January 2021 | nonfiction
I regret that I am not going to be a student ever again. A real student I mean, with an assigned desk, a name tag, a government-issued pencil, composition books, wooden ruler.
Standing in line for my turn at the hand crank pencil sharpener mounted on the wall beside the globe we are not supposed to spin. Why not. Will we make the world too dizzy?
I regret that I am not going to be a real student again with hand-me-down, hard cover textbooks. All dog-eared and water-stained. Covers scuffed, ripped. Punctured by what, the dagger on the end of a silver compass? Names of the students before me listed inside the front cover where I add my name and erase it a hundred times because I can’t get my writing to look cool enough.
I regret that I won’t hear my name in attendance roles, that I can’t find my home room, my locker, the entrance to the gym, the cafeteria, the auditorium. Where is my bus, my lunch table, the idea that everything I did would lead me to some preordained and glorious destiny. To my unique place in this world, to my purpose in life. To what I will be when I grow up.
Here is what I regret the most. That day my best friend Lisa forgot how to make her fingers move inside the music room that reeked of motor oil. The only classroom in the basement. There were no windows. The door always closed to not disturb, whom exactly? Our voices walking to that classroom, past the boiler room and janitorial closets, like a cannon ball rolling around in huge metal tub, as if someone had melted the tuba to take a bath.
Lisa, her hands frozen in air over piano keys. A person in an oil painting, or rain clouds over a person in an oil painting. I, the page turner, seated beside her. We’d practiced, you see, at her house in her sunken living room with the white shag carpet and the baby blue velvet furniture.
I didn’t look at her. Her tears wetting the keys, the white ones, the black ones. I held my breathe.
The teacher folded herself at the waist like a playing card, brought drumsticks down hard and swift. Lisa’s fingers dipped and struck an awful music. She might have cried out. I’m not sure. Two more hearty whacks, and we were back in our seats, Lisa’s hands red in her lap. Why wasn’t she rubbing them. She needed ice, but the door was closed.
Now someone was playing notes so easily, so clearly. I’ve heard them ever since. Why didn’t I get to my feet and shove that monster. Why didn’t I rise up, take my friend by the forearm and drag her out of that room.
Yes, yes, the obvious reasons. Blah. Blah. Blah. Teacher, Student. Adult, Child. Authority Figure.
I don’t buy it.
What are you going to be when you grow up.
Virginia Watts is the author of poetry and stories found in Illuminations, The Florida Review, Burningword Literary Journal, The Moon City Review, Permafrost Magazine, Palooka Magazine, Streetlight Magazine, Sky Island Journal among others. Winner of the 2019 Florida Review Meek Award in nonfiction and nominee for Best of the Net Nonfiction 2019 and 2020, her poetry chapbooks “The Werewolves of Elk Creek” and “Shot Full of Holes” are upcoming for publication by The Moonstone Press. She has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize.
January 2021 | poetry, Pushcart nominee
I bet the four flush—
worth next to nothing
but looking to all like the key
to the kingdom of heaven.
You told me once
was half luck
and half bluff.
They had just
cleaned you out again
at the Friday night game
above the body shop on Sutter Avenue.
You and your six
passing a cheap bottle of rye
and shots at each other’s parentage,
in a room
full of reefer
and the sweat
of day labor.
You told me once
you had no luck—
having given it
all to me.
And I pictured a medallion
bestowed upon the younger brother—
no small burden
you’d hung around my neck—
as if the family’s fortune
was riding on my narrow shoulders.
anyone who knew us might think to ask.
“But, you’ll never be a bluffer,
you told me,
for that you need a pair—
and in our family, I got them.”
Cold as cobra’s breath
I bet my four spades
as the better hand folded.
You never were a judge of character—
friends and enemies.
Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. His recent publications have or will appear in RavensPerch, MacQueen’s, 8 Poems, Louisiana Lit, Burningword Literary Journal, The Write Launch, Biscuit Root Drive, Evening Street, Better Than Starbucks, Flashes of Brilliance, SanAntonio Review, Softblow, Mojave River Review, The Broadkill Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Panoply, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib, Thimble Magazine, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Ghost City Review, Borfski Press, Streetlight Press, Gravel, Literary Heist, Nixes Mate Review, Third Wednesday, Misfit Magazine, Word Fountain, Eclectica Magazine, The Drabble, New Verse News and The Ekphrastic Review. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His Chapbook, “Perhaps You Can,” was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory was just published by Kelsay.
January 2021 | poetry
There are blue humpbacked mountains in the distance
and I always want to look up and over there, absorb
the scenery and forget that good-fitting underwear
is a basic human right, undeniable at least in the
good ole US of A. The 6:00 PM weather person
on Channel 4 who always scowls is wearing underwear
that doesn’t fit properly. Miss Irby, who tried to teach
American History in the 11th grade, never had properly-
fitted panties, I could always tell. And my gym coach,
Bragg Stanton, gave up finding nice underwear and
shared with us that he was starting a new trend of going
commando. There are malls and department stores nestled
in city-sized pockets in these smoky hills, and just as you
think it’s time to settle down with a nice goat cheese,
whole wheat crackers, and a glass of red wine, you feel
the pull, the squeeze, the pinch of that worn-well fabric
vying for space up there between your legs. It is time.
Dedicate a portion of the day to dilly-dally inside stores
and shops, the big-box, the men’s boutique, the electronic
pages of underwear, constructed of every conceivable fabric
under the sun: boxers and briefs and low-cut straps that resemble
large strands of colored floss. There are thongs, and jocks
and cloth that breathes, guaranteed not to burn or rub you
raw. By now you know what works best. But experimentation
is the hallmark of long-term satisfaction. Be bold if you must,
stepping into a store that smells like musk with salespeople
in three-piece suits who really don’t want to be there in the
first place. They point you in the right direction and then leave
you to your own design. I will not spend that much money
on underwear, ever, even if I were a millionaire. I am tired
and need some lunch, maybe a beer on some open patio
where I can write Mark Weldon, underwear guru, and ask
for a written guarantee. But it’s not like returning a shirt.
Once that material, whatever it is, has kissed the dark recesses
of your inner things, it is a done deal. Shop carefully because you
need to like what’s going to be down there for at least three years.
Whether John Dorroh taught any secondary science is still being discussed. However, he managed to show up every morning at 6:45 for a couple of decades with at least two lesson plans and a thermos of robust Colombian. His poetry has appeared in about 75 journals, including Dime Show Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Os Pressan, Feral, Selcouth Station, and Red Dirt Forum/Press. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.