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Issue 41, July-September 2013
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
Prime Decimals 41.2

Flash Fiction

Stephen Dorneman
Bee Noir

Tammy Peacy
In the Morning I Go Home

Bee Noir
by Stephen Dorneman
followed by Q&A


Diane Lockward
By the side of the road

Julie Marie Wade

By the side of the road
by Diane Lockward
followed by Q&A
Julie Marie Wade
followed by Q&A

Exemplars: cloud, amoeba, wood. The cactus’ blue agape tongue. Density. 
Quick smolder, loose kindling, leaves. Vaporous. Slick. Unexpected snowfall: 
Autumn in the Everglades. Formlessness. Up to the knees. Valance. Receding 
contempt for shadows. Veneer. A dark print. The caveat of bald light. Animal 
becomes anonymous. Swaddle in the curtains, eyes tied to the curb. Velour.  
A bargain at half price. Consummation without a face. Magnetic resonance.  
Phenomenology of the first eclipse. Desert flowers. How does the sun do it?  
A guarded tenderness emerges after all. You understand again the tulip bulb, 
the tacit fog, the bookcase that gapes, ajar. These also: Icicles in April.  
Transposition from A to G—almost an octave. Cameras in space. Old spirituals.  
The snail on the orange crate in a crusted shell, waiting to be passed over.

Julie Marie Wade is the author of Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures (Colgate University Press, 2010), Without: Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2010), Small Fires: Essays (Sarabande Books, 2011), and Postage Due: Poems & Prose Poems (White Pine Press, 2013). Her forthcoming works include Tremolo: An Essay (Bloom Press, 2013) and When I Was Straight: Poems (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014). She teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami.


Q: What can you tell us about this poem?
A: This poem is a full decade old. I wrote it during the summer of 2003 after my partner Angie and I drove 2,500 miles from our first home together in Bellingham,WA, to our new home in Pittsburgh, PA. Until that time, I had never lived anywhere outside western Washington, and there was a sense of finality that accompanied my leaving—a poignancy as well. I didn’t want to be a person who spent her whole life in the same place, and yet I wondered what it meant to move on from the only place I had ever really known. This poem began as a list of my own varied associations with vanishing and grew from there. At the time of writing, I had never been to Florida or seen the Everglades, and now we live in southern Florida, only a few miles from them. When I read this poem today, in light of the many successive vanishings that have taken place in the interim, and I come across that image of “autumn in the Everglades,” I can’t help but wonder if there was some prescience in it, if some part of me sensed where we were headed all along.

When the cards came round and Erik hit blackjack, Camille decided a drink wasn’t the worst idea. She figured she was already down a green chip—an hour’s worth of Bee-girl pay—but maybe her luck was about to change. They settled on a bar just outside the convention hall.  

“What’s your story?” she asked, tucking her plastic bee wings and skirt inside the booth.  

“I pick up things here and there,” he said.

“So you’re a distributor?”  

“More like a customer, I guess. But certainly not a buyer.”

“How mysterious.” 

Camille took a quick inventory: Erik was tanned, not weathered. No ring, no ring shadow.

“You don’t live in Las Vegas, do you?” she said.

“California. But I get out here as often as I can.”

“Business or pleasure?” 

“I want to think they’re the same, actually.”

Camille sighed. Her black and yellow leggings itched. “I haven’t felt that way in years.”

Eventually the bartender came over with fresh drinks. A vodka stinger for the queen, whiskey for the gentleman. Camille found herself going on about her past. Ten years ago, she was a bona fide Vegas showgirl, first at Bally’s then at Excalibur. In her big solo she played a woman accused of witchcraft. She loved to watch the audience hearing her scream moments before the white knight saved her from a giant mechanical snake. Then one day, one of those audience members asked her to marry him, and she did, a marriage that ended when she realized an audience of one wasn’t worth staying sober for. Now Camille lived with her sister in Henderson. But, oh, how it felt to be the center of attention. The smoky haze surrounding the bar receded, and she told him about those screams.

“Do you think you can still scream like that?” 

“It’s not like I trained for it.”

“What I meant was, do you still want that attention? Do you want to be the star again?”

“Again? You can’t be something that you never were in the first place.”

“Sounds to me like you were.”

Something about the way Erik was talking set off alarm bells, but Camille drowned them out with a full swallow of her drink, and a long drag from a cigarette. She’d started smoking in AA—before she realized a high-functioning alcoholic always beats a non-functioning straight.

“What’d you have in mind?” she asked. 

Eric handed her a hundred dollar bill and a business card.

“I could use a star performance,” he said, opening his coat to reveal a .38 special.  

An hour later, Camille was back on the floor of the American Honey Producers, sizing up possible candidates, ready when the time came to brush up against whatever salesmen looked most likely to grope a showgirl. Then she would scream, scream as loudly as she could, loud enough and long enough to draw the attention of the entire Vegas strip.

Stephen Dorneman is a wannabe professional poker player who workshops his writing at Boston's Grub Street community and with the Bay State Scribblers. His stories have appeared in Weave Magazine, Cricket Online Review, Juked and other publications. Stephen lives in Boston with his wife, Penny, and his dog, Ellie.


Q: What can you tell us about this story?
A: I am personally drawn to Las Vegas, and so are many of my characters. It’s where dreams are born, and where they go to die.

Available now: Prime Number Magazine, Editor Selections, Volume 1 and 2Learn more...
Flash Nonfiction

Christina Lutz
The Language of Blood

Stephen Kuusisto
The Day Hoffa Died: A Micro-memoir
By the side of the road

a doorknob nestled in the weeds.
Maybe some trucker from Home Depot
had lightened his load or a careless shopper
tossed it out with her coffee cup.

The knob was brass, perfectly new and beautiful, 
its surface etched and grooved,
something you could hold in your hand
and go where you wanted to go.

Caught in sunlight, it glinted like a pile of gold
encircled by dandelions and clover,
as if held hostage or in a ritual ceremony 
of praise or protection, a small god at the center.

I wondered what home now lacked
entrance or exit,
its residents forever permanent,
its guests forever uninvited—

maybe somebody’s mother stuck inside,
pouring another drink while she waits 
for the guest who won’t arrive.
Maybe it was her hand the doorknob flew out of.

Maybe that knob wasn’t lost at all,
but running away, 
not wanting to go where she was headed,
not to that house,

its secrets hiding like demons in corners
and crouched under beds,
its girl poised like Cerberus outside the door, 
her teeth bared, her fists empty and clenched.

Diane Lockward is the author of three poetry books, most recently Temptation by Water. Her previous books are What Feeds Us, which received the 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, and Eve’s Red Dress. She is also the author of The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop (Wind Publications, 2013). Her poems have been included in such journals as Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac.


Q: What can you tell us about this poem?
A: This poem emerged out of one of those relentless images that get in your head and won’t get out. The image was of a doorknob lying in a field. That wasn’t anything I’d seen; I don’t know where it came from. But I began thinking about that doorknob until it became an emblem for places we enter and places that keep us out. I remembered that in an alcoholic family, different members take on different unacknowledged roles. One of those roles is the secret keeper. She keeps the secrets in the house and other people out. That seemed to me much like the role of Cerberus in the Underworld. Living with an alcoholic can be a kind of hell. Thus the poem. 

The Language of Blood
Christina Lutz
followed by Q&A


I drive six and a half hours to visit my mother in Virginia. I am meeting her sister and niece, who have come from Korea to America, for the first time.


There are seven pictures of my mother’s sister in my father’s home. Before I leave, I study them, trace my fingers along this foreign curly hair. Here she is twenty-three, a year older than I am now. 

Her face is lost in the smoky haze of memories just out of reach.


My mother and I speak what I call Korenglish. I see her once a year, so most of our conversations occur on the phone. We greet each other in Korean and say goodbye in Korean, but I’ve lost most of this language: unable to speak it, unable to understand it, my mother’s tongue the only one I recognize.


Imagine being at a loud party. You’re standing so close to someone just to hear, it seems as though their open mouth might swallow you whole. They flit around, and you make out a few words here and there, something that looks like a question. Nod your head and smile. Always nod your head and smile.


It’s like this–엄 마, 여보세요! How are you doing? And she responds in a gaggle of symbols I can barely recollect, but because they exist in her mouth, I can parse them together. 

Sometimes I ask her to say them again, slower, and sometimes still, she has to try to say it in English, dropping vowels, pronouns lost underneath her tongue, words she doesn’t know. 

And her R’s muffled L’s, because in Korean, there is no true sound for L. 


I take Korean in college. My professors marvel at my ability to enunciate perfectly. When I tell them I am half, ban, they look at me with wide eyes. 

It is here that I relearn the hierarchical rank in Hangul. The way you address your friend is not the way that you address your mother. Even siblings, depending on the household, how strict the parents are, live in this rank. The structure of sentences, from beginning to end, depending on who you are speaking to.

My mother has only taught me conversational Korean. I speak to her as one would a friend. 


We sit at my mother’s kitchen table, my aunt still crying, my cousin fascinated by my face, by my hair, by the shape of my eyes, by the length of my legs. 


My cousin’s name is Soo-Young, nearly identical to my mother’s So-Young, who now goes by Jenny. Because she is only ten, she has yet to take English in school. She and I find a new way to communicate. I clap my hands, stretch my cheeks too wide, pull her in close. She makes strange faces, my mother telling me that they are jokes in Korea. 

My mother translates the best she can when our hands and faces, our new language, can’t fully tell the other what they want.


My aunt hands me a small pink box. Her eyes are wide, eager, nodding me to open it. Inside is a beautiful necklace, a simple chain, a small diamond hanging. I bow my head, say kamsahamnida, and she puts it around my neck. 


I touch the diamond. My mother tells me that my aunt saved up for months to buy it for me, even sold some of her old jewelry. I begin to cry. Not because it is a beautiful gesture, it is, but because this woman loves me as an individual, not just because I am her sister’s child. 

She holds me and says something that I can’t understand, and I keep crying because I don’t know how to love her. Don’t know who she even is.


My cousin runs into the guest bedroom to grab something. Earlier that week the three of them went to Busch Gardens, an amusement park. 

She brings out a pair of blue glasses, thick, little lights embedded in the plastic. She puts them onto her face and flips a switch. The lights go off around her face, blinking faster and faster with each second. My mother and my aunt scream with laughter which makes Soo-Young laugh. She pulls them off and says eounni, eonni, meaning for me to put them on and switches off the lights.


The room disappears. I can no longer make out the shapes of my family sitting in front of me. 


Lighting cracks. On, off.

Sleeping giants rest behind the sheet of black.




Rolled R’s swirl circles like a drumroll, the entrance of something grand.


Christina Lutz currently lives in a perpetual state of sunshine in St. Petersburg, FL where she is an MFA student at the University of South Florida. 


Q: What surprised you most during the process of composing and revising this piece? 

A: I think I’m always surprised by where an essay eventually ends up taking me, but for this piece, I think I was most surprised by how important, but fallible, language is. I was trying to find a way to process language and it still came out disjointed, but it was exactly the right fit. And being surprised by the way a piece takes shape is always an exciting thing for me. 

In the Morning I Go Home
by Tammy Peacy
followed by Q&A

I dance the tips of my fingers over the pane of glass. I’m here every few months. If she doesn’t answer, I will get back into my car. I will drive twelve hours north. She can’t hear when the phone rings, but so far, she’s always twitched back the curtain, always opened the door.

On the first morning after I slept in the storage room at the back of her cottage she says, “Didn’t your mother teach you to make a bed?”

I shake my head as she shows me how to shake the sheet and smooth it with hand and forearm. “See?” she says. I nod. She layers on the blanket and the comforter I’d kicked to the floor during the night.

I don’t tell her no one had ever made a bed in our house. Or of when there weren’t beds to make. She’d been married a second time for long enough to forget her first marriage and the ruined children borne of it. 

Later I fall asleep in a recliner watching JewelryTV with faceted African opals winking behind my eyes. She wakes me, says, “Go get in the bed.” I want to say, “But we just made the bed.” I don’t. I crawl between the sheets and blankets feeling like a piece of cheese, and before I can be asleep again I hear her ordering two sets of stackable multi-colored diamond rings. To hear a voice at two a.m. To hear her name on the television—two sets! I shutter her loneliness outside my eyelids and sleep. 

In the morning I make notes.

On her credit troubles and how it shouldn’t matter. Eighty years doesn’t get you credit for something?

On her drug problem and how it shouldn’t matter. On a small yellow pad she lists the times she’s swallowed pills. She counts the hours until she can do it again. How she should take whatever it takes. 

On her lifetime spent in obituaries under the heading of survived by. Those lost: Two husbands, a son, a mother, father, cousins, aunts, uncles.

We eat our first meal at noon. We still call it breakfast. 

“This is really it. This time,” she says into an unwrapped banana. As though there have been scares or close calls when, as far as I know, there haven’t been. 

“What do you want me to do?” I say. On previous visits I’d swiped cobwebs from high corners, changed light bulbs and left detailed instructions for how to operate the DVD player, her cellphone, a new microwave. 

“I’d like everything to come off the walls. The pictures and everything. I’d like to look at where they used to be for a while.”

I clear the walls, but a few pieces at a time, over a few days, the way she wants, until there are squares and rectangles of light between spaces darkened by years of her breathing between them. 

In a few days she says, “That’s enough of that. You can put it all back up again.”

She has to tell me where some of it goes.

“Can’t you match the frames to the shapes on the walls?” she says.

I can’t. The pieces of her life all look the same to me.

In another few days she says, “Go ahead and take what you want. Might as well. Just take it now.”

I wait until it is dark and she is mostly asleep before I take down the pieces I want to keep. 

I sit in her chair, the frames stacked atop my suitcase on the couch, and I try to see the way she’ll see.

I replace the wires to their hangers, straighten the squares and rectangles on the walls. I don’t sit in her chair after that. In the morning I go home.

Tammy Peacy lives and writes in Kenosha, WI.


Q: What was the inspiration for this story?
A: Though the details of this piece are fiction, I was inspired to write it after several visits with my grandmother, which included regular nightly viewings of JewelryTV. 

​- July 30, 1975

2:00 pm. Hoffa sat in his Pontiac in the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Italian Restaurant in a Detroit suburb and waited for his contact. The day was hot. Hoffa kept the windows open. He liked air conditioning but he wasn’t going to pay for the gas. Though he’d been trying to quit he smoked a Pall Mall. He was fucked: a man at the mercy of Gerry Ford and the Mafia and a hundred little fuckers, every one of them dangerous. He smoked in the sun. 

2:00 pm. Kuusisto sat on a porch roof in Geneva, New York listening to Billie Holiday. He was 20 and half blind and more than tiny crazed. He’d recently been in a mental hospital but now he was alone and he loved the line: “God bless the child that’s got his own”. He felt he understood it in the cool way sorrowful people understand truth. He lit a joint wrapped in yellow wheat paper and allowed Ms. Holiday to occupy him on a still afternoon.

2:05 pm. Hoffa was agitated. No sign of anyone. He went into the restaurant and got some change from a waiter and phoned a lieutenant. He was blowing off steam. 

2:05 pm. Kuusisto was thinking about Holiday’s 1940’s vocal ebullience vs. Leadbelly’s slavery songs. On the Alan Lomax recordings he could hear all the particles of Mr. Ledbetter’s body shout together. Ms. Holiday still had this pain but she’d also found joy in emptiness. 

2:08 pm. Hoffa was only aware of the apparent insult, not of the coming threat. 

2:08 pm. Kuusisto turned the record over. 

Stephen Kuusisto is the author of two memoirs Planet of the Blind and Eavesdropping) and two collections of poems (Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges). He teaches at Syracuse University. 


Q: What surprised you most during the process of composing and revising this piece? 
A: I was amused to discover my near total recall of minor incidents I experienced on the day Jimmy Hoffa disappeared. These were not dramatic incidents but lyrical and seemed to make an understated counterpoint to the labor leader's demise. 

The Day Hoffa Died: A Micro-memoir
Stephen Kuusisto
followed by Q&A