“All I Learned” by Sydnee Smith

We only met once in the California Desert.

We were sweaty and naive with newfound freedoms,

as we cursed each others names,

running around the house, panting

like dogs in the heat. Stealing

each others phones to look at secrets.

You taught me California held evil, in the forms of us.

As you dragged me to my knees, forced me

to repent for the sins of my upbringing,

how it was so much different than yours.

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“How to Rock Out with Strangers” by Tori Kaufman

I have only ever camped with total strangers once, so I boast only cursory observations in this instructional piece on exactly how to go about camping with strangers.

 

First, you will need some strangers. For this, I recommend leaving the apartment, house, or even looking up from this screen. I had to do all three (and many other things), on several separate occasions (my entire life up to this point), until such an event as will be depicted here could be achieved (I had no idea what I was doing regarding any element of this adventure).

 

Next, you will need to interact with the stranger(s). Walking up to someone with the opener, “What are your dreams and deepest passions in life?” may be tempting, but I advise against its frivolous use. My surveying says the response is almost always a very laborious and pregnant silence.

 

Starting from a place of common interest is a good way to go. Everyone has always told me this, in some cases in different languages, so this must just be a human thing, apparently. If you go about it right, you might end up driving away from your camping excursion in a state of divine bliss with something new on your list of ‘Have-Dones.’ Plus, there might be ice cream.

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“Chill” by Tyler Applby

The fog is heavy tonight.

The early chilling of Winter’s breath has coaxed the clouds out of their hiding places, giving them a short, albeit delightful freedom.  Their sheets of white drape over my shoulders, and they shroud me in a blanket of mystery.  I can feel the water soaking into the sleeves of my thick, cotton overcoat.  A shudder worms its way through my body, and I shove my hands into my pockets.

I dance lightly on my toes, peering down the empty road.  The pale, yellow streetlight flickers uneasily.  It casts a heavenly halo into the fog like a fool.  It wants me to believe in happiness, to push away my steadfast skepticism and embrace the freedom of the soul.

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“Port Angeles” by Jordan Hartt

Was a couple used to live here in PA name’a Bud n’ Lorraine Gillis, maybe you know ‘em or heard tell of ‘em. He was a machinist n’ coached football n’ she worked at th’Oyster Café n’ run the bowlin’ league. They had two sons: th’oldest one was killed in a car crash, n’ th’youngest, Tod, shot himself three weeks later.

Tod was a short-order cook in th’same place Lorraine work at. No one saw him react after th’phone call about his brother, but his breaks started getting’ longer n’ longer, which no one blamed him for. We’d see him go outside th’restaurant even during th’busiest times at th’dinner rush, n’ he’d light up a cigarette n’ stare out at th’big cargo ships, all lit up like cities, passin’ through the strait, like he wanted to a hitch a ride on one of ‘em outta here. Or he’d watch th’rain come in, n’ he’d just stand there, smokin’ in the rain. Then one night, after hours, he went into th’walk-in freezer n’ fired a bullet up into th’roof offa his mouth with a Colt from World War Two th’boys had gotten from their grandfather. Tod wasn’t found until the next morning, by the breakfast shift. When th’phone rang in th’Gillis household to tell ‘em, Bud said to Lorraine, “Well, here we go again,” before he even picked up th’phone.

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