Something tragic must have happened but the sirens snapped me fast awake in a way my procession of phone alarms never do. A couple months ago, I started a daily movie discussion group that gives me passable doses of socialization and structure. Mumblecore is a film movement defined by low budgets, close-cropped shots of blackheads and the oily skin of actors who look like regular people, and loose scripts which give way to mostly improvised dialogue, all adding up to the closest narrative cinema has ever gotten to the pulse of real life, turning the tiniest emotional nuances into the end of the world. Joe Swanberg’s 74-minute-runtime Art History took me 4 hours to watch because I kept having to pause and sob on the floor. All day, I was pure Pavlov’s dog; the VEEDER-ROOT would beep until I silenced it so it was my job to jump from my desk and press the red button, soon impulsively jumping at different disruptions. It takes me two weeks to get adjusted to being at work and two weeks to get adjusted to being at home, which means I’m not. I have been eating, at most, one full meal a day. I spoke with my therapist about sleep hygiene and made the decision to stop using my bed for anything other than sleep. I didn’t follow through but did wake up reasonably early for a Saturday. A loud romantic argument went down at 4am on a work night and I looked outside to see both lovers were maskless. Minor daily frustrations, like a text message when I’m trying to focus, or someone nearby saying “Hello!” to a friend louder than needed, have the power to rattle and derail me so hard it takes upwards of 40 minutes of zoning out to regain composure and get back to what I was doing. When in the kitchen speaking on the phone with Jackie, one of my best friends, I looked out the window just in time to witness the act of a man pissing on the side of my building; he looked up and witnessed my witnessing while seeing his stream to completion. Regarding the piss man, I said, “This is it, this is my sentence for the day,” and Jackie told me to jot it down. 

 

“Can you describe a time when someone betrayed you?” This question is posed to me by Jan during a round of The Ungame, which I play over lunch with a group of colleagues in our architecture firm on the 92nd floor. The Ungame looks deceptively like Candy Land but is described, in its product materials, as a game without winners. Or losers. What is the narrative of this game? “To know one another,” apparently. “To create a story together of who we are, alone and apart.” I’m reminded of long adolescent evenings, with Stacey and Joe and Shane and Steph, slowly beginning to feel the idiosyncrasies of our tiny lives, how we gifted each detail to one another without knowing their value, and for the first time in years, I miss them. I think about the question. About who has betrayed me. But cannot think of anyone. Other than myself, of course. Ha. Am I lucky? I giggle and believe for a moment that I must be winning the game. The Ungame.

 

I open my mouth to share this revelation with my colleagues, but Jan interrupts, waving me aside and directing our attention out the floor-to-ceiling window, freshly cleaned and gleaming. “What is that,” she asks, pointing into the clear blue sky. We all turn to look, some swiveling in office chairs, others shifting to peer around shoulders. “I don’t see anything,” Eric squints, leaning forward. But it’s there. Unmistakably it is there. 

 

An airplane. Large. Suspended, sort of hovering, or just barely moving, some distance off from our building, waiting in the air, paused far above the Hudson. “It’s not moving,” someone states or asks.

 

Utterances of disbelief and questions of whether or not this is possible—a jumbo jet floating motionless in the sky—give way to alternate explanations. “It’s not an airplane, it’s a helicopter. See the rotors on top?” But it is an airplane, undeniably. We can make out the wings, just barely see the turbines, the long row of windows. “It’s an illusion, an advertisement,” someone offers. But it’s there, in 3D—patient, and not selling us a thing. “A blimp, a hoax, a conceptual art prank,” someone offers, or pleads really. This is the angle that gets the most traction, if only briefly: a joke, a gag. But even that explanation falls away when the news reports start rolling in, confirming our suspicions: a large passenger plane—a real one, with an origin and destination and ferrying actual passengers—floats immobile in the sky above the river, impossibly still, somewhere between New Jersey and Manhattan.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Kristen Millares Young. Her debut novel, Subduction, is available from Red Hen Press.

Young is a prize-winning journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Guardian and the New York Times, along with the anthologies Pie & Whiskey, a 2017 New York Times New & Notable Book, and Latina Outsiders: Remaking Latina Identity.The current Prose Writer-in-Residence at Hugo House, Kristen was the researcher for the New York Times team that produced “Snow Fall,” which won a Pulitzer Prize. She graduated from Harvard with a degree in history and literature, later earning her MFA from the University of Washington. She serves as board chair of InvestigateWest, a nonprofit news studio she co-founded in Seattle, where she lives with her family.

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ancient 2020 history

 

You should give the alternative

at least half as long as you

give reforming capital from within

and give and keep giving —

 

don’t see the devil in silencing

your details. We’ve been through

this for centuries, and now it’s

time to kill your precious

 

darlings. I’m the author of un-

finished novels who fills up un-

presentable notebooks on the side.

Welcome to the future

 

of publishing. The bible knows

that all we have is the word

future

future

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Chelsea Bieker. Her debut novel, Godshot, is available from Catapult Press.

Bieker’s forthcoming story collection, Cowboys and Angels, is due out in 2022Her writing has been published by The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney’s, Lit Hub, and Electric Literature. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award and a MacDowell Colony fellowship. Originally from California’s Central Valley, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two children, where she teaches writing.

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Ireland

By Sunny Rey

Poem

Cobblestone
Bell tower
Me in plaid, two fingered peace sign in a photograph dangling over the cliffs of Moer

Child’s voice singing in unknown tongue

Proposal to the girl in lace

Old man eating stroganoff alone under a raining window sill

I was right where you found me
Broken and all wrong

Leaving small poems inside tree stumps in grassy driveways up to abandoned castles

Too tough hearted to admit the loneliness

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Chris Dennis. His new story collection, Here is What You Do, is available from Soho Press.

 

Dennis’ work has appeared in The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, Granta, Lit Hub, and Guernica. He holds a master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, where he also received a postgraduate fellowship. He lives in Southern Illinois.

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Below is an excerpt from Mark Gluth’s new book, Come Down To Us, available now from Kiddiepunk. Order your copy here.


 

 

I.

The night sky hung above the sea with arrant darkness that the water’s surface reflected so that the sky may well have just  been some other sea, with a packed in pitch enveloping the both of them like what inkiness would be found in a closed off cave sunk under a forest that was buried beneath an avalanche  and hidden within some other night, one whose sky was  so thick with unlitness  that it just came off as loaded with the stuff which  it pressed on the planet that splayed beneath it so that  the landscape was some long thing which ran featureless and so fucking black that it seemed to be  some still sea upon which this night sky that’d been emptied of its moon and stars swaged it’s absent form.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Mary South. Her debut story collection, You Will Never Be Forgotten, is available from FSG Originals.

 

South is a graduate of Northwestern University and the MFA program in fiction at Columbia University. For many years, she has worked with Diane Williams as an editor at the literary journal NOON. She is also the recipient of a Bread Loaf work-study fellowship and residences at VCCA and Jentel. Her writing has appeared in American Short Fiction, The Baffler, The Believer, BOMB, The Collagist, Conjunctions, Electric LiteratureGuernicaLARB Quarterly, The New YorkerNOONThe Offing, The White Review,and Words Without Borders. She lives in New York.

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my tastes have changed; i’m not as into
sweetness, anymore. i still go wild — still lose my
mind for
certain scents, the ones reminiscent
of old haunted wood ships and blue raspberry hookah smoke.
remember when there was nothing
but daytime cocaine and the one
song (about the breeze) and
where do chapters end? when do things pass?
how do you separate an over from a start
how do you delineate, anything, ever?
so yes, if you have something nice to say, please say it;
clearly, i am a slut for
any and some and no and all things.
and i will wake up again
from a dream where i am
hosting a dinner party in a paint shop under a ferris wheel on the pier,
and everyone who’s made a life out of living for vivid color
is cheering for me and raising my chair and saying i should run for president,
and i am flattered and vain and humble and laughing, yes,
“yes,” i laugh.

On May 8, 2020, Juliet Escoria, Scott McClanahan, and Joseph Grantham decided to liveblog in solidarity with Megan Boyle. You may read the results below:

 

Scott McClanahan

 

 

everybody always thinks i’m lying about this dream but i’m not: the dream is me standing next to a long pole that looks like those things on the boardwalk with the bell on top and the weight on the bottom and you have to bring the hammer down on the bottom part and depending on where you get the weight to go, you’ll know how strong you are. that’s what it looked like but instead of the words very weak, weak, strong, or very strong appearing up the pole, there were the words comedy, romance, adventure, drama. i knew i could choose which genre of dream i’d have and i’d get whatever i wanted. i couldn’t choose and i woke up. anyway. i’m not always lying. it’s just that…you know that phrase “he lies like he breathes”? it’s what people say about someone who lies a lot. you could maybe say i lie like i sneeze; there are just certain situations i’m allergic to. mom is one of those situations. out of the goodness of her heart she overwhelmed me. as a boy i was her buddy for every unnervingly tedious thing—i remember sitting with her at the dmv with a grocery bag in my lap while she haggled with our health insurance on her cell phone—these “activities” were the shape the love between us took, as vases, dog bowls, and beakers are to water. to this day the most romantic thing i can imagine is helping a woman move, taking apart her bed frame, waiting together for some maintenance guy to show up and do something. these things are related—in some way it doesn’t make any sense to say out loud. what i mostly remember isn’t anger that i was stuck with her or boredom at the objectively boring things we did. i remember being jealous. glowering at the valet when we went to the hospital for my physical therapy, the ache to strangle him when mom handed off her keys and fingered his palm; hating the fact we were “regulars” at the town diner, the smiley way the waiters already knew what to bring her (onion rings and russian dressing); and of course the boys at school. being aware of how people saw her was an entirely slimy thing. so i talked. to distract mom (and to distinguish myself) from the persistent idiots who wanted to take my place. and if you only talk to get what you want, sooner or later you’ll end up lying. you can only say so much as a kid before you see an adult escape into the sweet daydream of shooting themselves. even if the adult denies it (they will), it’s true. so, lying. for me it started small—feigned interest in her job, which turned out to be maddening, jealousy-wise, because she taught special ed and a lot of times she’d tell me as if it were a funny story that so-and-so “accidentally called me mom today” and i’d imitate some sort of kind son’s smile that i’d probably seen on tv while crushing a complementary cracker over my cup of diner soup. that agonized smile is the other bigger kind of lie. i don’t have to describe it because you’re probably doing it right now to someone you love, or someone you love is doing it to you. unlike the small lies which basically say i’m interested in the real you, the bigger ones do something darker which is say what a coincidence it just so happens that the real me is exactly who you want me to be. in those ways and for those reasons i lied to mom a lot. but to actually understand what happened with me and jasmine, it’s only important to tell you about the worst lie.

Who are you?

Hi, my name’s Kate. I’m a writer from the midwest living in Brooklyn. My loves are my dog Banjo, herbalism, motorcycles, Bob Seger, the color blue, tequila, collaborative art, and jackalopes in non-specific order.

We won’t necessarily be better off

and I’ve made my peace with that.

But the oceans will be semi-gorgeous

and compromising, a laissez-faire approach

and we have to be hands-off now, don’t we?

Take the stem through your teeth from one end and

keep the distances long, but briefly hold

eyes in contact. Our irises something like

swimming pools, innumerable pools,

pools of liquid memory — how effortless

I dip myself in.

I suppose it began when
I opened doors to morning
and my head burst into leaves

there are stranger waters

out there and I can see them.