A short story, a piece of flash fiction, and the winners of the magazine’s 16th National Poet Hunt are the cream of the crop in this issue of The MacGuffin, which comes out three times a year at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan.
The short story is Guinotte Wise’s “Cold Beer,” a perfectly realized tale of a self-absorbed 15-year-old boy’s scary introduction to the real world. Jeff starts the day digging a hole for a septic tank at his uncle’s farm. A sexy young woman walks into his life, and they get drunk together. But before he can properly sober up, she’s gone. Maybe she’s at the bottom of that hole he dug, now suspiciously filled. Maybe his uncle killed her. In any case, I’ll be keeping an eye out for more work by Wise, a Kansas City-area writer, welded-steel sculptor and advertising creative director.
My favorite of several flash fiction pieces is Christine Kramer’s “Letting It Fly.” Less than a week after the death of their father, Linda realizes that brother Richie plans to turn Papa’s beloved tomato greenhouse into a marijuana farm. She finds a sledgehammer in the tool shed and sets out to prevent the desecration. In less than a thousand words, we learn all we need to know about this scarred family and the strength that enables Linda to settle scores and move on from her violent, lying, abusive, whiskey-smelling brother. Kramer, in addition to writing well, runs an online gallery that spotlights Central Ohio artists.
Retired community college teacher Barbara Saunier began writing poetry only in 2005. The speaker of her winning poem, “My Body, This Aging Cheese,” is Gaugin’s model for a painting once criticized as “homely and vulgar.” The poem’s strengths are its fidelity to the physicality of its subject, and its refusal of sentimentality. Looking out of the canvas at her critics, the model says:
This curdled lap,
these clotted breasts slough
their tuts and rancid glances.
If our intent had been a pose, I’d have
sat this unmade bed like a throne.
Saunier is represented by a second fine poem, “When the Same Christmas Card Arrives From the Same Friend Two Years Running.” Honorable Mentions are “The Color of Pleasure” by Liza Young, and “Hunger Moon” by Sharron Singleton all selected by Michigan poet Terry Blackhawk, judge.
Other notable work in this issue includes short stories by Vishwas R. Gaitonde, “The Lady Who Drank Mouthwash,” and Lawrence F. Farrar, “Sunshine and a Bit Warmer”; poems “Dixie” by Camille Stranger, and “The Sixth Floor” by Jennifer Dorfman;” and Angie Pickman’s cut-paper art on the cover and inside.