Sunday, August 28, 2011

Issue Two, Volume Two

 From the Desk of the Editor,
     Welcome one and all to the second issue of the second volume under the second name of this magazine! This week we have two great stories written by two lovely authors about nothing related to two's (or to 2's too).

     Here at HQ we have been preparing for the BIG MOVE! Which is actually two things oddly enough--1) we are moving head quarters itself to Oklahoma City and 2) we are going to start having an issue every weekend (late Saturday nights and early Sunday mornings). So make sure to come back and see us next week.

Daniel J. Pool
Larks Editor

By Janet Shell Anderson

    Grisham drowned in the whirlpool yesterday.

    I feel as if I came out of the water a long time ago, thought I could love, was mistaken. As I walk this moody Jura coastline, the Inner Hebrides, Scotland, painted with mist, deep in cloud, I should seem no different from any other tourist. Grisham and I came here together for the beauty, the isolation, splendor, a wild place for him to be.

    Jura sits at the edge of Europe, edge of the world, Isle of Deer in Old Norse, a wilderness in every sense. George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four here. The Gulf of Corryvreckan, cauldron of the speckled sea, lies between Jura and the island of Scarba. What are these? Words. Flotsam. Drift. Seaweed above high tide. Thoughts like the whirlpool. I feel numb, strange.

    Grisham is dead. The police have no interest in me.

    I can almost see the maelstrom, the Corryvreckan, the whirlpool, can sense it from here, know the beat of it, the twist, the language of the sea, know it in my flesh. The British Navy refuses to sail its vessels through the channel between Jura and Scarba.

    I remember the flood tide from the Firth of Lorne, the standing wave, the sailboat tipping, Grisham shouting. He drowned. I survived.

    There isn’t a person on this coast today, not a human voice, not a soul, only the wind, the burr of rain, the cries of seabirds, the talking sea. On the grassy hills, red deer stand silent. When they look at me, do they see a woman? Or something else? Something from the sea? Something born to know the language of the wild water? A selkie?

    There is a legend here about changelings, selkies, seals that come to shore, assume human form. They are supposed to hide their sealskins, fall in love with mortals. I hear the wash of the sea, a language I know.

    There are no selkies, have never been; I am not a selkie. It’s nonsense. But the sea talks and talks, and I listen; it sings of the pool.

    I have all Grisham’s money now; I can go to Edinburgh, Paris. Forget. The birds wheel and scream over the water, and the tide runs fast. Grisham was beautiful, for a man.

    A seal, pale as a ghost, with great dark eyes, lies on a rock. It has the eyes of a lost soul, eyes of the dead, looks as if it remembers me. Grisham was not the first killed in the Corryvreckan; Orwell almost drowned there too.

    I read that before we sailed.

About the Author
     Janet Shell Anderson is an attorney and was recently nominated for the Pushcart and Micro prizes. She has been published by Vestal Review, Grey Sparrow, Convergence, Four Cornered Universe, LITSNACK, Green Silk Journal, Citron Review, Concisely, and others.

Piccolo’s Italian Restaurant
By Farin Kehoe
Congratulations on being selected to perform one of the most challenging, yet rewarding jobs at Piccollo’s Italian Restaurant. Although you may be a nineteen, fresh out of high school, and new to the city of Richmond, you must learn that successful sales and service result from your own confidence, which can only be developed through knowledge and experience. This city may not have the same mentality as your hometown of Middleburg, a mere six block stretch of 18th century mansions and white churches against a picturesque rural backdrop. You are used to horseback riding and vineyards, making the restaurant business like an alien planet.  However, this job is necessary to cover the expenses required to pursue your dreams and get an education. Although your parents wanted you to continue life as a horse farmer, you have decided to go against their wishes, by applying to college, and moving to a large city. This may be the only job you could find that would hire someone with no prior experience, but it is because we will provide you with the necessary material to develop this knowledge and confidence in relation to customer service. You, as a server for Piccolo’s Italian Restaurant, are responsible for learning it. Our high standards can only be maintained through great people like you who share our values and the desire to do the very best job possible for our guests.

            You are required to have the proper uniform on when you enter and leave the building. Your appearance must be well kept and clean.
This means:                 White dress shirt         (clean, pressed)
                                    Pair of black dress pants         or
                                    Knee length skirt         (clean, pressed, just tight enough on your butt)         
                                    A tie                            (a bright blue Jerry Garcia tie that you stole
                                                                        from dad, Windsor knot)
                                    Nonslip black shoes
                                    Natural makeup           (a little blush, mascara, and lip-gloss)
                                    Hair pulled back          (letting one brown tendril loose to fall over your eye)

Many of the servers will look you up and down as you enter the building. But you’ll be struggling to remember the tour they gave at orientation and where exactly you are supposed to go. This means you are too busy to notice the six-foot-four strawberry blonde staring at you as he restocks cups at the drink station. He will whisper something to another male server, as they watch you walk to the kitchen. Here, the manager, Danielle, a young brunette that resembles Katie Holmes with freckles, will issue you an apron and a waiter wallet. All servers must place the rest of their belongings in the designated cubby by the employee restroom. You are to place your stuff on the shelf labeled by a piece of leopard print duct tape with your name scrawled across in Sharpie.
            The first thing a server must do is clock in, and then immediately check in at the hostess stand. A small, dark haired girl with a very low cut black shirt will greet you with a white smile and boobs from behind the podium. She will have already learned your name and gossiped about you and your background with at least half of the staff (mostly the males). Respond politely, tell her that Jackie is a great name, and write down all the table numbers in your section. As a server, you will need to learn that a hostess’ job is to assign tables to each section and keep the dining room moving systematically. This means a hostess controls who sits in your section and the frequency in which you are sat. If she feels as though you are a threat, a bitch, too pretty, or even too weird, whichever it is, she will arrange the seating rotation to fit her personal agenda. For the first month, Jackie and her three groupies will most likely double seat you (seating one with two parties/tables back to back) just “to see if you can handle it.” But it’s really to get you fired. Or she will let you stand around for two hours until she leads a measly one top to the largest table in your section. Jackie and her followers control your cash flow. This may seem petty or unfair because they are sixteen year old girls with too much power, but your tuition is due and that means you have to bend over and take it. As a server, take the effort to compliment the hostess on anything attached to her body (hair, jewelry, boobs, nails, eye shadow, etc.) because you must stay on her good side.
            After checking in at the hostess stand, you must confirm your running side-work (stations you have been designated responsible for throughout the dinner rush i.e. refilling the ice bin, stocking condiments, etc.), which will be located on the white board hanging in the back of the kitchen. This is also where the daily specials and 86 items (an item out of stock) are located. As you read the board, the tall red head from before will approach you. He’ll introduce himself as Kyle and expect your name in return, but his slate grey eyes and collective mass of freckles that stretch over the bridge of his nose won’t allow your mind to process English. With an awkward giggle you finally snap back to reality and introduce yourself as Kerri—with two rs and a i. Kyle will lead you to the service station, a small enclosed station where all the employees hide from their tables and gossip. A group of servers and bus boys, all the their early twenties, will usually stand in a half circle talking shit to one another and making plans to get drinks after work. This is when Kyle will slip his hand to the lower curve of your back and ask everyone if they have met Kerri. Random faces will shoot you smiles, some will wave, but they all will look the same in their matching uniforms. Their names will drop from your memory immediately. You will only be able to feel the warmth of his hand on your back. Over the next month, you are most likely to go deaf and/or dumb every time he gets too close.
            As a new server in our establishment, you are likely to have an abundance of questions. Your coworkers are your team. This means you should always ask for help when it’s needed. Kyle will be the most eager to answer any questions. He’ll appear out of nowhere to assist you, even after you have asked Manny, the creepy, thirty-year-old kitchen manager, to help you find the small ramekins. Kyle will take this opportunity to warn you about his cocaine problem and his routine of getting the new girls drunk in attempt to get laid. Or when you ask one of the scruffy, stoned line cooks for a clean rag or more salad dressing, Kyle will be by your side only moments after. He will try to explain how the line cooks are into some hefty drugs and have been known to slip a little something-something into girls’ drinks at work parties.
Kyle may seem to have the lowdown on everyone.  But everyone seems to have the lowdown on everyone. Servers work together as a team and we must all be friends within the workplace. This means that in such a small environment, you must learn to talk shit while looking both ways--everyone does it.
The warnings people give you about your coworkers should be treated like a survival guide. Kyle and almost every other server will warn you about Krystal (The Psycho) first. She is normally a bartender but when she’s a server, she will run around reminding everyone of their running side-work they’ve neglected. But if there are two tables in Krystal’s section she gets into the weeds (the point at which you cannot handle the tables in your section and have to ask for help--average table amount: 4). She is also the girl that will dump a whole bottle of laxatives into the margarita machine if bar guests don’t tip well. After being scared for the first few weeks, you will finally get the balls to introduce yourself to “The Psycho” and she will complain directly to your face about how she “hates new bitches.” Luckily, she will most likely pick Sarah, the new blonde girl, to target. You will have to politely listen while she bashes the other new girl’s perfect complexion and skinny waist. As the new server, you should always just nod in agreement, even when Krystal accuses Sarah of sucking people off for better tips. This will seem completely absurd. Ignoring the warning, you will befriend Sarah, but, by no means does this require you to be loyal to one another. Your friendship involves just the two of you spending the slower hours talking. Sarah will vent to you about her kids and husband, all interesting at first, but not after being repeated week after week. Although you will have to put up with stories about her two-year-old ruining her possessions or pooping on the walkway to her house, Sarah will finally prove herself useful when she decides to warn you about Kyle, “The poster child for Piccolo’s.” This nickname means he’s stuck up because he’s head server and because knows he’s attractive. She will explain how he dropped out of college, has worked here for two years, and still lives with his parents. This may be a slight turn off, but one look or touch from Kyle and you couldn’t care less if he lived in a tee-pee and communicated via smoke signals. Sarah will think this is the best time to mention the amount of attention he has paid you in the past couple weeks. This may cause your stomach to jump for joy and your face to flush, giving Sarah free reign to joke you about Kyle. You are most likely over-excited, which may cause the loss of filter over your mouth. At this weak moment, you are likely to tell this “new friend” about Kyle’s flood of text messages since you began working here. Sarah’s eyes will widen with awe at the wealth of gossip she’s accumulating as she scrolls through your conversation. TRANSITION As a server, you are not allowed to carry your phone on your person. If you are caught, the device will be confiscated and kept in the office until you check out at the end of the night. This may seem thrilling as Kyle not only texts you throughout the day, but he also sends them in masses while he’s working not even ten feet away. Sarah will snicker and quickly toss you back your phone as Kyle turns the corner of the service station. You’ll shove it into your apron and turn to the computer as if you were putting in an order. Sarah may mumble something about her table, grab some napkins, and hurry out to the dining room. Kyle is likely to press himself into your back, trapping you, as he leans one arm on the computer station. With a jerk of his head, his long hair will flip perfectly into place and he’ll smile before asking you to “get drinks after work.” You embarrassingly have to remind him that you aren’t of age to legally drink, but he’ll reassure you that he can take care of that. You’ll take this as his gallant effort to become your boyfriend.
All servers must use a Styrofoam container with a lid for all drinks. Be sure to label your drink or it will be thrown away. The rest of the night at work, Kyle is likely to act as if you’re the only person in the restaurant. He may write terms of endearment, like “hottest girl in the world,” across your Styrofoam cup, or attempt to serenade you with cheesy 80s love songs as they play on the radio, even though he hardly knows the words. Either way, you’ll get sweaty palms thinking about your date.
            Kyle must be at least fifteen minutes late to pick you up. When he arrives, he’ll ask if you could invite a friend for his “boy,” Kevin. You’ll be unsure of whom to call for back-up; this could be due to the fact that you’ve made very few friends since moving here. Your initial thought may be to call Sarah, but she’s got kids and would probably prefer sleep over being your wingman. This is when you should recall your conversation with one of Jackie’s minions earlier in the night. The tall, lengthy brunette—Catie—had mentioned her plans on using her fake at a bar. She won’t be the pick of the litter, but she’ll do. You will text her, practically begging her to join. Being all of seventeen, she will quickly agree to any opportunity to be admitted into a bar.
            Kyle will open the car door, open the door to Bar Louie’s, pull your chair out, and even take your coat for you. These actions are likely to make your heart to jump. Catie and Kevin will show up within minutes of one another and immediately fall into conversation about some football highlight on Sports Center. Kevin will order you and Catie each a sweet red mixed drink and then a round of sour green shooters. You may be able to make it halfway through the fruit punch concoction until realizing how strong it is. This epiphany will hit when you stand to walk to the bathroom. Kyle will order more shots as you’re gone, this time tequila. A server should always offer to refresh a drink if it is one-half to three-quarters empty. Your server will make sure that all your drinks seem bottomless. The number of shots and drinks will start to blend and fade from your memory, and you will find yourself more and more “in like” with Kyle. It may happen as he helps you with your coat, or as he walks with his arm around you across the parking lot, either way, you’ll kiss him first. Although you are a young woman with good judgment, alcohol will impair most, if not all, decision making skills. This means when Kyle asks you to stay at his house, you’ll accept without hesitation.
            Going “home” with Kyle doesn’t mean to his own residence, you’ll realize that once he pulls into his parent’s driveway. He’ll attempt to sneak you quietly up the dark stairwell, but you’ll stumble and make enough noise to wake up his whole family. When you make it to his room, he’ll throw an old cotton Yankee’s t-shirt and a pair of ratty boxers at you. Your memory will go in and out from here. There will be sex, a few moments of cuddling, a couple hours of sleep, and a headache as a cheesy melody plays from your cell phone. This is when you realize you have work in thirty minutes. You will have to shake Kyle until he finally wakes up with a grunt, and then beg him to drive you home immediately. He’ll have to take his time getting dressed so he can grumble and bitch about how early it is. The car ride will most likely be silent.
            As a server, if you are more than fifteen minutes late, you must get a manger to clock you in. You’ll be about twenty minutes late and be sent home for not calling to warn them. Feeling defeated and hung over, you’ll head home to shower and sleep.
            Kyle won’t text you again. He’ll even call out of work as sick for the next week. After a few dozen attempts, you should realize he’s not going to respond or return your calls. You’ll have to continue to show up to work every day wondering if he is going to be there. 
            After a couple days, the question of Kyle’s whereabouts will become a hot topic. Kyle will have to ruin any and all gossip by showing up on a slow Monday afternoon. As a server at Piccolo’s and a former sexual partner, you must acknowledge his presence as he slumps down at a booth in your empty section. His hair may look unkempt and his clothes wrinkled, but you should start off by asking him how he’s doing. Kyle will most likely respond with a mumble, maybe something about being okay.
Then he will utter the four worst words, “we need to talk.”
A server must never sit at or lean on the table when taking an order or talking to a guest. Kyle may run his hands through his strawberry blonde hair and gesture to the seat across from him.  But as a server, you must decline, only to stand there stiff and awkward, not knowing what to do with your hands.
Offer to start your guest off with a drink and explain any happy hour or promotional specials Piccolo’s has to offer. Kyle will ask for a whiskey on the rocks. As a server, you aren’t just in the restaurant business; you are in retail as well. Ask your customer if he wants a double.
Remember to laugh when Krystal hands you Kyle’s drink and asks if you got “hitted and quitted.” As a new server, you must deny all embarrassing accusations.
Always place glasses on your customer’s right side. As you set his drink down, Kyle may reach for your hand and ask how you’ve been. You must answer as if you’ve had the best week of your life. He’ll most likely check his cell phone and smile politely as a response. You will wonder why he is here. Before 5:00 p.m., you should always ask your customer if they have any time restraints. You may even ask Kyle where’s he has been for the last week. Kyle’s grey eyes will shift towards the table and he’ll shrug. He may sit in silence for a few moments and before answering “I’m seeing someone.” If this knocks the wind out of you, politely excuse yourself to hide in the kitchen.
            As you walk into the service station, your coworkers may stare. This could be because of Kyle’s presence in your section. They have all been spectators the past couple weeks, creating their own versions of yours and Kyle’s relationship. You’ll already be feeling like dog shit on shoe and the whispering, as you walk past, only makes it worse. There will be rumors of pregnancy, STDs, eloping, you name it—it’s been theorized.
Always remember the two minute check back (when you return to the table within two minutes to make sure an item you’ve brought your guest was satisfactory). Or you may, at this time, ask Kyle who this “new someone” is. His face will grow stern as he refuses to give a name. You’ll recognize the barrier he’s put up, and decide to turn to the next best source.
If you are ever in need, you can always ask another server for help. For example, if you need assistance carrying to-go supplies from dry stock, you should ask Kelly, the gossip guru, to lend a hand. Servers are a team, and should be involved at all stations. She will tell you how her friend spotted Kyle out taking shots and dancing with some brunette. Your heart may drop into your stomach. But you must focus on your goal of finding out who exactly this brunette is.
Always enter and leave the kitchen through the right. Walk quickly, but never run. This may prevent you from slamming into Bradley, one of the grungier line-cooks, holding bin full of plates. Accidents create more work for everyone. As you grab the broom, he should pick up the bigger pieces of glass. Even if you look like you are on the verge of tears, Bradley may have the audacity ask if you actually slept with Kyle. At first you assume he’s just hoping you’ll sleep with him too. But Bradley will go on to describe what a douche-bag Kyle is and how nobody is allowed to talk shit about him because he’s sleeping with the manager. Bradley may also vocalize his disappointment in you. He had thought you were too “chill” for a “skeez” like Kyle. This might hurt. It may be close to the feeling of a cement block hitting your chest. As the new server, you immediately realize you should not drink too much and sleep with a coworker. You should also try to avoid sleeping with the same person as your manager.
As a server, you are required be educated on the history of this restaurant. It is also very important to know the management and owners. Tony Piccolo opened this establishment in 2005 and it has been kept in the family. Tony’s daughter, Danielle, was been made general manager this year. Piccolo’s Italian Restaurant offers one of the largest selection of wines in Virginia, due to the family ties with Virginia’s wine distribution companies, Gillden and Son. Danielle Piccolo and Henry Gillden are engaged to be married summer 2012.
Piccolo’s Italian Restaurant has a strict fraternizing policy (See employee/employer relations section). As the manager, Danielle is not allowed to sleep with Kyle. The fact that she is engaged will also add to this Jerry Springer episode. As a new server, you should take advantage of this situation as soon as possible.
Before you’re able to get Danielle’s attention, Jackie will come to the back to alert you of large party, a twenty-top, being sat in your section. As a server you must be prepared for a rush at all times. But you will begin to realize that you are not a server. You aren’t meant for the restaurant business. You’re just a small town girl who had made the mistake of trusting a guy like Kyle. A guy that will buy you drinks, take you home, give you his favorite college t-shirt to sleep in, whisper lies as you snuggle in bed until noon, and then fuck your manager. This will probably hit you as you walk to the table to collect drink orders. As you make all twenty fountain drinks, you’ll wonder how you were so gullible. When you reach the table you’ll hand out sodas as if you were on auto-pilot, unable to get the image of Kyle on top of Danielle out of your head. Incase guests start spewing off orders left and right, you should always be prepared to write everything down. Having Kyle and Danielle, both in such close vicinity may cause you to lose all focus.
Out of the corner of your eye, Danielle approaches the table to talk to Kyle. He’ll stand and kiss her on the cheek. Your hands may start to shake uncontrollably, causing you to dump a tray of waters onto a customer’s lap.  The older gentleman, who was soaked in ice cold water, is likely to be so angry that he’ll grab your arm until you squirm under his painful grip. As you struggle to get free, he’ll begin to shake you violently while accusing you of being “too incompetent to serve this table.” Servers must follow the rule in which the customer is always right. But at this point, you are unaware of what you should do because nobody has ever handled you this way. Your instincts will cause you to rear your arm back, and let his face meet your fist at full swing. The whole dining room is likely to go silent.
Three manager appear out of nowhere. Danielle will rip you off the man’s face and drag you through the kitchen, and out the back door. You pull a cigarette out of your apron and struggle to get past the child safety lock on the lighter, until it finally lights. You’ll inhale too deeply, to the point you get so dizzy you’re forced to sit on the ground. Tobacco will be new to you, but a necessary tool to calm your nerves in the restaurant business. Danielle will squat to your level, sip on her RedBull and stare at the ground. As a server, you must start the conversation first with something along the lines of: “So we’re sleeping with the same guy?” Her response will not be a cooperative as you had imagined. As your manager, she’ll ask what happened in the dining room and why you hit a guest. Hitting that man will be the last thing on your mind, but Danielle won’t understand that. If only he had been Kyle.
As a server, you are never allowed to engage in physical confrontation with a guest. The consequence of fighting results in both parties being banned indefinitely from the premises. Danielle will quietly collect your credit card receipts and step inside to cash you out, while you are left in the dark alley smoking a cigarette. When she returns, she’ll sit down on the curb next to you and exhale dramatically. She may even try to comfort you by revealing that she has no plan on firing you. However, you should realize by now that this is all being said out of pity. Danielle can take Kyle and your job in one swoop, and not even feel bad about it. The silence grows thick and heavy, and you decide to break it by bringing up Kyle one last time.
If Danielle reacts violently, you should surrender immediately. She could kick your ass. But in reality, she will most likely nod, and respond along the lines of:  “I’m not sleeping with him.”
“I’m engaged to Henry.”        “We’re getting married next year.”
“And you really thought I would do something like that…with Kyle?” 
Lies are all you’ll hear from Danielle’s mouth. She won’t ever be able to reveal her and Kyle’s relationship. There is too much on the line with a career and a date set to be married into one of the wealthiest families in Virginia. As a small town girl, you’ll discover that you must be able to distinguish truth from lies. And with time you will get better.
If in any case you should choose to resign from your position at Piccolo’s Italian Restaurant, a two week notice is requested. Although, you may be starting to think the best way to approach this topic is with an element of surprise. You’ll decide to just return the lie to Danielle, by telling her that you have Herpes while keeping the most serious expression possible. Her face will erupt with fear and she’ll try to blink back tears. As a former employee, you think it would be most polite to send your condolences in the chance she contracts something. To finish off the night, you may also decide to write “I quit” on a receipt as your letter of resignation.

Remember to sign and date it.

About the author
Farin J. Kehoe and her wonderful family resides in Richmond, VA, while she finishes up her senior year at Virginia Tech. She is counting down the days until she receives her Bachelors of English with a concentration in creative writing. She lives for camping, strawberry ice-cream, and her four dogs.

Thank you for reading this issue of Larks Fiction Magazine. If you are a creative in any field we would love to see what you do--just submit art, music, photos, poems, stories, haiku's, short films, or anything you create to for a chance to appear in Larks.
If you do the twitter thing you can follow us @LarksMedia. Look for us soon on Smashwords!
Also make sure to come back and see us next week with our very first weekly issue!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Issue One, Volume Two

From the Desk of the Editor,
     Hello and welcome to the first installment of Volume Two. Today marks the One Year Anniversary of Larks Fiction Magazine! To celebrate we featuring two works of independent experimental literature! Thank you for reading and for being a great community--we literary (litera-ture-ary?) could not have done it with out all of you.
     In news we are almost ready to begin our Smashwords publishing. We will be contacting writers from Volume One to see who wants to join. This also means that this week we should be starting to contact artists about creating covers.
     I hope you enjoy the reads and happy anniversary!

Daniel J. Pool
Editor and Chief

By Karen Tran

Mr. Olly had the world's largest collection of shoes... from the deceased. He would wink, the folds of his crow's feet barely shifting, and cackle, "There be souls in them soles."

He would let me clean them and try them on. He taught me how to re-lace them in different ways: spider web, criss-cross, fish-bone, and so on. He taught me about the different kinds of polish and what the numbers on their tongues meant. When I inherited these shoes, mom wouldn't allow them in my room. I felt like Noah transporting the pairs to sanctuary at my secret clubhouse. They sat there for years until the day I started packing for college. Mr. Olly's slippers surfaced in my bed trunk, materializing as if by whimsy. They belonged with the rest of him.

The cacti had grown to dominate the area around the clubhouse, guarding the cache menacingly. A giant’s perspective clashed with a child’s memory; I squinted at the setting sun, hoping I would find my old hideout before nightfall. Dust rose in snake-like plumes from my sneakers shuffling the ground. A pink feather protruded from the earth. I pulled at the fronds, weeding out a silk ribbon still anchored to its ballet shoe. The sight of it evoked memories of the dancer and her estranged lover. Digging from there, I lifted the cardboard carcass of my old clubhouse. The mound of dirt slipped away.

The shoes greeted me in militaristic lines. The grinning soldier's boots now lay crumpled and lame, arching over the librarian's stilettos. Rusted bells adorned the infant booties nestled in the maw of dilapidated soccer cleats. I contemplated each pair, hearing their histories in Mr. Olly's doting murmur. They were grander than unmarked headstones; I did not have their names, but I had their stories. In their stitching, I saw his smile. In their toes, I saw his home.

I cleared a space in the center and planted his heels, sniffling a little as I worked. I replaced the cardboard, entombing them for the next life. The eyelid of the night slid shut as I backed away.

"There be souls in them soles," I whispered to him.

About the Author:
Karen is an avid foodie/gamer/SFF reader who, despite existing for a couple decades, has still not decided what she wants to be when she grows up. She is an aspiring writer with a mysteriously irrelevant past... 

How to Not Get What You Want
By Erika Duerksen

1.              Decide that you want to eat pizza for dinner. Tonight (Friday) is pizza night. Tactfully bring this up at least three times when your mother walks you hand-in-hand to the bus stop. Take your hand out of hers because you don’t want to hold hands. Continue to ask for pizza. Ignore your mother telling you that Bob, her boyfriend, will be taking you out to dinner. Ask again for pizza. Be ignored. Get used to this; this will happen often.
2.       Go to school. Sit through class. Pretend to listen. Think about lunch. Think about pizza. Spend the thirty-minute lunch period telling your friends that pepperoni pizza is the best. In gym, change this to sausage, bacon, and pepperoni because more meat is always better. It is also a sign of manliness. Billy Hays will call you out for inconsistency. In this event, you have several options:
a.       Wait until the game of dodge ball begins to throw the soft, red ball at his nose. Take careful aim, since this will determine your status as a master athlete for the remainder of your life.
b.      Decide to pounce on the insulter. Punch him in the arm. He will squeal and complain. Get sent to the principal’s office.
NOTE: This is a very poor idea, since you will, in all likelihood, go to bed without dinner (pizza or not). This is not recommended, even though it will be the most immediately rewarding emotionally.
c.       Laugh and inform him that the pepperoni is still there, but you just want other things too. This will make you sound intelligent (for an eight-year-old), but will not get you out of the change in opinion.
NOTE: The recommended option is a combination of (a) and (c), which will not only save your pride, but it will also ensure your future popularity, athletic prowess, and ability to successfully acquire a girlfriend.

3.       Get on the bus to go home. Continue to brag about your night with pizza. Listen to your stomach growl. Rifle through your backpack for a solution to this problem. Find a stick of string cheese that is warm, slightly gooey, and has been buried for an undisclosed and/or unknown period of time.
a.       If the package is open, tear off the part that is slightly stale and eat the rest.
b.      If the package is not open, open it and eat it.
NOTE: This may lead to several common side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, and/or cramping. However, this is unlikely since all fake cheese is hyper-pasteurized and probably isn’t cheese at all.

4.       Once inside your home, delay informing your mother of your arrival and immediately head to the kitchen. Decide to leave a subtle hint that you still want pizza, since your mother clearly had not heard you that morning. Find the jar of marinara sauce and put it on the counter, along with a stick of sausage. Take care when arranging these, as they must catch your mother’s eye, and yet not look as if they were placed there on purpose. Here are some tips for where to place this display:
a.       Do not put these in the refrigerator. The likelihood of your mother opening it before she is ready to make dinner is unlikely. Also, a new jar of marinara sauce does not belong in the fridge.
b.      The kitchen island, though visible, is a little too obvious. Leaving the objects there is the same as leaving the toilet seat up and proclaiming, “I, Malcolm, would like you to know that I am responsible for this.” Your mother does not like this, which is why you always leave the toilet seat up. This will not sway her opinions.
This location could also lead her to believe that she simply forgot to put those items away.
c.       In the sink is also a bad choice. The sausage, a vital ingredient to your plan, may fall into the disposal and be ground into smithereens. It could also get wet.
d.      Atop the oven is the best choice. Though your mother may question how the sausage got there, it will gather her attention at the oddity of its location and ensure that she understands. After all, the oven is necessary to pizza.

5.       Place the sausage and jar of sauce on the oven. Arrange them carefully, as you would a fine bouquet on a coffin or altar to the Virgin Mary/Jesus/etc.

6.       Do not be surprised when your mother walks in on you. She will ask you how your day went, not particularly caring, and then demand to know what you’re doing with the sausage for her breakfast casserole. Attempt to hide the evidence, despite being caught red handed, and feign innocence. Fail. When pressed, blurt an answer, preferably without too many “uh”s or “um”s and inform her that you wanted to help her make pizza tonight.

7.       Do not cry when your mother tells you that you are not going to be eating either of those things tonight and to put them back where you got them. She will tell you that Bob is still taking the family out to dinner. You do not like Bob, so this is unacceptable. He has been trying to do this for nearly two months and you have always found an excuse not to go since you don’t like Bob. He is not your father. Your father left for vacation three years ago and is still having fun in Tahiti. He is coming to get you when you’re old enough. Decide to wait for your father.

8.       Replace the pilfered food items and insincerely apologize for taking them out.
NOTE: This is not an admission of defeat, but rather an attempt to make your mother happy enough with you to convince Bob to take you to pizza.

9.       Ask what’s for dinner. Pray to God (or any other deity, Ceres being a particularly good choice) for pizza. Complain vehemently when she tells you, again, that Bob is taking the family out for dinner. Inform her that tonight is pizza night and that, if Bob wants to be your new Dad, he will have to buy you pizza. Do not say that you are a vegetarian or of any non-meat eating religion (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or Judaism, as examples), since you want pepperoni, sausage, and bacon pizza and all three must be present to fill your craving. Your mother will also know that you are lying because you are Catholic.

10.   Get sent to your room for talking back. Be told loudly that she and Bob are happy and that he is going to be part of your family whether you like it or not. Be ordered to do all your homework. Ignore her. You are in second grade. You have better things to do than study for a spelling test. The hardest word you have to spell is “couch”. C-O-W-C-H. Duh.

11.   Wait until your mom leaves at 4.30pm to sneak downstairs and have a snack. By this time, your sister should be home and watching TV with her boyfriend. They will not actually be watching TV, but instead be tangled in a single lump on the couch making odd squelching noises with their mouths. Taunt them. You are the younger brother. This is your duty and privilege. Appropriate comments (and reactions from both guilty parties) are as follows:
a.       YOU: Ew! Gross!
HER: Get lost, Malcolm! This is private.
YOU: It’s my living room, too, you know.
HIM: Beat it, kid. I’m the quarterback. I’m a senior.
NOTE: At this, you should go and kick HIM somewhere extremely uncomfortable (the genital region is recommended), as your sister is fifteen. Consorting with an eighteen-year-old is illegal, though you do not know this.
b.      YOU: Elizabeth and Mickey sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G! First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes—
HER: His name’s not Mickey! He’s soooo last week. This is Nick. He’s a quarterback.
YOU: Weren’t the last two, too?
HIM: Beat it, kid. I’m a senior.
Refer to NOTE in (11.a) for appropriate reaction to HIM.

12.   Make popcorn. Entertain yourself by throwing most of it at Mickey/Nick and your sister. Ignore their protests and continue the barrage until you are out of ammo.
NOTE: This is an unlikely event, as your sister and/or the quarterback will probably get up and chase you around the house. We recommend finding a good hiding place where they cannot reach you, such as an attic or tree house with rope ladder.

13.   Escape the clutches of the quarterback and your sister by wriggling into the crawlspace beneath the front porch. Ignore the spiders. They creep girls out and therefore are cool.

14.   Watch with smug pride as Mickey/Nick storms off into his ’67 Mustang. You will not know what kind of car it is now, but you will remember in later years and wish that you had it once you understand the effect of certain automobiles on the female species’ willingness to consort with you. You will understand when you are fifteen or sixteen and still remember that care when you are thirty.

15.   Ignore your sister’s shouts, screams, and curses that she will kill you. Such insults are due to hormonal imbalance, which will be rectified after she has left menopause. Exit the crawlspace after you are certain she is safely in her room crying and/or speaking to her best friend about how evil you are. Collect two to four spiders in your hands. Run upstairs and place the spiders inside her door. Move the laundry hamper in the hallway to stop her from opening the door and lean against it for good measure. Listen to her screams with pleasure. Remain blissfully unaware that you care making her arachnophobic and that her door opens to the inside. Fall into her room when she opens the door.

16.   Run back to the crawlspace and flick spiders at her to keep her from strangling you. Decide to take over the world using an army of mutant spiders or becoming Spider-Man. Wait there in the semi-darkness until your mother returns at six-thirty.

17.   Be disappointed because Bob is driving your mother’s car. Slowly come out of the crawlspace when Bob honks the horn. Get into the car without brushing the dirt off your pants, hands, and elbows. Tell your mother that Elizabeth was kissing a boy again on the sofa. Watch in shock as your mother only giggles and squeezes Bob’s hand like a ketchup bottle.

18.   Be defensive when your sister says that you put spiders in her room. Shift blame about the spiders in your sister’s room. Lie and say that the spiders snuck in there, ten at a time (you sister has exaggerated the story for effect; mimic this technique). Be surprised when Bob snickers and tells you that he did the same thing to his sister. Decide that maybe Bob has one okay thing going for him.
NOTE: This will be the first of many such admissions. Don’t be disappointed; it’s just part of life to find that people you don’t really like are, as a matter of fact, okay and/or cool.

19.   Get to the restaurant. It will be slightly run-down and titled “Hong Kong King” with Chinese letters next to it. Ask why there are funny doodles next to the name. Look at Bob questioningly when he tells you that it is Chinese writing. Ask how they can read it. Laugh when he says that he has no idea.

20.   Trudge inside and think of ways to complain. Be too distracted by the cool d├ęcor (cats with bobbing hands, red and gold paper lanterns, painted landscapes, and weird string music) to actually complain. Point at a picture of a crane and ask why there are painted geese on the wall. Make Bob laugh. Make your mother laugh. Make your sister roll her eyes.

21.   Sit down to dinner. Be forced to sit next to Bob. Grin when he lets you order a Mountain Dew.
NOTE: Bob will be becoming infinite cooler in your mind, especially since your mother never lets you get a fountain drink when eating out. You may not like the idea of Bob coming in and being your father, but it will not be the end of the world since Bob is, in fact, a cool guy and will not try and be your father unless you want him to be.

22.   Have an Asian waitress wearing a white collared shirt, black pants, bowtie, and apron come to your table. You will not be able to tell if they are actually Chinese or Mongolian or something else. Think they are American until she starts talking. Snicker at the fact that she can’t pronounce her “l”s very well. Don’t listen to your mother when she tells you that it’s rude and racist (whatever that is) to laugh like that. Listen to Bob when he tells you that your mother is right. Apologize to the waitress and ask if they have pizza. Make everyone laugh. Let Bob order everyone food. Accept Bob’s proposal to get you pizza later, so long as he lets you have an entire pizza to yourself.
NOTE:  Negotiating like this is critical to your acceptance of him anywhere into your life. You cannot let him think that he has the upper hand.

23.   Wait for half an hour. Munch on the deep-fried noodle-cookie things that are on the table. Be afraid to dip them in the clearish, orange sauce (duck sauce) until your sister antagonizes you for being a chicken. Do not listen to her and try the sauce. Like the sauce. Steal the blue and white porcelain bowl of it and make Bob laugh as you try and hide it from him and everyone else.

24.   Be served brown rice with carrots, peas, tiny corn-on-the-cobs, onion, and rubbery egg. Stare at the barbeque chicken nugget-like things seeping reddish-brown sauce into the rice. Smell it tentatively. Do not admit that it smells good.  Ask what it is. Ask again when the answer sounds Chinese. Make Bob laugh instead of answering.  Complain loudly that you wanted pizza. If necessary (which it will be), add you don’t like any of this weird Chinese stuff. Lie and tell your mother that you did try it, even though she probably knows that you have not. When threatened to be sent to bed without dinner, mutter “obscenities” beneath your breath. Since you are sheltered and eight, you are limited to things such as “stupid idiot” or “dumb-butt”, though you are welcome to throw in the worst two words you know (“crap” and “damn”) if you are willing to risk having your mouth washed out with soap and/or being grounded. Don’t worry: You will learn more insults as you age and become exposed to media, teenagers, and college students.

25.   Gape as Bob intervenes on your behalf. Feel pleased that he would take your side. Agree when Bob promises to take you out to pizza, just you and him, if you don’t like Chinese food, but you have to promise to try at least three pieces of everything, since you can’t know if you like something until you’ve had three bites. Do not see Bob lean in and whisper something to your mother which makes her smile with tears in her eyes.

26.   Pick up the two sticks next to your plate and stare at them for a minute. Wonder why there wasn’t a fork, knife, or spoon there instead. Ask what they are and be told that they are chopsticks. Ask why anyone would use “crapsticks” to eat food. Make Bob laugh and offer to ask for a fork and knife for you. Refuse. You need to prove yourself to him. Glare at your sister when she smirks at you and grandiosely uses them to shovel rice into her mouth. Laugh when she drops a chicken lump into her lap and/or loses almost all of her rice down her shirt. Repeat as necessary.

27.   Watch your mother carefully and attempt to replicate her movements with the sticks. This will be difficult. The pieces of meat will be large and need to be cut. Stab the meat in a slightly straight line in an attempt to cut it. Fail. Feel Bob watching you.  Attempt to use the stick as a knife. Fail again. Do not be disappointed. There is always silverware for you to use, if you ask. Eye Bob’s spoon like it’s your savior. Protest when Bob asks the waitress for a set of silverware for you.

28.   Resort to using your fingers to eat. Get told off by your mom. Watch angrily as the waitress puts a roll of silverware next to you. Pick up another piece of food with your fingers. Refuse the help of a fork, when offered by Bob/ordered by your mother. Pick up the chopsticks again. Be creative in their use. Hold one stick in eat hand, impale the piece of chicken with each, and raise it to your mouth. Eat as a corndog. Drop it twice. Ignore your sister’s laughter and taunts of, “Who’s the loser now?” and continue. Assure your mother that you can figure this out with the tried-and-true phrase of, “I got this.”

29.   Discover that the chicken isn’t actually chicken, but rather pork. Discover that it is spicy. Complain. Be told to eat three pieces and get pizza or be sent to bed without supper. Talk back. Play the quiet game.

30.   Eventually succeed in eating three pieces of food. Like it, but say that you still want pizza. Decide that there is no point in trying to do anything with the rice lest you embarrass yourself and give your sister the opportunity to laugh at you. Smile when Bob agrees to take you to pizza after dinner. Feel a surge of self-confidence and victory when Bob immediately asks for the check.

31.   Win the quiet game as your sister burps and excuses herself. Point, laugh, and taunt her appropriately (see 11.a.YOU-1, for details). Gloat at your victory and ask what you won. Be given a plastic wrapped, crescent shaped, hollow cookie. Stare at it. Wonder why there’s a white and red, cartoonish cat printed on one side and a circular, gridded, coin-like design on the other. Tentatively open the packet and smell the thing inside. Recognize the scent of sweet cookie with a lemony kick. Decide it could be tasty.

32.   Remove the cookie from its pack and raise it up to bite into it. Drop it when your mother and sister shout at you not to eat it yet. Listen as they tell you to break it open because it’s a fortune cookie and will tell you something deep, wise, and/or important about your future. Break it open and pull the halves apart. Stuff one half of the cookie into your mouth as you read the paper slip. It should read, You are gifted on one side and Your lucky numbers: 1 9 13 45 69 on the other.

33.   When begged to read your fortune aloud, do. Wonder why Bob and sister are snickering. Ask. When informed that you are too young to understand, press and inform that you are mature for you age. This is a lie. You are an eight-year-old-boy. You are incapable of being mature.

34.   Convince your sister to tell you. She will take pride in corrupting you and tell you to add the line, “in bed” to the fortune. Re-read your fortune as, You are gifted in bed. Do not understand why Bob and sister laugh even harder and your mother snorts in protest but still blushes. Declare fortune cookies as stupid and eat the other half. Say that you like how they taste.

35.   Listen to your mother’s fortune of, Great wealth is coming to you. Laugh too loudly. They will not laugh, but instead say, “Well, that doesn’t really work, unless you’re sleeping your way to the top.” Ask what bunk beds have to do with wealth. Make them laugh. Wonder what’s so funny. Decide to make your own joke about it. Listen to your sister’s fortune of, Space monkeys like ice cream. Wonder what that has to do with anyone’s future. Laugh at the idea of space monkeys stealing your sister’s ice cream. Listen to Bob’s fortune of Great happiness is coming your way. Complain loudly when he kisses your mother’s cheek and squeezes her hand. They are embarrassing you on purpose, so you have every right to protest. That is a parent(s) job.

36.   Get into the car to drive home. Be offered the front seat next to Bob. Accept. Watch your sister pout in the back. Feel empowered. Sit in silence until you’re in the driveway. Wait when Bob asks you to have a man-to-man talk. Feel proud to be put on his level.

37.   Talk to Bob. Be disappointed when Bob tells you that your mother won’t let him take you to pizza tonight. Complain. Accept his apology and make him promise to take you later. Wait impatiently for Bob to stop talking about how he really likes your mother and cares about her. This mushy stuff is for high schoolers and girls. Tell Bob that girls are supposed to have cooties. Don’t understand when he tells you that you’ll get over it. Gape when he tells you that he wants to marry your mother. Don’t believe it. Only your father would want to marry your mother. Listen as Bob tells you that your mother also wants to marry Bob. Tell him that it isn’t true because your mother is waiting for your father. Argue when Bob tells you that your mother knows what’s best for her, not someone who hasn’t been around. Like Bob a little less. He is arguing with you. This is not good. Feel startled when Bob asks your permission to marry your mother. Don’t give it.

38.   Get out of the car and run upstairs to bed. Crawl under the covers. Think about Bob. Think about Bob and your mother. Try not to think about Bob and your mother. Like Bob. Hate Bob. Don’t know what to do with Bob. Decide to give Bob one more chance since he has to take you to get pizza. Decide to make 69 your lucky number. Try to figure out what it means to be gifted in bed. Decide that it involves getting presents in bed. Fall asleep wishing your dad was there. Know that he isn’t there and Bob is.

About the Author:
Ms. Duerksen is a recent graduate from Virginia Tech’s Creative Writing and Agricultural Economics programs. She has never been published, since until recently she has only written novel-scale stories. She enjoys writing stories in non-traditional, odd formats, such as how-to guides, author biographies, and product warning labels. She has three dogs who can all jump six-foot fences and loves Vanilla Wafers. She lives in Virginia.

     Thank you for joining us in this very special issue of Larks Fiction Magazine and I hope you will join us in two weeks with the next installment. Also remember that starting next month we will be switching to weekly issues! So come back and see us again!