Feb 28, 2011

3.5. Simone Martel: list, flash

My Son's First 15 Birthdays

1. Only one guest, Paul's mom, on our sunny deck. Leo puts out candle with his hand and laughs.

2. Family party in the park with his new cousins, both age 1. Leo wears his engineer's hat. Paul and I have spent too much on wine and snacks from Trader Joe's for the adults. Trying to seem grown up? Fog turns to rain. We retreat to my parents' house for the train-shaped cake.

3. Party in our backyard with neighbors, friends and family. My friend Michael juggles.

4. Leo insists on no party, just a
piñata all to himself, in the backyard.

5. Gymnastics party at the YMCA with the whole kindergarten class. Paul makes a dinosaur cake.

6. We try a traditional party with Leo's classmates at Paul's mom's house. Boy cheats at pin the tail on Pikachu. Musical chairs ends with two girls in tears.

7. Entire second grade class at the Lawrence Hall of Science. Three girls wander off. Paul and I panic, but eventually find them.

8. Decide to have a grown up dinner party at Paul's mom's house. While the adults are at the table, either Leo or his cousin breaks a lamp in the living room. Paul and his sister argue about paying for it. Sponge Bob Square Pants cake is eaten in near silence. Sister ends up paying for lamp but gives us no Christmas present this year.

9. Party at Head Over Heels Gymnastics with all the boys in the class, plus one girl. She tells us about her two moms and their sperm donor.

10. Mini-golf. All the boys in the class, plus that same girl.

11. Karate party at the Dojo. Some classmates, plus Karate friends. Leo wants a
piñata, but Paul says he's too old.

12. Laser tag with three friends.

13. Laser tag with two friends.

14. Picnic in backyard, just Leo and Paul and me.

15. Leo takes the PSAT. Goes out with friends afterward.

In the Night Kitchen

4am. Face in pillow. Arm flails. Hand hits cat. Snarl, bite.

Raise my face. Light under the door. Pull sweats on over nakedness. Follow light to kitchen. Son looks up from computer, flinches.

Your face looks dragged down.

I used to walk into a restaurant knowing I was the prettiest woman there. Best legs, arms, hair, best face.

Go away, Mom. I'm staying up till I reach the next level.

How do I connect with my son? At his age I went for long walks with my Dad. Okay, partly for weight management. But we walked fast, after dinner, before homework, talked about existentialism, meaning/meaninglessness of life. I don't think son cares about that shit. At least he doesn't talk to me about it. Would a daughter?

Your face looks dragged down. Looking up from his computer with disgust.

Imagine a daughter knocking on my bedroom door, later. Mom? I'm sorry.

Son just sleeps. Sleep of the innocent. Men.

Walking with my dad, our long strides striking out. You remind me of a young Kate Hepburn. How much do you weigh?


Never weigh more than that.

Well, Dad, I do. Do you still love me?

In the kitchen, quarter past 4, I squirt red wine from a box into a mug. I've started ordering white when I go out, started associating red with pain

Back to bed, briefly, with the mug.

116, in my tight jeans.

Bouncing up again, off the mattress. Not quite tipsy. Walk into kitchen, toward the light, in my pulled-on soft clothes. Son's fingers rattling on the keyboard, face glowing with light from screen, big headphones turning him into Princess Leia.

Screech. The sound comes from me.

Son: why can't you leave me alone? I didn't seek this conflict. (Seriously.)


Go to bed, I say to him.

Go to bed, he says to me. You look tired.

You look tired. We say it to each other.

Okay, fine. He stands. Cracks his back luxuriously, in no hurry, as the computer winds down.

He's really smart. But what for? His braininess is as useless as my beauty was. I walked into a restaurant, knowing I was the prettiest woman there. He gets good grades.

I'm the best in my class, Mom. What do you want from me?

I want you not to play video games until 4am.

Do something else with your gifts.


Dark secret. He hits me. When he finally heads to bed, he whacks me above my ear. Tomorrow, the shower water blasting down will hurt my bruised scalp.

Ha ha, I say to myself, alone in the kitchen, hearing his bedroom door creak shut. He's boring.

You're boring, son. Dad.

How much do you weigh?

116, Dad.

You look tired, bitch. Your face looks dragged down.

Yeah, I was pretty, but guess what? I read books that weren't required. Because I wanted to.

He levels.

About Simone Martel:

I've published a book of creative nonfiction, The Expectant Gardener. My shorter nonfiction has appeared in Greenprints, and other magazines. My stories have appeared in The Long Story, Short Story Review, and Fogged Clarity.

Feb 24, 2011

3:4. Ruth Webb: 1 poem

On the road

This is not about her; that would be wrong, low down dirty wrong.
Neither is this about him, he has nothing to do with what this is.
This is about me, thinking, letting my mind go there.

You are in your car, driving, and she is there, waiting. Knowing you are coming to her.
See, I know that too.
I know she is waiting for you.
Of course, I don’t know what it is like when you arrive. Do you carry bags in, lay your keys down, read the mail? Do you ask what has happened in your absence, pet the dog, take out the trash?
Or do you run? Does she rush to you, as I want to? Do you spend minutes drinking in what you have been without?
Are you greeted without words, only arms and kisses, does she hold you fiercely, eyes squeezed shut, breathing you in, simply feeling you?
Does she already dread your leaving?
Do you always make love, those nights you return? Do you sleep intertwined, reassuring?
I have had few separations, few reunions - dramatic because they are rare. Are yours unremarkable in their regularity?

I should not do this, ought not let myself imagine these scenes, one way or the other. I do not belong there, I am unwelcome, an interloper. It is wrong to imagine this, way out of bounds.
Its not that I want to take this from her - I couldn’t anyway. It is hers. She owns this, however it unfolds. It is hers, I should not covet this.
It is not healthy for me either.
Yet I do this, because my mind is idle, my house momentarily empty and silent.
And you are on the road.

Photo by: Jennifer Tomaloff

Ruth Webb is a middle aged soccer mom, reporter, columnist and human who is trying to learn about herself by writing. She lives in rural Appalachia where she reads, writes, surfs the web and tries to maintain faith in humanity, in that order.

Feb 18, 2011

3.3. Susan Sonnen: 4 poems

All Things Good and Lovely

All Things Good and Lovely,
born at Creation,
died this evening at 7:32
for the Bradshaw family
as Little Roddy shot his brother,
Mikey “TuffStuff” Bradshaw,
for refusing to let him have a turn
at the Playstation.
Mrs. Bradshaw blames Mr. Bradshaw
for setting his gun on the kitchen table
and then turning to the fridge for a glass
of cold milk.
Mr. Bradshaw blames Mrs. Bradshaw
for not getting the milk for him,
as he had asked her to,
thus forcing him to set down his gun.
He was VERY thirsty, you understand.
Little Roddy, Mr. Bradshaw’s namesake,
remains in a state of ire.
Mikey, of course, being dead,
points the finger at no one,
but they all feel his condemnation.
It is expressed through his big blue eyes,
staring without tears,
without fear,
without forgiveness.
Memorial services for
All Things Good and Lovely
began at 7:32 pm this evening
and will continue throughout eternity.
In lieu of flowers,
the family requests a second chance
at 7:32.

I Am So Deeply Into You

I will not live without you.
I will not stay in my quiet room,
Coming out only for a bite of food
And a glass of wine.

I am so deeply into you
That I have died as well.
Yet here we are.
But there we are.
The two of us in my flesh.
The two of us in your bones.

When in need of solitude,
We recline in your grave,
Your bones wrapped tightly around me.
My head on your strong shoulder.
And then we yawn. You
Complain of only having
A third of the bed to yourself,
But I, already asleep, remain
Sprawled. You smile and kiss
My forehead.

Come morning,
We awaken in our four-poster.
Together we go to the
Kitchen. You fry the eggs
While I set the table.

Best Poems

You were right. You remember. We were sitting in Union Station back home, waiting for my train to Milwaukee. You said (out of the blue) that I would write my best poems when you were dead.


Does the sunflower
Tire of holding up
That big head?

I wanted to stay in bed forever,
But there were children to raise.

Susan Sonnen lives a quiet life in unquiet Chicago. Her poetry has previously been published by tinywords and Old Mountain Press.

"Conversation piece" by Mary Oswald

Feb 16, 2011

At the movies

Ten days or so to the (111th?) Oscars we decided to sit down and have a talk with Mr. Peters about what might go down this year around. The following is a transcript of that conversation.

* * *

KP: So another year of great movies. What are your predictions for this year's award ceremony?

AP: Mind you, I haven't seen any of these flicks.

KP: Neither have I.

AP: Fucking excellent.

KP: So lets start at the top, shall we?

AP: No better place to start.

KP: Best picture. We have Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit and Winter's Bone.

AP: What the fuck. They have to watch them all?

KP: Those are the nominees.

AP: Well, I'm gonna go with my gut here. The Social Network. It's a hot topic, young people and shit. In support of new mediums and such. Globalization what have we. Critical but not too critical. A perfect fit. Besides, isn't Justin Timberlake in that one?

KP: I believe so.

AP: Cool. Yeah. So. Definitely.

KP: Moving on.

AP: Sure.

KP: Actor in a leading role. The men, that is. Javier Bardem, Jeff bridges, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth and James Franco.

AP: Jeff Bridges won last year, so no. Bardem won something too didn't he? Who the fuck is Jesse Eisenberg? James Franco is still young, and he's also hosting. It must be time for Colin Firth. He's nice, British, and if I recall, has been nominated a couple of times before. They want to play you for a bit before they let you have it. It's fucking obvious isn't it? Colin, 100 %. Besides they love it when you have some kind of disorder and shit, so that you can tell they're really doing some acting. That they want it.

KP: Jesse Eisenberg I believe is the young guy in The Social Network, which you liked for best film.

AP: So they get a spread. Best films don't need best actors and vice versa.

KP: Actress in a leading role. Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams.

AP: Portman fucking learned to dance, man. If she doesn't get this one I'll fucking pickle and eat my own balls. Besides, she's hot, and stuff, and hasn't won one before. It's written man. It's something about those acting kids that grow up and become desirable. It's fucking irresistable, man. Trust me, they're already printing that she won it on the DVD. It's in the works.

KP: I hear ya.

AP: Well you better. Trust me, put your savings on that one.

KP: For supporting actor we have Christian Bale, John Hawkes, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo and Geoffrey Rush.

AP: Shit. Supporting acting that's where the real acting takes place so that's harder man. Did Bale win one?

KP: I'm not sure.

AP: Mark Ruffalo?

KP: No idea.

AP: Surely Geoffrey must have one.

KP: Surely.

AP: It'll be a toss up between Christian and Mark then. Fucking Jeremy Renner? No clue. Personally, I like Mark. I mean, when he lays on weight it's not because the acting demands it, he just seems to fucking love life man. He's good in my book because he doesn't try to be great. Good is enough, it's just fucking acting man.

KP: Mmm, OK.

AP: Shoot.

KP: Actress, supporting. We have Amy Adams, Helena Bonham Carter, Melissa Leo, Hailee Steinfeld, Jackie Weaver.

AP: I ain't fucking ever heard of those last three but that Haily was that the girl in True Grit that talks kind of funny?

KP: I think so.

AP: Sometimes young is not so bad in this category. I'll go with that.

KP: Animated feature?

AP: Fuck off.

KP: Art Direction?

AP: Inward, hopefully.

KP: Cinematography?

AP: Tough one, tough. Black Swan maybe, Social Network. One or the other. It's a category for who can create the most cool, so, either one.

KP: What about Inception?

AP: That's a big money inclusion, man. They'll be happy with the nomninations, maybe get some of those SG-whatever the fuck it's called, special effects shit to slap on there.

KP: Costumes?

AP: Bonham Carter?

KP: Yes, she's in both Alice in Wonderland and The King's Speech, both nominated.

AP: Yeah maybe that's the one that Alice will take. It had some costumes, didn't it?

KP: I'd imagine so.

AP: Get on with it. Directors, what have we?

KP: Darren Aronofsky, David Q. Russel, Tom Hooper, David Fincher, Cohen Brothers.

AP: Fucking Cohen brothers need to move the fuck over. Fincher's got one doesn't he? Did he make Seven? I think he did, and I think that won something.

KP: No idea.

AP: Didn't Aronofsky win for The Wrestler or maybe that was just one of those best actor runaways? Or that other one he made. Fuck it, I can't remember.

KP: So?

AP: Fincher. It's The Social Network. It'll do some kind of sweep.

KP: More?

AP: It's fucking downhill from here, so, lets not. I do predict what's his face, Trent Reznor will get something for the music and that the Foreign film will go to Denmark.

KP: And the red carpet?

AP: Will be blue.

KP: Most outrageous dress?

AP: Geoffrey Rush.

KP: Lifetime achievement award?

AP: Francis Ford? Ennio Morricone? Maybe they're dead. Who the fuck knows. Some kind of reformed Nazi in a suit.

KP: All right then. We'll be sure to follow this up after the fact. Thanks for taking the time.

AP: Sure, now, piss off.

Feb 14, 2011

3.2. Howie Good: 4 poems


He was a man who liked to appear in public with a red face
and drooping black moustache. The Milky Way shot (and
slashed) and then burned their love letters. Some words
shivered. Others moaned. No possible sky seemed big enough
to hold so much darkness.

What looked like an accident was really the mind-body
split. On the grand stairway you recognized a pickpocket
but pretended not to. The next day we read about stolen
bombs in the newspaper. A silk top hat filled with rabbits
was the only clue.

Police followed the trail of a strange liquid to her real
last name. The radio was on, though no one was home. They
fell asleep listening to champagne music.


A band of horses, invisible to the naked eye, goes round
and round, like diseased thoughts. The weeping audience
persists in applauding. Farm boys would pay a dollar for
an autographed photo of the animal tamer’s beautiful
blonde assistant. But first Michael the Great, the
bicycling monkey, must finish doing her. The tent sways
from side to side. Someone no one knows is attempting to
affix angels to the ceiling.


She’s afraid she’s being followed. You yourself frequently
look back over your shoulder. There’s nothing there –
brown trees, some shredded clouds. From now on, you’re
going to define love loosely. A bird whistles like a
bullet from a high-powered rifle.

Bird tracks cover the sky. My rifle jams at a critical
moment. The last free Indians on the Plains nibble the
grass. One of them, when I look again, is crunching bones.
The women pee standing up, the men sitting down.

Strong winds visit in the evening. Just the same as
yesterday, time insults the brain. The dying light renders
faces conveniently indistinct. I hide behind a bush.
Everyone who has a lucky number has forgotten what it is.
Hats sail down the street. After dark, the piano player
plays on only the black keys.


Rumors the size
of small dogs spread
across the city.
Unwanted babies disappear
through trapdoors.

A man that witnesses
described as foreign-
looking sleeps
till noon the next day.

Dry white crumbs on the table.
A story without a story.

Photo by: Jennifer L. Tomaloff

Howie Good is the author of the full-length poetry collections Lovesick (Press Americana, 2009), Heart With a Dirty Windshield (BeWrite Books, 2010), and Everything Reminds Me of Me (Desperanto, 2011).

Feb 8, 2011

3.1. Abhimanyu Kumar Singh: 3 poems

A minor

Evening comes
Like a mild depression;
Almost looked forward to.

The sun sets
With the dignity
Of a prize fighter
Going down.

The bruised cheek
Of the Sky.

Give me
A minor key
To sing in
Any day.

Some day, I will
Be the moon.

Photo by: Rose Carson

Reading the papers in the early afternoon, with no definite plans for the day


I want a passage
To the end of the world
Through a dead man's eye.

A smile, frozen forever;
Death is a photograph.


Old friend blues
She got new shoes

A song
In the key of E

A girl
(with whom) to commit


How much is a

Is there a formula
To calculate
The gross grief
Of a people?


I want to see no-body. No, not even
The grocer; especially not the grocer.

I want to postpone everything
Till kingdom comes.

I have had holy visitations
And terrible hallucinations.

The only way to resolve this
Is through a duel but I have no courage.


Cool as a coup-de-etat
I walk down the road;
Immortal, like a speck
Of dust shining true
In the diminishing light.

Photo by: Rose Carson



Holy Mother of God, my cock
Is tingling with urine. I will
Piss in the dustbin – too wasted
For the trip to the loo.
I do.
I piss, therefore I am.


Tonight, we are both besides the dead:
You - near Manikarnika Ghat
And I, in a cemetery,
Behind the 'world' famous
Dargah with a man
Whose name I don't know,
Smoking grass filled in
Charminar cigarettes.
He wants nothing from me
Except company.


Naked, I read Naked Poetry;
Yesterday, I read America
To a young American.


Everyday someone dies.
A friend's father,
Another's close acquaintances,
Five of them in a car crash,
A little girl on the street
In a bus accident today.
I was once offered a passage
To the land of the dead
But didn’t feel up to it.


Mad, mad, mad
In a seedy hotel room,
I have lost the receipt
Of the advance I'd paid,
I must not get laid
And read Edward Said more.


No girls anyway in the lodge
Nor at the local working class bar – filled
With butchers, goldsmiths
And lorry drivers.

The bar attendant
Wants to go to America.
"America is waka", he says,
Limping as usual as he clears the table,
"American girls sexy", he adds; I am glad
Robert is not around.


Jealousy stings the heart
Like naked burning coal.
No success is pleasant
Unless it is your own.

Abhimanyu Kumar Singh is an Indian national, 28 years old. He has a degree in Spanish language and literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He has worked as a cultural correspondent for The Hindu and freelanced for other publications. At present he is attending a course on political reporting from the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bangalore. He has also dabbled in film and theater, played music professionally and organised poetry readings.

Feb 4, 2011

issue 2: call me when you're dead

In review: The Baltimore Years

Here we are again then like two punch-drunk swans jostling for position in the same duck pond. Welcome. No need to remove your shoes (or if you’re that way bent, put them on).

In reviewing the six writers that make up the body of issue #2 we find, though it was not clear when the selection was made, that they all (with minor leaps of interpretation) circle the topic of death and dying and even the undead, the after dead.

In Robin Lewis’ flash story “Dust Storm” the narrator brings the news of a dead son to his family: “You weren’t coming back and I had to be the one to tell your folks that we’d never again hear the laugh that started in your belly and ended in your eyes”. Jessica Kirkland’s “The Dead” features a suicide attempt and the husband’s memorable (practical) solution in its aftermath: “Let’s leave this all behind. What about Utah?”

Yes, what about Utah? We don’t know but we like it. Utah sounds, feels, somehow, like a possibility.

Gretyl Grimm, besides giving the impression of someone dueling a general day to day angst of deadly proportions, proclaims in one of her Sixes “an urge to wander through cemeteries” to which we want to respond: Yes, lets. In Judy Cabito’s flash “Faux-Monet” the “it” is never revealed but we get a steady feeling that something traumatic has happened. Maybe even death. In the last two stories, Cath Barton’s “Rolling along” and Duncan Raymond’s “The Magic of Television” death plays its part with flair under strange and otherly circumstances, in a perhaps more direct way.

Denny E. Marshall’s drawings seem not unfamiliar with the topic either and even our own kitchen reviewer Mr. Peters appear to have fallen on a patch of bad blood.

Death is in the air, friends, but also pastry, absurdities and the slumbering ache of childhood. Funny dark and ordinary things are going on in these stories and we think they all have their own Utah-moment. The funny in the bleak? The bleak in the funny? We have yet to work out this might mean. A strive for something more, else, new, old, different? A kind of strive, urgency, yes. There is an urge. That what is said is of some importance. That a string of words well-strung don’t need a cut-up machine to brandish new meanings, but that a basic understanding of how language works suffices. Take a word like Utah, or popcorn, or some old used song lyrics and pack them with your own particular brand of meaning and you’re well on your way toward a poem. Or story. Something good.

We asked for prose and were answered with a decent turnout of the same. Since the first issue we’ve had to reject more submission than we thought possible for a newly started magazine of this kind. Not an unpleasant quandary to be in, really, and we’re thankful to all those that did submit but that ultimately didn’t end up in the issue. There were some pretty good ones that we couldn’t find room for. Because of the turnout we also decided to increase the upward limit for writers per issue from 3 to 6, plus some other things.

We’re especially thankful to Kellelynne H. Riley for providing photos to go with all the writers in this issue (and also the cover).

All right. That’s enough ceremony for one Sunday.

In closing, a minor thought in passing and perhaps a question or two. Having spent the last two months brushing shoulders with the online publishing world (both eyes squinting) we find it to be a strange world indeed. For instance, we wonder, what does it mean when one person have over four hundred publications (of our submitters, the record so far stands at a little over a thousand) spanning not a lifetime but “recent years” and in mostly online venues?

We find the sheer numbers quite overwhelming and struggle to suppress a longing for a time when twenty poems over a five year period was a time well spent, if for nothing else than the illusion that what finally ended up on the page was the result of some kind of struggle, careful scrutiny and choices made. That what’s there is not just what’s there but also everything that isn’t. To what extent does quantity affect quality? We think it does. How much Dostoyevsky is too much? Maybe. Who reads all this stuff? Tomorrow’s archeological dig outs. Does it need to be read at all? A country club where everybody raises their glasses to toast all at once. What’s then the point of yet another such venue, like our own?

We’re not sure, but we want to try to carve out a little room of silence against so much noise where an occasional human voice can be heard singing with fervor. That’s all, really. Can you hear us carving? We’re carving. Carving and etching and slashing away.

We hope that if you take some time to read some of the stories that they may sing for you too, carve and sing, sing and carve, and that when they’re done singing they will linger with you for a minute or two, add some color to an otherwise gray afternoon or morning, that they may move you in some way or other.

Go on, read, move, carve, linger. That’s all.

Goodnight from a poorly but passionately lit…

Kellelynne H. Riley: photography

Kellelynne H. Riley lives on a small farm in Oregon’s scenic wine country, where she writes, knits, and tends a small flock of Shetland sheep.

Feb 1, 2011

2.6. Duncan Raymond: 1 story

The Magic of Television

Sometimes just getting out of bed is like climbing from the grave. Arriving at work at all is a victory, never mind the hangover. Like this morning, my head was pounding and my tongue was thick; it's been that way since I started working at the tv studio. It's the lights; they dry you out.

Today I came in the door, not too late, but not early, which is what I'm supposed to be. Al and Nick have keys; I told them the security code so they could come for work calls before I get there if they want. I'm not supposed to let people in without me, but I'm first in and last out, and sometimes the hours really add up; you can use that extra thirty minutes.

Al is the video engineer. He actually has a pocket protector. I used to laugh at him, back when I didn't know he was so good, but there probably aren't twenty guys alive who can do what he does on so many machines—tear them apart and put them back together and make them better, breathe life into them. Nick is his assistant; he's new at the business, but he's a hard worker. I just...sort of have the keys. I do what I'm told, I let people in and out of the building, I make it easy for the people who rent the studio, I listen to the owners of the place and I keep them happy. I'm the studio guy.

I don't have Al's training, but I have a way with machines. There are pipes in the air that get lowered down on motors—I run the motors. There are mixer panels for video and sound boards for audio—I set them up. There are studio cameras—I do an OK job of running them, too. I change the lenses, maintain the cables. Other people run the cameras during the day. I only fill in if someone doesn't show, and then I get the extra pay.

The guys who run the cameras are usually young guys, full of piss; they've always shot some porn—nothing shocks them. They've got comp reels of the sickest stuff, people getting hit by cars, news announcers losing their minds and blowing their heads off, stuff like that you never see on air, stuff that's too bad for youtube. They trade it around. I'm just a guy who keeps the cameras running.

It's an old studio. They used to film Howdy Doody in here, and Milton Berle, Judy Garland specials and Howard Cosell. The catwalk overhead is made of wood, and there's still a viewing booth for the producers that sticks out from the wall about ten feet in the air. These days, you can only get in the booth with a man lift; they took out the stairs a few years ago. In one of the rooms we've still got the old resistance dimmers—you fill them with salt water and dip the handle down to make the lights glow brighter or dimmer. Those haven't even been legal for sixty years.

I came in the studio this morning and Nick was lying on the floor next to our oldest camera. I call it Bess. Usually, you number the cameras. Maybe a different camera will get a different number every day. The director calls out the camera numbers over the headset and tells them the shot to take, "frame camera one as a waist shot on the girl in the bikini: ready one. take one," you know. Anyway, the camera's kind of new, I guess, about five years old, a three chip camera, but the base has to be fifty. It's just solid, made the old fashioned way. It takes a giant kick to get it moving and you tug like hell to stop it. I swear, a little of that wears you out. That and the lights. It doesn't help that the floor is concrete; it kills your legs. Better than dirt, I guess.

Nick was lying there next to the camera, white as a sheet, and my first thought was, "I am going to catch holy hell for this." I was worried, really, about the cameras. I looked over at old Bess, but she was just purring, all hooked up, the cables connected, checking out the chip chart. No worries there. "Nick, Nick," I said, "are you OK?" He stirred a little and I saw the marks on his neck, three little red dots. I noticed they were the same distance apart as the marks on an XLR connector. "What did you do," I said.

Nick said, "I don't feel good." He was really pale; his lips were bluish and he had raccoon eyes. His head rolled to the side and he saw old Bess and I sensed him tense up. He looked at her and his eyes started to go wide, but then he slumped and he let out a big breath. He didn't breathe back in. It's not like there's never been an accident in the studio before, but I wasn't sure what to do.

I got Al. If Al didn't wear that pocket protector and the short sleeved shirt, you'd know right away what a fucking rock star he is. He knew exactly what to do. We picked up Nick and took him up to the viewing booth and stuck him in a closet there. We rolled him in a sound blanket and wrapped it with packing tape. No one uses the booth any more except the electrician, and it's our space if we need it. We locked the door.

When the producer came, Al gave her some song and dance about Nick not feeling so good, so he went home and how I'd fill in for today. The producers don't care, they just want a body in the slot, and if the directors don't grumble, everyone's happy.

I'm perfectly OK filling in on a temporary basis. We finished chipping the camera, got the white balance all done and some skin tone on the talent, Sparky focused the lights, and by 10 o'clock we were rolling. No one noticed a thing. At 2 p.m. we had lunch and all I did was wait til everyone was gone from the room to unplug old Bess. I keep her plugged in around my waist, but I keep the utility belt between me and her, so she can't take too much blood.

That's how I started in this job, as a cameraman, but the hours were too much. I'd go home just pale and shaking. Sometimes it would take me two or three days to recover from a gig, especially an overnighter, like at some sales convention in a hotel. You get older and you have to find a way to leave a little for yourself.

Even now, as the house guy, sometimes I can't wait for the end of the day. The lights are blinding. The schedule's a killer. And the business will suck you dry. But guys like Al and me, the guys behind the scenes, know what it takes to keep the machine running and happy. And, in the long run, you do what you've got to do.

We dumped Nick at the Amtrack tunnel; they'll think it was another one of those tunnel trolls. It's a tough break for the kid, but that's show business.

Duncan Raymond's humorous essays have been published in Living Aboard magazine; his story of an at sea rescue was a cover story in Cruising World magazine. He often works in the art department for children's television shows including PBS's Sunny Side Up, Blue's Room and Between the Lions. He is currently working on a collection of humorous short stories centered on a vampire infestation and a pizza parlor in a small town. He lives with his wife in Yonkers, NY.

Photo by: Kellelynne H. Riley