Honestly, it was hard to read Natalie McAllister’s “Lump Sum,” but not because it was hard to follow. What do you do when you don’t like the narrator? He’s going through grief as he holds a secret about his health—that he may not be around much longer. But this aside, he’s abusive to his dog, yells at his son, and keeps secrets from his wife. Yet, with the carefully crafted lines, how can you not read it? By the end of the story, the narrator is almost at a level where you can sympathize with him, that he has a large tumor on his chest:
That’s when it grows the fastest—in the nights. My skin stretching against the building mass of mutated cells. I feel them seeping into my blood, moving up to my heart and out to my fingertips, my lungs, my brain. I put my fingers around it and squeeze it in to keep it from growing out, but it moves down, down, down.While I wasn’t taken with the title of Linda Davis’s “What To Expect When You’re Expecting,” I was taken with the twist and the piece itself. Written in the second person, this piece focuses on adopting a daughter from Russia—that’s right, expecting a baby to be adopted, not born. Each character in the story is referred to by a non-descriptive “Husband,” or, in the case of “your” children, Dyslexia, Autistic, and Adopted. Perhaps this is to make the story universal, but then again, how many of us are mother to a dyslexic child and an autistic child and ready to adopt? Perhaps, instead, it’s a means of distancing: “you’re stuck in your I-can’t-attach-because-I-want-to-be-prepared-for-the-worst space.” It’s most definitely worth a read.
Lia Greenwell’s poem “Fourth of July, Brooklyn” looks at the fireworks show under a different light, starting with “fireworks in the city / are red and weeping.” Instead of awe and amazement, the narrator notices the bats amidst the smoke, “a sheet / of fog / until the whiteness // lies on the sky like a bruise.” I enjoy the point of view and the short, punchy lines: “Some are big // as shoes, others / like darts shooting through.”
While environment may be a theme of the journal in general, I think it’s a pretty loose interpretation, meaning that almost any type of story could fit. But that isn’t to say that any piece of work could be accepted; the work presented here is polished, and is worth reading.