heist

frankly you’re doing everything possible to placate my anxiety for unconditional affection appropriate to our evolving situation, but i want more: i wanna pull off nothing short of a bellagio heist, brad pitt george clooney & all our pals, right. i need a take-home more substantial than we can split; on patchwork contracts with no clear path & losing the ability to attract potential matches. the stability i seek extends past pills that sublingually edge me to rhythmic breathing: i need an employee to rig the elevator shaft, disable the lasers so i can acrobat to the main safe, eat all the digits i can digest undetected.


a.m. kozak is a social worker currently living in Ottawa.

A Place Past-Midnight

You enter the room in your underwear, for lack of a swimsuit, or preparation. You’re alone, next to a big indoor pool in a dimly lit room. You see the reflection of the water on the walls and pool deck. It calmly sways, just slightly; just below room temperature, but comfortable. You walk to the deep end. The deck is dry, nobody’s been in here for a while. You pick up a diving weight, covered in plastic, and drop it in the deep end, watching it slowly sink to the bottom. You breathe in - almost as though nervousness does not exist in this place - and hop into the water, keeping your body perfectly straight. You let yourself sink slowly down, until your momentum is gone, and then swim the rest of the way to the weight. You grab it, sit, and wait for your body to command you to move. But struggle is not a function of this place. There is no perception of time down here, but it may have been an eternity. This place, at the bottom, has no bearing on what is, but rather, the absence of it. Time may not have passed. You get up when you feel like existing again, dragging the weight up with you. Nothing has changed, above, or below the surface. You breathe a deep breath. Invigorated. The air feels better than before. That place waits until past-midnight to come again. It waits, for the silence, the calm sway, an empty room, another stranger. Somebody will be here, in time, to stop existing, but only for a moment.


Russell's from Waterloo, Ontario, and he thinks everybody should spend a little more time thinking about birds.

A Postcard from Home

In two years I moved three continents and while my body travelled my brain refused to adjust. It dove deeper and deeper within itself until all it could do was run in circles in the small space of my cranium. Suddenly, home did not exist but houses came and went: my grandparent’s bungalow where flowers grew between cracks in the wall, a rented apartment in a sleepy canton, another where voices filled with glee could be heard till dawn arrived with rosy fingers, and a three story where the couch became soft from use and the engines of overhead aero planes kept us awake, until it was time to go and now I find myself in a dorm room where the walls are so thin that I hear Hozier, sometimes, in the mornings.

And I sit here and wonder how could I possibly be here right now, when my brain keeps replaying scenes of sitting in wide verandahs with biscuits and chai. That is a home, and another is running uphill towards the gare because if you miss this one, the next is an hour away and your friends are already there with a basket full of bread, so you can sit by the lake and talk about mortality. Somehow, even this place has become a home when you begin to miss laughing so loud you get complaints and waking up to snowstorms and deciding then to go back to the warm embrace of your bed.

I think now my brain is catching up to my body and those pangs of confused homesickness that rendered me non-functioning have been replaced by an urge, an urge to be here and present and fully alive. Somehow this urge also encompasses wandering, here and everywhere, and the need to keep going onwards and upwards to the next place and the next. Life isn’t meant for you to be stationery both brain and body and soul and everything in between because home isn’t a place anymore. It’s yourself.


Sana Mohsin is a Pakistani-Canadian writer who likes tea, the sea, and Sylvia Plath, immensely.

DEADLY ORGANISMS

Have you considered the fact that many of the things that can maim, kill, and ail you are spread by human contact? From cold war to cholera to the common cold, humans are probably the biggest threat to your health. A rudimentary understanding of mortality rates should suggest to you that you are better off alone. It is such a banal insight that it is featured on government-sponsored bus ads advising people not to get to close to each other for the sake of their well-being.

Keeping uncontaminated is easy for me. I work from home. I’m an introvert and mostly a misanthrope, so the calculation in which I weigh the hypothetical pleasure of a hug against the potential discomfort of influenza is an easy one.

That is why I find myself at home on Friday nights, courting my computer. The mice I touch don’t spread diseases. If I wanted to hear someone whispering I could find some lonely soul and put my ear to the sterile speaker. If being wise means intuitively practicing the common sense of the age, then I am one of the magi of generation Y. We are not a people of pilgrimages. Our gold, frankincense, and myrrh travel the world to get to us, while we remain fixed like stars. Each safe in our orbit. Never touching.

The front door rattles. My brother is home with the groceries. We are too employed to live with our parents and too poor to live alone, so we live with each other in a two-bedroom apartment, carefully avoiding going into each other’s bedrooms except in times of dire necessity. He runs errands for me and I offer him free psychoanalysis. It’s a tenable symbiotic relationship between socially stunted siblings. He’s completed his mission, so now it’s time for me to play my part and be a therapist. I put vodka and ice into clean glasses and hand him one. He sits in his chair, staring silently at the ice clinking in his glass as though its hiding the words he’s looking for. I sip my vodka slowly. I love its deadly crispness. No small, insidious organism can survive that alcohol bath.

“I think Lily slept with Shaun,” my brother finally blurts out. “When we all met last week after work for drinks.”

I’m a good psychoanalyst. I don’t say anything. I stare up at the ceiling and knot my face just slightly so he knows I’m concentrating.

“That doesn’t bother me, really. I mean it’s not like I care whether she sleeps with guys. I don’t, what’s that phrase? Slut-shame. I don’t slut-shame. Good for her, if she likes Shaun. But I have this nagging worry about people who sleep around, especially when they’re drunk. It just seems like a good way to catch diseases, you know? People who are less…fastidious than I am about their health worry me. I like Lily, I really do. But what if we dated? What if she, I don’t know, tried to feed me a strawberry? I’d be wondering whether she washed her hands.”

“Hmmm.” I say, as ambiguously as possible. It’s so much easier for me than it is for my brother. It’s simple to avoid touching people when you never wanted to touch them in the first place. But my brother is more neurotic than I am. He wavers between desire and dread on a constant basis. His ambivalence is useful, though. It makes him better suited for going out and getting groceries.

An hour later, I feel like I am floating on a lake, suspended in water and time. The reading lamp is warm and mellow as an evening sun. I haven’t gone swimming in years, you can guess why, but the memory of it is strangely heartening. My brother is in my bobbing sightline. For ten minutes now he has had the look on his face of someone who is trying to work out a poetic way to explain their emotions.

“I want to hold Lily. I wish I could hold her forever so I wouldn’t have to let her go and deal with the potential consequences of closeness.”

I nod with the deep sympathy of a fellow drunkard.

“God I’m pathetic.” My brother is now nearly horizontal in his chair. “Twenty-seven years old, drinking at home with my sister on a Friday night! No offence. I love you. I do. I just wish you weren’t the only person I hang out with who knows how and when to keep their goddamned distance.” He scowls, briefly and almost imperceptibly.

It is an unfortunate time for me to be rushing face-first toward sobriety. I keep my eyes on my hands, waiting for the collision, hoping I won’t have too much of a headache tomorrow.


Jade Wallace is a laggardly, legal-clinic dwelling pacifist, organizing member of Draft Reading Series, member of the collaborative writing partnership MA|DE, one half of the band The Leafy Greens, and the author of Rituals of Parsing (Anstruther Press, 2018).

167 Unique Instances of Having Lived Together

As soon as I saw you, I knew we had known each other for ten thousand years. I quickly scribbled down Greek letters, Arabic numerals, and Latin presuppositions, and calculated that we had lived 167 lives together, some of them minutes long, others a lifetime. As I spend time with you more and more flash into my mind in no order - I have begun writing them down in hopes it will tell me more about the 168th life I am in now, to make this the longest and sweetest of them all.

1. In 1919, arguing in a cafe in Izmir about which revolution to join - I wanted to make a break for Rhodes and leave this place, but you wanted to scream down the coast and crash into Beirut on our way to Cairo. We agreed we'd have plenty of time to decide tomorrow, ducked under umbrellas to avoid the column of soldiers whose flag we didn't know, and ran back to the university.

16. We had been running for days. I was tired and hungry and we would take turns carrying each other on our backs. We saw the border ahead of us and ran, and as soon as our feet touched that new green ground you turned and said "Oh god, it was so short." I promised that we'd be back and you said you believed me, and we knew we'd never see that place again and let ourselves be swallowed by Pyrenean giants.

57. Biking down the street I caught your glimpse in the window of the train and tried to read the note you were pressing on the glass pane but crashed into the man who sells hot dogs on the corner. I never saw you on that train again, even though I rode next to it for the rest of the fall and some of winter.

77. You made me promise to keep the boat steady so it wouldn't tip over as you climbed in. After about thirty minutes of rowing around, I said "I hate this canadian shit." You agreed and our shoulders moved like twins, up and over the left side of the boat. We swam to the big rock at the middle of the lake and threw stones into the water until bright orange ships with bright orange men sailed in to save us from the terror of enjoying ourselves.

109. Somewhere warm, surrounded by the colossal wreck of old roman columns and carved out temples, we paid no attention to the death's heads that peaked from under the ground to bite at our ankles and remind us of history we'd never learn. As soon as we found some high ground away from the chatter we sunk spades into the ground and flipped a coin to decide what we'd try to plant first. Figs won out and we tried to figure how many jars of fig jam we'd have to sell to build a house.

133. Laying on some earth, you, wearing one of my shirts backwards, listened to me worry about what I had to do. I was scared because I felt the weight of all history, but when you smiled and said it'd be fine, the sky opened and we fell into it all, not sure where or on what body part we'd land.


Jon Babi will be with you shortly, thank you for your patience.

ginger

sun spice set in soil sweet hot and burning brown root stretch and scathe through the veins of my mother and her mother and hers her too

through coarse hands she generates generations the generous genius forming foundations out of broken bodies breathing alive in water rough juice tough skin a soothing kind of blood letting from her amber slits we all sip her pungent fountain

circle ‘round daughters sisters to the place where healers travel back and forth from soil to pots and saucers masters of versatile medicine makers bubble and boil beneath the breastplate inhale fire for damp lungs they have always known what you need

i trust in this knowledge this tradition of flavour i trust in glowing liquid passed from her cup to mine i trust in coming home to fill the nostrils whole i trust in the sacred singeing i feel in my gut while the world tells me no i trust yes i trust in ginger


Magdalin currently lives in Toronto where she enjoys teaching, painting, and stubbornly wearing dresses until it’s actually dress-weather. 

Dear Editor

Dear editor,

So my submission is about... Fuck. I don't know I forget. Probably prose? Yeah, that makes sense. I probably wrote prose. Oh and like, It's science-fiction. I know that because everybody keeps telling me all I write is science fiction. I mean eeeeverybooody. I mean from "that's your thing, man!" down to "Are you still doing that?"

When people say "are you still doing that" I always gotta just say "I guess," because it's nice to be known for something. But I sort of wish I was known for my singing voice, even though I have a crappy singing voice because I like to sing a lot, and I wish it were something people asked me to do more

Okay so like it's a science-fiction story, and it's probably a sad story even though it's got a ton of jokes in it, and someone is going to complain that the jokes kind of ruin it so I'll take them out but then it will be so depressing so I'll actually just take all my scrap note-paper and try to make origami while watching youtube tutorials.

So it's a science fiction story. And it's not about my singing voice. and it's not so much star wars science fiction because I'm not good at spaceships or fight scenes or badguys.

So it's a science fiction story, and it's probably about a lonely cyborg, who gets uncomfortable when people ask if they have genitals, and who makes comments on how gentrified Toronto is getting, and who designs escape rooms and carnival mazes for a living and when people ask what their job is they like to say "I help people get lost"

hey, that's pretty good. Alexa save to notes.

and it's probably about 4000 words.

Wait that's too much.

It's probably about 350 words.


Ben Berman Ghan is a writer and editor, and you know what I don't know anymore because I'm graduating and I'm stressed, and can I even call myself a writer/editor when I'm not writing/editing?

Oh geez, oh geez, this is stupid, it's only me responding to a tweet. Please don't think I'm a jerk.

Please. 

Pleas

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Ben Berman Ghan


Ben Berman Ghan thinks writing his bio in the third person makes him obnoxious and he believes his girlfriend is embarrassed that he never wears matching socks; you can buy his book here.

Adebayo.

He’s a nice young man, he treats me like a million dollars. Adebayo. Adebayo calls me the best thing that has ever happened to him. His wealth is of little significance to me; I make enough money to be comfortable on my own. Adebayo, oh, my Adebayo. Ade mi tells me sweet rubbish that confuses my senses. When he whispers, he brushes his lips against my ears. I think I love him. I think he's the one.

We've been together for 2 years.

"Doyin, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. You complete me, you make me a better man! With you, I feel whole. Will you bless me and be my wife?"

"Yes! Yes, yes, yes!"

It's two months later, I'm home anticipating the weekly bouquet of flowers he sends every Thursday.

We met on a Thursday, our first kiss was on a Thursday and he proposed to me on a Thursday. I hear a knock on the door.

Odd. Tayo, the delivery man, always uses the doorbell.

Her name is Taiwo. Taiwo, alakoba. (Taiwo, the trouble maker) She's a month pregnant for Ade mi.

Ade mi, is it true? My darling Adebayo. He hit me for the first time.

I got my bouquet the next day, it came with an extra rose. Ade mi, he didn‘t mean to do it. He loves me.

It's five months later. I'm in the Emergency Room for the third time. Ade mi tells my family we're on vacation.

We've been married for a year and eight months. I'm pregnant. Ade mi killed our child.

Why won't my love die? Why won't I refuse the flowers?

Ade mi has brought in a mistress. He does not want to make love to the scars he created. Atinuke, his mistress, comes in. Her heels squash the rest of my dignity; her nail polish is the blood of my third miscarriage.

Ade mi makes me serve them food. Atinuke is my cousin.

It's six years later. Ade mi is dead. Atinuke killed Ade mi; He hit her too.

As I reminisce the gruesome details of my past, Tayo, the delivery man, rubs my neck.

Tayo. He kisses my scars.


Moradeyo Adeniyi lives in Mississauga, Canada and spends her free time making the world a better place.

Pocket Camp Poems

Screenshot from Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Screenshot from Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

#1

listen – there’s no one around to help

is a lie I told myself when the sun

went down and left me to my stones,

my untended gardens, my pockets

full of dead or dying insects, my head

empty of all its water, the thirst I felt

met by oceans. but migratory animals

are always in the process of returning

and I’ve made a home out of patience,

a shelter out of presence, and an open

palm pink with the promise of ripe fruit,

all this here to say: look – I am around.

#2

look up! they added a feature

that makes it possible to see the sky

#3

every day overflowing with presence

every day its own reward

every day complete!


Terrence Abrahams was co-parented by the Animal Crossing series.

Let's Not Play

In 2018, I ran a video game fan-blog, where they PayPaled me $12 to explain how pixelated penises don’t work:

Jacob Seed, a “dragon”-level antagonist of the first-person shooter game Far Cry 5 (Ubisoft Montreal/Toronto; 2018) is fanonically 47 years old, w/ all the stressors entailed to AAA game villainy. He is a Gulf War veteran and you can’t fuck him. You can’t write a 438-word drabble on AO3 about how this grizzled Marine would take your 21-year-old Original Character on a Rated-M-for-Mature sex-marathon. He’d die! First, Operation Desert Storm probably fucked up his lungs and maybe his foreskin! Moreover, he doesn’t actually have lungs, or foreskin, or testosterone because he’s fictional, and so is his penis. In the annals of an overworked Québécois programmer’s desktop server, “Model Object #JAC303 for Erectile Function” was never on the office Trello board. They paid no one to render Jacob Seed’s dick, so it doesn’t exist.

Nothing is there. Not just Ken Doll “nothing;” Nothing-nothing. You undo his belt and his character model vivisects. A transparent diaper in its wake. His skeleton wasn’t motion-captured for love. It was made to twist, and shoot, and shout, and succumb to (not suck off) your avatar in a mountainside sniper fight. He was not made for mountainside embraces.

At this point, you might be saying, “Original Poster, a Potent Checkpoint is not a prerequisite for a High Score, If You Know What I Am Saying.” I do. I’m not naïve. I know where cogs go to grind. But Jacob Seed is mean. As mean as a video game villain who is almost 50 years old can be. Even if he could fuck, he would not. Not with a fox, not in your box, not in a house, and not with your mouse. Not with you. Drop the console. Stop being horny. I’m begging you.

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~~ Thank you for the request <3! If you like what I do, please share the love on my Ko-Fi, linked here! ~~


It's easier for Christine H. Tran to just say she lives in Toronto, where she will do her PhD.