AWP is finally coming to The Conium Review‘s home-city of Portland, and we’re excited. We’ll be doing several on-site and off-site activities. Over the coming weeks, expect to hear about more upcoming gatherings, readings, and author signings.
To kick off AWP, we’re hosting a reading on Thursday, March 28th at the 1905 Jazz Club (830 N. Shaver St., Portland, OR). The readings begin at 6:00 and feature Theodora Bishop, TJ Fuller, Rachel Lyon, Simone Person, Caitlin Scarano, Rebecca Schiff, and Eliza Tudor. The featured live band is the Michael Raynor Quartet.
The readings are completely free, but if you stay for the music at 8:00, there is a $5 cover for that portion of the evening.
Throughout the event, we’ll have free swag available from Conium Press, and authors will have their books for sale. Find this event on Facebook for more information.
About the Readers
Theodora Bishop is the author of the novella, On the Rocks (Texas Review Press), winner of a 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Award, and the short story chapbook Mother Tongues, winner of The Cupboard’s 2015 contest. Theodora Bishop’s poetry and short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, Prairie Schooner, Arts & Letters, and Short Fiction (England), among other journals, anthologies, and exhibits. A Best New Poets and four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Theodora Bishop holds an MFA from the University of Alabama and is pursuing her PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. She serves as Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast, Fiction Editor for Big Fiction, and occasionally subs as a life care specialist at a memory care center in Houston.
TJ Fuller writes and teaches in Portland, Oregon. His fiction has appeared in Hobart, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. He won the 2017 Flash Fiction Contest at The Conium Review.
Rachel Lyon is the author of the debut novel Self-Portrait With Boy (Scribner 2018), which was longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her shorter work has appeared in Joyland, Iowa Review, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, McSweeney’s, and other publications. A cofounder of the reading series Ditmas Lit in her native Brooklyn NY, Rachel has taught creative writing for the Sackett Street Writers Workshop, Catapult, the Fine Arts Work Center, Slice Literary, and elsewhere. Subscribe to Rachel’s Writing/Thinking Prompts newsletter at tinyletter.com/rachellyon, and visit her at www.rachellyon.work.
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.
Caitlin Scarano is a writer based in Washington state. She holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She was selected as a participant in the NSF’s Antarctic Artists & Writers Program and spent November 2018 in McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Her debut collection of poems, Do Not Bring Him Water, was released in Fall 2017 by Write Bloody Publishing. She has two poetry chapbooks: The White Dog Year (dancing girl press, 2015) and The Salt and Shadow Coiled (Zoo Cake Press, 2015).
Eliza Tudor grew up in Indiana and holds an MA in English and an MFA in Writing from Butler University. Her stories have appeared in The Conium Review, PANK, TLR, Hobart, Annalemma, and Paper Darts, among others, as well as in the anthologies, Mythic Indy, and Dark Ink Press’s Fall. Her novella,Wish You Were Here, won the 2017 Minerva Rising Press Novella Prize and was published by that press. After spending the last few years living in places as varied as Silicon Valley, the south coast of England, and Austin, Texas, she is currently in the process of moving to the Pacific Northwest.
I serve beer down at the Rescue and Conquer. Woodsmen and wolves come to us in droves. It’s odd to see them getting along, nuzzling and stroking each other, sitting at the same tables, filling the tavern with their laughter. Paying for drinks.
It’s as if they were never enemies.
I’m standing at the counter waiting for a tray and arranging my cleavage when Cassandra touches my shoulder. “Come on. You’ve got a wolf in Room 7.”
I know who this is. At least I’ll have a break from serving.
Room 7 is cool and dark, lavish in red silk. An enormous silver wolf is lying on the bed, pointing his gaping wound right at me. “Again?” I ask, faking surprise.
“You know it, my sweet.”
“You must be addicted.”
“And you should remember that the customer is always right. Now stitch me up.” He taps me with his heavy tail as he orders me around. I know he paid three pieces of gold for this. It’s flattering to be his regular maid.
The sewing kit is sterilized and ready for use. I choose a long, sharp needle and our best silver thread. “Do you want to talk about it?” I ask. Sometimes they want to talk, and other times they go into a kind of trance that won’t let women in. They’re so damn proud of their wounds.
“I’d rather hear you talk about it, my dear.”
That is the one thing I did not want to hear. Now I wonder if he paid double. I take a deep breath and will myself to be interested in this very old story. “Let me see,” I begin. “She was young and blond.”
“Yes, a brunette. And all alone.”
“With her mother—no, her grandmother.”
“Indeed. Twice the female flesh. You could not resist. Did you talk to her this time?”
“I get tired of talking to them. I shouldn’t have to ask for what I need.”
All at once I hate this wolf. I tie a knot in the thread and wonder if I can get out of this, or somehow get through it quickly. “Of course not. You should not have to ask. She should read your mind.”
“Watch it, pretty maid. I can request someone else, you know.”
I almost call his bluff. I have my favorites too. There’s one woodsman I truly connect with. I know he loves me. We could leave this tavern and move into our own pretty cottage.
But we never do. Something stops us every time.
“All right, my vicious one. You didn’t talk to her. You didn’t want to know what was in her basket, or where she was going. Let’s say, for instance, that she was already safe inside her grandmother’s cottage, at night. They were sewing together by the light of a single candle or perhaps they were in bed already. The girl was dark-haired and as docile as a frightened doe. Hers was a life of perfect obedience.”
“Give her some spirit!”
“And she had fire inside.”
“That’s more like it.” The big silver wolf purrs like an enormous cat. His breathing grows faster and faster. He is at his most vulnerable.
(Cassandra always says that now would be the time to kill one of them if you’re ever going to do it.)
I drive the needle into his flesh—that first piercing sensation makes even the biggest of them wince—and begin stitching. “You knocked down the front door. The two women screamed, clutching each other. Their fear was so great it could have killed them. The sweet girl offered herself as a sacrifice to save her grandmother. She dropped her gown and gave you all her red, wet parts. You consumed her whole. Still, you were not satisfied. You took her grandmother, too, in one enormous gulp.”
The wolf’s breath is moist and warm and smells of death. It wraps around me as I stitch. He grins and nods.
“And then, in the moments before your own demise, you did a funny thing. You baked yourself some little cakes in their kitchen even though you were full. It’s your own special way of completing the kill, so that you can taste a bit of their life. Then you stretched out by the fire.”
The wolf wraps his arms around me as I complete the final stitches, but I stop him: “That, sir, will cost you extra. Besides, I need to finish the story. The woodsman burst inside, ax-proud and ready for victory. He split your belly with the blade before you could blink. The girl and her grandmother emerged unscathed. And you were defeated, gushing red, split open.”
The wolf is healed, save for the stitches on his belly. He gets up on all fours and howls so that the windows shake. I take a step back. The merchant on duty opens the door and points a rifle at the restored beast.
On his way to the back door the wolf stops and turns. He comes close and whispers in my ear, “You’re a good girl, Sally. How did you know about the baking?”
My face burns. The merchant pokes the wolf with the rifle. “Get out, you.”
Back at the counter I ask Cassandra why we put up with his type. She raises one eyebrow at me. “How is he any different from your fair-weather woodsman?”
“He’s completely different. He’s violent, for starters.”
“But do either of them really do anything for you? Be honest now. Besides, where else would you work? What other safe place pays room and board?”
I have no answer. Then I remember the baking fetish. That kind of detail can make a girl feel powerful, and I want to brag about it to Cassandra. I reach for her arm but she is already gone.
Another tray is waiting for me.
About the Author:
Jan Stinchcomb’s short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Strange Little Girls
, A cappella Zoo
, Happily Never After
, Rose Red Review
, Luna Station Quarterly
, The Red Penny Papers
, and PANK
(online), among other places. She reviews fairy tale-inspired works for Luna Station Quarterly
. Her novella, Find the Girl
, is now available from Main Street Rag. She lives in Southern California with her husband and daughters. You can find her at www.janstinchcomb.com
Image Credit: ©
/ Dollar Photo Club
In the news today was an article about a dog in Yuba City who dug up human bones in the backyard. There was a jaw bone and a skull. The police suspected religious rituals. My dog too has been digging. There is a spot up against the fence that is shady, where the grass never grew in thick, and he has been worrying at this for a week now. After he has loosened the dirt and cleared away the weeds, he will lie down for a minute or two, so maybe he is only trying to make a cool spot for himself, like flipping from one side of a pillow to another. But there is something frantic and mindless in the way he digs, and I don’t like it. He’s four years old, and he’s never done this before.
He woke up last night, growling and barking into the darkness. There was laughter out in the alley. Ryan got up and went through the house, flipping on lights and checking locks. He took a long time to return to bed, and the noises from the street sounded like they were coming from the kitchen. Really, it wasn’t the dog that woke me at all, but Ryan standing there beside the bed, looking and listening for something.
The owner of that dog in Yuba City was named Mr. Kind. In the quotes he gave to reporters, he said the word “kind” again and again. “It went from kind of cool to kind of serious,” he said, and I wondered what it must feel like, to say your own name so often. I had a boyfriend once named Rich. He was an asshole, and we wouldn’t be friends if I met him today, but sometimes I still see him on Facebook, and he lives in Yuba City, and he always has the same nice-teeth smirk, and he’s almost never wearing a shirt, and he always looks like he owns the place, wherever he is.
It occurs to me that the dog has been sticking close lately, subtly insinuating himself into my space. At night he jumps between Ryan and I, settles in slightly to one side. Ryan says, “Why does he only love you?”
Sometimes, when I take the dog for his walk in the evening, I will feel him shrinking away from some object or another that seems strange to him—bending into a c shape, crab-walking into my legs. Usually, I do not understand what it is that scares him, and I pull him along. Sometimes he will growl at the men who approach, and he does not show his teeth then, but his lips are pulled back tight. It is the same look he wears when he is digging: a look that says, “I don’t know what else I could do.”
About the Author:
Emily Kiernan is the author of a novel, Great Divide (Unsolicited Press, 2014). Her short fiction has appeared in PANK, The Collagist, Monkeybicycle, Redivider, JMWW, and other journals. She resides in Berkeley, California, with her man and her dog. More information can be found at emilykiernan.com.
This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2015 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Laura Ellen Joyce.
Image Credit: © asmakar / Dollar Photo Club
After the first suicide, Mrs. Loomis was determined to teach her class happiness. We’ll talk about our passions, she thought. What makes us feel most alive. At the very least, let’s get some thunder in these clouds.
Her students stood up one at a time. She asked them to be completely honest with her.
“I want to have sex with as many girls as possible,” Jack said.
“I want to kill as many boys as possible,” Lana said.
And so on. A whole day of this complete honesty and somehow Mrs. Loomis refrained from reprimanding any of her students. After all, they’d only done what she asked.
After the second suicide, the school brought in a grief counselor. Memorials weren’t enough. The regular school counselor wasn’t enough. This greying woman with an enormous mouth made everyone gather in a circle, throwing around terms like closure and coping mechanisms.
Mrs. Loomis wasn’t a religious person, but she still believed suicide was a very selfish act to commit. “Suicides not only cause grief, but often cause more death around the victim,” she told her class. “It becomes infectious, like a disease.”
She made them write essays about how else selfishness can spread. Maybe this dissection would suture their softer parts that’d come apart, would make these deaths seem even more real.
After the third suicide, Mrs. Loomis became terrified. She wondered who the next victim would be, if it could be her. She read about pacts and tried to understand what could convince a hundred people to jump in front of a train at once, or serve arsenic from a punch bowl.
This time, she had her class write essays about how they’d spend their last day on earth. Despite the change in topic, it was still more of the same. Having sex as much as possible, discovering what it’s like to kill without consequence. All that naked hunger, the pulse becoming the body.
Mr. Loomis tried to reassure his wife. “Don’t despair,” he said. “It’s probably just a phase. Like my dreams in high school of training for the seminary and believing something made the heart grow fonder, but it certainly wasn’t abstinence.”
Was she supposed to laugh? The hallway mirror only reflected her perfectly blank expression.
After the fourth suicide, Mrs. Loomis thought more about the apocalypse. She always thought it’d be a lack of resources that’d bring about humanity’s downfall, probably an environmental disaster. But could it possibly end like this instead? With a suicide epidemic? In bed at night, she pulled her husband closer.
One morning, Mrs. Loomis found an anonymous message under her door as she was walking into her classroom. It read: You are your serotonin, signed with a drawing of the appropriate molecule. She tried to match up the message with her students’ in-class essays to figure out who may have written it, but nothing seemed a good match.
When she reported her discovery to the principal, he simply dismissed it. “You aren’t special,” he informed her. “Many other teachers have received the same message. Rest assured though, Mrs. Loomis, anyone else who tries to kill themselves will be immediately expelled.”
Again, she thought. Was she supposed to laugh?
After the fifth suicide, Mrs. Loomis circled around the school a few times. She saw the serotonin molecule everywhere she went. Did catching the culprit even matter? Would raiding the den stop the howls?
It was not long until a girl came into class with the molecule tattooed on her wrist. Mrs. Loomis stared too long at the fresh ink as she was passing back papers. The girl turned around, clearly feeling the stare a mile away.
Mrs. Loomis found herself in front of the class, nearly shaking. “Have I taught you all nothing?” she blurted out. It was loud, but expected. There was no surprise in their faces.
The newly tattooed girl was quick to confront her. “You need to understand,” she said, “it’s a symbol. Surely you, as an English teacher, can appreciate multiple interpretations.”
A sigh came from somewhere. A bit of silence. Not long after, the students went back to their assigned reading.
After this long-awaited outburst, Mrs. Loomis began to imagine appropriate deaths for her students. Jack would asphyxiate himself in an intense moment of self-pleasure, dying before ever having an opportunity to finally lose his virginity. Lana would slash her ample arms, one cut for each boy not properly killed and tossed into the canal behind her house. The hallway mirror showed Mrs. Loomis more and more wrinkles until a smile formed. A smile almost turning into a laugh that had threatened to bubble up since the very beginning.
She wrote on the board the following day: You are your self-prophecy. No molecule, no signature.
At her desk were copies of her newest assignment for the students: Write, in detail, how you would kill yourself. Record the entire process. As always, creativity counts. She made it worth 50 percent of their final grade.
As soon as suicide turned into work, they’d stop. That was her reasoning. Who’d get tattoos then? Where was the romance in that? The cryptic notes? The principal agreed and gave her the go.
Her fingers formed a steeple. Treating these young people like porcelain dolls or bombs with countdowns, Mrs. Loomis thought, seemed to imply that breaking or exploding were just endings. That we could only have danger as signs before the exit.
She waited for the bell to ring.
About the Author:
Joseph Dante is a writer from South Florida and currently serves as an assistant fiction editor at Pithead Chapel. His work has been featured in (or is forthcoming from) The Rumpus, Best Gay Stories 2015, PANK, Pear Noir!, Corium, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net anthology.
Image Credit: © dule964/ Dollar Photo Club
The Conium Review: Volume 4 is currently slated for a mid-November, 2015 release. We’ve finalized the table of contents for this lean, mean fiction machine. Pre-orders for the paperback version go on sale soon, and we’ll unveil some sneak previews of this year’s collector’s edition as the release date nears.
This issue’s stories and authors are:
- “The People Who Live in the Sears,” by Emily Koon (winner of the 2015 Innovative Short Fiction Contest)
- “Butterbean,” by Emily Koon
- “Camisole,” by Tamara K. Walker
- “Passing,” by Rita Bullwinkel
- “Dictator in a Jar,” by Marina Petrova
- “Chiroptera,” by Kayla Pongrac
- “Shampoo,” by Ingrid Jendrzejewski
- “Apples,” by Theodora Ziolkowski
- “The Eating Habits of Famous Actors,” by Zach Powers
About the Volume 4 Authors
Emily Koon is a fiction writer from North Carolina. She has work in Portland Review, Bayou, Atticus Review, and other places and can be found at twitter.com/thebookdress.
Tamara K. Walker dreams of irrealities among typewriter ribbons, stuffed animals and duct tape flower barrettes. She resides near Boulder, Colorado with her wife/life partner and blogs irregularly about writing and literature at http://tamarakwalker.wordpress.com. She may also be found online at http://about.me/tamara.kwalker. Her writing has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The Cafe Irreal, A cappella Zoo, Melusine, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Gay Flash Fiction, Identity Theory, a handful of poetry zines, and several themed print anthologies published by Kind of a Hurricane Press.
Rita Bullwinkel lives in Nashville, Tennessee where she is a fiction MFA candidate at Vanderbilt University. Her writing has appeared in many places including NOON, Spork, Joyland,The Atlas Review, Paper Darts, and the book Gigantic Worlds: An Anthology of Science Flash Fiction. She is a graduate of Brown University, a Vanderbilt Commons Writer in Residence, a Sewanee Writers’ Conference Tennessee Williams Scholarship Award winner, and a Helene Wurlitzer Foundation grantee. Read more about her at ritabullwinkel.com.
Marina Petrova lives and writes in New York City. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Underwater New York, and Calliope Anthology. She received an MFA from The New School in May 2014.
Kayla Pongrac is an avid writer, reader, tea drinker, and record spinner. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Vinyl Poetry, Split Lip Magazine, Oblong, HOOT, KYSO Flash, and Nat. Brut, among others. Her first chapbook, a collection of flash fiction stories titled The Flexible Truth, is available for purchase from Anchor and Plume Press. To read more of Kayla’s work, visit www.kaylapongrac.com or follow her on Twitter @KP_the_Promisee.
Ingrid Jendrzejewski studied creative writing and English literature at the University of Evansville before going on to study physics at the University of Cambridge. She has soft spots for go, cryptic crosswords, and the python programming language, but these days spends most of her time trying to keep up with a delightfully energetic toddler. Once in a very great while, she adds a tiny something to www.ingridj.com and tweets at @LunchOnTuesday.
Theodora Ziolkowski’s poetry and prose have previously appeared or are forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Prairie Schooner, and Short FICTION (England), among other journals, anthologies, and exhibits. A chapbook of her poems, A Place Made Red, was published this year by Finishing Line Press. She is originally from Easton, Pennsylvania and currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Zach Powers lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia. His debut book, Gravity Changes, will be published in spring 2017 by BOA Editions. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, The Brooklyn Review, Forklift, Ohio, Phoebe, PANK, Caketrain, and elsewhere. He is the founder of the literary arts nonprofit Seersucker Live (SeersuckerLive.com). He leads the writers’ workshop at the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home, where he also serves on the board of directors. His writing for television won an Emmy. Get to know him at ZachPowers.com.