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Weekly Featured Essay

In this week’s featured essay, Gary Fincke recalls the time when he discovered, much to his surprise, there was a warrant for his arrest and his tenuous livelihood is placed on the line.

Scofflaw 

I was sixteen the first time I was inside a police station. My mother took me after I received my first traffic ticket.

My violation was making an illegal U-turn around a median strip at the end of the block where my father’s bakery was located. I’d made that turn every Friday after I finished my shift at the bakery, working until 5:45 a.m. when I then drove the station wagon back home and gave it to my mother to drive to the bakery and open the store at 6:00 a.m.

But that Friday, because I was scheduled to take the SATs Saturday morning, I’d worked from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. like I’d done when my mother had picked me up in that station wagon every Friday from eighth to tenth grade. She’d made that U-turn every time and so did I, completing it, this fateful night, while a police car sat at the light.

“Whose name is on that ticket?” my mother said when I showed it to her. She was in her pajamas, but she buttoned a coat up over them and slipped on a pair of shoes while I tried to make out the signature.

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Cancer Scars

by Danusha Goska

Now, see, if I were a true and deep artist, I would look at my cancer scar and write a poem or sculpt something uplifting. I’d create art like that famous black-and-white poster by poet Deena Metzger, the one where she is naked, arms stretched against the sky. You see her breast cancer scar, now a tattoo. One of the most stunning, generous, and brave images I have ever seen.

As it is, I look at my scar and think, “Duct tape.” I am a spinster with no man of my own. I’m related to lots of men—brothers, uncles, cousins, nephews—who would, in accord with my family’s tradition, not pee on me if I were on fire. As a man-less spinster I use a lot of duct tape. It really does fix everything, and anything duct tape can’t fix is not worth salvaging. So, yes. I look at this mess of a scar and think, not poem or essay, but, rather, “Duct tape.”

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Midtown Messenger

by Carl Schiffman

By early January of 1952 I had a new after school job, this time for the Composing Room, a print shop on West 46th Street. The High School of Performing Arts was just next door. I worked picking up and delivering layouts, proofs, and revised proofs of advertisements composed by printers working at giant linotype machines and from wooden boxes of hand‑set type in a bright noisy space on the far side of a counter to which we messengers would be called to be assigned our trips.

I was generally given three or four good‑sized manila envelopes to deliver and about as many pick‑ups to make, written out on separate slips of paper. Deliveries were usually made to a receptionist and pick‑ups too, would often be waiting for me at her desk. I wouldn’t have to say a word. Other times I would be sent beyond the reception area to contact a specific individual or department. I took particular pleasure in those occasions, especially once I had begun to learn my way through the frequently labyrinthine interior offices.

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Edge of Obsession

If I told you that when I was a kid I used to double numbers over and over, 2-4-8-16-32 until they became page-crossing monsters lined up in identical pairs, you might say “Man, that’s pretty OCD.” I used to collect license numbers, too, peering out the windows of our station wagon and copying them into the green lines of a journal my dad had given me. But that was mainly to feed a fantasy of telling baffled police that yes, as a matter of fact, I did know the plate number of that blue Gremlin, getaway car in the crime of the century.

Nerd hobby or superhero daydream, whatever that was it didn’t last. I must have tired of writing numbers in rows and not solving crimes. But I still recall old addresses and phone numbers and can recite pi to fifty places, which friends consider amusing or strange depending on their own relationship to numbers. And I have my habits like anyone. In coffee shops I always order a double espresso, because why tempt the writing gods unnecessarily, and I always put new groceries behind old, fresh towels at the bottom of the stack. These are probably relics of a college stock boy job, I tell myself. On the way out the door I always pat my pockets for the holy trinity—keys, phone, wallet—but I don’t do it ten times. Maybe three.

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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Janitor

I’ve burned human feces on remote outposts, I’ve dropped bombs down mortar tubes, and I’ve rushed out to inner-city murder scenes late at night. I’ve been told by stern-faced cops I needed to “get the hell out of here now” or I’d be arrested. I’ve been singed by the pulsing heat radiating off a 1,600-degree Fahrenheit steel slab in a hot strip mill; burning fiercely like an indoor sun, the steel’s heat was enough to make me stagger back. I’ve live-broadcasted vacant house fires where billowing, black smoke choked the whole block. I’ve been followed by police cruisers as an intimidation tactic after reporting on city council meetings. I’ve been shot at and cursed at. Readers have left me rambling, profanity-laced voicemails; prisoners have sent me long, discursive letters in chicken scratch handwriting.

One could say I’ve had some interesting jobs.

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Living with Alexa

Growing up in the 1960s, I was immersed in all things science fiction, including the Robot Novels of Isaac Asimov, which I devoured as a pre-teen reader, and the original Star Trek series televised during my high school years. Although I loved Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, I didn’t have much interest in acquiring my own android companions. But I was fascinated with using the power of human speech to control seemingly inanimate objects like they were somehow my servants, waiting to do my bidding with a simple verbal command. I relished watching those Star Trek episodes where Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and Scotty controlled the Enterprise with nothing more than their commanding, logical, sultry, even broguish voices. I often dreamed about the possibilities of some voice enabled device about my house. In the era before personal computers, I had already begun to develop my own simple computer programs in high school and I taught myself about computing and automation that would eventually become the foundation for my career in computing at Brigham Young University.

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A Fallen Feather of a Boy

Yuelong Ma was a transfer student. For almost two years, he was in our class, but his presence was hardly felt. Our inability to take notice of him wasn’t his fault; my previous headteacher ruined things for him from the very beginning. On his first day with us, the headteacher briefly introduced him, saying only “Yuelong Ma used to study in class 8, but from today on, he will be with us.” He was sort of lanky. He had big eyes. Before I could cast a second glance, the headteacher sent him to her office to do some errand so that he would not hear the rest of her speech. But when the door closed, she hesitated to resume, knitting her brows and biting her lips. She was a very young teacher, and in retrospect, it must have been a tough issue for a novice headteacher like her to address. She wanted to do right. The silence built to a depressing note, and we started to whisper to each other. She cleared her throat and said, “There were some irreconcilable issues in his old class, and I volunteered to accept him into our class as I think he is kind.” She paused, glancing at our faces, and continued, “But he is still a bad student. You guys should never play with him. Just leave him be.”

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Walking

by Michelle Cacho-Negrete

My experience is the same as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s who said, “My mind only works with my legs.” I’ve written every essay, thesis, short story on my feet. My mother insisted I was even a rambler in utero, the truth of that confirmed by an article proclaiming babies walk in the womb. They press their tiny feet against the uterine wall and push off, those first circular strolls an introduction to the exhilaration of movement. My mother was an incessant walker: the mile and a half to the Brooklyn/Manhattan subway, then climbing stairs to her third-floor job as a file clerk, enjoying a brisk lunch-time jaunt, and later reversing the sequence to go home.

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MORE RECENT WORK: Like what you’ve been reading? All the fine essays published throughout the history of the magazine can be accessed via the contributors/archives page.


Winter/Spring: Volume 7, Issue 1 New Issue Released!  

Twenty-two essays from Volume 7, Issue 1.


New Anthology Released

We are pleased to announce publication of our new anthology Encounters, which features fifteen eclectic essays originally appearing in bioStories magazine, all focused on some of those chance encounters that can transform our lives.


Issue Reviewed at NewPages

Appreciation goes out to Katy Haas at NewPages for taking time to review the Winter/Spring 2016 Issue.