New Stories for January 20, 2020


“Closing Argument for The Defense in a Woodland Civil Suit” by Paul Richter

Your Honor. Members of the Jury. Mr. Hare’s attorney, Mr. Fox would have you believe that his client is a misunderstood, but ultimately well-meaning member of society. Mr. Fox will tell you that Hare has learned his lesson and that he has been humbled by his loss at the big race. This is simply not the case. Hare may indeed have learned something, but it is certainly not the lesson Mr. Fox would have you think it is.

We’ve all heard the phrase Mr. Fox invented to summarize the events of that afternoon: “Slow and steady wins the race.” I will admit, it is a catchy phrase. I certainly remember it. I think we all do. But it will take more than well written catch-phrases to understand the truth of this case. “Slow and steady wins the race” simply does not apply to this situation. Let us examine the plaintiff’s narrative.

They say that Mr. Hare lost the race because, it turns out, contradictory to the laws of physics, slow is inherently better in a race than fast. They say that Mr. Hare tried his hardest to win the race and that he only lost to my client because he was not “slow and steady” enough. And they claim my client’s remarks to the press after the race were inaccurate, spiteful, and defaming to Mr. Hare’s good name.

Hare did not lose the race because he was too erratic and fast, and he has certainly not, as his lawyer would have you believe, reformed his ways to be more steady and slow. This is a pantomime. Note the way he entered the courtroom this morning, with purposeful, measured slowness and intention of movement, almost a crude parody of my client’s natural way of walking.

The truth is, my client only challenged Mr. Hare to the race in the first place to stop him from abusing and disrupting the lives of all the citizens of our forest. We have the testimony of several witnesses who say that Hare is a braggart and a nuisance. That he is egotistical and his air of superiority as well as his constant self-aggrandizing are not only annoying but down-right disruptive. This is the lesson Mr. Hare should have learned from all this, and yet, he shows no signs of remorse or even willingness to self-reflect.

My client won the race by running as fast as she could. Mr. Hare lost because he was so cocky. He believed he was so much faster, so much better than Ms. Tortoise, that he had gained such a lead on her there was no way he could lose. So, in an equal display of both his obnoxious arrogance and unbelievable laziness, he settled at the base of Mrs. Owl’s tree and publicly announced that he would take a nap.

His loud decree, by the way, awoke Mrs. Owl from her sleep, preventing her from getting the rest she needed in order to successfully hunt for food the following night.

Mr. Hare napped for the entire afternoon, and by the time he awoke, my client was just crossing the finish line. Ms. Tortoise, despite being a significantly slower runner than Mr. Hare, worked as hard as she could and won that race. Not because she was slow. Not because she was steady. But in fact, in spite of both, she was able to win only because of her opponent’s unwavering narcissism, laziness, and lack of character. Indeed, Mr. Hare’s actions in the race served only to prove the exact point which my client set out to make, which she summarized to Mr. Squirrel of the Acorn Press when asked how she felt about her victory and what she hoped would come of it.

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“Changing of a (A) Dream” by Nikita Nelen

I woke with all my dreams on loan in a lucid state of revolution.


I woke up in this country with simulacra fantasies of an all-American Dream. I woke up in a Hopper painting, overweight and lonely with Sinatra screaming at me because he too was lonely.


I woke up with a language that transgressed against daunting plans and my vision was a sense siphoned off of the mouth of a Klein bottle that I kept secret in the interview for This American Life because the best dreams, the ones that keep time going, are deranged.


I woke up in this land with dreams of revision, praying at the wishing well and counting my time by coffee spoons because the abacus was outdated and the currency was that of servitude.


But why is gratitude not green? And have you considered why we say “green with envy?” What if we had agreed on a more suitable lie?


I woke up sure that this was a dream. I woke up on the symbols of non-violence. My waking up was a peaceful protest and the ultimate maxim was to be the dream. But that’s some really heavy lifting. I had to practice. I did push-ups.


We are the dreams of revisions, of pebbles in the sand, washed ashore amid the disarray of debris, relics of the tsunami of our culture. And we are the revolution.


The revolution does not come fast enough in the advertised future.

The revolution calls for a personal transformation.

The revolution calls for a slowing down, for a listening, for mindfulness, for leaning into the trouble and the billion voices, digitized and not, of separating the waters of what is avatar, what is an institutional hypnosis, what is the cool hand of real human touch.


The revolution recognizes temperature changes. It does not destroy. It waits patiently for the tides to recede, for the air to settle, for gravity to announce itself, for a pause in conversation, all while cultivating your own garden in the secret passageways of your dreams.


And dreams cannot be whored out. They are whored in. It, dream, cannot be given away, one must be invited into the recesses of privacies, and there you are the passage maker.


The revolution does not take power and give it away because that cycle has rendered the movement moot. Power to the dis-empowered, dis-empower the powerful by force, still leaves someone naked in the snow shaking with vengeance, calculating their hero’s journey.


The revolution has no principle, and there is no interest rate when we scatter the cost across lifetimes. But the down payment is a complete surrender into the dream, and this could be the dream of half my generation.


The revolution is art turning from colonial culture to the native, to tribal, to Eastern, to matriarchal. It is in the shock wave, the only window with light when religion, when politics, when science, when consumerism had all failed to actualize our dreams; when we are virtual, and virtually driven to imagine a greater leap, out of the virtual and into a hands-on vision.


But it starts inside. It starts with silence. Not everyone can be a marvel hero—icons of greatness. I’s and I’s and I’s, more I’s: we need eyes, many eyes, many, many eyes, tuned in to the human frequency. We don’t need definition makers, we need meaning finders.


We need less want.


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“At Midnight We Kiss (Goodbye)” by Samuel Snoek-Brown

A year ago we were on the rocks and over

iced whiskey at midnight we made a resolution to stick

together into the future. But we didn’t


look to the future—we started looking to the past,

back through the history of our shared lives,

all the fights and the sex and the candlelight


dinners and the flirting and the uncertainty—how

would this ever work out? We looked back

through the history of our respective families—


all the divorces, all the long miserable great-

grandparents, all the separations beyond trial.

On one side, three suicides; on the other an old murder,


strychnine in a bowl of soup. We looked back

through the history of our respective hometowns

(treaties broken, feuds through generations), back


through the histories of our ancestors

(trade agreements violated, an assassination,

two accounts of piracy, or privateering, depending


on which side you took—about which we argued

for days—and more civil wars than we could count).

And finally, back through the history of words.


“Love” comes from the German

for joy and the Dutch for praise, but

in tennis it comes from the French for egg,


as in goose-egg,

as in zero. That empty shape,

hollow as a spent shell.

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“When Befriending Spiders” by Tomm McCarthy

When befriending spiders first get

Comfortable with corpses for

Little flea cadavers, vampirized

Mosquitoes, husks of butterflies

With echoed airless wings litter.


Give permission to be poisoned

Because it’s just a bit—

Not ever noteworthy for

Each drip grants twin itches

On the ankle that feel so

Good to scratch at.

Slippery, sweet, poisonous,

Changing between movement and stillness

Too suddenly—birds mistaken for

Faeries with the same regularity

As the days that rent’s late.


Third become aware of being watched

And imitated in your roommate’s

Spinnings—don’t be afraid.

Behave gently with externalized egos

And the angry music that they

Play. Most spiders, you will

Come to know, emotionally are

Without anyone to idolize

Who doesn’t dress in black. They

Lack social graces and their

Boyfriends are unstable four-eyes,

Stoners, joiners, water-spout painters.

And when your itsy-bitsy friend’s

Sugar-daddy-long-legs leaves

Frightened away by praying

Mantis compound, commitment

Making eyes, she’ll look at you

As you sit down beside her

Not asking what she should do.


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“Empty Plates” by Andrea K. Capere

I remember eating grass from the lawn
which blades would
be clean
or covered in dog piss.

Eating raw potatoes
with the neighbor boys
when WIC ran out


My sister and I
wove fairy tales
around our hunger
certain we could pretend our way out of it
how much water could we fill ourselves with?
a novel feeling of
waiting to burst

We smeared half-ripened berries
onto thorny leaves
smashed expired nuts
with Webster’s ninth
Our ingenuity
unmatched when hungry


It was marginally easier
for a child
to be starving
in the heat of summer
sleep becomes a welcome reprieve

I absconded with expired
buttermilk, granola,
food I never had before
I wrote my famished sins
alongside all the others
for my wealthy mother’s sister
to judge

Could it be

I was not to blame for the crime?


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