For Ali, poetry is distinguished from prose due to its ‘germinating quality’ (following parts of Percy Shelley’s Romantic ideology). Poetry operates by way of a revealing sense that follows Heidegger’s philosophy of “En-framing” and “standing reserve.” So the ‘poetic germ’ highlights what stands latent in the manner of a radioactive lighthouse that casts upon those discreet elements inherently present within the entirety of the landscape of a work.

These elements come to be revealed by way of the reader’s location of the germ, usually by ‘smelting the total.’ Retrospectively, prospectively, or concurrently. The particular qualities of the poem will dictate the ‘sentence,’ from the ‘solace,’ of performing the smelt in its reading.

For Ali, the core of prose diverges from ‘the poetic germ,’ as she sees narrative as a web-making collection of interlinked situational facts that concern space-time in the manner of a constellation, however warped. Of the relation of prose to poetry, Ali sees prose as those spontaneous or calculated rations employed in order to articulate the distances between possible, latent poetic germs, where she follows Wittgenstein’s philosophy inTractatus Logico-Philosophicus that, “the world is a matter of facts.” The path of prose then, does not necessarily smelt these germs, and may interact with those parts that resist the smelting. The smelt is poetic. The acknowledgement of a germ is prosaic.

Calculation and measurement between a person (or poetic speaker) and their ‘godhead’— as the motivator or controller in question, as whatever someone believes they are speaking towards— by way of construction or deconstruction— in poetry, is garnered through moment-to-moment operations of receipt. These comprehensions are caused by the ‘projectiles’ of the germ, which is otherwise ‘at bay’ of direct attention.

These thoughts comprise the ideological spokes for the way Ali views the purpose of poetics in a climate of hyper-information exchange and semio-capitalism, both social and economic. Where much of our medias have us interfacing primarily with phonetic glyphs that approximate the physical ear through the eyes and rely on previously understood “clover = luck,” connections, poiësis, or the poiëtic, is seen as a paramount rejuvenating faculty for the manners of our connectivity to remain fleshy and direct.

Ali hosts a fixated interest in the syncopated oomph provided by stress and metre that bear the percussive (language-less) meaning that scaffolds the nonsense of disembodied words. She sees that stress and metre, even if happenstance, pace-make a work, so she is an avid graphic scanner. Ali also is versed in poetic forms and loves tracing the way they are attended to, discarded, or mutated, through history.



By: Lauren Turner

A woman to be impressive should wear garments
of velvet, lace, and cellophane. A woman should
dress like a window to be impressive but not one
to look through. Impressive women are windows
reflecting their lovers back at them. We intend to
say they mirror. They mimic men. They gather up
to give back. We’ve tabulated impressive on scales
of lifted cocks and metro masturbators, free drinks
and longer than average stares. If a woman is told
to smile twice in three days, then she should forfeit
her face. A woman to be impressive must practice
long division on her corporeal being. We delight in
watching women split apart. Spitting gobs of saliva
isn’t what we meant. So, knock it off. Women who
harvest everything they’ve lost into pretty bouquets
impress us. But we’d prefer if women kept missing
chunks discrete. Quit giving pet names to hysteria,
calling out for long ago selves like milk carton kids.
An impressive woman ditches herself on purpose.
We’d award straight 6.0s for such a tour de force
like judges in skating’s golden era. We shouldn’t
be here anymore. Still we remain and prosper.
LAUREN TURNER is a Montréal-based poet and writer. Her work has appeared in Geist, Arc Magazine, Minola Review, carte blanche, ottawater, and Bywords. She is a past recipient of the Diana Brebner Prize and a graduate of Concordia University's MA program in Creative Writing.
Raphaël Sandler
Menstrual Scorch Words: a Present

By: Athena Sofia Delimanolis

now my words, now that I am

glaring through to all petrifying edges of Pain
and then trying to remember
for later transcription

something about
and in fact when i do

works to waft out
but temporarily
and then a tunneling exhortation

to write that
I wanted to wrap
my tiny uterus
loaded cavernous searing cellophane marble and twist~~~tailing long

it now floats up a dying jellyfish
through my tight moonstoned right fist. it

now leaves me empty
I capitulate
I capitalize Pain
I use my words now

having swallowed two advils
to calcify and gut through
having smoked a joint
to drag out this final echo

like the jellyfish
but now
through my throat
a bubble marble burp
Athena-Sofia was born and raised in Montreal. She studied engineering and creative writing a million years ago. Now she works as a delivery driver, reciting couplets while she sits in traffic. She believes that the singularity is fast approaching and that love is real and infinite. She hopes to live out the rest of eternity wed to words.
Raphaël Sandler
Art as obsession with permanence

By: Addison Bale

As a fixation my girlfriend with her finger in my asshole. Has indeed aborted other obligations. lush      breadfruit
with beebeeQ. her cheeks overripe with the end of sleep. It took Baudelaire to make me

use my own finger      look no further      see fur
see me      a tropic of a tropic

Yes. do I lie do I steal?
Nut is split. A photograph pretends to be a statue,
this sentence pretends to starve to suck the minerals
out of beauty as it declares itself stone.
She plunges. We jiggle. One of us
jiggles. We come, we tell each other where. We stop
and clean and whip our fingers through the air
spelling: b o n e

Addison Bale is a writer and visual artist based in New York City. He is a recent graduate of the University of Vermont where he founded the ongoing poetry reading series, Lit Club at the Light Club in downtown Burlington. He has been previously published in Paris online lit Wedgie Magazine. He works at the New York Art Foundry and frequents readings and open mics around NYC.
Raphaël Sandler
The First Yellow Thing

By: Michael Lottner

The first yellow thing was an orange.
Into existence it came,
just as the fat
on a nearby steak sparkled
and caught some shoppers’ eyes.
The landscape became public,
a ceremony.
Even when it’s raining outside
and no one looks at anyone,
it could be a ceremony.
I watched a lit window sneak into
and out of my life: ceremony.
You could eat your orange in the rain,
drifting from bite to bite,
thinking how yellow the world is:  
Something tells me there’s a tiger lily
tucked away in another time zone,
in a forest on a mountain.
There, it rains often
but none of the people know  
because they’re beneath their umbrellas
thinking, as they constantly think,
about death.
It waves in the wind. It shudders in the rain.
That could be a ceremony too.

Wine Gushes out of My Glass

By: Michael Lottner

and onto the tablecloth, which I immediately recognize as cotton.
The poor thing. I’d like to think it enjoyed some mild,
good times. If it were a person,
it’d keep the complementary body wash, face lotion, and shower caps
bestowed upon it by every hotel room it were to stay in.
The waiter still hasn’t stopped pouring, and I’m beginning to suspect
he harbors a dangerous definition of hospitality.
The dining hall is full of people with plates and candles between them,
sharing water park news and looking at me.
Better yet, an astronaut looks at earth
while night friends any number of cities,
all of whose names are misnomers: City of Elegant Dreams,  
Municipality of Potent Desires, and yes, even
The Spinach Dip Capital of the World.
I fit into a tradition of not believing in the names of places
or how to get to them. Those who question how I’ve made it this far  
blame fate. But fate too is a phony name
hired to hoist a ball of elastics to divine prominence.
I follow my local USPS carrier through several treacherous seasons,
collecting elastic bands where they fall, and upon my return,
the waiter is still pouring. See, our strength lies in overestimating
the velocity of passing moments. They pass alright,
and it’s the loneliest thing in the world when they do,
but each moment contains many parts with long half-lives.
The diners understand this. They get bored of staring
and move up the echelon of conversation—from working opening day
at Splashin’ Safari to inhaling chlorine and bromine
at the West Edmonton Mall. Then the waiter turns and is gone.
I could have loved him if he’d have stayed, but these stories find ways
of never really ending. As I approach the final joy
in Borough of Seven Joys, I realize my pants are soaked.
I look around at the diners and find comfort in knowing
I’m in good hands. Hands that test water daily for IAAPA compliance.
Hands that have tended to waterslides
their entire lives, certified to provide a high standard of care
when the time comes and I need it most.
Michael Lottner lives in Montreal and is a student at Concordia University. His work has previously appeared in Soliloquies Anthology.
Raphaël Sandler
peacefully lifted

By: Nicky Tee

red bean cakes have a very
soft texture in your mouth,
when you feel like this

its like being massaged by
two angels on the corner
of your lips with the tip of
their fingers.

okay with all the events in
the world being cancelled
right now

soulless, no feelings
type of vibe

ruthless and in your
face, extra large type of vibe

out for a smoke in the balcony,
tired of socks

no shoes, hobbit style, so the
back of my knees tickle

while my jaws feel caressed
and my eyes are shaking hands

while little grains of sand
surround my eyes in a circle

i feel like the Queen,
allowing myself free and
unhindered access
to my next accommodation

a red bean Japanese cake
Nicholas Tyrakis, or Nicky Tee, is a 20 year old writer currently living in the Mile End. He tries to look at the world through his and other people's works. His writing is published in the Soliloquies Anthology 21.2 print.
Elizabeth Czer
Kaspar Hauser Gives Her Fatal Indigestion

By: Sarah Brunning

The nuclear risk assessment is overlooked by a board of respected specialists.

They are adept at the patient chiseling required,
and while wearing hazmat suits carefully can begin to examine her interior.

Her bile is rich as the yolk of a soft-boiled egg,
velvet and bright yellow, containing the hot corona of a star
and bitter acetaminophen.

Those assholes really fucked up this time, and left her a stellar remnant.
And, so it was just a white dwarf that emerged to confront the board.

You should have seen the entire fiasco,
how she became the black hole,

and then all that was left was just this pallid weirdo incanting,

                    "I wish to be a cavalryman like my father was–
      take me in or hang me!”

Shocked by a new young man,
the board took off their protective gear, reflective fabric draped on the chair-backs.
In this specific case they required the aid of a translator.

The whole process was drawn out, long and taught like a garrote so that by the end of it no one knew what they had started out doing.

When they buried her the casket was only casket-shaped as an incidental.
Also, it was so heavy everyone fell into it.

Quality of Flow

By: Sarah Brunning

She gilded in gold the bent neck of a light off in the day,
white of the bulb looking impotent and recoiled.
Quality of flow is a signature aspect in shifting
vision slightly, not all the way, towards a 24 hour cycle.

Cardinal stain on cotton, she gilded the poppy and not a lily.
The circular motion of a loading page is not gaming.
Patience leaves a tied up dog in your stomach.
Your grandmother says the word "sperm."

Relieve the anticipation with rejection and inaction,
fat boat-like biology that only responds to rom-coms.
Little pieces of skin come off, or leave, actively avoiding you.
She auto-slaps soft buttocks to gild in red the boring room.

Your grandmother sold a drawing of you as a newborn to a stranger.
Your grandmother surrounded you with egg yolks and fish.
A remediated idea of origin, aggress the bound dog under adipose.
Yellow fat over the unavailable game below.

Probably nothing will come out and she will gild only the things
and ignore the people.
Sarah Brunning is a poet and short story writer living in Montreal, Quebec.


My First Marriage

By: André Babyn

The summer before I was married I worked at the gas station on the corner of Broadway and First, running the till in the store and occasionally venturing outside to refill the squeegee water or change the trash bags. When I wasn’t working I tried to keep away from home as much as possible, and if the weather was good I took a book with me to the park and laid out on one of the benches. Odd nights I’d grab some loose change and spend an evening nursing a fountain soda at the McDonald’s. I sometimes played with myself in the toilets, just to kill time. I was pretty squirmy usually but it was never a challenge to keep my voice down, since I was used to being quiet, and as far as I know none of the other women passing in and out ever suspected what I was doing. I didn’t always find my soda waiting for me when I came back, cleared even if it was half-full, as if they knew what I was up to and wanted me to go. 
       About midway through the summer I was promoted to full-time at the station. Another attendant had his driver’s license revoked for speeding without insurance, and he could no longer make it in from Georgetown every day. Because I was never especially comfortable reading at work (unless it was absolute trash) I started doodling in a little notebook I kept underneath the counter, behind a growing pile of crusty work gloves and the mandatory Gas Station Attendant Safety VHS (this I only discovered by accident and never cared enough to watch). Sometimes customers (especially the regulars) would ask to see a page I was working on. Nothing I showed them was ever any good. My goal at the time was to save up enough money to move to Toronto and find work there. The city appealed to me not because I had some romantic notion about it being very different from the town I lived in then, but because it was bigger, and far away, and because I didn’t know many people who lived there.
       It was around the time I was promoted that I started seeing this guy who was friends with another guy I knew from high school. They’d come in late at night and act like they were doing me a favour by hanging out where I worked. That got on my nerves at first, since I was the one being paid to sit there and they were just losers who couldn’t think of anywhere else to go. Tom was a bit older than us and had a small apartment on Mill Street. He had moved out from his mom’s house when he was sixteen, and that kind of impressed me, I guess. He worked at the Fish & Chips on Townline and picked up the odd construction job from his cousin when he had the chance. His home life had been really screwed up, even worse than mine. 
       Tom’s head was kind of small, and he looked a little bit like a bird when he talked or moved around. I remember wanting to hold his head in my hands and stroke the feathers I imagined flowing from his temples. 
       The first time we kissed on his couch I didn’t know what I was doing and moved my mouth in ways that didn’t make any sense. That’s what he said. It was my first time ever. I guess because I’d seen it done in so many movies, I thought the thing to do once we finally had a rhythm down was to reach for his pants, unbuckle them, take his thing out, but he stopped my hand and told me that he was still getting over someone and that he didn’t want to rush into anything serious. Later I was to understand that I was his first real girlfriend and that he wasn’t getting over anyone, just committed to God, and that it was because of this he wanted to wait until after he was married to have sex. 
       That first time, though, he was worried I wouldn’t accept him.
       Even though Tom’s parents weren’t really around, he had an extended family and he spent a lot of time with them. And there was the church, of course, although they didn’t really call it that, and our mutual friend. 
       His cousin’s wife pulled me aside once after lunch at their place. Tom and his cousin were heading to the garage, where they would peck at some motor with wrenches and rags. 
       “So. I hear you like to draw,” she said, her hand touching my forearm. I came to understand that the pencil-crayoned floral arrangements hanging everywhere in their house had been done by her, when she was younger. Later I found out she had won a contest in high school.        “Not really,” I said.
       “You don’t have to be shy about it.”
       “Well, I draw at the gas station sometimes.”        “Tom says you’re quite the artist.”
       This made me laugh.
       “I’m not,” I said. “Not even close.”
       This cousin and his wife had been trying to conceive, but there was no baby yet. The absent baby always came up while the cousin was saying grace at the table. The baby, and the paradise that was waiting for them all after death. Some days Tom and I would stand on this cousin’s back porch, while dinner was being prepared inside, and watch the wind sweep the grass. “That’s God,” Tom would say, pointing. Sometimes I asked him to talk about what he believed in, both because I was skeptical and because I liked to hear his conviction.
       “Being a good Witness means that you never have to die,” he told me. “It means that you have a place in Paradise to live in harmony forever. That’s the promise God made to us.”         “Wow,” I said.
       By the next spring I’d moved into his place. We explained it as a transaction: I was paying more rent at home, because of my dad, and I spent all of my free time at Tom’s anyway. But I knew that Tom’s cousins didn’t approve, although they never said anything to me, and that a couple of the elders at the Kingdom Hall had spoken to Tom. They said he was in danger of being disfellowshipped. I don’t know what we were thinking. I feel like an idiot telling you now. To think that two could be so innocent. Tom slept on the couch, and about the closest we ever came to seeing each other naked was when Tom would peek in when he shut the door to the bathroom if I’d left it open.
       I got a little raise at the gas station. Tom saved money on my rent and put it all into his Hyundai. We spent a lot of time up Hwy 10, at his cousin’s. They would have us over every week or so for beer and a pot roast and maybe a game of cards. I think they were trying to set an example for us. They were worried about Tom.         I knew Tom felt bad about our living arrangements. Eventually he sent his father in Rochester a letter asking him what he should do. His father thought the obvious thing was to get married if Tom felt so strongly about it. Or for me to move out.
       Tom decided not to tell his father about the wedding until after we’d done it, on the off-chance that his father might tell his mom. He told me he liked the thought of her finding out as late as possible, after his cousins, his dad, everyone at work, everyone at the Hall, and who knows who else. His cousin and his cousin’s wife witnessed us, and afterwards we all went out to dinner. We were dressed in such a way that the server asked if it was a special occasion, and Tom said yes, that it was his birthday, and my birthday too, and that we were twins. His cousin had a strange look on his face. They don’t celebrate birthdays. The waitress brought us two pieces of cake and after the song we each took up a bit and put it in the other’s mouth.
       I realized when I was eating the cake that I was happy Tom had lied. I didn’t want strangers to know that we were married. It seemed too personal a detail to share.
       For the honeymoon we rented a trailer in a campground out in the middle of nowhere. Later that night I was kind of nervous. I asked the attendant if there were any bears nearby.         “Bears? No, there’s nothing out here bigger than a coyote, though they might give you a little spook at night if they start howling.”
       Most of our shyness had gone by then. It was a little shock to see him naked and with his thing so hard but I got over it once he stopped trying to shove it in.
         At first I’d thought I was on my period and that it was just bad luck. I’d played with myself a lot but I didn’t realize there would be so much blood when I broke my hymen. Not as much as there was. I know they tell you that’s going to happen at school. Even though we put some towels down once we figured it out, we got some blood on the trailer’s upholstery, and we were happy to see the next morning that it had dried to a colour that almost matched the fabric (though we were still worried about the deposit).        Tom’s cousin shook his hand after we went in to dinner the next day and asked us what it felt like to be a full day married.
       “Good,” I said, looking at Tom.
       Tom was ecstatic, glowing. I felt happy for him.
       I wanted to put my hand on the back of his head and stroke his little feathers, but I knew that he didn’t like it when I did that around other people.
       That night I woke up and discovered the covers pulled over me. I was still cold and I got up and put on my nightgown. Tom was on the other side of the bed, lying on his back. His little bird’s chest rising and falling. I thought of a robin that had smacked into the living room window one year after school. I went outside and found its body, dazed and prone, only the faintest motion of the chest to indicate that it was still alive.
       I got back into bed. I kept thinking about the bird. Just as I was beginning to dream, a lot of weird noises, like nothing I’d ever heard before, jolted me awake.
       One voice in the middle of the others sounded like it was trying to call for help, but it was quickly drowned out by a crescendo of howling, snarling, yips. I got out of bed and stared out the window, looking for them, but I couldn’t see anything. I stood there long after the voices died down and I started shivering from the cold.
       “Did you hear them?” said the attendant, after I knocked on the window. “It sounded like they got something big.”
       This wasn’t the same guy from when we’d registered. He was a bit younger than the other guy, closer to my age. He had a sprout of brown hair at the back of his head that looked like it would never smooth down.
       I could tell he was nervous that I was just in a sweater and nightgown.
       And my shoes, of course.
       “They really spooked me,” I said.
       “What lot are you in?”
       I told him.
       “You must have really heard them, then. That’s right about where they usually are.”        “Have you seen them before?” “No, never,” he said. “But I’ve smelled them.”
       I must have looked incredulous.
       “Not from far away. I don’t have an especially sensitive nose or anything,” he said. “They just smell really bad. Like death, I guess. You can’t miss it.”
       I looked back the way I’d come and imagined their scent riding on the air.
       “You know, I’m married.”
       I felt like I was daring him.
       “You look like you’re still in high school.” “I’m nineteen,” I said, wedging myself into the booth.
       “Oh yeah?” His voice was cracking.
       The booth was warmer than I’d expected. It was also tight in there, for two people. I put my head on his chest. I could feel his heart beating through his coat. It was going really fast.
       “I’ve been married two days,” I said.
       He put an arm around me. I watched our breath collect on the windowpanes.
       “I sometimes spend whole nights like this,” he said. “Just sitting in the booth. Nothing much ever happens here.”
       I nodded. I wanted him to be quiet.
       I made it back to our camp a little before dawn. Tom was just waking up.
       “Where did you go?” he asked.
       “I couldn’t sleep,” I said. “I didn’t go very far.”
       “I missed you,” he said.
       I sat down on the bed and put my hand on his back.
       “Poor little robin.”
       He rolled over so that my hand was on his stomach. He wasn’t wearing any clothes and he was hard.
       “Maybe after breakfast,” I said. I left again while he was fiddling with the coleman.         “Where are you going?”
       “Just for a walk.”
       “You just got back.”
       “I won’t be long.”
       I thought it would be better for Tom in the long run. I walked to the highway and hitchhiked to our apartment. I filled a duffel bag with all I thought I’d need and took it with me to the McDonald’s. By that afternoon I was on the Greyhound to Toronto. I left a note on the counter telling Tom not to worry. I told him that he could keep my last month’s rent and that if he didn’t get the deposit returned on the trailer he could leave the details with our mutual friend and I would pay it. It was my fault, I wrote. A year after that we were divorced.
André Babyn's work has appeared in Maisonneuve, The Fanzine, Hobart, Grain, Pank, and elsewhere. In 2015 he was the recipient of the Adam Penn Gilders Scholarship in Creative Writing, and in 2010 he won the Norma Epstein Award for Creative Writing. He currently serves as the Fiction Editor of the Puritan.
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Jake Jackson

By: Oliver Zarandi

A great man began to drop things. He used to be able to hold the crockery, his colleagues said. They still revered him and respected him. He has really nice hair, said one student. It’s grey but not stringy. Other people on the campus congratulated him on his kind nature and ability to pick up shy woodland creatures. His thinking, his reasoning, it’s unparalleled. But then, one day in the staff room, he began to drop everyday objects. His hands would go stiff, fingers stretched out and he would drop cups, plates, forks and knives. He would move to the other side of the room and stay in a corner. The younger staff members began to make a note of all the things he dropped: teapot, duck figurine, satchel, watch, pen, pencil, protractor, pile of books, tumbler, chair, duck figurine, wig.

By: Oliver Zarandi

Some people lose things in the war, he said. Legs, arms, eyes, ears, scalps, nipples, cocks, balls. I didn’t, he said. Was this boasting? He moved the saltshaker back and forth, but not in a way that suggested mental instability but perhaps boredom. The food arrived and he dissected the steak. I didn’t lose anything, he said. Is that right, I said. That’s right. I gained something, he said. I gained the power of the American army. I have the American army in my belt. My eyes, too. Look into my eyes, he said. I did. My eyes are made from artillery lenses from China, he said. Every night I dream that I’m in a plane, fighting clouds. He didn’t say anything else for the rest of the meal, though was it really a meal or just two people sharing a table to eat a cow at.
Mario Kart
By: Oliver Zarandi

It’s a time trial on Mario Kart. Mario is driving around the track, chasing his ghost. The kart crashes because of a banana and Mario spins around. And then the mind shifts from Mario to Princess Diana. The kart changes from a kart into a Mercedes Benz 208. And the track changes from a hyperactive mushroom kingdom into a two-lane carriageway on the Place de l’Alma. Everything darkens. And the Mercedes Benz 208 drives into a pillar at 65mph. The car ghosts over and becomes opaque. Then another Mercedes Benz 208 with another Princess Diana in it crashes into the same pillar at a slightly different angle. The process is repeated until nearly twenty ghosted time-trial Mercedes Benz 208’s are porcupined around the same pillar. Twenty groups of three corpses are in the Mercedes. There are no photographers in the dream. The road is empty, save for the Mercedes, respawned over and over again, the catastrophe playing out repeatedly in silence for an audience of none.
Oliver Zarandi is the editor of Funhouse. His work appears in or is forthcoming in Fanzine, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Hobart, Queen Mobs and Hotel.
Jake Jackson

By: Credence McFadzean

He was getting it down to this like figure-eight routine. Focusing all the pressure of (basically) everything into his small soft palms. His legs remembered the idea of kung-fu and were trying mightily to get into their stance of maximum power, so as to focus it all—all 123 of his available pounds—into those two points of being called hands. He was “really putting his back into it.” Hahaha. If his father could only see him now, he’d really know he was “going all in” on this one. Wasn’t just fucking around, this sensitive artist and idle scholar who couldn’t even change his own flat-ass tire—remember? That time he was rushing home recklessly, on account of: he was exuberant, on account of: the seminar paper on “The Ethics of Pretending You Don’t Recognize an Acquaintance in the (Potentially Likely) Event that They Attend Your Performance Art Piece” had actually gone pretty well? And so he had to call him up in the middle of the rainstorm to disrupt traffic with his huge-ass truck? Right there next to Tim Hortons, to change the fucker?
       His tiny hands were getting soaked in the hot orange-smelling cleaner stuff as they scrubbed and caressed the sleek wooden pews. It was a pretty shrewd deal, really. He was very astute and savvy for jumping on this opportunity. In the past, when he was just part of the troupe, but obviously not running the whole show, they would just practice in the craft room of the community centre. But that was certainly not ideal, no. The “room”—more so just a glorified storage closet with a sink—was just too small for their collective exuberant energy. Plus, half the time it was double-booked with these weird sketchy guys in goatees barging in and acting like they had the rights to it for their weird church groups or NA meetings or whatever. Just real desperate characters.
       But that all changed this year. This year he was the new Artistic Director, or maybe just “Show-Runner,” nothing too arrogant you know, of the troupe. And he had big changes planned. For one? He asked the bookings manager if they could use the actual theatre space for practices, you know, the actual space they’d be performing in? Like what a no-brainer for them to actually whet their craft in the transformative chantry where audience and performer would be melding together to become a unified Whole for those fleeting moments, 8pm to 10, one Wednesday out of the month? And the dude had replied to his text within mere minutes, proposing the arrangement.
       They would volunteer at the facility.
       In exchange for two whole hours practice time, they’d perform some measly tasks around the theatre, like mopping, like changing the foyer garbage can, like vacuuming the carpeted green room with a huge Ghostbusters backpack in it. Real easy stuff, 50/50, quite the hustle. He was probably the most innovative and/or financially-wise Show-Runner/AD to ever serve a mandatory term within the troupe. And his mandatory term was only just beginning!
       The theatre was actually an old church. How befitting: the new god (Art) having now ascended to its proper stature after a few years of confusion among certain clueless denizens of humanity. Things were starting to recalibrate themselves in this off-kilter world. His father would see it a sin. He would never be caught dead in this Church of Art, even if he did relent and see his kid’s troupe do whatever it was they did (he never asked).
       His hands were really burning now, but it was actually okay because it looked like he was making some serious progress on these black marks on the pews. His joints would be sore tomorrow—that familiar feeling of hard yardwork, the memory of repeated menial tasks imprinting themselves in your bones. He knew the feeling, he did. His hands could burn through grime and still be soft, and that would be okay. He knew what they were capable of.
       Once, at dinner, his father was loudly dictating the differing natures of their work, as he was prone to doing in between gulps of drink. Futilely, he tried to communicate to the old man the toll his own craft took. The cramps that came from typing for such extended periods of time. The pain and amazement of the unseen human dramas literally grasping him even if there was no discernible evidence to be read in his guise.
        He expected a typical rebuttal vis-à-vis: “I’ve done actual work with my hands/ you can see the mark of hearty soil, their rugged lines/ blood and guts from the chicken farm,” etc., etc. Instead he blurted a homophobic slur and some stuff about how his hands were irrevocably stained in their own ungodly way.
       He wasn’t sure if he purposely quoted the fucking homophobic MP who’d years ago ranted on tape at an Xmas party, or if he just unknowingly absorbed the phrase and regurgitated it anew. But the effect was much the same. His father had long ago descended into a purified pit of self-parody and there was no hope of him ever reemerging from such depths.
       But anyway, in spite of the melodrama perpetually playing itself out at home, he was still here, doing some real physical work, and that much was cool. This old church was literally awesome. In the lobby there were tin ceiling tiles salvaged from a prairie schoolhouse. The large doors had been excavated and donated from the gorgeous civic museum as soon as a technicality in its heritage status had allowed for its swift demolition. There were legit blueprints framed up in the tech room. This place bled its history. And he was here, taking it all on, embodying his ability to do it all. He hadn’t even bothered asking the other cast members to help with the volunteering because this was his own personal responsibility. He could handle it all.
       Last week, when the tall thin owner was showing him the ropes re: cleaning protocol, he’d noticed yet another curio in the form of this weird picture down in the boiler room. It was a print of a super old-timey painting, taped up near the rusty serial-killer sink and flecked with grime and backsplash. He could almost make out its caption, something about an apprentice and a master? The two figures both looked young, so it was hard to decide who the “master” would be, but he supposed it was the one standing back, watching with this look of distanced disdain. In his closed nonchalant hand he held the secrets of his trade. With his other he was brandishing a blunt object. He was content to let his presence say it all: the acute degree to which this young apprentice didn’t know what the fuck he was doing, bent meekly over his work in (only slight) conviction. The master had on a ridiculous hat, like a gnome’s, but somehow the absurd garb only intensified his intimidating stance.
       In the last episode of that ‘90s cartoon, the old gnomes, instead of dying, turned into trees. Where did the wood come from, the wood that these two were hard at work unmaking?
      But holy fuck his hands were really burning now. Jesus Shit Christ. He tried to use the sensation as an incentive to keep going, even if it was a negative one. It could be like biting into licorice to feel the tight pain in your gums, not the flavour. 
       He was still caught in his lame figure-eights. Those black marks, left from the layers of denim and leather grazing the pews over years and years, were not disappearing. Fuck, was he an idiot? Did he really not know how to perform a simple task such as cleaning an old stuffy church? This guy, what a fucking moron! Brashly circulating through the same goddamn routine, over and over and over again, wondering why he only ever feels the same way.
       His whole body, all 123 pounds of meat strung around a scaffolding of ribs and bones, was aching.
Credence McFadzean is a Canadian fiction writer and poet with an M.A. in Creative Writing. He has stories in Matrix Magazine and untethered, as well as poems in Road Maps & Life Rafts. He will be teaching English at Luther College (U of R) in Fall 2017.
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Jake Jackson

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