Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz

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a family vacation
by JBMulligan

Family was important. Todd had been brought up that way, and so had Ginny, and they were bring their kids up that way. The rest of the world sometimes didn't seem to want to oblige family matters, to give the opportunities and respect that family was due, but that you couldn't control, and Todd's father had taught him to concentrate on the things you could control, and don't worry about the rest.

It was ironic that Todd's father had died when a drunken driver had gone out of control, veered across the highway and blasted head-on into the cherished and always polished Chevrolet. Todd's father had been driving between a bus and at truck, and had nowhere to go. And the other car had avoided those two larger targets and hunted him down.

Sometimes life was like that: a relentless and indifferent stalker, that seized and tore and swallowed whatever misfortunate wandered by—and sometimes you struggled out of its grasp, and sometimes then you were free, and sometimes something else seized you.

This time Todd's hunters had come in a pack, to rip small chunks of him off, to worry and tear and let him get a few steps away, and then leap and savage him—and his family.

And that was something Todd could not let happen.

Todd was as meticulous in planning the rescue of his family as he was in all aspects of his life. Ginny had joked regularly, that he realigned the silverware each night as he sat down to dinner, and he had always nodded and laughed—except for that last time, a few weeks back. The kids had never teased him about that—you didn't tease your parents—but they'd always been amused when Ginny had done so, and both their faces had widened with shock when he had exploded that last time. Donny had been OK the next day about it, but Brenda had brooded for a long time after that. For the next few days, whenever Todd had hugged her, she had flinched. That tore into him more deeply than anything else the world could do, and that wound had been self-inflicted.

He had vented himself in other ways after that, rather than hurt any of them again. He was not proud of how he vented—and he was a proud man by nature. But he would not hurt them again, would not let life hurt them through him. That he could control.

The biggest problem, of course, was that insurance policies didn't pay off for suicide. He didn't think that was fair, but there it was. He had thought hard about the different ways that he could kill himself without creating suspicion, but the only sure ones had involved taking other people with him, which he had found he could not do. An auto accident was an obvious possibility, but with only himself involved, the chances were too great that the policy would not be honored, or that a delay in settling the issue would get the money to his family too late.

He had thought about drowning, but there was the possibility that the body would not be found, and he was too good a swimmer anyway, everybody knew that.

Fires, falls, electrocution... they all presented problems, and he turned each potential situation this way and that, without being able to resolve the matter to his liking. Finally he decided upon poison, administered in over-the-counter medicine. This could at least be painless, and had the added benefit that his family could sue the drug company, which would very likely settle. That was it. Good.

While he investigated which poisons might be found in the kind of factory that made various medicines, he arranged his financial affairs as well as he could—he had been doing that anyway—so that he could pick a time when things were looking positive, to lessen the suspicion that his death was a suicide. It didn't have to be complete financial rescue: he was honest enough to admit to himself that was impossible. However much he told Ginny to keep up hope, he was doomed. But he would not take them down with him.

He searched the internet at work, and found the right kind of product and poison, and then requested that his computer be wiped and reloaded. Performance issues. Like his stocks. The computer could be fixed. The company backed up files for two weeks, which passed quickly. So that was settled. Good.

He picked up the poison far away from home, at a small store without any security cameras, and he paid cash. All he had to do now was wait.

It seemed to him ironic, and bittersweet, that now their lives were, for the first time in a long while, basically happy. He realized that a large part of that was due to the relaxation which he felt now that there was something he could do, control he could exert. He was happier than he'd been in a very long time, and his wife and children responded to that. One night, he even made an ostentatious show of aligning the silverware, until even Brenda laughed. Later she hugged him, and he almost cried to think how much he would miss her. She would miss him.

Life wasn't fair, but there it was. And somehow, he would miss them.

Faster than he would have thought possible, their financial situation took a turn for the better, enough so that he could legitimately express to one or two coworkers the relief he felt, and the hope for the future. Why would a man kill himself when perhaps the shadows were about to lift?, the pack to wander off, after other game? There might be suspicions, but that was all. And the drug company would pay, even if the insurers wouldn't. Now the time was right. Good.

He bought the medicine at a large, local chain. They had security cameras, and he made sure he wore an identifiable jacket, and purchased several other things. He mentioned to Ginny, and at work, that he'd been having headaches. He was ready.

He knew that most likely, he had two or three days before the security tapes ran through their cycle and his purchase was taped over, and he prepared the capsules carefully, adulterating each of them, and not leaving traces, that he could tell, you couldn't control that, but you couldn't control everything, and he waited to take the pills, and waited, and discovered that he would not do so.

Now everything was a mess. He kept up his good cheer, and his family remained happy and hopeful, heartbreakingly smiling. Ginny had never been sexier, even early in their marriage. And the kids' marks at school were improving. Things were looking up, no question.

Todd had always been honest with himself, and he could see that this brief respite would be followed by an irreversible decline, which would slowly and brutally speed up, until they crashed into bankruptcy, into a hell he could not let them fall into: their pain, in its dulling, grinding permanence, was something he could not withstand.

There was only one thing to do. They had to leave this life, completely. Move somewhere else, under new names, new identities. Sell what they had before the creditors could seize it.

At first, the notion seemed ridiculous, but the more he thought about, the more Todd realized that it could be done. It would be a wretched disruption for a little while: their friends could not find out, which would be torture for the kids. And Ginny's family? Well, he would make her see that it was necessary, for their protection, not to know where she was. He had grown apart from his brothers, and was startled to realize how little it would be likely to affect him—or them.

He realized that he would have to drag his family away from here: he knew what was necessary, but could not be certain they would understand. And once they were away, keeping contact with this life completely broken would be that much easier. He could control that somewhere else, but here—even if he could control them, one chance encounter.

The answer was so obvious, that he laughed when he first thought about it. They needed a family vacation.

It had been several years since they had been able to afford a vacation, and when he broached the subject to Ginny, she was reluctant. But he explained how important it would be to the kids, and how good it would be for them, and he pointed out that the money situation was improving, and gradually she came around. He convinced her that it would be a wonderful surprise for the children, who would be off from school a week for the midterm break, so they wouldn't even miss any school. They could tell the kids some cockamamie story and get them out of the house, and then drive them to the airport, God the looks on their faces....

She went for it, and they had fun together planning. He had arranged (without telling her) for the sale of their possessions, which would be picked up while they were away. That would be one more reason not to come back here, and the money would give them a good stake to start over somewhere else. For the first time in a long time, they were both excited by the possibilities of life.

The night before they were to leave, he kissed his children and hugged them and chased them off to bed, and he could see Ginny smile briefly over Donny's shoulder, and probably she was still smiling an hour later when he came up behind her and shot her in the back of the skull.

The silencer worked well for Ginny and Brenda, but when he shot Donny, it gave a rude spitting sound, and he was happy they had never had that third child, the kid might have heard that—and then he was down on the floor, rolled over into a fetal position, weeping apologies and squeezing the barrel of the gun and trying to turn it into his own mouth, and the gun fought as if it were alive, and he found that he could not do that either.

The next day, he went to the airport and purchased a ticket for a different flight, and while they were on the plane, tore up and threw the family's four tickets in the toilet. He got off the plane, and took a cab to the bus station, and took a bus to the middle of the country where, he reflected, he could escape in any direction for many miles.

Todd took a job in a factory, many levels below the kind of work he had been doing a short time before, but with no expectations, no pressures, nothing to control or be overwhelmed by, a simple mindless life that a man could spend happily. He missed his family, but not as much and he would have thought, just a short time ago. He prayed for them, and he was going to church now more regularly than he had been in years, and a little while later he met a woman at church who seemed like she would make a good wife and mother, and he began to think that he might give that life another try.

JBMulliganJBMulligan has had poems and stories in several hundred magazines, including recently, Angle, Muse, riverbabble, Red Fez, and Gone Lawn, has had two chapbooks published: The Stations of the Cross and THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS, and has appeared in multiple volumes of the anthology, Reflections on a Blue Planet as well as the anthology, Inside/Out: A Gathering Of Poets.

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