Category Archives: Literary

Written pieces.

Amelia Gray reads at The Foundry on 9/9

The Foundry is our literary reading and education series, bringing a host of new voices, both emerging and well acclaimed, to our fair city. Our upcoming Foundry reading, on Saturday September 9th, features Skyler McCurine, Nicholas Bredie, Jac Jemc, and today’s spotlight, Amelia Gray.

The first real literary reading I remember attending was the esteemed Vermin on the Mount, four or five years ago. Amelia Gray read, and I’d never heard of her before. To people in the literary world that’s sort of ridiculous. And to anyone who has experienced Amelia at a reading, she is a force of nature. Inspired and a little awestruck, I bucked up some new writer courage and approached her afterwards, telling her she did great. I asked her if she had any work I could find online, and she (with her three-going-on-four books at the time) smiled, so nicely, and said, “Sure, yes I do.”

Amelia’s writing is always transformative: her characters, their worlds, and their objects often turn your understanding on end. And Isadora, Amelia Gray’s brand new novel (just out this summer from FSG), while unlike anything I’ve read from her before, maintains this, gorgeously so. Isadora delves into the life of the American dancer Isadora Duncan. It’s tragic, and weird, and darkly funny. She unsettles her readers, charms and endears them, makes them laugh, and then sort of pulls the rug out a little bit.

From an NPR review of Isadora:

Gray is a gutsy, utterly original writer, and this is the finest work she’s done so far. Isadora is a masterful portrait of one of America’s greatest artists, and it’s also a beautiful reflection on what it means to be suffocated by grief, but not quite willing to give up: “In order to understand the greatest joys of life, you must do more than open yourself to its greatest sorrows. You must invite it to join you in your home and beguile it to stay.”

Read the rest of the review at NPR.

If you don’t have a copy of Isadora yet, you can read a brand new Amelia Gray short flash fiction story, “The Hostage,” published this summer at The New Yorker.

“You’re not putting a dye pack in there, are you?” he asked.

The woman turned to look at him, and he was surprised to see that his question seemed to have wounded her. “I would never,” she said. “What would make you say that?”

“I’m sorry.” He tried to think about what would make him say it; he had seen a dye pack in a movie once and knew that it could explode and make a terrible mess. There was a lot that he didn’t know about robbing banks, and every moment was another opportunity to reveal his ignorance.

Read the rest at The New Yorker.

AMELIA GRAY is the author of five books, most recently Isadora (FSG). Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is winner of the NYPL Young Lion, of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She lives in Los Angeles.


We can’t wait for you to meet Amelia Gray and hear her read at The Foundry, this Saturday September 9th at The Rose in South Park (2219 30th Street). Amelia reads alongside Jac Jemc, Nicholas Bredie, and Skyler McCurine.

Doors at 7:00 PM
Readings start at 7:30 PM!

And join us for The Foundry’s associated master class, “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing),” taught by Jac Jemc that afternoon from 2-4 PM. There are just a few spots left!


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month. Details here.


Julia Dixon Evans

The SSWA Gary Armstrong Memorial Veteran Writers Scholarship

Announcing the So Say We All Gary Armstrong Memorial Veteran Writers Scholarship, which will be offered to a veteran for each of our master classes, including this weekend’s “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing)” with Jac Jemc. Apply now: the extended deadline is Thursday 9/7 at noon. (The application is a simple Google Doc).

This scholarship was made possible by the thoughtful generosity of Gary’s friends and loved ones, and by the legacy Gary left with those who knew him: to write, to share, and to look out for one another. Here is a note from Gary’s niece:

My uncle, Gary Armstrong, would have been so very pleased to know that this gift will give other veterans an opportunity to speak their truth.  His involvement in a writing group was a godsend.  His writing gave him a vehicle to express joy, to honor the loves of his life, (especially my aunt, Anita and their cat/son Freedom), to show fondness, appreciation and gratitude to his friends, and to share things that made him laugh or made him curious.  It also provided him a place to air frustrations, vent righteous anger and work through difficulties.  He called himself ‘The Bard of the Bus Stop’, because you could find him living, learning and experiencing much that he wrote of from that very vantage point.  His writing is unconventional, like the man himself.

In his lifetime, he never had much money and he suffered many losses.  An over-fondness for alcohol limited his options and landed him on the street more than once and for long stretches at a time.  Through it all, he retained a deep humanity, a sense of fairness, of hope, and a love of life.  He knew he was a man blessed. No matter his circumstances he could always find a synchronicity to prove it to you, he could always work the experiences of his life into rhyme, or near rhyme and that sense of wonder was never far from his consciousness.

Though he did not write these words, he spoke them often and lived by them, I think he’d approve of me sharing.
“Love life, be gentle and take care of one another.” ~ (unknown)
and always remember to, “Keep the faith, baby!” ~ (Adam Powell)

Kelly Patterson, August ’17


Gary Armstrong

Spread the word about this Thursday’s scholarship deadline for this Saturday’s class, but also keep an eye out for future scholarship offerings.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member here.

Skyler McCurine reads at The Foundry on 9/9

The Foundry is our literary reading and education series, bringing a host of new voices, both emerging and well acclaimed, to our fair city. Our upcoming reading, on Saturday September 9th, features Amelia Gray, Jac Jemc, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and today’s spotlight, Skyler McCurine.

Skyler’s essay, “Black. Woman.,” which debuted on our VAMP stage in 2016, is featured in the brand new issue of The Radvocate Fifteen, our literary journal. Skyler’s writing richly touches on selflessness and the ways we struggle to understand our ourselves, our families, and the (sometimes awful) people around us.

Every time we went to the Beauty Supply store, to re-up on my natural hair care products, I whined over the Just For Me Box, a relaxer designed for young girls. I thought, “if only I too could have a side pony tail, Surely Zack Morris would fall in love with me then.” My mother fought me daily, a battle of which I am grateful for. She fought to keep me black, she made me grapple with myself until I saw my features for what they are, beautiful. I learned to not shy away from environments in which I was different and come my sophomore year of high school, she found another opportunity for me to harness my TOKEN power. She became drawn to the whitest sport in the world, threading our love of water within it: rowing.

from The Radvocate Fifteen.

Skyler is one of our hardest working and inspirational coaches and producers for VAMP and our education outreach projects. We can’t wait to feature her work on a new stage, and can’t wait for you to meet her at The Rose on Saturday the 9th! Skyler will read alongside Amelia Gray, Jac Jemc, Emma Smith-Stevens, and Nicholas Bredie. The Rose is located at 2219 30th Street in South Park. Doors: 7, Show: 7:30. 21+. 


 Skyler McCurine is redefining the look of leadership as a personal stylist, public speaker, wonder woman and founder of Le Red Balloon.  Driven by the lackluster stereotypical portrayal of women in the media, she leads workshops for teenage girls and professional women around conscious media consumption, leadership, self­ acceptance, personal branding, and of course, style. Skyler’s passion for fostering leadership, audacity, selflessness, gratitude and courage in young women led her to invitation to TEDx, SD Business Journal “Emerging Generation Award” and her recent invitation to attend the Forbes Under 30 Summit as Swiss Luxury watch brand’ Baume & Mercier’s guest of distinction.  She was a finalist for the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the social entrepreneurship category. She is a native San Diegan and received her BA in Communication Studies from Loyola Marymount University and MA in Organizational Management from Ashford University.  Her fervent belief in inclusion, red balloons, and champagne are her personal North Stars.

Skyler as Saint Sugar Hill by Alanna Airitam


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month.

Jac Jemc reads (and teaches!) in San Diego on 9/9

The Foundry is our literary reading and education series, bringing a host of new voices, both emerging and well acclaimed, to our fair city. Our upcoming reading, on Saturday September 9th, features Amelia Gray, Skyler McCurine, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and today’s spotlight, Jac Jemc.

Jac, in addition to reading, will also teach a master class for us while she is in town. To register for “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing),” 9/9 from 2-4 PM, click here. Don’t miss it.

So Say We All was lucky enough to publish Jac Jemc in Black Candies: See Through in 2013, So Say We All’s journal of literary horror. You can read her story, “Angles,” here, which is actually an excerpt of her newest novel, The Grip of ItHer writing is gorgeous and terrifying, gets under your skin quickly, and stays there.

Maybe I find a body and it’s hard as diamonds or maybe I find the body and it’s just a pile of soft bones and teeth or maybe it’s a body whose nails have screamed themselves free of absent fingers. What will a rat eat first?

Or maybe there’s no body and I just dream that there’s an answer to the low moaning we hear, and the stains that grow and shrink on our walls and bodies, and the secrets we uncover behind secrets.

Read more of “Angles,” an excerpt from The Grip of It, here.

Her book was just released to an impressive critical response earlier this August. You can read this fantastic review of The Grip of It at Electric Literature:

Jemc is telling us the story of the putrefaction of a relationship. This relationship is not clean-cut and bookended by dramatic flares — it festers, untended, a thriving hotbed for the things that break us down, cell by cell. It doesn’t choke, but lines the airway slowly, turning a once-healthy breath into the ragged pull from a plastic straw. “Bad behavior heralds ruin,” says Julie, when she is utterly convinced that the haunting must be her fault: she is unwilling to accept that malevolence exists for its own sake, but convinced it must be part of a puritanical order of punishment.

Read the full review here.

One of the things we love about Jac is how supportive she is in the literary world. Jac publishes a fascinating list of her literary rejections, which you can read (and obsess over) here.  Lifting the veil on the dark side of publishing makes us all feel a little less alone.

Here she is in conversation with Amber Sparks for The Fanzine.

I don’t usually know my characters before I write a book. I do the old “put-them-in-situations-and-see-how-they-react” test of their mettle. I might even venture to say I know them even less at the end of the book because of what you mention about how I’m sort of always living in that gap of what we think we know about another person but don’t. But that’s probably what makes a character seem more real and human, right? To have them do surprising, unexpected things that surprise both the other characters and the reader.

Read the full conversation here.

We hope you’ll come meet Jac, and take her class, when she’s in town! Jac Jemc reads alongside Amelia Gray, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and Skyler McCurine at The Foundry Reading Series on Saturday, September 9th at 7 PM at The Rose in South Park.

Jac Jemc is the author of The Grip of It (FSG Originals). Her first novel, My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, and her collection of stories, A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books) was named one of Amazon’s best story collections of 2014. She edits nonfiction for Hobart.

If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit and small press dedicated to helping people tell their stories, please consider becoming a sustaining member.

Nicholas Bredie reads at The Foundry on 9/9!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, featuring writers near and far, both established and emerging, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, anything. Our next reading is Saturday, September 9th at The Rose in South Park. Join us for readings by Amelia Gray, Jac Jemc, Emma Smith-Stevens, Skyler McCurine, and today’s feature, Nicholas Bredie.

Nicholas Bredie is the author of the novel Not Constantinople, from Dzanc Books, Summer 2017. With Joanna Howard, he is the translator of Frédéric Boyer’s novella Cows, published by Noemi Press. His writing has appeared in The Believer, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Fairy Tale Review, LitHub, Puerto del Sol, Electric Literature and elsewhere. After living and working in Istanbul, Turkey, he is now in Los Angeles with his wife, Nora Lange.

You can read this excerpt from his novel, Not Constantinople, up at Literary Hub.

Not Constantinople is a rich, witty book that is equally as character-driven as it is place-driven as it is plot-driven.

Virginia’s hand found the neck of the Jack Daniel’s protruding from one of the sacks. Wielding the square bottle like a mace, she demanded that the strangers remove themselves. She was like the one animatron in a wax museum, sloshing the liquor in small but sincere strokes while everyone else froze.

“Isn’t that, like, an eighty-dollar bottle?” the man said, unperturbed. “Are you sure you want to waste it on me?”

Read the rest of the excerpt here.

Here is a delightful Electric Literature interview with Nick by Maureen Moore, a friend who had briefly lived with Nick and his wife, Nora, while they lived in Turkey. The idea of an “ex-pat novel” is rife with preconceived ideas and expectations, and perhaps even derision from a reader, and Nick manages to throw these expectations out of the window. While reading Not Constantinople, this excerpt often came to mind:

MM: Something that contributed to that unsettling feeling was seeing everything about the city written in its American English equivalent. I think I found that to be rare, finding these foreign names of places and things in English. Even one of Turkey’s most famous writers is referred to as Mr. Cotton. I’d love to hear it a little bit about this choice.

NB: I think it is connected to the idea of undermining or disenchanting. Having the names in plain English takes some of the exoticism out of them. There are some linguistic jokes in there too. For example Mr. Cotton’s neighborhood, Orhan Pamuk’s neighborhood, is Nişantaşı. He takes some care explaining the origin of that name in Istanbul, his memoir. It translates as “target stone,” because that was where the Ottomans set up their targets to practice archery and shooting. But Nişantaşı is also the Turkish word for “starch,” and it’s a kind of tony neighborhood, so I translated it as ‘The Starch.’

MM: For the reader, I also felt it further marked Fred and Virginia’s foreignness, as if they didn’t want to call those places by their Turkish names. It further separated them from the expected experience of the place.

NB: When we moved abroad, my uncle who was a foreign correspondent for a number of years said that the most important thing you can do is abandon analogy. To not try and compare, and make your experience fit some preconceived notions. How the characters behave and how they diverge ultimately in the book has to do with how they deal with their expectations of life abroad. In real life it is a situation of extremes: there is no family and no old friends and little language and a host of received notions about the place.

Read the full interview here.

We hope you’ll come join Nick at The Rose wine bar in South Park on Saturday, September 9th for The Foundry reading series. Nick will read alongside Jac Jemc, Amelia Gray, Skyler McCurine, and Emma Smith-Stevens. Stay tuned to learn more about the other readers as we approach the show!


We will also host a master class that afternoon, taught by Jac Jemc, called “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing).” Work with a fantastic writer for a super bargain price! Scholarships available! For details, or to register, visit here. Spend the entire afternoon with your Foundry readers!


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month. Details here.

The Radvocate #15 is here!

It’s here. The Radvocate #15.

purchase it on Amazon right here!

The newest issue of our literary magazine, featuring art, fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, is here, and, on a bittersweet: it’s the last issue with founding editor Matt E. Lewis at the helm. Here’s what Matt has to say about this issue and his move:

This latest issue is filled with the kind of expression we believe in, a bold vision in a field where it is so difficult to stand out from the crowd. As the founder, I can think of no better time to step away from The Radvocate and pass on the duties to the phenomenal editor, writer, and person, Julia Dixon Evans. Far from being disinterested or tired of creating The Radvocate, I rather feel it is the most responsible option to allow a thing to grow when it is strong enough to stand on its own. …To have a project survive beyond my involvement is something I am extremely proud of.

[…]

What you hold in your hands now is a result of the support of you, the reader, and people like you who believe in things that shouldn’t work, but do. I dedicate this issue to you, and all those that would fly in the face of convention, one goofy Xerox at a time. Stay rad.

The Radvocate Issue Fifteen features poetry, short fiction, and essay from Marisa Crane, Amanda Tumminaro, Philip Kuan, CL Bledsoe, Nicole Martinez, Kevin McCoy, Cat Dixon, Brett Morris, Kathleen Langstroth*, Toni Martin*, David Henson* (winner of the 2017 So Say We All Literary Prize in Fiction), Linda M. Crate, Donna Zephrine, Elaine Gingery, Steve Tague, Nolan Hutton, Gerardo de Jesus Gurrola Jr.*, Pat Douglas McNeill II, Craig Evenson, Pouya Razavi*, Lucy Palmer, Yvonne Higgins Leach, Alex Bosworth, Jed Wyman, and Skyler McCurine.

(* indicates a finalist for the 2017 So Say We All Literary Prize in Fiction)

The issue features art by Laura Gwynne, a very rad cover by Matthew Revert, design by Keith McCleary, and the editorial guidance of Matt E. Lewis, Julia Dixon Evans, Marco Cerda, Anthony Martin, Ryan Bradford, and Leesa Cross-Smith (judge of the 2017 So Say We All Literary Prize in Fiction).

You can buy your copy right here or find us at our tent at the San Diego Festival of Books in Liberty Station on Saturday, August 26th (10-6) or at VAMP: Happy Meals on August 31st at Whistle Stop Bar (8:30 PM). Stay tuned for an official release party!


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit and small press, please consider becoming a sustaining member. Details here: www.sosayweallonline.com/membership

Our next Foundry reading series is September 9th!

Featuring Amelia Gray, Jac Jemc, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and Skyler McCurine!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, featuring writers near and far, both established and emerging, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, anything. Our next reading is Saturday, September 9th at The Rose in South Park. Join us for readings by Amelia Gray, Jac Jemc, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and Skyler McCurine.

Jac Jemc will also teach an accompanying Master Class earlier that day, “Fooling Yourself Into Writing.” Details here.

THE FOUNDRY: A READING SERIES
SATURDAY, SEPT 9th
THE ROSE
Doors: 7:00 PM
Readings: 7:30 PM
$5 suggested donation

The Rose (21+) serves beer, wine, and food. Come for dinner! https://www.therosewinebar.com/menus

Here’s a little bit about our readers:

AMELIA GRAY is the author of five books, most recently Isadora (FSG). Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is winner of the NYPL Young Lion, of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She writes for television and lives in Los Angeles.

JAC JEMC is the author of THE GRIP OF IT forthcoming from FSG Originals, MY ONLY WIFE and A DIFFERENT BED EVERY TIME. She has been the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Professional Development Grants, and was named as one of 25 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex and one of New City’s Lit 50 in Chicago. She teaches English and Creative Writing and currently serves as a web nonfiction editor for Hobart.

EMMA SMITH-STEVENS is the author of a novel, THE AUSTRALIAN (Dzanc Books), and a short story collection, GREYHOUNDS (Dzanc Books), forthcoming in early 2018. She currently serves as fiction editor of The Mondegreen and lives in New York.

SKYLER McCURINE is a personal stylist, public speaker, VAMP producer, writer, and founder of Le Red Balloon. She has performed with TEDx, and received an SD Business Journal “Emerging Generation Award” and a recent invitation to attend the Forbes Under 30 Summit as Swiss Luxury watch brand’ Baume & Mercier’s guest of distinction. She was a finalist for the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the social entrepreneurship category. She is a native San Diegan.

NICHOLAS BREDIE is the author of the novel NOT CONSTANTINOPLE, forthcoming from Dzanc Books, Spring 2017. With Joanna Howard, he is the co-translator of Frédéric Boyer’s novella COWS, published by Noemi Press, Summer 2014. His writing has appeared in The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, The Fairy Tale Review, Opium, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. He is a doctoral fellow in the Creative Writing and Literature Program at USC.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a supporting member for as little as $5 per month:www.sosayweallonline.com/membership

The 2017 Literary Prize in Fiction winner: “The Tinder Men” by David Henson

Announcing the winner of our first annual Literary Prize! The 2017 So Say We All Literary Prize in Fiction, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith, is awarded to David Henson for his phenomenal short story, “The Tinder Men.”

We’d also like to announce and honor the four additional finalists, whose work (along with David’s) will appear in the upcoming release of The Radvocate, our literary magazine, slated for mid-August.

Kathleen Langstroth, “Primary Education”
Toni Martin, “Fool’s Gold”
Gerardo Gurrola, “Gibbous”
Pouya Razavi, “Echoes”

Here’s David Henson’s story, and Laura Gwynne’s illustration!

accompanying artwork, “The Tinder Men,” by Laura Gwynne

The Tinder Men
by David Henson

Alice spends her mornings searching Tinder for men who look like they might bring weed. She makes plans to meet at a bar of their choosing, then stops responding to their texts for the rest of the day. An hour after she’s supposed to meet the men she says, Sorry, I got sucked into something.

Sorry, I got sucked into something, she texts. I got sucked into something and I lost track of time.

She’s always getting sucked into things.

Sometimes the men respond, sometimes they’re hurt and they never text again. If she hears from them that night, she texts her address. She feels better about casually inviting them over at the end of the night instead of during the day.

Alice likes redheads with messy hair. She likes sex through the underwear, around the underwear, but it rarely happens. She smokes the Tinder men’s weed and observes their many-splendored eyebrows.  

Tonight the Tinder man isn’t responding.

It’s late. Alice can smell that something organic has gone off. She wonders if the smell is coming from her. She wonders if she’s been smelling this bad all day and then wonders if she’s rotting and soon she’ll be dead like her brother, but then she sees the halved grapefruit rotting in the nearby garbage can.   

Alice always thinks she should bring up her dead brother earlier in conversation because all the best moments in life have real tension. She could say her brother died and she is destroyed, and how can this person standing in front of her ever make any kind of difference to her? Her brother died. Her faith is warped and mangled.     

The moon is wading in the black night sky, she thinks. Wading in the kiddie pool sky.

Her brother died and all she could offer was the opposite of proof. A covered up hole in the ground. A name on a stone. A story that somebody once said out loud.

The Tinder man shows up at midnight. He doesn’t mention how she flaked on the first set of plans. Alice is wearing a sweater with no bra. 

I want your body, he says as his Burberry coat slips to the floor.

The Burberries taste like Burberries, she thinks.

A woman said that to me at the gym the other day, she lied.   

She’s already very high. She says, Do you really want this body? Do you want to wear me like a bear skin rug?

The Tinder man ignores her and reaches for the joint between her lips. Later they burn a pizza together and toss pornographic playing cards across the room, trying to get them stuck in the grates of her tiny space heater.

Alice leans back hard into the last church pew. She wants to snap it in two. The wedding ceremony has been dragging on forever. The groomsmen are wearing pastel bowties and the whole thing feels kind of divorcey.

Alice has always believed that weddings are places of conflict. Her parents met at a wedding. Her parents started her family at a wedding.

Alice would have taken her brother as her plus one but of course he died. She promises that from now on, when people die she’s going to start saying they murdered themselves. They murdered themselves with cholesterol foods. They murdered themselves with life.

Alice’s brother murdered himself with the pointless thoughts that dripped into hardened stalactites in his brain.

Her friend Pat is her plus one, but not really. During the reception he mostly chats up old ladies next to the buffet. She watches him from the singles table. The special catering candles heat the silver trays all lined up behind him. She watches her friend like he is a fantastic film that will never end.

Outside, the black ocean sky is raining. Alice squints through the cold hotel window. She feels like a person looking back on childhood. The role of events in life change over time, she thinks, and she hugs that thought all the way up to her discounted room on the seventh floor.

Two days later Alice returns to work. She remembers that she was promoted just before her brother died and she took a long break. She isn’t sure whether or not she’ll be expected to be the manager when she gets there.

Every day is exactly the same at McDonald’s. Soon they’ll all be robots. Well, soon they’ll all be at home and robots will do the work. The government has no plan for how to deal with that. The government is not for them. For now, the government is against them.

She’s still sitting in her car behind the McDonald’s even though her shift ended hours ago. The engine is on. The car dings continually to remind her that she’s not buckled in.

The moon is waiting in the ocean black sky. The moon will come when you call it. The moon will be sucked under by the currents.

Alice takes her hand off the wheel and reaches into her hair. She gently pokes around and tells herself she is searching for evidence of her brother’s murder.

She thinks about how her brother used to say that the world is a collaboration of symbols that were never meant to add up to a meaningful thought. She wonders if he thought that thought on the day he died. She wonders if people have any good thoughts on the day they die.

The emoji for the world is a blue circle with some green splatters on it. She texts three of them in a row to Pat. Pat texts back a yellow thumbs up and a red apple. She takes a blurry picture of herself biting her thumb in her dark car but she doesn’t send it. She lets a few drops of blood drip onto her rubber phone case, then rolls her thumb in it. When she pushes the button for the dashboard light, there’s no fingerprint, only a smear of pale blood.    

When she gets home she signs up for a Christian dating website. She lets self-identified Christian men buy her dinner every other night for a month. They spend hours at restaurants named after days of the week. There isn’t any sex. After the first few dinners, she starts imagining she’s going on auditions to be these men’s mother. She hears it in every man’s voice. Are you willing to take care of me? She knows some of them have weed but none of them offer any.

She takes half of her dinner home in a styrofoam container and eats alone the other nights.

At work she fades into the background, watching as one employee at a time is replaced by an electronic equivalent. The new cashiers are cartoon faces on two foot tall computer screens. Besides pushing the power button, there’s nothing else she needs to do to manage them. Pat meets her in back and they smoke the last of his weed. He has also recently been replaced at his job by a car that drives itself.

Pat is staring at a flashing sign advertising the triumphant return of a pork sandwich.

Isn’t it nuts that little kids eat food every day even though they don’t know why they’re doing it? he says. Or, like, cavemen ate food their whole lives and they had no idea how food works.

They got hungry, she says. So they ate.

But they were just going around and finding stuff they could shove into themselves. That was like the whole point of being alive back then.

Before they unplugged him, machines performed all the normal human functions for her brother. Different sized tubes ran to his mouth and his wrist, secured with medical adhesive tape. His last meal was humid air and IV fluid.  

It sounds lovely, she says.

That night, Alice receives an email informing her that surveillance cameras caught her smoking behind the McDonald’s and that she’s fired. The email is from the cameras. The surveillance cameras are the ones who fired her.

It was only a matter of time, she thinks as she drops her nametag into the nearby garbage can. One of the thoughts that haunted her brother taps her on the shoulder but she deftly ignores it.  

The moon had been growing bigger each night, and now the moon was the whole sky, and you had to hope that a crater was perched over your bedroom window otherwise it would be too bright to sleep.

She’d been the one who picked her brother up from the therapist after his court-mandated appointments. When he told her that the only fix for his brain would be shutting it off, she’d suggested he drive an hour to an isolation tank she’d read about but had never been to. It cost seventy-five dollars to sit in the dark of the isolation tank for one hour, floating in the extra-buoyant liquid. That seemed like fifteen dollars too much to spend on herself. She wishes she’d offered to pay for him, but what difference could that perfect dark really have made?  

There were no more jobs to be had. Alice put a thin rubber band around the stack of unopened bills on the kitchen table. The thermostat hovered at uncomfortable temperatures.

She was mad at herself for being jealous of her brother’s carefree deadness. He wasn’t around to laugh at her or tell her she was being stupid, so she had to keep thinking that same thought over and over. 

Eventually all she could think about was that her problems would never end, but of course that isn’t true for anyone. Everything ends, but the brain has no use for finality, so it chooses to forget the lessons of dead brothers.

Instead, things were dire for a while, and then Pat borrowed money from his father and lent it to her. In fact, they all borrowed money from each other, all the people around, and they borrowed other things, and everyone knew everyone. Alice borrowed money from her dead brother. She wore his winter hat and borrowed the smell behind his ears. The government borrowed their labor, which they lent for free until they were tired and needed to sleep under the glow of the moon. The moon borrowed the night sky, and during the day they all borrowed the rays of the sun. They borrowed memories of each other and played them in their heads when they were having trouble sleeping at night. Viruses borrowed their health and they slept on their couches with the TV on. The atmosphere borrowed their breath and returned it promptly. Or didn’t.

Everyone and everything was so busy borrowing that no one thought to keep track of who owed who, and they forgot what debts were, and they forgot to renew their vehicle registrations, and whenever they felt a certain feeling inside their stomachs, they went out and found pieces of the world to put in their mouths and chew and swallow.

They chewed and swallowed, chewed and swallowed the moon white sky.


David Henson is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His work has appeared at Fluland, Big Bridge, and won the 2016 Problem House Press short story contest. He writes and records music under the name Shadows on a River, which can be heard at shadowsonariver.bandcamp.com. He tweets @davidbhenson


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Walk N Roll: A neighborhood storytelling collaboration with Circulate SD in Barrio Logan!

Announcing a new project with our friends at Circulate San Diego: Walk N Roll. We want to hear stories about neighborhoods for an evening of storytelling in Barrio Logan. What makes your neighborhood great? What sets it apart? What definitive moments have happened to you there? What does your neighborhood mean to you? Tell us about the heartbreaks, the bad decisions, the mistakes, the meals you shared with lost friends. Tell us about your home. Tell us a story.

The show is Wednesday, August 9th from 7-9 PM at Ryan Bros Coffee (1894 Main St) in Barrio Logan.

Send us your personal narrative stories, roughly between 1000-2000 words, though we will consider shorter or longer works. Try us!

If your story is accepted into this collaborative project, you’ll receive one-on-one feedback from an editorial writing coach, participation in a group critique session, and one-on-one performance coaching from our So Say We All teaching artists, and then perform your story at a collaborative event.

Submit here: https://sosayweallonline.submittable.com/submit/89511/walk-n-roll-barrio-logan-and-elsewhere-neighborhood-storytelling-project

For our general submission guidelines, read this: www.sosayweallonline.com/submissions

We look forward to reading your work and seeing you on our stage!


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit, please consider becoming a supporting member here: www.sosayweallonline.com/membership.

VAMP: Living With Sin is Thursday June 29th

Our next VAMP storytelling showcase is coming up on Thursday, June 29th at 8:30 PM at Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. You can always find us there the last Thursday of every month, to tell you our favorite stories based on a theme, selected blindly from a competitive field of submissions and workshopped, edited, and coached throughout the month. And this month’s theme is LIVING WITH SIN.

We all do it. Every last one of us is a sinner somehow. Some of our sins are private, some are pretty obvious, and sometimes we only sin in the eyes of a select few opinionated groups. Or maybe it’s something to do with, like, a god or something.

Whether our sin is worthy of a GOD HATES XYZ sign at a parade or whether it’s just worthy of decades of repression and quiet misery (or…pleasure?), we’re here to tell the stories.

Featuring:
Frank DiPalermo
Joe Fejeran
Hunter Gatewood
Tenley Lozano
James McCullock
Milo Schapiro
Jennifer Stiff

AND for the second time this year, we are so excited/humbled/near-fainting to have a show produced by the dream team of Skyler McCurine and Jonathan Hammond

[live show image credit: Matt Baldwin]

VAMP: Living With Sin
Thursday, June 29th
8:30 PM
Whistle Stop Bar
2236 Fern St
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 284-6784
$5 suggested donation
http://www.sosayweallonline.com

If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider supporting us and becoming a member. Details on our membership page here: http://www.sosayweallonline.com/membership/

[poster image: Charles, Geoff, 1941, copyright National Library of Wales]