I’m on the 101, speeding by the sparkling Pacific. Xena the Warrior Princess is at the wheel, flying over potholes with abandon, and the Eminence Grise is riding shotgun, fervently opining amateur abuse of POV in fiction. We’re on our way to a writers group, where there will be tea, a few hours of sharp-eyed critique, and then breakfast for lunch at the Bees Knees. Writers who I respect, the kind who are equally likely to delight me with humor as hit me in the ankles with drama; I have equal odds of leaving bruised or entranced.
To create such work is not without cost, of course. Many writers can relate to Don Quixote battling windmills or Grady Tripp in his pink bathrobe, chasing his fly-away manuscript into the Monongahela River. It is a strange camaraderie, we of the pink bathrobes and fevered quests and occasional delusion, but always we hope that the story will come out right in the end. Certainly I am not immune to this, and the writers I meet are my conspirators, mentors, and brothers-in-arms on this unpredictable, pot-holed road.
So, from Andromeda to Cor Serpentis, for Volume 3 we land on Bellatrix, a star in the belt of Orion. Why? Honestly, I like the name. It means “woman warrior,” although I prefer to think of this as the literary warrior issue, regardless of gender. It takes determination to forge a creative path, especially when the windmills fight back and your manuscript plummets into the river. Keep going, I say, and keep good company as you do.
Volume 3 features the art of Max Talley, a surrealist who has mastered the art of unsettling paintings, at times luminous, lovely, mysterious, at other times alarming, funny, baffling. His portrait “Lady Autumn Takes the Air” graces the cover. The Mistress of Song has curated a poetic collection of songs about California. And the Poetry Baron has a lyric collection of poems centering around the theme of “Bella Vida.” Rachael Quisel, our guest editor of Flash Fiction, brings imaginative, compelling flash stories to this volume. She met the task with enthusiasm and founded the Flash Cat Award.
Lastly, I would like to remember Bill Lanphar here. He was a Lit Jo contributor, and a madly talented, if not shy and retiring, singer-songwriter, who had a beautiful song in Volume 1. He played with deft fingers and sang with a softly worn voice. He left this realm for the Tower of Song in March 2019, and his songs are still hummed here at the Lit Jo.
I hope you will enjoy these stories, songs, poems, and paintings as much as I do. You may purchase Volume 3 in our bookstore.
Wisdom by Nate Streeper
Her Chemical Highness Sets Out by S.M.C. Wamsteker
Shutter by M. M. De Voe
A Piece of Work by Diane C McPhail
Medicine Walk by Jack Eidt
The Scream by Cheri Kramer
Clap Hands by Max Talley
Nano-Dog by Jeremy Gold
The Post by Jesse Krenzel
Blessed are the Flesh Eaters by Zane Andrea
Lipstick by Margaux Dunbar Hession
Express Lane by Chris Casey Logsdon
Swimmers by Melanie Doctors
In Hand by D. Avery
St. Gregory’s Abbey by Isabelle Walker
Cling * Believer on a Bullet Bike
by Perie Longo
Asphalt * Starters Block
by Ronald Aden Alexander
Caterpillar to Sparrow by Isabelle Walker
El Norte by Paul Lobo Portugés
AfterWords by Cie Gumucio
Golden by Dennis Russell
The Santa Ynez Valley Songn by Randall Lamb
Mellow by Burton Jespersen and Patrick Rydman
Fires by Mark A. Alciati
Tectonic Trance by Sonya Heller
California by Dan Bern
I Won’t Come to Californiaby Russell Brutsché
Please, Don’t Come to California by Natalie D-Napoleon
Surfliner by Bryan Titus
My State of California by Laura Hemenway
An excerpt of "Blessed are the Flesh Eaters"
by Zane Andrea
Stan Bland the Tofu Man had a hard life from day one. His conception and birth (both of which occurred in the six minutes and 28 seconds) were captured by Soy World Warehouse security cameras. Subsequent tests by pediatricians and food scientists confirmed that Stan had comparable physical and cognitive functioning to that of a human child whose body wasn’t composed of 99.999% tofu. Given the evidence, scientists and other skeptics couldn’t dismiss Stan. But neither could they recreate the results of his genesis, no matter how carefully they reconstructed the environment and circumstances of his creation. Put simply, it took more than fucking a tub of soybeans to create sentient life. Some agriculturalists theorized that the act between Stan’s dad and “maternal agent” involved genuine love as well as abhorrent urges, which was why clinical experiments didn’t work. It wasn’t an unreasonable theory. The few study participants who eschewed payment didn’t seem to respect their partners, despite their obvious enthusiasm for the coupling.
Stan never met his parents. Following a brief incarceration for misdemeanor indecency, his father flew to Greece to join a nu-Pathagorian cult and was never heard from again. His mother(s) was/were disposed of in the usual manner of foodstuff deemed unfit for human consumption by USDA standards.
But that’s enough about Stan’s conception. Let’s discuss Stan.Stan got picked on a lot as a kid. Literally. As in, kids picked pieces out of his arms when they were hungry, leaving dimples that would heal over in a few minutes but were still annoying to deal with. He didn’t even taste that good. But when second recess rolled around and it was over two hours after lunch, few of Stan’s peers could resist the novelty of having an edible classmate from whom to nip a high protein snack. Usually, it happened when someone suggested a game of tag, an unusual variation where everyone but Stan was “it.” Teachers were unaware of this for years—kids have successfully hidden bullying from the grownups for eons, and Stan was no snitch. Also, it was the only time he got invited to play tag.
Then came the fateful day when the cafeteria’s hot lunch offering was too foul for even the most hardened booger eater to choke down, and everyone was starving by second recess. The desperate handfuls grabbed from his extremities took longer to heal than usual, leaving Stan looking like a walking puzzle with missing pieces. He tried to hide the damage from the lunchroom moms, but when his arm fell off during quiet reading time, the jig was up.
Adolescence didn’t improve things. Like many cis-boys hitting puberty, Stan’s growth spurt left him tall and skinny, which made him wobblier than usual. Lifting weights added bulk but not density to his shape, and while no one wanted to eat him anymore, plenty of people were willing to slap him on the back to watch him ripple.
How does it end for Stan Bland the Tofu Man? Not well, we're afraid. Pick up a copy of Volume 3 Bellatrix at our bookstore.
"St. Gregory’s Abbey" from the Poetry Section
by Isabelle Walker
After the sky split
mouthfuls of tears,
frogs came out
to croak on stones
washed clean of sorrow,
and the monks
who’d kept their faith,
bowed before the cross
and chanted psalms
to hold the world together
one more day.
When the bell rang
the lake was waking up
beneath a quilt of lilies
and ancient words
hitched to the backs of notes
flew out the chapel windows
on a whiff of nectar.
"Surfliner" from the Lyrics Section
by Bryan Titus
I hear that train whistle moan I feel the Surfliner pass
Shaking the bones of my home rattling the window glass
& that old frame goes crooked just like the picture turned out
Like a street light flickers I guess we all just burned out
So ride that silver Surfliner baby
You’ll find your silver lining maybe
& you’ll never come home
Now everybody knows it’s that kind of town
Where you gotta be ready when the shit goes down
& everybody talks about getting out
(but) Nobody knows what they’re talking about
They’re busy buying all their baggies & their forty ounce
All their hard work never ever amounts
To nothing from nothing so you know you gotta bounce
Find a place in the sun with someone who counts
So ride that silver Surfliner baby
You’ll find your silver lining maybe
It’s waiting down the track
So go and don’t look back
Just ride your silver Surfliner baby
Ride on … Lord knows that I want something better than this for you