Fiction: “Dumbo Feather” by Nate Liederbach

Abysmal visions I’ve had since Kyoko started waiting tables at Eggs & Oysters. Believe me, I’m happy she’s got gainful employment, a distraction, stoked she’s found release in the twelve-mile round-trip, but still I’m terrified. I’ve made certain she’s covered in lights, reflectors, safety tape on her helmet, got her phone ringer cranked—all this even though she’s been road-biking for years, plenty of experience navigating the wild streets of Seattle, Tianjin, Osaka. Still, I picture a minivan clipping her, or a front blowout sending her end-o, unconscious into a ditch. Worse yet, some Easy Rider finale, a pair of itchy meth-heads erroneously yollaring “Chink!” and “Zipperhead!,” beaming my love with rusty lug-nuts, leaving her bleeding as they gas-off into the Washington mist.

*

Understand this is no random anxiety yanked from my quivering panic glands. Last week, huffing home from Thriftway, pedaling strong with both panniers grocery-stuffed, I’m on a mean, rain-slick climb when two haggard losers, cirrhosis-eyed and leering from a jacked-up Camino, swerve in beside me. Flicking cigarettes at my helmet, they howl, “This is a road, queerboy hippy! Buy a fuckin’ car!” and throttle over the crest of the rise.

Entirely mud-coated, the jalopy was, so a plate number was out. Though this didn’t deter me from spending the next hour fuming, biking all over Olympia’s East Side, hunting the chodes and picturing what I’d do, what I’d say. My seat-post popped out, flipped over for stabbing, for bruising their white-trash kidneys. Or maybe ratchet-off my bike chain? Start swinging it mace-style? Then, once I’ve got Beavis and Buttfuck flat-grounded, I’ll stand between them, a cleat pinching both filthy Adam’s apples, and say. “How about we clarify your critical thinking skills, boys? Why queerboy hippy? Why purchase a car? Do you fellows have a car? Or is the El Camino a truck? Golly, I just can’t seem untangle the complexities of your energy-drink enthymemes.” Continue reading

Essay: “Parody in Philip Larkin: A Trick Which Dispels Fear” by Charles Holdefer

“Books are a load of crap.”

This is the conclusion of Philip Larkin’s ‘A Study of Reading Habits’. In this poem, a disillusioned reader recounts how literature has let him down. Nowadays he prefers to get drunk. In three short stanzas, he describes a lifetime of searching and changing tastes and, in the process, deftly parodies various kinds of literature: action and adventure stories, pornography, and earnest realism. As Andrew Motion has observed, literature had offered a way “to fool the sexually insecure reader into thinking he was adventurous and successful […] Now, jaded by failure in the real world, he can see in books only the reflection of his own incompetence”(299). The joke, it seems, is on the hapless reader. Continue reading