dig

This Word Is Dig

by Harmony Button

As you drive west from Salt Lake (a city situated in the relatively lush Uinta basin, surrounded by steep mountains and foliage that is fed year-round by snowmelt), you’ll notice a transformation: the ground flattens, and the color scheme shifts; the landscape turns from desert scrub to an odd, chalky white. From the inside of a car, you’d swear you just drove into winter, a wasteland with a perfect dusting of ash, a frozen landscape of ice. But what you think is snow is really salt, and what you swear was ice is really the crystalline crust of an ancient dried up lakebed. What water still exists is perfectly clear — so clear, in fact, that you can see to the bottom as if looking through glass. The high salt content kills bacteria. Everything is pickled in a perfect, pristine brine. If there is water along the horizon, which depends on the season, it mirrors a perfect picture of the sky, except for at the edges, where the saline content causes the image to curl slightly, as if the landscape was a giant test tube and you, the scientist, were having trouble reading the true water level at the meniscus. The irony is not lost on me: the flattest place on earth looks as if it curves up at the edges.

The Bonneville Speedway, out on the salt flats, is renown as the place where all kinds of land speed records have been set. The race “track” is painted directly on the salt flat, which naturally compacts into one of the flattest, most consistent surfaces on the earth — flatter and faster than the track at Daytona, flatter than any blacktop or concrete that has ever been poured. The residual moisture in the salt has a way of cooling overheated tires, and the grit of the crust provides the perfect amount of traction to prevent slippage and skids. The fastest mile on record was completely by Gary Gabelich in 1970 in his rocket-powered vehicle, which clocked in at 622 mph — almost faster than the speed of sound, but not quite.  Gabelich went to the desert to dig a hole in the sound barrier, but there was just a little too much nothing in his way.

Other than the speedway, the highway, some really cool landscape art (the Spiral Jetty, the Sun Tunnels, the Tree of Life) and the Dugway proving grounds (where the US Army Chemical Warfare Service conducted regular tests of biological and nuclear weapons in the 1940s), there’s really not much out in the great salt desert. Which is to say, it is a fascinating place, full of oddity set against emptiness. There are small salt water pools. There are abandoned barracks layered with graffiti from movie sets. There’s the plane tower from Con Air. There’s the set from The Incredible Hulk. Walking the salt flats, far from the road, I once came across a potholder, an eye patch, and a child’s mitten. This is a place that defies narrative. It offers only questions and silences. Continue reading

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Extraordinary Neighbors

By Dawn Wilson

Miriam yoo-hooed. I hate it when Miriam yoo-hoos. She sounds like a yahoo. And I’ve told her so. She never listens. She’s from a small town where all the women go around yoo-hooing each other all the live long day. It’s unpleasant. She does the flicking wave, too. One arm out straight, heil Hitler, and the wrist bending aw-shucks. These were women schooled on Liberace: real men twinkle.

The man who’d just moved in next door, the one Miriam was yoo-hooing while I tended her precious flower bed, did not twinkle. He was your basic everyday man’s man, I figured. A very brown man, often covered in dirt. He wore a baggy black sweatshirt. He had Italian hair, pepper black with gray salt, slicked back.

“Yoo-hoo!”

The man turned.

“Oh, hello.” As if she was surprised to see him, or surprised he was real. When he turned his gaze on you, you just sort of did that, forgot what you were doing. I stood up with the little trowel, in case she needed backup. “I never saw a moving van.”

“Didn’t need one.” Continue reading

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Powerless

By Katherine Orozco

I hate when the power goes out. You see, when the power goes out where I live, it’s not just a normal dark, the one that your eyes get used to after a few minutes. It’s the kind of dark that presses on your eyes and keeps you blind. It’s the kind of dark that makes you imagine noises, imagine that your childhood fears are coming to life. It’s the kind of dark that makes people go crazy.

One night, close to Thanksgiving, the power went out in my house. I sat in my chair, my eyes as open as I could get them, and tried to stare around in the black for a flashlight. A futile endeavor, I might add. Slowly but surely, the temperature dropped lower, and I was soon shivering in my seat. However, I wasn’t inclined to move. For all I knew, there could be something on the floor, waiting for me to put my bare foot down on the freezing tile. But, eventually, I braved the floor and sprinted to my room, where I tripped over a step and leaped onto my bed. Quickly, I wrapped my down blanket around myself, trying to calm my tremors of irrational fear and cold. Eventually, my heart rate slowed to normal.

And that’s when I heard a noise.  Continue reading

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Visit Home

By Robert Earle

A suburb that once was a few estates roofed with old hardwoods on a peninsula bordered by two rivers flowing into the Atlantic. The man knew the way (he’d been married there), but the woman directed him where to turn. They were looking for her childhood home, not his. Only she had memories of the woods that stood before these roads were built and of the barn being torn down when she was five and of the trees her father preserved to ensure their privacy as he sold off twenty acres, one after another, and kept just three for themselves.

They turned up a side street. There, set back a good eighty feet, stood the house with its shingles painted silver-gray and its trim in perfect condition, likewise the rain gutters, and the window in the second floor gable behind which she had lived from her birth until she was eighteen.

She said, “I’ve got to knock.”

“I’ll sit here. They’ll react better if it’s just you.”

Continue reading

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Jade Staircase Lament – In a Station of the Metro

By Martin Porter

Just as the sun sets across the Tuileries, the spring moon rises above the Rue de Rivoli. The air is clear, the sky radiates colour with spectral translucence. I descend into the Metro, grasping the glossy brass handrail so as not to slip on the verdigris-stained brass-edged steps, illumined brilliant jade in the jewelled dusk.

The air is rank, dank with the sweet smell of cherry blossom mixed with the perspiration. I catch my breath and catch a glimpse of her waiting for him, dressed comme des garçons in oriental silk, smart, déshabillé, classic Parisienne chic.

Her face glows, transparent as a nimbus, yet real, more real than everybody else. A gust of hot air sweeps through the station as a train approaches. Hats are held to heads, unbuttoned jackets flap. Nothing about her is disturbed. Discarded tickets blow about her. Specks of dust sparkle through her.

She had already seen him in town dashing through spring showers, as if to a meeting. She was early, buffed and scented for their rendezvous, anticipatory. She was early. He was late.

He is late. Even now, she waits, uncomplaining. He is, to put it simply, never going to arrive. Against hope, she still waits.

Looking away, I push the turnstile and enter the desolate black dendritic roots of the metro. Waiting on the sooty platform, a discarded flier rises in the draught from the tunnels. I brush a pastel pink petal of cherry blossom from my collar.

Martin Porter was born in Jersey C.I., but now lives a retired life in Whangarei, New Zealand, writing poetry and flash fiction.  He has recently had flash fiction published in Flash Frontiers, Blue Note Review, Flash Flood, Flash Mob 2013, Bare Fiction magazine, was an invited reader at Auckland Library for the NZ National Flash Fiction Day Awards 2013, and won the Whangarei Library Flash Fiction prize in 2012 and 2014.  He can be found on the web at poetrynotesandjottings.wordpress.com.

Photo Credit: Metro Paris – Ligne 13 – Porte de Vanves by Greenski

If You Ask Me: The Ranting Sister

By Matt Galletta 

Question:

My sister likes to rant. A lot. What she rants about doesn’t really matter because we agree about most of the things she likes to rant about. (Though lately it’s been about how everyone is overreacting to threat of Ebola in the US and not concerned enough about what’s going on in Africa.) The problem is that I DO agree with her, and I feel like no matter what I say she goes off on me. It’s like she has this whole lecture planned out, and she needs someone to sit through it. There’s no room for me to talk at all. I’ve told her that if she just needs an audience she should get a blog, but she won’t. She won’t even say anything to our uncle who posts American Ebola stuff nonstop on Facebook. Lately, I’ve been finding myself avoiding her. I don’t like it, but I don’t know what else to do.

So you’ve been avoiding your sister…like the plague?

(Pause for hysterical laughter) Continue reading

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INTERVIEW: Simone Caroti

Simone Caroti is Course Director for Science Fiction and Fantasy at Full Sail University and a senior research scientist at the Astrosociology Research Institute (ARI), a non-profit organization devoted to bringing the humanities and the social sciences into the debate on human colonization of outer space. He is the author of The Generation Starship in Science Fiction, a critical history of multi-generational interstellar travel in science fiction. His second book on the Culture series by the science fiction author Iain M. Banks is currently under contract from McFarland.

In this interview with Paper Tape editor Kristy Harding, Simone talks about Iain M. Banks, his forthcoming book on Banks’ Culture novels, and his work at the ARI.

PT: Thanks for agreeing to talk with me, Simone. Tell us about your new book?

SC: The book originates from a proposal I sent to my publisher, McFarland, in December of 2012. I’d been wanting to write about the Culture series for fifteen years by that point, so I was actually relieved when I decided to take the plunge. McFarland declared itself interested, and I started researching. I continued until April 3rd, 2013. Banks’ announcement of his terminal illness hit me hard, and I immediately stopped working on the book – I didn’t know how to go on.

PT: His death hit me quite hard, as well. I was reading A Song of Stone when it was announced.

SC: I own A Song of Stone, and I very much want to read it, but right now I just can’t. If I may ask, did the atmosphere of the book seep into your reaction to Banks’ announcement?

PT: That’s a good question. I think the atmosphere of the book did seep into my reaction to Banks’ announcement but in an unexpected way. The thing that impressed me the most about A Song of Stone was how Banks wrote about the worst of human behavior with such beautiful language. It was as if he took these characters wallowing in a trash heap, and he gave them dignity. So, when the announcement came out I was struck by the contrast between the beauty of his personal dignity and all the love he received from the community and the horror and tragedy of the cancer that took him away from us. I think sitting with that terrible beauty while reading A Song of Stone helped me to sit with the best and worst of the human experience when the announcement came out, the love and the pain surrounding his death, which is beautiful in itself, in a way: Iain Banks’ work helped me grieve his death. It’s the greatest gift I think I’ve ever received from an author as a reader.

SC: I love that. I think you capture the mood of most people who love his work – you certainly do so for me, and I’m thankful for that.

PT: Thank you. I know we’d all rather have him here still, writing books. Obviously, you did go on eventually. What happened? Continue reading