Drought — by Siel Ju

It is unclear when the drought began exactly, the sand sneaking up around us until suddenly, we were surrounded, a city in quarantine. By the time we took note it was too late to leave, our water supplies too modest to see us through a trip, especially one of indeterminate length, and what liquid still trickled through the pipes not enough even to get us through each day. The roads were buried at that point anyway, the wheels of our cars slinking into the sand with a soft whirr. The few who managed to set out did not return.

For a while we swept, we bulldozed, but the sand kept on, crawled over our city like a placid amoeba, soft and unstoppable. The coastline, once close, is gone now. In its wake we feed on desiccated fish and kelp; nothing rots anymore, just mummifies. We look like husks ourselves, in our skins of dry leather, parched and sanded smooth.

Early mornings we do our best to forage, for dew, and for cactus leaves, although those too are running out. Mostly we stay indoors, inert. We used to listen for the news, now we simply speculate, make bets and calculations about which hour the spouts will finally run dry. We know it will be soon.

While dehydration and heat stroke may seem imminent, it is unlikely we will die from those threats. More probable are violent disasters: robbery, fire, madness. It is hard, already, to divine the real from the mirage. Withered jellyfish dance like plastic bags on electric lines, vultures stand in a Maginot line before the last intact hydrant. The neighborhood is quiet. Talk is rare: our mouths are dry, our throats raspy from the sand. In fact we can’t remember the last time we greeted our neighbors. We see them sometimes in our dreams, the most vivid nightmares midday, when even with our eyes closed we can feel the sun, searing the soft side of our lids.

sieljuSiel Ju‘s novel-in-stories, Cake Time, is the winner of the 2015 Red Hen Press Fiction Manuscript Award and will be published in Spring 2017. Siel is also the author of two poetry chapbooks: Feelings Are Chemicals in Transit from Dancing Girl Press, and Might Club from Horse Less Press. Her stories and poems appear in ZYZZYVA, The Missouri Review (Poem of the Week), The Los Angeles Review, Denver Quarterly, and other places.

Stupendo — by Jim Ruland

When it came to his attention that Neal Faggens, a groomer at the stables for over fifteen years, had never ridden a horse, the breeder decided to take action. He finished his grapes and bacon and sent word to have Stupendo readied for riding. Neal had many reasons for not wanting to ride a horse. When he was seven, his father, Frankie Faggens, three-time winner of the Cucamonga Cup, was thrown from a horse during an exercise session. Frankie seemed fine at first, but then his brain started swelling and they had to operate. Afterward, Frankie lost all enthusiasm for horse racing; but whenever he heard the song “Camptown Races” he could not restrain himself from singing the do-da parts at top volume. Mrs. Faggens filed for a divorce within the year. At the stables, Neal had been kicked in the head and bitten in the rump, but what groomer hadn’t? Being both small and wide, Neal preferred to stay as close to the ground as possible. There were no easy falls for Neal. The breeder, however, was adamant about getting Neal in the saddle. With a one, two, three, the stable hands hoisted Neal up onto Stupendo. Neal very much liked the view and he liked the fresh clean smell even better. He liked it so much he spurred the horse forward with a lusty, Heyah! The stable hands cheered as Neal rode the breeder’s best horse through the open gate and across the prairie and was neither seen nor heard from again.
Jim Ruland
Jim Ruland is the author of Forest of Fortune and Big Lonesome. He is currently collaborating with Keith Morris on his memoir My Damage about his life in Black Flag, Circle Jerks and OFF! (Da Capo 2016). Ruland is the curator of the reading series Vermin on the Mount.

Top 11 coffee shops for writers in Portland

by Siel Ju

This post comes with a caveat: I only spent a few days in Portland. That said, I did a lot of wandering around — and discovered that in that city, there’s a cute indie coffee shop or two on pretty much every block. These coffee shops generally come with all the amenities a writer desires — fantastic coffee, pretty latte art, yummy nibbles, kind baristas, open tables, and usually, free wifi.

My theory as to why Portland has such a great cafe culture: People need places to duck in to escape the rain, which falls really, really often up there. These are the eleven places that I ducked into — and loved.

Latte at The Clearing Cafe

Latte at The Clearing Cafe

The Clearing Cafe. If you are in Portland for a Tin House event like I was — and have an hour to write — walk over to this cafe, which was recommended to me by Tin House’s Lance Cleland. Nice lattes, and filling bowls that the other customers raved about. 2772 NW Thurman Street.

Coffee Time. While I was at this spacious coffee shop, a woman walked in wearing pink rain boots and holding pink bike basket after tying up her bike on which was perched a pink kid’s seat. The macha lattes are yummy but don’t get the quinoa chocolate bar. The barista will say it is delicious; it is not. 712 NW 21st Ave.

Latte at Anna Banannas

Latte at Anna Banannas

Anna Bannanas. This homey spot offers deep couches, cards to play with, and floating copies of the New York Times. The lattes are yummy — and if you’re hungry, you can order anything from acai bowls to freshly baked banana bread. 8716 North Lombard Street.

Oregon Hazelnut latte at Barista

Oregon hazelnut latte at Barista

Barista. The barista recommended the Oregon hazelnut latte, which was sweet and delicious and only available for a limited time — so get yours now. There are four locations; I went to the one in the Pearl District. 539 NW 13th Ave.

Flu Fighter tea at Kiva Tea Cafe

Flu Fighter tea at Kiva Tea Cafe

Kiva Tea Cafe. Portland weather got you feeling sniffly? Stop by this tea house for the Flu Fighter tea — a lemony, gingery concoction that’ll warm you up. They also have coffee and food of the granola-y, raw, gluten-free variety. 1533 NW 24th Avenue.

Gluten-free strawberry nutella crepe at Vivace

Gluten-free strawberry nutella crepe at Vivace

Vivace Coffee & Crepes. The obvious place to go if you like crepes with your coffee. Sweet and savory, gluteny and gluten-free — they have them all. 1400 NW 23rd Ave.

World Cup Coffee at Powell’s. At this coffee shop, you can take a writing break to shop for books in the biggest bookstore in the U.S. Say hello to bookseller Kevin Sampsell, author of This Is Between Us, one of my favorite novels! 1005 W Burnside St.

Hot chocolate at Coffeehouse Northwest

Hot chocolate at Coffeehouse Northwest

Coffeehouse Northwest. I recommend getting the hot chocolate here. They have two versions, a dark one and a sweet one. Get the dark — It’s delicious, and won a local award a year or two ago according to the barista. 1951 West Burnside Street.

Fat Straw. If you like your latte with a bahn mi sandwich, go here. This place mostly serves boba drinks, but their coffee drinks were decent and their seats comfortable. 806 NW 23rd Ave.

Latte at Ristretto Roasters

Latte at Ristretto Roasters

Ristretto Roasters. Combine home goods shopping with your coffee drinking at this cafe, located inside Schoolhouse Electric. It’s a little out of the way, but it’s a modern, inviting place. 2181 NW Nicolai Street.

Portland International Airport. I realize the airport is not a coffee shop, but there are coffee shops in there — and I can make the argument that this airport is the best airport for writers. There are little study cubbies with outlets and free wifi! Plug in and pound out your next novel while waiting for your flight.

Flash in February: Joy! Bliss! Vermin! Sick Girls!

Where to read, hear, and meet your favorite Flash Flash Click contributors now:

“Even in sad stories I try to be joyful,” says Bryan Hurt. Enjoy his fantastic interview in Full Stop with Jackson Bliss.

16 Feb VOTM LAJim Ruland — whose work will debut on Flash later this month — hosts the next Vermin on the Mount reading, happening Feb. 19 at Book Show in Los Angeles. Flash editor Siel Ju will read!

Then just the next day, Jim Ruland will host a San Diego Vermin on the Mount reading with all new readers — including Lauren Becker — whose work will debut on Flash tomorrow. That happens Feb. 20 at 3rdSpace in San Diego.

Lauren Becker also has a new haunting piece called “Sick Girls” up at Cheap Pop.

Don’t miss the next Roar Shack reading, happening Feb. 21 at 826 LA in Los Angeles, hosted by David Rocklin!

Subscribe to 7×7 — a surrealist, interdisciplinary web journal — and read a new piece by Bryan Hurt when it debuts later this month.

Congratulations to editor Siel Ju, winner of the Red Hen Fiction Award. Her novel-in-stories, Cake Time, will be published by Red Hen Press in Spring 2017.

And early March, Wendy C. Ortiz will read at Literature is Alive @ Emory. That happens March 2 at Emory in Atlanta, Georgia.