Greta Bolger, Mark DeCarteret, Jamey Genna

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Greta Bolger is a writer and entrepreneur from the heart of Michigan. She has published poetry and prose in The Chimaera, Third Coast, Eclectica and other online and print journals.


Our Dead Come Home for Christmas


What a surprise, the bony knock at the door just as we were sitting down to dinner, and then there they all were, wearing red sweaters, plaid pants, feathered hats and rhinestone brooches, witty costumes that, like them, had seen better days. Think Goodwill for ghouls. Sure, it was great to see them, their giant smiles and big eyes, though it was hard to tell them apart at first, but once they started talking, we knew who was who: Daddy Ralph and Roberta, Grandma T and Harry, Momma Sue and Red, young George and baby Ben. What a surprise, like I said, and Bob got out the video camera and interviewed them about the afterlife while the food got cold, and then we went into the living room to open presents and of course we didn't have anything to give them because who knew? I tried to ignore the bone dust on the furniture and the incessant grinning, but I have to admit, I was glad when their time ran out and they trundled back down the front walk and back to wherever they came from. I know I sound selfish, but sheesh. That's not what Christmas is all about, is it? And the videos were completely blank, not a trace they were ever here in the first place. The minute they left, I poured a double bourbon and lit myself a cigarette, my first one in eight and a half years.




Mark DeCarteret poetry has appeared in AGNI, Atlanta Review, Chicago Review, Conduit, Cream City Review, Poetry East, Spinning Jenny, and 3rd bed, as well as the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press, 2000) and Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader (Black Sparrow Press, 1999). His first book, Review--A Book of Poems, was published by Kettle of Fish Press in 1995.  A chapbook, The Great Apology, was just published by Oyster River Press for whom Mark also co-edited the anthology Under the Legislature of Stars: 62 New Hampshire Poets.



Difficult to believe people live here all year
amongst the elves and the Santa Express,
their shutters tortured by brightly lit globes.
I am bushed after having stayed up
most the night for more lottery results.
And your face is smudged chalk again
as you sit on the hood of the pick up
spooling your hair around a very long stick.
In the cabinet with the cereal boxes
there’s a net of some sort and more poison.
We’re bound forever to this heaven we’ve hosted.
A cousin in a fly outfit flips the bunch of us off
and the lightning’s finally left here for other worlds
having omitted the bit where it’s lit up the sky.
If I’m raised up at all it is only so I might
have this other angle of you and you me.



Jamey Genna teaches writing in the bay area of northern California and is a graduate from the masters in writing program at the University of San Francisco, where she also work as a major projects adviser. Her short fiction has been published in many literary magazines and her short story collection Still Slipping on the Ice was a finalist for the 2008 Hudson Prize.


The Holiday Issue

I don’t like the question everyone asks this time of year and that is “Are you ready for the holidays,” so instead, I ask Richard, “Are you planning to do anything over the holidays.”

He tells me, “Naah.”

Richard tells me his “old lady’s kid” is always in trouble, so the holidays aint’ any fun for them.   Richard is a tall person, taller than most people.  The kids think he’s scary.  He’s got a long face, droopy long hair.

I say, “How old is your…stepson, is it?” 

He says, “Thirty, thiry-five years old…he’s a heroin addict way back in high school even.”

So I say, “Mmm-hmm.”

He puts down his broom, sits on the edge of a desk, starts to tell me in hushed tones.  I put down the papers I’m correcting.  This is how it begins. We start to talk.  This is how friendship begins.  Sometimes.

I say how, “My daughter had trouble.  She was in and out of hospitals….My dad was in jail three times for drinking.”  I never let myself imagine my dad in jail, even though my dad has told me about it a couple of times.  For that I’m glad.  I see how Dad thinks.  He thinks while he’s in jail.  I don’t say that sarcastically.  I say it, meaning, something always happens that makes you think about what you’ve been doing.

My ex-mother-in-law Doris passed away a few months ago and my mom was just telling me about it on the phone the other day, and I thought.  Two years ago, already, I went home for my grandmother’s funeral and I ran into Doris’s sister and she said, “Go see Doris.  It’d mean so much to her.”  But I didn’t have time.

About a week after that, Doris’s number popped into my head, and I thought to call her, but I didn’t.  I thought about her, but I didn’t go over there and I didn’t call.  Then when my mom told me she was dead, I saw Doris’s face the way I always saw it.  I saw her hands reaching for my face, her broad, sort of straight-across teeth grin and how she reached for my face and kissed me whenever I showed up at her house.  She seemed so lonely, like I was her own daughter walking in the door.  I saw her face like that, all that warmth and joy and love in one second.  I hadn’t felt that when I was inside that family, but it was there.  I just wasn’t paying attention.

Richard says, “Oh, he’s trouble.  He aint nothing but…”

“Heartache?” I say.  “Does she attend a 12-step group?”           

“Naah,” he says.  “She pretty much just can’t think about it anymore.”

“Yeah,” I say, “The holidays are hard.  You gotta’ try to minimize their importance.  I’m gonna’ buy my kids…my husband, some socks and underwear for Thanksgiving.  Then I’m gonna’ buy some other stupid stuff they need every week till Christmas, so none of that shit shows up under the tree.”

We both laugh, then someone walks in and interrupts, so Richard finishes sweeping and leaves.

Mrs. Cannes tells us at lunch that her biopsy showed her lymph nodes aren’t cancerous.  “What!” we say, we didn’t know she had cancer.

“Yeah, I have to have more tests and some kind of treatment.”

That’s all we get out of her.  We eat lunch with her every day.  Just last week, she was complaining that her daughter was home visiting from another state and hadn’t helped her clean up the dishes after they ate.  The daughter said she was tired and was going to go take a nap. 

 I stop doing the laundry for my daughter who’s in college.  I throw her clothes that are always on the bathroom floor through the curtain into her room.

Gary has a tantrum usually around this time of year.  All us fucked-up people have tantrums this time of year.  He tells me, “My father always showed up and tried to buy our love.”

“Oh crap,” I say.  “You shoulda’ took his money while he was still alive.  Now look at you.”  He drives a used 1987 white Honda.  He has to tie the trunk shut.  He’s been mugged in Oakland a couple of times.  He almost killed himself over that.  He had to file bankruptcy.

“You’re missing the point,” he says.  “It was his way of trying to control us.”

“Well, yeah,” so it begins…”One year, my dad climbed an evergreen out at the farm.  He chopped the top off, brought it home, stuck it in a garbage can full of rocks…that was our Christmas tree.  So quit complaining about how bad you had it.”

He could’ve kept going, but he didn’t.  He knew when he was beat.

Maureen tells me her dad died.  My neighbor across the street.  Leaning on the top rail of my fence.

I ask her if she has to take care of any of the arrangements, but she tells me, no, he was in prison. 

This is the story I want to know.  “What was that about?” carefully.

“He killed two people,” she says.

“Two?” I say.  I try so hard not to show how curious I am.  Two…I think.  Two.

“Oh, he came home one day and caught my mother in bed with another man.  So later he went over to the guy’s house and shot the guy and his mother.” 

The guy’s mother?  This is what we talk about over the fence. 

“Are you sad?”  I ask her.

She doesn’t appear to be.   She blows a raspberry with just her lips.  “Fffft.”

            There’s an accident on the freeway.  A man and a woman get out of a black Mercedes to check the damage and another car comes by and runs them both over, kills them.  Hit and run.

            As my dad would say, “Merry Fucking Christmas.”

            You can’t make this shit up.     



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