..:: CONTENTS ::..

..:: POETRY ::..
Adam Fieled
  Sarah Israel
Johannes Finke
  Documents etc. do not balance out
  Hardcore angel
  Recording, Melancholy
Dan Fisher
  from Fugue Report
Jenny Gillespie
  Personal Forest
Thomas Hibbard
Claudia Keelan
  Little Elegies (Vietnam) 
  Little Elegies (cummingsworth)
  Little Elegies (Self and Other)
David Krump
  The Nine Day Ricochet
  Backsling in the Hickories
Tom Leonard
  suite On the Page
Christopher Mulrooney
  Continental System
Rochelle Ratner
  Jealous Lover Program Creator Is Indicted
  California Inmate Seeks Release of Stuffed Dog
  Piggy Banks
Dennis Somera
  Earl Lee s. alvation jane=Paterson's curse s.v. Paterson;
  sweet ana lack to es
Stephanie Young

..:: PROSE ::..
Douglas Cole
Laura Davis
Mandy Kalish
  On the Fourth Pull
William Moor
  Four Robot Recognitions

..:: REVIEWS ::..
Jeremy James Thompson
  Joan Retallack, Memnoir
Sarah Trott
  Stephanie Young, Telling the Future Off
Sara Wintz
  Various, lunapark 0,10

..:: ETC ::..
  Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
  Volume I, Issue I
  Volume I, Issue II
  Volume II, Issue I


On the Fourth Pull
Mandy Kalish


          I did not want to have our honeymoon in Las Vegas. Americans, I thought, were fat and much too cheerful. They came into my bar and drank Slivovice in shots, like it was cheap whiskey, and they smiled all the time. But Bohumil wanted to see all the world wonders on one street and win one million paper dollars. I thought he might want to avoid Las Vegas because of all the neon lights, but he said it was his first choice, and so we went. I, however, have never forgiven neon, which is why The Bohemian is the only hotel on the strip never to have used a single neon bulb. As I've said, in Brno, our memories are long.
          When I was very young, we took a trip for a week to visit my Babicka on her farm in the hills. The only life on that farm was one old lady, one thousand white rabbits, and an overgrown field of potatoes. Babicka's house smelled of wood fire and stale pickled cabbage. My father spent the entire week repairing the roof and my mother spent it in the kitchen, peeling potatoes. In the afternoons, Babicka would take me to see her rabbits.
          "Don't feed them carrots. They'll bite your finger to the bone," she said.
          Only one of my grandmother's eyes could see; the other was held prisoner behind a thick, opaque paste. I remember one afternoon at the rabbits, Babicka bent down towards me, her face full of warts and connecting wrinkles. She said: You, too, will be a young widow. Then she licked her long, crooked finger and smoothed my wild eyebrows. You will be a young widow, she repeated, but you will also be rich and powerful.
          When I married Bohumil, I thought Babicka must have been wrong, since he was only a paper mill manager. He earned a decent salary but wasn't at all rich or with any rich prospects. I never dreamt of money like so many Americans and European Unionists. I dreamt of excitement and clarity of purpose. But Bohumil's bright eyes, when he saw the card games and the green bills exchanged for multi-colored chips in the casinos of Las Vegas, showed a greed that shocked me.
          We were to stay in Las Vegas for seven days at the Orleans Hotel and Casino. Bohumil chose the Orleans because he said it represented a place in America that knew struggle and abandonment in a time of crisis, and because he read somewhere that the odds and the seafood buffet were the best. When we arrived in the morning, I was tired and wanted to sleep, but Bohumil said first we must make love and then we had to go eat all we could of shrimp. I didn't understand why we had to rush to make love, since we'd done it so many times before, but he had his way: we made love and then went downstairs and gorged on shrimp until neither of us could take another bite. Bohumil was happy but I thought we smelled like the French. Even though he wanted to stay and gamble, I insisted we go up for a shower and a nap. When I awoke a few hours later, Bohumil wasn't there. He left a note on his pillow saying he'd gone down to gamble and would be back soon.
          Out the window, I saw flatness, cars, dirt, and, far off in the distance, a mountain peak covered with snow. The snow seemed so out of place, I thought perhaps it was another casino, with a Swiss theme. I waited for Bohumil but he didn't come, so I went downstairs to find him. In the casino, you couldn't tell it was midday, with so much lighting and smoke and people, but without any windows or clocks. I sat at a bar to drink a beer, and it was as if nobody saw me, like when I was a little girl; people were so hypnotized by the games and the giant TV screens. So many types strolled by: fat, old, young, sick. I saw Chinese people, black people, Indians, Germans (who are also fat like Americans but more red in the face and always wearing terrible sandals). After two beers, I grew tired of the crowds and noise. I didn't see Bohumil, so I went back up to the room to wait. Bohumil was sitting in the room, on the edge of the bed, looking down at his shoes.
          "I didn't win," he said.
          "Only people with money win," I said, kneeling down and taking off his shoes.
          We lied down next to each other.
          "Where would you have picked to go?" he asked.
          "What's the point? We're here."
          "America's so strange," he said, and we fell asleep while sunlight still dominated the room.
          We woke up early in the night, both ready to venture outside and explore the strip. A shuttle bus took us to an intersection at the center of all the action. When he gambled, Bohumil played poker and blackjack. He said slots were for people with fried eggs for brains, but on a corner in front of the Eiffel Tower, stood an enormous slot machine.
          "The Centennial Slot," read the red neon sign. "One Hundred Million Dollar Jackpot."
          Bohumil read the sign and his eyes got bigger, but he said the line was too long and we would have to try it later. We did an around-the-world-tour, with a pilsner in each casino: Paris, New York, Monaco, Egypt, Venice, Rome, Italy, Morocco…and where was Eastern Europe? Where was Budapest or Prague or Krakow? Las Vegas seemed to me like the epitome of the shallow west: putting up a fancy façade, highlighting its greatest hits and pretending the rest of the world didn't exist. Not to mention that every casino had dirty, old, busy, awful carpets.
          It was very late and much less crowded when we walked back to the Eiffel Tower for our pull at the Centennial Slot. Bohumil hadn't gambled at all that night: I think he was saving his luck for the big one. We held hands as we waited in line. A sign asked us to please limit ourselves to three pulls whenever there was a line. We looked behind us when it was finally our turn. There was a line. Bohumil pulled three times and we didn't win. Here, he said, handing me three more dollars for a maximum bet. You pull the last one. It was our fourth pull.
          I believe that when extraordinary things happen, time changes speed. When the bald man took out his knife, the sound of the blade against its sheath seemed delayed and distorted; when a rabbit bit my finger to the bone as I snuck it a carrot at Babicka's, its big front teeth came down so slowly, I felt I could have pulled my finger away if only I wasn't so curious as to how the bite would feel; when Bohumil entered me for the first time, in our cheap hotel room in Budapest, time almost stopped with the pain and the pleasure of it (for such a skinny man, Bohumil was surprisingly large in the penis); and when, on our fourth pull at the Centennial Slot, the number 100 appeared three times in a row, all sound and movement slurred. I looked up in a daze and saw fireworks oozing into the sky: red blots, purple blots, blue blots slowly exploding into flower shapes and falling downward like lazy shooting stars. I heard distant car horns, shouts, sirens and whistles. Only then did I look at Bohumil, my sexy, solid young husband. Only then did I see his pale face, his eyes bulging huge, his whole body frozen rigid with shock, and only then did I realize he wasn't breathing. Bohumil, I shouted, and waved my hands in front of his face, as time reversed its tricks and he fell fast backwards onto the sidewalk, stiff as a tree and dead as a tree turned to paper.
          I still see the image of Bohumil, lying there dead in the street, everything gone suddenly quiet before the ambulance came, before the men in suits came with their papers to sign, before the swarms of news crews descended with long, probing microphones. I was too shocked to speak or to sign any papers; I could only climb in the back of the ambulance and ride next to Bohumil's cold body. The men from the city followed in a stretch limo; they waited in the hallway while I stood next to Bohumil in the hospital morgue for hours, his mouth still smelling of pilsner, his green eyes no less brightened by death. It was almost dawn when a doctor came and asked me to leave. The two men from the city still stood in the hall. I had won the jackpot and there were many papers to sign, and because my husband had died and we were only on a one-week Visa, there would be more papers and bureaucratic matters to come. The two men gave me a briefcase with fifty thousand dollars cash, until the remaining sum, minus taxes, would be delivered by check.
          At the Orleans, our room was as we had left it when we'd woken from our long nap and gone out into the early night. I could still smell our lovemaking, and the shrimp, on our sheets. I tried to lie in the spot where my body had last been next to Bohumil's, but it was too painful and tightness took hold of my throat. I walked to the window and sat, looking for a long time at the snowcapped peak in the distance. Snow does not belong in the middle of the desert, I thought. Death does not belong in the middle of life. A knock came at the door. It was room service.
          "Compliments of the house," said a cheerful bellboy, pushing in a cart with eggs, sausage, juice, chilled champagne, croissants, toast, waffles, more than I could ever eat even if I wasn't feeling severe shock and grief. The waiter left and again I was alone, with the sickening smell of hot food to remind me that life just goes on. I opened the champagne and took it to the window. After I finished the bottle, the phone rang. It was a newswoman; she offered her condolences, then asked for an exclusive interview. I hung up. The phone rang again. It was a man from the city. He said they'd extended my visa to take care of paperwork and tax formalities, and that a lawyer would come by in two days to review the details and bring more papers for me to sign. Inside, I laughed at how happy Bohumil would have been at the amount of paperwork generated by the timing of his death. After hanging up, I called downstairs and ordered more champagne.


//   Advance   //