn’t feelin’ the dance floor. Instead, I was hunched over the bar, sipping on water, elbows propped on the U-shaped countertop. Concert-goers pushed past, shouting out drinks and moving on. Behind me, what seemed like hundreds of people drank, danced, and flirted to Deacon’s set, lost in his dense electro suites.
“Hey!” My friend Jeff materialized out of the crowd. “It’s crazy out there!” (more…)
“Are you coming in with me?” Nicki asks.
“Nah, I’ll wait in the car. I’ll look like an idiot in there.” Jace avoids Nicki’s gaze as he says it, tinkering with the radio.
“Whatever,” she says, slamming the door, walking across the parking lot. Between the doors, she wipes the tears that have streaked lines of mascara down her cheeks. (more…)
It usually happens in crowds, usually when I’m not even thinking about it, maybe a young woman outside of Water Tower Place shakes her head just so, just enough to make her long black hair shuffle over her shoulders, tips becoming tiny brushes painting the world around her so full of promise and possibility, head turning to reveal a soft smile curling in such a way that it’s her, I tell myself. It has to be her.
Except it’s not her. Because it’s never her. So I keep heading south on Michigan. (more…)
By Ryan Buell & Artist Abby Easley
Steven Spielberg isn’t the only guy interested in exploring the multiplicity of Abraham Lincoln’s life and death. In 2004, after President Reagan’s death, writer Kurt Kennedy became curious about one of the United States’ most despised and beloved presidents – Abraham Lincoln. He started by devouring research on Civil War embalming techniques and Lincoln’s funeral train. Laying Lincoln Down tells the story of Lincoln’s funeral train from the unexpected perspective of Lincoln’s embalmer, Henry P. Cattell, who was one of more than 300 people to accompany “The Lincoln Special” on the entire 1,654 mile funeral procession route which retraced Mr. Lincoln’s cross-country journey as president-elect in 1861. And since there is always more than one way to tell a great story, Kennedy has also created a graphic novel version of Laying Lincoln Down with artist Dan Bauer. Kennedy sat down with HYPERTEXT’s Emily Roth to discuss the research, writing and art of this incredible and complicated project.
Tommy lay in the darkness of his bedroom, tossing softly with his panda bear pillow, struggling to find just the right comfy spot to fall into a deep sleep. Outside his door his mother and father’s voices melted into the crooning of Rick James. It felt like warm honey on Tommy’s ears. The sounds and movements in the living room nudged against the edges of his dark cocoon.
With a twist to the right, Tommy found that spot. He felt himself slipping into the void…
Sleep fell away from Tommy. The sounds of the front room jaggedly ripped into the bedroom. There were screams and wails, grunts and the sound of crunching glass.
Tommy pushed himself out of bed. Panda pillow cast aside. He opened the door and ran into the hall.
Why you make me do that huh, why you make me…
Ugh, Ugh uhh!
Tommy stopped short at the rim of the room. There stood his father crying and muttering to himself, ‘why you make me,’ each word like taffy in his mouth. His shoulders hunched, a jagged gin bottle remnant in his right hand. His left hand was paralyzed into a claw.
His mother was sitting straight like six o’clock in a ripped vinyl kitchen chair. Her face pressed into a fright mask. Lips pulled low, eyes alive with fire. She was drenched to her torso in gin and blood. Her breathing was quick and shallow. It reminded Tommy of a dying bird that had crashed against his window last summer. He watched that bird, each second pulled out into an hour, until that bird’s breathing ceased. He felt cold, wondering if history would repeat. But his mother didn’t stop breathing. The middle of her scalp laid open as if it had been unzipped. The pieces of glass sparkled in her hair like diamonds in the sun.
Tommy couldn’t put into words what he felt at that moment. But he did get a picture in his mind. It was of the time he was left alone on the school playground.
Dusk hung heavy in the air, his mother and father weren’t there to fetch him. All the other kids and adults were gone. He stared at the empty play-lot and shivered. The jungle gym looked like the skeleton of some long dead beast.
Brittle, crunchy leaves blew across the ground, sounding like a cracked baby’s rattle. The metal chain of the swing knocked against the swing set pole,
Cling… chink… cling
That vision sat in his mind as he watched his mom and dad now. He didn’t know it, but the oily residue of these desolate memories would come bubbling up inside of him until the very end of his days.
Tony A. Bowers is a Columbia College Chicago Fiction Writing Department MFA graduate. He has published short stories in Hair Trigger 30, Hair Trigger 31, The Story Week Reader and several online magazines.
Time sped by after I broke up with Tommy, zipping before my eyes in little more than a blur. Before I knew it, February had turned into summer, and Jackie had turned 18 and graduated from high school. I found it hard to believe that I would be 21 in a few short months, that Jackie would be going to college, and that truly nothing would ever go back to how it used to be. Mostly, I could barely fathom that it seemed as though we were finally starting to seem normal again. (more…)
When she thought about it (and she thought about it often), Daisy was amazed that Martin was interested in her. Sure, she was a great cook; she grew her own vegetables on the farm, and insisted on the best cuts of meat at the local butcher shop, shunned store bought pie-crusts and preserved her own fruit. She had made quite a success of the small village eatery where the local farmers had lunch with their families on Sundays after church and occasionally celebrated this or that and where teenagers took their first serious dates on Saturday nights, hoping for some necking and maybe more later; but when it came down to it, one had to admit, Daisy was rather homely looking. (more…)
Does love really know no bounds? Like, really really? Like, even between Steve Tartaglione and C. James Bye? Find out. Watch their music video…
Meghan Lamb’s Violet Mints