keat's odes

Let’s Chat with Anahid Nersessian

In 1819, John Keats wrote six poems that would become known as the Great Odes. Some of them—including “Ode to a Nightingale” and “To Autumn”—are among the most celebrated poems in the English language. On the bicentenary of Keats’s untimely death at the age of 25, literary critic and UCLA professor Anahid Nersessian gathers and revisits these poems in Keats’s Odes: A Lover’s Discourse (University of Chicago Press; February 23, 2021). In response to each one, Nersessian offers an intimate, politically alert essay revealing why these canonical verses have so much to say to her, a woman of Iranian and Armenian descent, and to all of us in this time of collective heartbreak and political crisis. In Nersessian’s telling, Keats is at once an unflinching antagonist of modern life—of capitalism, of Empire, of the destruction of the planet—and a passionate idealist for whom every poem is a love poem.

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About Keats’s Odes

Keat's Odes
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Keats’s Odes is “a love story: between me and Keats, and not just Keats,” writes Nersessian. In a field where women in their 30s of non-Western European descent are rarely asked for their opinions on the classics, Nersessian draws on her personal experiences, including the xenophobic bullying she experienced as a girl, a sexual harassment cover-up at her elite NYC school, and the painful end of a romantic relationship, to celebrate Keats while grieving him and counting her own losses. Like Keats, Nersessian has a passionate awareness of human suffering, but also a willingness to explore the possibility that the world, at least, can still be saved.

There will be much written about Keats’s life and legacy on the 200th anniversary of his death. How does your lived experience as an American woman of Iranian and Armenian descent complicate your understanding of this canonical poet?

I had a very privileged upbringing in New York City, one of the most diverse places in the world, and yet, because of my background, I was constantly being told that the literature I loved didn’t belong to me—that I needed to be British or European, and preferably male, to be able to read and understand a poet like Keats. Many years later, as an academic, I still hear that message: people don’t expect someone with a name like mine to have things to say about poems written two hundred years ago by white men. Keats’s Odes grew out of my experience of being an outsider to the English literary canon—which, it turns out, Keats also was. His family was working-class, he didn’t attend university, and, as his critics never tired of pointing out, he couldn’t read Greek. Keats and I have a certain kinship that way, but it’s lopsided; his poetry will always know less about me than I know about it. The book doesn’t try to overcome that dynamic, but uses it to see Keats in a new, more contemporary light, in a way that makes him accessible to people, like me, who’ve been told they won’t get it or shouldn’t want to.

You write, “When I say this book (Keats’s Odes) is a love story, I mean it is about things that cannot be gotten over—like this world, and some of the people in it.” Can you speak to this sentiment?

Besides his poetry, Keats is famous for two things: dying young, and his love affair with a woman named Fanny Brawne. After he died, Brawne said she would never get over him, and by all accounts she never did. In the book, Keats becomes a symbol for the kinds of things that are impossible to get over and that, in some cases, we shouldn’t get over, like social injustice. Keats was well aware that the economic and political systems we live under make it very difficult to be a human being. He believed that a poet was someone who, by definition, just could not get over that—who couldn’t forget for a moment how much suffering there is in the world and how much of it is unnecessary. The poet, in other words, loves humanity so much that he finds its present state of existence totally intolerable. I’m not a poet but I agree: our lives should be a lot better than they are. On a much smaller scale, we’ve all lost people we can’t stop loving. The book is about that, too.

The book makes clear that Keats is more than just an object of scholarship for you. You’ve had a lifelong personal conversation with him about poetry and pain, activism and revolution, love and the sublime. At what point did you realize that Keats resonated so strongly with you, and how do you anticipate he’ll resonate with readers in the future?

It was love at first read. I stumbled across Keats’s letters to Fanny Brawne when I was about eleven years old, and even though they were way too sexy and emotionally intense for me to really understand, I felt an immediate connection to this person whose voice was so lively, so present, so warm and also so funny and self-critical. At this point I’ve spent so much time reading and thinking about Keats that he’s a part of who I am, and not separate from the other things I give my energy and attention to, whether that’s being a literary critic or political activism. Poetry, and poets, really can change your life, but rarely in a direct way; Marx loved Shakespeare, but reading Shakespeare won’t turn you into a revolutionary. I think people will always be drawn to works of art that believe in the value of human life, and that are passionately opposed to anything that makes life feel like it’s not worth living. Keats is one poet among many who reminds us how much more we deserve from the time we have. As long as we want more, Keats will be right there with us.

It’s always surprising to hear that giants of history or the arts died so young. Keats lived only into his mid-20s. How does this affect your understanding of his work?

One of the most impressive things about Keats is that his poetry got so good so fast. He started writing when he was about nineteen, and a lot of his early stuff is pretty terrible. When he died six years later, he had written not one, not two, but a solid handful of the most famous poems in the English language, with lines—“A thing of beauty is a joy forever” or “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”—that millions of people have heard somewhere even if they’ve never read them. The explanation, besides raw talent, is that he worked extremely hard at being a poet. As if he knew his days were limited, he wrote all the time, from short little songs to 4,000-line epics, and he was always upping the ante, trying to make each poem better than the last one and being careful never to repeat himself or fall into old habits. Of course, if he had lived longer, his poetry could have gotten really bad again! Maybe he only had ten or so great poems in him—which is a lot more than most people.

What role can/should poetry play in times like the present, brimming with fear and trauma and an utterly debased political world?

I don’t think anyone can say, with a straight face, that a poem can change the world. Nonetheless, poetry has always been a vital part of social movements. It’s a very special kind of language that, because it tends to be highly compressed—both emotionally and rhetorically—can pack a very strong punch into very few words. Sometimes those words are straight-up slogans: think of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous lines, “We are many, they are few,” which have been popping up at protests all over the world since the nineteenth century. But more often, I think, they function as reminders of the fact that we’re not the first people to object to this form of life, that the tradition of resistance is very old and very powerful, and that hope is very powerful too. Audre Lorde wrote that through poetry “we give name to those ideas which are—until the poem—nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt.” If a poem can help us give shape to our desire for a more free, more just, and less grotesque form of existence, it’s done a good thing.

How do your scholarship of Keats and the Romantic poets color your view of modern poets? What are you most excited about in contemporary poetry?

What I respond to in the Romantics is what I respond to in any poem: I want something original, provocative, passionate, and not afraid to put itself in a compromising or difficult position. Keats is a great poet, but he can also be messy and a little embarrassing, and I’m excited by poetry that has that same kind of fearlessness. Of course, I’m partial to work that has a strong political perspective. When Tongo Eisen-Martin says, “My dear, if it is not a city, it is a prison./If it has a prison, it is a prison. Not a city,” that should stop you in your tracks. The same goes for the poetry of Sean Bonney or Raquel Salas Rivera. Some people might say this poetry couldn’t be further from Keats, and maybe that’s true—it’s not as if we should read contemporary poets because they remind us of white men who’ve been dead for centuries. The point is, does the poem make the world feel impossible in new ways? Does it force you to abandon an idea you had before, and challenge you to bring a new one into being? That’s what counts, ultimately.

About Anahid Nersessian

Anahid Nersessian was born and grew up in New York City. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and has taught at Columbia University and UCLA. Her first book, Utopia, Limited: Romanticism and Adjustment was published by Harvard University Press in 2015, and her second book, The Calamity Form: On Poetry and Social Life, by the University of Chicago in 2020. She lives in Los Angeles, CA

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Let’s Chat with Author Alex Pearl

Hello Book Smugglers!

I had the chance this week to interview the author of The Chair Man, and Sleeping with the Blackbirds, Alex Pearl. Keep reading to see what advice Pearl has for his fellow authors and what he enjoys most about writing.

The Chair ManAlex Pearl, what inspired you to write a book?

As an advertising copywriter, I have always loved playing with words. And I suppose the idea of writing a story in book form was something I always quite fancied having a go at. But I guess the impetus really took hold when I had children and would read them stories. My first attempt was an experiment to see what happened if I just sat down and started writing. But I’m not one of those kind of writers that can write by the seat of my pants. After 15,000 words I just didn’t know where to take the thing and I dried up. My daughter read my unfinished manuscript and nagged me to finish it since she had enjoyed reading what I had penned. I did try several times to revisit the story I had begun but could never resolve it to my satisfaction, so put it to one side and resorted to thinking of another completely different story for my daughter. And the idea for my first book came to me gradually while the advertising agency I was working for was going through a bizarre worldwide merger that would take the best part of a year to come to fruition. During this time work dried up and I had time to think of a story, and this time I would write a very detailed synopsis. The idea of a young boy’s affinity with birds was quite probably triggered by my son’s remarkable ability to brilliantly mimic seagulls, and from this random trigger, I created a storyline for my first book, Sleeping with the Blackbirds.

Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?

The first book I ever read as a child was Stig of the Dump by Clive King, and it’s a book that I have always admired for several reasons. Firstly, it was the book that introduced me to the power of storytelling and got me hooked. So in that respect alone, it was a fantastically important book. But that aside, it is also so deftly and charmingly written. And I certainly have a soft spot for writing that is a tad whimsical. And at work at that time there was a tendency for some clients to insist that their copy was written in a very ‘up-to-date idiom’ and refrained from using any words that sounded ‘old-fashioned.’ It’s a ludicrous notion, since most words in the English language hark back to Shakespear. So looking back, I may have been rebelling against this irritating and mindless diktat by writing my first book in a style redolent of authors like Clive King and Richmal Crompton who had written the wonderful Just William books that I had also enjoyed as a child.

It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?

If by that you mean: should I believe that my story is one that people will want to read, well then yes, of course, I have to believe that. Otherwise, why spend an eternity working on it and writing the thing? But if you mean: should I believe in the premise of the story, that’s a very different question. And that suggests that the moral and political thrust of a book reflects the writer’s own beliefs. And I don’t think a book has to do that at all. A book’s protagonist and narrative can be thoroughly unpleasant and stand for values the author himself rejects. When Johnny Speight created Alf Garnett for television all those years ago, this wasn’t a character whose racist, sexist and misogynistic views reflected Speight’s. But by creating a monster like Garnett and putting these unpleasant views into a comical context Speight was able to send up these prejudices for what they really were by making them look totally ludicrous and literally laughable. Literature is no different.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

No. I am pretty shambolic and disorganized. But then, I can afford to be as I don’t rely on my writing for an income. I have retired and my writing is purely for pleasure. So in this respect, I am very fortunate. I take my hat off to authors who write for a living and are constantly up against deadlines. It was the late, great Douglas Adams who said; “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?

I don’t have a style as such. I’m a chameleon in that I write in a style that suits the story. My first book was an urban fantasy written for children and my second, a tense thriller. The style of writing was very different for each of these books

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing? What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

The hardest thing for me is the plotting of a story. I’m old-fashioned in that I believe that all great stories have to have a beginning, middle, and end. And the ending has to be a surprise and it has to be credible. Once I have the story worked out in detail, writing it is the easy part.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

Since I write at my leisure I haven’t experienced Writer’s Block. But if I had to write to deadlines and meet schedules, I’m sure this would be an occupational hazard. As a copywriter, there’d be times when you couldn’t think of any decent ideas in the office and had to get out of the office environment. Sometimes you’d get an idea when you weren’t trying to think of one.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Enjoy your writing and don’t be put off by rejection letters from literary agents. We have all received them. Even the likes of J.K. Rowling has a large pile of them.

Are you working on something new at the moment?

To my shame, I’m not. But watch this space…

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

There are no rules. There are no rights and wrongs. There’s more than one way to tell a story. What will yours look like?

About Alex Pearl

Alex PearlYou can learn more information about Pearl’s books by visiting his website. Here,  you will find reviews of his books, interviews, trailers, and readings. It also carries book reviews and interviews with other authors. Alex’s claim to fame is that he is quite possibly the only person on this planet to have been inadvertently locked in a record shop on Christmas Eve.




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Let’s Chat With Emanuel Rosen

In 1933, Dr. Hugo Mendel, a successful Jewish lawyer, escaped Germany along with his family and moved to Tel Aviv. They were some of “the lucky ones” who made it out alive. Two decades later, he and his wife Lucie returned to Germany to take stock of all that was stolen from them: Hugo’s career and reputation, their country, their sense of belonging. A few months later, after returning to Israel, Hugo jumped to his death.

If Anyone Calls, Tell Them I DiedNow, Hugo’s grandson Emanuel Rosen retraces his grandparents’ fateful European trip and its aftermath in his memoir If Anyone Calls, Tell Them I Died (Amsterdam Publishers; March 22, 2021). With warmth, insight, humor, and compassion, Rosen tells his family’s story—their life in pre-war Germany, the new bitter-sweet life they established in Israel, their return visit to Europe, and Emanuel’s mother Mirjam’s legal fight to get the German government to accept responsibility for her father’s suicide even though it happened years after the war ended. The book offers a window into a family who fled Europe just in time, the diaspora they were part of (with all the evocative specificity of its culture and language and sensibility) and how they longed for the place that did nothing to save them and everything to destroy them.

Rosen’s book is at once a vignette-filled tribute to the strong, loving women who raised him, a personal and timely testament to the trauma of displacement, and a melancholy psychological detective story, as Rosen travels the world to attempt to understand how Hugo Mendel came to kill himself one afternoon in Tel Aviv almost 65 years ago. Learn more about what Emanuel Rosen has to say about his book in this special Let’s Chat! interview.

You spent a good chunk of your life not knowing the circumstances of your grandfather’s death or about your mother’s legal battle to hold Germany accountable for it. How did you find out? And how did you decide to retrace your grandparents’ steps and write about it?

Growing up, all I knew was that in 1956 my grandparents went back to Germany and that not long after they returned to Tel Aviv my grandfather died. Only in my late thirties, when I asked my mom about hereditary diseases in our family, I found out that my grandfather took his own life. She told me that five months after returning from that trip, my grandfather jumped from a building in Tel Aviv. Then, after my mother died in 1992, I found a box with letters that my grandparents had sent my mom from that trip, and I was hoping that these letters would explain why my grandfather did it, so I had the letters translated, and went to Germany to retrace their journey. On a visit to the city of Hamm (in Westphalia), where my grandfather had his law office until 1933, I was handed a thick folder that opened my eyes to the legal battle my mom initiated to prove that those who had forced her father out of his profession as a lawyer were responsible for his death.

Each generation in your family dealt with the Holocaust in their own way, from your grandparents who fled Germany before it began, to your mom who straddled the worlds of both Europe and Israel, to you who was a bit removed from its immediacy. Do you think your family is a representative example of how Jews of different generations relate to the Holocaust?

I think that it is true, at least for Israel. When I grew up in Israel, there was very little discussion of the Holocaust. Israel was a young state trying to construct the identity of the strong Israeli, unlike the survivors who were (wrongly) perceived as weak. Survivors had their own reasons not to talk. They wanted to integrate into mainstream Israeli society, and they focused on rebuilding their lives. The limited discussion of the topic was also true for my mom’s generation: Interestingly, both my mom and her brother dealt with the Holocaust professionally. My mom’s brother headed one of the Mossad’s units to hunt down Nazi criminals. My mom worked at a law office that dealt with restitution from Germany, so she certainly heard a lot of stories from survivors, but she didn’t talk about it either. I think that now, it is somewhat easier for my generation to research and talk about the Holocaust because we are somewhat removed from the trauma; we want to understand what our parents and grandparents went through, and we want to make sure their stories are told.

In many ways, this is a story about uprooting and displacement, and about the heavy, generations-long impact of finding oneself in a new country with a new language. Do you feel like your family’s experience has similarities to the experiences of refugees around the world?

Very much so. It is estimated that worldwide, over 65 million people are displaced by war, armed conflict, or persecution. Imagine that tomorrow morning you are forced to leave this country because of your religion or race and you find yourself in China. How will you manage if you don’t speak Chinese? If you do not understand the culture? If people there do not understand yours? Many immigrants, even people who left the country of their own will, face such situations, and everything is more difficult when people are forced to leave their homes. And the challenge isn’t only about language. Adjusting to the mentality in the new country is difficult too. Think about a woman who was brought to the United States without papers as a child and may face deportation. She’s an American and suddenly has to live in a foreign country. Uprooting can have devastating consequences as it did in my grandfather’s case.

Many books rightfully focus on first-hand accounts of survivors of the Nazi camps, whereas your book recounts a multi-generational trauma brought on by the Nazis without personally experiencing the camps. What do you think can be learned about the holocaust when you look at it through the lives of people who escaped the worst of it?

My family’s story illustrates that even survivors who managed to leave early suffered from uprooting, feelings of guilt, and shattered dreams. In my grandfather’s case the consequences were deadly: uprooting him from his profession and cultural environment eventually led to his suicide. My grandmother of course was affected by his suicide and felt guilty about it. She also blamed herself for letting her mother return from Tel Aviv to Germany in 1936. (Her mother was later deported to Riga, Latvia, and died there). My mother too felt guilty about her father’s suicide and possibly about her grandmother’s return to Germany. And then there are the shattered dreams. Growing up, my mother’s dreamt of becoming a lawyer just like her father, and this never happened because of the deportation and the family’s economic downfall. In a way, her legal battle to prove that the Nazis were responsible for his death was her way to close that circle.

Through the story of your grandfather, what broader truths about trauma and suicide were you able to access?

My grandfather’s story made me think a lot about two issues: friendship and a sense of belonging. I’m not a psychologist, but I know that there is evidence that social isolation can lead to suicide and I wish my grandfather reached out to people to build friendships. This is something that I’ve been applying myself: writing is an isolating profession and now I make a point of better maintaining my friendships. I’m talking about small daily choices like calling someone on the phone or having a cup of coffee with a friend. The second issue is a sense of belonging, and here too, we have choices. As immigrants (or newcomers to any group), we can try to integrate, or we can stay outsiders. I don’t mean to suggest that a newcomer should forget his or her old identity. One can belong to more than one world (and it’s becoming easier with technology). I feel that the danger is in not belonging at all, which is what happened to my grandfather. He didn’t feel he belonged in Israel and the trip to Germany made him realize that he didn’t belong in Germany either. He was left in midair.

Your grandfather Hugo was never able to adapt to his new circumstances after fleeing Germany and thus losing his career and the prestige that accompanied it, but your grandmother Lucie adapted to life in Israel. Why?

One clear difference between them was that my grandfather was less sociable than my grandmother who loved people, was very curious about them, and had many friends. She also had several cousins in the new country (her father had 10 siblings). It’s easier to adapt to a new environment when you have friends and a support system. Another difference is flexibility: My grandfather Hugo grew up with one schema of how things were supposed to be, and when he faced a new reality, he had a hard time adjusting. There is a saying. “The wind does not break a tree that bends.” Lucie knew how to bend. Hugo had a harder time doing it. They both had to deal with losing their social status and maybe it was more painful for Hugo who, as a man, was expected back then to be the main breadwinner. Lucie accepted new situations and tried to make the best out of them. She focused on us, her grandchildren, helping my mom raise us, and she did a good job: I had the most wonderful childhood.

Praise for If Anyone Calls, Tell Them I Died

“With sensitivity, love, and humor, Emanuel Rosen tells the story of his Yekke grandparents, their immigration and difficulties in the homeland of the Jewish people, and their journey in search of their roots and identity in Germany. An important and fascinating book that awakened in me deep feelings and a longing for a generation that is no more.”—Gabriela Shalev, former Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N.; Professor (Emeritus) the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“I thought I’d take a quick look at this book, but then I kept reading all of it in a day and a half.”—W. Michael Blumenthal, Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and director of the Jewish Museum Berlin (1997-2014)

“From generation to generation, it becomes more difficult to write about the persecution of Jews before and during WWII as one’s personal past. Too much has been lost, and precisely because of that one wants to write about what can still be found. I respect what Emanuel Rosen did in this book, patiently and carefully exploring the past and guiding us through his findings about the story of his family.”—Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader

“This is a gripping and engaging exploration of a family whose lives were indelibly changed by Nazi restrictions, by immigrant life in Israel, and by a grandson’s search for missing parts of the stories.”—Martha Mino, Harvard Law School

“The mystery of why Emanuel Rosen’s grandfather killed himself haunts this book and keeps the reader gripped until the secrets of the past are ultimately uncovered and revealed. Suicide leaves a legacy of silence for those of us who are left behind and works such as this allows us to begin to understand how we are affected and start to heal. This book will greatly help survivors of suicide loss on their own personal journeys of discovery and hope.”—Carla Fine, author of No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One

About the  author

Emanuel (Manu) Rosen is a bestselling author whose books have been translated into thirteen languages. He was born in Israel where he went to school, served in the army, and was an award-winning copywriter. After his graduate school education in the United States and a successful career as an executive in Silicon Valley, Emanuel turned to write. He is married to Daria Mochly-Rosen, a professor at Stanford. They live in Menlo Park, California, and have four adult children. If Anyone Calls, Tell Them I Died is his fourth book.

July 2020

I’ve always been into ‘fast-paced, don’t bore ’em, keep it moving along, stick with the story.’ You know: tell a story the way I want to hear a story. – James Patterson

flash fiction submissions
Click to download your copy

It takes a creative mind to tell a story. It takes an even more creative mind to tell a story in 500-words or less. As James Patterson points out, sometimes getting right to it, makes the reader want to read the entire piece. As I’ve learned with freelancing and blogging, people have a short attention span. You can blame it on social media. You have 280 characters to express an opinion or tell a story in a Tweet. Other social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram are much more forgiving, but the issue becomes the dreaded “See More…” People are less inclined to “see more” if you don’t get to the point right away.

The other issue we as writers run into today is creating an interesting title that will peak a reader’s interest enough to click or buy. Additionally, it has to be something unique. How many times do you see, “The Top # ___ of 2020.” Fill in the blank with whatever you choose; books, movies, outfits, apps, etc. That’s tough too!

That’s why flash fiction is so much fun to read and write! Writing a title for a short piece without giving away the story is difficult. This makes flash fiction all the more challenging. A good challenge, but enjoyable nonetheless. Always keep your eyes peeled. There are a lot of flash fiction contests to submit to. We were recently contacted by the creators of the Annual Barren Flash Fiction Prize. They are currently not accepting submissions, but the Book Smuggler’s Den keeps in contact with the contests listed at the end of this publication to keep our readers and writers up to date on where to submit their work.

We received a lot of submissions for this month’s magazine and are so grateful to see interest in submitting to us! There were so many that we weren’t able to get to them in time to publish. We will continue to read through the submissions and will contact you if we decide to include you in our August issue.

You’ll breeze through this publication in no time. Enjoy!
Dani & The Book Smuggler’s Den Community

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The Supporter, Reayah Lundquist
Blacky Jean, Brittany Oppenheimer
Sara, Jacob Rivard
Purple Dreams, Rubin A Rubina
You’re a Savant, Son, Scott Stimler
Brain Waves, Audrey Wick

Book Reviews

Repentance by Andrew Lam, Reviewed by C.E LaVigne
Parisian Lives, by Deirdre Bair, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, Reviewed by Martha Patterson
Jakarta by Reviewed by Desiree Willis

Writing Prompts

Writing Contests


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The Supporter

by Reayah Lundquist

short story submissions

I always want to be supportive, I do.

Sometimes it’s hard—you know, sometimes the person isn’t deserving of your support. Whether they just had a bad day—which I can understand, being who I am, whether they’re always like that is difficult to tell. Still, I always try. To be supportive.

It’s not my fault they may get uncomfortable, or stay too long and rise, complaining about stiff limbs and lost time. It’s not my fault they had something gastronomically deprecating for lunch—and they’re not the only ones who suffer the consequences. Still, I try to be supportive. I mean, I have bad days, too.

I have days when I wish I had any other job—any other job. In fact, there are days when I’ve just heard one complaint too many—smelled one digestive problem too many, that I just want to explode, and take them down with me. But that’s a very rocky road to travel.

I could get fired, and have to spend the rest of my days sitting alone, with no one to support, no
one to talk to me, and relax and take a minute.

Because there are good days, too. Great days, when I’ve felt I do my job well.

A pat, a good-natured complaint of having to leave instead of staying with me, a feeling that they truly relaxed and got comfortable. Then, it’s easy to be supportive.


I’ve lived with the same person my whole life and supported him and whomever he asked me to.

I always support, them, too—even if they’re not as kindly as he is. That isn’t to say he’s always genial—like me, he has his good days and bad days, too. On his bad days, I can always tell. He rants and raves, worked up before he finally comes home. It’s hard for him to relax, then. But when he does, finally, it’s nice for both of us. He has a saying that he always says when he is at ease with me. He says, “Man, I love this chair.”

About Reayah Lundquist

Reayah Lundquist has been working on novels and writing short stories for years, one of which was featured on the podcast ‘Story Pirates’ in the summer of 2019, and another published in the Penultimate Peanut magazine in April of this year. You can follow her on Twitter @bookscrutiny, and Instagram @lundartee.

Blacky Jean

by Brittany Oppenheimer

flash fiction

My Dad is a racist.

He hates my best friend Blacky Jean. Blacky Jean never likes to give attention. It’s only when BJ is given something important that she shows her affection for other people. Dad hates how Blacky Jean steals other people’s stuff without any common courtesy. Dad also hates how BJ constantly has sex with other random boys.

Blacky Jean likes to sleep.
Blacky Jean likes to fight.
Blacky Jean likes to cause mischief.

Blacky Jean really likes catnip.
And most of all, Blacky Jean is no fool.
Were you fooled into reading this differently?

About Brittany Oppenheimer

Brittany Ann Oppenheimer is a writing studies major at Bridgewater State University. She loves animals, music, rusty basement smells, and writing for fun. Brittany hopes to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2021. She cannot wait to return home to see her dog Kassie and two cats Loki and Binx after the end of each semester. So far, Brittany Ann Oppenheimer has published a piece called “Where The Light Takes Me” in Holyoke Community College’s Pulp City Journal. She has also written for The Y Syndrome Magazine and the Bridgewater State University newspaper called “The Comment” from spring 2019 to fall 2019. You can follow her on Twitter @OppenheimerAnn


by Jacob Rivard

flash fiction

Do you remember the time we shared a cigarette at the gas station? I don’t even like smoking, but I loved the way it tasted when it passed from your hand to mine. It was like inhaling your way of the world: baking, bars, and boundless curiosity. You weren’t much of a talker, you told me. I begged to differ. The smoke, passing from your lips, brought with it secrets and stories you shared with no one, of childhood toys you missed and times you felt sorry for kicking a can down a road. Every word swelled with conviction, filling the air with a strange sense of purpose. I never wanted that cigarette to go out.

~ The only thing I can vividly recall from the drive to the Bridge were your shoes.

You were in flip flops. You planned to step out of your house for just a moment. Neither of us expected it. One kiss and $20 in our pockets saw us embarking on a six-hour journey to see the sunrise. We threw caution to the wind that night, using your dimly lit phone as our guide to a new dawn. As buildings gave way to forests, and forests bowed to the beaches, I realized it could never be. We were the only ones to set foot on the sand that morning. Pioneers of passion, I called us. Our first order saw us conquer a bench, throwing rocks absentmindedly into the water. Neither of us wanted to face the reality. Once the sun rose, we had to return to our old worlds. And I would carry our kiss to the grave.

~ When we sat on the roof of my home, I knew something had changed.

This time, our hands seemed to blur as we shared our cigarette. We interlocked fingers, forming complex patterns to complicate a simple act, as if doing so would ensure a greater sense of unity between us. When we slept that night, we melted into one another. I never wanted to let you go. I wasn’t sure if it was hubris or some heroic sense of purpose, but I thought I could protect you. Maybe I was different. Maybe I could break the cycle. Something within my soul urged me to keep you safe. I never realized that I was the birdcage.

~ When it ended, I lost myself.

I blamed you. You, I told myself, were the reason I couldn’t stop smoking. You made me this way. Now, I had a reason to act out. For the first few months, you were my catch-all. In a sense, I felt vindicated knowing I had a source of blame. As I sunk deeper and deeper, I found a familiar light within the mire. Was this where you found it, too?

~ It always amazed me that, even through the haze of the highs and the sobering clarity of the lows, you were always able to see me for who I was — who I am. I wish I could write this with more clarity. You would always giggle when I couldn’t find the proper words. I guess this is your way of getting the last laugh, isn’t it? Maybe some endings are better left wordless. In a way, it almost makes it all the more powerful. Whether it’s good or bad, all you can do is feel.

About Jacob Rivard

Jake Rivard an award-winning writer based in Detroit, Michigan with published works in satire, hockey journalism, and activist journals. You can find my work anywhere from the world’s largest hip hop satire site to grocery stores throughout the Midwest.

Purple Dreams

by Rubin A Rubina

fiction submissions

He meets me every night; in my purple dreams. Purple dreams you know, the dreams you have just before you fall asleep and start to dream. The dreams that feel more real… Purple Dreams. The darkness of night starts changing its colour as the prince of my dreams descends from the fairyland above. He slowly nears me, so much so that I even hear his breath, the perfect rhythm of it. He says nothing but says it all by just moving a bit more close to me. He swiftly turns to my back lending the breeze of his scented breath to my hair, and they get intoxicated. He touches me nowhere but a current flows deep down merely by his presence. To me it feels like the perfect romance. And I begin to frown at all those faces I meet everyday who think ‘who can romance this unattractive face?’, which they have at times mentioned to me as well, quite rudely I must say. But they are unaware of the perfect romance I have in my purple dreams. If I’m dreaming of it then it must be happening somewhere in real. In some other dimension. Who knows what reality is?

Therefore, I smile. For, I have what I need; my Purple Dreams.

About Rubin A Rubina

Rubin A Rubina is an actor and writer who believes in one creator and one huge creativity cloud. That’s the reason behind art transcending all barriers. Writing is the connection to that vortex of the limitless.

You’re a Savant, Son

by Scott Stimler

flash fiction contest

“Happy birthday, son!”

“Thank you, mother! I do love these splendid decorations. Today is a momentous occasion, and I’ve always wanted to try lemon meringue cake.”

“Why, son, your father and I have got a marvelous gift for you. One that we should’ve given you long ago.”

“Well, what is it, mother?”

“It’s some news.”

“Some news? Well, what is it?”

“You, my son, are – ”

“ – Adopted?”

“No – ”

“ – Being financially and socially cut off from here on now?”

“No, no. You are – ”

“ – Really Uncle Burt’s love child from a fling you two had in Cancun?”

“No, that’s preposterous! Don’t be silly.”

“Well then, what is it?”

“You, my son, are a savant!”

“A savant?”

“Yes, a savant! You have a magnificent gift that comes naturally to you, unbeknownst to you, of course.”

“Really, mother?”

“Yes, really!”

“Oh, wow! So, I’m an incredibly skilled footballer?”


You’re a Savant, Son.

“Wait, no, I’m super quick at cleaning the floors?”


“Oooh, oooh, I know! I am an exceptional singer!”

“Far from it, son – You are the biggest and bestest idiot your father and I have ever seen! And no one could ever take that away from you…”

About Scott Stimler

Scott Stimler a 21-year-old British undergraduate student studying psychology in New York and an avid writer in the making. The playful banter that exists between my parents and myself on a daily basis inspired this piece of writing. You can follow Scott on Goodreads at “Scott S.”

Brain Waves

by Audrey Wick

flash fiction submissions

Her back pressed flat against the surgery table. Cocooned into position, a hive of activity swarmed around her, led by the neurosurgeon.

This wasn’t her first surgery with him. But it was her first time seeing him in glasses. What did that signify about his ability to see details? She closed her eyes and told herself not to worry about his Clark Kent frames. She lay still, giving herself to the hands of medical personnel that she hoped were skilled enough to successfully complete the task.

“Breath in.” The surgeon instructed in a hypnotic voice. “Hold it.” She did as she was told, petrified to perform any less than what was required of her.

“Don’t move.”

“Don’t swallow.”

“Don’t exhale.”

A warm liquid coursed through her femoral artery, from the top of her leg, through her torso, across the right side of her head, and into her brain. Technology captured images of her aneurysm, contained by platinum coils which had saved her life six months earlier.

“Good.” The surgeon was satisfied. “Now breathe.” She blew out hot air before readying to complete the process three more times.

Each time was important.

Each time was dangerous.

On the last two passes, flashes of bright, jagged lights painted the inside of her eyelids. A brilliant pattern of neuropathways lit themselves to her in unexplainable messaging. She had seen her own brain. And when the neurosurgeon announced the procedure’s ultimate success, she couldn’t speak for shock at the gift she had been given.

About Audrey Wick

Audrey Wick is a full-time professor of English at Blinn College in Texas. There, she is a writing teacher who writes, with four traditionally published novels from Tule Publishing. Audrey’s writing has also appeared in college textbooks published by Cengage Learning and W. W. Norton as well as in The Houston Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Orlando Sentinel, and various literary journals. She believe the secret to happiness includes lifelong learning and good stories. But travel and coffee help. She has journeyed to over twenty countries—and sipped coffee at every one. Readers can connect with her at her writing website of, and on Twitter and Instagram @WickWrites.