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Issue 59, July-September   2014
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
Prime Decimals 59.2


Flash Fiction

Anna Lea Jancewicz
Riptide

Andrew Stancek
That Small Sailing Cloud


Riptide
by Anna Lea Jancewicz
Followed by Q&A

Poetry

Michael Lauchlan
Boats

Michael Lee
Sound Lost in the North

Boats
by Michael Lauchlan


Sound Lost in the North
Michael Lee
​Followed by Q&A

And there, the light clank and moan 
of the wind chimes spread out across the garden. 
An unexplained crack in a windshield. Frost 
across a pane of glass, you could watch it 
all at once. I recall my youth, 

how the wind chimes were deadened 
by the winter the moment I strayed beyond 
the porch light and into the moon’s gaze, 
scattered through the trees like dazzling buckshot. 
I looked back to see movement, but could hear no sound. 

It was the experience of living a moment as it simultaneously 
becomes memory. Minnesota winter is like that: 
far enough north and you have to strain to hear 
a distant rifle, especially if it finds its mark–the sound 
disappears with the bullet into the meat. 

That’s when you might imagine following the sound of the gun
and living in that moment–where the body, of whatever it was, 
swallows the bullet along with its sound. Imagine 
what that would to do to the sap or the blood. 

My grandfather was a craftsman 
and either he spoke of it or I dreamt of a hammer 
in his left atrium. The winter was so thick 
when he died the sound had nowhere to go 
and so I saw him follow a faint tinkering 
down and into his own body. 

I’ve known nights so cold the body is unlikely to bleed, 
in a miracle the shot might awaken the heart, 
like a kick to an engine shaking the frost out 
of its pistons, but even that would be lost 

among the snow. I have braved my own heart and swung 
a hammer so honestly that smoke curled off the nail, 
still there was no sound. In my grandfather’s name 
I have hefted an axe in the dead of winter, 
but still there was no sound, not even enough to follow 

down through the nail and into the wood. Each moment of winter 
is so faint and silent it is a memory even as you live it. And so it was 
then, as the hammer fell with such repetition it became slow and soft 
falling downward like snow, again and again, until the birds froze mid song. 
And the wordless chimes swayed like dark ropes. 




Michael Lee is a Norwegian-American writer. He has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and Intermedia Arts. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in RattleCriminal Class Review, and Indiana Review among other publications. He has worked as a farm hand, a dish washer, a teaching artist, and currently works as a youth counselor in Minneapolis where he lives with a coffee pot and many books.


Q&A

Q: What can you tell us about this piece?
A: I wrote this piece in Northern Minnesota last winter; I was alone in a friend’s house and all I could hear were the wind chimes outside. The clanking of the pipes awoke a whole scene of my childhood I had forgotten about entirely. I followed the sound into my own memory and rediscovered the silence of my childhood, and memory, and winter, and my grandfather, how he was there for so many years and, just as seamlessly, was gone.

​The screen door banged shut behind her. She scrambled up the dune, vanished over the top. It was right before dawn, when the stars are just starting wear thin, and I caught a dim glimpse of her jump from the summit. A split second of catching air. I imagined her hitting the sand running, like a coyote, a flurry of silent soft paws rushing toward the water. I watched her go, and I didn’t follow after. I never said I was sorry. She was always the one to follow after me.

She was naked when we started fighting, standing in front of the bathroom sink, her figure cutting a paper doll of sunbrowned skin from the monochrome background of pink ceramic tiles, pink porcelain basin, pink wallpaper. She was brushing her teeth, and her wet hair hung down her back, black and glistening. 

She had a bruise on her hip, that was the spark. I asked her about the bruise on her hip and she changed the subject. It lit up my suspicion. I started yelling and at first she just threw herself belly-down on the mattress and covered her head with this thin, pale yellow sweater she’d been wearing the night before. This summer sweater. But eventually, she got up and started yelling back. She started crying, and I felt a flush of satisfaction. 

Then I shoved her, that was the thing. I shoved her, and she stumbled backwards into the kitchenette, looking at me with her big wet eyes. For a second, she was a naked scared animal. Then she stomped over to the bed and snatched up her gym shorts from where they lay crumpled on the floorboards, and she grabbed my t-shirt from the back of the chair. It was my favorite t-shirt, threadbare and blue, with holes at the seams. She clothed herself in angry silence and took off barefoot toward the beach. The screen banged shut behind her, punctuation.

That was the first thing that hit me when I found out. The t-shirt. I thought that my favorite t-shirt was gone forever. I couldn’t help myself.

She disappeared over the dune and I went back to sleep. Whatever.

I never trusted her after I found out about the abortion. She went and did it, didn’t tell me until after. I always thought that maybe it wasn’t mine. That fear gouged away at me. I guess it was easier than accepting that she couldn’t choose the future in which we were chained irrevocably. Easier than accepting that I just wasn’t good enough. Because I wasn’t. But she kept following after, she kept hoping.

She disappeared over the dune and I just went back to sleep.

I dreamed of this place that I’ve never been, this place I dream about a lot anyway. It’s this church, on top of a mountain. I think it’s Greek, because it’s all full of gold and priests with long black beards. We sit in this courtyard, on a stone bench, and we can smell bread baking. We sit so close together that it’s hard to see anything but her face. We sit so close that really, I’m just seeing the pores of her skin, her eyelashes feathery and blinking in slow motion. And I’m wearing this jean jacket for some reason, and I reach inside the inner pocket and pull out a bee. It’s a real, thrumming little bee, and I can see all the bristles on its back standing up, but it’s made of gold, real gold. I hold it out between us, offering it to her, cupped in my palm. And I know, even in the dream, that she’s allergic to bee stings. I know, even in the dream, that she’s got an EpiPen in her purse. But I hold it out, and she smiles. She just smiles.

I keep trying now to remember the last time I saw her face, trying to catch the way she looked at me after she pulled the t-shirt over her head, before she turned her back to go, but I can’t grab hold of the image. I keep seeing the smile from the dream, that dumb simple smile. 

I imagine her wading into the water, the waves glittering gold as the sun juts up over the horizon, and I see her reaching out to touch the lights, a swarm of golden bees. And she’s smiling. She’s just smiling.



Anna Lea Jancewicz lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where she homeschools her children and haunts the public libraries. She is an Associate Editor at Night Train literary magazine, and her writing has appeared at Bartleby Snopes, The Citron Review, matchbook, and other venues. Yes, you CAN say Jancewicz: Yahnt-SEV-ich. More at: www.annajancewicz.wordpress.com

Q&A

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

A: This piece owes its genesis to my having gotten the popular song by the same name stuck in my head for a solid two weeks this past summer. As it coalesced from disparate elements—the coyote image from an older poem of mine, a lost t-shirt, a dream I had about a golden bee— my thoughts were focused on developing the woman of the story. It was a surprise that once I started typing, it became more about the man. The shirt and the dream became his, as well as the voice. I don’t think I’ve ever written a story from a male point of view, so that was the biggest surprise.

Available now: Prime Number Magazine, Editor Selections, Volumes 1, 2 and 3Learn more...
Short Essay

Marissa Landrigan
Mile Markers

Natalie Shapero
A Brief History of Single-Color Marks
A child stands on a chair,
leaning into the light to fill
her cup at the kitchen sink.

When we think we are cells, 
genes, blood, bones, hair, 
face, and shape, we are wrong.

When we think ourselves borne 
from heaven, righteous will
or pure evil, we are lost.

We imagine we’re the product
of our parents’ nightmares, love,
and neurosis and we’re wrong,

though we may have a point.
In our cells’ furnaces, sparks
leap. In our words are seared

the lives of others, their names
and dreams. And we burn
in lines still unspoken,

in phrases that will puff out
of children like paper boats
riding a breeze on a pond.




Michael Lauchlan’s poems have appeared in many publications including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, English Journal, Tower Journal, The Cortland Review and Innisfree. Lauchlan’s collection, Trumbull Ave., is forthcoming from WSU Press.

Mile Markers
Marissa Landrigan
followed by Q&A

1.

I am 21 years old. 

His brand-new 2004 Subaru, less than five hundred miles on the odometer.

Two thousand three hundred ninety five miles west.

Tally the numbers.

I-90: The red rock outcroppings of Wisconsin. The unbearable sprawl of South Dakota.

Two time zones: Central, Mountain.

My first time crossing the Mississippi.

What am I counting toward?

***

Three years in Montana, on and off. I-90 East and West, I-15 North and South. 

More than 5,000 miles on the Subaru before we leave. 


2.

I am 24 years old. April 2007. 

1,137 miles. Sixteen hours in two days. 

I buy a 1983 Toyota Camry for $500 cash. 66,000 miles on the odometer. 

I-15 South from Bozeman to Ventura. 

He is already there, 50-mile one-way trips by boat to a tiny island off the coast. 

He counts how many eggs the endangered seabirds have laid since last week.

I already know we will stay only six months.

My third new time zone: Pacific.

Do the math: Miles divided by time divided by age divided by love. 

I am driving twelve hundred miles for a six-month stay because I am 24 and I love him and for now that’s enough.


3.

October 2007. In just a few days I’ll turn 25.

I-40 West to Route 66: a detour off an otherwise straight course north.

Route 66: A Days Inn. The Galaxy Diner. Aluminum siding. 

Day one of three. Eight hours of twenty one.

Five hundred of fourteen-hundred forty miles. 

A code. The way they align.

25, 66, 2007, 1,440. 

I-80 west to the North: the Grand Canyon in separate cars.

In just a few days I’ll turn 25. This is what I wanted for my birthday – a few extra days on the 

road.

***

Two days later, we arrive back in Bozeman. 

We will spend just seven days there. 


4.

November 2007. I turn 25. 

Each year a new departure, each birthday a new zip code.

We mark the year, pack the cars, say our goodbyes. 

I-90 East: the terrible November width of North Dakota, swirling snow flurries and dark, long stretches of quiet road. 750 miles the first day. Fargo, a Super 8.

I-90 East: Minnesota, the rain-streaked window, the ghostly fog of a Midwestern landscape.

Count backward through time zones

The widths of state shrinking, the number of borders crossed increasing. 

Three days, thirty hours, two thousand miles. Eastern Standard time. 14850.

November 2007 and I already know I’ll leave before my 26th birthday.


5.

August 2008. I am still 25. 

I-90 West to I-80: a Holiday Inn in South Bend, a cornfield, a cornfield.

1,004 miles. Ithaca to Ames. Three cars: the Subaru, the Camry, a full moving truck. 

The plan is to stay three years, but he won’t last one.

***

I count because I don’t remember. 

These criss-cross-country trips. My twenties. 

All my memories are blurry, photographs snapped out the window of a moving car. 

The interstates, the motels, the gas stations. 

Water bottles. Mixed CDS. Mile markers. 

I count to make them mean something. 

This is the first. This, the seventh.

***

Three years in Iowa--three birthdays, two new cars, two failed relationships, one book. 

Hard soil. New growth.


6.

August 2011. I am 28 years old. 

A 2007 Subaru Outback, just one month mine. 93,000 on the odometer. Towed behind a U-Haul.

I-35 South to I-70 West to Hays: No radio, no rivers, one stop. One distant storm.

I-35 South to I-70 West: 500 miles, eight hours, one day.

One new house. One new degree. 

One: a neutral position, a new start. 

One is rebuilding. One is an empty odometer, waiting.

One car, one driver.

***

I will stay eleven months.


7.

July 2012. I am 29 years old.

Tomorrow, I will get in the 2007 Subaru and merge onto I-70 headed East.

I-70 East for three days.

1,165 miles.

My new university will pay two movers $3000 to drive my belonging those same miles, over those same three days.

I will drive the 2007 Subaru--one girl, one dog. 

Though I don’t know it yet, it will be the last move of my 20s.

We will cross the Mississippi. 

We will watch the odometer roll past 100,000 miles. 

We will stay indefinitely.


 

Marissa Landrigan’s work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Guernica, The Rumpus, Diagram, and elsewhere. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University, where she completed a food memoir titled The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat. She currently lives and teaches in western Pennsylvania, and can be found online at marissalandrigan.com.

Q&A

Q: What surprised you most during the process of composing and revising this piece? 
A: Actually, I’d initially envisioned this as a video essay, which included a photo montage from the various road trips mentioned in the piece, along with a voiceover narrative of the text. But it just didn’t work. I was surprised that when I stripped the piece down to simply text, I was able to cull it into a poem-like meditation without the bells and whistles.

That Small Sailing Cloud
by Andrew Stancek
​Followed by Q&A

Milena stumbles into the train, almost drops the aquarium, swears. She feels the evil eye dagger from a kerchiefed granny, hears her grumble about mothers these days.  Keep walking, Milena steels herself. Two steps behind, Palo is still sobbing and Peto is clutching his hand. She hears Peto lean in and say, “Think of The Little Tramp. He’s shuffling in front of us. See?” His voice is seductive enough that even Milena looks but is met with a gypsy stare instead. Under the shabby coat a head is poking out. A rooster. He shakes his comb at Milena and his cock-a-doodle-doo is dismissive.

Maybe the aquarium was a bad choice and she should have brought their cuddlies instead. Two last stairs before the boys catch up and she leads them into an empty compartment reeking of urine.

The honeydew pieces she gave them in the waiting room are squished over their hands and malinovka is spilled on their runners. She moves the aquarium to the side with her foot. The gecko scurries into a corner, burrows under the shredded newspaper. She hands Peto a linen hankie and watches him smear the Oktoberfest mustard from his lips onto his cheek and then do the same for his brother. Hankie dropped on the soot-covered floor, Peto taps the glass to get Chaplin’s attention. The gecko moves his head and Milena is sure he wags his tail. Peto’s teeth chatter and his arms are blue but he refuses to put on a sweater for the trip. “Soldiers going to the front never wear sweaters, Mom,” he says.  

Palo squats next to the glass, stares at the green monster. “I wish Dad had got us the puppy,” he whispers. “He’d sleep in my bed and lick my face.” Sobs are just under the surface. 

“Maybe once we settle into the new apartment and Dad comes to visit, then we’ll have a puppy, right, Mom?” Peto says. Milena’s throat constricts and she nods without speaking. Chaplin was Peto’s idea, an eighth birthday puppy substitute. For a week he lived in their father’s bowler hat and the boys glued a mustache on him as well as themselves. After she strained her back moving the stove to capture him, she persuaded the boys that Chaplin would prefer to curl up in his home in the glass aquarium. Already a month for Chaplin’s survival, about three weeks longer than she expected. Better entertainment than radio rozpravky, the boys watched goggle-eyed one night as he turned lighter and chomped, teeth gleaming, on the skin he’d shed and then on the mustache. Palo, ever-eager, tried to bite off his thumb and gave himself a nasty bruise. After Milena dried his tears, both whined that their mustaches would make a perfect dessert for Chaplin, but Milena put her foot down. Each morning the boys reattached and wiggled their mustaches for a few minutes, before the adhesive wore off. Mercifully they forgot them this morning on the way to the train.

Milena settles into her seat. She wishes she’d had a chance to examine the new apartment before agreeing to take it, but Aunt Liba assured her it’d do, at least while she searches for a job in the new town. Milena closes her eyes and has a clear image of water left running in the kitchen this morning, after she’d given Peto a last drink. The sink will no doubt overflow, seep through the floor into the apartment below and she’ll be held responsible. The burner on the stove must still be on, too. Good luck to the landlord trying to collect when she’s living under a different name in Trnava.  

Peto moves the chicken wire from the top of the aquarium and lifts up the chirping Chaplin. Milena feels watched, squints up and sees a chalk-white mime face with a huge red smile peering through the compartment window. The mime wiggles his eyebrows, waves and moves down the corridor. Peto caresses his pet, his blue-green eyes intense, “When we get to our new home, Mom, I’m gonna find a field nearby and let him go.” Milena aches with an urge to curl up in the corner of the aquarium. She glances out the window at the trembling aspens and watches a leaf float to the ground.




Andrew Stancek grew up in Bratislava and saw tanks rolling through its streets. He now writes, dreams and entertains Muses in southwestern Ontario. His work has appeared in Tin House online, Every Day Fiction, fwriction, Necessary Fiction, Pure Slush, Prime Number Magazine, r.kv.r.y, Camroc Press Review and Blue Five Notebook, among many other publications. He’s been a winner in the Flash Fiction Chronicles and Gemini Fiction Magazine contests and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The novels and short story collections are nearing completion.

Q&A 

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

A: The piece began with an image: a gecko shedding its skin and eating it. Immediately after I saw two wide-eyed boys with pasted-on mustaches watching, one chomping on his thumb, trying to replicate the feat. In a world of harsh reality, leaving husbands/fathers behind, new identity, make-believe is vital to provide a glimmer of hope. I was so glad the mime waved.

A Brief History of Single-Color Marks
Natalie Shapero
followed by Q&A

Do not make the mistake, I once was admonished, of thinking the STOP on a stoplight is red for no reason. The STOP on a stoplight is red because red is the color that appears first to the human eye. STOP is the signal we need to see before all other signals, and red is the wave of light that’s transmitted the fastest. 

Red is also the wave of light that high-end women’s footwear designer Christian Louboutin selected as the standard hue of his shoes’ outsoles (the sloped, underside portions of the shoe visible to someone walking behind their wearer). Prior to Louboutin’s entry into the market, this part of the shoe was largely ignored by both designers and consumers. In 2008, Louboutin secured federal trademark protection for a lacquered red outsole of a high heel. At the time, the lowest heel in his spring collection was five and a half inches. Models walked down runway after runway, flashes of red at their feet. Three years later, Louboutin’s company brought a lawsuit against Yves Saint Laurent for selling a high heel that was entirely red, outsole included. The lawsuit asserted that red was fine for all the other parts of a YSL shoe--fine for the toebox, the lining, the throat, the quarter, the counter, the vamp--but the manufacture and sale of a lacquered red outsole was reserved for Louboutin.  

Heels are apparently sexy due to a combination of a) their shaping effect on the leg, and b) their impact on the wearer’s walk, shortening her steps. Is the short gait attractive because it makes the wearer take more steps than she otherwise would to cover a given distance, thereby increasing the frequency with which her hips swing back and forth? Or is the short gait attractive because it signals that the wearer cannot run? One Louboutin offering, a high-heeled boot with cargo pockets, is known as CNN Girl. The designer described the shoe’s hypothetical wearer as follows: “She lost everything, but she still has her boots.” 

A 2008 GOOD Magazine profile of Lara Logan, captioned “Bombshell in Baghdad,” started off with a mention of the foreign correspondent’s “eye-catching good looks.” The Washington Post later noted that Logan’s neighbors took notice when she wore a pink bodysuit and high heels on Halloween. In 2011, Lara Logan was sexually assaulted while reporting from a mob scene in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In 2012, she posed for a New York Times Magazine article about her recovery entitled “Safe At Home”; her strappy heels, the caption noted, were Christian Louboutin. 

In an era oversaturated with consumer goods, the trademark system aims to limit confusion. The idea is this: because a trademarked brand name or logo or slogan can be used only by the seller who registers it, merchants can shut down knock-offs that siphon their business, and purchasers will be clear on who made the thing they’re buying. The first court to hear the Louboutin-YSL dispute, a federal district court in Manhattan, likened the logic behind trademark law to Whitman’s musings on greenery as the signature of God, how the poet posited grass as “the handkerchief of the Lord, / a scented gift and remebrancer designedly dropt, / bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark and say Whose?” The trickiest question in the Louboutin-YSL trademark case was not whether YSL had copied Louboutin, but whether a red sole was eligible for trademark protection in the first place. In a section of the appeals court’s opinion entitled “A Brief History of Single-Color Marks,” the court discussed the narrow swath of situations in which, because the color of a given product is so deeply associated in the public mind with a particular company, the manufacturer is permitted to trademark that color-product combination. Examples include red stickers on car trailers and pink fiberglass insulation. 

Lara Logan spent much of her career covering war atrocities, but in the aftermath of the assault, she took a break from the arena of political violence. One of her first orders of business was a backstage interview at an Aerosmith concert, where she made a sour face when Steven Tyler offered her a swig of his drab-colored vegetable drink. Even if you put a gun to my head, she said, I would probably refuse to drink it.  

In a 2011 profile The New Yorker, Louboutin discussed the success of his shoes. “Men are like bulls,” he opined. “They cannot resist the red sole.” The appeals court hearing the Louboutin-YSL dispute ultimately ruled that Louboutin was permitted to have a trademark on a red outsole, but only when rest of the shoe was not also red. In the end, Louboutin’s signature was not simply the red sole, but rather the contrast between the sole and the rest of the shoe—the fact of the red butting up against another color, racing its wavelength, overpowering it. That’s what makes us look.

Natalie Shapero is the author of the poetry collection No Object. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and works as Associate Editor of The Kenyon Review

Q&A

Q: What surprised you most during the process of composing and revising this?
A: How ugly most of the shoes are. I mean that seriously. Though I myself am a resolutely drab dresser, I actually sort of love fashion and fashion photography. When Tom Ford came out with A Single Man, a lot of my friends criticized it for looking like a walking style magazine, but I could watch that movie all day. (I could also listen all day to the NPR interview where Terry Gross describes some of Tom Ford’s work for Gucci by saying a female model had a “shaved ….” and then has to trail off and rephrase). But I just can’t get behind Louboutins. I looked at a lot of them while I was writing this and now my eyes hurt.