River Teeth Journal Issue 19.2

May 2, 2018

River Teeth Journal Issue 19.2
Table of Contents 

Editor's Notes Dan Lehman

Spread the word and shop for the birthday gifts! River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative is a teenager no longer! Our nineteenth volume closes with the issue you hold or are reading onscreen. And so we stride into our twentieth year by publishing what we believe to be the best and most consistently interesting journal dedicated to nonfiction: essays, memoir, literary reporting, craft and critical monographs, and all those delicious nonfictional variations too interesting to pin down.

Of course we feel that way; otherwise, why do this?

Continue reading...

"Hawks and Other Flying Things" Suzanne Roberts

“Who gets brain tumors?” you ask me, the ocean, God.

The only answer is You do. You did. But I just shake my head while the ocean rumbles and God stays silent.

A fisherman catches a gull on his line. The bird is frantic, swooping with jerky motions, straining against the line. Another gull flies nearby, screaming. The man tries to catch the trapped gull, and I watch as if my life depends on it.

"Beyond the Jordan" Heather M. Surls

Something about flying a kite—it brings freedom to the soul. The fine string between your fingers sets your sights on things above. Earthly things dissolve. You know, things like blockades, no electricity, no medical supplies, no materials to rebuild your bombed-out house. Things like tense relationships, miscommunications, and regional unrest.

"Users and Their Words: Wrestling with John D'Agata" Thomas Larson

I suppose it was inevitable. The age of self-disclosure—memoir writing, celebrity tweets, one-person Broadway shows, suicide-bomber’s goodbye videos—has hastened one editor’s need to proclaim a new hegemony for that intractable thing we call the essay.

"Before We Were Human" Wendy Bone


Those warm chocolaty eyes, the wispy tuft of hair, and sweet expression so like my own daughter’s when she was a baby made me want to protect and nurture it, especially now that my arms were empty, my only child grown and gone. My daughter had her own life, and I was free to travel deep, far, and long—at least a year, maybe more. Captivated by the image of the baby orangutan, I sold everything I owned and bought a one-way ticket.

"The Babysitter" Anton DiSclafani


I try and remember what was required of me. No TV was an unspoken rule. When I babysat there were no smartphones. There were only blocky flip phones, used in case of emergency. It was only me, the child, the clock on the wall.

“It was boring,” I tell Mat. “But then you love the babies.”

“Really?” Mat asks. He didn’t even start to notice other babies until after Pete was born. “But they’re not yours,” he says.

He is correct. They’re not yours. But for a while you think they are.

"Let Patsy R.I.P." Mark Beaver


…right next to the front porch, lies the grave where James buried his wife, whom he affectionately calls Mama.

It’s marked by a headstone, wide as a marriage bed and already carved with both their names, because he plans to be put to rest here too. Silk flowers sit atop the monument. More sprout from vases on either side. Each vase features two interlocking wedding rings. It’s a perfect set-up, arranged just the way James wanted it, except for one thing.

Mama is no longer in her grave.

"Life's Not a Paragraph: A Literary Love Story" Jill Christman


Bar games are all about asses, aren’t they? Pool, foosball, darts. So many circles, so many arrows. There are eight guys behind me, including my future husband, and before I stretch up to give that dart at the top of the twenty a good, firm yank, I position my feet in their two-inch wedge heels just right, feeling the heat from their eyes warm my jeans like I’m sitting on a dryer. I twirl around fetchingly. “Britney Spears or Gwen Stefani?”

“The Ana Files" Bonnie Cisneros


When I hear Nirvana or Lush or the Pixies or the Breeders, I revisit the years when Ana’s mom dropped her off with us, saying she’d send money (rarely) and visit (never). Our lives were highlighted with the headtrip intensity of female adolescent friendship, the kind of connection that foreshadows how fucking beautiful the world is, with all the endless possibilities unwinding like the shiny ribbon out of an overplayed cassette tape. Times when all you want to do is hang out, daydream, laugh, go places, find a better way.

"Requiem for the Fall" Carol D. Marsh


I was once a teenager who learned about the bombing of Hiroshima and then went home to dinner. Before we ate, my mother, in a longtime tradition, lit a candle. A taper in a bottle. The six of us, four kids seated on the longer sides of the rectangular wood table, my parents opposite each other at the ends, in the blue kitchen with my sister’s framed embroidery on the wall: No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best... 

"The Twelve-Hundred-Pound Vegetarian" Emily Sinclair

The women who worked at the ranch wore tooled leather belts and dusty boots. In the air was the grassy smell of hay, the warm flesh scent of the horses, and the pungent, ammoniac odor of urine. I didn’t know why, but I loved it. I was dizzy. I wanted in the club. I wanted to be like these women, who seemed pragmatic and unflappable. I wanted to be myself and, also, to become someone else. To do that, I was going to have to climb on top of a twelve-hundred-pound vegetarian, an animal, I saw for the first time, who lived in terror, with one eye on either side of its head, a creature who, despite its mass and size, is also prey and knows it.

"Here Comes Arialia" Alia Volz

Aria lives on the East Coast, whereas I’ve recently returned to San Francisco, an hour south of our former stomping grounds. Now she wants to fly cross-country for the reunion of a high school we barely attended. It’s absurd. But the promise of a visit from my old partner in crime is enough to get me interested.

“You realize we’re not going to know anybody,” I say.

“I know,” she laugh-screams. “That’s the whole fucking point.”

"Weekend Monk (In Ordinary Time)" Tom Montgomery Fate

After my five-minute orientation was over, I had a “What am I doing here?” moment. Was I some ridiculous wannabe monk? I wasn’t Catholic, didn’t know how to pray or cross myself or bless myself with holy water, or chant psalms melodically, or bow at the right times, or anything else. In spite of this ignorance, I still wondered if I might have a spiritual epiphany of some sort during my four-day stay—as if I could schedule, and recognize, such a revelation.

Contributors' Notes

 

More about this issue's authors.

 

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* Photos for "Hawks and Other Flying Things," "Before We Were Human" (by Brettany Cook Webster), and "The Twelve-Hundred-Pound Vegetarian" provided by the authors. 

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