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  Table of contents Issue Twenty-five HUNGER AND MEMORY



he inflatable boat, a worn plastic yellow and black, bumped against the peeking, fitful black stones of the Arkansas River for most of the night. Fat bottomed dragonflies swarmed each other in the bristly humidity, each cluster attaching to the acrylic, bright colors of this exotic new thing. The sun was strong but still premature.

Beetle clusters had eaten her cheeks down to marrow bits. The boat was close enough to the shore for that. Whoever stuffed her in there had also rubbed flour in her cheeks; either that or she had frozen quite cosmetically, which he doubted. Kent called for some coffee, and a dwarfish member of the search party with a Tom Selleck mustache got him three cups.

Her hips were bruised in starry trails. Two gold coins were meticulously squeezed between her purplish, gangrenous eyelids.

He plucked one out, tracing the design with his finger. It was curious; it looked like ancient Greek writing contrasted with some weird space mutant, a salad head on the top and black dots as eyes. It flashed with an alloyed gleam that blinded Kent for a moment.

When a corpse got to looking that way, the skin would puff out in bulging hues, and when Kent got closer to look for hair, fibers, anything, he thought about the seasons. At first, he’d thrown up violently, retched in his throat, spaced out at home on the couch while pretending to read the paper or go over Noe’s homework with her. Now he reminisced.

He thought of one night he and Barb had spent in Canada near her old man’s camp when they’d seen an Aurora Borealis. Lasted a good half hour. Though Kent pretended to be just amazed and awed, it made him nervous. How many colors coagulated in the sky’s thin, blue canopy every day? How many didn’t you see?

How many saw you?

He looked into the river.

A biting sensation began somewhere in his forehead, as though a scalpel happy optometrist on high was having a little fun with his soft tissue. The sun deepened. He had a terrible sense of thirst and bone-deep hunger. He grew stiff somewhere, and his heart leaped uncontrollably in his chest.

Kent woke. He’d had another “nocturnal” panic attack, though there was nothing exclusively nocturnal about them anymore.

He’d gotten it in his mind that tomorrow wouldn’t come. He’d been doing this more often lately; fantasizing that everyone he’d known ever known would give him a pass for suddenly ceasing to exist; that a fast-acting slumber would wind around his brain and put him down with a struggle far more merciful than any the actual world could offer.

The doorbell’s rabid pulse destroyed his last bit of remotely sound sleep. It was 12:00 pm on Tuesday, and he had Noelle, his 16-year-old daughter, for the rest of the week.

A month ago she’d been arrested four blocks from her Fort Knox public high school for trying to buy an ounce of coke from a state-employed hall monitor. “I’m sorry,” he said to Kent, giving Noelle a hopeful-sort-of-she-might-still-might- make-it-look.

Though Kent had always played into this Cop-and-Robber, bully culture very well, they’d never caught onto his private laugh at it all. Growing up, Kent had never used the police to tattle on anyone; indeed, his first instinct was to find out the local robber’s motives rather than obsess about the victim or rush to their aid...

Shouldn’t the barely shaven five o clock shadow have given him away? Barbara had barely gotten the call from the school’s “Security and Grievance department” before blowing up his answering machine and Facebook messages with expletive-filled variations on her yearlong theme of Kent being “the straw hero,” “an absentee father who needed his cop friends to play Big Daddy.”

Perhaps her nearly marriage-long charge of Kent being a “little old man” was slowly coming true. The idea of even bringing up cocaine in school scared him a bit. Decades of private schooling could do that.

Noelle’s hazel green eyes scanned Kent with an affected blankness. “Hi, Dad,” she’d muttered, as though making a phonetic donation to a lost cause. Her black tank top barely touched her bellybutton, and she was actually wearing black vinyl pants. Wasn’t that more the prerogative of a Law & Order screenwriter than something you’d see a teenager wear?

Kent experienced a momentary surge of anger that he no longer had any say over the way his daughter dressed. Barbara was in charge of that.

“Your supercop friend followed me today after Carol decided to take my shift at Rite Aid. Parked his little VW with the blue light on the shitty hood. Followed me for a little bit. I’m sure he was just trying to keep me on the straight and narrow, though.”

As she kicked off her heels on the mahogany and slammed the door with a few snide remarks he didn’t bother listening to; Kent remembered dozing in the belly of a Seattle forest two years ago.

“Apple Cheeks” was Kent’s first real bit of recognition in the bureau; two days into the field assignment, he’d gotten the killer’s profile: a narcissistic misogynist who worked in the medical field; a recently divorced middle-aged Doctor, it would turn out, who also played Angel of Death when the lights got dark in his rich, Chelsea hospital. None other than Agent Bob Reichert, a sort of legend in the crime analyst field of the bureau showed up and told Kent this was the quickest ID he’d ever seen.

For lack of anything else to discuss and with impeccably bad timing, the starstruck Kent had asked Reichert about his meeting with Ted Bundy, who had volunteered to “help” Reichert and his mentor Bob Keppel capture Ridgeway with his “insights.”

Reichert froze up, as though Kent had just mentioned the last name of his wife’s divorce lawyer. “No one you’d want to meet,” he’d said matter-of-factly, letting out a long, funereal sigh, and congratulating Kent again for his spot-on profile.

The following morning he’d been relieved to find an e-mail from Reichert asking if, after the identification and arrest of “Apple Cheeks” as the 25-year-old serial killer was later nicknamed by the media for his boyish countenance, they could write a book together on being analysts, hopefully dispelling the public’s romantic myths about “FBI profilers.” Reichert had quite a bit about the past he needed to “get out of his system.”

Watching him talk night after night about Bundy and Ridgeway on 20/20, 60 Minutes and even, Kent had noticed, some of the more off the wall YouTube Radio shows run by real weirdos, Kent realized “ getting it out of his system” would be impossible. Some dirt was so deep, so dark, lay so far under the fingernails that the only way you could make a clean person aware of it was scratching them. Hard.

Reichert’s blue eyes would grow beady, dark with a barely concealed dissociation as Barbara stood in their retro 70’s, brown fondue tiled kitchen, offering her theories about Bundy probably having a “mean girlfriend they just didn’t know about,” or Kent’s personal favorite; “he’d probably gotten the belt one too many times.”

Barb had always been a self-described “Pollyanna,” a quality that had helped balance their relationship out. The first two years after she graduated, things were still exciting. He was a trainee making 50,000 a year, and Barb’s big dream was to be a TV news anchor on local television, bringing the “hot stuff” to everyone in their rich Colorado suburb of Littleton.

A year later their small, sacred college became a thing of the past for Kent. He was hired by the Bureau as an analyst with an emphasis on violent crime. There was no such thing as “an FBI profiler,” as the public seemed to understand it, though the media-perpetuated myth that certain cops were quasi-mystics chasing around serial killers was what initially attracted Kent.

She would come home with stories about the local mayor’s affairs, break-ins, and the occasional crime of passion. Kent’s stories were different.

The first time he came home with a badge and an Alfani suit (he’d bought the Hoover trenchcoat) she’d gone nuts, asking him about every detail before turning in for the evening pleasantly early.

Time marched on. Only when a case ate at him to the point of insomnia, muscle spasms or extreme irritability towards Noelle did Barb ask with interest. Even then, an unspoken understanding existed that Kent, the hero, shut his mouth when the inevitable “Hmm” escaped from her side of the bed, denoting that she’d heard enough. He couldn’t blame her.

The best time of his life was chasing a young commercial model named Barbara Harmon around their blase Colorado community college campus. The place couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 white buildings, bushes, small lights and red brick buildings with small classrooms if you included the demolished Campus Center.

Last year he’d driven by it a couple of times on his way to the local killer’s “Hallowed Indian burial grounds” as he called it after being sweat by two detectives brighter than most. (More than one copy of “Poltergeist” had been found in his apartment--that, and an old paint can and small bottles of lube.) The murders were one of the few things they’d shared, him and Barbara, over the years.

A stupid, psychopathic teenager (immediately mistaken for a true serial by the media, of course) had nailed his “best friend,” a none-too-bright classmate in the cranium with a trenching shovel for posting his dick on Facebook, and cut the computer owner’s femoral artery later that night while his five-year-old son slept in a crib he’d gotten from Goodwill that morning.

“Fishface Billy,” as he was known by neighbors and friends for his rigid stare and the dark circles around his eyes had dumped them in badly dug ditches a couple miles from the buildings where Barbara and Kent met.

She’d reported on it, held the hands of camera-hungry yuppies young and old in community vigils all around Littleton. He’d found them, tagged them, and put them in tiny bags resembling nothing so much as the Ziploc Storage Bags Barb bought most Saturdays for leftover fruits, veggies, and meats.

Kent promised himself that for Noelle’s sake the two would always manage to find common ground no matter how distant their careers were. He’d promised himself his work wouldn’t consume him. He’d failed them both, and in the process had turned a now hellish career into a vocation.


Kent hated flying. The sensation of steady elevation gave him horrible nausea, panic attacks, and cluster headaches. Wearing his soiled FBI badge with his byte sized photo didn’t give him a thrill, just a mild sense of entitlement. People still stepped out of the way for him, some would kiss his ass, but he no longer trusted those particular folk. They were just the same kids who’d snuck to the principal when he’d hidden a Tales From the Crypt comic behind his textbooks all grown up.

Either printer ink was running very low in Northwest Washington, or not much was known yet about “Cain” Carwin Elliot, the youthful guru-killer they wanted him to make.

He was from Pikeville, Kentucky but the local high school had no records of his attendance. He lived in a trailer community, Carwin had still managed to make friends, though: 10 boys up to the age of 18 had confessed to luring 16 classmates into the wooded areas of their small, hick town and murdering them.

Sometimes they used hunting knives, other times cub scout knives; at any rate, their success was always dependent on the trust of their prey. Most were adolescent girls, ages 15-18 with the exception of a disabled young man named Glow (the “the light of his mother’s life,” the note read under his photo as a baby) who was 14 and suffered from Down’s Syndrome.

His mother sobbed violently while expressing gratitude to the police for finally bringing her boy home. Staring at the photos of his dismembered body, she couldn’t decide whether to give the police present a cup of green tea or keep crying. This chronic indecisiveness gave way to her asking if she could hold one of their weapons, as her husband had been gone for long enough that she didn’t feel safe at all, especially now, living all alone. Or maybe, assuredly, they’d been mistaken about Glow. She was taken to the local crisis center with a small struggle.

They must have told him he was getting chocolate or that they were friends. Or maybe he was lost, and they told him they’d take him home.

The crime scenes themselves didn’t contain anything all that unusual, except for the positioning of the bodies: their legs were fractured and broken, bent underneath their stomachs. There were generous bitemarks on each one; the kind of bites a wild pig might leave. The girls, in particular, had been ravaged, their nipples were torn off and inner thighs riddled with small, razorlike nips.

The participants were, more predictably, not the brightest people on the planet. All claimed that Carwin Elliot had approached them with the promise of drugs and something “real different” in the valleys and hills around their boring town if they would only bring a companion. At first, he talked about camping trips, Bible studies. Then he’d promised a fallen angel’s appearance, and not just any fallen angel; the Devil himself.

There was talk of an androgynous reptile and nameless rituals. Carwin was not a liar; each of them was emphatic about this. Things did happen, they’d said, but they couldn’t describe what or how. Moreover, they wouldn’t describe what or how even when offered plea bargains. Nor would anyone testify against Carwin for any kind of recompense, which was very unusual. The victims of the “camping” trips got it the worst. Some were so bitten that their teeth had to be used for identification.

There was no direct physical evidence tying Carwin to anything. Meaning none of his DNA had been found near the dump sites. A Texas jury had convicted him all the same of 8 counts of conspiracy to commit murder. Cain would have to die a couple of times to see the light of day again.

His photo, at least, was clear.

Carwin was obviously the product of inbreeding.

His pale cheeks were mealy, unnaturally round and patched with black blotches. He cheeks were pockmarked in the oddest places, bits of his pallid flesh settling on small indentations. The growths, or whatever they were, were the size of golf balls. He didn’t look a mite like an 18-year-old. He looked more like an anemic ragdoll. There was only a faint hazel border in the back of his eyes. The black of both eyes shone like one wet, perspiring moon.


With no food and one last White Russian in his belly, Kent floated through the crowded Texas airport, stopping in a restroom to gobble a few Xanaxes that hadn’t been reduced to powder by his ample backside. A taxi was waiting to take him to Jefferson Penitentiary.

The prison was monolithic in the most oppressive sense of that word. Cube upon cube of corroded, rusty concrete rose in the sky, wreathed every few feet with rotten leaves and trail bits of rotted cuffs which once fit around the wrist of a murderer, rapist, thief, or an authentic neurological freak like Cain. None had so much as made a whisper in a thousand years. These were the only remnants of every day they had ever lived.

The humidity of a sweltering Southern night began to settle itself on Kent’s bone tired, jet-lagged body. “20 bucks,” the driver muttered weakly, legs tapping with an exaggerated enthusiasm to John Denver’s “Summer Breeze.”

The tall guard was quiet as he guided Kent toward the upper tier where high prisoners were held. Kent made some small talk about how old the place was. And why would anyone have spent this much money on a prison in the first place?

“Hrmm,” the guard replied, his lips twitching spasmodically.

Carwin was crouched in the corner of a cell about the size of Kent’s shower, or maybe a good half of it. The encephalitic curve of his skittish head was buried in peeling blotches of lime green, dark yellow tiling of the small cell walls. His curly shocks of hair lay in contrast to his blood-starved, ghastly skin. He was whispering and cracking his knuckles with a violent compulsiveness. They were long, pale hands, and the tiny, calloused yellow spots on his palms were rabidly bitten and picked at. Kent wanted a better look at the bite marks.

What was it Ray Milland had said in The Man With The X-Ray Eyes? He couldn’t recall, but he remembered the actor tearing his eyes out. Eyes just like Carwin’s.

“On each cluster, in the nickel ring of each river and stream, a thing should be arranged proper for the stars to shine in. Don’t matter what kind or how.”

His lumpy cheek shifted; his black eyes squinted sternly from every angle. “This is so what sups and hops in these bleeding strata, winding fields, might be pleased... pleased rightly. There have always been vassal for what hops, and sups. I am a one. A woodsman.”

“You’re a what, Carwin?”

“Ever see a armadillo dyin in the moonlight? On a rock in the moonlight? With no one wantin to save it? The way a small mouse can be flying through the air and land right in the mouth of a farm cat?”

Carwin’s eyes lit with a preacher’s zeal when he spoke of suffering. He was curious about some of the more generic questions; did Carwin hate everyone in his hometown? Was he suicidal often? Had he tortured animals? Where were the records?

Kent had been listening to Carwin’s pipsqueak soliloquy so closely he’d momentarily forgotten the first rule of chatting with serials: establish your dominance. Make sure they know you’re in charge. And if he’d ever made a murderer in his life, he was sitting in a room with one. Carwin was a killer.

“Carwin, I’m Agent Kiehl from the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” he said, extending his hand. For some reason, Kent felt no need to rise from his corner of the tiny cell. “You’ve got a severe sentence, Carwin. No promises, but there’s a--”

“We’re shadows on a wall. Pirouettes. Burnt before the real sun shiiiiines... or the real dance starts or the real stars shine. I and a few likened to me prepare a place where these things need fall. Don’t no one wanna see or eat at it when it happens. In his spaces the necessary grime is ground. The stars have to shine. What SUPS, hops!” Carwin made a popping noise by sucking in his cheeks and leaping just a bit on the balls of his feet.

Studying the scoliotic curvature of Carwin’s spine, the slight hump towards the front where his knotted spine merged into his neck, Kent noticed the small braids in his wild shock of jet-black hair; almost like dreadlocks.

Noelle had grown those when she was 14. He remembered Barb bursting into hysterical laughter after complimenting her, assuring her she liked “the new look.”

Kent called her Little Orphan Annie, and she’d burst out giggling and crying. All three of them had cracked on each other, breaking the tension by watching one of Noelle’s favorite movies, “The Shining.” She was always precocious; he’d caught her with a VHS copy of it when she was twelve. Then, under a plastic tea set, she had the book, one of the older move tie-in editions that had Nicholson chasing Danny with an axe.

Those were the days.

“SUP” Carwin bellowed. The jumpsuit was too long and wide for his skeletal frame.

Kent’s head hurt. What was pushing itself out?

Rumplestiltskin. That character Noelle loved on some show.

Carwin’s black fingernails scratched the isolation prison window that was barely 4 feet wide. His cheeks wrinkled in a pink blush of voluptuary appetite, lower lip in a pout. “Kinkle, kinkle little star.....”

Kent had listened to twenty disturbing confessions in his day; most FBI agents weren’t like cops, and Kent had spent more time behind a computer than he ever had at crime scenes or in cells with guys like Carwin. He enjoyed fieldwork most of the time except when he really, really didn’t. Judging from his shortness of breath and the steadily increasing sense of his heart wetting itself with each ever quickening thump, this was the latter.

The guard outside was brighter than most, at least intuition wise. The buzz sounded. Kent rose and immediately got in his face.

“Make him shower, and get him in a better cell. This isn’t Russia. You can barely breathe in there.” Not all his youthful idealism had burnt up with his decision to work for FBI. “Hrmm,” the guard rattled with a robotic purr, sounding nothing so much like a drugged rattlesnake.

Kent studied the diffident grey of his pupils, wondering if he was stoned. With the state of most prisons in the U.S., it wouldn’t have shocked Kent all that much if he’d just put something up his arm in the bathroom.

A hunger pang contracted in his stomach with the force of a tidal wave. There’d be food at the hotel.


Before turning in for the first restful night in weeks, he called the Bureau, blasting the first person who answered the phone. He was so hot and tired he couldn’t remember exactly what he’d said, but he’d meant all of it.

Reichert, always somewhere in the action, had gotten wind of it and called him when he was on the way to visit Carwin.

“Bustin chops is one thing... they say you left a string of profanities...she said you made a lewd gesture towards her... There was also an anonymous tip about an Agent on a flight from our hometown acting lewdly.


“You’re interviewing a serial without knowing exactly what he did? Without knowing everything about his background?

Let me get the file.

“Kent, what’s up these days anyway? How’s Noe?”

“Appreciate your concern, Dave, but Carwin’s told me most of what I need to know.”

There was a silence.

“He’s a visionary serial. His specialty is spotting people’s hidden vulnerabilities. Did he tell you he his brother disappeared?”

“Bye, Reichert. Early morning tomorrow.”


The taxi ground to a stop in front of the wrought iron pikes of the towering beast. Kent had a panicky spasmodic desire to get out of the cab and run; run and lock himself in one of the cells, or scale the building and crawl in. He’d studied thousands of faces, most young with their lives ahead of them, lives wasted devising ways to survive and get more comfortable in endless stretches of orange jumpsuits, stone and deep, dense metal, ways to get an extra snack, ways to relieve themselves when an innocent walked and their fear wafted like to the blushing predators like wild dogs...

Maybe if he roasted in one 6x2 cell l long enough he’d find it. The it that made a 15-year-old finish his snack and stab a classmate in the eye with his new pencil. The it that made Fishface Billy swing like he really meant it. The it that beamed from Carwin’s eyes like decanted black smoke.

He thought he heard the wailing of the men. The daily beatings. Deaths perpetrated by guards who were tired from lynchings the night before. The jagged claw marks on the abused bodies of the handicapped who had stolen something or acted inappropriately in some rich families’ presence. The piercing shrieks for their mothers and their fathers made louder by the crack of a guard’s baton.

“Here’s 40, chief,” he barked at the black driver, shoving wads of money through the plastic glass.

The command center was empty. It stretched at least 2 miles in the air, straddled by the small, chipped cells, and shattered glass. No one was there.

Not one other prisoner was in this gigantic, batlike convex.

The blonde, chalky guard, stood tall in front of him. He was albino with a pair of green, emerald eyes squirming in the sockets like jello. Kent felt as though he’d bumped into him twice in the supermarket.

“He’s upstairs. But there’s a lot for you to go through first.”

He escorted Kent to the gigantic chow center. It looked less like what a modern prison used and more like a bomb shelter, with rusted steel ovens and about 185 pots hanging in immaculate symmetry over the small rust spots in sinks. There was an EXIT sign, and Kent slipped, falling on the first few stone steps. He saw the small grey stairs peak in a winding infinitude of rising, pebblish rock and a crystal dome at the top. He spun and the guard was different for a moment, a silhouette stuck to sandblasted walls with a metal stick transmuting the darkness into fluid, shadows...”MOVE!” the guard howled, and he brought down the truncheon, the nightstick, the cosh, billystick, billy club, nightstick, sap, blackjack, stick. He felt for his weapon, howling in pain; his hands flailed helplessly in the air, a dark orange robe...a shredded jumpsuit. Everything was hanging out from the waist down, and he bled...The pulses, the stucco catacombs of grey brick made him sob for no one in particular.

Spectral hues fell on him from behind the chipped keyholes of fencelike cells. Men black, white, Hispanic; breathing like manic dogs on his bruises...the laughter of the CO’s hitting him, perfectly suited....a penetration, a handling somewhere down below, belt buckles, the guards watching and laughing...he was so hungry.

He gripped the guard by his Adam's apple and tipped him over. He heard the shrill scream as the white-hot elixir of fear paralyzed his thoughts, ruining his mind like a prune wilting in wrinkled transits of shade.

Carwin sat atop the center steel table. He wasn’t wearing a jumpsuit. Just blue pajama pants with stars on them and a long tank top with elastic ripples that fell in elephantine trunks down his long, calloused feet. It was stained in small increments with blood. He had sausage after sausage link on a huge plate, and he gripped it with a disgusting sentimentality, as though it were the only thing left of his dead mother. It was prison meat; colorless, cold, without character.

He knew Kent was there.

“A woodsman is a woodsman for life, Kent. Them glands open, your belly’s achin enough, all that other shit dies. You know that.”

He spat some of the sausage on the floor, his capped yellow teeth exposed for a moment in a bemused leer of total victory.


“I mean the hocus pocus, Kent. You. Your buddies. Greasin up the marshes, the fields, the green grasses where he waits. Where we prepare what he needs, so we might grow. What sups and hops needs space.”

His Southern dialect had faded. Something deliberate, metallic was rasping from Carwin’s throat with the force of granite.

Carwin put down his knife, eyes black as ink pots. Kent’s vision was dimming in a bumpy series of shocked seizures; all his eyes could focus on were Carwin’s pockmarked cheeks, chewing without making a sound. His muscles froze in a slow ellipsis.

“You been wantin’ somethin you already got. You been wantin’ somethin everybody got, least a little. Especially you. You get up in a tizzy and show out when you know a ways about starless nights, about stinks needin fixin,’ about lust in drugged nighttimes, and a hunger needin only a few steps to fill but it takes so... long.... here to move even one inch. And you know there ain’t no lyin’ in what I say.”

Carwin’s voice was no longer the faint pipsqueak Kent heard yesterday. These words came to him quickly and with a filthy fluence. It scorched the steel prison walls like bits of bleeding granite. He spoke with emotion, his eyes eclipsing everything in sight. Something heavy and moist fell from Kent’s lips. It was lipstick.

He felt his cheeks, and white rouge rubbed off on his finger.

Carwin smiled, but his eyes shone with genuine sorrow for a moment. “But sometimes.....sometimes..there’s got to be a sacrifice.” His pupils looked pieces of shaking jelly. If he kept looking so sad, Kent might not be able to see anything else...his liverwurst lips would fill his vision and the eyes would kill him.

Breath was rebounding on breath. The guards began walking in military lockstep toward Kent. Their eyes bored into his with the same animal ferocity Carwin possessed.

Kent took his black shoe off and put the coin he’d taken from the girl’s body on the steel table.


Dave Reichert left a message on Barbara’s machine four days later. “He just needs a vacation, Barb. Needs to get away. He said something like that. Wherever he was, it was crowded. Sounded like a busy diner, lotsa chewing. He said he couldn’t wait to see Noelle, that he had a surprise.”

A misplaced (she was sure) sense of alarm passed through Barbara.

He’d looked peaked the last time she’d seen him. Like he’d been drinking more than usual, which since his last birthday was quite a bit. The divorce had taken a horrendous toll on them both, but she had the feeling Kent took it a bit harder.

Barbara still loved him. When they’d met for coffee, the glare in his eyes had grown steely, as though he were glaring at her from behind a curtain.

Life, Barb had deduced, could be compared to a painting. The more you looked, the thicker, bluer, and scarier the colors grew.

The year of their graduation she remembered their quiet, cozy little college finally being affected by the chaos outside. A friend of hers, a real sweetheart brunette with soft brown eyes, had disappeared. Barb had only spoken with her a couple times about nothing in particular, and it gave Barb a tiny shiver when Mary, a friend she’d stayed in touch with, had brought up “Peggy with the red hair.”

Every day of Peggy’s life would be a chilly vortex with that moniker; “Peggy with the red hair.”

As though Peggy hadn’t woken up when she was 16 hearing the ring of a phone from someone like Dave; as though Peggy had never been a somebody, at least for a few days or maybe a week or month or a whole year in junior high or high school, as though she’d never inhabited the mind of a best friend or a Dave day and night. She’d gotten lost one night while slightly stoned leaving an ex-boyfriend’s dorm (“Bullit” was more important than her clothes being off) and she started to panic. She couldn’t go to Campus Security like that.

Freezing in the October air, she was sure someone was watching. Her heart was pounding out the small of her back. Her palms broke in a sweat and she felt bow legged, flush.

She could feel crimson eyes scalping her body, scouring her in ways perhaps she never imagined herself..maybe she should have when she had time... maybe it wouldn’t be so bad....

Then there was Kent, his babyfaced expression turning soft, expressing a peculiar sense of relief when their gaze met. It may have seemed suspicious to some other girl that Kent was standing outside the college library that late, but he always did have his nose buried in a book.

And anyway, she’d been too relieved to really think.

“I’m hungry,” he’d blurted out, crushing all that wild terror into wild hilarity with a simple statement of appetite. “Wuh, wuh, want to go to the campus center?”

She knew about the sicko interview subject he had for the Bureau. Some young guy, almost a kid. At first, Barbara felt for Kent and what he had to go through, dealing with this kind of filth on a routine basis.

She remembered the Kent who’d spent his time in the college library, rifling through glossy books on Cezanne, Beardsley, scribbling David Bowie lyrics on coffee napkins. He could have been a teacher, maybe even a counselor if he was a bit more personable...this was what he’d given most of his attention to.

He also wanted her to play the dollish housewife, and she was dollish, even at 44, but nobody’s housewife. She’d wanted that with him when she still believed a perfect family “unit” could exist. No frays at the edges, no despair in the eyes of someone as small as Noelle had been.

Not anymore.

Maybe Kent could pike Noelle’s interest in something. It was a pick me up for Barb to see her wearing the identical, black, horn-rimmed retro frame of glasses as her mother. She was identifying at least on some level with Barb and her quest for financial independence.

The summer job at Rite-Aid was the best thing she had going for her. Other than that, she rode her bike home, sat in her room, and blasted the much-touted Eminem day and night, one song in particular, the lyrics of which were now embossed on the wheels of Barbara’s subconscious: “Stay Wide Awake.”

Over a somnolent dinner from McDonald's, Noelle had mentioned that he used onomatopoeia in his songs. Barb had nodded, giving her a knowing glance as if she had any idea as to what the hell that meant.

Stay Wide Awake.

A veritable prescription for raising a 16-year-old while getting a degree in law.

Yesterday, her dour, sometimes still cute little face had perked when a number rumbled her still sleeping, Hello Kitty smartphone.

From everything she could make out, it was from somewhere in the South. At least it seemed that way from the area code. She couldn’t make out the number very well; it flashed in and out. Barb hoped it was a boy.


The hunter’s mug came that morning from Amazon.com. Kent wanted to christen it. He was crouched underneath their second story window. He’d been sleeping in the corner for three days with his telescope.


The bearded mailman was sweating new continents through his blue uniform. Kent had a quiet chuckle on himself.

“Gimme that,” he rasped, yanking it from the mailman’s worn sausage fingers. He dug into his pocket and forked over two stained 100 dollar bills, shoving it in his sweat-drenched breast pocket and leaving his hand there for a minute.

Kent tore the package apart on the lawn dropped it and wiped himself, running back upstairs to his corner. Plastic deer antlers poked through. He wiped his wet hands on his fat, pale belly.

Looking down at the mess, he realized he’d been sleeping for awhile. It was almost Tuesday.

He needed to clean up. He was taking Noelle camping.




John Thomas Allen is a 33-year-old poet from Albany NY. His numerousness is very numerous in recent poetry magazines: he has been featured in the Adirondack Review, upcoming issues of Peculiar Mormyrid, Sein Und Werden, Danse Macabre Poetry, and he is the progenitor of Noveau’s Midnight Sun, a blog that features interviews and poems with Sutton Breiding, David Lehman, and many more.. His chapbook, The Other Guy, is available from Amazon.com, along with Lumiere, Nouveau's Midnight Sun: Transcriptions From Golgonooza and Beyond, The Broken Hymns of Hastur: Poems of the King In Yellow, and is now working on a collection of short stories.

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