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Issue 3, October-December 2010
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
Prime Decimals 3.5

Flash Fiction

Terry DeHart
Outcome #31

Buzz Mauro
The Paradox Paradox

He often dreamed about winning, but in his deep-down he was all Eeyore and shit. Hailing from Gloomtown, USA, weighing in at slightly too much, he scraped the moss and lichen and nettles from his skin and exited, stage south. Then he met her and she liked him, god help her. He didn’t know why she was crushy on him, but maybe she was all about Eeyore, too. And they hooked and made another and another and another, all girls, and they loved each other very much, even when ducking incoming I-Hate-Yous and You-Sucks and I-can’t-wait-to-leave-this-shit-holes, and one by one their others did leave. He didn’t believe it would ever work, his career, but he had love and health and just enough success to fill the fridge, and still he dreamt and still the walls and trees and clouds said No, buddy, you don’t fit our needs at this time. But he kept working, cold and muddy, and he emptied his word packets into mailboxes and electron streams. He cluttered the world with evidence of his passing, but no one read it, until they did begin to read it, and then he got an agent to sell his weird goodies and the agent did sell them. The feeling was good but he didn’t believe it. He was still half-in-Portland, his middling-poor neighborhood where nothing ever improved. Not really. People came home with slightly newer old cars and roofs were repaired but never replaced while the firs grew taller and more ragged as it drizzle-pissed for nine months of the year and the summers felt like passing lies. It was in him, still, that patient despair, even though he’d hauled ass to California with its own no-thank-yous and we’ll-keep-your-resume-on-files and its highways fisted with get-the-fuck-out-of-my-ways. But he loved his wife, all healthy from Los Altos sun-running, and his precious girls, and they still loved him, god knows why, and then success came and it screwed with his head. He could afford to live without unenjoyment insurance and COBRA charming, but he sat in his corner and he couldn’t work because his dreams were never meant to come true. All he could do was sit, sit, sit, sit, but then something went bump in his head and he played the game of hey-everyone-look-at-me and he rode his memoirs bareback and his wife still loved him and he still loved her back and front, and his girls phoned from their cozy get-the-fuck-outs, and he lived long enough to survive the No of his upbringing as he floated all sun-spotted above his deathbed, coughing up the last of the drizzle-gloom as he rose above it.

Terry DeHart’s first novel, The Unit, was published by Orbit Books in July 2010. His short stories have appeared in The Barcelona Review, Zoetrope All-Story Extra, Night Train, Vestal Review, Opium, and other literary magazines. He is currently writing a sequel to The Unit.


Q: What was the inspiration for this piece?
A: This work was inspired by the wonderful “do-over” possibilities provided by the theory of multiple, and perhaps infinite, universes.

Outcome #31
by Terry DeHart
followed by Q&A

Frankie Drayus

Timothy Black
Slave River
Elegy for the Moon

Dennis Mahagin
Triptych of the Eternally Equidistant Variable


I was running some dismemberments at my desk, incidence of above versus below the knee. No easy task when you have a brother over there at the moment, but you have a job to do and you do it.

Some of this must have been showing on my face, because Sheila started coming by and leaving things for me when I wasn’t there. The first was a printout of a cartoon that I discovered pushpinned to my bulletin board when I got back from lunch. One of those Far Side rip-offs, this stereotype of a Native American woman standing at a blackboard inside a tipi with a bunch of little braves sitting Indian style at her feet, and she’s pointing to a right triangle on the board, and it’s called The Squaw of the Hypotenuse.

Just as if that meant something.

I knew it had to be Sheila. Her mother was only fifty-two when she died of liver cancer, and the day Sheila got back from the funeral, I could tell she was still in a state over it so I told her how sorry I was, but she only smiled at me and said, “Chebyshev said it but I’ll say it again: There’s always a prime between n and 2n.” I always felt like I was missing something with her.

About an hour after I noticed the cartoon, I came back from the bathroom and there was a slip of paper on my keyboard that said, “Find the volume of a pizza of thickness a and radius z.” I threw it away, a little pissed. But it’s hard to keep a thing like that out of your head when you’re doing bell curves on pedal amputations.

So eventually the significance of π z2 a      dawned on me. It spells pizza. But who the fuck cares?

A little later she came by and stood there leaning into my cubicle until I looked up. Her face was flushed and a little acne-scarred, but beautiful to me, as it always had been.

She was holding up an equation, like a sign:  .∫ex = f (un )

I wasn’t sure how much she meant by it, but it opened up possibilities, the way equations sometimes do.

The Paradox Paradox

She finished the hooks on the low-cut burgundy while he pulled on the pants to the light gray pinstripe.

“Is that what you’re wearing?” she asked him.

“Apparently,” he said.


“This would seem to be what I’m wearing.”

“You mean you’re wearing that?” It was old. People were starting to know how old it was.

“Of course. What I’m wearing is what I’m wearing. It’s called a tautology. Everything is equal to itself.”

“It is, is it?” He’d been reading odd things lately. Science. Books about people reading books by Proust.

“A truism,” he said. “So true it couldn’t not be true. I’m wearing what I’m wearing. How could I be wearing something I’m not wearing?” He did the eyebrow-smirk, his nailing-one-shut-on-her.

“I see what you mean. As in, I’m wearing a dress.”

She handed him a tie, the opalescent she bought him for Christmas, but he pointed to one already laid out on the bed. The paisley.

“But no,” he said.

“Look over here. Dress.”

“Yes. You’re wearing a dress. That’s true, but not so true it could never not be true. Sometimes you wear pants.”

“That’s true. Though rarely to such a formal dinner.”

“But it wouldn’t always be true. If you were somebody else, who never wore pants, for example.”

“But I’m not, am I?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“You could be wearing something else, too, you know.”

“But: I could never be someone who’s not wearing what they’re wearing.” He looped the tie in the mirror, and looped it again. “And neither could you.”

“So, the opposite of a paradox, you mean.”

He did his thinking-for-a-moment, the I’m-so-reasonable. “Sure. I guess.”

“Like, I’m lying right now. One of those.”

“Exactly. If you’re lying, you’re not lying. So it’s never true.”

“And never false.”

“That, too.”

“I’m here with you and yet I’m somewhere else. With someone else.”



“Except that you’re not. You’re only here, with me. That one’s just false.”


“So it’s not a paradox.” He bent for the usual shoes. She was wearing the double-strapped, thinking of not wearing them. Maybe the gold, something dazzling.

“But that would be a good one, wouldn’t it?” she said.

“What would?”

“A paradox that was not a paradox.”

He finished the tie and wagged the tip of it at her, half touché, half don’t-start-with-me. That one always made her laugh a little, and she laughed a little.

“Now that would be a paradox,” she said.

Buzz Mauro has published poems and stories in River Styx, Tar River Poetry, Tampa Review, Poet Lore, New Orleans Review and other places. He lives in Annapolis and works as an actor and acting teacher in Washington, DC.


Q: What was the inspiration for these pieces?
A: I love math and I love stories. Years ago I took a fiction class with Rick Moody and he said I should write a book of math stories, because no one was doing that. I decided he was right, and I’m having a great time working on it.

2 Stories
by Buzz Mauro
followed by Q&A

by Frankie Drayus
followed by Q&A
Any muscle—
it’s my strengthmy lease on life

My agreement now official though only relatively binding

(lease being a temporary thing)
every agreement temporary

time being the thing which is always running




--breathing in


Not every organ is also a muscle.

Honeycombed stomach, ciliated lung—

Not all agents.  Affected.  Effect.

But heart is binarymuscle/organapplied not abstract: 

Heart not love but strengthdeterminationthe resolve to keep

contracting, releasing, ignoring the futility

of the lease’s finer print


Where you decide to stop your telling of any story is



Breathing out—


I have no use for weakness.

where is the texturetincturethe sound


“Unique” means I cannot duplicate this

in a lab

means “unsafe”

philosophy, not science

If there is no proof


If has no clicking

Sounds likebreath


To what exactly have we agreed

Each moment being agreement, a negotiation

Accept or rejectaccept or reject


These days my body’s in the business of

Does not believe / has no “faith” / is all

which has a clicking sound
which can be trusted

acceptance / rejection

that is if a body could believe

At any rate does not cotton to it


My esophagus—

the way it opens—

this is something I adore


Polarity reverses every 500,000 years

But the heart keeps working exactly the same

A little engine travelingin the same direction

What you want to know is whether this universe is

or open


I don’t remember

I don’t remember signing anything




The squeezing the squeezing is an argument

for which I’m ill-prepared

yes in this caseis what is forcedis the disagreement

The muscle saysgo with your heart

This is not an articulate argument

but rather one of feelingof brute force

Force does not care for the fine printforce says yesyes


I strength you.

Poems and short fiction by Frankie Drayus have appeared in Ninth Letter, diode, Per Contra, Third Coast, and Boxcar Poetry Review. Her manuscript has been a finalist for the National Poetry Series, May Swenson Poetry Prize, and a semifinalist for the Walt Whitman Prize. She graduated from the MFA program in Creative Writing at NYU where she was poetry editor for Washington Square. Recently she was Poet in Residence at Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center. Since 2008, she co-curates The Third Area, a reading series at an art gallery in Bergamot Station. 


Q: What was your inspiration for this poem?
A: The shapes of words in the mouth, how they taste and feel, and the breath they require— these are as much of interest to me in this poem as the subject matter. Just like in music, I think it is important to leave enough space for the reader or listener to move about and reach her own conclusion.  Sometimes that even means being silent— quiet places have a shape, too. As for what inspired this poem, I’m always thinking about mortality and the matter of what stays and what disappears. In this case there was a particular life-or-death crisis. This crisis found a voice which bothered me at inconvenient times until I wrote something down.

2 Poems
Timothy Black
followed by Q&A
Slave River

Be careful when you cross. Those bodies
just might tumble and spill you into the river.
Those bodies don’t make too gooda
stepping stones, do they? They’re like logs
in deep water. They’ll spin on you.

Be careful when trying to span Slave River.
Be careful of the things flushed there:
old ID badges.

Be careful of the thick-lipped nigger,
black Poseidon. He can breathe the water
and has strong hands that will grab your hair,
grab your nose and pinch.

Elegy for the Moon

The sky, it seems,
has begun to decant the moon.
To make it purer, to attempt
purity. Hear the Snowy Owl’s lament:

fish scale moon, thumbnail moon,
butter moon. Your forehead
was the moon, and this
is my way of saying Good-bye

to you and your forehead
and the moon. Witness the face
on the face of the moon:
howldog face, preacher face

crater face. How can I say Good-bye
to you? How can I say
Down to the dogs, Heel to the dogs?
I will use the moon:

Good-bye, moon. Sorry to see
the sun swallow you, moon.
I’m sorry I wasn’t awake
early enough, aware enough

to wave ‘So Long’ to you, moon.
I’ll miss your hair, moon.
The way I brushed detritus           
of day from your hair, moon.

Timothy Black’s first poetic novella, Connecticut Shade, is in its second printing through WSC Press. He teaches poetry at Wayne State College, and is a Cave Canem Fellow. He lives in Nebraska with his wife and two sons. Timothy’s work appeared in The Logan House Anthology of 21st Century American Poetry, Great American Roadshow, and Words Like Rain. His poem, “How to Finally Cry,” won the Maravillosa Contest from Caper Literary Journal. He’s published in Platte Valley Review, has poems forthcoming in Breadcrumb Scabs and Decanto Poetry, and won an Academy of American Poets prize for his poem “Heavy Freight.”


Q: What was the inspiration for these poems?
A: “Slave River” is part of a series of poems on slavery I was inspired to write after my inaugural Cave Canem retreat. “Elegy for the Moon” was written as a love poem for my wife, author Cynthia Black.
Order The Unit  from your favorite Indie Bookseller
Triptych of the Eternally Equidistant Variable
Dennis Mahagin
followed by Q&A

A parallelogram
shimmies when you squint,
wags its hips, reticulated
as any chromium
for catching
sun glint. A Pixar
desperate to fit
in, rather than

to loneliness.

And poor Isosceles,
only one quarter
of a man. Sadly,
endlessly horny
as a right

freaking angle:

... dreams all day
of a hot sexy Rhombus
with curves from here
to infinity... yet
she always gets


~ % ~

So I washed out
of my MFA

at UCLA. Sue me? 

So often, in my final
semester, sequestered
in a study carrel with
this hot trapezoid
named Bonnie
on my lap, I kept
trying to say
to her

what the square
root of key lime pie
did for Dorothy
Parker ... what
William Tell
meant to Sigmund
Freud... She understood
a little yet never let on.
She had a way
of whispering entropy
in the ear, her art
of avoidance, apple
for an arrow, split
infinity, citrus
mist cools
the callow
spiral, oooh
baby baby


A policy runner
in the making,
even then
was I, by
the numbers,
a collaborator for X - Y
continuums they never
talked about in advanced
Calculus. I packed my
bags for an oddsmaker’s
gig in Laughlin
Nevada. Crossing
myself, I waved
to all


~ % ~

instead, good old
fashioned visualization
of a control group, canted
axis makes the world over

equator by
equator, one half
Theory, the other

perfect rods and higher
arcana, the sound of high heels
clicking across a pink
marble foyer,
man moans
for an autumn
romance, bucking
hedge trends, slim
chance, slim
chance distilled
by an April
gimlet maker
at Pimlico.

Make no
mistake, hearts
must continue to


from tectonic
to atomic,
the only

to repeat,

and saline,
sunshine paddlewheels
in a Time of Gabriel,

of Cholera.

An ocean
of proofs
-- what I

curve, nothing  
we ain’t seen,
and solved

or later.

Dennis Mahagin’s poems and stories have appeared in publications such as
Exquisite Corpse, Stirring, 42opus, 3 A.M., Pank, Night Train, Thieves Jargon,
Juked, Slow Trains, Clean Sheets, and Underground Voices. He's also an editor
of fiction and poetry at FRiGG Magazine. Dennis lives in Washington state.


Q: What was the inspiration for this poem?
A: This poem was spawned from the memory of a doomed love affair between an English major and a physics major. I wrote a draft, and set it aside. Then, I happened upon the film version of  “Love in the Time of Cholera,” and was struck by the paddlewheel images which I remembered from the novel. I wanted to see if I could get those paddlewheels into my poem. The triptych format seemed a fine means toward this end. Shortly a voice of Javier Bardem, as Ariza, called a title, it was on.