issue 7

Sassafras Literary Magazine
issue 7, April 28th, 2014
link to download PDF or online at ISSUU 
art
Mattison Teeter
Maria Maddox

poetry
A.J. Huffman - From Forest’s Path
Allison Hymas  - Warning, Domestic
Amanda Tummirano - The Approach of Spring,
                                The Trifle
Bric Barker -  1281 Train to Andong
Britt Melewski  - In-patient, Better Than Not,
                                Minor Leaguer
Carol Lynn Grellas - Before the Pink House,
                          The Waiting Room
Carol Smallwood - Lunch at Wendy’s
Carol Tyx - Tomatoes on Windowsill, Garage

Carolyn D. Elias -  Mother
Joe Wahlman - Autumn Waves
Joshua Poteat - Hitchhiking in the Dying South
Kevin Murphy - Viewing, Shelf Life
Lynn Xu - Our Love is Pure, Two Poems
Quinn Rennerfeldt - Low Bones, Whittled One
Roger Bernard Smith - said, standstill
Simon Perchik - Four untitled poems

fiction
Allen Hope - Not the First Time
Bennett Durkan  - Good Practice
Kay Perry - Terri and Tonka

nonfiction
Bahar Anooshahr  - In Her Body
Kelsey Damrad - Breakfast at the Ranch
M.C. Kelly - Beware of Bird
Melissa Valentine - Evidence of Him

			

Maria Maddox – Black Mare Topsy, Mercurial

Maria Maddox

Black Mare Topsy & Lyca's Relief Wagon

Black Mare Topsy & Lyca’s Relief Wagon

mercurial

  Mercurial

Bio:
Born in the Lake District in Chile, Maria came to the U.S. to complete a MA in Spanish Literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She’s currently a PhD student, a collage artist and a poet in the Denver Metro Area. See more at mariamaddox.com

Kelsey Damrad – Breakfast at the Ranch

Breakfast at the Ranch

“Everybody, doors open in 5,” his voice calls out, heavy from the weight of his accent. Nobody pays any attention.

Stale sunlight pours through the oversized windows, which line the room. Waiters and waitresses styling the signature maroon polo and black cargo pants bustle by to check that each glass on their table is perfectly polished. Sergio, the robust manager, is not forgiving when confronted with an unpolished glass.

“No, cariña,” Sergio says to one of the waitresses, reviewing the glass under the light and shaking his head. “Otra vez.” She picks up her wet rag and resigns herself to rubbing the glass free of fingerprints.

I pretend to ignore Sergio as he checks my tables for unpolished culprits and wait for the nod of approval. I relax when he moves on without a complaint.

“Oh God,” the waitress, Maria, says. I follow her gaze out the oval window that overlooks the terrace and half-hearted gardens that sketch the outline of the driveway. Three buses unload the weekend guests. It is not unusual for people to come in groups to the Rocking Horse Ranch. Moral support, I assume. “It’s an old peoples’ weekend.”

I shrug, preoccupied by the clang of the bell in the distance and the familiar “Come and get it!” screamed at the guests by two of the waiters. Breakfast time.

She shakes her mane of tangled hair and her midnight irises focus on me.

“Old people don’t tip and so gross!” she explains. “And you make damn sure their coffee is hot, mami, because you won’t hear the end of it.”

Sergio calls for us again to line up to seat the guests. I don’t have time as my table starts to pile with a group of eight clucking women who seem to have come straight from the set of The Golden Girls.

I grab the handle to the coffee pot, and pause. Better bring the decaf. I replace the black handle with the orange.

Everything is buffet style, except for omelets. I stand next to one lady as she munches on a cantaloupe with cottage cheese and knits a scarf with the other hand. Her pink mouth stretches in a smile as I introduce myself, with lips as cracked as the Sahara in a drought.

“Honey! Has anyone ever told you? You are the spittin’ image of Molly!”

“Ringwald? Yeah, I get that sometimes.” Their popcorn heads bob in agreement at my uncanny resemblance to the 80’s actress – their own little breakfast club. I pull out my pad to change the subject.

They give me their egg orders and demand their decaf.

Hot, they remind me.

I ask them what their plans are for the rest of the weekend. Honestly, what do people do on a ranch getaway? My generic question produces a predictably generic list: swims in the lake, horseback rides and endless gluttony. One of them suggests nude swimming and they all burst into cackles of delight, but know they would never, really dare.

After I drop off my slip of egg white omelet orders to the chef, I make my way to stand against the wall and plaster on a smile as a new cluster of elderly folk claim their tables. The other manager, Katie, asks if I gave my egg orders to the chef. Her stomach bulges over the top of her belt, and a button is threatening to pop open.

“Old people are so adorable,” she coos. One of the ladies at my table, who I pick as Betty White, hears her and shares a look of disdain with the woman next to her. I stay quiet. Who am I to call someone with 50 years on me adorable?

Across the room, I notice an elderly man struggling to occupy the corner table. Waiters around him either don’t notice or don’t care. I worm my way through the littered floor of squashed grapes and abandoned napkins toward him. Two chairs, made from heavy oak, block his path and his knotted fingers scratch at the nape of his neck with what I can only assume to be frustration.

I move the chairs out of his way.

“Coffee?” I ask, as I make room for him to sit. He relieves his massive frame onto the chair and doesn’t answer immediately. Dressed in a pallid gray suit and glossy shoes only suitable for Sunday brunch, his chest heaves with exhaustion and he ignores me. A stuttered sigh later and I begin to wonder if he had even heard me. But, finally, he turns a milky gaze on me.

“He’ll be wantin’ decaf,” a voice aged with tobacco answers behind me. Of course. I could have guessed that. I make a note on my pad and repeat my question to the newcomer. He is sturdy, yet slight, and exudes an air of boyish confidence. He must have been a charmer in his day. For some reason, this makes me more uneasy than his silent friend.

“I’ll be wantin’ decaf too, sweetheart. Make sure it’s hot,” he wheezes. His eyes, level with my throat, are disturbingly blue, but one struggles to stay open. As I turn to assist The Golden Girls, who are making eyes at the pot in my hand, his snowy hand clutches my wrist.

“Ya know, I have a fetish for ponytails,” he says, licking each word. Oh my God. I am suddenly too aware of the end of my ponytail tickling the back of my neck. I breathe in the mixture of scrambled eggs and last night’s Old Spice.

“Can I tug your ponytail?” Without consent, he reaches behind me and gives a feeble tug. I throw a desperate look around the dining hall, but still nobody pays attention. The silent man turns his thick neck to watch the horses that graze in the paddock. A woman who favors purple paisley attire pushes her walker past me.

The old man, clasps his black and blue hands together and indulges in a toothless grin.

“Ahh, my wife hates it when I tug other girls’ ponytails,” he wheezes a chuckle, his skeleton hand still clasping my wrist as he sits. I force myself to stay polite, for the sake of my tips.

“Shall I get a decaf for your wife too?”

“Nah. She’s been dead for four years.”

He lifts the scalding mug to his cracked lips and sips. His hand trembles. Should I pretend to ignore?

I settle for an apology.

“I’m so sorry.” Even as the words come out, I am not sure if they are sincere. He ignores me.

He digs into his plate of sausage links and pancakes. Mouth full, he taps on the rim of his already suffocated mug and I top it off.

A hand squeezes my hip and Alex, a waiter, is next to me with a serving tray piled with The Golden Girl’s omelets.

“Hey you,” he says, with a crooked smile. “Thought I’d help you out. You looked like you needed it.” His eyes are mocking, and the same disturbing blue as the ponytail puller.

I silently relieve him of the tray and deliver the eggs to the ladies. I am prepared this time, with a fresh pot, when they hold out their lipstick stained mugs.

Decaf, they cluck. They noticed, by the handle, that I brought the caffeinated kind.

 

I finish their refills and stand beside a bus stand, topping off a mug every now and then as the room starts to thin out. The Golden Girls are one of the last tables to leave. They each grab my arm to say goodbye on their way out, pulling my face close to theirs. They all do that, I notice.

Maria helps me clear the table of their untouched eggs and empty half & half containers. Rolling her eyes and muttering aggressive Spanish under her breath, she snatches a broom and dustbin from the kitchen and begins to sweep away the muffin crumbs the ladies had carelessly strewn on the carpet.

I glance over at the corner table. Looks like Curly and Larry left.

“I’ll go start that table,” I say, and slip the empty bus bin under my arm. The plates and fork handles are sticky with maple and the table is littered with egg carcasses. My stomach curls as I gingerly pick up a stained, crumpled napkin and toss it in the bin.

The charmer’s coffee mug is left untouched and the lukewarm contents swirl like oil. Not hot enough.

Katie’s manicured finger calls me over. Maria’s eyes follow me, squinting at the object in Katie’s hand.

“Your table left a tip.”

She holds a pocket-sized manila envelope, containing a tip from The Golden Girls : $2.87. Maria screams a laugh as she looks over my shoulder at the amount. I pretend to ignore.

I slip the envelope into my apron, and continue the mundane task of scraping the crumbs off the surface of the table in preparation for lunch.

 –

 

Kelsey Damrad is a writer and journalism student at SUNY New Paltz. Born and raised in Rhode Island, she hopes to move to a big city after graduation to pursue magazine journalism. Aside from her being in front of her laptop, her favorite places are on a mat in a yoga studio or in nestled in a corner of a library. Kelsey’s is infatuated with culture, people and the power of the pen. Her main priorities in life are to try new things, eat anything red velvet and start the day with a decent cup of coffee.

Kay Perry – Terri and Tonka

Terri and Tonka

Mr. Prendergast lived in a small unit on the first floor of an old inner city high rise.

His apartment was small  and shabby but filled with books, mainly biographies. He liked to read about other peoples lives.

Each day he walked to work. He had his own office and would return at the same time every evening.

Sometimes he would pass Mrs. Parker on the stairs and say Good Morning or Good Evening, whichever the case might be.

Mrs. Parker lived in the apartment opposite. She was small and pretty with blonde hair going grey and worked part time as a remedial teacher at an inner city primary school.

One late afternoon, the lift arrived just as Mr. P. had reached his apartment. Surprised, he turned to watch it open. Mrs. Parker stepped out with a small boy and some luggage.

“Mr. Prendergast, this is Jamie,” she said. Jamie looked up with a serious face and said “Hello.”

Mr. Prendergast replied “How do you do,” before turning and entering his apartment.

Jamie looked up at Mrs. Parker who smiled and stroked his face and said, “Come inside now and help me make tea.”

During the weeks that followed Mrs. Parker and Jamie would often pass Mr. Prendergast on the stairs, until, one evening there was a knock on Mr. P’s door. . .

“This is your letter,” said Jamie when the door was opened. “It was in our letter box.”

“Thank you,” said Mr. P. taking the letter and about to close the door when Jamie said, “I live with Nana now. My mummy died.”

Mr P. looked at Jamie for what seemed a long time, then said, “I see.”

He shut the door softly and sat down with his letter. His own mother had died several weeks earlier and the letter was from his solicitor who was settling the estate. The letter was to enquire whether Mr. P. wanted any furniture or personal items from his mother’s home before the impending sale.

Mr. P sat at his table looking at the letter until it grew dark. He had no brothers or sisters and his father had died many years before. he was the sole heir. he realised he could now buy a house of his own, somewhere with a garden. He could have a dog.

Next day he rang in sick to his office, a thing he had never ever done, and caught a bus out to his mother’s home in the suburbs. When he arrived home he carried a small parcel containing two small items. He unwrapped them carefully and placed them in front of him on the kitchen table.

They were his.

They had always been his, given to him by his father  over forty years ago on his return from a business trip overseas. This was the first time he had handled them.

He had retrieved them from his mother’s china cabinet , locating the key under the lace doily, where it had always been. His mother had locked them in the china cabinet along with some cups, saucers, plates, and crystal glasses deemed “too good to use,”or in Mr. P’s case – “too good to play with.”

He was still sitting there when there was a gentle knock on the door.

“Come in Jamie,” said Mr. P.

The door opened slowly. “More mail, Mr. P.”

“Come in Jamie,” Mr. P. repeated. “Bring it here.”

Jamie had never been inside Mr. P’s apartment. It was quite poorly lit  and smelt of musty books. He walked in softy and stood by Mr. P’s chair.

“Wow,” said Jamie, “Awesome!”

“Yes,” said Mr. P.

“Yes, indeed.”

“What are their names?”

“Well,” said Mr. P. reaching foreword and picking up a small celluloid elephant, beautifully moulded and decorated. . .

“This is Tonka. ” He placed him carefully in front of them. . .”and this,” tucking a gorgeous little turtle, crafted by the same hand, under the elephant’s trunk, “is his best friend, Terri.”

Little springs inside Terri helped him nod his head and wag his tail on being reunited with Tonka. Jamie and Mr. P. watched silently as Terri and Tonka greeted each other.

“Now,” said Mr. P., “bring me a saucer of water.”

Jamie put the letters down on a chair and did as he was told.

Mr. P. pulled up a small lever on top of Tonka’s head, put his trunk in the water and pumped ’til Tonka was full!

“You were thirsty, old chap.”

“Now,” said Mr. P, “this is the game.”

“You place Terri anywhere within this circle” – (he drew a circle with salt from the salt cellar around Tonka) and Tonka can only turn on the spot!”

Jamie did as he was asked.

Mr. P. then pushed the lever down on Tonka’s head. Tonka’s large ears flapped and water gushed out his trunk just missing Terri.

“Wow, magic!” said Jamie. “Terri and I won that one!”

“OK — swap over —” said Mr. P.

Jamie and Mr. P. played the game over and over until Jamie finally went home. He hadn’t been home long before he returned and knocked on Mr. P’s door.

“My mum wants to know if you’ll come to dinner! We’re having Salmon Pasta!!”

Mr. P. took a big breath and let it out slowly. “Why, yes. Thank you.”

At 5.30 Mrs. Parker welcomed Mr. Prendergast to her apartment, as in need of renovation as his own, but made cheery by fresh flowers and colourful cushions.

“My name is Veronica,” she said softly, “but please call me Ronnie.”

Jamie looked at Mr. P. expectantly. There was a pause. Mr. P. gave a little cough. “umm, ah, Trevallyn” he replied.

Jamie’s eyes grew huge.

Ronnie’s twinkled.

“But Trev to my friends!” Mr. P. added, just in time.

The dinner went splendidly, and Ronnie and Trev sat talking at the table long after Jamie had gone to bed.

Later that evening, before retiring, Mr. P. was cleaning his teeth in his bathroom. Midway he paused,  and looking in the mirror with a mouthful of froth, he mouthed softly, “Wow, awesome!” and then, a little louder — “MAGIC!!”

On the shelf in the dinette, Tonka rested his trunk gently on Terri’s shell.

Terri nodded gently and wagged his tail. . . . . .

Kay Perry is a sailor and lives on a sailing boat called “Truant” with her husband. When not sailing around she likes to write short stories and poetry for adults and children.

 

Joe Wahlman – Autumn Waves

Autumn Waves

 –

Lake Superior black rock shore,

an autumn chill in the wind—

pink cheeked, my son

stood with me

in the spray of the waves—

mighty lake waves—

rolling towards us,

exploding on the rocks—

roaring water—

rhythmic white walls of water

growing and falling

in the wind—

            My son roared right back at them,

                        arms overhead—

                        Eyes full of wonder,

                                                I watched him instead.

Joe Wahlman was raised in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, where he now lives with his wife and son. He has taught English for fourteen years in both Colorado and Michigan.

Carol Tyx – Tomatoes on Windowsill, Garage

 

 

Tomatoes on Windowsill

Fullness to fullness

like beads on a string

not perfect roundness

not copies, each

its own being, a slightly

flattened curve,  a bulge

subtle differences in color

coral, brick, somewhere

on the orange to red scale

every day deepening

maybe like us

if we could hold still

long enough in the sheen

of morning light.

Garage

 

You look out the back window

at the garage sheathed

in snow, the roofline gleaming

against the indigo skyline.

 

The sag has returned—if it ever left—

the old wood bowing to the weight

of snow and  moonlight on this last night

of the year, all the jockeying up,

 

the reinforced beams, the additional

crosshatches of the previous summer

useless under the weight

 

of so much beauty.

 

 

Carol Tyx teaches writing and American literature at Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Her work has most recently been published in RHINO, Poetry East, Water-Stone Review, Iowa City’s Poetry in Public, and Rising to the Rim, published by Brick Road Poetry Press.  On any given day you might find her cooking with kale, contra dancing, or standing on her head.