Let Me Explain To You Why You Get No Extra Credit
by Eric Dovigi
A dead skunk is permitted to decompose on the side of a road until it dissolves like a putrid dandelion, yet I’m not allowed to sit on a public bench for more than a half-hour.
On this Earth, to shoot, stab, blow up, push, stone, set on fire, toss in acid, banish, exile, ostracize, discourage, hate, and ridicule are the most ubiquitous methods of empowerment.
In our culture, people are invited and encouraged to commoditize themselves on human-sharing websites that suggest they assign themselves a status, a profile, neat lists of friends, events, and take photos of themselves with squishy faces, let people know what sorts of boring things they will be doing that night and invite other people to share in the boredom; or by means of a carefully chosen quotation, express the intention to spend a lifetime in pursuit of artistic accomplishment of which they will never, ever, in a million years in a million possible universes, be even partly capable.
People jump on top of alligators for fun, eat spoonfuls of cinnamon, lick frozen aluminum poles, build paper mache wings and leap from the Eiffel Tower, all with more confidence than I have ever had, doing anything, in my entire life.
This morning I walked to work with plastic bags tied around my shoes. My shoes were made for running in the summertime. The right shoe has a large hole in the side.
It is winter. Snow is everywhere. By the time I got halfway to work the plastic bags had torn mostly off. My right sock was drenched. I stumbled and fell cutting through the dry gully by the graveyard.
Every day I wake up tired, and I spend so much time during the day just being tired that by the time I go to bed, I’m not really that tired anymore, so I lie awake until it’s morning.
You came into class twenty minutes late yesterday. Twenty minutes. Here is a list of pretty much the only people that are ever twenty minutes late on a regular basis: a) employees who are about to get fired, b) people having sex at near-absolute-zero temperatures, c) Gandalf, d) the New York Phil’ under Leonard Bernstein (I don’t expect you to get that joke), e) Kanye West when his watch is set forty minutes ahead, and f) the rabbit from Alice In Wonderland.
You have not been writing down the word-of-the-day since at least September. I watch you.
I don’t like your Facebook profile picture. Yeah, I looked up your name on Facebook.
I make less money now, as an instructor at a university, than I did when I worked retail–by a long-shot. Lagavulin ain’t getting any cheaper.
I’m starting to go a little deaf in my left ear. What’s that? Extra what?
I’m afraid of dying. I want those extra-credit points for myself. I want to horde them up. Maybe my inflammation will reduce. Maybe cell-senescence will slow–or reverse. Maybe my traumatic memories will disappear. Let the serotonin flow. Let wine rain from the sky. Give me those extra-credit points! They’re mine! num num num…
No. I don’t want them. I don’t want those extra-credit points because they’ll only dull the pain for a moment, child. The elation won’t last. The sense of safety, of accomplishment, of pride, will pass quickly and leave no residue, and the weight of Earth will descend with swift eagerness and you will be utterly crushed, you tiny tiny human. Old people will fuck you over forever, until they die, and then you’ll be old, and the dead skunks will dot the roads and you won’t be allowed to sit on a bench, and cars will hit you, and people will laugh at you, and you’ll have spent your entire life as a teacher making less money than you did when you worked retail, and then you’ll die.
There is no such thing as extra-credit.
(Dave Malone hails from the Missouri Ozarks, where several of the images in this film were photographed. He is the author of six books of poetry, most recently O: Love Poems from the Ozarks (TS Poetry Press). His work has also been featured in Thin Air. You can find him on Twitter @dzmalone.)
People called coyotes
will take you across,
highways will have roses
to stray the hell, no
one says animals
veer at name, how
this blurry dust field
the wend fell us moving
white light aside, why
men wear the names of
animals down their
fronts, as cooks,
or pitch their bodies, down
to what, a method of state,
no walking at to where is
away, season seen onto
the eye, then this true
else is our nor, down
rows of shoulders, how border
share us down to none, we, an
act, leak at field, that or as
far as collapsing in directions,
coasts, that include, eyes
in the sun blurred bodies,
gave and met, and ripped
apart, us and out into
them slowing, to suggest
we easily become else to,
speak in these, breaths that
hung from mustache
through chain link
fence, snaking inland,
near here the field,
remains horses, bones
curled on their sides
atop floating pollen,
blind though edgeless, as west,
were stupid to further, the
lice white suns the sky apart so
sky in this ravine makes little
sense, they handfuls in sightless,
search where were there no
You are calling this canyon
choking thousands, no
animal asks you why the
sun speaks a synonym of
us, anywhere earth not
become ours, cars that
press against one
another, no coyote,
the more you look someone
has no eyes
in the eyes
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, readers and writers, it’s that time again. Your Monday will no longer be that drab, soul-dampening harbinger of yet another tedious workweek that it has been all summer. For the next several months, Monday will mean EXCITEMENT. Monday will mean ARTISTIC EXPRESSION. Monday will mean NARROW CHIMNEY.
We kick things off on August 29th–the first day of school. What could be more fitting. Even your students can come; the event welcomes individuals under 21 years of age.
We are lucky to have local writers Nicole Walker and Natalie Rose performing for us on the 29th. Come as you are. Bring your friends. Bring a book so they can sign it. Bring questions for the artists to ask after the performances. Bring a few bucks so you can get a drink and maybe some of that great Irish food. Bring your verve. Bring your zazz. Bring your dog.
Uptown Pubhouse, August 29th (Monday). Natalie Rose, & Nicole Walker. 7pm to 8pm. Free. Weekly spoken word event, every Monday, with MFA students from NAU as well as local figures.
Be there or be square. I will be there. I will also be square. Both are options.
Signed, your thinairmagazine.com pilot,
(photo credit: Remedios Varo)
By Damyanti Biswas
From a distance, she took him for a boy. But on looking closer, Laura knew him for a boy-sized man, one of those people nature chooses to sport with.
She felt a gush of rage. She wanted to gather him up in her soft arms and tell him he looked good in his charcoal blue librarian’s uniform, his pale moustache, his curly head of hair, the way he smiled at the girl in front of her in the queue. When the girl walked off, Laura stepped up to the counter, and gave the boy-man her best smile.
Jasper, his nametag said. No surname, just Jasper, looking lonely.
“I have a few problems I’d like your help with.” Laura leaned over the counter, hoping to give Jasper a good view of her cleavage.
He smiled, his gaze not sliding down from her face, and said, “Sure, how may I help you?”
He pronounced the word ‘help’ separately from the other words, with a pause before and after. So he had chastised her, asked her to take her boobs off the table and focus on the work at hand. She showed him the book she had reserved, the receipt, bearing her name, and the title, ‘Georges Seurat, 1859-1891: The Master of Pointillism.’
He looked at his computer and nodded, “Just give me a minute.”
Jasper rose, his eyes still on his screen. He didn’t ask her if she was an art student, or smile.
“No wait, Jasper,” she said, her voice low and hoarse, as if about to confess a secret, “I have another problem.”
“Sure, tell me.” Jasper sat down again, his head still bent towards the screen.
In the distance, Laura heard cars screech to a halt, sirens. A door opened and shut somewhere behind the counter.
“You see,” Laura rustled the pictures in her book, Degas’ ballerinas, all twisted and bump-curvy, “There’s a tear in this, I want to make sure it’s repaired.”
“Sure, I’ll see to it.”
“There won’t be any charges?”
“Did you cause the tear?” Jasper looked at her for the first time, his gaze like that of a pigeon, curious, side-eyed.
“No, of course not. I noticed it, and didn’t want to drop it back with the tear.”
On the torn page, a bare breast looked up at them, like a peach pudding, its nipple red like a maraschino cherry.
“I’ll get your book now.” Jasper swallowed and turned away.
Laura stood there, under the air-conditioning, surrounded by rustles of newspaper, the hushed laughter of children, the whistling of a call tune instantly smothered. She pictured herself a wife at home in a blue apron, baking. But instead of Rashid who warmed her bed these days, she saw Jasper enter the kitchen, the poor little boy-man.
A shrivelling happened to all the men who slept with her. She sucked them up, heart, innards and all, and spat them out. They diminished as her painting grew, their life-blood colored her canvases. A witch, that’s what she was, but she wouldn’t take this one. She marched off, leaving the torn book at the counter, the balled-up receipt of her reserved book in her hand.
As she walked out to the entrance, she heard a stage whisper behind her. “Laura,” the boy-man called back to her, like a hoarse talking bird, “Laura, come back.”
She didn’t stop. She would paint Jasper this morning, and using all of an artist’s witchery, she would give his handsome face a befitting body.
Damyanti Biswas’s short fiction has been commended at the Bath Flash Fiction award. She’s published at Bluestem magazine, Griffith Review Australia, Lunch Ticket magazine, and other journals and anthologies in the USA, Malaysia and Singapore. Her debut novel in progress is longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition, 2015.
By Christine Davis
I remember being seventeen in Ms. Knudsen’s AP Environmental Science class. She was Canadian and had purple streaks in her hair, so everyone wanted to enroll. Each day we learned that the planet was doomed. G.K. Lamb’s dystopian, debut novel is about this inevitable doom as told through the first-person lens of Evelyn, a young girl full of hope and fight. She might have done well in Ms. Knudsen’s course, but in Evelyn’s world free thought is rebellion, family is complicated, and answers come at the ultimate price.
World building is key in young adult fiction, and Filtered delivers in this arena. The novel centers on the premise that air pollution has resulted in toxicity so severe all citizens must wear masks while outside, and rely upon air filtration systems inside. Lamb creates images of tall buildings, tightly locked doors, and a billboard declaring, “Remember, a fresh filter everyday keeps death at bay!” The Great Society is responsible for regulating safety, but their regulations encroach upon almost every human right. Evelyn’s schooling is a perfect example of The Great Society’s stiff expectations. Students aren’t permitted to look authority figures in the eye, move out of synch, or question anything about their world. When Evelyn encounters her first taste of rebellion, she says, “There’s life here,” and her new companion retorts, “Uncomfortable, isn’t it?” Lines like this capture the psychological world-building Lamb accomplishes alongside the physical landscape.
Readers fall even deeper into the familiar landscape of family, but once again they find a filter. The family lives in an upscale apartment with plenty of fresh filters and store bought food. Her father works late. They watch T.V. However, any displays of “normalcy” are interrupted by the ever-present threat of death. In addition to communicating through literal filtration masks designed to protect them against pollution, they also must communicate through the masks of fear and ignorance. Evelyn’s mother falls deeper into isolation as the novel progresses, leaving Evelyn thinking, “I wish she were someone I could trust…one look at her and I know she can’t be any of the things I wish her to be. Her frame is already withering, no doubt from malnourishment and confinement.” She wonders, “How much of our imprisonment is self-inflicted?” but she is alone with this question, unable to include her family in any quest for answers.
Lamb’s plot and ultimate climax are nicely tied to both the world he creates, and the family Evelyn must break away from in order to come of age in a time of rebellion. Readers will want to engage in her fast-paced adventures, full of villains, broken heroes, and misguided youths. The more Evelyn commits to uncovering the truth, the more she finds herself entrenched in a historical tug-of-war that leaves her fighting for her life in more ways than one.
The result of reading a book like G.K. Lambs’s Filtered is not only to leave entertained, but also educated. At Evelyn’s age I had Ms. Knudsen to tell me about the perils of this world, but did I listen? Filtered provides young readers an intricate look at the results of environmental collapse through a character they will want to follow anywhere.
Saturday, February 27, G.K. Lamb is signing books at Bookmans from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., as part of the Bookmans Flag AZ Author Fair. Lamb joins Mark Bordner and Austin Aslan.
NAU Thin Air Literary Magazine Give Back Event:
Let Chili’s do the cooking while we support NAU Thin Air Literary Magazine at the same time. With each flyer presented on Thursday, Chili’s will donate 15% of the event day sales back to this great organization.
Chili’s Flagstaff/1500 S. Milton Road/Flagstaff AZ 86001/928-774-4546/www.chilis.com
That’s some fine-looking print you got there: Give Back Event flyer required with each check to receive credit for the sale. (You can download it from our Facebook event page!) Sale cannot be included in donation amount with flyer. Offer only valid on the date and location stated above. Donations will not be given on sales made prior to or past this date.
MartAnne’s Burrito Palace is donating 10% of its entire sales on Wednesday, February 17 to Thin Air Magazine’s AWP fundraiser.
AWP, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, is holding its 2016 conference and bookfair at the Los Angeles Convention Center, March 30 – April 2.
According to the AWP web site, “The AWP Conference & Bookfair is an essential annual destination for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers. Each year more than 12,000 attendees join our community for four days of insightful dialogue, networking, and unrivaled access to the organizations and opinion-makers that matter most in contemporary literature.”
Help represent Thin Air Magazine at the 2016 AWP Conference & Bookfair by eating at MartAnne’s Burrito Palace, voted Best Breakfast Place by Arizona Daily Sun readers. And remember: MartAnne’s now has a dinner and cocktail and beer menu and accepts credit cards. Eat well and support literature all day long!