Redivider releases their spring 2012 issue loaded with a mix of strong and diverse works of fiction and poetry. From the absurd to the tragic, this issue was a pleasure to read from beginning to end.
“After School” by Matthew Baker is about two siblings waiting for their mother to pick them up after school. Time goes by, but their mother never shows up. Something is wrong. The youngest sibling, our narrator, thinks that maybe their mother simply forgot and is out getting groceries. His older sister, a teenage girl who suffers from scoliosis, disagrees: “Maybe she met someone cute at a vegetable stand down the road and then eloped to Switzerland.” Brother and sister then set out to find their mother but feel increasingly isolated when they find their home empty. Their search goes on, but their childhood is ultimately shattered by the end of the story and left me feeling emotionally drained. I enjoyed the tone of this young narrator. His voice has the inexperience of youth, but under the surface is a growing adult consciousness that is inspiring yet incredibly tragic.
“A Collection of Favorite Holidays” by Anna Prushinskaya reads like a letter to a man who grew up in Soviet Russia. The author lists famous Soviet holidays, such as Cosmonaut’s Day and International Women’s Day, and reminds the man of his memories of those holidays and his father. The nature of the letter quickly becomes intensely personal as the boy grows up into a man living in America who can’t afford to travel back to the old country to visit his father. Instead he calls his father every Saturday and the author turns this into a new holiday called “Saturday Calling Your Father.” Pleasant memories turn to tragedy when the extreme distance between father and son separates them further apart with every passing day: “In the silences you heard the distance vibrate in the phone lines, the familial bonds stretched thin and ready to snap.” It is a unique work of fiction which at times I forgot was fiction and thought was a personal essay. Other times, I thought it was a work of prose poetry. Whatever this is, it is a great read.
Perhaps the quirkiest work of fiction I have ever read is Darrin Doyle’s absurd tale “If the Invisible Man Dies and Nobody Sees It, Does He Really Die?” It is about an old man writing a book about the exploits of his youth as a renowned boxer in the year 1983, “A year of cool dancing and cool coke.” He has an affair with an older woman, who just so happens to be the wife of his manager. As it turns out, his manager recently became invisible:
Picture it. A hot dog in a bun, smothered in kraut and ketchup. Now the hot dog floats off the table, hangs in mid-air. WHAT?? Then a chunk rips loose and gets mangled and mashed and pulverized before your eyes. I felt like I was on some Superman acid.
What makes this story even stranger is the fact that it reads like the rough draft of a manuscript. Whole paragraphs and sentences are crossed out (as well as the original title which reads “I Boxed KO’d Killed the Invisible Man”), and the author’s personal notes are scattered throughout the story like a side plot; they are funny without being distracting from the main plot. This story was completely bonkers and a blast to consume.
One of my favorite poems in this issue comes from Denise Duhamel, who picks apart a famous Shirley Temple movie in “The Littlest Rebel.” The speaker admits to being addicted to the child star’s movies as a little girl, but now sees them differently through the lens of an educated adult. She takes issue with the film’s lack of attention to slavery, racism, and a country at war with itself and relates the ending with a heavy dose of cynicism:
The film ends with Shirley singing
everything went wrong but it turned out right,
polly-wolly-doodle all day.
The civil war is still on. Lincoln hasn’t yet been shot,
which would have certainly made Shirley sad.
But her father says southerners never cry—
they just have raindrops in their eyes.
It’s certainly a controversial film by today’s standards, but that song is still pretty darn catchy. You can’t go wrong by reading this poem and all the other works in this issue of Redivider. So go on and read it yourself. You won’t be disappointed.