Fan Mail by Anna Vernon

July 25, 2012

Mr. Hefner,

Thank you so much for ensuring that your publications are accessible and affordable for all types of people. Last night I caught my 11-year-old son looking at your April edition with two of his schoolmates. I was up because the dog started coughing, and for a moment I thought my husband had come back, but I checked downstairs and he hadn’t so I went to the kitchen to get some ice cream. Then I climbed back up the stairs and I had to go slowly because I ate too much ice cream and I saw light creeping under my son’s stickered door so I peeked through the crack without actually going in. As it was I couldn’t go in; he had locked the door.

We have a no-lock policy in my house. My son understands this, so the pit in my stomach opened up. I went around the house in the darkness to his open window and pulled back the screen and just barely moved the curtain.

From the glow of the moonlight, I found him and his friends huddled over a picture of your cover girl, Kate what’s-her-name, and they had the magazine open to the page with just pictures. My son and his friends were doing something with their hands that I will not put in paper.

I didn’t know what to say because they hadn’t seen me yet so I started rehearsing my mom-speech while I still had the chance. I was going to burst in like an angry hen and tell my son that he was hanging out with the wrong crowd because I don’t want my son hanging out with boys who have access to Playboy. I tried to remember all of the phone numbers of the parents of my son’s friends but I couldn’t so it gave me pause for a minute.

But then I overheard that my son is actually the one who supplied the magazine, and he didn’t actually buy it he received it from one of the older boys who lives on our street. Before my husband left I used to think that older boy had a pleasant physique. Shapes rise and fall across his body like riverbeds converging into a mammoth stream of muscle. The air hits his jawline at the perfect spot, a spot that I’m sure, of course, many women have kissed. But now I’m not supposed to think like that because it’s not right since my husband left me for a younger woman. At least that’s what they tell me in therapy.

I didn’t know what to do with the information that my son was the owner of the magazine so I decided I should sleep on it and maybe confront him in the morning. And then I walked back to my room and the dog was still coughing, making me think of my husband who left me last year. I guess I thought about yelling at my son a little but even more so I was thinking, or hoping, rather, that he had more copies of Playboy because that means he will make more friends. And I wanted to know if you think that’s wrong that I wish for that because I know I’m not supposed to. My son is kind of shy looking but he has a very good heart and he looks like his father, my husband who left me. Maybe in ten years he will be the older boy on the street with the big, tan arms that all the divorcees lust over. Or maybe he will be like my husband who left me.

This morning I planned on going to the grocery store to get some more for my son and I planned to slip them under his bed where I knew he would find them because that’s where he hides everything but one of the ladies from the PTA board was at the store so I couldn’t.

Which brings me to the reason I am writing you. If you are not terribly inconvenienced, could you send a few more copies to 2531 E. Street Northlake, VA.? I don’t care what edition they are. They all look the same to me. Address the package ‘To Nathan, From Bobby.’ You could also change the ‘Nathan’ to ‘Nate’ if you think it sounds better. I am not sure which one is cooler or how, exactly, Bobby, the older boy with the tan arms on my street, addresses my son. Perhaps since you are of the generation of people whose crow’s-feet have formed, you could pass this letter on to a younger employee and ask her opinion as well. I have enclosed ten dollars in the event that you can.

Many Thanks,
Mrs. Hillard


A Football Game with a Twist of Lemon by Rachel Konig

July 21, 2012

Vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, or wine, straight or mixed—take your pick and my mom would drink it. The past four years have been especially memorable—for me, not for her. Peeling her out of her car and steadying her into the bathroom, I’ve been the adult in this relationship.

Last weekend was the biggest football game of the year—my high school Falcons versus our rival Mavericks. Everybody goes, parents, students, and even teachers and of course, my mom decides to get hammered before arriving with my dad. The game was at a college stadium so everyone could attend and most of the upper classmen along with the sophomores who thought they were cool pre-gamed and snuck liquor in empty water bottles. My mom did this and I was the one always who ended up taking care of her. My teenage years have wasted away because she’s the one getting wasted. She might be the worst alcoholic I’ve ever heard of though—she has the tolerance of a mouse even though she always has some sort of drink in her hand.

She showed up with my dad who was smiling ear to ear because he felt like he was back in his glory days while my mom stumbled in her stilettos. I walked by them with a group of my friends and automatically knew she was drunk: her eyes were bugged out and when she asked me the score of the game she got way too close to my face like she usually does when she’s seeing double. She smelled of wine and a Belvedere martini with a twist of lemon. I pulled my dad aside and complained while he explained that he tried to stop her wine and liquor consumption at dinner. She didn’t listen and it was blatantly obvious: my friends subtly inched backward as she slurred her words and repeated questions more than three times each.

The third quarter had just begun and the game was close. That was when my dad got an emergency call for work and had to jet off to the office. I dragged her along as she was holding my hand while following my friends and me around when all of a sudden she ripped away from my hand and took off to a nearby trashcan. Bent at a 90-degree angle with her face in the plastic, she started puking her guts out in front of all of my friends and all of the school’s parental community. I wanted to scream as the security guard approached, gave me a stern look, and asked me if I had everything under control. I felt the color drain from my face and told my friends I would see them later. I assured the cop I was taking her home. I erased the embarrassment from around her mouth, pulled her hair up, and tore the flask from her back pocket and emptied it.

She sloppily cried as I shoved her toward the car holding a trash bag for her. On the drive, I concentrated in silence while she hung her head out the window. Her drool streamed and her loosely tied up hair flapped in the wind like a dog. “Arewethereyet?” she garbled, “five more minutes” I replied. “Iwannagohomeeee” she whined. I finally turned up the driveway, switched off the ignition, and jerked her out of the car and into the house. Quickly undressing her and putting her in bed, I sat down flooded with disappointment while she drunkenly rolled her head around. “Goodnight mom” I whispered. “I love you”. But she was passed out. I got up, turned the lights off, and closed the door.

Mazel Tov by Jacqueline Jacobs

July 19, 2012

She is starting to regret her choice in seat. The stench of alcohol is emanating from her uncle Marks portly body and preventing her from smelling her mother’s homemade matzo ball soup. She brings the bowl up closer to her face, hoping that it will block out the stench but it’s useless. She scoots her chair closer to her boyfriend, Larry, on her right. The smell of his Gucci guilty cologne, although overpowering, is much preferred to the smell of whiskey and manischewitz wine.

From the second Rebecca walked into the Passover Seder Lorraine has not been able to stop glaring at her. With every sound of her annoying voice Lorraine cringes. Rebecca is sitting directly across from Lorraine, telling Lorraine’s family about all the interesting things Rebecca and her boyfriend have been up to this year. Lorraine doesn’t say more than a “thank you” until dessert is brought out, she spends the entire dinner glaring at Rebecca, hoping is she stares at her hard enough Rebecca will leave.

As the desert is being brought out, Rebecca stands up. She uses her bony little fingers to pick up a knife and tap it against the rim of Lorraine’s mother’s china. She opens her un-lip glossed mouth to amaze everyone with some incredibly interesting tidbit of her life. “Excuse me everyone…” The squeaky noise falling out her mouth is a pathetic excuse for a speaking voice. “I have some exiting news! Garret and I are getting married this spring!” The whole family fills the room with their cheers. Before the room even has a chance to settle down Lorraine bolts out of her seat, nearly knocking over a dessert tray and her uncles 9th glass of wine, and proclaims “Larry and I are getting married too!” The cheers of Lorraine’s family grow even louder as Rebecca’s slinks back into her seat. The cheers subside and the family sits back down to finish their last bit of coffee and pastries. Lorraine’s mother asks a few questions concerning the wedding, but Lorraine quickly ends the Q&A saying, “Mom, we haven’t even started to think about that yet.” Lorraine’s sister Sheryl, a loud, short, fake blonde, stands from the opposite end of the table screams “Lorraine, does Larry know about this?” Lorraine quickly responds, “Oh course he does! Right honey?” As Lorraine turns to hear Larry’s answer, she notices the beads of sweat dripping down his face. The little pool of water that had built up on his dessert plate from ever drop that falls from his chin. In all the excitement Lorraine has momentarily forgotten that she was really engaged at all, she has momentarily forgotten about Larry. Larry pushes out a smile and responds “Yeah, of course.”

Larry drives Lorraine home to her apartment that night almost with out saying a single word. The entire car ride is filled with attempts at conversation by Lorraine but not a single one sticks. She says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to” over and over but cannot get any sort of response out her now apparently mute boyfriend. Finally, in a moment of frustration, Lorraine screams, “You should be overjoyed that I even wanted to marry you!” This starts the full-blown battle that last the duration of the car ride to Lorraine’s apartment.

They walk into the apartment together, in silence. The second Larry close the door, she begins the yelling again. “How could you do that to me in front of your family!” he yells. “How could you not want to marry me!” she says. The fight continues like this until 1:30 in the morning we Larry says, “I am so over all your bullshit Lorraine!” She stares at him for a few moments, speechless. She quietly walks away to her bedroom, goes inside, and slams the door in his face.

Larry waits on her couch until 3 am, turning around periodically to see if she was opening the door. At 3:15 he gets and crawls into bed with her. Brushing her hair back, he kisses her on the check to wake her up. Her eyes peel open and she stares at him. Larry sweetly opens his mouth and says “Maybe you have a good idea, you know the whole marriage thing. I have been thinking about it, and I honestly can’t imagine my life with out you. So, I guess what I am trying to say is, will you marry me?” Lorraine pops out of bed and sarcastically responds, “We’ll talk about this in the morning.”

Roots by Hilda Xhepa

July 19, 2012

She picked the flower yesterday, it was barren as the earthen root. She studied it with her eyes, then held it closer to her chest. She stroked its stem and outlined the petal-less seed bed circle in her hands clasping it tight at the bottom. She rushed home. She climbed into a chair, stood up, reaching for the vase hidden in the back of the right kitchen cabinet. It smelled like her mother’s hands, home efforts, and arts of years past. Like sticky clay and plastic, stoves, and mother’s loose and spinning fingers. Unloading glass cups one by one onto the counter, she clasped the bottom of the vase and balanced in her hand, kissed the petals of the rose daisy sculpted on its oval side, slipped it onto the counter, picked it up again, and mounted, down. The flower lingered in her left hand as she trickled water into the vase, focused the flower rear side up, and waited for the yellow flower feathers to blossom. She sat on her porch in the noon sunshine and surveyed over her mother’s calculated garden, trees, flowers, petals. She waited.

In the evening, her mother with a boxed up mind and lines trailing around her head, put her briefcase on the counter and slinking around the house, perched about, peering into rooms, checking under beds, examining closets. She creaked the porch door open, sighed when she saw her daughter, and crouched over the flower. She looked down on the girl with legs so limber and eyes so dolled. Careless brunette locks bouncing on her jagged chin. The seed bed was dangling in the water, and the roots were shooting over the rim of the ease-work, scattering dirt on the concrete and in the water, all over the vase. She frowned at her daughter, her swimming brown pupils softened as they met the girl’s eyes. “Don’t touch mother’s stuff.” The mother then snarled her lips and plucked the vase off the ground. The girl’s blue eyes glued back to the seed bed. The mother tossed out the decrepit flower, the water, and held the vase. She bathed it under hot water, with a soapy sponge caressing the jagged-less porcelain, outlining its smooth curves with her fingers, but after a familiar tender pat, she tucked it away into the cabinet.

No Match for Rage by Genevieve Friedman

July 19, 2012

It had been fourteen years since he’d first been locked up. His head had been shaved countless times, due to the incessant lice that thought of his hair as an amiable place to live, most of his teeth had fallen out, and the few hairs left on his head had lost all color. He barely recognized himself. Inmates there were ruthless, the guards no better, the food was inedible, daily fights broke out, sickness was rampant, and privacy was unattainable. This was prison.

He tried to repent for the way he had hit is wife; over and over again, her screams were no match for his rage. But she had cheated on him; didn’t that give him a right to do what he had done? With his release coming any day now he had begun to seriously think about what he would do with his life. He thought of his daughter. She was only three the last time he had seen her. He remembered the shiny silver pendant he had given to her the Christmas before he had been put behind bars. He fell asleep thinking, and the next day, he saw sunlight for the first time in decades. He spent the day talking to strangers to find out details of what had happened to his daughter. After putting together various rumors he heard, he figured out where she was.

That night he went out to a sketchy neighborhood not too far from the prison. He didn’t want to find her here, but he knew this is where she would be. He had to save her. He clenched his jaw and began to walk along the street, surveying the skimpy women, who put on their most seductive faces, trying to get a commission. Trying to survive. He searched for someone tall and blond, like his ex-wife. He finally stopped in front of a lanky woman, whose white eyes reflected the dull glow of the moon. She took his hand and dragged him into a house. In the hallway’s fluorescent lighting, her sunken in cheeks, emaciated body and the maze of dark circles lining her eyes made her look decades older than she was. But he knew it was her. Finally, they reached a bedroom. It smelled of old cigarettes and gin, with just a hint of cheap perfume. Before he could protest, she pushed him onto the bed and hitched up her skirt. Then he saw a glint of silver dangling from her neck. It was the pendant. She looked just like her mom. She was a whore, just like her mom. He jumped up and began to beat her. Her screams were no match for his rage.

32 Missed Calls, 22 Voicemails, 17 Text Messages, and a Baby by Leo Biette-Timmons

July 19, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Last week, on September the 17th at 2:12 am and after 12 hours of labor, we had the wonderful birth of our lovely little surprise!

Robert Dennington was born 10 pounds 3 ounces. He is a funny looking baby, unlike either of us. With his unique appearance, we request abundant swooning over him at Christmas, in order to build his self-esteem. Jenny and I have been arguing over who he got the majority of his genes from. She says Rob has Uncle Ted’s ears, but between us, he has her father’s nose and thin lips. Although, we both agreed that he will probably grow into his looks. It’s extremely farfetched, but I’m even questioning if Rob is mine!

Thank you very much for the lovely stuffed lion, but Jenny and I were perplexed to find that Rob ripped the left arm off in a matter of days! Jenny’s parents gave him a cute, blue onesie, but unfortunately we couldn’t fit his head through the neck hole!

Although we weren’t entirely prepared for his arrival, and the fact that daycare for Rob will cost a small fortune, we are overjoyed with his birth. Jenny, of course, declined maternity leave. Our neighbor, Gretchen, looks after Rob during the day. The other evening, after work, we forgot to gather him from her home and had a quiet dinner! 32 missed calls, 22 voicemails and 17 text messages later, we strolled over and picked him up. I had left my cell phone on silent in my brief case, while Jenny’s battery had died earlier that day.

Much love,
Jenny & James

and Baby Rob

Robert wouldn’t stop crying long enough for a decent picture to be taken, so Jenny and I capitalized on this moment and had a lovely photo shoot of our own!

We decided to share our joy by inviting you to come up any weekend and steal him away from us for a week, or two, or even a month! Please spread this invitation to all the cousins!

September 23, 2010

Tied by Katie Mears

July 21, 2011

It was actually Andy’s birthday. Mine had been two months prior, and today was about him. As my mother and I drove, I got the speech. “This is his day, honey. And I need you to respectful of that.” I knew the words, I’d gotten them every December 16th for as long as I can remember. All about him, and how we must keep in mind how special and how much of a gift his little, fragile life is. I know. I do love my little brother. I remember bringing him home from the hospital. My parents say I was too young to remember, but I do. I remember them crying, and I remember all the little tubes running in and out of his body. Above everything, though, I remember his eyes–dark blue, just like mine.

Hours later I see those same eyes sparkle as he unwraps present after present. Mom helps him with the ribbons. Hot wheels. Video games. Race cars. Legos. The stack of crumpled paper grows and grows next to him. I watch from the hallway. I love seeing him here, seeing him happy. We got lucky, this time last year we were still in St. Francis’s left wing. I was thinking still about last year’s party when my grandma took my hand, and led me into the next room. Without a word, she wrapped me in her arms. “I know how hard this is for you,” she says. I’ve heard that my whole life. But now, hugging her, I actually believe it. Without a word she walks to her closet and pulls out a box. “I know it’s his day,” she starts, as she lays the box in front of me. “I just hate seeing you there … that look.” Her head jerks as my mother calls her form the next room. She kisses my cheek before walking out of the room. “Sweetie,” she called, “this’ll just be our little secret.” And she was gone.

I felt guilty as I stared at that box. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I’d had the speech. I’d been listening. I’d been doing everything I was supposed to be doing. But not now. Not now because this beautiful red bow was staring up at me. I could have told my grandma to wait. Christmas was in a few days, not a big deal. I wish I was I bigger person. I would have been able to, if not for the bow. The big red silk bow knotted around the box, tied by my grandmother’s fragile hands. With my thumb and forefinger I gentle guided the tail of the bow upward, as the knot disappears. Strange how easy that is. How one draw has the power to unravel the whole thing.

I’m lost in that ribbon, letting it spill through my fingers, when I hear my brother call for me from the next room. I run over, and am there, smiling, before I have to hear my name a second time. Before him now, instead of a mountain, is one lone blue package. From me. He grins his toothy grin at me, and I hate myself. I hate that big red bow. I watch as he pulls the tail of the ribbon, just as I did. He opens my pack of goodies, of pills to make him better and wings to let him fly away. He’s leafing through the books when my grandma walks in from the next room. “I redid the bow, and it’s all waiting for you, under the tree,” she whispers in my ear. “Merry Christmas.”

I don’t see her again until after dinner, on my way out she pats my knee and says, “You’re a good sister.” That’s all I needed to hear. That’s all I’ve ever needed to hear.