SOL: English Writing in Mexico: A Literary Online Magazine
In 2010 Eva Hunter kicked off SOL with some comments about the magazine’s genesis and purpose. SOL: English Writing in Mexico was a twice yearly on-line literary magazine that accepted fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Content is mostly from the site's 2014 archived pages providing just a glimpse of what this literary site offered its readership.
Check out the book, Sol English Writing in Mexico elections from the first three years of the online magazine. Authors represented in the book include: by Tony Cohan, Eva Hunter, James Cervantes, Christopher Cook, Molly Fisk, Ankur Betageri, Wendy Taylor Carlisle, Fern G.Z. Carr, Aaron Clark, Wim Coleman. It's available on Amazon. All profits from sales of this book go to scholarships for at-risk Mexican children through the San Miguel de Allende chapter of International PEN in collaboration with the literary magazine "Sol: English Writing in Mexico."
table of contents – march 2014
From the Editors
Eva Hunter talks about our fourth year in SOL.
We hope you will SUBSCRIBE.
A break-in, hospital woes on the reservation, a mutual incomprehension, a wild ride: all this in our March issue, and more––a foreigner finds a word on a sign written in his own language, someone still fighting over Vietnam.
A Grandmother’s funeral brings more to light than expected.
From Pistoleros and a colored horse, to La Llorona (a well-known Mexican legend), ruins and hurry-up wagons and small treasures, clouds, love, fog. It’s all here this issue.
Who’s here and why.
Sources we think you should know.
Call for Submissions
What you want us to see.
Occasional musings from the editors or their guests.
Lynda Schor tells a good dog tale.
SOL: English Writing in Mexico
Eva Hunter:The Prose Issue 2014
From time to time, we at SOL have spoken of having theme issues. That conversation has been a casual one only, because we like the mix of themes and writers that each issue brings. Why limit things to food, or fashion, or travel? we always asked.
But prose! Oh lovely prose!
Not to say that we do not love poetry. We do. But this issue is a prose issue, and we’re proud to present it. We hope you’ll like it as much as we do. In “Stories” you’ll find Eight Things to Do before Flying to Africa, as Dennis Lanson returns to our pages.
SOL was the first literary magazine to publish an excerpt from Samuel Snoek-Brown’s new novel HAGRIDDEN, and he returns to this issue with a companion piece to the novel, Jarabe.
Portland, Oregon writer, Vivian McInerny, gives us Dream Girl. And there are more fiction surprises for you in this issue, chosen by Lynda Schor, prolific writer, whom we are proud to have as our fiction editor.
In “Writings,” you’ll find some literary nonfiction pieces we’re proud to present. Mexican –based author, Michael Schuessler gives us an excerpt from his biography of the fascinating Elena Poniatowska. Gerard Helferich returns to SOL with an excerpt from his book, THEODORE ROOSEVELT AND THE ASSASSIN.
New writers Rebecca Hartmann and Rae Miller offer us excerpts from their memoirs in progress.
In my world: I really loved reading the stories in each of the SOL issues. I miss SOL. However I saved all the stories from the various issues- cut and pasted them on to Word docs to keep in a SOL folder on my desktop. They came in handy this past year as my mother underwent a program for alcohol treatment that uses Baclofen, probably the most effective of the alcohol detox drugs available. In Europe it is the drug of choice among most doctors. My mother has tried rehab and of course AA, but neither helped with her excessive drinking. I finally, out of desperation started to look for alternatives to these two stalwart alcohol treatment approaches that have hardly changed since the 1950’s. When I learned that the success rates for AA was ~10%, I realized I better look elsewhere. My mother, like many people today, simply did not believe she had a chronic disease, she did’t want to abstain from drinking for the rest of her life, and she hated the stigma and shame being labeled an alcoholic. I found a site online, LifeBac, that offers a different approach. Using the Ameisen method of titrated (not fixed) dosages of baclofen, and psychotherapy, LifeBac offers a viable alternative. I liked the fact that Baclofen removes or strongly suppresses cravings for alcohol in 92% of people. Most of her treatment was done in primary care, while most of the therapy - psychotherapy was provided on the web. At the beginning of the program when she had some side effects from the baclofen, I would read to my mother the stories I had saved from the SOL issues. We would laugh and cry. Six months later my mother no longer over indulges, but drinks in moderation. She still asks about certain stories from SOL and when I visit I will reread them. As I said, I miss SOL, but do look up the authors that I particularly enjoyed to see if they have any new work published.
cazz roberts: my mother’s sense of place
My mother lives with me in Mexico about 13,000 kilometers from her home of 90 years on the Lower North Shore, Sydney, Australia. She has dementia, diabetes too. She walks on her own; showers, dresses, eats without any help from me. She lives with me, at least for now.
My mother’s sense of place does not always coincide with reality. “I don’t know whose room I’m in, but it’s very nice.” She has slept there every night for four months, shared the room with me, and my cat. “I didn’t think we could have a cat here in the nursing home,” she says. “I like that young lass who looks after me at night,” she often says, referring to me though she doesn’t know it. I turn into a different person when the sun comes up.
Mum uses places she knows, places she goes near her home in Sydney to describe the places I take her to here in Mexico. If we go to the supermarket, she says we went to Northbridge or Chatswood. Crows Nest is close to her home, so if we visit someone near my house, that’s where she says we’ve been. She tells my sisters on skype, and my husband when he comes home from work about these places so dear to her. And they say, “How nice.” And she is happy.
Every now and then she remembers she must go home to her dad who is looking after her little dog. “Let’s just have some lunch first Mum,” I say, hoping the urge will pass, and as a rule it does. But there are times when she just wants to grab a taxi home or to the station. “I’ll be there in two ticks. I have to see my dad. He needs me.” Then she realizes he is gone, and her eyes sadden, and my heart breaks together with hers. I give her a hug. And I make her a nice cup of tea.
samuel snoek-brown: hagridden–excerpt
The women waited, their weapons never far from hand, but for days on end the only sound in the marsh was the wind in the rushes. Those who knew how to discern them might have made out other sounds, the soft splash of a gator slipping from the prairie grass into the muck and water, the rustle of ducks breaking for the sky or the dip of a heron beak as it fished the shallows. But for those luckless strangers who drifted into the saltmarsh, the denizens therein kept quiet enough that by day few sounds were louder than the sighing of the reeds, and at night the baritone croak of the frogs was cheerless and departed. The two women listened anyway, silent and languid themselves in their meager chores, and when at last they’d catch out of the hot breeze the long-off reports of cannonshot or riflefire, they would set aside their baskets of wash or reel in the crawfish traps, and they would gather their one musket with its fixed bayonet and a long pole they’d sharpened and wrapped with a grip, and they would crawl out into the reed bed to lie in wait.
Such events were rare and getting rarer, but when it happened it would happen the same. A distant battle fled of skirmishers deserting or in pursuit—sooner or later the fugitive combatants found their way into the marsh, where they hoped to hide. So it was on this occasion, a handful of Confederates chasing a pair of Federals, one wounded and the other beyond his limit. The Federals hobbled under the weight of each other as fast as they could manage and traced a meandering path sometimes on the loamy earth, hidden in the grasses, and sometimes into the murky water, where they joined all manner of other vile fauna. Two Confederate cavalrymen patrolled the rim of the reed beds, stood their mounts for a vantage over the heads of the reeds, but the lone Confederate infantryman, not far from his own homeland, charged unafraid into the reeds to track the Federal escapees. At length they slowed enough to hear above the wind the commands of the cavalry, one Confederate calling out to the other that the pursuit would prove fruitless. Let the damned marsh have the men, shouted one. A splash of hooves and shortly after the muted gallop of the horses charging away, and then the two wounded Federals could hear only their own movement in the reeds. Knew not whether the infantryman still pursued them. Exhausted from running, they limped and shuffled several paces more until they came to a crushed bedding in the reeds. The man worse wounded held fast to the shoulder of his compatriot and weighted him to stop. Set me down, Charles, set me down. Charles let his friend gently to the bed of reeds, then collapsed himself. There they lay for long minutes, panting the both of them. A chorus of insects began around them, and the reedheads danced in the hot wind. The two Federals listened but heard nothing.
I think we oughtn’t to wait here too long, the bleeding man said. I think you ought to carry on yourself. Charles waved away the suggestion, turned to face his friend flat beside him and said, Hush now, James, we need to keep quiet and rest a bit.
They breathed hard in the hot afternoon, James bleeding into the earth and Charles rubbing at his shoulder. Then the insects stopped chirring and a cloud of them rose to float away in the patch of sky above them. Charles sat up in the small clearing, the reeds brushing his shoulders. James hauled himself up onto his elbow with a groan but Charles clapped a hand on his shin and shushed him. Something’s coming this way, he whispered. He stood and gripped his friend’s uniform lapel and hauled him forth as well, both of them stooped and wavering and then they gasped together, a sound like a loud cough, each man skewered and lifted upright. One on the end of the bayonet and the other on the sharpened pole. They clung to their respective spits in surprise, and then Charles fumbled for his pistol holster and tried to back himself off the bayonet but the antique musket followed him into the small clearing, at the end of it an old woman with the butt against her hip. He paused in disbelief and beheld her as one might behold one’s own visage in negative, a dark doppelganger that you understand to mean your end because only one can survive. The woman watched him too but her eyes were narrow and wary. She glanced at James quavering aloft on his pole, a small tent in the back of his uniform seeping black where the sharpened pole protruded through his back. Once she’d seen he was dying fast she returned her gaze to Charles. He blinked and thought to say something, his lips moving without words, then he fumbled again at his holster, but she sneered and twisted the musket so the bayonet ripped open its puncture and he could hear a wheeze of air through the gap in his chest where once a lung had been. He fell against the blade and dropped to his knees and she let him. Then his friend fell over beside him, already dead.
Charles gasped in the loam, his mouth opening and closing like a landed fish. His eyes rolled in his head and he saw the older woman emerge fully from the reeds. She might have been younger than he’d given her credit because he could see now the life that had hardened her face, the flesh weathered premature and the hair streaked with gray like brushed iron but not yet white, her form lithe from hard work. Beside her a young girl only seventeen or so crawled through the reeds as well, her matted hair dark red like dried blood and her eyes narrow and black, her hips boyish. She took hold of the pole by its leather grip and yanked it loose from the dead man beside him. She kicked James’s body in the ribs and then pressed the bloody point to his throat as she leaned close to his face. She waved a small hand slowly under his nose, then lifted an eyelid with one finger. The older woman observed all this and waited, then the girl nodded at her and they both turned to Charles.
His breath came raspy in his hollow chest but he dragged in enough air to speak and he said, What are you doing? but he got no reply. The woman held tight to the musket and waited for what he didn’t know. She raised her head and listened, then she jerked her head at the girl and the girl slipped backward into the reeds with her bloody pole and disappeared. The woman looked back at Charles and lifted her hand, pressed a finger to her lips. He hauled in another breath and tried to scream around the blade in his chest but he couldn’t manage it, only yelped pathetically and coughed a wad of blood up over his chin and one cheek. The woman paid him no attention; she was watching the narrow perimeter of the clearing. After a moment Charles heard it too—a rustle and then the Confederate infantryman emerged from the reeds, his rifle aimed at the woman then at Charles. He studied the scene a moment and then he lowered his rifle and grinned.
This is a fine service you done us, ma’am. He nodded at Charles on the ground. I wish they’s more men around to do this sort of thing but you done the South proud as a woman. He leaned and took a grip on the musket barrel and pried the bayonet from Charles’s chest; he cried out, tears and blood hot in his eyes. The woman tightened her grip on the musketstock and yanked it free from the infantryman. He laughed. Alright now, ma’am, I ain’t gonna take it from you. It’s just he’s worth more’s a prisoner, much as I hate to say it. To me anyways. Might get me some leave time, bringing him in. He smiled at the old woman, then he shouted and lurched to the side and dropped his rifle. The girl stepped forth again from the reeds, the pole tight in her fists and the Confederate on the end of it. She pressed on, pushing the pole deeper into his side until he vomited blood over Charles’s chest and then the Confederate fell as well, clutching the pole in his ribs. The girl leaned over him and looked at his face. The Confederate turned to Charles beside him on the ground with eyes wide and pleading, but Charles was floundering his hands over the ground for the dropped rifle. The old woman kicked at it and brought it up with her foot, tossed it aside into the reeds. The Confederate looked back at the girl; she studied him then untied a kerchief from around her hair and draped it carefully over the Confederate’s chest. He swiped at it but she pushed his hand away and then knelt on his arm. He gazed into her eyes. Ma’am, ma’am? He looked again at Charles and back to the girl. Why’s y’all doing this? Ma’am? but whatever his last words would have been, they were lost in a gurgle as she slit his throat, the blood spraying into the marsh and onto her as well. The blood soaked the kerchief on his chest, and she held it gently away from his coat so as not to stain it further. Charles watched in fascination, understanding at last, and when he looked up again to the woman she had raised the musket to strike again and he decided to look skyward one last time. There a distant cloud hovered over the gap in the reeds, but whether it was a cloud of nature’s making or a drifting wisp of canon smoke he could not tell, and then he was dead.
The two women knelt in the reed bed and set to stripping the bodies. The wounded Federal still wore his scabbard, but none of the men carried their swords. The women laid the pistols and two long knives alongside the Confederate rifle and hauled off the Federal’s boots. The Confederate’s sorry hand-patched booties they pitched into the marsh. The Confederate wore a small pouch on his belt but it contained only a fistful of hardtack and a plug of tobacco and a clay pipe now broken. They pitched the hardtack into the marsh after his shoes and set aside the other items in their pouch, along with his wooden canteen and his one letter to some love lost. They searched him further but found nothing else, not even spare load for his rifle. One of the Federals wore a haversack and in it they found a mothridden wool blanket and a powder magazine and a change of socks. They found a plug of sticky tar in a tin that smelled like burned coffee and they thought to pitch it away but changed their minds and added the tin to the pile. A sheaf of letters, an eclectic collection of mess dishes, a photograph, the sixth they’d ever seen. They undid the buttons on coats and shirts and trousers with care, then rolled the bodies and shoved them into various postures as they shucked them of their uniforms. The wounded man had pissed himself and in his death the Confederate had shat his drawers but they did not strip the underclothes anyway. When the men were naked save their soiled drawers the women rolled them prone, two men side by side and the third piled crossways atop them, though which man was which they now could not tell nor did they care. They stepped over the parallel men and took a pair of ankles each, and using the two bodies as a sled for the third they dragged them out across the reed beds. They scared a heron skyward as they left.
They took almost half an hour to drag the men to the forgotten well in the marsh, near a long-abandoned homestead where now remained only the well and a packed foundation they alone would recognize. Each woman dragged her corpse to the low stone wall of the well and propped the naked ankles atop the rim. With such a ramp created, they bent and rolled the third man like a log up the bodies until his rump hung over the lip, and they pushed so he bent in the middle and fell into the well. Echoing up from the maw came a wet crunch of various limbs when he landed in the deep below, the bodies down there already risen past the water line. A cloud of gnats ascended to behold them that had disturbed the deep, and with the gnats came a stench of swollen meat and festered gases like the reek of hell itself. They paid neither the gnats nor the stench any heed, bent already to the second body and hauling it up by the shoulders. The girl held the man steady while the old woman shifted the legs until the knees caught and held the rim. Together they lifted his back and pitched him headlong into the well. They did the same for the last body, and the cloud of gnats followed in a descending vortex like a school a fish chasing a proffered meal.
The women returned to the trampled and bloodstained clearing to collect their piles. They stuffed what they could into the haversack then slung the straps of the sack over two of the rifles like poles for a spit. The old woman hung the third rifle crossways over her shoulder, the strap bisecting her pendulous breasts, then both women bent and rested the rifle-ends on their shoulders to raise the heavy haversack slung between them. The girl in the lead and carrying the musket and cane pike while the old woman steadied their load. Neither had said one word the entire time, all their deeds by habit unspoken.
They jogged like this through the marsh, the sack swinging between them, their bodies slick with sweat and their thin stained shifts clinging to their thighs, until they reached a low-roofed hut thatched and camouflaged in the marsh reeds, the door barely tall enough to crouch through. Inside they tossed their collection onto a small but similar pile near the door, which the girl arranged hastily while the old woman stepped out the back and dipped a tin cup into a barrel of water and drank deeply, the water running in streaks down her dusty neck. The girl joined her and did the same, then they each drank again. The old woman left a splash in the bottom of her cup and tipped her head to pour the last down the back of her neck, while the girl returned indoors and braced the hut’s small door ajar then lifted a hatch in the roof with a pole and propped it open. They both collapsed panting on a rickety pallet bed with a thin lumpy mattress stuffed with grasses, the pillows toward the rear and their feet aimed at the door, the open hatch directly overhead for the meager breeze it offered. They left the mosquito net open. It was only late afternoon when they began to doze, but the heat and the murder had taken them and they slept side by side the night through.
Once, the older woman rose and staggered out the low door and squatted in the weeds to piss, and she thought she heard a rumble of canon and cocked her head like an owl’s to better discern the direction of the sound, but when she did so she caught the faint flicker of lightning out in the distant clouds, knew it for nature from the pale blue hue, so distinct from the devilish yellow of firelight or the orange flash of gunpowder. She held a hand into the air to test it but the wind was wrong. There might be rain but none to come their direction. She swiped at herself with the hem of her shift and waddled back inside to sleep again till dawn.
When day rose in a fog over the marsh they were awake already, resetting their crawfish traps and bringing in the wash they’d abandoned the day before. The air had stilled in the night and they could hear a few quiet birds uncertain in their songs. A handful of California gulls drifted inland from the beaches south. Once, the warble of a masked booby. Little else. The women sat just outside their doorway and nibbled on dry biscuits, sometimes picking out the mealworms. When they’d eaten, they pulled out their goods and arranged them in the patch of earth before the hut, sorted and packed them carefully into the haversack and an old rucksack. They kept nothing for themselves, having scavenged long ago the things they needed and nothing new coming in from the lines the long months yet. In the load they now prepared they had three rifles, one a repeater though broken in some way they couldn’t decipher, as well as a spare smoothbore musket, and each woman strapped on the shoulderarms to make a wide X across her bosom, then each hefted a pack onto her back. They took up their own arms now cleaned save the stain of blood that would never leave the sharpened pole, and they hiked slowly into the marsh, feeling their path on instinct through the marsh toward the deeper bayou beyond.
The bayou was rimmed in occasional cypress hung heavy with a curtain of moss. The sun filtered through ocher and dark green, and the water trapped among the roots wavered sickly in the light. All manner of putrid life slewed unseen in the pools. The women skirted the rim and walked along the spotty treeline until they came to a slender bar of moss-carpeted clay humped out of the bayou and tapering into the brackish interior. They held their weapons perpendicular like circus artists on a tightrope and walked swiftly along the narrow ridge of earth until they found a lonesome cypress rising from the lake itself, a tribe of woody knees rising around it. These they navigated to another patch of land knotted with the roots of an oak tree. And so they progressed across the shallow lake. The air was damp and heavy, and their hair hung flat in their eyes but they did not need to see, so often had they come this way in the last three years. They took their time and trusted their feet, and at length they found a rotting wooden plank that led from a knee of root to a shabby boardwalk. They alit on the walk and followed its zigzagging path to the shack they sought.
They rested against the shambles of the dark wood shack and the old woman beat at the door with the side of her fist. Clovis, you in there? She pounded again. Come on, where you at? They heard a groan from the shack that could have been a man but might as easily have been the shack itself, but the groan was succeeded by a rolling belch, and the old woman shook her head and pushed on through the door.
Clovis sat in a cane chair leaned against the side wall. His shirt was loose and open over his hollow chest and he’d cut the legs of his underwear at the knees to let his skinny calves breathe. He was picking his teeth with a slender dagger as they entered, but when the thin light fell in a loose rectangle over him he looked up and smiled, raised the small bowl from which he drank his whiskey. Behind him arrayed in what to him must have made sense stood counters and shelves stacked with various accoutrements. A rack of firearms on the back wall and beside them a lumped pile of feed bags and flour sacks from which flour sifted through holes in the seams to form tiny white cones on the damp wood floor. A shelf with twice-read newspapers reshuffled and folded new. Besides them mildewed books, a small case of straightrazors, and on a counter near the shelf a motley display of tin cups, hammered tin plates, and oxidizing cutlery. A cluster of barrels in the corner draped in a wide canvas cloth but reeking of home-distilled whiskey. A decrepit black gimp slouched against the barrels with his eyes rolling aimlessly in his skull, his huge head wallowing against the canvas and his mouth open for no apparent reason.
Clovis eyed the women and took a long sloppy drink from his bowl, then set it aside and leered at them. Got me something good? he said, and without further word the women set their loads on the floor and unstrapped the firearms and opened the packs. He gored muck from under his fingernails with the tip of the dagger as he watched them. When they’d finished they stepped away and waited. He tipped forward his chair and hauled the bags closer. He hefted one of the rifles and cocked it then let down the hammer and nodded, but when he picked up the smoothbore he grunted and tossed both shoulderarms into the corner. He bent to root through the packs but only tilted a few items to peer beneath them. He flipped shut the flap on the rucksack and kicked the haversack with his bare toes. This is shit, he said. This the best you can get for old Clovis?
This is all they is and you know it, the old woman said.
It’s as good as we ever got, the girl said, but the old woman put a hand on her arm.
All you ever got was shit. Hell, petites, I can’t use none of this. It’d be a hassle just to keep it in my store.
People’s gonna need this stuff, the woman said.
Clovis stood up, tottering over them, then he stretched his arms akimbo with his fists on his bony hips as though to steady himself on himself. He eyed them both then shook his head.
New Orleans was taken two years ago, some say General Lovell done run off crying. Them Yankees took Fort DeRussey too. They running now, I hear, had us a good win up in Mansfield, but the Yankees turned it right around in Natchitoches and they’s beating us still even while retreating. It don’t make no difference either way anymore. They pulled Grant out these parts and sent him to Virginia. War’s in the east. We done down in these parts, far as I’s concerned. Won’t be but just skirmishes now. He spat into the corner and bent to collect his bowl. I got no more customers to sell this shit to. He tipped his bowl and drank.
This shit you call it come to you all but free anyway, Clovis. You’ll turn a dollar on it somehow no matter where the war’s at. Come on, vieux, just make a bill.
Clovis scratched his chin then drained his bowl and slung it into the back of the shop. He kicked at the gimp by the barrels. Hey boug, get your nigger ass up and clear this junk. The gimp rolled his eyes over the two packs then tottered toward them and dragged them by their straps around a counter. Clovis sauntered toward the shelf near his chair and pulled up a floorboard and withdrew a plain box. He lifted the lid and started riffling through crumpled bills.
My eye! the woman said. You ain’t handing us no money and you know it. We want food, you old bastard. He chuckled and tossed the box onto the chair, a few bills of paper fluttering forgotten to the floor. Ok, ok he said. He went to the back by the stacks of rifles and rummaged in the pile of feed sacks. He brought a heavy bag of rice and a sack of flour, and he chucked the food at their feet. Each a one, he said. This here’s good stuff. Get you a roux going and you be set for anything.
You got any coffee? the girl said.
Clovis laughed loud to shake the roofbeams and clapped his chest. Shit, child, when you see coffee last? Go talk to the Yankees. I got me some yaupon leaves you’re welcome to, if you wanted to brew you some tea.
Shit, the woman said. Keep it. We’ll just keep on brewing acorns.
The two women hefted their sacks and turned to shuffle out into the bayou. Clovis sat in his chair and leaned it against the wall again, but he called out to them as they crossed his threshold.
Now stay youself there, boo. You want you a little more? Maybe some of this old bust head? He hefted a jug and decanted into his bowl, then held it out on offer. Come on in here the both of you and stay a while. Stay the night, maybe. He winked at them and licked his lips.
The hell you say, the old woman said. I’d never with a old drunken bastard the likes of you. He laughed and leaned back on the wall and slurped from his bowl as they turned again to the bayou.
timothy c. hobbs: the visitor
The boxes removed from the attic days ago were littered across the living room floor, opened but not emptied. The strings of lights, the tinsel icicles, the plastic wreaths, the ceramic Santa and snowman for the fireplace mantel, and the imitation tree lay in wait, but all he could do was sit in the gloomy room and stare at them as her laughter floated around the house in dark places—the hallway, the guest rooms, the closets.
“Remember when those used to be real,” she had said the first year they hadn’t purchased from the tree lot. “When did they start making those fake things anyhow? The 50’s, 60’s?”
“60’s I think,” he said out loud to the empty room. “My aunt and uncle bought one of those aluminum trees with the rotating color wheel. I used to go to their house just to stare at it. It was hypnotic somehow. And then…”
He stopped and felt a somberness surround him.
He took a deep breath. He chided himself for not making the effort to decorate the room or to assemble the tree, fake or not. The first two years he had, but it was just too hard this year, even if Christmas had been her favorite holiday.
He got up from the couch and tightened his bathrobe. He rarely left bed before noon anymore and never seemed to want to get dressed. He picked at food now like some reluctant bird. His waistline had tightened; his love handles had vanished.
He had retired that second year. Some of his coworkers tried to stay in touch, and he did respond for a while, but not for very long really. The phone went unanswered these days, and the voice mails were erased before being listened to. He had discontinued his internet and cable television months ago, digging an old set of rabbit ears from their grave under a dusty storage bin in the garage. The local channels came in well enough. He only cared about watching the late-night, old movies anyway. He tended to avoid the news.
He walked to the front window and peeked through the curtains.
“Still snowing,” he said softly as he gazed at the obscured sidewalk with no urge to shovel the snow away. He glanced at the neighborhood and found it embraced in cold twilight. The house tops were all covered with snow like bakery treats.
“Hey big guy.” Her voice carried across the chilly room. “Come sit by me.”
He turned and saw her lying sideways on the couch with the light from the fireplace sneaking through the thin material of her black teddy. She smiled goofily; her body was warmly buzzed by a third glass of chardonnay. She held up a photo and winked at him.
“That one? Again?” he asked as he slid next to her.
“It’s the only one I have of you smiling.”
“I told you that when I smile it makes my face look crooked in photos.”
“We were at the zoo, remember?” she continued and ignored his explanation. “That weird guy had opened the monkey cage. You loved it, all those beasts being set free.”
“And the guy got arrested.”
“And you posted his bail.”
He took the photo from her and stared at his young face. His hair had been long then. He was gripping a camera in both hands chest high and grinning like a Cheshire cat. She took the photo on their fifth anniversary. They were both twenty-five at the time. Three years ago they were sixty-two. That was when the lymphoma appeared out of the blue. It had taken her swiftly and cruelly.
He blinked and the room was gloomy again. No fire in the fireplace, no one waiting for him on the couch, and no picture.
“You really loved that photo,” he remarked to the emptiness. “I placed it under your hands in the coffin so you could hold it forever.”
Silence covered him. He shrugged and moved to the kitchen to thaw a TV dinner.
* * *
The knocking seemed distant. He tried to wish it away from his half doze, but it was persistent and somehow urgent.
He got up from the couch and went to the front door and looked out the peep hole. The dim light from the streetlamps fell over the glistening snow, but he saw nothing else.
“Must have been dreaming,” he told himself just before another staccato of raps came from the other side of the front door.
He looked out the peep hole again and saw a small, mitten-covered hand knocking frantically.
“Who’s there?” he yelled.
“Help me! Help me! I’m lost,” came back in a child’s voice.
“Good Lord,” he said and opened the door.
A little girl stood shivering on his doorstep. She was wearing a brown coat. A scarf was wrapped around her neck and mouth. Her feet were covered with yellow galoshes. A maroon, fleece hat was pulled down over her ears.
“What on earth?” he asked. “Come inside quickly.”
She came across the threshold stiffly.
“I’m freezing, mister,” she said.
He closed the door and gently guided her to the couch.
“I’ll go get some blankets and start a fire,” he said. “I’ll turn the central heat back on, too. You should warm up in no time.”
He went to the hall closet and found two heavy blankets. He covered her with them and then went to the garage and brought in some logs for the fireplace. Once he had the fire going he went to turn on the thermostat.
“That’s okay, mister,” she said, watching him. “I’m getting warm now. You don’t have to turn on your heater. My folks like to save on ‘lectricity, too.”
He smiled at her mispronunciation. “Well, I don’t really get all that cold anymore. I’ve gotten use to not using the heat.”
The girl pulled the scarf and fleece hat free and smiled. He looked on her features: the faint spread of freckles, the bushy, red hair, the pixie nose and gentle smile, and the flashing, green eyes.
He felt his heart skip a beat when a faint sense of recognition came to him.
“Are you from this neighborhood?” he asked.
The girl shook her head no.
“But how did you get lost? Were your parents with you?”
She lowered her head. “I was playing and it started snowing hard. I got turned around. I got lost.”
He could see she was about to cry. “It’s okay. Just give me your phone number and I’ll call your parents. They must be worried sick by now.”
“But I don’t know it,” she said with a slight panic in her voice. And then she did start to cry.
He sat down next to her and patted her shoulder. “Well, don’t cry now. Let me fix you some hot cocoa, and then we’ll figure out how to get you back home.”
She raised her head and sniffed. “Cocoa?”
He got up and headed to the kitchen. “Best thing for warming the stomach and the spirit,” he said.
He poured milk into a pan and put it on the stove and turned the burner on low heat. He pulled the can of cocoa from the cupboard. He went back into the living room and found the couch empty and the front door partially opened.
“Hey!” he exclaimed.
He ran to the front door and pulled it open completely. The cold night was all that greeted him. He gazed down around the door and saw no footprints, no trace that the girl had ever been standing there.
He closed the door and walked to the couch. There were no blankets there. There was no fire in the fireplace. A chill raced over him as he made his way to the kitchen where the pan rested under the sink, and the cocoa sat idly inside a closed cupboard. He found that the carton of milk had never been removed from the refrigerator.
“Hallucinations,” he thought. “Why not? I barely eat or sleep, why not begin to imagine things?” He recalled the girl’s features. “Even made that girl look like you.”
He felt a sudden sense of rage. He grabbed a used glass from the counter top and slung it against the wall. Shards of glass exploded over the room.
“Goddamn you!” he cried. He slammed his fists on the kitchen table over and over. “Goddamn you!”
He stopped pummeling the table and collapsed into a kitchen chair. He buried his face in his arms on the table. “Why did you have to leave me?” he sobbed.
He lost track of time then. He dozed on and off. He thought he heard the knocking again and then realized the wind had picked up outside and was roaming about the frame of the house in searching raps and taps.
He eventually got up and went back into the living room and sat down on the couch. He stared at the boxes on the floor. Something caught his eye. It was poking out of the box containing the artificial tree.
He got up and went to the box. The glossy end of a photo was sticking just over the edge. With trembling hands he picked it up. He felt a gasp escape his throat as he stared at his young face, his long hair, the camera gripped in both hands held chest high, and the wide, joyful smile beaming from his face.
“Cannot be,” he whispered.
He rubbed the photo’s surface and felt the indentions left from her cold, lifeless fingers. He staggered to the couch. He held the photo close to his heart as if it were the remaining connection between life and death.
When the sun came up that morning, he began to assemble the tree.
author bios –
SARA BACKER: A former world-wanderer who has lived in Japan and Costa Rica, Sara Backer currently resides in New Hampshire and teaches writing at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. She is the author of a novel, American Fuji, whose short fiction appears this year in Perihelion, Read Short Fiction, Devilfish Review, and Waccamaw Journal. Her fiction has been honored with fellowships from the Norton Island and Djerassi resident artist programs. For links to her online publications, visit www.sarabacker.com.
FRANKLIN BLACK’s screenplay, Sage Green, reached the semi-finals of the 2013 New Hampshire Film Festival, and won Honorable Mention at the 2014 Bare Bones Film Festival.
ROCHELLE CASHDAN lives in Guanajuato, Mexico where a main activity is walking from here to there. If she had to choose between reading and writing, she might take reading, but she does write and revise. On the internet her speculative fiction has appeared in Big Pulp and Bewildering Stories, other stories in Salt River Review, and poetry in Contemporary World Literature. While working as an underemployed anthropologist, Rochelle compiled a small book still in print of Northwest Indian history in the words of tribal members. She is an active member of the Rapid Action Network of PEN International, San Miguel de Allende chapter.
JOSEPH DISPENZA is the award-winning author of Healer, God On Your Own, The Way of the Traveler, Live Better Longer, and several other books and scores of articles about living a higher quality of life. He is a former university professor who lived for several years in a monastery learning personal spirituality first hand. He earned a B.A. in the Humanities and an M.A. in Communication, and was for several years the director of Education Programs for the American Film Institute in Washington, D.C. He created a highly successful academic program in Moving Image Arts at The College of Santa Fe (now the Santa Fe University of Art and Design). Joseph is a columnist for several on-line publications, including Beliefnet.com. His articles have appeared in scores of magazines, including Spirituality and Health, American Way, Massage Magazine,and Yoga Journal.
NATHAN FEUERBERG received an MSc in Creative Writing from The University of Edinburgh, and an MFA from The University of New Orleans. His fiction has appeared in a variety of literary journals such as Rio Grande Review, Danse Macabre, and 34th Parallel. His work can also be read in the 2012 anthology, Sol English Writing in Mexico and the recently released anthology, St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories. Currently, he resides in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
REBECCA HARTMANN and her husband David currently live in the country outside of San Miguel de Allende, MX, with their six dogs. Rebecca spent four years in Army Intelligence at HQ, U.S. Army Europe, then worked as an assistant to David Noel Freedman, the Editor in Chief of the Anchor Bible commentary while teaching Classics and History at San Diego State University. She received her undergraduate degrees in History and Classics at San Diego State and her graduate degree in Classics at University of California, Irvine.
GERARD HELFERICH is the author of four highly praised books: Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin: Madness, Vengeance, and the Campaign of 1912, which was a New York Times e-book bestseller; Stone of Kings: In Search of the Lost Jade of the Maya, which was selected by the American Booksellers Association as an Indie Next title; Humboldt’s Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Latin American Journey That Changed the Way We See the World, which was a Discover magazine Science Bestseller; and High Cotton: Four Seasons in the Mississippi Delta, which was a Book Sense Notable Title and winner of the 2008 Authors Award for Nonfiction from the Mississippi Library Association. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, he publishes book reviews in the Wall Street Journal and has contributed to other publications, including Fodor’s travel guides to Mexico and Guatemala, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and Sol. Before turning to writing in 2002, he was an editor and publisher for 25 years at companies such as Doubleday, Simon & Schuster, and John Wiley & Sons. He lives in Jackson, Mississippi, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
DENNIS LANSON is a former Gloucester and current San Miguel de Allende resident who taught film for years at Boston-area colleges, most recently at Endicott College, and made documentary films on place and process. His most recent film, To Hear the Music, tracks the construction, installation and celebration of a multi-million dollar pipe organ at Harvard University’s Memorial Church. This film has been broadcast thus far on NH, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island PBS, and premiered at the Woods Hole Film Festival. Prior to this, Gringolandia looked at expatriate life in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. A dramatic feature, Pitstop, premiered at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, screened at a number of festivals, and was broadcast on WGBH. A book manuscript, How Not to Make an Indie Feature, is a humorous fictional account of this process. The Phans of Jersey City, about a Vietnamese refugee family, screened at New Directors/New Films. Booming, about Wyoming uranium miners, screened at Park City and Denver festivals. In retirement, Lanson plans to put more of his creative energy into writing prose fiction.
C.M. MAYO is a literary journalist, novelist, and translator. Her most recent work is The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books), a historical novel based on a true story of mid-19th century Mexico. Named a best book of 2009 by Library Journal, it is based on extensive, original archival research, about which Mayo has lectured widely, including at the Library of Congress, the Center for U.S. Mexican Studies UCSD, and the Harry Ransom Center at University of Texas Austin. The Spanish translation by Mexican novelist and poet Agustín Cadena, was published by Random House Mondadori Grijalbo as El Último Príncipe del Imperio Mexicano in 2010. Born in El Paso, Texas and raised in California, Mayo was educated at the University of Chicago. She has been a resident of Mexico City for over 20 years. Her website is www.cmmayo.com
VIVIAN McINERNY is a journalist, traveler and storyteller in Portland, Oregon. Her feature articles are published in newspapers and magazines nationwide. Her short stories appear in several literary anthologies including Grey Wolfe, Fishtrap, One Million Stories and Skive. This fictional story was inspired by lucid dream research by Stephen LaBerge.
RAÉ MILLER is an artist and writer living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She is the Managing Editor of ProWax Journal, a quarterly digital magazine for professional artists working with encaustic. She is one of three Directors of the J’Accuse Book Project, giving a voice, through writing, to those who have experienced rape and/or sexual abuse. This piece is from her memoir, a work in progress.
KATE MOHLER is originally from Minnesota but has lived in Arizona for 23 years. She teaches English at Mesa Community College. Her favorites include jumping rope in the morning, leaving town on the weekends, and watching funny pet videos.
STEPHEN POLESKIE is writer and an artist. His writing, fiction, poetry and art criticism has appeared in journals in Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, and the UK, as well as in the USA, and in the anthologies The Book of Love, (W.W. Norton) and Being Human, and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has published seven novels. His artworks are in the collections of numerous museums, including the MoMA, and the Metropolitan Museum, in New York, and the Tate Gallery, and Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Poleskie has taught or been a visiting professor at a number of schools, including: The School of Visual Arts, NYC, the University of California/Berkeley, MIT, Rhode Island School of Design, and Cornell University, as well as a resident at the American Academy in Rome. Poleskie lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife the author Jeanne Mackin. Website: www.StephenPoleskie.com
TIFFANY PROMISE received her MFA from CalArts, where she completed a novel-length manuscript filled with creepily beautiful poetic fiction. A couple of her older stories can be found in Black Clock, and the now-defunct Salt River Review. She likes Disneyland, cats, and Halloween.
MICHAEL K. SCHUESSLER is Professor of Humanities at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Cuajimalpa, in Mexico City, where he teaches courses dedicated to Latin American art and literature, pre-Columbian Mexico and colonial Mexico, etc. He received his Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he specialized in the literature and arts of colonial Latin America. He is the author of many articles devoted to the interpretation of Latin American literature and culture as well as several books: Elena Poniatowska: An Intimate Biography (University of Arizona Press, 2007), Foundational Arts: Mural Painting and Missionary Painting in New Spain (University of Arizona Press, 2013). In 2006, University of Texas Press published his edition of Alma Reed’s autobiography, entitled Peregrina: Love and Death in Mexico. In 2010 he published a collaborative volume on gay culture in Mexico -the first of its kind- entitled México se escribe con jota: una historia de la cultura gay (Editorial Planeta). He recently completed a book of biographical fiction inspired by the lives of five foreigners in Mexico to be published by Ed. Planeta in the fall of 2014.
SAMUEL SNOEK-BROWN lives in Portland, OR, where he teaches writing and serves as production editor for Jersey Devil Press. Online, he lives at snoekbrown.com. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of journals, including WhiskeyPaper, Bartleby Snopes, and SOL: English Writing in Mexico. He’s the author of the flash fiction chapbook Box Cutters, and of the novel Hagridden, for which he received a 2013 Oregon Literary Fellowship. This story is related to characters in Hagridden.
CANDELORA VERSACE is an award-winning freelance writer in Santa Fe with 25 years of feature articles for local and regional publications behind her. In the last few years she has turned—or re-turned—her literary focus to her earliest inspirations: fiction, poetry, memoir. Several of her poems have been featured on-line on poet Miriam Sagan’s blog, Miriam’s Well, and she continues to fine-tune her lyrical style in all genres by working with poet Barbara Rockman. “Luís Goes to El Mercado” is one of a collection of linked stories in a work-in-progress called Traveling Light, a Novelita.
stories: october 2014
Hernando’s right leg came off in a cannonshot, but his brother Pedro was there to catch him as he fell.
Ever since Russell Winn began studying magic tricks, he found himself noticing hands.
At The Appointed Timeh2
Even on a full moon night, a giant white ant the size of a dachshund doesn’t walk across a tired tech writer’s keyboard.
Eight Things to Do Before Flying to Africah2
Fear of the dark.
My dreams and real life are starting to blur.
Leaving Sierra Leoneh2
For my last three days in Sierra Leone I treat myself to the relative luxury of Freetown’s City Hotel.
We never went out.
Luis Goes to El Mercadoh2
Pan dulce. Tamales. Verduras. Cerveza. Limones. Agua. Frijoles
They move through the crowd to the back of the train car. Her daughter bounces into an empty seat while Diana hovers above her, holding onto the leather strap, which loops from the overhead bar. Before they’ve left Union Square her daughter is engrossed in a paperback. Only nine, Diana thinks, and Maria’s already reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. At this rate she’ll have to cover those hazel eyes with glasses in a couple of years. She sighs and brushes a strand of gray behind her ear.
The car slides into 5th Avenue/ 59th Street Station. The doors creak open. A rush of wind shoots into the car, picks Diana and Maria up, and throws them onto the platform. Coal-black pillars hold up the station ceiling. Steam billows and disappears through vents. People push past them, turning their bodies at odd angles to slip through the gaps. It’s a factory, Diana thinks, a machine cutting up paper-dolls and pushing them out into the city.
Outside it’s winter. Fog escapes the mouths of businessmen bustling across the street. Chestnut smoke wafts through the branches of the London plane trees. To the right is an empty fountain where a statue used to stand. Diana is sure of it. A bronze girl crouched there, on one knee, with her hands to her face, embarrassed by her nakedness.
Her daughter drops her hand and dashes down the stairs into the park. Black penny loafers leave prints in the frost covered grass. Her red knit hat bobs above the foliage. “Maria,” Diana yells as quietly as possible. Her daughter’s stride becomes long and quick, half-in the air like a ballerina. “Get back here now.” A shrub reaches across the path and snags on Diana’s tights. But she keeps moving, letting the thorn tear a run down the back of her nylons.
It’s been years since Diana was here. Manhattan is only twelve streets wide but she’s managed to avoid Wollman Rink since her 17th birthday. Cab drivers get an extra bill to go up 10th avenue. Out of town guests get excuses involving allergic reactions to snow and metal.
And her daughter, she didn’t start asking to go skating until a year ago.
“I told you not to run off,” Diana says, as she marches into the skate rental hut.
“Can we go get hot chocolate after?” her daughter asks.
Diana sets her calfskin clutch on the counter and picks through it until she finds a matching wallet.
“What size?” the skate rental clerk asks.
“I’m not skating,” Diana says. “Just watching.”
“Come on mom.” Her daughter props her chin on the edge of the counter. “You said you would.”
“It’s been so long. I’d probably fall.”
Diana slouches on a bench, her skates in her lap, while her daughter laces up her own boots as quickly as possible. It’s early on a Wednesday morning and only a couple dozen skaters have arrived. A man wobbles across the pond. His sweetheart giggles—a mitten covering her mouth. Two boys race along the edge smacking elbows. Her daughter shuffles onto the ice and then twirls with her hands above her head.
It isn’t so different from the last time, except when she was seventeen she was the spinner and Mr. Laurence watched from the bench. It might even have been this bench. She peers down at the painted wood and rusted bolts as if his name were carved in the seat.
She’d found him captivating when they first met. His long black cloak and polished Hessian boots echoed an older era. The hound’s tooth check tie, hanging from his neck, was his only modern article of clothing. She couldn’t help but stare at times. His short beard brought her attention to his mouth more than once. She’d had to stop herself from watching him form words with his lips.
Her mother had called him “a catch.” “Only thirty-three and already the chief-editor of a fashion magazine. You could do worse.” And indeed she could have. The boys her age were such a bore. They’d chat for hours about university and French essayists like Paulhan and Deleuze.
“You’re top,” they’d say. “Those college girls could take a lesson from you.” Mr. Laurence didn’t bother with chin wagging. When he’d picked her up for their date he’d complemented her on the skirt she’d worn and asked where she’d acquired such a rare piece. She admitted that it was of her own design. It was part of a collection she’d been sewing in her spare time. She asked if he liked the stitching, and the pattern, and the length, and the pleats. His cheeks filled with blood.
When she’d had her fill of skating, he treated her to strudel and a carton of milk. They leaned on the rink fence, letting the pastry crumbs fall on the ice. “Send my secretary your portfolio,” he told her. She tore off a bit of strudel and shook her head. Her designs weren’t good enough to be in a magazine. They were just dreams. Private dreams she cut out of fabric and modeled in her own looking glass.
“You’ll never get anywhere if you’re so shy,” he said. She sipped from her carton and put on a smile even though the milk felt like an icicle rubbing against her teeth.
“I almost forgot.” He took a package from his coat pocket. “Your mother told me it was your birthday.” He handed her a white box tied with a pink ribbon. She ran her fingers along the edge and tested its weight in her palm. “I couldn’t resist,” he said. Beneath the tissue paper she found a pair of silver-plated scissors. They were long and sharp, the type used half a century before to cut reams of silk. She held them up and let the winter sunlight glint off their tips.
It had been sunny that day, but her stilted memory reveals a reddish overcast sky. Cold and corroded like a rusted pipe welded around her. She rubs her eyes with her fingers. Across the pond, her daughter glides left to right with her hands behind her back. Soon she’ll be old enough to date boys, and that gracefulness of being guided by an angel will disappear. Soon a man will mark her and she’ll end up ruined with peppered hair. Trapped like a maiden in molten metal.
By the time she’d finished her milk it had started to snow. The carriage driver had put the canvas roof up. The clopping of the Dartmoors’ hooves sounded like hammers pounding steel. “Let me see the scissors,” he told her, as they jerked down the cobblestone. She took the package from between her feet and handed it to him. “They’re quite sharp,” he said, testing the tip against his thumb. “We should try them.” He held his tie out by the end and offered her the scissors.
She bit the inside of her cheek. “I couldn’t.”
“Of course you can.” His tongue slid along his lips as if just talking about it made him feel a bit naughty. She snorted a laugh.
By now the carriage was well into the park. The canvas roof brushed against the snow laden branches, sending a cloud of dust toward the frozen pond. The driver turned and told them they should keep an eye out for the swans. They were difficult to see in the winter, but they could find them if they looked closely. “Why don’t you keep your eyes forward,” Mr. Laurence told him. “None of us want to be watched, me or the swans.” He breathed deep as if composing himself and then turned his attention back to her. She noted that his bushy eyebrows were furrowed even though his mouth was arched into a smile. “I’ve always wanted to do something liberating,” he told her. “Do you know what I mean?” He stroked his beard with his thumb and forefinger. “This tie says I can’t do what I want, when I want. I can’t say things that others might find out of the ordinary. I’m stuck following their rules. Does that make sense?”
She supposed she understood. She hated it when her mother brought home a dress and she was expected to wear it to a particular event. She didn’t enjoy prancing around Sunday socials like a pet on a leash. She despised the dainty oyster canapés that left her hungry all afternoon. Sometimes she wanted to unstitch her own skin.
“Cut it,” he said, holding the tie out in front of him. “Slice it down the middle.”
She reached over, placed the shears around the tie, and snipped. The pieces came undone easily. Half of the tie swung back against his shirt and lay there like an ascot.
“Here,” she said, handing him the severed half.
“No, keep it,” he told her. “Something to remember me by.” She placed the end in the box he’d given her and stowed it safely by her feet.
“Now, it’s your turn,” he said.
She giggled to herself and searched her apparel for something she could liberate. Her coat was out of the question. It had belonged to her mother and would never be properly hers. Her skirt and blouse were from her own closet but she loved them both.
“How about the stockings,” he said. Before she could tell him they were tights he lifted up her foot and set it on his knee. “Just a small piece.” He pointed the end of the scissors at her ankle.
The way her leg was elevated made her feel as though she might fall backwards. She grabbed onto the top of the seat to steady herself. He traced the outline of a triangle on her ankle with the metal tip and inhaled the trepid scent slipping through the wool. Her throat constricted as if a silver collar was being yanked backwards. Without a word, he slid the scissors up her leg until they were hidden beneath her skirt. A muffled yelp slipped from her lips. “Stay still,” he said, “I wouldn’t want to cut you.” With his left hand he pushed back her petticoat and with his right he cut a piece of black fabric from her thigh. She looked from the patch of bare skin to the short hairs of his beard. He licked his lips and breathed deep.
It had been bright that day. Her memory reveals the sun gleaming off the ice; the lily pads looking up through the pond’s wet surface like spring faces; the statue dripping as if her body were melting; his sharp metal hands liberating her from her clothes. Earlier, on the train, she’d thought she might cry when she revisited this place, that she wouldn’t be able to control herself, but as her daughter speeds across the ice like a kamikaze plane Diana can’t stop from laughing. It spills out like a sugary hiccup.
“Aren’t you going to put on your skates?” her daughter asks, as she skids to a halt.
Diana gives her a wink and then shoves her feet into the leather boots. They’re tight around her toes, but she stands up on the ice without flinching. “Don’t worry,” her daughter says, offering her hand. “I won’t let you fall.”
“I’m not worried about me,” Diana says, as they glide out clutching each other’s hands. “You’re the accident waiting to happen.” She takes her daughter by the arm and pushes her out across the ice, letting her spiral closer and closer to the edge.
Call For Submissions
SOL: English Writing in Mexico is a twice-yearly on-line literary magazine that accepts fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Nonfiction categories are personal essays, literary nonfiction, memoir. Fiction may be short story or book excerpt. We will accept excerpts from novels or nonfiction books that have been recently published or are about to be published. Please clearly identify the genre of your submission on the subject line of your email and on the manuscript itself.
We ask for one-time rights in the electronic form. It is our intention to publish a hard copy anthology from time to time. However, publication of any work in the electronic edition does not guarantee a hard copy edition will be published, or that a specific piece published in the e-format will be published in hard copy. We will assume one-time rights for the hard copy anthology, should you grant one-time rights for the electronic edition. After electronic publication, however, rights for hard copy may be rescinded at any time. Any and all problems associated with subsequent e-publications shall be the sole responsibility of the author and the author expressly waives any and all claims for any such damages against SOL: English Writing in Mexico.
Word count is generally up to 2,500 words. Exceptions may be made for longer pieces. We accept subject matter under the following categories: 1. Writing in English by people living full or part-time in Mexico; 2. Writing in English about Mexico; 3. Writing not fitting the two previous categories, but which we like.
We publish work from established writers as well as new writers. In all cases, however, material submitted must be polish-edited. We may suggest small editing changes on a particular piece: However, we only consider work that is written to a professional standard, whether from established or new writers. Be sure your manuscript looks the way you want it to look before you send it. If we accept it, we like it the way it is. Although we will consider minor changes (a word or two) at the time you proof it just prior to publication, we will not take major revisions at that time.
Publication dates are mid-March and mid-October of each year. The current issue stays on-line until the new one is published. However, all issues are available from the table of contents of the current issue.
Profits from SOL: English Writing in Mexico go to the San Miguel de Allende chapter of International PEN scholarship programs. This may be changed by the publisher at his or her discretion at any time. Thus, we do not pay in cash, but rather in cache. Writers will receive two copies of any hard copy anthology published under the name of SOL: English Writing in Mexico which contains their writing.
SUBMISSION STYLE GUIDE:
1. Manuscripts for our consideration should be submitted as Word attachments.
2. Submissions should be single spaced with 12pt Times Roman font only, without embellishments of all caps, etc. in the body of the piece. If the stylist integrity of your piece requires this approach, please inform us.
3. Genre (poetry, fiction or nonfiction) and word count must be included at the top right side of the page, along with writer’s name, telephone number and email address. If the manuscript has been printed elsewhere, please inform us when and where. Manuscripts must conform with U.S. standard spelling. Do not include headers or footers on the manuscript.
4. Do not use two spaces after sentence ends: Use only one space.
5. When using dashes, use the long dash (em-dash) form (or two hyphens) rather than space-hyphen-space, or simply a hyphen. There should be no space between the words before and after the long dash. Example: “He went to the store–it was something he hated.” If your word program automatically converts the two-hyphen form into one long dash, this is acceptable.
6. Foreign words should be submitted with all necessary diacritic marks included in the manuscript. Do not expect us to do this for you. Foreign words, unless they are words in common use in the United States–like enchilada, taco, rodeo, etc.–are italicized. Proper names are not.
7. Use italics for titles of books; quotation marks for titles of articles or smaller works.
8. Use double italics, except for quotes or citations inside of an italicized phrase.
9. Use colons for a series of things, or when the phrase following the colon modifies or mitigates the preceding phrase. Example: “He wanted to go home: It had become an obsession for him.” If the phrase following a colon is a complete sentence, capitalize it. If it is a dependent phrase, such as, “He wanted to go home: an obsession.” the phrase is not capitalized. Colons are often interchangeable with dashes or a period and a new sentence.
10. Do not use semi-colons where colons should be used. Semi-colons can separate long passages that have interior commas. Example: “He bought butter, eggs, milk, and cheese; forks, knives, and spoons; a tablecloth and a vase. Semi-colons are also used when the semi-colon could be substituted with “,and.” Example: “He wanted to go to the store; he wanted to swim in the quarry.”
We will send manuscripts back for correction when guidelines are not followed.
Poetry submissions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prose submissions: email@example.com
We do not require first rights.
Manuscripts to be considered for the March issue must be submitted by February 1; October issue manuscripts must be submitted by September 1. Please include a brief writer’s bio with your submitted piece.
Our pledge to our writers is to strive for the greatest possible coverage in places where good writing should be seen.
sponsors: october 2014h2
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