Art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

pressed between a leaf

sho t down

Art by Russell Bittner

collaboration by Nicolette Westfall and Jeff Crouch




Kolkata India at night by Subhankar Das

Don’t Expect by Kevin Coons

I check my watch again, if only to make sure that time its self has not stopped. There is nothing moving here. There is wild straw grass growing up and down the hills, but in the absence of any breeze, the strands stand eerily still, as if posing for a painting. The world in front of me is golden. I stand with one hand in each pocket and one foot on each side of the tracks. I look out ahead and as far as I can see, there is no beginning and no end to the rusty iron path I’m straddling. There is no past and no future, just a stretch of track.

I’ve been here for hours, waiting. I must of had wondered along the tracks for miles. The station, the city, the people, they were no longer in sight, not that it mattered. This is what I tell myself: In time, a train is bound to come. When that happens, I am bound to run beside it. I am bound to reach out my arms until I can grab onto something and pull myself up. I am bound to make it, with my feet dangling from the side of an empty boxcar as we roar through mountains, valleys, and whatever else this track brings. In time, a train is bound to come.

I never really had a plan for this. The walls of my bedroom were paper-thin and the sound of a garbage truck woke me up that morning. After that, it was the dogs barking down the street that kept me awake. I rolled over and saw that I had forgotten to set up my alarm clock.

On its own, my body has never been able to consistently regulate when I should or shouldn’t be sleeping. When I woke up, I thought that it must still be the middle of the night. The sun’s presence outside informed me otherwise.

The curtains of my bedroom window were not fully closed and the light sidled in through the cracks between them, forming several straight lines of light that stretched across the room like prison bars. Laid out on top of my bed they felt as heavy as iron. I resignedly sighed. If I’ve learned one thing it’s this: the sun won’t wait for you.

I tried to shake off the morning. I trudged out of bed and made my way down the hall, towards the bathroom. I walked with a long stride, leaning my chest very far forward in an attempt to hide the embarrassing fact that I had an erection. I knew that nobody was home but me, and if I had wanted to I could strut around naked aiming my penis in every direction but, nonetheless, I was self-conscience about it. This place didn’t feel safe for things like that. This clumsy gait, in a way, resembled the awkward, jealous strut of a flightless bird, or the painful hobble of a wounded animal.

In the bathroom mirror, I noticed that I was thinner than before. My arms had turned dark and reddish. My hair was long and disheveled, as was my beard. I was pleased to see that I still looked like me, even if I didn’t feel it. I still looked like a free man.

I was back in my parents’ house and it felt so much larger than I had remembered it. I walked through the halls like I was a visitor in a museum. Everything was cleaner, even the walls were whiter. At least they seemed whiter. All of my shit was in boxes in the garage. My brothers’ rooms had been changed into an office and a workout room, respectively. My bedroom was now the guest room.

One thing I liked about my parents house was that it was located just a few blocks away from the train tracks that split the town in half. From inside the house you could hear the train’s whistle echoing beautifully over the hills at random times throughout the day. It was especially loud in my bedroom, and when I was younger I often stayed awake in bed at night and listened for the sound of the train. I often imagined that it was the voice of God himself answering my prayers. Sometimes, I could not fall asleep until I heard the train ‘s “Amen” ringing down from the heavens.

This morning there was a note waiting for me on the kitchen counter. “I won’t be home for lunch, there’s turkey in the fridge. I circled some classifieds for you. Good luck, I love you.-Mom” It was nice how she mixed resentment with hospitality. I was a bit hungry, though and a sandwich kind of sounded good. I laid out two pieces of bread on a white porcelain plate and pulled out the sliced turkey from the refrigerator. I held one slice between my fingers and twitched it back and forth for a while. It felt cold and dead. I put it away. Maybe I wasn’t so hungry anyways. Sometimes, I just can’t decide.

I went into the living room and turned on the t.v. I switched through the channels back and forth for a few minutes without settling on anything. It all felt cold and dead. I turned the t.v. off , put on a Woody Guthrie record and sunk down into the couch. I focused my attention on the pictures hung up on the wall above the television. There was one in particular that grabbed my attention, even though seen it hundreds of times. It was my father, but when he was about my age now. This was before kids, before he started working at Texaco, before male pattern baldness. There is a lake behind him, he is holding a bass and grinning ear to ear. In his sunglasses you can see my mom holding the camera. The whole photograph was tinted yellow like it had been soaked in sun-light. I thought this is what the whole world must of looked like back then. I don’t know why, but my eyes welled up and I started to fill nauseous. My throat felt like it was being tugged and twisted by rusty pliers.

That’s when it came to me, like a steam engine starting: I was going to hop a train. Why in the hell wouldn’t I? Without thinking about too much, I arose from the couch in a mad rush, wiped my forehead, and quickly filled a backpack with some food, clothes and water. I dug out my hiking boots and laced them up. My heart raced, and I tried to sort out a plan in my head. Continue reading

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