Tributaries, The New Nature: “Breadcrumbs”

By Chelsea Catherine

I wake up to a vision of her sitting on the floor of my bedroom, her back pressed to the door. Her hair curls around her ears, the color of sunlight. She sits with her knees bent in an oversized grey sweater that pools around her naked thighs. Her hands are covered. I can’t see the engagement ring her fiancé gave her.

“Come here,” I tell her.

A cool breeze flutters in from the open window, fluttering the curtain. I turn towards it. The last dredges of winter still linger on the glass, tiny trails of frost. When I look back at the door, she’s gone.

+++

        At work, she’s the same as in my vision, always there and then gone—flitting out to meetings, legislative sessions, and lunches with senators and lobbyists. She calls me “Rockstar” when I show her my completed tasks. She bellows when I tell her jokes, and wears heels that stab the tiled floor as she walks. Mornings, she slices apples and smears them with organic peanut butter, the smell of it wafting from her office so often I start associating it with her.

The office space seems larger when she’s gone. Quiet and dank and dark. One Friday, I cry after she leaves and can’t figure out why. In afternoons when she’s away, I place snack sized Snickers on her computer for her to eat when she returns. Like little breadcrumbs luring her back to me.

+++

        “We’re closing on the house August first,” she tells my coworker the day after my vision. They sit in her office, reviewing bills. It’s seventy degrees outside, much too hot for a spring day in Vermont. I pull at the collar of my blouse, sweat etching my neck.

“How far a drive?”

“Just fifteen minutes.”

Heat blazes. I shift, turning my music up louder so I can’t hear them talking. The noise quiets them, and I can feel when her gaze turns to me. She can always hear my music, who I’m speaking to, everything I’m doing. We sit ten feet apart five days a week, and there’s still so much distance between us.

+++

        After she leaves for the day, I wander into her office. Her heeled boots are at the door, wedged up against the black filing cabinet. I grab hold of the end of one and try it on, but halfway through my foot gets stuck. Too small.

Sunlight slips through the window, warming my back even though the grass outside is still yellow and the river clots with ice.

I place the boot back on the floor. It feels like I keep picking up pieces of her and trying them on, but none stick. She already has her life—her fiancé, her new house, her fancy job. There’s no space left for me.

I linger a moment longer before making my way out.


Chelsea Catherine is a queer writer living in Vermont. She is a PEN Short Story Prize Nominee, winner of the Raymond Carver Fiction contest in 2016, a Sterling Watson fellow, and an Ann McKee grant recipient. Her short story collection ISABEL was a finalist for the 2018 Katherine Ann Porter prize. Her novella, “Blindsided” won the Clay Reynolds novella competition and will be published in the fall of 2018.



Tributaries, The New Nature: “Pigeonblood”

By Shaun Turner

Bette wrung the white cotton tees out into her big iron wash bucket then pinned them to the line with a set of rusty clothespins as she watched the bloody pigeon land hard at one of the wash lines. The nearly-dying pigeon hung to her rope and she couldn’t bear to leave it. Why a pigeon, this far away from a big city? And why was its eye missing?

It landed with a soft thunk—–the bloody pigeon– —and Bette felt the tension; it waved the thin sisal rope she strung between her single-wide mobile home and the sugar maple—–the only tree on the acre of land she rented from her elderly great-aunt.

Two dresses fell from the line. Bette cursed under her breath quiet. She was used to hard work: been taking in the laundry for a few folks from Grogan First Baptist then news spread by word of mouth. Now, every family in the community, it seemed, sent her their laundry. She had two more loads to dry, and one left to hang, and the morning was half-over at 10:40. And then to rewash the dresses.

When she was a kid, the whole community was farms and churches. Now, new trailers and small houses lined the highway.

She watched the bloody pigeon with rapt attention. The bird lacked an eye: one a dark hole while the other stared suspicious. Its torn down wing left a jagged red gap against its gray chest. Maybe a neighborhood cat had grabbed hold. Maybe the pigeon fought it off.

Bette leaned her back against the sugar maple, sap and bits of bark tickling the nape of her neck, almost a break. She hadn’’t always wanted to be a laundress. But her parents were in their forties when she was born. They started getting sick when she was a senior in high school. And so she stayed until all she had was bills to pa–y—a house foreclosed on. She knew she could housekeep, launder.

Bette watched the bloody pigeon tremble with breath, kept her sight fixed on the pigeon until the its one good eye closed shut. She felt like she was going crazy. Fabric slapped together in the wind.

Bette leaned into the wind and let its force pull her hair up around her ears and into her face. Between the strands of black she could barely see the pigeon’s red blood shining under the sun.

A bubble rose in her chest, like hope or a soft scream. Her body felt like the dozens of shirts on her line, now fighting and tangled. Bette pulled her hair back and wished she could climb up the sugar maple like a kid, up and higher until her trailer and the lines of wash looked like a ship at sea. Higher until she could see past the rows of trailers on her aunt’s old farmland. Higher like she and the bird had almost switched places—–she’d have the sky. She’d open her good eye and then, screaming, spread her bloody wings.


Shaun Turner serves as fiction editor for Stirring: A Literary Collection, and co-editor at Fire Poetry Journal. He is the author of ‘The Lawless River: Stories’ (Red Bird Chapbooks). His writing has been selected as a finalist in Best Small Fictions 2018, and can found in New South, Appalachian Heritage, and FRiGG Magazine, among others. Shaun earned his MFA at West Virginia University.



Tributaries, The New Nature: “Bus Stop”

By Donna Miscolta

It’s eight a.m. and I’m at the bus stop in my mostly white neighborhood in my mostly white city. I’m reading a book by a Latino novelist as I wait for the Rapid Ride that will carry me past dying motels and new mid-rise apartment blocks into downtown. I don’t look up as the bus stop crowd grows with the regulars. We’ve never spoken because that’s how we roll in this city. Surely, I’m familiar to them. Surely, I stand out. Or maybe, they “don’t see color.”

I’m used to it – the whiteness of this neighborhood, and my brownness in its whiteness. I’ve lived here over forty years after growing up in a mostly brown neighborhood. When I see another person of color on my streets, there’s a jolt of recognition and a simultaneous urge to suppress it, like maybe we’re not supposed to acknowledge each other too outwardly. Or maybe, I just don’t know the protocol.

I sense people behind me so I glance over my shoulder. I don’t make eye contact, but at some level, it registers that they are people of color and I give a mental thumbs-up that is visible to absolutely no one. I go back to reading about a millennial who leaves behind his Texas upbringing and Latino surname to make it in the New York fashion world of privilege, but soon there is pacing behind me and mutterings about “over your shoulder.” I should be paying more attention, but I keep reading about the protagonist struggling with identity and disillusionment. Something splashes the back of my legs and feet. It’s July and I’m wearing capris and sandals. I turn and see the puddle, foam dying at its edges, the smell of beer rising from the sidewalk. A can rolls hollowly on the ground. As her boyfriend studies his phone, a young woman looks at some imagined point of interest through black-framed glasses, not unlike mine.

“Why did you do that?” I say.

“Accident,” she says, smirking at her own bullshit.

“No,” I say, “why did you do that?” I step forward for an answer.

Suddenly she’s in my face. I watch up close the movement of her penciled brows, gold ringed- septum, bared teeth, and neck tattoo as she hisses, “Fucking bitch, you know what you did.”

It occurs to me that she could punch me in the face. Yet, I don’t lean away. I tell her I don’t know what I did – that she has to tell me. I stand there. We breathe each other’s air.

Finally, she spins away, still insisting that I fucking know what I did. I take a step again. “Look, if I offended you, it wasn’t intentional.”

She’s not having it. She paces back and forth, swearing under her breath. I wonder what to do next. I turn, see the white people at the bus stop, watching, waiting for the violence to happen.

**

Donna Miscolta is the author of the story collection Hola and Goodbye: Una Familia in Stories (Carolina Wren Press, 2016). Hola and Goodbye was selected by Randall Kenan for the Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman. It also won an Independent Publisher Gold Medal for Best Regional Fiction and a silver medal in the International Latino Book Awards for Best Latino Focused Fiction. She is also the author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced (Signal 8 Press, 2011). She has stories forthcoming in Moss and Blood Orange, and contributes book reviews to the Seattle Review of Books.


Tributaries, The New Nature: “On Monsoons”

By Oliver de la Paz


1. I said to him, “Look at the rainbow.”

2. We were walking and the road ran parallel to the light.

3. Because it was hot we knew about storms.

4. In my country, when it is stormy all the pots come out of the kitchens.

5. I let go of the fantasy that colors would appear if I squinted and looked at the sun.

6. Here there are no words for this—the double rainbow. The rain and the sun simultaneously.

7. Sometimes the fish would come to the road.

8. The children would gather them up in their shirts.

9. All day their bodies would glisten from scales.

10. I was taken by the mouths opening and closing for air.

11. Desperation is duplicable—we would hold our breaths and act like swimmers thrashing to breathe.

12. So many streams would have to be crossed.

13. Streams of this sort are impermeable.

14. Streams are metaphor.

15. I dreamt my son had walked the roads of my childhood holding an umbrella over his head.

16. Neither the sun nor rain could ever pierce it.

17. Water filling the pots along the alleyway in time to the rain beating on the cloth of the umbrella.

18. The petrichor, a sudden topic of conversation.

19. Many naked bathers beneath the eaves.

20. The rain snaking down their torsos.

21. We enter the vapor of the evaporating water.

22. We breeze through it, in a hurry.

23. Storms are a metaphor.

24. Children are metaphors.

25. There is a bright nimbus through the opacity of clouds.

26. I was watching the air between my child and my mouth filled with inscrutable waters.

27. The pots are musical because they are in unison.

28. Simultaneous clatter. The pots and the palpations of rain against an umbrella.

29. One day there were fish and the next they were taken back to the sea.

30. The light, which had been pursuing us all day amplified the pooled water.

31. Liquid on liquid became a coalescing theme.

32. And then we emerged.


Oliver de la Paz is the author of four collections of poetry, Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby (SIU Press 2001, 2007), and Requiem for the Orchard (U. of Akron Press 2010), winner of the Akron Prize for poetry chosen by Martìn Espada, and Post Subject: A Fable (U. of Akron Press 2014). He is the co-editor with Stacey Lynn Brown of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry (U. of Akron Press 2012). He co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Asian American Poetry and serves on the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Board of Trustees. A recipient of a NYFA Fellowship Award and a GAP Grant from Artist Trust, his work has appeared in journals like Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, Tin House, Chattahoochee Review, and in anthologies such as Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation. He teaches at the College of the Holy Cross and in the Low-Residency MFA Program at Pacific Lutheran University.