River Teeth Journal Issue 18.2

April 6, 2017

River Teeth Journal Issue 18.2
Table of Contents 
Editor's Notes Dan Lehman

Narcissism is much in the news these days, what with the present exemplar-in-chief posing almost daily reminders of the sins of self-absorption and grandiosity. Still, before we dismiss too glibly this comb-over phenomenon, we might as well admit that narcissism can be a charge leveled with some merit at memoir writing and its related nonfiction forms.
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"A Stranger Here" Zachary F. Gerberick

Later that night, I will revisit the wall and notice faint rings of dirt staining the cinder block. There will be a small dent in the gutter above, and I’ll be sure it’s from a fallen branch, common in Tallahassee, but I’ll imagine it was produced by one of the girl’s throws. I know a standard racquetball could never have the weight and power to dent aluminum that thick, but then again, this is not a normal girl.

I wonder why she waits until dark to practice. The obvious answer would be to escape the southern heat, but I think it’s something else. I think it’s so no one will see her. That she is only willing to practice when most of the neighbors are getting ready for bed, winding down from the long day. I like thinking about it this way. Perhaps I am the only soul who has seen it. The only one who has been that near to her. The only one who has noticed the rings of mud, the flying dirt.

"Hunter" Lauren Hobson

When I killed my first bird, a chukar, it fell from the blue like a stone. One minute it was a glittering piece of the sky, the next a heap of feathers tumbling end over end to meet the ground. Dexter brought that bird to my Dad—as all good bird dogs should—and laid it at his feet. My dad picked it up and swung the bird in a tight circle, to break its neck. “Nice shot,” he said, handing the bird to me. I forced myself to reach out my own hand without hesitation, taking the bird by thumb and forefinger, holding it slightly away from my body.

"Telephone" Brenda Miller and Julie Marie Wade

Your parents say one day boys are going to call asking for you, wanting to take you out on dates, to restaurants and dances—but you don’t believe them. Your parents also say you must never call boys, regardless of your generation’s lax morals, its empty, desperate search for quick fixes and instant gratification. None of this means anything to you yet. You like to play with Shawn across the street, so you call him sometimes in secret. Mostly, his mother answers. Her name is Adele, which reminds you of addled. She has sadness you can hear in the pauses between her words. She is all line breaks, like a very sad poem.

Your own mother intercepts you at the threshold. “Who was that you were talking to?” You tell her you and Shawn are going to play tennis, you and Shawn are going to climb trees. You tell her yes, he called you. What you don’t tell is that you and Shawn are going to double back to his family room and prank-call all the neighbors for hours—until the officious operator cuts in to report, “We’ve had some complaints associated with this number.” You will roll on your backs, howling with laughter. You will close the White Pages, toss them back on the shelf. Everything is still funny then, and for no good reason. Even when you grow up, you will never touch each other.

"Neighbors" Michael Downs

What’s the protocol when federal gunmen descend on your neighborhood? Take to the street with a protest sign? Telephone your senator’s office? Or do you trust your government (or fear it), and deadbolt the door behind you? Or do you just watch, wait, as absurd scenarios light up your imagination—spies and cops, kidnappers and killers—as if your brain were high-speed streaming popular primetime dramas? Because the brain will do that. It will reach for any make-believe that explains what’s unfolding, that hints at how to act and whose side to take: that of your government or your neighbor.

"View from the Lactation Room at the White House" E.A. Farro

My suit is too tight on the bottom and too big on top—my breasts are oversized canteens of milk. I wear black flats, and my shoulders tilt with the unequal weight of the purse with notebook and business cards on one side and on the other a weekend travel bag with breast pump and all its paraphernalia smashed in.

I treat every conference like the apocalypse has happened and I’m forging a new life. Whether it’s a day or a week long, I build a social network as if this event will last forever and I need a posse to survive. It’s as if I can’t conceive of the ephemeral nature of the folding chairs and scheduled keynote.

"What It Was My Father Came Here to Get Away From" Thomas Larson

“I’ve been reading about the Great War, and I don’t understand why the Pope was neutral. Shouldn’t he have been opposed to the killing? And why would God allow so many men to die in the trenches?” His questions parry and thrust; he is fearless like St. George.

The priest is curious just who my father is. Misunderstanding the question, my father states his name.

“No,”  the priest says, “who are you to be asking such things?”

“Yes, but I was—”

“Yes, but nothing,” the priest continues. “This is not a university. We don’t question our superiors here. Go to college and study philosophy if you want to box with God. You’ll do well, too, not to second-guess the Holy Father.”

"The Descent" Andre Dubus III

And that’s the central problem with exciting ideas for novels or stories. They don’t always take. Far more often than not, they’re just the friends who drive you to the party where the real action lies. So where does one begin anyway? For me, with almost everything I’ve written, long or short, fiction or nonfiction, it always seems to go better when I begin to “see” something, anything—the sliver of a character in a potentially troubling situation, the memory of a concrete place, an object in a certain light. There might even be sounds or smells—dried urine on the sidewalk, car exhaust, coffee brewing in a back room.

“Don't Wait" Amanda Bestor-Siegal

We would like to pretend that the reason we’re in Europe is not because we are emptying my mother’s ashes into the Seine, and so after the ashes are gone (some of them in the river but most of them on my jeans, up the tree, probably in the plastic cups of wine being consumed by teenagers nearby) we decide to rent a car and drive around Ireland. It’s the winter break of my final year in college. We spend Christmas day on the plane from Paris to Galway. We don’t once mention the fact that it’s Christmas.

"Blur" Kerry Muir

Those shoes danced so good. And she liked the color white. All the other girls would be wearing black, red, fluorescent pink, lime green. Sometimes purple. Turquoise, even. So there was a strange perversity to the color white in the darkness of those clubs. It kept her safe, even special, somehow.

White is the color of something untouched.

"The Stones I Carry" Reg Darling

The stones in my pocket help keep me honest by being stronger and truer than my words. They tether me to places that seem radiant with spirit and resonant with truths that cannot be uttered.

I don’t know what “spirit” fully means, but in the absence of a better word, I accept its ambiguity. The difference between a mossy, water-smoothed and -shaped marble boulder in southwestern Vermont and a paved parking lot anywhere transcends both semantics and philosophy. That difference is what I call spirit, and it keeps me alive.

"O" Krista Christensen

It’s not the cold that gets you, they say.

It’s the dark.

That’s what they warn you about, when you move to Alaska. That the dark will “get you,” as though you were a thing to be gotten: that somehow you will fall victim to it, something to be caught, imprisoned by the black of night. As if permanent evening were a predatory thing, pacing on the hunt, paws depressing the snow, pff pff pff pff, snout high and snuffling over protruding canines, shadows building in the deepening ring beyond your encampment, with just the moon’s full glare, the wide round face of night, bouncing back to itself from a white landscape gone gray in the elderliness of winter.

As if the dark will come for you.

They’re right.

"Bethlehem Revisited" Brian Castner


When a soldier dies in war, we put his name on a memorial. And when a soldier commits suicide, we now say that he lost his battle with depression or anxiety or post-traumatic stress. And when a soldier dies rock climbing or jumping from a plane or drag-racing on rain-slicked streets, we say that he became an adrenaline junkie and missed the war. And when a soldier dies while driving drunk, we quietly say that we saw it coming and should have stepped in to help.

But when a soldier dies in a motorcycle accident on a Thursday afternoon, when he is smart and happy and safe and then dead, we say nothing because we are sure there has been some mistake.

Contributors' Notes More about this issue's authors.
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