The 2019 AWP Conference Bookfair opens tomorrow! Stop by booth 8066 and say hello, browse our books, and learn more about The Conium Review. We’ll also be featuring three author signings this year, starting with Simone Person from 1:00pm to 2:30pm on Thursday, March 28th. Next, we have James R. Gapinski signing books from 11:30am to 1:00pm on Friday, March 29th. Finally, Charles D. Brown will be signing from 1:00pm to 2:30pm on Friday, March 29th.
About the Authors
Simone Person is the author of Dislocate, the winner of the 2017 Honeysuckle Press Chapbook Contest in Prose, and Smoke Girl, the winner of the 2018 Diode Editions Chapbook Contest in Poetry. She grew up in small Michigan towns and Toledo, Ohio and is a dual MFA/MA student at Indiana University in Fiction and African American and African Diaspora Studies. In 2018, Simone became the Prose Editor for Honeysuckle Press. She sporadically, and to varying degrees of success, uses Twitter and Instagram at @princxporkchop.
James R. Gapinski is the author of the novella Edge of the Known Bus Line (Etchings Press, 2018) and the flash collection Messiah Tortoise (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2018). His short fiction has appeared in The Collapsar, Juked, Monkeybicycle, Paper Darts, Psychopomp, and other publications. He lives with his partner in Portland, Oregon. Find him online at http://jamesrgapinski.com and on Twitter @jamesrgapinski
Charles D. Brown is a writer and filmmaker from New Orleans. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he received his Master’s in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. He has made two feature films: Angels Die Slowly and Never A Dull Moment: 20 Years of the Rebirth Brass Band. He has published two novels Vamp City (as C.D. Brown) and Looking Back On Sodom. His fiction has appeared in The Conium Review, Oddville Press, Writing Disorder, Jersey Devil Press, The Menacing Hedge, plus the anthologies Dimensional Abscesses and Nocturnal Natures. He teaches composition, journalism, and media production at a variety of colleges.
Julie called me at work to say Kurt Cobain’s sweater was up at auction.
“The famous one?” I asked, picturing dewy midtone green with golden contrast at the hem. So collegiate. My phone’s face blinked red: angry reminder of an unattended inbound call.
“They’re all famous,” said Julie, “right? But look at the listing. I just sent it.”
Sources verified that Julien’s was a respected dealer of rock and pop-culture memorabilia, everything from Cher’s Reebok sweatband (aerobics purposes only) to Clinton’s roach clip. Fifty grand would put you in the running for the mohair sweater of Unplugged fame.
Fifty grand: Where would I get it? I wouldn’t, I knew in the pit of my gut, the locus of my rational mind. I’d just surpassed the thousand-bucks-in-savings mark. I imagined phoning exes, all of them better off now than back then, asking for smallish, interest-free loans; presenting the circumstances — straightforwardly framed — and embellishing with the florid, sexless detail of my ten-year-old-self’s dream. My parents might be good for a few thou, though the nearer retirement came, the less likely they were to indulge romantic nostalgia. Aunt Oona had never had a lover, but even she couldn’t be immune to the memory of a first rock crush, piquant as the night breeze to ocean-damp skin.
Decades back — two, in fact — I papered my walls with full-bleed spreads torn from Rolling Stone. Kurt, halo-haired, anchored the collage. Kurt in stripes, in outsized plastic shades, in tatty tees draping lushly from his slender frame. Always the same unfocused gaze to middle distance, dangled cigarette, occasional sneer to the camera and imagined watcher. Oh, how I wanted to leave my hair to snarl! To set my mouth as a pensive line, maintain an animal silence, fuck the police — anyone who wouldn’t listen or believe I knew the best next steps toward becoming myself. Instead, I brooded. Snapped my flavor-sapped Juicyfruit, the boombox’s volume hovering at 6: loud enough for clarity, quiet such that my mom wouldn’t rap on the hollow-core door and demand that I turn it down, already. Oh, who I would have maimed to see a live show, feel the reverb shuddering through my chest! To stay up past bedtime and beyond. I longed, as we all did, for any tiny modicum of freedom. There at my desk, miniblinds parceling the unctuous noontime light, I could almost feel the unvacuumed shag against my cheek as I lay on my bedroom floor, Unplugged on repeat on the Sony.
Leagues from my childhood bedroom and heady with memory, I retreated to the Xerox room — the only workplace door with a lock. Kristi’d left a big job running, and the copier’s light shuttled back and forth beneath the lowered lid, gold spilling out in warm flashes. I cleared the work table of conduct handbooks and memos and lay down to study the ceiling patterns: to recenter.
Plastic laminate against skin feels the same regardless of surroundings. I let the cool of the tabletop rise to meet my downturned palms and move through them, studied the pinprick scatter of the crumbling tiles above. My heartbeat slowed to match the thrum, click, return of the copier. I closed my eyes.
When the sweater arrived, it would be wrapped in royal-blue tissue, wrinkleless, encased in protective plastic. The exterior box would be nothing fancy, its plainness a deterrent to would-be thieves. Its only signifier of prestige would be the embossed gold J of the return address. I would coordinate my opening of the package with the weather, waiting for the ideal stretch of misted fog — conditions to enable maximum contrast between my body and the air. Running a knife along the box’s long edge, I’d mute my inhalation as I smoothed back the tissue.
Of course, skin-to-mohair contact would be the only way to capture whatever essence lived in those fibers: incorporate it, atom by atom, and draw its strength. Bare feet, too, the necessity of cold running from the blank tile up through my willing footsoles, the low evening light dully patching the leaves of the rubber tree, captive in its red slipcast pot. A walk around my apartment in the brittle garment would reveal a newness to the space, each thrift-store lamp and candlestick endowed with a fresh graciousness: inherent splendor made visible by the erasure of familiarity.
Outside, the mist would gather into droplets; streetlamp auras would widen and burn. The sweater would warm to a living heat and carry me from the evening into the day, day into evening, the cycle forming its own routine. I’d mask the original brown pocketside stain with coffee spills of my own, would smoke leaning from the bathroom window for the purpose of accreting cast-off ash, burn holes to circle the cuffs and climb the lengths of the sleeves, rivaling the damage done by the former wearer. I’d tug loose threads to let the weave grow wide, the humid air move in and through.
When the sweater ceased to keep its form and became instead a network of threads — more a memory of the thing than the thing itself — I would unclothe and prepare the garment for unravel. Spritz the threads with chicken stock and blot them dry, interlace the buttonholes with bacon. Lay the garment spread-armed in the courtyard, out of plain view but not hidden, and wait for my departure to signal welcome to the animals who would unthread arm from body, body from itself — a disappearance detached, unwitnessed, and feral.
About the Author:
Kate Garklavs lives and works in Portland, OR. Her work has previously appeared in Ohio Edit, Juked, Matchbook, and Tammy, among other places. She earned her MFA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and she’s currently a reader for the Portland Review.
This story won The Conium Review‘s 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith. It will also be republished as a limited-run micro-chapbook for distribution at the 2017 AWP Conference in Washington, DC.
Image Credit: © pylypchuk25 – stock.adobe.com
Last year’s flash contest was judged by Laura Ellen Joyce, and she chose Caitlin Scarano as the winner. We’re looking forward to unveiling the micro-chap for Caitlin Scarano’s winning story, “Pitcher of Cream,” at the upcoming AWP Conference in Los Angeles.
So we don’t want to completely steal Caitlin’s glory here, but we’ve be aching to tell you that Leesa Cross-Smith will be the 2016 Flash Fiction Contest judge!
Leesa is the author of Every Kiss a War, and she’s co-editor of WhiskeyPaper. Her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Little Fiction, Hobart, NANO Fiction, Monkeybicycle, Juked, Word Riot, Sundog Lit, The Rumpus, and tons of other places. Check out Leesa’s website for more information on her work.
The Conium Review 2016 Flash Fiction Contest is open for submissions from October 1st to December 1st. The winner receives $300, online publication, publication as a broadside or micro-chap, and a copy of the judge’s book. Full guidelines are already available here.
We’re glad to have Leesa Cross-Smith as the judge, and we hope you’ll submit some fantastic flash to this contest. If you want to stay informed about this and other opportunities at The Conium Review, you can sign up for our e-mail newsletter here (we don’t spam you; just one e-mail per month with an easy unsubscribe link at the bottom).
James R. Gapinski’s flash fiction, “The Contortionist Visits the Zoo,” was recently published at Cheap Pop.
James is The Conium Review‘s managing editor, and his work has recently appeared in Please Hold Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Juked, NANO Fiction, theEEEL, and elsewhere. Links to more of James’s fiction are available on his website, and you can follow him on Twitter via @jamesrgapinski.