Afterlife

By Joseph Kerschbaum





roads slick as liars tongues 

hands white knuckle the wheel 

enough to strangle a confession out of it 

as if you hold on tight enough 

you will maintain control 

push-pull of velocities’ influence

into out of each sharp curve

guard rails can only keep you

so safe





stare through the glass skin 

of the mechanical animal 

that carries you inside its belly 

trust fall into the mechanisms 

that need to operate in perfect unison

you couldn’t identify one organ of this beast 

a tiny pinion breaks 

no matter the steel-reinforced frame 

so do you 





imaginary yellow wall 

in the middle of the road

we agree to believe in 

similar to faith 

but with real-world consequences

so much of what protects us isn’t really there 

survival is so many unspoken agreements 

to not do terrible things 

to each other 





headlights in the distance get closer

turn down their high beams

one line of code that confers

let’s work together to get through this 

pass so close you could touch them

almost feel a future that never was

with a rush of wind against

the driver’s side window





split-second of your life is in their hands

each of us not swallowing

our spoon full of oblivion 

just then





Joseph Kerschbaum is a terrible cook and he can’t sow and he can’t patch the crack in the foundation of his house (which happened recently) – but he does write poems. Sometimes those poems are published in publications such as failbetter, Panoply, Flying Island, The Battered Suitcase, and The Delinquent. Sometimes these poems are gathered into collections, most recent publications include Mirror Box (Main St Rag Press, 2020) and Distant Shore of a Split Second (Louisiana Literature Press, 2018). Joseph lives in Bloomington, Indiana with his family. 

Chesterton Tribune signs off with final print issue after 136 years

By Joseph S. Pete

The Chesterton Tribune, Northwest Indiana’s longest continuously operating newspaper, has published its final print edition after 136 years.

The long-running newspaper serving Chesterton, Porter, Burns Harbor and the Duneland area in Porter County since 1884 will continue to publish community news online.

Publisher David Canright compared the loss to that of another institution, the beloved Aron movie theater on Broadway.

“I see no viable path to continuing a printed version of the paper while giving local news the space it deserves,” he wrote in a thank-you to readers in the final print edition Wednesday. “I am not going to relive the day-by-day struggle to keep the paper going. Instead I want to thank all of our faithful advertisers, readers, route carriers and employees who have kept community journalism alive. To all of you who placed farewell advertisements, sent us emails, posted on Facebook and wrote Voice of the People letters: Thank you.”

His wife Margaret Willis recalled how her temporary gig as a photographer there ended up lasting more than 38 years.

“I photographed sporting events, local philanthropic groups, and got sent to house fires, car accidents, and sinkholes, surveyed tornado damage and downed trees, found cute kids enjoying local parks and documented the turning of the seasons in nature and dunes photos, and, through the newspaper, I helped promote a better understanding of the dunes ecosystem and the need to preserve and protect it,” she wrote in the final issue. “I worked as a reporter, covering various town boards, park boards, police commission, library board. I researched and purchased the first digital cameras for the Tribune, making the development of camera film in the darkroom obsolete – the very thing I’d initially been hired to do. Through these efforts I saw clearly I was carrying forward the ethics of democracy my parents so carefully taught.”

She said it was painful to come to the point where a print community newspaper was no longer financial viable after her long career shining light on local affairs, ensuring transparency in government and encouraging civic engagement.

“I will never regret the efforts put forth for community, for democracy, for protection of the environment,” she wrote. “I hope that all of you will take it upon yourselves to continue to carry democracy forward. Attend local government meetings, educate yourselves on local, state, national and international issues. Look to the environment around you, work to preserve and protect it. And teach your children well.”

Longtime reporter Kevin Nevers wrote that the coronavirus pandemic sealed the Chesterton Tribune’s fate.

“If the Tribune was a dinosaur – and it was, a family-owned, locally-operated newspaper, like something out of Mayberry or Lake Wobegon – then the coronavirus was the asteroid that felled it. And the Trib isn’t special. Thousands of businesses across the country have been made extinct and hundreds of thousands of folks made hungry as the dust cloud continues to settle,” he wrote. “I would venture to say this, though. The Trib is different from many of the other victims in one particular way: it was an essential business. Technically it was an essential business, exempt from the governor’s March 23 stay-at-home order. But culturally it was an essential business too, I think, if by culture one means the ties that bind us, the values that move us, in the community we call Duneland.”

Nevers reflected on a life covering hard news, community news, and the sorts of stories that people pinned to their newspapers. He estimates he covered more than 3,000 municipal meetings in Chesterton and another 100 in Porter and Burns Harbor, letting people know how local government decisions affected their lives.

“Over the last 23 years I’ve written millions of words of varying quality, from leaden to yeoman-like to a lavishly purple shade of overwrought. I’ve filed perhaps 4,000 bylined stories and tens of thousands of unattributed one,” he wrote. “I’ve worked nearly 6,000 daily deadlines and have high blood pressure to prove it. If I had a dollar for every fender-bender I reported, I could buy a new car. If I had a dime for every ad insert I’d hand-stuffed in the Trib’s basement, I could retire. So here we are, and this is it: the last piece I’ll ever write for the Trib’s last issue ever. Yet – push finally coming to shove, right between my shoulder blades – I feel little of sadness, but instead a profound gratitude. Because I was lucky enough to be able to do what nearly no one who yearns to write for a living ever does: I wrote for a damn living.”

He thanks all those who made in possible, including his longtime readers.

“I want to thank the readers of Duneland, who invited me into their homes of an evening and trusted me to deliver their news, who made me part of a vital ritual,” Nevers wrote. “In an easy chair, on the sofa, at the kitchen table, over a beer or a smoke, taking that deep cleansing breath at the end of the workday, as October’s winds rustled the leaves or June’s fireflies flickered, at the same moment in hundreds and hundreds of homes, we were all of us together in quiet commune with our community. To read the paper was to share an intimacy, to know – if we happened to think of it at all – that for those few minutes we weren’t alone in our joy or anguish or anger, but partaking of the same with many others, as one.”

Joseph S. Pete is the editor-in-chief of the Northwest Indiana Literary Journal.

Sea Wall

By Joseph E. Redding

Rozga, in time, would confront him; Michael knew that. The idle gossip  overheard at Staley’s Grocery confirmed as much. While Michael wouldn’t admit to hiding, he had changed his daily routines to lessen the real estate developer’s opportunities. Each weekday he abandoned springtime chores by mid-afternoon to be at his desk, writing a never completed letter to his grandson Ricky, as the Mazda RX-7 crept past on the last leg of a Chicago commute. On weekends, just after dawn, Michael took to Irish Lake in his discolored pontoon boat, returning only when the sun burned low into the south shore, vigilant to avoid a chain-rattling wake against a pier that had grown soft like a dried sponge. During the dodge and weave, Michael resolved to directly and curtly respond to the short 41-year-old man with a thick waist. So on a Saturday, when brisk winds and light rain made the lake non-navigable and left Michael to putter about in the garage, Michael blurted, “Why do we need an association?” before Rozga said a word.  

Rozga answered with the confidence of a man who had closed thousands of real estate transactions. “Don’t you want to preserve our lake?” He smiled, mouth wide, gums revealed.

The south end of Irish Lake had always been a self-contained entity, eighteen lots boxed between a canal and the swamp off Little Barbee Lake.  When Michael took ownership of his slice, just as the surveyor’s ink dried, each lot was an amalgamation of woods, sandy shorefront, and a deed free of land use restrictions.  Since then, Indiana law evolved; now associations could bind all the lots in a specifically defined geographic location with an agreement between just half of the landowners. Citizens on the Barbee Chain of Lakes debated the value of such associations; exchanges that intensified after a developer backfilled the swamp off Little Barbee Lake and erected a gated community.

“Our lake?” Michael continued to tinker, stacking empty cases of Stroh’s Beer, bottles that he had meant to return to the depot last summer. “I’ve been here before Hitler invaded Poland.  How about you?”

Rozga’s smile lessened, his gums disappearing. But he was a man who knew persistence, more than anything else in life, increased the odds of getting what one wanted. “Well I wouldn’t say I just arrived; it’s been over three years since I bought the Heisler place, then your Cousin Bobby’s the next year.”  He maintained straight eye contact with Michael. “But, yes, my residency doesn’t go back to the Great War.” 

Ignoring the historical error, Michael corrected Bobby’s place on his genealogical tree with a slow, staccato, “cousin-in-law.” Michael’s bloodline wouldn’t surrender family property, even at twice the market value. True, Bobby had neglected the property; it fell to an uninhabitable cabin, even for a weekend stay. Repairs, however, became irrelevant after Rozga razed the structure and seeded the dirt imprint, erasure of any memory of the two bedroom, cinder-block cottage. The excavation failed to evoke sentimental deterrence: since then, two other owners, both on double lots, relinquished title to Rozga, increasing his Irish Lake portfolio to six lots.

Rozga apologized for his misclassification of Michael’s relations while holding out a booklet. The half-inch, spiral bound document lingered in the air for more than an uncomfortable moment before Michael snatched it away from the meaty fingers. Rozga offered no reaction, as if governing association applications were often exchanged this way. Rozga shuffled in anticipation of questions, backing away when none came.  But after retreating a few feet, he stopped and cleared his throat. “Things are changing, Mr. Sawyer.” Michael winced at the sound of his name, uttered from the mouth of a big city man who owned a third of his Eden. “With the Reagan Administration relaxing regulations, people have bold ideas on how to make money. Cottages are no longer just leisure. They’re business; a lucrative business if done without thinking of others. We can’t stop everyone, but this strip can be saved. It would be nice to have an original owner on board with us.”

Michael agreed to review the document, but when alone, tossed it atop of the refrigerator that hadn’t worked in a decade. To distract his chattering mind, he cleaned the cricket cage and replaced the nylon string on the fish basket, “Haven’t needed a governing organizationfor over forty years,” he muttered. “Suddenly it’s necessary?” Back in the day, when he and Bobby lived out of the garage while building their cottages, lot owners just talked things out; written documents weren’t needed. Of course that was before his wife passed and his son moved to Milwaukee and cowards like Bobby sold out.  By the end of the day, he had forgotten Rozga’s book and only remember it on Monday morning when the RX-7 sped past, kicking up dust on the gravel road, hell-bent for US 30.

The weather warmed and daily routines returned, like Marcie appearing with a fist full of Michael’s mail. A year ago, they had cut a deal: In exchange for the use of his year-old Ford Granada – a more dependable car than her rusting Mercury Marquis – she retrieved Michael’s mail from his post office box when she went into town. Michael, distracted by an oversized envelope a green logo, didn’t notice her slink off without comment, forgoing her habitual fifteen minute summary of changes happening in Warsaw.

Michael cut the envelope and wiggled loose a booklet bound by two brass fasteners. The accompanying letter, signed in bright blue ink by Chicago Attorney Frank Denny, addressed each lake homeowner:

Welcome to the South Irish Lake Governing Organization (SILGO), created to preserve the beauty of the south side of Irish Lake. The organization, founded last week when the Kosciusko Recorder accepted and recorded the application, is now a permanent covenant on the plat map. As a landowner in the geographical area defined in the application, your rights and responsibilities in the association are set forth in the enclosed bylaws. SILGO’s first order of business, as per these bylaws, is to elect a four man governing board. The election will occur on Flag Day at the Little Barbee Hotel. 

The letter continued, detailing the lot owners who signed to the application. Aside from Rozga’s six lots, the Howard family from Indianapolis and Marcie had agreed to this nonsense. Michael figured the Howards, who hadn’t used the two cabins in five years, hoped to increase the sale value, while Marcie had been hornswoggled by Rozga with the memory of her late father.

Michael nitpicked the bylaws, circling words and phrases he knew Rozga and his lawyers would utilze to control the area. When he tired of arguing against himself, he crossed the lawns to Marcie’s cottage.  She shoveled black dirt into a cedar planked box; an attempt to convert the sandy soil into a garden. “You read this?” He shook the bylaws towards her. Marcie continued to throw the soil as if she hadn’t heard him.  “One vote per lot and Rozga’s got six.  He should have just made himself King.”

“You should run.” Shovel planted, she leaned into the handle, resting her father’s oversized, worn work boot on the blade’s back edge.  “It’s a four man board, right?  I would support you.”

“I want no part of this.” He again shook the document. “This farce of an organization. He’s probably going to put up rental cabins.  Or Lord forbid, a hotel.” 

“Then why not run for the board?”  While her reasoning was sound, he would not legitimize this organization. Others could get political, but he bought his lot to avoid city life chaos. He had done so for forty years: First as a summer refuge from Fort Wayne on the weekends; then, after he retired, as his fulltime residence. His paradise would continue without forcing associations upon his neighbors.

Despite Michael’s one-man boycott, the election occurred. Results printed on thick SILGO stationery detailed that Rozga had not only been elected to the board, but with the most votes, gained chairmanship of it. Alfred Howard, along with Roy Sycamore – a chiropractor from South Bend with a two bedroom A-frame at the east end of the strip – had also been elected.

But when Michael saw the last board member, he dropped the letter. Marcie. “God save us all,” he muttered. Marcie’s father Jim, an engineer with Michael at the Taylor Street General Electric plant, had also been an original purchaser. He died from lung cancer fifteen years ago, receiving the terminal diagnosis months before retirement. Choosing the family lifetime option on his pension, he received lower monthly payments in exchange for the ability to pass those benefits to his only child upon his death. Marcie also inherited Jim’s cottage, with its faded siding and peeled window frames, which hugged the canal – the far west side of the SILGO jurisdiction. A year after Jim’s death, Marcie quit the cashier job at the Fort Wayne A&P and moved to the lake to enshrine her father’s name in the glory of the cabin.

“See you made the board,” Michael yelled out. He had hoped his voice would convey jocularity, but could tell he failed. She gave no reaction, turning the soil in her garden, fluffing it to rise above the barrier. “Must not have been much competition.”

“Certainly not from you.”  Her voice quivered and she swallowed hard to stabilize her vocal cords. “Can’t complain about something you didn’t do.” She returned to her garden and Michael slunk away.

The next day, a green rubber band secured SILGO’s meeting agenda to Michael’s door. He dropped it in the kindling bin on his way to the garage where he planned to add line to Ricky’s Zebco reel. But when Marcie and her dog Smokey paddled past in a canoe, surveying the shore with methodical strokes, he retrieved and re-read the agenda, catching the word “sea wall” in the middle of the twenty-three point list. Putting aside the tackle, he returned to the cottage, looking east out the bay window.  When the canoe returned, at the same gradual pace, he stomped over to Marcie’s cottage.

“What’s this sea wall thing?” Smokey nudged him and he gave the collie an absent pat on the head.  Marcie yanked the canoe ashore, etching a trail on the sand, but did not look at the agenda Michael extended.

“Can you give me a minute here Michael? I have to get Smoke his breakfast. Dad always said a hungry dog is a dangerous dog.”  She gave the canoe three strong tugs, then confortable the boat didn’t float, sauntered to her cottage. “Let’s get you fed Smoke.”

Michael stormed off, miffed over the diet of that fleabag. He waited two hours – reading and rereading the agenda – before he returned. Marcie stained a pinewood sign that normally hung at the end of her drive; publication of the family name. She wiped her hands on her smock, put down her brush and tilted her head to read the agenda Michael thrust out. “Michael, I can’t talk about the agenda.”

“Says who?” Michael demanded.  “Nobody can stop you from talking about your own property.  This isn’t the Soviet Union.  At least not yet.”

“SILGO is registered with the County Recorder, so the open meeting law applies. Proper procedure must be followed; I can’t just go jabbering on. At least that’s what the chairman says.”

“Making everyone call him ‘The Chairman’ now?”  Marcie rolled her eyes, fueling Michael’s fire. “Does he wear a crown at these meetings?”

“Why do you hate SILGO so much, Michael? It’s only keeping the land like when you and dad bought it. It even has a cute name, like that county in Ireland. Get it, Irish Lake, Irish County?

“Oh for God’s sake, that’s County Sligo, not SILGO.” Marcie reddened, but Michael continued, now with a softer voice. “Listen, I’m not here to bash SILGO.  What’s done is done. But when I see items on the agenda for a sea wall, it starts smelling like Rozga is fixing to rent cabins or sell off to Chicago investors.”

Marcie scrunched her nose. “I don’t think so. He likes the place, probably for the same reasons we do. If anything he’ll leave those lots vacant for privacy.” Now Michael rolled his eyes. “I’m serious Michael.  I think he’s here to stay. But I’m sorry; I can’t talk about the agenda. I don’t want to get in trouble with the law. You’ll have to come to the meeting.”  She picked up the brush, adding, “You know, you could help. You’ve always been smart.” She resumed, the light brown stain seeping into the thin boards, darkening and preserving the etchings her father had cut two decades ago.

***

Despite an eighty person capacity, the Indiana Room in the Barbee Hotel held nineteen: the SILGO board members (minus Howard), five curious homeowners from connected lakes, and three trios of contractors. As Rozga finished roll call, the guests stirred, as if the ghosts rumored to haunt the old inn had disclosed themselves. Rather than acknowledge Michael, Rozga introduced the first agenda item and asked for, “comments, questions or concerns.” Hearing none, he requested a motion to approve the agenda item. The chiropractor motioned, Marcie seconded, and the “ayes” had it. Rozga repeated the process until the twelfth bullet point.

“Today, three companies are here to discuss seawalls.” He moved his arm across the room as if presenting an act on stage; each trio, in matching company shirts, gave timid nods.

Before Rozga’s arm completed the sweep, Michael stood and demanded to know if Irish Lake had, in fact, been transported to Ireland.  He scanned the room, daring an answer. When confident his point had been made, he growled, “We don’t live on the sea. We’re in the middle of Indiana.  Even a levee would be overkill, much less a cement wall.”

“A wall, in a maritime setting, doesn’t necessarily mean a straight-up, ninety degree structure, Mr. Sawyer.” If Michael’s question rattled Rozga, his voice did not betray him. “And it certainly doesn’t require concrete.”

“Don’t give me that a-wall-doesn’t-mean-a-wall rubbish. If you meant something else, you needed to put that on the agenda.” The bustle of the marina staff and fuel station customers at the lakeside hotel oozed through walls of the stilled room.

Rozga suggested the contractors educate the room, but none stirred. Then, a balding man in his late thirties, dark blue polo with a white “Chicago’s Shoreline Savers (™)” logo high upon his barrel chest, stated, “Perhaps if there is a specific question….”

Michael did not hesitate. “What alternatives are there to concrete walls?”  The three groups looked at each other, brows furled as Michael continued. “For over forty years the sloped Kentucky bluegrass lawns have been adequate. Why do I need a wall now?”

“I’m afraid I’ve been a bit unfair to our guests.” Rozga gave a wry smile to the contractors. “The board isn’t suggesting a seawall is the only option to preserve the shoreline; merely one we are exploring. Perhaps the agenda should have read, ‘stopping our eroding frontage.’ Fault lies solely with the chairman’s verbiage.”

“Well, Mr. Chairman, how about getting rid of basements as an alternative?” Seem like that’s a bigger concern than erosion. I can hear your dual sump pumps struggling against the spring thaw and rain.”

“It’s not the basements.” Rozga’s voice had gained a quickness and edge that Michael had not heard in previous encounters. “Structures without basements have also been experiencing water at their stoops.  Insurance companies are balking at renewing policies and I’m told chunks of shoreline, in uneven parts, have disappeared in areas of the lake’s shoreline.”

Michael had noticed on his own frontage the squall line of pebbles and worn shells just above the waterline had disappeared, usurped by widening and uneven crevices.  But he would not be silenced with his own thoughts. “What about removing cement driveways that rush rain to the lake rather than into the back canals? How about more trees rather than more outbuildings?  How about going back to holding tanks rather than mound systems that leech into the lake?  

Alternatives would be considered, Rozga promised, but the topic at hand was a sea wall. Michael sat down, not due to an interest in sea walls, but because his rant had left his 82-year-old legs wobbly. His strength returned during the three monotone presentations of sea wall costs, dependent upon individual shoreline characteristics, desired structures, and construction timelines.

The board tabled the topic until the Fourth of July weekend meeting, hoping  more lake owners would participate. In the interim, the chiropractor promised to solicit bids from contractors so the true cost of a wall could be determined.

Marcie tried to placate Michael that night as he groused, pointing out that it had just been a discussion and with nothing decided. “Not yet, but with six votes, Rozga can ramrod anything through.”

Marcie smiled. “Sounds like you’ll have to be the watchdog then – just like Woodward and Bernstein.”  Michael stomped home.

***

          On a late June day, where the cool morning air crackled with promises of summer heat, Michael confronted seventy-year-old Rex Hundley, owner of the Warsaw contracting company Thick as a Brick, Inc., demanding to know why Rex was on his property. After Rex presented identification, Michael inquired as to the necessity of a wall.

          “It’s not a wall, really,” Rex replied over Michael’s disgusted sigh, tired of receiving this answer. “Its layers of rock, on a thin burlap-like barrier, with large rocks on top like decorative frosting.”

          “What’s something like that cost?” Michael kept a good stare on Rex.

          “I suspect about $35 per shoreline foot.  I don’t see any surprises from this lake to raise the cost.”

          “You been doing this long?” Michael examined Rex’s Nike running shoes.

          Rex responded in a warm voice without a hint of resentment. “Only twelve years on the lakes.” Michael nodded a smug smile. “Of course, I spent twenty-five years trying to keep the Atlantic back in the intercostal waters. We never fully figured out that monster; walls are only a speed bump – you can slow erosion, but you can’t stop it.”  He smiled at Michael before he turned to the lake. “But, like I said, this lake, she’s a well-behaved beauty. We’ll save your shoreline well past the life of your grandchildren’s grandchildren.”

          Rex asked Michael to walk with him. As they crossed properties going east, Rex pointed out eroded areas, explaining that an unchecked lake can lose ten feet or more of shoreline within a generation.  Michael, without referencing Rozga’s ownership, asked about the appropriateness of the sloped cement drives.

          “I never recommend concrete around water.  It gets the water running too fast. I know you know the danger of fast moving water.” Michael swelled his chest.  “Slow water, over time, is just as destructive in its own right. And it’s a hidden danger, as it often it seems harmless. But concrete isn’t the end of the world. And the erosion here is coming from the lake, not the sources into it.”

          “Couldn’t each land owner just build their own wall?”

“Not effectively, since water finds the weakness, and could be catastrophic for those who don’t build.” Rex stopped to write some notes on his clipboard. “Plus, a long uniform structure, aesthetically, is really something to look at.”

The SILGO board met on July 6th in the donut room of Staley’s Grocery; the board deeming the Barbee Hotel venue overkill with the lack of participation. The only agenda item was the “shoreline preservation” and the sea wall proposals were shared. Three Chicago contractors submitted the highest bids; Thick As A Brick came in a tick above the low bid from Indianapolis. After acknowledging Howard’s absence, Rozga asked the board members to share their thoughts.  Sycamore voted to build a sea wall and use the lowest bid. Marcie voted for the wall as well, but suggested they use Thick As A Brick.  Rozga asked for Michael’s opinion.

          “Other than we don’t build it?”  Sycamore looked at his watch.  “I don’t care who builds it.  It’s not necessary.”

          Rozga had the final say. “Well, I’m with Marcie.  Let build a wall and keep it homegrown. By unanimous vote, the motion to build a sea wall passes, and with a two to one vote, the Warsaw contractor is hired.”

          Two weeks later, Michael received an invoice from SILGO, payment due prior to the commencement of construction. Michael ignored it; a week later, Rozga came to his cottage.

          “How are you, Mr. Sawyer.” When Michael did not open the screen door, much less invite him in, Rozga skipped further small talk.  “You’re the last.”

          “Last what?”

          “To pay.” Rozga did not take his eyes off Michael. “You’re holding up the project.”

          “Suppose I don’t have it?” Michael took a bite of his sandwich that he had brought to the door and raised his eyebrows.

          “SILGO can finance you on a five-year note.”

          “Interest?”

          “Of course, we’re not a charity.”

          “Fourteen percent?”

          “That’s what the market calls for. At least it’s down from eighteen.”

          “Suppose I don’t want to pay or take your loan. Then what?  You got a strongman who breaks kneecaps?”

          “SILGO would pick up the shortage and file a lien on your property.” Michael tilted forward on his toes, waiting for Rozga to finish. “But we’d probably wait to enforce it until the property was transferred.”

          “Until I die then,” Michael snapped.

          “Sure.” Rozga hesitated, then added, “Or foreclosure, if the board votes that way.”

          “That’s what this is about, isn’t it. You getting my property.”

          “I don’t want your property, Mr. Sawyer. I want your cooperation.” Jaw tight, Rozga paused for more than a thoughtful second. “Look, I’m heading to Chicago tonight, but if you could let me know by week’s end what you’re going do, the board would appreciate it.”  He walked across the lawns without waiting for a retort.

“Why do you have to fight him, Michael,” Marcie asked later when she dropped off his mail. “You’ve got the money.”

“It’s not about the money.” He absently dusted empty 7-Up bottles, deteriorating white paint on the thick crafted glass that published Purdue’s past two decades of football schedules. “Why do I have to change? I’ve been here longer than he has.”

          “SILGO is just trying to preserve the area. Keep it like when you and dad bought your lots.”

          “Preserve? Seems to me that a nice flat, sandy beach always made this property attractive.”

          “You haven’t noticed the beach disappearing?” She walked to his shoreline and called back to him. “These willow roots weren’t always exposed.  You had to have noticed that when you put up the hammock.  You may not plan on being around at the end of the next decade, but there won’t be as much shoreline to pass onto Ricky.”

Michael had noted the willow roots, but hoped he had just been misremembering. After a restless sleep, he traveled into Warsaw. His accountant encouraged him to spend and take any action to drop his net worth below the $600,000 Federal estate tax exemption. “But I suppose if you want to give it to Ronald Reagan, we’ll have a parade for you for paying unnecessary taxes.” Michael stopped at the bank, transferred seven grand into his checking account before returning to the lake.

At dinnertime, Smokey howled at Michael until Marcie came to the door.  “I’ve got a check for the wall.” He held out the slip at the perforated edge.

“I can’t take that Michael.”  She dried her hands on a dishtowel. “That has to go directly to the chairman; he collects the money. But we’re glad you’re on board.” As Michael walked home, over his shoulder he saw Marcie dialing the screen porch wall phone. When the air began to release its moisture, he walked to the trailer park and dropped the envelope addressed to SILGO in the mailbox.

          The construction happened. A thin, black environmental barrier placed on the edge of the lake was immediately smothered by blankets of gravel, each layer of pebbles increasing in size. Large bright-gray, riprap stones, ferried by barge, topped the pile. Ruts caused by vehicles on the shoreline were filled and seeded. A seamless creation; a wall suddenly erected.

Even Michael had to admit, if only to himself, that the project had a pleasant feel. He noticed the admiration of passing pontoons on fall foliage tours, slowing to take in the long, single gray barrier that gave unity to the eighteen lots on the south end of Irish Lake. 

“Not so bad, hey?” Marcie yelled to Michael as he stood at the end of his dock, looking in at the wall.  “And all that energy you spent on stopping it.”

Michael walked past Marcie and mumbled that it looked, “okay.” She took up pace with him as he went toward the house, clearing her throat several times.  “Hey, Michael,” she finally asked. “When are you taking in your pier?”

“Why? Rozga got a rule about that too?”

“A photographer with Kosciusko County Living was impressed with the wall set behind the fall colors and wanted to do a feature on it, but only after all the piers are out.” She bit her thumbnail and looked down the shoreline. “Yours is the only one left.”

“Because I’m about the only one who stays the winter.”

“I stay the winter,” she said, corners of her mouth drooping.

“But you don’t have a pier.”

“Dad never wanted one.”

“Because he’d pull his boat up on the sand.  Couldn’t do that now, could he?”

 “We don’t have a boat with a motor anymore; just the canoe.” Marcie’s lip trembled. “I don’t know why you hate the wall, Michael. It’s uniquely yours, just like Rozga promised, right?”

“It is mine, isn’t it,” he said, more as a question than statement. To salve his guilt for maliciously using of the memory of her father, he added, “The dock guys are coming next week.”

Marcie gave a weak smile. “Ok. I’ll let the photographer know.” She shuffled back home over the lawns of those who had already winterized their cabins.

Dick’s Dock Service removed the pier while Michael was in Warsaw at the hardware store. A wave of melancholy rose inside his gut when he returned to the vacant water, the feeling he got every fall when the pier came out. Another year spent. Nothing he could do but wait for winter to come and fail before reconfiguring the pier.

At twilight, Marcie came to use the Granada to travel back into Warsaw.  “It wasn’t running too good this afternoon. I’ve got to take a look at it in the morning. You’ll have to take your own car.”

“Really? It ran great last week.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s the catalytic converter. You don’t want to try to run into town on a bad one of those.”

Marcie was unsure what that was, but trusted Michael when it came to mechanical things, so she returned to her garage. When he could no longer hear tires crunching, Michael opened the Granada’s trunk.

He struggled to lift the gallon paint can over the trunk’s lip, scraping the “neon orange” label. He left the trunk open as planned to drag all five cans to the shoreline. With the can sloshing and bumping into his leg with each step, he pressed forward, his golden reflection laughing in the light of the waning moon.

Joseph Redding is constantly searching for his old self – the one before he discovered Doritos and Naked Threesome IPA. His wife Julie keeps him around, most likely only to help haul their three children around their community in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.  His fiction and non-fiction has appeared in periodicals that do not wish to be mentioned so each can remain underrated. 

Judgments

By Gary Beck

The minute they walked into the store I knew they were cops, but not locals. Some kind of state boys come up from Cheyenne by the look of them. I started for the bathroom to avoid them, but the meaner looking one, in a blue suit that looked like he found it in a thrift shop, called me.

“Just a minute, sir. We’d like to talk to you.”

I turned to my assistant, Bobby Runs-with-Elks.

“Why don’t you help these gentlemen, Bobby.”

“We need to speak to you, sir,” the oilier looking man said, taking off his sunglasses, revealing black eyes as soulless as lumps of coal.

Bobby, a full-blooded Shoshone, had been working with me for several years, as his father and grandfather before him. He got a small salary and 50% of the profit from the store at the end of the year, which went to his family. We outfitted a lot of hunters and tourists, so it sometimes added up to a good sum of money. I met his grandfather, Joseph Shiny Elk, at Parris Island, in 1968. We served two tours together in Vietnam and saw and did some terrible things. We were both wounded in a sapper attack and invalided out of the Corps at the same time. He didn’t want to go back to the reservation and I didn’t want to work on the oil rigs. So we formed a partnership and opened the general store in the Great Divide Basin, near the Killpecker Sand Dunes, a wild and beautiful place.

Joseph was a part-time deputy on the reservation and late one night on his way home was killed by a drunken driver. His son, Daniel Speaks-to-Elks, took over his share of the business and we got along real well. I never married or had a family, so Daniel was like my son and Bobby like a grandson. They would get the business when I died. I had been around for a while and was pretty fit, still working as a hunting guide now and then, and in no hurry to check out.

I saw there was no way to avoid them and put on my dumb storekeeper face. Bobby had already sensed something and was playing stone-faced Indian.

“What can I do for you boys?” Which immediately riled them since they expected to intimidate me.

“We’d like to talk to you in private, sir,” Oily grated.

“Bobby knows everything that goes on here…”

“Alone, sir,” meanie insisted.

“Well we can go out back, though the winds a bit stronger then you Cheyenne boys are used to.”

“What makes you think we’re from Cheyenne?” Oily asked.

“You got that townie look, like you’re used to telling folk what to do,” which annoyed them.

I wasn’t going to take them through my living area, so I led them outside and around the back. There were several wooden chairs and a bench sand stripped down to a smooth surface. I gestured for them to sit. They declined, but I sat, willing to let them think they had an advantage towering above an old man.

Meanie looked at oily, who said:

“I guess this will do”

“Alright, boys,” I said pleasantly. “Who are you and what do you want?”

They both pulled out wallets with badges and oily said:

“We’re criminal investigators from the governor’s office. We’re investigating the accident that destroyed the Grand Teton Resort and Hunting Lodge and led to a number of deaths.”

“What has that to do with me?”

“We heard you know Sam Zona. He may have been involved somehow in the destruction of the place.”

“I don’t know anything about that.”

“But you know Sam Zona,” oily insisted.

“He’s dead?”

“We don’t know. Now you know him.”

“Yeah. Casual like.”

“You know him better then that. He worked for you for several years when he was a teen-ager,” oily stated.

I just shrugged and meanie glared.

“We can make things difficult for you if you don’t cooperate,” meanie threatened.

I guessed they could and it would hurt Daniel and Bobby, so I decided to tell them whatever was common knowledge.

“What do you want to know?”

“Tell us about his background,” oily said. “Start with his parents.”

“I don’t know much about them. Manny came from up North someplace and married a Shoshone woman. They lived on the rez for a long time, but didn’t have kids. There was a story that an old medicine man told them they’d have a son, if they left the reservation and saved the injured animals.”

Meanie laughed. “We don’t believe in witchcraft.”

“Well they started a small ranch in the Great Divide Basin and they took in all kinds of hurt critters, birds, antelope, wolves, they even had a bear for a while…”

“Sounds like a fairy tale to me,” oily sneered. “How’d they make a living?”

“Manny captured wild horses and sold them… Now do you want to hear what I got to say? If not, go back to the city.”

“Go on,” oily said.

“Sam was an exceptionally strong and bright kid. He rode to school on the rez on his pony five days a week. At first some of the older kids tried to bully him. Calling him a half-breed, but he fought back and beat them until they left him alone. He was twelve years old when he was riding home one day and his pony stumbled on a rock. Sam got off to check his hoof and a big cougar went for the horse. Sam grabbed the cat and they fought and he killed it…”

“Bullshit!” meanie growled. “No kid that age could kill a cougar without a rifle.”

I concealed my growing anger and replied:

“I don’t need to talk to you…”

“Ray didn’t mean to insult you,” oily said. “The story seems a little far-fetched. Tell us the rest.”

“Sam got bigger and stronger. When he was about sixteen he went to town, which was mostly owned by Mr. Phillips’ oil company. He met a waitress at the diner and he really liked her, but the riggers and roughnecks told him to leave her alone. There was a big fight and he whipped  a lot of them, but she was scared and wouldn’t be with him. One of the roughnecks said she had a younger sister, if he’d wait for her, but Sam refused. Then someone from the oil company offered him a job. When he said ‘no’, the man said wildfires could burn his family’s ranch. Sam didn’t like that and punched him. That night he caught a couple of coyotes, tied torches on their tails and sent them into the oilfield. A couple of rigs burned, costing the company a lot of money, but they couldn’t prove it was Sam.”

“You’re saying he did it?” Meanie demanded.

“It was just a rumor.”

“What happened next?” Oily prompted.

“His mother and father were attacked in town one day. Some say the oil company was behind it, but no one knows. Then a bunch of men went to their ranch and tried to burn it, but there was a big fight and Sam chased them away. Nothing happened for a while, then the oil company started pressing the ranchers to sell. A couple of them went to see Sam and asked for help. He set up a nightwatch system to warn them if there was an attack. One night a bunch of thugs from the oil company came to a ranch that Sam was guarding. He ambushed them, beat them, then sent them back to town naked. They complained to the sheriff, who owed his job to Mr. Phillips, who said he’d look into it. On the advice of his friends, Sam joined the Marine Corps and went away for a while.”

“But something else happened before he joined the Marines,” oily prompted.

I quickly reviewed the event to be sure I told the same story that was in the record.

“He came home from school on the rez one day and found his parents dead. There had been a gun battle and there was a blood trail heading back to the oil rigs. He followed the trail and found three men wounded on the side of the road. They were trying to decide whether to go to the hospital, or go ask the boss to get them a doctor. They fought and Sam killed them. The sheriff, who was owned by the oil company, ignored the murder of Sam’s parents and started building a case against him. That’s when Sam joined the Corps.”

I didn’t tell them that he came to me for advice. I told him to join the Corps and that Bobby or Daniel would take care of his ranch. Oily kept eyeing me, trying to figure out how smart I was, but I made sure to look as dumb as possible.

“So how long was he gone?” Meanie demanded.

I shrugged. “Maybe two or three years. He was wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan and they discharged him. He came home to the ranch and did the same thing as his dad. He tamed wild horses and sold them and took care of injured animals.”

“The record shows he got into trouble sometime after that,” meanie said and pulled out a tablet and looked at the screen.

“He got into a fight, but the charges were dismissed.”

“He’s a real troublemaker,” meanie remarked, “always getting into fights.”

“Not so,” I snapped. “He was seeing some girl who worked as a bartender at the Last Chance Saloon. Her ex-boyfriend and some of his oil worker buddies jumped Sam one night. He beat them so badly they went to the hospital. The sheriff wanted to arrest him, but witnesses saw what happened and defended Sam and said the hooligans started it. Friends of the injured oil workers wanted revenge and they went to the ranch one night. They brought an old pickup truck, set it on fire and aimed it at the ranch house. Sam stopped the truck and pushed it back into their jeeps and trucks and they blew up. A lot of the men got burned, but nobody died. They couldn’t complain to the sheriff and they were afraid of Sam, so they left him alone after that.”

“Are you telling us he pushed the truck by himself?” Meanie sneered.

“Sam’s a strong guy,” I said softly.

“What happened after that?” Oily asked.

“Things were pretty quiet for a while.”

“Until Mr. Phillips wanted to build his resort,” oily stated.

“I don’t know about that,” I muttered.

“Bullshit!” meanie yelled. “Tell us what you know.”

I briefly considered giving them the shock of their lives when this old man kicked both their asses. But I realized they’d be back with reinforcements, so I told them the public version.

“The oil company took over most of the land in the Great Divide Basin for their oil rigs. Nobody who cares about the land wanted that, but Mr. Phillips is a rich and powerful man. One way or another he got what he wanted…”

“Talk more respectful about him,” meanie demanded. “He’s a friend of the governor.”

I was getting fed up with these hired badges, but before I could respond, oily said:

“Alright. Take it easy, guys. We’re just getting to what brought us here.” He looked at me and said: “Go on.”

I guess I decided to take the easy way out because I didn’t want any more trouble for Sam. It was probably a waste of time trying to make these jerks understand how some of us felt about the land, but I made one last effort.

“The Red Desert is the largest unfenced area in the 48 continental states. It’s got all kinds of animals and birds and should be preserved.”

“Yeah. Nice Dream,” meanie muttered. “But there’s oil there and money to be made.”

“There are more important things than money,” I responded.

Oily held up a placating hand. “Go on.”

“Mr. Phillips decided to build a big resort. I don’t know how he got the rights to public land. Probably bribery and threats…”

“That’s slander,” meanie yelled.

“Take it easy, Ray,” oily urged. “Hear the man out.”

By this time I was resisting the temptation to go inside, get my 1911 Model Colt .45 and send them on their way, but it would have meant trouble. So…

“One way or the other Mr. Phillips got a hold of most of the property he wanted. Sam led the fight to protect the environment and supported the hold outs who wouldn’t sell. About this time a woman came to town, Delia something. I don’t know her last name. She was real high class city type, and the sexiest looking woman I ever saw. Sam fell for her hard. I don’t know how she did it, but she cast a spell on him or something and he followed her around like a puppy. She got into his head and started him on drugs. He went downhill fast. He stopped protesting the land sales and challenging the building permits. He got weaker and weaker, ran out of money and lost his ranch. Then she dumped him. Some of his friends claim they saw her with Mr. Phillips.”

“What do you think?” Oily asked.

I shrugged. “What do I know? But it was a little strange that a slick woman like that would come here and get involved with a guy like Sam.”

“Are you accusing Mr. Phillips of using her to get him?” Meanie challenged.

“I’m just telling you what I heard.”

“You know about the explosion that destroyed the resort and killed all those people, including Mr. Phillips.”

“There was some talk about that, but I haven’t been there.”

“But you heard about it,” oily said.

“Yeah.”

“Do you know where Sam Zona is?” Oily asked.

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“I said no.”

Oily said to meanie. ”Let’s go.”

As they were leaving, meanie turned to me. “We’ll be back.”

I didn’t say anything, watched them get into their SUV and drive off. Bobby came outside and stood next to me, watching the dust plume recede in the distance.

“I was listening from the back window. Is there any way those guys can find out that Sam bought that load of black powder from us?”

“Not if we don’t say anything. There’s no receipt or anything is there?”

“No.”

“Good.”

“You think Sam blew up the place?”

“Yes.”

“Where is he now?”

“Dead along with the others.”

“How do you know that?”

“I know Sam. He was reduced to a wreck of a man who had nothing left. They laughed at him on the streets and weren’t afraid of him anymore. They took away everything he had, then built that temple of luxury to destroy the land he loved. I knew what he was going to do when he bought that powder.”

“Why didn’t you stop him?”

“It was his choice, Bobby. He pulled himself together for one last fight and took his enemies with him.”

“That’s it? That’s all you got to say?”

I smiled. “Too bad the governor wasn’t there.”

He stared at me wide-eyed for a moment, then laughed and I laughed with him.

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 29 poetry collections, 12 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 3 books of plays. Published poetry books include:  Dawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways, Displays, Perceptions, Fault Lines, Tremors, Perturbations, Rude Awakenings, The Remission of Order, Contusions and Desperate Seeker. Earth Links, Too Harsh For Pastels, Severance, Redemption Value, Fractional Disorder and Disruptions. His novels include Extreme Change. State of Rage and Wavelength. His short story collections include: A Glimpse of Youth. Now I Accuse and other stories and Dogs Don’t Send Flowers and other stories. Collected Essays of Gary Beck. The Big Match and other one act plays. Collected Plays of Gary Beck Volume 1 and Plays of Aristophanes translated, then directed by Gary Beck. Gary lives in New York City.

Platinum City

By  Chinese Poet  Yuan Hongri

Translated by Manu Mangattu

Ah! Of iridescent gems of time

The heavenly road you paved light!

In a kingdom of stars,

I found my home.

In the golden cities,

I opened the gates of the city to the sun,

To behold the godly giants.

At the royal palace of the jewel

I read of prehistoric wonderful poems

The enormous, gorgeous ancient books.

Carved with the golden words

The wondrous strange mystery tales,

Made my eyes drunken.

I walked into the full new universes,

And saw the holy kingdoms:

Even before the earth was born

The erstwhile home of human history.

Across Time and Space in crystalline glitter

Stands this moment a platinum city –

The spaceships drifting leisurely,

Like the birds, resplendent in variegated hues.

In the crystal garden I saw

A crowd of youthful giants,

Their eyes were bright and glittering

In the aura of the body sparkle..

They sang happy songs

They danced a wonderful dance

Lanky boys and girls in pairs

As if to celebrate the splendid carnival.

I saw a circular edifice

High above the city.

Giving out white-bright lightnings.

Raised ground to fly into the quiet space.

A frame of platinum edifice

Creating a beautiful pattern.

The whole city is a circle

Arranged into a fine structure.​

Into a bright hall I went.

A strange instrument there I saw.

A huge screen hanging on the wall,

Displaying a golden space​.

Like bits of colourful crystal gemstones!

Resplendent with variegated colours of the city!

Those strange and beautiful high-rise buildings

A sight better than the myth of the world.

I saw lines of strange letters.

On one side of the screen flashed swiftly

Numerous young and strong giants

An effort to concentrate on the changing images.

Their look is quiet and peaceful.

The learned flame flashes in their eyes.

In a flash of clothes

The next is a whole.

Their stature, unusually tall.

Each one is well-nigh seven meters high.

Both men and women look dignified

Almost no age difference apparent.

Their skin is white as snow

With a faint flashy shine

Bright eyes are as naive as an infant’s

Also kindled with a strange flame.

They manipulate the magic of the instrument.

The pictures of the changing space.

Their language is artless and plane.

As the bell is generally pleasant.

As I survey the length and breadth of the bright hall

I feel a powerful energy

Body and mind suffused with bliss and delight.

As if I too am a giant.​

I seem to understand their language.

They are exploring the mysteries of the universe.

The cities on a lot of planets

Peopled with their countless partners.

Their mind they use to manipulate the instrument

Also can to transfer data be used

Even thousands of miles apart

Also to talk free to the heart.

Many lines of text on the screen

Is but a message from afar.

The whole universe is their home.

They build cities in space.

They use the spaceships

To transport you to far-distant other spaces.

Into a lightning, a moment, and you

Vanish into thin air, without a trace.

I feel a new civilization.

They have magical eyes.

They seem to be able to see the future

And can enter diverse time-spaces.

Men and women are holy and loving

Superior to our world’s so-called love

They don’t seem to understand ageing

Neither do they know about war.

Time seems not to exist

Science is jut a wonderful art

Their happiness comes from the creation of

A universe full of divine love.

I saw a young giant

Opening the door of a platinum

A round, magnificent hall

Packed with rows of giant s of men and women.​

I saw a crystal stage.

Gyrating at the center of the hall.

Where a dignified and beautiful girl

Was playing a huge musical instrument.

A bunch of golden rays,

Shifting with all kinds of brilliant graphics

A mysterious and beautiful music

Like the Dragon leisurely crowing.

Thence I saw an enormous giant

Jump out of the remarkable dance onto the stage.

His hands held a huge ball

Which flashed with many colourful drawing .

I saw a group of young girls

Wearing a kind of white dresses

They seemed to fly lightly

Like the giant cranes.

The huge circular hall was resplendent

With clear, transparent decoration.

Like a bizarre gem of a full set,

Scintillating brilliantly in the light.

I saw a young singer

About the golden flame

The sound was strange and striking

Like singing , like chanting too.

Their music is at once mysterious and blissful

That shift randomly like the lightning

As if many planets of the universe

Shining bright and light​ in space.

The crystal city, aloft in space

Looks resplendent, magnificent

Countless wonderful golden flowers

Bloom and blush in that flawless space.

I saw an image of a transparent smiling face,

As if it were a colourful garden

The sky shed the golden light

And turned it into a city of gold​.

I strode out of the circular hall

Came to a wide street with a smooth

Pavement covered with precious stones

And in line with the platinum edifice.

There are no terrestrial trees here,

But they are in full bloom with a lot of exotic flowers.

Sparkling with rich incense,

Shaping a garden at the center of the street.

Some strange flowers were there.

The branches as transparent crystal

Flashing all kinds of brilliant colours;

And bunches of round golden fruit​.

I saw a huge statue.

It was like a spaceship.

Clustered around by shining stars,

High above the centre of the street.

I saw the column of a dazzling fountain

In a huge circle in the square;

The elegantly modelled statues

Portraying the holy giants​.

The soaring magnificent edifices

Ran round the circle square.

There were some garden villas

There was a platinum steeple.

I saw a wide river

Girdling this huge city

The bottom flashed with transparent gold dust,

Amidst which were scattered brilliant gems.

The planning of tall trees on shore

And a long crystal corridor

A big multi-coloured bird

Three five one group floated on the surface of the water.

I saw a vast forest

The swaying tree, a tree of gold

The trees with towering spires

And as some platinum Pavilion​.

I saw some giants along the walk,

Some male and female bodybuilders.

At the water’s brink or in the forest

Like birds carefree and relaxed.

The wonderful space was as bright as crystal

Embraced this platinum city;

A giant, white and bright ball

Flashing boundless light into the air​.

It resembled the huge suns

And like the man-made planets

The whole city was shining too,

Weaving a rare breed of magic​.

A strange speeding train circled

About the city back and forth;

There seemed to be a kind of track in the sky

Like a shiny silver curve​.

They seated body white buildings

As if it was a dreamlike maze

This huge city was unusually quiet,

Could not even hear the sound of the wind​.

I bade goodbye to the platinum city.

Near a golden space

Stands another city here

A huge city of gold​.

The building here is also huge.

But it’s another beautiful shape.

The whole city is glittering

Golden edifice as beautiful as sculpture.

Here there live some other giants.

As if from another nation

They have boundless wisdom.

Like a golden, holy civilization.

Bio:Hongri Yuan, born in China in 1962, is a poet and philosopher interested particularly in creation. Representative works include Platinum City, The City of Gold, Golden Paradise , Gold Sun and Golden Giant. His poetry has been published in the UK, USA ,India ,New Zealand, Canada and Nigeria. The theme of his work is the exploration of human prehistoric and future civilization.

Ball Jar

By Steve Brammell                                                                                             

Not only was the Hoosier Slide’s sand of high quality, but it provided a distinctive blue color to glass jars. . .These blue jars would become one of the most popular and practical glassware manufactured by Muncie’s Ball Corporation. The tinted glass wasn’t just aesthetically pleasing; the addition of color blocked some sunlight from entering the jar, extending the life of its contents. The glassware became so popular that the color became known as “Ball Blue”.
                                                                                                          – Orangebean Indiana

He carries it in a brown paper bag. It’s ridden on the seat beside him during the drive from O’Hare to the southern tip of Lake Michigan.

He’s surprised and happy to see the positive changes since the last time he was here, the restaurants, art galleries and tourist shops popping up along that once bustling main street he remembers from his childhood. He crosses the drawbridge over the river and catches a view of the blue Lake beyond the soldier’s monument and band shell.

The waterfront had been a source of wonder to him as a child. He drives past the nautical museum and the Coast Guard station before he stops to admire the rows of yachts and sailboats in the big marina. He pays admission at the main entrance and parks close to a beach that stretches east in a golden arc as far as the eye can see.

The crowds are gone now in September, but the water is still at its warmest, holding on to the heat of summer, a miserly force keeping the shoreline green when the inland leaves have already turned in October. He inhales the way he does over the first pour of his favorite wine, closing his eyes and remembering the smell of the Lake when his parents brought him here for a day of swimming then rides and vendor food at the vanished amusement park. A freshwater sea smells sweet, not tangy like the ocean he discovered at the age of ten on his family’s first long distance vacation. He opens his eyes and realizes he feels centered the way he does nowhere else on earth. He retrieves the paper bag and locks the car.

The lighthouse, symbol of the city, still stands proudly on its long concrete pier topped by a steel catwalk that had been used by old-time keepers to stay above the waves on the many rough days. Sailing ships and steamers had once jammed this port, and local planners had boldly planned for when their city would rival mighty Chicago just beyond the horizon.

He doesn’t try to avoid looking at it, the way he used to. The monster power plant has been there nearly a century, its chimneys growing taller with time, the gargantuan cooling tower added as demand increased with new industries and a swelling population during those economic halcyon days. He contemplates how he’s become a realist with advancing age.

He walks down stone steps to the strip of beach below the esplanade and removes the jar from the bag. The cloudless sky makes the glass glow a deeper blue. He had finally started coming back home when his father had suffered a serious illness. Each time there were more of the old blue Ball jars lining the window sills and shelves, the result of his mother’s turn to ‘antiquing’, to cope he suspected. “They’re worth a lot of money now,” she explained, a certain nervousness in her voice he’d never heard before.

He squats and sticks his fingers into the sand, the cool dampness beneath the hot surface evoking memories of the summer his father taught him to make sandcastles. His little hands had been capable only of forming mounds to which he’d added eyes, a nose and mouth. He remembers how satisfying it was to watch the waves wash away each of his creations, the sand melting back into itself so he could start over. He puts scoop after scoop into his mother’s antique blue jar until it is full and tosses the paper sack into a trash can as sea gulls wheel and cry overhead.

He scans the harbor when he reaches the pier. A barge, festooned with equipment, is dredging the channel past the lighthouse. People are fishing, the concrete lined with tackle boxes and coolers. On one trip home, right before his father went into the hospital, he chartered a fishing boat for the two of them, his father relegated to nothing more strenuous than watching from a deck chair by then. The captain had taken them so far out hunting for king salmon and cohos they could see no land, just the top of the cooling tower on the horizon, it’s trail of steam marking the sky in the hot, lazy breeze. A young couple strolls by him, nodding but glancing at the jar full of sand in his hands. He knows it is time to do what has come to do.
Local history was not taught when he was young. His high school study hall featured a floor to ceiling mural of the harbor, painted in the 1930s, showing Indians, voyageurs and fur traders, pioneers, canoes and sailing ships, lumber stacks and oxen yoked to wagons, while in the background a giant dune towered over everything, its sandy presence unexplained, not even worthy of enigmatic significance to those captive, clueless, teenage brains. He left home for college intending to repudiate his past as quickly and thoroughly as possible, plunging headlong into a wild, intoxicating new life, determined to invent a self more like the characters in the stories he’d already begun to write. Soon after graduation, he took off for Europe, not sure he would ever return.

It was his father, not his mother, who told him the story behind the blue glass, and, consequently, that of the big dune in the mural, a famous landmark long gone and forgotten by most. When his father had finally retired from the steel mill in Gary, he discovered he was not suited to free time and joined a local history group that met often in the archives of the city library. It was here his father saw photos of the Hoosier Slide.

“Steam ships brought hordes of passengers to climb the Hoosier Slide,” his father told him as they sat in his father’s basement office. His father had xeroxed every old photograph he found of the enormous sand dune, its summit as high as the power plant cooling tower. He marveled at the photos where people frolicked at the top under flags and banners, streaming up and down the slopes in lines like ants. “Getting married up there was popular,” his father explained. “And the town had so many restaurants and other amenities to accommodate tourists.”

“Why isn’t it there anymore?” he asked his father. “Glass,” his father answered cryptically, handing him a sheaf of photos that showed train cars lined up at the base of the mountain of sand. His father explained how the Ball Company had relocated to Muncie, Indiana, in the late 1800s because plentiful natural gas had been discovered in the region, the perfect fuel for the factory that produced those increasingly popular glass jars for canning. Glass is made from sand and sand from this dune, remarkably, produced glass of a sky-blue hue soon beloved by women everywhere. “It took them a while,” his father stated, “but by1920 the Hoosier Slide was no more. The city sold the cleared site to the power company…and there ya go.”

He raises the jar over his head with both hands, presenting it to the sun like a pagan priest. He muses how anyone watching would not be surprised by his odd behavior if they knew who he really was. His fame is not the kind to make his face known to strangers, although many, even most, are acquainted with his work. The bestselling novels he’s written, and the movies made from them, the scripts he’s done for series television, these fantastic worlds he’s conjured have become as real in peoples’ minds as this one. Over the years he’s ignored the requests from local newspapers and public TV to give interviews. Childhood friends have contacted him many times, but he has avoided any real communication or reconnection. It took Death to force him home. After his father passed, he pleaded with his mother to return to Malibu and live with him, or at least accept a nurse to watch over her in the house she refused to leave. She passed away two months after his father. Now the sunlight refracts rainbows through the tears in his eyes.

He feels he should say something worthy of one of his characters, but his almighty words fail him. He pushes the jar into the air like the jump shot he was known for in high school and it flies in an arc against the backdrop of the generating station looming on the other side of the channel. It doesn’t make the splash he’d imagined, no enchanted sparkling flash of light ensuring transformation and eternal salvation like a special effect – it simply sinks beneath the murky, oil-sheened surface. He wraps his arms around himself and sits down hard on the wave ravaged concrete, pitted and rough with little stones mixed in to make it last for centuries. A cabin cruiser leaving the marina disturbs a flock of seagulls and he feels his soul pulled apart as they pass over him, lamenting the unforgiven.

Later, he calls the studio in London and tells them it will take another week or so to put his affairs in order. There’s a bed and breakfast in an historic house on a leafy side street near downtown and he gets a room. He wonders how many of his old friends remain and begins searching with his laptop while he sits in a rocking chair on the quaint front porch.

The next day, he arranges for the head of the group his father had joined to meet him at the library to help him with a crash course on the local and regional heritage. The history is far more colorful, complex and deep, than he had ever realized, and for the next five days he spends his time in the archives, filling the pages of several notebooks, the idea for his next project taking shape, a story unlike anything he’s ever written.

On his last night in his hometown he has a dream. He is on a schooner, the canvases filled with wind, a warm wind that smells of deep water, fresh water, the compass pointing south, and on the blue horizon a golden mountain of sand begins to rise again.


Steve Brammell was supposed to go to graduate school after college but instead embarked on a picaresque journey that still continues. His poetry and flash fiction has been published in numerous literary journals.and his book of short stories, Red Mountain Cut, about life in Birmingham, Alabama, has just been published by Finishing Line Press. He finally came home to Indiana and now lives in Indianapolis with his wife where he writes, runs, cooks, and works in the wine business.

Why we will never get over it

By Tony Brewer

They are out there

who wronged you

& inside

sometimes you

Revenge builds wardens

acting like guards

who want paychecks

& safe houses

but do not live there

Administrative judgment

& managed expectations

are above my pay grade

Recidivists think like you

different this time

Baby I love you this time

Killing to come home

but do not live there

Rehabilitation is a nice idea

Never let go

your justice drive

Cruelty gets results

information respect

history its autopsy

What we find inside

is never not children

What’s it like to be wrong?

-Unfixable? Untrue?

The waiting period for revenge

is a sentence

We are out there

& down in it

Tony Brewer is a poet, event producer, voice actor, and live sound effects artist from Bloomington, Indiana. He is executive director of the spoken word stage at the 4th Street Arts Festival and his books include: The Great American Scapegoat, Little Glove in a Big Hand, Hot Type Cold Read, and Homunculus. He has produced and recorded for the lit programs Books Unbound and The Linen of Words on WFHB community radio, and Anthology and The Poets Weave on WFIU public radio, and has won awards from the Kansas City HEAR Now Audio Fiction and Arts Festival and the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists. He was made a Kentucky Colonel in 2012 for his live sound effects work. Tony has been offering Poetry On Demand at coffeehouses, museums, cemeteries, churches, bars, and art and music festivals for over 10 years, and he is one-third of the poetry performance group Reservoir Dogwoods.

Sonnet about the Fallen Moon and Morning Star

By Pawel Markiewicz

Heavenly sailorling spy out the wan light-sheen of star.

Baffling unearthly time: weird having just thieved by elves.

One of pale mornings longs for some meek fulfillment of night.

Moony and nostalgic chums – comets are upon the skies.

Lonely dreamery – lying just blink-sea, weird above.

Endless nostalgia is being of pang. Hades is fay.

Heavenly moony lure, beings seem dark, Ethics fly off!

Poignant decease has become drab black, comet has picked rain.

The glow, which is deathless, at length in the sadness full bane.

Grim Reaper loves more than You dream – a bit lights of the worms.

Marvel of starlit night: I have found a little of my name.

Starry night – dreamy glow are only in the tender souls.

Sensing the moonlet, demise of cool-blue song will be free.

Your worm bawls after all certainly. Death blubbing like me.

Paweł Markiewicz was born in 1983 in Poland. He has has English haikus as well as short poems published in the literary magazines like Ginyu, Atlas Poetica, and The Cherita. Recently, he has published some poems in Taj Mahal Review and Better Than Starbucks.

New Poetry Chapbook Out by Northwest Indiana Literary Journal Contributor

“Disruptions” by Gary Beck

 No doubt, the poet is an adept in the intimate and convincing analysis of emotions. An intense imaginative power in these poems draws its sustenance from the poet dreaming great dreams.

“Wonderful Poetry” – Greensilk Journal

“Excellent” – Winamop Magazine

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theatre director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 27 poetry collections, 10 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 1 collection of one-act plays. Published poetry books include:  Dawn in CitiesAssault on NatureSongs of a ClerkCivilized WaysDisplaysPerceptionsFault LinesTremorsPerturbationsRude AwakeningsThe Remission ofOrderContusions and Desperate Seeker (Winter Goose Publishing. Forthcoming: Learning Curve).Earth Links, Too Harsh For PastelsSeveranceRedemption ValueFactional Disorder and Disruptions (Cyberwit Publishing. Forthcoming: Ignition Point). His novels include Extreme Change (Winter Goose Publishing). State of Rage and Wavelength (Cyberwit Publishing. Forthcoming: Protective Agency and Obsess). His short story collections include: A Glimpse of Youth (Sweatshoppe Publications). Now I Accuse and other stories (Winter Goose Publishing) and Dogs Don’t Send Flowers and other stories (Wordcatcher Publishing). Collected Essays of Gary Beck  (Cyberwit Publishing). The Big Match and other one actplays (Wordcatcher Publishing). Collected Plays of Gary Beck Volume 1 and Plays of Aristophanes translated, then directed by Gary Beck) (Cyberwit Publishing. Forthcoming: Collected Plays of Gary Beck Volume II). Gary lives in New York City.