Shattered Wig #28

Shattered Wig #28
Coming In November!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

WORMS Reading Writeup In What Weekly Wherein A Photo Depicts Me As Ginormous

Two of the best new cultural growths here in Baltimore The Second Angriest City In the U.S. (Goddamn you Detroit!!!!) are the stellar WORMS reading series curated by the thoughtful Robert M. O'Brien and the weekly media review events calendar website/email magazine What Weekly. Today the two of my favorite new things are combined with my big ol' pumpkin head sandwiched within looking like Joey Hindenburg.

Once again the What Weekly camera loves up on Chris Toll. This time making him appear to be a cherub of the shadows.

Here is the link in case what lies below is screwed up on your particular viewing device:


30 March 2011

Photo by Tedd Henn

WORMS is the name of an event billed as “an interactive literary magazine in 3-D.” Every month, typically on a Wednesday, the basement of the Bell Foundry is opened for an evening of spoken word and other shenanigans. The evening’s host and editor, R. M. O’Brien, usually begins with an introduction that is two parts editorial and one part late-night showbiz. For the most recent incarnation of WORMS, O’Brien read from the letters of Saint Patrick, in honor of what O’Brien referred to as “the day the Irish celebrate the demise of their ancestral religion.” He mentioned the snakes, which are like worms, that Saint Patrick is said to have driven out of Ireland, the snakes that never existed there, that is. Someone heckled, “except for the two-legged kind.” This is an unusual sort of editorial, performed on stage; interactive, and although any editorial might be enjoyed with Natty Boh in a basement, these can be enjoyed in the company of a wriggling, live audience.

Photo by Tedd Henn, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by Tedd Henn

Chris Toll was the first performer who read from his forthcoming book, from the Publishing Genius press, The Disinformation Phase. This performance was also filmed so that it could be used for promotion. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, let alone its author, but just this once, let’s do exactly that. The landscape on the cover of this book depicts the surface of another planet. That planet is inhabited by a clown, a tiger, a giant amphibious creature straddling something that looks like a cactus, an aardvark, a nun, or perhaps a nurse, a tiger, the invisible man, two different species of birds, Yoda, a flying saucer and yes, a snake, which is like a worm. The poetry of Chris Toll is just as imaginatively populated as this tableau. It is populated by unusual imagery, from which the cover is derived, no doubt. The poetry is also populated by Toll’s startling inquisitions of the language. For example, in a poem entitled Why is Try in Poetry the question is posed: “why is love backwards in evolve?” The title and that line are just two examples, among many, where Toll playfully examines the presence of one word within another.

Photo by Tedd Henn, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Books, Live Music, Art Gallery and more!

Same block as Windup Space, across from Joe Squared. Plenty of room inside for your bike; FREE street parking for your car (well plug your meter before 6, after that its free anyway) come on over…

30 West North Ave.
Baltimore, MD, 21201

Photo by Tedd Henn

The second performer, Dave K. read a recently published short story entitled Harrison Ford is
. He says that you need to imagine that the title is read to you in the voice that announces the movie previews. The tale is one of candid, detached irregularity. Its narrator is an artist, of sorts, whose occupation involves sculpting cakes, made to order, in the shape of nude bodies, usually men, and in this case, in the shape of an “anatomically generous” Harrison Ford. The story’s author is unquestionably an artist of performance and prose, whose reading left the audience to wonder whether this story is too strange to be true, or not.

Photo by Tedd Henn, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by Tedd Henn

Up next was Buck Downs. Mr. Downs has the honor of being the first WORMS performer to come to the reading from outside of Baltimore. He is the author of several books, including Marijuana Softdrink, Ladies Love Outlaws, and Recreational Vehicle. His style of presentation is something to see, indeed. He paces; he queries his audience with riddles; he moves quickly. The papers he holds while reading seems to be designed for the task. They resemble flashcards more than manuscripts. His poems are short. Here’s one, for example. It’s called “Secondwave Dysphoria.”

sweating it out
until it’s over

I did a double
take with my feet

the way I lost it
a map will not help

Photo by Tedd Henn, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by Tedd Henn

For the finale, we heard from Rupert Wondolowski, who is no stranger to Baltimore’s literary underground, nor to WORMS. This is his second performance there. As the editor of Shattered Wig Review and Press, he can often be found at the i.e. Reading Series or the 14k Cabaret. Wondolowski’s poems have something in common with the poems of the Beat Generation, because of their jazzy, casual, sometimes sarcastic cadences and their references to jazz and jive. The things to listen for, though, are the well-aimed phrases such as “the second time you’re told you’ll drown in a river of blood, it loses some of its chill.” Wondolowski can hardly read six lines without having to pause for the chuckles of the crowd.

Photo by Tedd Henn, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by Tedd Henn

In the movie Roxanne, Steve Martin’s character says “I’m afraid of worm” but he meant to say words. Although this might be where the reading series gets its name, there’s nothing to be afraid of here, even if you have stage fright. In addition to the literary performances to be had at WORMS, there is also something of a carnival of literary publications, zines other miscellaneous publications available for purchase. If you’d like to read, see or hear the writings of these literary performers, and others like them, WORMS might be the best place for you be. More details are available at the other end of this link.

League of the Unsound Sound

Photo by Tedd Henn, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by Tedd Henn

Photo by Tedd Henn, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by Tedd Henn

Photo by Tedd Henn, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Photo by Tedd Henn

Photo by Tedd Henn, story by Dylan Kinnett.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Strawberry Xanex

(Image above is "Coma Chan" proving once again that fur, nurses and oxygen masks make the world go 'round)

Shuffling dance
with coma
In a hot air balloon.
Squares in a crop circle
Discussing Brubeck.
Heimlich refuting reflux
And wishing for the
Return of jive
Or at least a
Decent tea towel.

The second time you're told you'll
drown in a river of blood
it loses some of its chill
down your spine
the third or fourth time it's
another trash fire in the backyard
and gets stuffed
you poor child you have
lice eggs in your hair
where you no longer reach
cut off at the knees

She glanced over at me
from the easy chair and
I could see no recognition
in her eyes
like one of those old
Viewmaster toys -
rudimentary slideshows
of how she saw me
ka-chunked in her vision -
cabbage in a Winston Churchill hat
potato whistling bowtie
Carbunkle Pete the house dick

"Are you the Un-Cola?" she asked me
melting away all the years
gathered in a stress hump on my shoulders
by reminding me of a time
when ad campaigns not only
mattered but were a way of life -
the Colt 45 Man in a
suit, some kind of James Bond
echo, shooting down rapids
on a raft, but somehow
a bikini clad woman arrives
and Colt 45 Man has a waiter
serving him malt liquor
off a silver tray
the three and a half
grueling hours of football
that this oasis was
sandwiched within were all
just an elaborate illusion
to give life to this
few minutes of true magic

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Can Aliens Be Reborn? For Once It Is Not a BM Placed In My Hand But A Beautiful New Book By Chris Toll

When Publishing Genius mastermind Adam Robinson knocked, scratched and rubbed feverishly against my door at 3am two nights ├ągo, I thought the exterminator had failed in his job of eradicating the herd of raccoons that had invaded our neighborhood after "Lay Your Trash Out Resplendently In The Grass Week".

I hurriedly ran downstairs with my pellet gun after Everly refused to go first.

With beer foam still caught on his late 1800's baseball player neo-handlebar moutstache, writers of more purplish prose might have described Adam's state as "mad as a hatter", or "rabidly inflamed" or "downright batshit", but I will go for a more subdued description of him as beside himself. "Please calm down, Adam. Tell me what's going on. And why do you have that microphone with a ripped cord in your hand?"

"Justin, Steph and I were out karoaking and you'll never believe what we found out behind the building! This being from another planet that drinks beer and looks like Lenin! After we warmed him up some at my apartment and showed him cashmere sweater porn that he requested, he actually began to speak. And his language came out in almost poetic form - a weird cross between Emily Dickinson and some kind of cosmic spiritual sci-fi."

It was at this point that my spider senses began to tingle. Either Max my faithful collie was rubbing against my bare leg or I had a strong suspicion of "what" or more precisely "Whom" Adam had stumbled upon.

An hour later, after Adam and Justin had for no particular reason put a black bag over my head and made me empty out my bank account at two ATMs (my bank's ATMs only dispense $10 at a time), we arrived at the condominium that sits on the Inner Harbor where Adam resides with the city's ingenue mayor, Stephanie Rawlings Blake.

Sure enough, once we passed through the guards and the heavy penthouse door swung open, there facing us, sipping a Yuengling and looking like the cat who ate the canary or the Burt Reynolds who gave the Dom DeLuise a wedgy, was none other than my old friend and literary mentor Chris Toll.

When I first moved to Baltimore in the early '80s, the last glow was fading from the Orioles and there was a fantastic poetry magazine here run by Chris called Open 24 Hours. Over the next few decades many writers have succumbed to burnout or drugs or booze or death itself, but Senor Toll continues to evolve and shed skins. He even started a new reading series a few years ago with the Italian Futurist, Barbara DeCesare. Now here he was, youthful again, with a new book coming out on a powerful Baltimore press. The book in question is The Disinformation Phase and it sports an original Toll collage on its cover.

Chris Toll's precision with an Exacto knife, the main tool of his collage making, is so legendary at this point that when Dick Cheney was brought to Johns Hopkins for a tumor on his moral conscience, they had to bring in Chris to locate and excise the miniscule portion of Cheney's brain. Chris, despite whatever he felt about the former Vice President, felt obligated to carry out the task - such is the weight of his powers.

As always, Chris is irresistibly quotable: "Chaos is my preacher/A Big Voice pours through me" (Irregular Galaxy); "I call my sickness the Guest./The Guest will speak now." (No Blues Blues #43); "Satellite dishes drink stars,/a church falls asleep in front of the TV,/and you're a prayer just the way you are." (Love Your Enemies). As I pull these, more lines jump out waving their arms in stay pressed unitards of quirky timelessness.

As Magus Magnus, the frighteningly brainy poet with the eery saucer eyes says on the back cover of the fancy "Advance Review Copy" I am lucky enough to hold (but which may soon belong to Henry Rollins since his $50 bid on it on ebay is so far the highest):

"His is poetry of propulsion : for/towards a sonic age, every sentence goes off like a rocket, objects act, sonnets are psionic, civilization collapses while shafts of light break through the earth's crust. What's more, The Disinformation Phase, as a phase, suggests the next phase: if suns go out, manufacture new suns (through chaos magic, as in 'paradox is my toolshed'), manufacture new solar systems. Cosmic!"

The official release date for this book is June 28th and summer seems like an appropiate season for it. You can feel the ache of brutal winters past in these prayers to the skies, but there is a feeling of fresh urgency and rebirth to them; each one explodes with possible stories, possible new lives. Chris writes that "the job of the poets is not to explain the Mystery./The job of the poets is to make the mystery greater." and indeed with his dynamic new book he has given us many more cloaks to wrap ourselves in and feel like Cyclops strutting on the crumbling catwalk arching over the Milky Way.

If you are not already familiar with Publishing Genius or you want to contact them to pre-order this great collection, they can be found at:

Friday, March 18, 2011

The House Was Full of Love and Then Full of More Love and Hard-Earned Wisdom and Whimsy, So Much Said So Simply - The Chris Mason Book Party

A few years from now when books no longer exist and the only things being read will be descriptions of the daily stool samples of the latest 16 year old pop star or of the drug addiction meltdown of some hack pseudo actor on the i-Pad X along with snuff e-magazines giving detailed photos and brief descriptions of daily murders and the most recent flood, drought and/or earthquake, complete with devastating videos one click away, the drones for the privatized "Removal Works" will be loading me up into the van for obsolete laborers who are not employed by search engines, hospitals, rescue agencies or radiation treatment plants.

And just before they slam the lead-lined door of the vehicle that will take me to the factory that will convert me into soylent green I will have one last tiny bit of courage and will and yell out "People once read books! Even poetry! And not only that, one warm Sunday in March, 2011, a book of poetry was published by a thing called Narrow House. It was written by a man named Chris Mason and not only was he not 18, he was not carried into the show in a giant egg carried by servants. In fact he drove up on his own volition in a kind of battered family type station wagon, his grown talented daughter Elizabeth seated beside him.

"People turned out in great numbers for the event of this publication and hung on the words of his verse. Music was played. The bald one calling himself 'Dierker' played so swift and passionately that his likeness could not be captured on camera except as a demonic blur! Surely there must be a copy of Chris' book Hum Who Hiccup surviving somewhere. Ask Secretary of Defense Justin Sirois. He once ran Narrow House before he renounced the printed word and art. Colonel Qaddafi's all female security force shall avenge not only my death, but the death of all booksellers!"

Above are proud Narrow House publishers holding the fine new book, which contains most if not all of his poetry from the last decade or so, including his dreamt poems of poet friends, "Homeric Hums" and the beautiful spare "Hiccups" themselves. As Jamie Gaughan-Perez held the book up someone yelled out "Lauren Bender, if the book is as good as you say and you are truly so proud of it, pose as if you are hypnotized and being forced to stare at the nude engorged wang of Mel Gibson with a small anvil attached to it". And indeed she did.

Kickstarting the event was young Robert Michael O'Brien, curator of the WORMS readings. I wish I had had a notebook with me to jot down a few quotes that really grabbed me since my retention rate is that of a banana peel, but two of his pieces grabbed me in particular. One was about being pulled over by a cop late at night and the officer is impressed by his love and feeling for life and expresses his own lack of such feeling. It was not all Ice-T hatin' on the cops, just using the uncomfortable situation of being halted on the roadside as a vehicle for getting across the inexpressible.

Another standout was his chant-like piece that included the lines "The body is power/The abandonment of body is power". Which made me think of the Gang of Four's "Our bodies make us worry". What more needs to be said?

Taking the stage of the re-vitalized Red Room of Normal's Books & Records next was an expanded trio version of The Tinklers with Downtown Blood on My Spatz Peyton on ukelele. His slick licks interwove nicely with Charles' slide guitar excursions. Recently the Tinklers have added "Bully of the Town" from the Harry Smith Anthology of Folk Music to their set. I would love for them to take on an extended project of covering that entire groundbreaking collection with various friends sitting in.

Also sitting in on a few Tinklers' songs was Chris' talented daughter Elizabeth. She sang on "Splash Splash" and did an acapella duet of "I'm Sticking With You" with her pops that was truly moving. Long long ago Elizabeth interned at Normal's and when things were slow we would get her to play the hell out of Bartok and Stravinsky on the old Red Room piano. And Elizabeth, like her dad, being both a populist and a consumate artist, would be playing beautiful, complicated classical pieces on the piano while at the same time talking loudly to Courtney about how she wanted to be a cheerleader.

And here be just a slice of the crowd in attendance. Study them well! The swarthy bearded one there, in foreground in white t-shirt - surely he is a threat to homeland security? And the one in the maroon hoodie, next to the one they call "Magus" who resembles a choirboy, surely his dry laconic joking covers for a heartless hatred for pickup trucks, reality shows and the right to keep impoverished people from having health care.

Speaking of choirboy Magus, here he is reading along with Chris on the poem that Chris dreamed of him. I believe this piece is called "I Will Read Every Poem In This Book Except The One for Rupert, Despite His Being Seated Right There in the Front Row Making Doe Eyes At Me". I have to say that the whole reading Chris did was masterful, but this was probably my favorite piece of the day. The two readers really worked well together and the sounds and words resonated like a big old gong on Kung Fu.

And speaking of that long gone loved show that would be most likely torturously bad today if I were to view an episode, what to make of this bald master, Grasshopper? Here is reed king John Dierker playing with the energetic dynamic improv trio Microkingdom, along with drummer Will Redman and guitarist Marc Miller. Dierker's passionate face while playing is so difficult to capture on camera that he made a five figure deal with both MAC and Windows where you have to pay for a special APP that will present him clearly. And clearly I cannot afford that.

All in all, a great day. Beautiful words read well conveying strong messages of caring and hope. Goofy music of love and concern for all people and nature. And the underloved cash register of Normal's was embraced by wallet food!

But if all this wasn't magic enough, when the show was over and no one was left in the store other than me and Anthony, Anthony told me that none other than Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn) of The Wire popped in the store looking for a book during the show! Luckily I didn't notice her or I would have left everyone with a bad taste in their mouth for the event by breaking down into some kind of Jerry Lewis spazz out. Truly her presence was a sign that we were all on the right path!

Cheers to Chris Mason for creating writing from both the head and heart that will withstand the horrors of time and to Narrow House for containing so much of it so well within a beautiful object once known as "book".

Friday, March 11, 2011

Some Late Night Thoughts of Mortality While Staring Glassy-Eyed At Karen Black

Some Late Night Thoughts of Mortality While Staring Glassy-Eyed At Karen Black

Look at you all chased by shin
high tribal fetish with razor sharp
spears! Bug-eyed and winsome
courageously daffy really
among a family of rich eccentrics -
the ping pong kept them human,
in the '70s tables were everywhere
and the silenced Poundian father
gave them gravity -
dithering alone to Tammy Wynette
without realizing you're alone
It really truly does often all
come down to trapped
in a truck stop restroom
either puking and pregnant
or puking and deserted
staring at what's left
in a smeared reflection
passing for a mirror
If only you knew
what was coming -
the global crash, the air
the floods
you would grab
a few of those handy
rolls in the john
and construct what
is known as a shirker's nest
and wait out a few nights
If you think those hairs
on your chicken leg
were gross just wait
until Ronald Reagan
is upheld as a hero

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WORMS! Buck Downs, Dave K., Chris Toll & Rupert Wondolowski - March 16

Wednesday, March 16 · 8:00pm - 11:00pm

Bell Foundry
1539 N Calvert
Baltimore, MD

Created By

More Info
Just at the moment when March is a perfect lion/lamb hybrid, WORMS shall strike!

Buck Downs, Dave K., Chris Toll, & Rupert Wondolowski perform!

A native of Jones County (Miss.), BUCK DOWNS lives and works in Washington, DC. His books include Marijuana Softdrink, Ladies Love Outlaws, and Recreational Vehicle.

DAVE K. is a Baltimore writer whose essays and speculative fiction have appeared in Welter, Front Porch Journal, Battered Suitcase, ULA Redux, and the Nautilus Engine. He is also a regular contributor to Adfreak, Adweek Magazine's weblog. In addition to the experimental work he publishes through his 'zine imprint, Banners of Death, DK is working on a novel about clowns. When he's not writing, DK is a village and civil parish in Hampshire, England.

CHRIS TOLL is a poet and collagemaker who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. He co-curates the Benevolent Armchair Reading Series. Publishing Genius Press will soon release his new book, The Disinformation Phase.

RUPERT WONDOLOWSKI is editor of Shattered Wig Review and Press, which has somehow become Baltimore's longest running literary magazine despite no one knowing of it. He is the author most recently of The Origin of Paranoia As a Heated Mole Suit (Publishing Genius Press). His work has recently appeared in City Sages: Baltimore, The i.e. Series Reader, Everyday Genius and Fell Swoop. He also appears in Luca DiPierro and Michael Kimball's film "60 Writers/60 Places". He is currently clearing a spot in his house for getting down and ugly with some acrylic paints. Shattered Wig Press activities and Rupert's writing can be found at:

As always it's free, but bring $$$ for books and to help Buck make enough money for the train ticket back to DC; he's been stranded all day, & he has a good job, he'll show you his pay stub and his ID.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Some "Hiccups" To Warm Up For The Chris Mason Show This Sunday

Most Baltimoreans interested in poetry and music know of venerable Chris Mason of The Tinklers and Old Songs, but for those who don't this Sunday's show and publication party for his new book Hum Who Hiccup out on Narrow House Press would be a good introduction. The book collects most if not all of the chapbooks he's written over the last few years.

Poet extraordinaire and critic Charles Bernstein says "Chris Mason has fabricated a set of visual charms, small and intense constellations of words that make & do, bounce & hop, zap & slap. These are dreams of poems more than poems of dreams, sweet & filled with delight".

Here is a taste from the "Hiccups" portion of the book:


carbon puddle loves
electric spark loves


race of men who weep
Nor Norse Navajo


this dialectic
kids cursing teachers


airplane noise fueled by
dinosaur flesh now


what's with young Dogwood?
clay soil? bugs eat leaves?


large penis parade
Greece's goofy Gods

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mash Note From A Stranger

Though it is ancient as a tree in the forest, Shattered Wig is also mostly as hidden as an ancient tree in the forest. It inhabits a tiny little attic space of gibbering wonder that is not for everyone, that is for certain, but it's always so pleasing when someone runs across it and truly gets it. Just got this great little postcard of praise in the snail mail today lying squashed by the threatening letters of creditors.



Dear Rupert Wondolowski:

Tom Weigel mailed me a copy of your latest issue. I knew when I saw the cover that it would be good. But a lot better than good. I love the writing. Favorites: "TWNDATOETOAA", "Ode to Mescaline" and Chris Toll. But those are the standouts in an altogether outstanding publication. Brilliance & wit on every page. I also love the art work. "Jack LaLane School" cracked me up - words & image.

Your intro to the issue was its own special poem, setting the tone. This thing is a keeper. Please don't wait another two years to put out another issue. Bookmarked yr blog. Best,

Jim Cory (Philadelphia)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"Bodies" by Erin Gleeson

Every once in a while forays into the outside world do not end in existential anguish, but in the magic of discovery. Such was, and usually is, catching the latest WORMs reading and hearing for the first time writer and puppeteer and filmmaker Erin Gleeson.

I quickly swooped down in all my mothball menace and booked her for the Shattered Wig Night that coming weekend where she said "I will read my best stuff for Shattered Wig Night. I kind of coast for Bob O'Brien because he once stole my watch and beat me down at a craps game."

And indeed they were two fine pieces she read at the Wig Night, both of which will run in the next Shattered Wig Review. Here is one now for your seasoned palate.



1. You are asleep and you have pink eye. Earlier in the day, your best friend told you that pink eye comes from poop, leaving you wondering who put poop in your eye. Around 1 am, you're awakened by a gentle squeeze on your foot. You roll over and see your mother in the shadows. She whispers, "I just wanted to make sure you're still breathing." As you fall back asleep, you begin to worry that pink eye can spread to the lungs.

2. Performing daily and rushing from one city to the next began to take its toll; his body grasped at sleep whenever it could. Mid-tour, he began to fall asleep without warning. He'd be drinking his coffee at a cafe or reading somewhere and he'd drop off. Head flying forward, shoulders hunched, he'd nap unintentionally, then wake a little while later, disoriented and confused.

He wore an old 35 mm camera around his neck: an SLR with a nice long lens. He wasn't entirely sure how to work the thing; he just pointed, feebly twisted the focus ring and clicked. In spite of his temporary narcolepsy, the camera found a permanent home on him. He kept it on-hand for fear he'd miss something. He hadn't traveled much before and now he was eager to sop up every moment he could. The idea that it could be stolen or damaged mid-slumber nudged him from a distance, but overall he ignored it.

He developed the photos as soon as he got home and found a long series of poorly composed, soft images. A couple of kids in upstate New York waved fuzzily at him, an old woman in Chicago bled fluidly into the newspaper she was reading. A couple photos seemed to be extreme close-ups of his lap, accidental snapshots taken as he nodded off. Shuffling through the pictures, he was startled to find three of himself: asleep, slack-jawed and in crisp, beautiful focus.

3. You have just had sex with someone you’ve recently fallen in love with. Your love is so new, in fact, you realized you were falling in love earlier today. The feeling socked you in the stomach when she was miles away, when you were explaining to your mother how to use the computer she recently purchased. You turned it on to find everything a little off.

“Mom, all of your programs have been renamed ‘Jerry.’”
“I didn’t do it.”
“You’re telling me it came from Best Buy like this.”

Your mother shrugged and you flashed forward to an imagined future where you’re old alongside the woman you love. She has accidentally renamed all of the newfangled appliances she doesn’t understand. The electronic cat, your bionic grandchildren, your USB ear, everything. In that moment the world was Jerry. Sprawling and perfect, unified under one name.

And here you are now, young and still in touch with the times. You haven’t told her about your realization from earlier in the day because it terrifies you. That said, you’re also eager to know if the feeling is mutual. You open your mouth to start the conversation, but in the dark she can’t see this and interrupts you to sit up, lifting the curtain beyond your bed. A brilliant white light is thrown onto her face and she gasps, “Oh it’s snowing again.”

The two of you roll onto your stomachs and watch the world turn white. You hold the curtain up together, listening to your inhales, exhales and the sound of snowflakes slamming into snowflakes.

4. A half hour before the barbecue, Julia could not stop eating the cake. She decided to bring one of those American flag cakes, a sheet cake depiction of the stars and stripes fully illustrated in strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream. As she applied the finishing touches, though, she wanted nothing more than to run a knife right through it. She wanted to enjoy the springiness of it, to take out a slice for herself and feel the heft of it in her hand.

So she did.

She took a bite and felt the soft snap of it as she punctured its surface. The whipped cream stuck to her lips and the cake clung to her teeth as she bit down on the blueberries. The pop and burst of each piece thrilled her, producing a rush of flavor that flooded her senses before fading into nothing.

By the time half the cake was left, she felt the stretch and ache in her stomach and a sense of sleepy satisfaction. She staggered into her bedroom, passed out face down on the unmade bed and sunk into a light nap, only to be brought out of it when her husband shut the front door with a slam. She could hear his steps through the house to the kitchen, his muffled voice through the door of the bedroom. “Julia. My mom isn’t going to want half a fucking cake."

5. It’s in AP English that all of the televisions click on at once. No explanation, no word of warning. Thinking it’s a technical error, your teacher reaches up and turns it off without looking up. She continues the lesson without breaking her stride, pausing briefly when Sister Joseph Anne’s voice crackles through the PA. “Francis Taylor, please report to the Principal’s office immediately.”

This strikes you as odd, since only assholes are called to the principle’s office, and Frank Taylor is one of the quietest, most unassuming kids you know. The lesson continues until Sister Joseph Anne interrupts again. “Anthony Nguyen, please come downstairs to the Principal's office.”

Weird. Anthony’s on the fast track to becoming valedictorian. What did he do?

But your teacher continues, trying to wrangle your wandering mind. Her efforts are obliterated by the PA once again. This time, Sister Joseph Anne is calling off a list of names and you count them. Eleven. And the lesson continues.

A half hour goes on like this, the lecture pierced by the voice from the speaker overhead. No explanations, just a cold list of names. You begin to suspect that half the school has been sent downstairs, when the dean’s voice booms out of the PA. “Class is dismissed for the rest of the day. Please leave the school at once.”

You and what remains of your class pour out of the room and into the hallway, along with all of the other kids in all of the other classes that didn’t get called downstairs. You all course through hallways and down staircases, herded by a fleet of nuns and teachers, the deep red of your sweaters creating a dense, bold streak throughout the pathways of the building. Rumors hum through the crowd, and the only plausible piece of information you can pull from the lot is that the list of names read over the PA were kids that were picked up by their parents. The rest of you are being sent home, but you’ll discover soon that all bus service has been cancelled.

You and the rest of the school stream out of the building, blinking in the sunlight. From above, the red of your uniforms makes it look like the school punctured an artery and is gushing blood into the street. You all spew out, then disperse. You find Gina, your best friend, and try to figure out where to go from here. The streets are quiet, save for the mass of disoriented Catholic school kids. You see one of your classmates from English, one of the chosen few with a car of his own. He breezes by you and Gina, sticking his head out the window. “We’re all gonna diiiiiie,” he bellows, then disappears down the block.

Okay, I get it. We’re going to die, you think. But would someone just tell me how?


is a writer, illustrator and co-creator of the touring puppet series Showbeast. Her work has been featured all across the country, and she recently co-wrote and co-directed videos for Dan Deacon and Beach House. She writes the blog, in which she explores sustainable living in an urban environment.