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2013 Fiction Prize Finalist: “Wildflowers” by Lisa Beebe

“Wildflowers”

2013 Fiction Prize Finalist

I am tired of data, tired of spreadsheets, tired of life, but I have to be at work in forty-five minutes. Half awake, I put on my glasses, and notice something strange on my arm. Little spots. No, not spots. Strange dark hairs. No, not hairs either. My eyes focus. Plants are growing out of my skin.

“This can’t be good,” I say to myself. I don’t freak out, though. I’ve always been hairy. The little sprouts feel like a new kind of hair, another sign of getting older that I hadn’t known to expect.

I go into the bathroom, poke around in the drawer under the sink, and find the tweezers. I choose a stem at random, one near my left wrist, and pluck it out.

Mary-Mother-of-Jesus-in-a-Bathtub, that hurt.

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Ten Things We Wish Never Ended

Like sand through the hour glass, time is almost up to submit to our general submissions and fiction contest. The deadline looms. We are talking days here, people!

Still unsure about submitting to our fiction contest? Did you know Roxane Gay is our Judge?
Check out the contest guidelines here.

So, you’re not a fiction writer? Or don’t want to submit to our contest? We would still love to see your work.
Check out our general guidelines here.

But enough with the business. In closing, we offer 10 things we wish never ended or disappeared. Also, by “We” I mean me (Paul), and my former selves.

10. Dawson’s Creek:

Dear Diary, I don’t want to wait for our lives to be over, I want to know right now, what will it be? I have so many questions, like, what ever happened to Paula Cole? Where are Joey and Pacey now? Is anyone reading my alternate ending to the season 2 finale on my LiveJournal? Actually, maybe I am glad this ended. Yikes.

dawsonscreek

9. Magic Eye (Warning, Possible Eye Strain):

The year is 1993. The world is small and full of magic. My eyes are normal. My life is normal. My parents are not divorced and I am enjoying a Happy Meal that comes with a Hot Wheels toy. Ah, memories.

This is the worst. Onward!

magiceye

8. MTV Spring Break 1998:

It’s tearin’ up my heart when I’m with you, Carson Daly. Remember TRL? Limp Bizkit? Body Shots in Jamaica? I think the real question is, how was this rated PG? And, what does PG even mean? I remember that time Korn – Freak On A Leash beat N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears. Actually I think that was 1999.

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7. Sega Game Gear TV Tuner:

Before the digital days, the portable Sega Genesis TV Tuner was the only thing keeping me alive during our family road trips across the country. I remember reading Electric Gaming Monthly and obsessing over the AD for the TV Tuner. Mom, please? PLEASE. This thing destroyed batteries though. Like 6 hours of lemmings and you’re done.

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6. Legends of the Hidden Temple:

That Temple Run, right? Silver Snakes. Blue Barracudas. Purple Parrots. Do you hear that alliteration? According to a 2007 poll in the Springfield, Illinois State Journal-Register, ten percent of respondents said that Legends of the Hidden Temple was their “favorite ‘old school’ Nickelodeon show”(Wikipedia). I miss these game shows. I miss the Steps of Knowledge. Also the shitty prizes, like a Super Soaker 50 or Moon Shoes. What a disappointment.

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5. KaZaA:

If you’ve made it this far, click here to win two free iPod nanos. Just by reading this your computer is now infected with malware. Remember people who would make shitty ID3 tags? Like, you’d download that mp3, open WinAmp, and it would look like: ~*(Nelly)*~ {RiDe WiTh mE}. Why? Why did you do that? What do you mean there are no seeds for this song and only 5 peers? #damn.
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4. Ecto Cooler:
If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Probably Mr. Davidson. He’s the captain of the neighborhood watch. Always sitting on his porch, watching people from his house on the corner. Always watching, waiting, plotting. What an angry man. Well at least he always handed out these juice boxes on Halloween. Mom didn’t appreciate that too much. Something about how i’d run around the house like a bat out of hell. Sorry, Mom.

ectocooler

3. Goosebumps books:

I’ve always wondered what R.L. stands for. And I think, after all these years, I’ve figured it out. [R]alph [L]auren Stine. #NailedIt I don’t think I ever read a Goosebumps book, but I sure made my mom buy them for me. I was always more of a Boxcar Children kind of guy. Who stole $20 dollars from the register in the morning, and put it back in the afternoon? Why is grandpa such a dick? Isn’t this just like Scooby-Doo? Anyways, not a fan of SAY CHEESE and DIE! or psycho thrillers for kids. Sorry, maybe Stine just isn’t the writer for me. However, he makes a nice polo. I’ll give him that.

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2. Hairagami:

I never had the hair for this growing up. I’ve never bought anything from a television infomercial. Though, I do struggle to open pickle jars from time to time. And I do enjoy brownies that have chewy edges. Can you imagine the things you would buy if you had a credit card when you were like 12? Let’s say something cringe worthy like, Ode to the possibilities!

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1. LA GEAR Shoes:

A lot of people talk about retro Jordan’s being the hottest shoes on the market. Why is no one talking about LA GEAR? These shoes are the best way to light up a room. ha. I actually don’t know what I’d do if I saw an adult wearing light up shoes. Probably assume they’re going to one of those dance clubs where Snooky and Pauly D are coming for a night. Probably wearing too much Cool Water. Probably driving a red Toyota Celica with white stripes and spinners. Maybe I’m wrong though. I’m wrong a lot of the time.

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Laura Spence-Ash’s “The Remains”

Lately, my Christmas list consists of a series of subscriptions to lit journals, and this year I was lucky enough to get One Story—and even luckier that the first booklet that landed in my mailbox was Laura Spence-Ash’s “The Remains.” Spence-Ash tells the story of Mrs. Constantine in five distinct sections, from five points-of-view, none of them Mrs. Constantine’s. We meet the main character, in fact, by meeting her corpse, which has been decaying in her half of a Queens duplex for months. One of the remarkable and memorable components of this piece is the care and attention Spence-Ash brings to her choice of characters who fill out the—well, the remains—of Mrs. Constantine.

The cast includes a spectrum of familiarity to the woman, and in that way, a spectrum of peculiarity when we remember that Mrs. Constantine’s remains have gone unnoticed for nearly a year. The police sergeant who discovers her and the reluctant seamstress who used to do her alterations could hardly be blamed for not realizing the woman hasn’t been around in some time. But when Spence-Ash introduces Mrs. Constantine’s next door neighbor, a young mother who admits to herself that she smelled something strange earlier in the year, I began to question my own passivity and the ease with which we can explain away truths that are uncomfortable. Spence-Ash raises the stakes with Bob MacMillan, Mrs. Constantine’s old boss, who called the police when she stopped showing up to work, but has quietly resigned to her absence. In a heartbreaking final section, we meet Mrs. Constantine’s ex-husband, a man who has moved on where the dead woman could not.

“The Remains” captures brief moments and realizations that each of these characters go through, pulling together deft outlines of what the lonely death means for them all, while also constructing a subtle portrait of the deceased. Perhaps my favorite part of this story, however—which I first read in January and think about and re-read regularly—is the little note in Ms. Spence-Ash’s bio which informs us that “this is her first published story.”

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The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri or: How to Find a Good Book at the Airport

Warning: This review contains no spoilers. Viewer discretion advised.

[I’ve got that summertime, summertime sadness…]

It’s 8:54 AM on a Thursday in July and I’m standing in a Hudson Book Sellers at Chicago Midway Airport.

In 25 minutes I’ll be departing for Las Vegas.

In 25 minutes it will be me and Lana Del Rey cruising Southwest Airlines, eating hard shitty pretzels, and wondering why this Bachelors Party had to be in Vegas.

But for now it’s me and Cindy. Cindy, who is working the morning shift at this Hudson Book Sellers.

Midway Airport is like the Mos Eisley of Airports. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. One must be cautious when flying.

But here I am, with a bag of McDonald’s Hash Browns, looking for a book to read before I lose myself to Sin City.

I should have known better.

Why I would find a book worthy of a 4 hour flight? What good can possibly come from a Hudson’s Book Sellers?

The usual players are displayed neatly in the window:

Now Boarding:

James Patterson: Row 1, Seat A.
Elizabeth Gilbert: Row 1, Seat B.
Nicholas Sparks: Row 1, Seat C.
John Green: Row 1, Seat D.

Paul Asta Row 26, Seat E.*

*In reality I am B46, because Southwest does that weird non-assigned seats thing.

I am taking coach to a whole new level of sadness, and we’ve been sad for a long time.

The Fault in Our Stars is flying off the shelves at a record pace. It’s the paperback of the summer, and I’ve seen at least 6 copies as I walk to my terminal.

But then, in the darkest corner, behind a cardboard standup display for Trident Gum, I see it:

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST.
PULITZER PRIZE WINNER.

Friends, I tell you, even in darkness, there is hope: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

In truth, I have never read anything by Jhumpa Lahiri before, so I cannot speak to how the Lowland compares to her other work.

But I will say I find her prose engaging, face paced, and lively. And it is perhaps for this reason I am willing to overlook certain points where things don’t add up.

I am a sucker for coming of age stories and stories that concern brothers.

I am a sucker for character driven narratives as opposed to plot driven ones.

I appreciate characters that can show emotional complexity over a span of time and represent a full spectrum of feelings as opposed to having singular drives.

In this way, I believe Lahiri is successful.

If you’re looking for an emotional, character driven novel, The Lowland is for you.

Also, possibly The Fault in Our Stars, but I don’t know.

All I can say is If you’re looking for book at Hudson’s, look in the corners of the bookshelves. There’s something for everyone.

The fault is you not looking hard enough.

An Interview With Dana Johnson

We’re just past the halfway point of our submissions period for Indiana Review’s 2012 Fiction Prize, which will be judged by Dana Johnson, author of Elsewhere, California and Break Any Woman Down.  If you’re unfamiliar with Dana’s work, you should put down that copy of IR (just for a little bit) and pick up one of her books.

Recently, I got the chance to ask Dana a few questions about the many ways stories can succeed and fail, and about the importance of literary journals like IR.  My favorite line from her responses:  “I don’t have the patience for stories that are clever but have no heart.”

I’m going to have that printed on my business cards.

Here’s the entire interview with Dana:

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