Category Archives: Fiction

Fiction Piece “The Final Visit”; Featuring Visual Art Submission “Old Souls”

The Final Visit

Written By: Vincent Calvarese

About the Author: 

As a writer and visual artist, he found his wings amongst his heroes of Eureka Valley. Using the San Francisco Bay Area as his canvas, he highlights themes of restorative justice in The Final Visit, familial pain in The Flesh of the Father, gun violence in Three Cloves of Garlic, the pharmaceutical crisis in The Clipboard and the gentrifying 7×7 plain in The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street. He is a past General and Poetry Editor for Forum Magazine.

Chapter One

I am looking up. At first, I am unaware of my positioning. Am I laying down? Or am I standing up? All I can see is blue. Maybe a ceiling. Suddenly it opens like a mouth about to grab onto a spoonful of morning cereal, and I see the kitchen from my childhood. I begin to hear the Eagles “Take It To The Limit”. Dad used to listen to it after he had a few beers. He knew the words, All Alone at the end of the evening, And the bright lights have faded to blue. Dad is bouncing me on his knee as he takes a swig of his favorite 40oz. of Olympia. I can feel his muscular leg between my legs. “Daddy, is this what it’s like to ride a real horse?” I look up at his face. I can see the small grey hairs in his goatee. His lips begin to move but he’s not saying anything. His image slowly disappears and I am now standing alone in front of a glass window. It spans at least ten feet in each direction. He’s suddenly on the other side. His body is in the sign of the cross. He’s dressed all in white. I reach out and place my hand on the glass. It’s hot to the touch. I pull my hand away quickly. Abruptly, a drape drops and I hear the sound of an emergency room privacy curtain quickly closed, when something has become very serious. It’s pitch black. I take a deep breath and I hold it. I continue to hold my breath. I begin to feel the pressure in my face as it begins to redden. I want the curtain to open. I reach out for it but my hand goes limp. I begin to feel faint. I exhale and begin coughing uncontrollably. I awaken. The morning had arrived.

I’m looking up at the ceiling. There are a few cracks intersecting towards my open unscreened window.  It’s framing a very blue sky. “Fuck! It’s a sunny day,” I say. I begin to sing, I was thinking ‘bout a woman who might have loved me, I never knew. You know I’ve always been a dreamer. The tears begin. I couldn’t stop them. I breathed deeply through my nostrils and slowly exhaled through my mouth. I turned on my side, lifted up my legs, sat upright and put my feet on the floor next to my crumpled-up “mom” jeans and balled up elastic beige-colored socks covered in little red hearts. I thought, I really need to do laundry. “Damn, I wish it was a grey, rainy day”. I thought it would be more appropriate for the last visit. I reached for a rubber band on the nightstand, stood up, fashioned a pony-tail as I walked toward the bathroom, which I am sure needed a good scrubbing. 

The shower water seemed to take extra long to warm. I ran my hand through the cold water a few times. Each time I could feel my nipples react and harden. I still don’t know why that happens but I’ve decided I like it.

I remember the first time I bathed without my father. I was probably six years old. We had a child-like yet very adult discussion, actually more like an argument about my abilities to not damage the bathroom floor and flood the apartment units below. He had witnessed my toy ship flotilla creation a year before in the bathroom sink. Niagara Falls had relocated to 1031 E. 14th Street, there were no survivors. See, none of my little girlfriends still bathed with their fathers but then again, they all had mothers at home. Tisha and Claudia had started making fun of me about it. The “discussion” ended with him sitting on the toilet seat giving me scrubbing instructions through the shower curtain. After a few more Dad and Daughter original instructional YouTube-like videos, Dad left me to my own hygiene; abet hair and teeth.

By the time I was 10-years-old, Dad’s appearances at morning showers were almost non-existent. Living in the Bay Area was becoming more and more challenging financially. Of course, at that age I thought we were rich. Flat screens in more than one room in the house, Pop Tarts at every meal (if I wanted them) and a maid. Of course, later in life I realized we didn’t have an actual maid. They were women my father had met “out-in-the-field”, brought home, fucked regularly and who didn’t mind taking care of me when Dad’s jobs took him further away from home.

Lucinda was my favorite. She had beautiful red hair, she smiled all the time, always wore bright colored long-sleeve shirts (even in summer), and her eyes twinkled. I know now she was a heroin addict but her imagination was expansive and she could always distract me when he hadn’t come home in months. I am always amazed at the ability of any drug addict to manipulate any situation, at any time with a few simple sentences. “Your Dad? Oh, he called three times when you were at school! He’ll be home….soon. He loves you dearly and can’t wait to kiss your beautiful face. How about we go watch Friends and I’ll make Mac’n Cheese?” Rachel, Ross, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and melted cheese. Yes, I loved Lucinda most.

Sometimes when Dad would finally come home, he was always wearing the same clothes he left with, as if only a morning and afternoon had passed. Sometimes when he came home, he’d be wearing really nice clothes and have a bunch of expensive jewelry for me. Gold chains, silver bracelets, pearl earrings and even diamond rings. Nothing ever matched and the rings never fit.

Dad and I had started living in Alameda County. First in Oakland, then El Cerrito and then finally El Sobrante. Alma was his newest and she was the strictest, at least with me. I had to be in bed by 8:30pm. If I forgot to brush my teeth, take out the garbage or leave just one dirty dish in the sink, I would be punished. Sometimes I’d be hit with a wooden spoon. When I hid the wooden spoon, Alma would spank me really hard with her braided belt. After a while, I found it easier to obey her demands and stop hiding utensils.

However, Alma did have a positive influence on me. She taught me about the power in the stars, the earth and the flowers. She told me stories about the radiance of sunrays and their relationship with the waning and waxing of the moonbeams. I learned to see the universe in the eyes of my first German Shepard puppy and the ultimate joy in the laughter and smiles of the young children running around our local playground. She always said, “Always look for the happiness in everything.”

Alma did have one ultimate rule. I wasn’t allowed to ever answer the telephone. However, one night, Alma was showering and the telephone rang. I let it ring. Then it stopped. A few minutes passed and it began again. The phone and I danced a few times and I finally picked it up. I said, “Hello?” No answer. I cleared my throat and said a little louder, “Hello?” Finally, a voice said, “HELLO, YOU HAVE RECEIVED A TELEPHONE CALL FROM A PRISONER IN THE ALAMEDA COUNTY JAIL SYSTEM. PLEASE PUSH THE NUMBER ONE TO ACCEPT.” I quickly hung up the phone. We didn’t know any prisoners, and after that call, I was afraid to pick up the phone ever again.

Visual Art Piece Photographed by Nadine Peralta

Old Souls_Visual Arts_Photography

Queer Writing+AIDS Crisis Call For Submissions

 

 

Between Certain Death and a Possible Future:
Queer Writing on Growing up with the AIDS Crisis
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

Hi all! Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is looking to collect stories that narrate the queer experience in association with the AIDS crisis! Below is a description of the project, as well as guidelines, and Mattilda’s personal background. CHECK IT OUT!

Every queer person lives with the trauma of AIDS, and this plays out intergenerationally. Usually we hear about two generations—the first, coming of age in the era of gay liberation, and then watching entire circles of friends die of a mysterious illness as the government did nothing to intervene. And now we hear about a current generation growing up in an era offering effective treatment and prevention, and unable to comprehend the magnitude of the loss. We are told that these two generations cannot possibly understand one another, and thus remain alienated from both the past and the future. But there is another generation between these two—one growing up in the midst of the epidemic, haunted by the specter of certain death. A generation growing up with AIDS suffusing desire, internalizing the trauma as part of becoming queer. And these are the personal stories I’d like to collect in this book—accounts that overlap with the more commonly portrayed generations, and offer a bridge between.

By telling this specific generational story in all its complications, how do we explore the trauma the AIDS crisis continues to enact, and imagine a way out? How do race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ability, religion, ethnicity, indigeneity, rural/urban experience, regional/national origin, Global South/Global North perspective, HIV status, and access to treatment and prevention (over time and in shifting contexts) shape personal experience? What is excluded from the glorified myth of progress that now reigns?

How does the impact of growing up with the AIDS crisis continue to affect those left out of the white picket fence version of respectability promoted by dominant “LGBTQ” institutions? How does this apply to sex work, migration, public sex, cruising spaces and apps, abuse and survival, incarceration, reproductive health, homelessness, activism, drug use and addiction, subcultural striving, gay bar culture, HIV criminalization, and hierarchies within gay/queer/trans cultures?

Any generational frame offers only a partial truth, and I’m especially interested in the gaps between accepted narratives and lived experience. As a generation coming of age both with and without the internet, how has technology changed our lives, for better and worse? How does stigma against HIV-positive people continue today, and does the rhetoric around “undetectability” further exclusion rather than ending it? Who is dying of AIDS now, in spite of “AIDS Is Over” rhetoric? Has the energy around PrEP shifted the focus of public health campaigns away from demanding a cure for HIV? How could a meaningful intergenerational conversation about HIV/AIDS take place? What would communal care actually look like?

I’m interested in your most intimate stories, and your most personal fears—what you’re afraid to say is what I want to hear.

About the Editor: Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (mattildabernsteinsycamore.com) is the author of three novels and a memoir, and the editor of five nonfiction anthologies. Her memoir, The End of San Francisco, won a Lambda Literary Award, and her widely hailed anthologies include Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?, That’s Revolting!, and Nobody Passes. Her latest novel, Sketchtasy (one of NPR’s Best Books of 2018), is about this generation between certain death and a possible future.

Guidelines: Please submit nonfiction personal essays of up to 5000 words, as Word attachments (no PDFs, please), to nobodypasses@gmail.com. Contributors will be paid for their work, and will receive copies of the book. Feel free to contact me with any queries. The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2020, but the sooner the better!

“How pitiful then, that it had no idea about the devastation happening to its own species.” (Sean Taro Nishi)

Rachel Forrest pineinforest
Pine in Forest by Rachel Forrest
Rachel Forrest is a a painter based in San Jose. Her work can be found on her website.

Save the Sloths

by Sean Taro Nishi

The thing about non-profits is: the people who work there are always beautiful. It’s as if they’re giving back for their God-given gifts, paying it forward if you will.

Paying it forward is what made me seek out the Save the Sloths Foundation. A dead relative left me a huge sum of money with one request: that I donate at least part of it to a charitable organization of my choice.

So I looked through some brochures and saw one with a picture of a beautiful tall woman holding a baby sloth in her arms. The tagline said “Be a boss, save a sloth.” I was attracted to her immediately.

Another thing about beautiful people: they’re good for advertising.

Continue reading “How pitiful then, that it had no idea about the devastation happening to its own species.” (Sean Taro Nishi)

“to the front of that line, pushing and shoving and punching and biting…” (Clyde Always)

Rachel Forrest VisualArts_An Out of Body Experience
An Out of Body Experience by Rachel Forrest
Rachel Forrest is a a painter based in San Jose. Her work can be found on her website.

Stella and the Fratboy

by Clyde Always

Once upon a time, in a rip-roaring party town set by the sea, there lived a stunningly beautiful siren named Stella.  Stella had shimmering sapphire eyes and shapely long legs and soft flimsy skirts and her armpits she never would shave (though she would shave her head down one side).  She lived in a battered and clunky Westphalia van with an old mandolin and an overfed goldfish named Fatty, who was never content with a sprinkle of fish-flakes, but instead, had developed a rather insatiable appetite for human flesh.

Now, it so happens, that one sweltering April afternoon, Stella had parked her van on the beach, positioned between the frozen margarita stand and the tiki-torch emporium and there, she sang out some notes while strumming away on the old mandolin, emitting over the scene of sun-bathers and surf-waders the most eerie and bewitching music, loud enough even to drown out the incessant robotic donkey-braying coming from the dub-step DJ booth.  Right away, a small crowd of funnel-clutching fratboys gathered around Stella, all swaying in their saggy board shorts and grinning and chuckling and flexing their pecs at her.

“Hey, boys…” Stella sang out at them with a tangy rasp in her voice, to which, they all replied in unison,

“Spring break bro! Whoo!”

She beckoned one husky and meaty, shaggy blond surf-jock into the van and looked on in grisly delight as Fatty devoured the boy in a single, gulping, schlorping swallow.  She then poked her head out of the window and called out a coy and sinister,

“Who’s next??”

The ‘bros’ all fought like wild dogs to the front of that line, pushing and shoving and punching and biting each other, until the strongest amongst them had elbowed his way right into the jaws of the goldfish before he could even say “duuuuude, what the fuuucccckkkkk!”  And so, it went, one after the other until Fatty was so engorged that he’d shattered his fish bowl and flopped out onto the floor, straining his gills and coughing up puka-shell necklaces.

Only a single fratboy remained, so Stella tried luring him in with a wink from her eye and a pucker from her lips but he stood there, frustratingly motionless, just stroking his flawless washboard six-pack, when suddenly, there came from the beachful of revelers, a giant, collective, blood-curdling scream, as a tsunami rose way in the distance and out from the depths of the ocean came the stark silhouette of a horrible, hideous, tentacled sea-monster!  Stella eyed the fratboy in the midst of this chaos but he showed not even a single sign of panic, in fact, he snapped his fingers twice, manifesting out of thin air a heavy and hefty golden trident — crusty with rubies and pearls, and then, with a few clever flicks of his wrist, he used it to cut the roof off the van as if it were merely a can of sardines. Then Stella looked on in horror as poor Fatty was gutted alive, releasing the hoards of spring-break-party-bros, all of whom ran for the hills, shrieking like ten-year-old girls, and then the fratboy tossed the carcass of the goldfish over his shoulder and the monster gobbled it up like sashimi.

Then the sea fell calm, and the monster retreated back into the deep, and Stella grumbled miserably at the sight of her mangled Westphalia van, until, this sea-faring demigod of a fratboy whistled a shrill ‘♪♫,’ summoning out of the foamy surf a chariot drawn by two-winged sea-horses, which swept Stella and himself off of their feet and into the air and over the choppy, blue waves, and for perhaps, the first time in her life, Stella felt kind of weak in the knees, as at last, this mysterious suitor finally spoke with rugged charisma and looking her longingly right in the eyes, he requested politely and oh-so-succinctly that Stella-the-Siren… ‘show him her tits.’

Clyde Always, for the promotion of bliss, writes and recites his own blend of tall tales and clever verses, as well as creates assorted works of surrealist beauty.

“‘Cause, I’m gonna snooze back some further in time and about forty, fifty miles north of here.” (Jeff Kaliss)

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The following, “Family Affair” (script, excerpt), is an excerpt of a completed script by Jeff Kaliss.

Jeff Kaliss studies writing and jazz piano at CCSF after completing an MFA in Creative Writing at SFSU. His poetry appears in the Suisun Valley Review and he reads it around town. Jeff wrote a biography of Sly & the Family Stone and thousands of articles about music.

Family Affair

by Jeff Kaliss

EXT., YASGUR’S FARM, NEAR BETHEL, NEW YORK, AUGUST 16, 1969, CIRCA 4 AM.
FADE IN, over sound of an insistent rock drumbeat, to a scene tinted psychedelically:

PAN, hordes of slowly stirring sleeping hippies, most in sleeping bags across the occupied meadowland, some wandering half-naked, some smoking doobies. CAPTION: “Woodstock Music & Art Festival, Bethel, New York, August 16, 1969, 4 a.m. On stage: Sly & the Family Stone.” An amorous, still-sleepy HIPPY COUPLE, he black, she white, embrace as they listen:

SLY (OS, AMPLIFIED)

What we would like to do is, sing a song together.
(Pause) But most of us need approval.

HIPPY COUPLE embraces, kisses, then turns their smiling faces towards the glow of the stage. CUT to CU of SLY STONE, 26 years old:

SLY

Most of us need to get approval from our neighbors,
before we can actually let it all hang down.

CUT TO HIPPY COUPLE. He looks down towards his midsection, looks at her, they both start laughing. CUT back to:

SLY

Now, what we’re gonna do here is a singalong. A lot
of people don’t like to do that, because they think it
may be old-fashioned. But you must dig that it is not
a fashion in the first place! It’s a feeling, and if it was
good in the past, it is
still good! So what I want you to
do, I’d like everybody to join in, when we say “Higher!”,
I want you to hold the peace sign up. It’ll do you no harm.

SLY starts to sing, against the continuing pulse of GREG’s drumming. INTERCUT with the hippy couple responding vocally and with peace signs.

SLY

(Chanting:) I wanna take you higher!

HIPPY COUPLE

(Chanting:) Higher!!

Chant is repeated.

SLY

Way up on the hill! I wanna hear y’all!!

CUT TO dusky vista of hippie throng on the hill, some distance from the stage. Many more now are standing and displaying peace signs, as well as many more illuminated joints.

CUT TO entire Sly & the Family Stone band on stage. JERRY, on saxophone, and CYNTHIA, on trumpet, launch into the brassy instrumental tag from “Music Lover”, then transition to “I Want to Take You Higher”, with SLY taking the lead on vocals and keyboard, ROSE on backup vocals, LARRY on backup vocals and bass, and FREDDIE on guitar, along with JERRY, CYNTHIA, and GREG. During the performance of the song, we get to see all of them in closeup, intercut with shots of an audience reclaimed from the night, the Hippy Couple among them, moving to the music. We may or may not run opening credits and the film title here. On the chorus line, “Baby light my fire”, the Hippy Couple can do just that. On the extended chant of “Boom-laka-laka-laka”, CROSSCUT to:

INT, LIMO, STREETS OF OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, PRESENT DAY

Continue reading “‘Cause, I’m gonna snooze back some further in time and about forty, fifty miles north of here.” (Jeff Kaliss)

“I may be as average as they come in so many respects, … but I’m not a dummy.” (Dana Wagner)

Old Town Parking_photography
Old Town Parking by Chiao En Huang
Chiao En Huang studies Graphic Design in CCSF. Currently, Chiao works at speciality coffee shop SPRO. “Obviously, [to] create is one of my biggest hobbies. I also do a lot of painting and drawing. Line (geometric) and color are two really big inspiration for me.” More work can be viewed at Chiao En Huang’s website: www.chiaondesign.com.

A Simple Task

by Dana Wagner

Call me Kobayashi.

That’s what the short, clean-cut Japanese man in the dark suit had said when he’d given me the small package.  If his name had actually been Kobayashi, he wouldn’t have said it the way he had, but as I walked through the afternoon crowd in the Ginza district with the brown-paper-covered parcel under my arm, I was still wondering why he’d picked that as his cipher … and why he’d picked a cipher at all, an obviously fabricated pseudonym that had been completely unnecessary since I was highly unlikely to ever see him again.  It seemed pointless, a deception merely for the sake of itself.  Maybe that had been the point, simply to impress upon me how little I knew.  You do not know my name, he was saying, you do not know anything about me, and there is very little of this you will ever understand.

Not that I needed much reminding.  As a foreigner living in Tokyo, I felt uncertain and unwelcome even on the best of days.  The man allowed into the party solely because he could score something everyone there wanted, tolerated and even spoken to, but with whom no one wanted any kind of personal connection.  The Japanese would smile, buy you business meals, make small talk, get drunk with you, and play at being your guides through their complex society while they sought to exploit your knowledge of western markets, but they would never, ever let you in or do anything to give you any illusions about being truly trusted or included.  They barely let each other into their inner lives, and they weren’t about to shake off centuries of xenophobia and emotional repression for a nondescript American businessman like me.  I was no stranger to being the painfully self-aware stranger in their midst.  So why was it eating at me that this Japanese man of indeterminate age, whom I had never seen before and would hope never to see again, had bothered to give me a transparently fake name?

Because he had bothered.  That was the thing about the Japanese I dealt with in my business interactions, whether inside or outside the office.  They never bothered with anything gratuitous.  If they had to suck it up and place a veneer of hospitality on top of their forced relationships with the corporate emissaries of the West, they would, but they weren’t going to put anything more into it than necessary.  Everything they did and shared with a gaijin like me was a deliberate choice and had a desired purpose.  Often it was immediately clear to me what it was, sometimes it wouldn’t become clear until much later, and sometimes I would never figure it out.  But always I knew it was there.  There was always something.  If this squat Japanese man who’d pushed the package towards me across his desk had told me to call him Kobayashi, then there had been a reason, and I was focused on trying to puzzle out what it had been.

Continue reading “I may be as average as they come in so many respects, … but I’m not a dummy.” (Dana Wagner)

“This would be the perfect emoji for today.” (Kate Steinheimer)

Dimas Arellan strangers_Charcoal
Strangers by Dimas Arellan, charcoal
Dimas Arellan is a surrealist creature artist from Los Angeles who loves City College and all it’s colorful people and things.

Sardonic Face

by Kate Steinheimer

I’d like to invent a new emoji. One that says, “I can’t believe you just said that.” Or something like that. I could use it a lot, although I’m not sure exactly what it would look like. Maybe eyebrows slightly raised. Mouth pulled slightly to the side to look a little bit disappointed and maybe a little bit mocking. This would be the perfect emoji for today.

I use emojis in all of my texts and Instagram posts. A bunch of emoji key chains clink around on my backpack. I have an emoji rug, emoji pillows, and 20 pairs of emoji earrings, each with a different expression. Although they make my ears hurt if I wear them for more than one day, all of my friends are jealous of them. The main problem with emoji earrings, though, is that my emotions change so quickly that the pair I picked in the morning is never the right one by lunchtime, and sometimes not even by my first period advisory class. I have emoji leggings, too, but I haven’t worn them since Chloe told me they looked like pajamas.

Continue reading “This would be the perfect emoji for today.” (Kate Steinheimer)

“The Day After” by S. K. Lee

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The Day After

by S. K. Lee

“Here you go, Cristina.” said Agatha as she handed me a cup of coffee. “Thanks, I could use some caffeine. I only got a few hours of sleep last night.” I said as I took a sip. The coffee was nice and hot, perfect for a cold and cloudy autumn day. “I don’t think my parents got any sleep at all.” I said as we began walking down the street. My parents and the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country had a rude awakening the previous night. A man who promised to round up and deport all of them, had been elected president.

“How are they?” asked Agatha. She had that familiar worried look on her face. I had seen it before when her daughter Annie had the flu. It warmed my heart to know I had such a good friend that cared about my family. “They’re scared.” I said as my voice began to tremble. “If he keeps his promise, my parents…my aunts…my uncles…they’re all going to be rounded up…and then…” I couldn’t finish the sentence. I didn’t want to even imagine what would happen to them. As I started to tear up, Agatha wrapped her arm around my shoulders to comfort me.

“Everything is going to be okay, Cristina.”

“How do you know that? You don’t know that, Agatha!”

“I know if he tries anything crazy, the people won’t stand for it.”

“The people? Are you fucking kidding me?! The people are the ones who just elected a racist, sexist, xenophobe as our next president! What the fuck is wrong with our country?!” I shouted as tears began to roll down my cheek. Agatha pulled out a tissue from her pocket and gently wiped away the tears on my eyes and cheek.

Continue reading “The Day After” by S. K. Lee

Screenplay: Out With Italians [Excerpt] by Tony Bianco

OUT WITH ITALIANS

FADE IN:

EXT. SANTA REY – DAY – ESTABLISHING

A small fishing town in the San Francisco Bay Area. December 7, 1941.

INT. LINO’S APARTMENT – PARLOR – NIGHT

A small, simple apartment. LINO NOCCI, 35, wiry, handsome, a scar along the left half of his jawline, stands staring at his radio. An Italian-speaking announcer is talking about the Pearl Harbor bombing.

ANNOUNCER (V .O.)
Il bombardamento di Pearl Harbor denudera il gran buffone d’Italia, Benito Mussolini. La debolezza di Mussolini sara esposto per il mondo. Il nemico di tutt’italiani, il pazzo detestato stara disfatto. Mussolini …

The announcer is cut off in mid-sentence. There’s KNOCKING at the front door.

Lino turns the radio’s knob but gets only static. The KNOCKING gets LOUDER.

LINO
(heavy Italian accent)
Why you no break down?

FBI AGENT #1 (O.S.)
Lino Nocci. FBI . Open up or we will.

LINO
Who you are?

FBI AGENT #1 (O.S.)
Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Lino hurries away from the door. Continue reading Screenplay: Out With Italians [Excerpt] by Tony Bianco