Response: Wild

Editor Kirsten Larson, Editor's Choice, August 24th, 2015

“When he pulls the knife, I remind him I’m already dead.”

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In our monthly Response Column, NAILED asks readers to respond to a particular word or topic. We are seeking raw, honest personal responses that aim less to answer questions and more to raise them. Responses in the form of art, photography, essay, story, poem, and rant will all be considered for publication. September’s topic is FACEBOOK, please email your responses to Kirsten@NailedMagazine.com by September 21th, for publication at the end of the month. (Word count limit: 1,000 words.)

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Response: Wild

 

The Interview Shirt, by Kristen MacKenzie

It was forgotten at the bottom of my drawer, crumpled and musty, but when I picked it up and put it to my nose, I could still find the scent of you. The shirt is the woven cotton of a menswear dress shirt, but fitted at the bust on either side of the row of black buttons. The label is Victoria’s Secret and the bottom of the shirt ends in a mesh thong with little black plastic snaps in the crotch. I can’t see you wearing it, but I can imagine you buying it.

It wouldn’t have been your idea, of course. It would have been hers, the one who came before me and wore buttondowns from the men’s department. I can see the two of you curled on the sofa at her place, turning the pages of the latest catalog slowly, ogling the lingerie models with their airbrushed cleavage and impossibly perfect asses. You would both pretend to be offended by the objectification but would continue turning the pages anyway.

She would point to the business wear section, to the shirt now in my drawer, and offer to buy it for the big interview you had coming. In my jealous mind, she knows you well enough to reach across the glossy pages and ruffle your short hair, dark and thick. She tells you how good you’d look in a black dress shirt when most people would go with white. She’s right, too.

You’d agree to the shirt but buy it yourself, even knowing it was more than you could afford with no job; you have your pride. And you know this might just be your lucky shirt, the one that lands you the job that lets you stay here. It does, of course, because that’s how I found you.

Well, no. First, you had to get the office job for which the shirt with its hidden mesh secret worked out so perfectly. Then you had to lose that job and put the shirt on again, this time for a landscaping position. The shirt alone made you overqualified, but disarming, impossible to turn down. You never said why that position didn’t work out, but by the time you got to me, the shirt had earned the right to sit quietly on the shelf that served as your dresser.

When I met you, you wore a uniform, dark against that thick hair of yours, and the one who’d come before me was long gone. You didn’t have much time for me. You had your sights on the dream job that meant you’d never interview again; pension, health insurance, and enough money to make sugar mamas entirely unnecessary.

But there was just enough time to let me take that uniform off of you, plenty of time for me to fall in love, to dream of keeping you, to curl up on the couch with you and try to work up the nerve to stroke your hair. I never did.

And then you got the job, the one all the way across the country.

When you packed, you took the shirt off the shelf and held it to your chest before you handed it to me.

For luck, you said.

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Kristen MacKenzie lives on Vashon Island in a quiet cabin where the shelves are filled with herbs for medicine-making, the floor is open for dancing, and the table faces the ocean, waiting for a writer to pick up the pen. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Rawboned, GALA, Extract(s) Daily Dose of Lit, Maudlin House, Blank Fiction, Cease, Cows, Crack the Spine, and is included monthly in Diversity Rules. Pieces are forthcoming in Bluestockings, NAILED, Minerva Rising, MadHat Annual, and Crab Fat. Her short story, “Cold Comfort,” placed in Honorable Mention in The Women’s National Book Association’s annual writing contest.

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matteo nazzari photo nailed magazine

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Matteo Nazzari, born in Venice in 1977, holds a degree in Cultural Heritage to Archeology from the University Ca ‘Foscari of Venice and also attended the Roman School of Photography. He has had several solo and group exhibitions in Rome, Bologna, Paris, Barcelona, among others. He currently lives and works as a freelance photographer in Milan.

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Jeffrey Dahmer (by Meggie Royer)

used to live down the street from us

in Iowa, coincidentally where the horror movie

Children of the Corn was filmed.

When I sleep with a man who threatens

to kill me, I pretend to be ghost:

spine of smoke,

bird without backbone,

curser of chandeliers and front hall doors.

When he pulls the knife, I remind him

I’m already dead.

My former body strung up on meat hooks

in Dahmer’s basement, surrounded by stalks

in some golden field,

the search party already gone,

red sky wearing itself down to salt.

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Meggie Royer is a writer and photographer from the Midwest who is currently majoring in Psychology at Macalester College. Her poems have previously appeared in Words Dance MagazineThe Harpoon ReviewMelancholy Hyperbole, and more. She has won national medals for her poetry and a writing portfolio in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and was the Macalester Honorable Mention recipient of the 2015 Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Prize. Visit her: here.

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chona kasinger response wild nailed magazine

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Chona Kasinger is a Seattle based photographer and writer. Her past clients include Rolling Stone, MTV, Nylon and more.

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Unrestrained, by Jennifer Phelps

 

The first time my mother almost died, she lay in the hospital, brain injured with amnesia. She didn’t know where she was, but even in her confused state she refused to behave. Her determination to leave the hospital was unwavering.

Mom’s nurse greeted me with distress one day when I came to visit, told me if Mom wouldn’t stop trying to unhook herself from her IVs, she’d have to be restrained. Apparently Mom had pulled out her PICC line, the tip of which lies dangerously close to the heart. Rebelling in smaller ways, she repeatedly undid the Velcro straps that fastened her leg brace, throwing it on the floor. Whenever staff replaced it, she threw it again, over and over.

Her escape attempts escalated once Mom became more alert. Still disoriented, she called a cab from her hospital room, then strode into the corridor naked to take the taxi home. Another day she phoned me, telling a lie that the doctor had agreed to discharge her, wanting me to come pick her up. It turns out my father had refused a similar request before Mom called me. She was like a kid forging her parent’s signature on a permission slip; she’d have said anything to get out of there.

I had to laugh at the nurse’s implication that I could do something about Mom. My advice was to go ahead and restrain her. Mom wasn’t going to listen to me or anyone else. She was feral.

Although Mom’s behavior in the hospital was largely due her head trauma and her heavily medicated state, to those of us in her inner circle it was not surprising. Under a painstakingly applied lacquer of civility, Mom seethed with anger and indignation – directed at what, I’m not sure. She was always pissed off, fearful, defensive – and selfish. As a child I had almost daily encounters with her rage: Mom, barking expletives because a neighbor started up a noisy chainsaw. Mom, pantomiming blasting a shotgun at the jet airplane roaring overhead. “Bam! Bam!”

Others seldom caught sight of this side of her, although once in a while it slipped out unbidden. A piano teacher, one day Mom was driving to a student’s home to give a lesson. While stopped at a stoplight, a car behind her honked just as the light changed. Reflexively, Mom flipped the driver off, then checked her mirror and realized it was her student, the one whose house she was headed to. The honk had been to say hello. I’m sure the student was shocked, but that was the Mom I knew. Her first response was always fuck you.

About a decade after the head injury, Mom was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Back in the hospital for chemo, she was soon up to her old mischief, thanks to a sizable dose of morphine. Dad arrived one morning to find the oncology nurses haggard and frazzled. “She had a bad night,” one of them snapped.

A “bad night,” it turns out, involved Mom ripping out her PICC line and spilling toxic chemotherapy drugs on the floor, then stumbling to the bathroom and falling, all without calling for assistance. She had to be moved to a room across from the nurse’s station and a “sitter” assigned to her bedside to keep an eye on her.

There were times when I felt embarrassed that Mom wasn’t a better patient, more compliant. Now, though, after everything that happened – the tumors growing in spite of the drugs and radiation; the morphine, which it turns out she had a pretty serious adverse reaction to, putting her in a near vegetative state; the exasperating procession of well-meaning but utterly useless doctors and nurses – I’m glad Mom gave ‘em all hell. Maybe none of us are as civilized as we think we are. Maybe Mom was just being honest, being true to her flawed, fragile, wild self. Maybe she was just daring us to love her anyway.

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Jennifer lives in northern California, where she begins countless projects and then sets them all aside to write. Her poetry and personal essays have been published in the 2013 issues of the Santa Fe Literary Review and Blood and Thunder journal, The Hot Air Quarterly, and Trajectory journal.  Her writing has also been featured in Hair Pieces, the 2008 anthology of Sonoma County Writing Practice.  She contributes articles to local newspapers and to North State Parent magazine and blogs: here.  You can visit her website, here.

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jay torres response wild nailed magazine

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Jay Torres (1981) is a freelance illustrator currently based in Los Angeles. He is currently studying Illustration Design at Art Center College of Design, but is mostly self taught and began developing his aesthetic and skill at a young age. Although Jay works in various formats, his preferred medium is acrylic ink, graphite, and gouache. He has worked in the underground music scene in Los Angeles for quite some time, where he has designed show posters and fliers for venues such as The Smell as well as designed album covers for a variety of artists.

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A Night’s Work, by Benjamin DeVos

 

I watched the dognapper from my yard. He scooped up my neighbor’s Pomeranian with two gloves hands, and placed her in a black cage. Her name was Molly. She barked repeatedly, but everyone was used to that. I would have tried to save her, but I saw a revolver in his waistband. I was a vegan, not a martyr.

I ran through the woods behind my house, and followed him to his lodge in the middle of the forest. Peering through the window, I could see a watercolor canvas, several stacks of newspaper, and the cage. Molly looked comfortable enough, curled up by the fireplace. The dognapper poured her a bowl of milk. He spoiled her with treats and table scraps.

There was a police station up the road, but I wanted to handle this myself. I ran home, and went into the cellar where we kept all of the holiday supplies. There was a stack of fireworks that were leftover from the fourth of July, and I put those in a backpack with a utility lighter.

My neighbors were nasty people. They were the only family in the town who had a farm in their backyard. There were the chickens, which roosted every morning at dawn, and the Collies that howled at every passerby. Their pot belly pig was a neighborhood attraction. I didn’t care about the noise, though. My resentment was personal. The day after my mother died, they came over and made an offer to buy our house. I didn’t understand how a family of agrarians could be so cruel.

Molly was out of place among the farm animals, yet I felt a duty to bring her home. I crept up to the dognapper’s storm cellar, and rested several roman candles against it. I set them off when I saw that he was distracted trying to adjust the reception on his radio.  Their steady stream of upward shooting sparks lit the sky. I heard a stir, then the slight grind of metal as bolt left lock, and sprinted to the front door.

For a moment, I considered leaving Molly behind. She looked more content than I had ever seen her. There wasn’t a trace of melancholy on her face. Her eyes watered, but they always watered. I placed her in my backpack, and then took off into the night. She licked my hands as I ran. Maybe nobody deserved Molly, but she couldn’t survive by herself, in the wild. There were wolves in those woods. I’d seen them when I was a boy, and remembered how their yellow eyes looked under the full moon. If I set Molly free, she would be eaten by morning.

When my yard came into view, I noticed the red lights of a police car in the distance. I crawled with Molly on my back, and peered over the picket fence. My neighbor’s house was swarmed with cops. Some were taking pictures, some smoking cigarettes. A few took pictures with the chickens. I heard the muffled crying of my neighbor.

Then the officer said, “I don’t write the zoning codes, I just enforce them. The dogs can stay.”

“What about my Molly,” my neighbor replied. “You have to find her. We’re owed that much”

“We have our best men on it, ma’am.” said the officer.

Then I heard sound of panting, and Molly’s barks behind me. I turned around to see a wolf, baring his grey teeth, the yellow eyes. A head poked over the fence, one of the police officers.

“Captain, come quick! I’ve spotted the dognapper!”

“Look, there’s a wolf!” I cried, pointing at the darkness.

“Jesus, kid,” the officer replied. “Could you be any more cliché?”

I shared my cell with a man that had no eyebrows. He was a tall man, with hairy skin and a plaid shirt. He scowled at me crossly. This man did not like being put in a box. He was not used to boxes.

My father eventually bailed me out. He didn’t speak to me until we reached our driveway.

“Why did you do it?” he asked me.

“It was just a misunderstanding.” I said.

He shook his head, stepped out of the car, and said, “Well, Barnaby is going to be sleeping in my bedroom from now on. I just can’t trust you near him.” Then he went into the house.

Barnaby was my dad’s Boston terrier, and the most annoying dog on the planet. He was prone to walk across my crotch every time I watched television, and twice has peed on my bed. Both times my father blamed me.

As I unzipped my seatbelt, I heard Molly’s barks. She was following a firefly that led her to my feet. I bent over to pet her, but the firefly skipped back through the air, and once again the chase was on.

I looked up, and saw my neighbors standing there. She gave me a glare of pure malice. He gave me the middle finger.

“Right back at you.” I told them, and kept on walking.

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Benjamin DeVos is an interdisciplinary artist from Philadelphia. His writing is published in numerous journals, and his first chapbook of poetry, Freaking Out the Neighborhood, is forthcoming with Flutter Press. He is a vegetarian, and prefers to eat alone, in total darkness.

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angela byron response wild nailed magazine

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Angela Buron is a 28-year-old photographer from Spain. She has always felt like she has something important to do here in our world but is still seeking that purpose through her studies, travel and photography.

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Us (Just Us), by Negesti Kaudo

 

No one understands us. We don’t understand us. And yet, we find ourselves making up excuses to come together and play with fire. I can admit I like the burn: the way your fingers crawl across my skin, leaving goose bumps in their wake. You like that I’m so inexperienced and still unsure of what to do: not knowing where to put my hands and hesitant to kiss you. So, you do it for me: take over control without dominating me. The power between us struggles, passing and pulling, waxing and waning. We know we shouldn’t be here: our faces inches away, our breath undulating onto each other’s skin, radiating with warmth and tension and lust. We want each other. We want to feel that familiar burn of deep, temporary love that left us scarred with distrust and regret and a craving for pain. We’re mean when we’re together. Nails and teeth, digging and sinking – breaking skin on the hunt for blood – and we beg for more. More pain, more love, more hate, more us. Two people – best friends, lovers – both trying to melt into the other, become part of another, find what’s missing. We aren’t careful, you and I, as if we both aren’t made up of glass splinters pieced back together after it’s over, after we’re over, and before we start over. It’s a cycle. We’re wild. We care too much about each other to let us slip away. We disguise our feelings in the pain we cause, so we know there’s still something there – something tangible that we can pluck or pull and we’ll come back, answering to the ripple of the thread that tethers me to you and you to me and us. I’ll never understand us.

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Negesti Kaudo is a twenty-two year old Ohioan who indulges in writing raw. A recent graduate, she has returned from her studies in the South and will be moving to Chicago to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing this fall. Eventually she intends to blog about her ventures there via twitter (@kaudonegesti), but for now, her essays can be read online in NAILED Magazine and Vagabond City Literary Journal.

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Excerpt from his next book: WE ARE ALL WE’VE DONE, by Troy James Weaver

 

The guy in the corner who cuts the flowers is Hawaiian. Speaks pidgin. One time he told me,

Just listen to the first word and the last word, everything in between is meaningless. I’ve read so

many books that’ve made me feel that way—just meaningless. He’s a bad book, but he’s an

alright guy, doesn’t mean I can’t let you in, feel his presence, make him known. You don’t have

to read him. Just look. He’s got this scar on his arm, near the crook, which is from the time he

almost died, back in Hawaii, when he was in his mid-twenties. Punched his arm through a car

window and yanked it out, left half a pound of meat on the asphalt, a few pints of blood at his

feet. Said he saw the white light, like a pinpoint in the dark, and he kept reaching, just reaching

out, because he knew he was almost home and that’s the real struggle in life.

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Troy James Weaver is the author of Witchita Stories (Future Tense Books) and Visions (Broken River Books). His work has appeared in numerous publications including Hobart, The Nervous Breakdown, Atticus Review, Heavy Feather Review, Everyday Genius, and elsewhere. He lives in Wichita, Kansas with his wife and their dogs.

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Wild(er)ness, by Roni Slye

 

I ran with my brother and the neighborhood boys. We ran through abandoned buildings. We ran and jumped and hollered. Sometimes we even flew. Catch with sticks and rocks. Tag with pine cones. Hide and seek in the dark when the streets were silent.

A dirty magazine kept in an upstairs corridor of an old industrial complex that hadn’t been used in years. I wasn’t allowed to see it. I wasn’t one of the boys. Red brick walls. Decaying wood floors. Crumbling mortar. They disappeared around the corner. “Wait out there!” they yelled. I peeked when they weren’t looking.

In the field next door we built forts and kept treasures hidden in holes. Climbed trees and hung like monkeys. We peed in tires on the playground, or bushes when we were out late at night. I perfected my squat and go.

We looked at dad’s collection of Playboys when no one was home. I feigned disinterest. Girls weren’t supposed to like pictures of girls. We hid some out in the fort. I masturbated to them when I was alone.

In high school my friends had keggers in the woods by the river. We built bon fires and howled at the moon. We climbed trees and made out in branches. Fucked on the shore by the river. Naked flesh on cool dirt. Leaves and pine needles stuck to us.

We hiked and kayaked and biked. Ran on the beach. The sound of ocean waves. The smell of pine trees and moss. Fucking in the dirt, grass, and sand. On top of a fire lookout, I gave my boyfriend head. I rode him in the bushes. We slept under the stars.

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Roni Slye lives in Silverton, Oregon on a Christmas tree farm with her husband, their daughter, son-in-law and three grandsons. Her yard is filled with a menagerie of forest creatures who refuse to clean her house, yet are happy to eat the bird seed she provides along with every plant she tries to grow. When she isn’t playing with the boys, you can find her on the trails hiking or at her desk churning out words.

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Header image by French artist Frédéric Drouin aka Smith Smith. To learn more about his art and view his gallery of his collage, go here.

 

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Kirsten Larson

Kirsten Larson is a Contributing Editor at NAILED. She lives near Portland, Oregon. She loves words and is very curious. She received her MFA in writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles. She writes for The Huffington Post, and is an Adjunct Instructor at Portland State University. Her work can be found in NAILED, Huffington Post, Pathos, M Review, and several other places. She is currently working on two books.