In this issue, a lot of the pieces seem to deal with a void, something missing. Take “Absence” by Sarah Clayville: “You only wake for silence. The absence of a baby’s cry, the silence of my womb no more capable of speaking up to you than I am.” And “Eating Now” by Andy Cochran: “I consider telling him how I woke up hearing her voice. How it faded. How losing her voice felt like losing her all over again.” And Marchell Dyon’s poem: “Sometimes I wish I could be as vacant from emotions as the moon. / To be just another spirit free to wander.”
But in Julianne Pachico’s “Cancer Pirates,” instead of a vacuum, there’s something unwanted: a tumor growing on the prostate of the main character’s boyfriend. In the end, “she pressed herself against his body as hard as she could, hard enough so that there was maybe a tiny chance she could squish it out of him, just like that. Squish it hard.” Yet throughout the story, it seems as if what’s missing is a real connection between the couple. She doesn’t quite pay attention to his stories, it hints that she drinks too much, and there seems to be a large age gap. Does his cancer cause her to stay with him? Or is the disconnect a result of the cancer?
This issue also publishes the winners of the Midsummer Tale Writing Contest, judged by Editor-in-Chief Theryn Fleming, with the theme “Retreat/Encounter.” You can read HC Hsu’s cnf piece “As I Walk Out One Evening,” which is broken into sections of encounters; Hsu is observant of his surroundings, describing each person he comes across in detail. In the final section, he writes to a “you,” an assumed past lover. This section is the most relatable and personal, as it’s a feeling many of us have come across:
I watch you. I don’t see your face. It’s a strange feeling, as if I were no longer me, or were somewhere else completely, or I had simply disappeared, evaporated, from here and now. It occurs to me I had never up until then, seen you. In your completeness.
In your solitude.
I wonder what you are like without me.
Yourself plus the world minus me.
You can also read second place, “Hell is a Dry Heat” by Chris DeWildt, and third place, “Summer Fruits” by Pauline Wiles—both fiction. And beyond that, there’s still plenty more to read. If you, like the characters in this issue, feel a void, something missing, fill it by reading this literature.