The Sight of Your Eyes |
by Eric Hanna

Like a man on an island
Who finds ten, stacked stones
He knows he, like each one
Is now not alone

I see you in all the effects that you cause
Your actions, not random, don't follow stones' laws

Do you too feel alone? Rippling wave in the sea
Or is this the message?  Bottle-boat sent to me

So I take up my stones and begin me my pile
King of my deserted isle
But not for long: my stack falls as do I!
The movement of face not my own brings surprise
Your ears hear my words mouthed in too-silent cries
I have glimpsed, just a hint, of the sight of your eyes
 
 
___
Eric Hanna is a philosophy  teacher from central Canada. He informs us that his poetic influences include JRR Tolkien and Tom Waits. In his free time he enjoys writing, especially about himself in the third person.

A Good Non-Catch |
by Caroline Beaton

A young southern fishing guide teaches you how to fly-fish this summer on the ranch in  Wyoming where you work. You would hardly classify yourself as an angler, but you do fly-fish. You just don’t catch. 

You arrive on the ranch and meet your guide. He is not that young; he is twenty-two and you are eighteen and he will point this out frequently. But you don’t know he’s your guide yet. You think he has a very sexy southern drawl but is a little short. You listen to him talk about how his family owns the bottom half of South Carolina. You like his smile. When he finds out you like to fish he’s thrilled. “I’m a fishing guide here,” he tells you. You know. You’re a housekeeper. He knows. You tell him you really do love to fly-fish but you’re not particularly good at it. He says he’ll teach you how. Your last boyfriend taught you last summer and you never caught anything. But this is a new summer, new river, new fish. You’ll have better luck this time.

Once on the riverbank you remember some things, but your young southern fishing guide teaches you like you’re a beginner. You are glad. Still, he makes you nervous. Very nervous. You stand, rod in hand, with your body facing upstream. Your young southern fishing guide stands behind you, helping you grip the rod with his right hand while grazing his left against your waist. It’s all about the elbow, not the wrist. With your right hand holding the rod, thumb on top, fingers underneath, you move your
forearm back and forth. “You’re not whipping anything around,” your guide tells you, stooping to grab his beer teetering on marsh grass. “It’s a simple motion,” he says as his beer-less hand meets your elbow, directing your arm back toward his body, lingering until all the line is behind you, then pushing it forward toward the river. The swift motion lands the line in the water. “Like that.” Your guide takes a drink, sits down, and pats the ground next to him. You are happy to set down the rod. 


 You have many such lessons after the first one. Previous lessons with your ex entailed him fishing and you watching. In the second wave you learn much more—primarily that line, especially with a fly tied on, especially with trees behind you, especially when tossed carelessly and distractedly on the ground, and especially when you don’t really care about actually catching fish, gets easily tangled. You also learn that your guide is an excellent line untangle-er. He is useful. And sexy. So was your last boyfriend, but he was more sexy than useful, and you kept him more out of habit than passion, and you miss him greatly when you sit down next to your young southern fishing guide.

 A real fisherman knows how to tie his own flies. Your guide is a real fisherman. He teaches you how with his calloused man hands wrapping the tag line six or seven times around the standing line. “We should go camping,” he pauses mid-twist and looks up at you, “I know a good place near here.” Then he inserts the tag line into the loop created between the eye of the fly and the first twist in the line. He pulls the tag line through another loop above the twisted line he just created. Then he spits on it. This is the most important part, he tells you. “You gotta get it reallllly wet,” he says with a wink in your direction, “like nice and lubricated, you know?” He puts the line in his mouth and draws it back out. A trail of saliva follows. He holds onto the standing end with one hand and the fly in the other and pulls tight. You say, “Yeah sure let’s camp” with no intention then of spending your free nights pining over your ex-boyfriend, although that’s what you do, wishing later you’d let your young southern fishing guide pitch a tent. He clips the leftover tag line close to his new knot and glances over at you, with satisfaction. If only your ex-boyfriend had taught you the spitting trick, you think. Would that have solved everything? 


 You get several bites throughout the summer, but none stay on the line. When people ask how fishing went you say, “I got a bite!” But everyone knows that doesn’t mean anything. Your guide tries to teach you that when you get a strike you have to yank up on the line as soon as you feel it. If you wait too long, the hook won’t set and the fish will get away. You try to set the hook on time, but you are often distracted and often apathetic and you never set it quite right. 

 Your young southern guide takes you fishing frequently. You get pretty good. You are a decent caster and know the hot spots (in the shade), what flies to use (San Juan worm, Copper John, and Batman Nymph) and when to go (after three or whenever he gets off work). He has taught you well but wishes the two of you did more than fly-fish.

After dinner on his last night he takes you to the river, sets up your rod and sits with you.“This is called the sit and wait,” your guide informs you. You get impatient with the sit and wait and he tells you that’s what fishing is all about. You don’t catch anything then either. You decide that night that you like him, that your ex-boyfriend was a real jerk, and your young southern fishing guide subsequently decides he’s too old for you and wishes you had liked him earlier. Before you have time to figure out what you are actually doing, with regard to fly-fishing and your non-existent relationship, he leaves the next day and the brutal truth of the matter remains: you can’t catch a fucking fish.
  

___
Caroline Beaton graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with a degree in Creative Writing and attended the University of Cambridge’s Summer Writing Program in 2013. Her work has been published in Necessary Fiction Magazine, Elephant Journal and HOLSTEE Magazine, among other places. In addition to being a writer, Caroline does marketing for a chai company and teaches yoga.

Hieroglyphics |
by Carl James Grindley

The world might be unreadable,
Impervious, even, to zombie Jean-François Champollion,
A shambling half-skeletal anime of the little bearded Frenchman,
Powered by lesser brains and a surplus of coarse paté du maison,
Drafting vast indices, as if order and sense could be distilled
From a litany of soft moans, little noises that never promised
Even a compensatory code.
Guideless, cameraless, stuck like an idiot under
The hot hot sun, I am abandoned in a doomed,
Soon to be flooded temple,
As the Aswan of the world's dead hopes
Fills to the brim and then some.
Modernity is a religion that might compass countless ages,
Daft and half corked, I roam its wind-swept ruins
Unable to read the simplest of expressions
As the waters lap around my knees.
This is a message written in jelly beans
A sub-standard take out Pad Thai
That lives in the refrigerator until Lovecraftian
Horror exiles it to a dumpster some blocks away,
This is song sung on a borrowed guitar,
An empty priority package that promised a face staring
Back in the morning's mirror,
A clever telephone,
And an alarm clock that merely tells me how much
Of my life has been lost to staring at roses and laundry.
How does one decipher a bag of carrots,
A jar of alfredo sauce, a bulletin board,
And trees in bloom and trees covered in snow?
Is the world seduced?
Should I describe the light that shines
Above its shifting plates right now?
That light is a tiny flag and a jar of pencils,
Agar and sectioned cultures of bacteria scientists suspect could be growing
Absolutely everywhere.
The world is a rope hung around my neck,
Held taut with the approaching tempest.
The world's touch is a difficult plate of guts,
A statue with too many legs,
And a myriad molecules
All pointing to an empty concert hall and thirty-six discarded costumes.
This screwed up face is the face
I wear when I fear truth the most.
Caterpillar-like,
The world hits the hookah
And pins photos of angels on its cracked firmament,
The world takes refuge in a bed of cedar needles
As the coast blisters down from
Windswept Uculet to the Pacific and beyond.


 
___
Carl James Grindley grew up on an island on Canada's pacific coast but now lives and works in the south Bronx. His last book of poetry, Lora and The Dark Lady, was published in 2013 by Ravenna Press. Three of his novellas were published under the title ICON by No Record Press in 2008.

What The Purse Possessed |
by Michael C. Keith


Deep from human vanity,
And the pride from life that planned her. 
                                     –– Thomas Hardy

 

 While Coach, Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton had captured most of the high-end women’s handbag market, in Florence Earl’s estimation nothing equaled the style, beauty, and cache of the Escalier Sac a Main by Brul Conte. She had dreamed of owning the fabled handbag and had recently arrived at the conclusion that price be-damned. It was worth every last penny of its $5,800 price tag from her perspective . . . if not her friends’.

“It’s discounted by 40 percent right now. Usually almost $10,000.”

“Still, you can get a Chanel Jersey Flap Bag for $2,500, Flo,” advised her longtime friend Estelle.

“Nice, but common, my dear,” replied Florence, with a dismissive wave.

“Yeah, right. I should be so lucky to have such a common bag.”

“The Escalier is made of Balenciaga leather, and Brul Conte line their bags with the finest Chinese silk available. No other manufacturer does that. It takes softness to a whole new and exquisite level.”

 “You’ve done your homework, girlfriend. But you could put the money down on a car. Your Corolla is older than the hills and keeps needing repairs. Just yesterday you were saying the car was driving you crazy.”

“So I’ll take the bus when it dies. Lately, I usually do anyway. At least I’ll look great with the Escalier on my arm.”

 “You take that on the bus, and somebody will cut off your arm to get it.”

“Oh, c’mon, I want it and have been saving forever to buy it. You’re the one who’s always saying you shouldn’t deny yourself happiness.”

“I put a limit on that. Five grand for a purse is way beyond it. But, hey, it’s your hard-earned money . . .

“True, and I’m worth it. So I’ll see you tomorrow at work, and if you’re less critical, I’ll let you touch the most magnificent handbag in the world.”

“You’re nothing if not generous, sweetie. See you then.”

                                                             *           *           *

As soon as Estelle left Starbucks, Florence headed to Nordstrom to make her once-in-a-lifetime purchase. On her way, she thought about putting the handbag on her charge card, but then reminded herself that her goal was to buy the Escalier using the money she had saved for that express purpose. Don’t go adding to your card. It’s already too high. Besides, it’s close to its ceiling anyway. Cash it is.

Her heart skipped a beat when she reached the store’s department that sold handbags. I’m going to do it. I’m going to own an Escalier.

“May I help you, Ma’am?” inquired a young woman in an expensive suit.

Florence wondered how store clerks could afford costly apparel on their low salaries, and then she wondered if Nordstrom provided their sales staff with clothing during their shifts. Wow, I bet she has Prada on.

“Yes, I’d like to see the Escalier Sac a Main.

“Of course,” said the young woman, reaching under the display counter. “We only have the one style, but I assume it’s what you want.”

“Indeed, it’s exactly what I want,” replied Florence, attempting to quell an urge to squeal with utter delight.

“It’s the last one we have, and it’s on sale.”

"Yes, I know. It’s marked down 40 percent.”

“I’ve never seen such a reduction on an Escalier. It is magnificent,” said the sales clerk, handing it to her customer.

For a moment, Florence thought she might actually faint. Her head swirled with excitement. Oh, my God. I’m going to buy it . . . really buy it. 

“I’ll take it!” blurted Florence, to the surprise of the sales person.

“Really? I mean, of course. Will it be cash or credit card?”

“Cash . . . ah, check.”

“I’ll wrap it for you, ma’am.”

“No . . . no, that won’t be necessary. I’m going to wear it. I’ll transfer my stuff from this little purse, and you can throw it away. It’s old. I only brought it because I knew I’d be getting the Escalier and wearing it immediately.”

“I can do that, ma’am.”

Within minutes, Florence was outside and walking down the street with her new purchase on her arm. I feel like a queen. I just can’t believe it. I think people are staring. It’s so classy . . . I’m so classy.

                                                                        *           *           *

“Hot damn, you actually did it! You bought it!” blurted Estelle, when Florence arrived at work the next day.

Florence swung around as if on a fashion show runway.

“Isn’t it gorgeous?” she cooed, though rather loudly.

 Shh . . . you’ll wake the dead. The boss is in,” warned Estelle, pointing toward his office.

Florence cupped her mouth and giggled. “I can’t help it. I’ve been so giddy since I got it. I feel like Princess Kate. She has one, you know.”

“Yeah, and she can afford it.”

“You should see the looks I get.”

“People always look at crazies.”

“C’mon. You’re just jealous.”

“Well, maybe a little. Let me hold it.”

 “Are your hands clean?”

 "No, I’ve been dipping them in grease. Gimme!”

Estelle held the Escalier gingerly and looked through its interior.

“Well,” inquired Florence, grinning smugly.

“Yeah, okay, it’s beautiful, but I’d still spend the money on something else.”

“To each her own. Okay, time’s up. Hand it back.”

“Hey, my high school reunion is coming up next month. Can I borrow it for that?”

 “Not a loaner, sorry.”

“Oh, come on,” pleaded Estelle.

“I’ll think about it, but don’t get your hopes up.”

                                                            *           *           *

Florence took the afternoon off to go to the dentist and get her hair done. At every stop she made it a point to direct attention to her handbag. The response to it was more than gratifying and affirmed the wisdom of her purchase. Every woman she met practically drooled over the Escalier and looked at her with envy.

“Oh my God, it’s lovely. I’ve never seen one of these up close,” gushed the receptionist at the dentist’s office. “They’re so expensive. At least $2,000, right?”

Florence gave a little chuckle before enlightening the woman. “Five times that when they’re not on sale, and they hardly ever are.”

At the hair salon, the reaction to the handbag was equally passionate. Women gawked at the pocketbook with awe and curiosity, adding to Florence’s enormous pleasure. Buying the Escalier was the best thing I’ve ever done. I wish I could afford another. I’ll start saving again. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have two?

When her appointments were met, Florence decided to forego the bus and walk the ten blocks to her apartment. She had never derived the level of satisfaction as she had showing off her stunning accessory. And stares she got, including those of a scruffy-looking man, who began following her as she neared her address. As soon as she opened the door to her building, moreover, the stranger pushed her inside the entrance.

“Gimme your money, lady, and don’t make any noise about it,” he ordered.

Florence clutched at her precious handbag and whimpered.

“What you got in there? Empty it out . . . now!”

“You can have my money but not . . .”

“But not what? You got something valuable in there? Here give the purse to me.”

Florence groaned as the thief dug through her prized possession.

“Thirty-seven bucks. That all you got? What’s so valuable?”

In shock and unable to think clearly, Florence literally let the cat out of the bag, “I spent everything I had on it. Please don’t take my Escalier.”

“Your what?”

“My handbag. It’s . . .”

“This cheap looking thing? Why would I want this crap,” said the man, returning it to Florence. “You get this at Wal-Mart?”

Florence’s anxiety suddenly turned to indignation. “Cheap? Are you a total idiot? This is one of the most expensive . . .”

“Hey, I know cheap when I see it, and that bag ain’t worth nothing. You can keep it, lady. I’d take it for my girlfriend, but she wouldn’t want to be seen with it. Got better taste.”

“It usually costs $10,000, though I got it for half that at Nordstrom yesterday. If you don’t believe me, the receipt is in there.”

“You shitting me, lady?” said the man taking renewed interest in the handbag.

“No I’m not shitting you,” replied Florence, haughtily.

"Well, in that case, gimme it back,” ordered the robber, who then ran off clutching the handbag.

“Damn right!” said Florence, shouting after him triumphantly. “It’s an Escalier Sac a Main. The most beautiful handbag ever . . . ”
 
___
Michael C. Keith teaches college and writes fiction. www.michaelckeith.com

Monochrome Morality
or, a review of Cormack McCarthy's "The Road" |
Editor Note by Ada Fetters

I recently finished reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
 
The short version: The writing is excellent in itself, though all the facts are wrong, in an odd enough way that at first I wondered if the uneven tone meant it was a brilliant parody.
 
The long version:
 
The writing itself is enthralling and I had a difficult time breaking off even though it is generally not advisable to read hopeless post-apocalyptic novels after midnight. Our two main characters, a nameless man and his son, travel the eponymous Road through a dangerous, barren landscape.
 
In this book the earth has suffered a massive cataclysm, the nature of which is unknown. The closest we get to an explanation is that there was a blinding flash of light, then the power went out, and the world caught fire. The man was raised and lives in the backwoods, so he and his family escaped the rioting and have some survival skills. Later we see that entire populations were caught in this conflagration, lines of burned-out cars on highways, buildings askew because their foundations began to melt. Such buildings have a glaze of melted glass on them like on a donut. Would glass quietly melt and drizzle down the outsides of buildings? or would it blow outward/inward violently and melt where it landed?
 
The descriptions in this book are astonishing and would be even  more so if the author cared more about how things work.
 
Ash and smoke blow across the earth, the planet gets colder, nothing will grow. The man and his son live off of whatever canned food they can scavenge. They nourish themselves from the remnants of a departed goodness.
 
Oddly, fire destroyed the world and yet the main character and his son refer to themselves as "the good guys" and "carrying the fire." While "good guys" is reasonably clear (they do not kill other people, they do not rape, they do not steal from others), they do not specify what their fire is. Or why they refer to it this way when the planet-killing blaze is enough and to spare.
 
It may or may not be faith in a god. McCarthy is deliberately vague. It might be hope for the future. It might be the fact that although the few people left after the end of the world as we know it have resorted to cannibalism to stay alive, even eating the few infants born, the man and his son will not do this. They do not consume their own future even though it is essentially hopeless. However, a band of people would not profit from feeding and making allowances for a pregnant woman just to eat the infant. There would be no caloric benefit from keeping a bunch of pregnant women the way readers are shown that "they" do.
 
According to the story the world has been this way for years... a horrifying monochrome world and gray sky. However (says the Editor, not McCarthy) there must be plant life somewhere because the characters are breathing oxygen, which would be in short supply after worldwide fires hot enough to burn cities and the decay of all the fish, since we are told repeatedly the oceans and lakes are dead, which would produce lethal amounts of carbon dioxide.
 
I am not a biologist or climatologist, however, I know enough not to burn a candle in a closed-off cave after a landslide. It seems reasonable that somewhere there are trees, or possibly just algae or plankton or stromatolites - the humble creatures that originally evolved in a tumultuous volcanic earth and eventually put out so much oxygen that it filled the atmosphere.
 
Stromatolites look like rocks, but they're our most distant living relatives. Remember, the boy born just after this disaster is somewhere between ten and fifteen, at the age when (the writer tells us) in a normal society, he'd begin to put up boundaries between himself and his father. If this scenario has been going on that long, then plant life would have to be quietly converting all that carbon dioxide into breathable air or the characters would be suffocated.
 
However, that isn't the point of the story. This is not science-fiction, it is horror. As Mike Nelson, Crow and Tom Servo say, "If you're wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science facts / Then repeat to yourself, 'it's just a show, I should really just relax.'" 
 
 
Readers are treated - and I do mean treated, if you are a horror fan - to terrible ashen landscapes and dull red horizons. Never has monochrome been used so vividly. We are treated to an image of dead oceans with, perhaps, a giant squid in the inky blackness of the far deep. The squid is a despairing horror-thought of the man, not an actual description, so we do not need to worry about what it would live on. You see the difference here.  
 
However, "By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp." 
Great image, except the earth goes around the sun. The sun is banished by the grey clouds, they can't see it, so this isn't just a poetic way of describing it from the characters' perspective. I know this image is very typically Irish but this summarizes the whole book for me. Mesmerizing imagery in itself, but the overarching facts are wrong to the point that they interfere with the story. I would not even mention stuff like this except that it directly affects the main characters' attitude toward the future, others, and themselves.
 
Yet if you can get past that ("it's just a show") you can enjoy McCarthy's euphonic prose washing over you.
 
McCarthy also tells readers that whatever happened, no one escaped earth. The man and his son have a conversation brought on by the saying "as the crow flies." The son wants to know if a crow could fly away to another planet, which of course it could not. It is heavily implied that man could not, either. No hope from other planets, then.
 
The point of this book is hope in the face of hopelessness, of love in the face of losing virtually everything else. The lifeless landscape is described such that it becomes a character in itself. The man and boy are very concerned with the quality of the road and readers soon are, too: is it clear? broken? covered in snow? in ash? does the boy need to walk in front, sweeping away charred twigs with a broom so their little cart of supplies can roll? did a fire come through recently, melting the tar so it is soft and sticky and impassable? worse, are there tracks in the soft tar, indicating that "bad guys" might be near?
 
And that's just the road. There is weather to be contended with, and creepy abandoned places, and burned forests, and nomadic cannibal humans. The descriptions of the people are hideous and mesmerizing.
 
Unfortunately there is a rather simplistic binary morality of "good guys" or "bad guys." Either you are "good" and carry the fire, or you are or you are a "bad" cannibalistic rapist. This isn't true now and isn't true when things get tough either. This affects the story more than anything else because although a horror story can get a pass on unrealistic physics or biology, a "story about goodness" (as McCarthy describes it) should be able to look at human complexity.
 
It is implied that the main characters are religious. They do not directly mention Jesus or Christianity, but the Christian god and heaven are talked about. The boy asks what the father would do if he died, and the father answers that he would die too, so they could be together. This is sweet in a way, a father reassuring his son in a scary world where all they have is each other. The boy's mother slashed her wrists many years ago with a shard of obsidian, after decrying the hopelessness of the situation. The man misses her, but it is implied that her choice to die with dignity is morally wrong because she had no faith.
 
She of little faith was physically blind, as is an old man they meet who says point-blank "there is no god."
 
This may be a call-back to the atheist dwarves in C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle. This is a pet peeve of mine - people of any viewpoint saying that if you don't see it their way, you must not be able to see at all. 
 
Further: the bleak world is described as "utterly secular." Since secular means "worldly" and this word is used to describe the world, I'd say yes, that is an accurate description. Except in this case he means lifeless, hopeless, soulless.
 
Which it would not actually be, certainly not if the disaster left people alive. There would also be rats and cats and wolves and roaches and bacteria and miniscule plant life. Unless this deity personally killed everything except people, in which case why are we putting our hope in this monster? Eh, "It's just a show, I should really just relax." 
 
Things like this and the odd use of "secular" and the binary morality and the fact that McCarthy himself has some survival skills and so has got to know why you don't burn a candle in a sealed space and the "fire" paradox etc etc made me wonder if this was a brilliant parody of a fundamentalist apocalypse, rather like Cold Comfort Farm was a parody of an earthy gothic novel and Lolita was a condemnation of tyranny and the Aeneid may or may not have been a satire of Roman ideals.
 
Even the main character who "carries the fire: is not a good person. He protects his son but behaves appallingly otherwise. He leaves the blind old man to fend for himself and wouldn't even have shared his food or fire for one night if his boy hadn't begged him to. They see a guy with fatal burns who is still alive, staggering around in the wilderness, and the main character doesn't stop. "There is nothing we can do for him," he tells the boy (who wants to help). 
 
Of course a survivor needs to be practical, and as a fan of The Walking Dead I get that. However, most people would at least be torn by a tough decision. They might give the burned guy some water. That's if they were really in a hurry. If they were generous they might give the dying man a last meal or the comfort of another human being to "be with" while he dies. 
 
In one of the most horrifying scenes in the book they come upon a big house obviously used as a campsite, with a locked pantry. Upon prizing the door open (so he was going to steal from whoever is camping here?) he finds live captives who are being eaten bit by bit. They cry "help us" and our protagonist runs away before he can be caught by the cannibals.
 
After doing some more looking-into, I discovered that McCarthy is in earnest. He comes from the way back beyond of the Appalachians and did not think much of school, which explains the lack of understanding about how glass doesn't quietly melt and growing infants to eat isn't practical. He is also a recluse, which explains the uneven feel of the interactions between people.
 
 He once said that a lot of the conversations are based on talks he's had with his son. He really cares about his kid, that is evident. Maybe his worst fear is that he is not a good enough man to live up to his son's expectations and that is why the protagonist behaves badly. You know, that day comes (early for some, later for others) when a kid finds out that his father isn't Superman. Every child goes through this, it is perfectly normal, but what if this is the only relationship you have in all the wide world? What if a father were afraid it was his fault? In the story, the boy sees these flaws in his father and begins to put distance between them. All they have is each other so this is very sad.
 
I think that is what this book is really about. A man who has few relationships and when they change it feels like an apocalypse, one that he might blame himself for. After all, if your boy once trusted you implicitly and now doesn't any more, that means you had to have done something very bad, right?
 
McCarthy's real wife left him years ago too. She didn't suicide, but when he was still struggling to establish himself as a writer, she decided she did not want to live in abject poverty in the back woods, decried the hopelessness of the situation, and left. This story may be his way of coming to terms with that. In that way, it is not "just a show." I respect the man's emotions and experience. A recluse is deeply wounded when his few people leave. Still, I have issues with the mechanics of the book's situation in itself. If this woman was blind, in a world in which bands of people want to rape and kill and eat her (not necessarily in that order), then in "a story about goodness" room should be allowed for the opinion that she chose the lesser of two evils.
 
But "how would it really be if" and "how does this feel for the author" are two different things.  
 
The Road is powerful because it contains so much raw emotion from its author. It is McCarthy's intimate experience of his own worst-case scenario. It is a man baring his soul.
 
Except... it is hard for me to get past the big things that are not right, especially when some things are realistic in minute detail. The cart cannot travel if there are sticks on the road; opening decade-sealed jars of preserved vegetables is a lot of work and requires inventiveness; how to quickly and simply repair the mechanism of a cart-wheel; how it is to cut your own hair; other little things that feel genuinely real. It is the unevenness that gets to me. For example, although I did not like The Alchemist I do not criticize Coelho for  "unrealistic" descriptions of his physical world because that is a faerie tale or parable, written in an abstracted and dreamy way. The tone was correct for the story he was trying to tell. George MacDonald was fond of the idea that faeries inhabit flowers, which not a problem because again, he was writing stories about faeries. However if an author is going for gritty, apocalyptic realism, then the world should be... well... realistic. I don't expect a physics dissertation or something unreasonable since that is obviously not the point of the story but in addition to the little things feeling very real, the big, simple things should be right enough for them to not be distracting.
 
 
Further, if an author is exploring "a story about goodness," as McCarthy himself describes it, then the way people behave toward one another ought to strike a chord of realism all across the board in order to resonate properly with readers. I do not have to agree with the writer's idea of ultimate objective morality in order for them to say something important about human nature.
 
Yet while McCarthy's relationship between the boy and his father is heartfelt, the simple binary morality for "everybody else" is not, and detracts from the main point. The ability to handle complex emotions is uneven and finally affects the sine qua non of the story.

Words That Save A Thousand Lives |
by Chris Ozog

He told her,
her love 
was a Magnet.
And when he
got too close,
she broke like
a fragment. 
So penniless 
and indigent, 
that those 
sacred promises 
she kept locked
inside of Her 
reel of dreams, 
were sold 
to a creditor,
for some 
shattered mirrors 
and ship 
wrecked  debt, 
where she 
would starve
in productions 
marred by
subduction.
Where she 
went to sleep; 
she ate her 
melancholy fate,
smeared her 
pompous sighs, 
on her shattered
porcelain  plate,
and climbed up
the hill inside 
her head,
as she slept 
malnourished
In distaste,
swallowed
her standards, 
and framed a
hollywood knight. 
You could reflect
without her 
Mirrors, 
but when she 
projected, 
all you 
could hear,
were her infected
vowels taunting 
In the ill 
fated  night.  
Her films 
Were penciled in 
by the strokes
of unfaithful  
masquerades that 
Scribbled late
arriving loves 
until it built 
the facade
she inhabited. 
And she began 
to divorce her 
box office bombs,
and sought twenty
marbled plots, 
so she could 
one day sprout
like a field
of bouquets,
and sell
her disenchanted
soul to morticians, 
who dyed 
a blackened demise, 
In the wholeness 
of the atmosphere,
where the soil 
plummeted deeper 
into grey
inked shadows. 
Now she 
never sleeps
with dirtied 
promises,
battered realties,
and sunken 
memories.
Her scripts 
never end,
and she directs,
because she is
her sequel.
 
___
Christopher Ozog is a 22 year old writer who resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he currently attends Washtenaw Community College. He has previously been published in Burningword literary journal and the Commonline and currently edits Lavender Wolves Literary Journal. For more information, visit his twitter page
"@expressiveozog"