YOUR FEELINGS DON’T MATTER BY JESSE STEIN 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 58
END ZONE BY LAURA ROSE DILLON 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 58
“No—” I stammered. “I mean—these are just the display—can you get me my size?”
“Yeah. No. We can’t do that. Those are the only ones we have.”
“What do you mean?” I said. “You’re out of these? All three of them?”
“Unfortunately, yeah,” Dave said. “You got those downstairs, right?”
“Yeah. Those are the only ones we have.”
Two of the shoes were way too small—sizes six and seven. The other was a nine. My size.
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll take this shoe. Can you get me the other one?”
“Like I said—those are the only ones we have,” Dave said.
“How do you not have the other shoe? How—do you sell only one shoe? What is going on? What is this place?”
Dave straightened up, then, as though I’d pressed a hidden button or finally spoken an elusive code word. He smiled. “The End Zone!” he said.
For the first time in seven years, I am not in the restaurant industry. Since I was 19 I have worked in various restaurants, starting with an English Gastropub in Philadelphia, where I learned about cheddar cheese and true love and how to get to work hungover, and ended with a Caribbean Restaurant for White People in Pittsburgh, where I learned how to avoid family by working too much and that my novel wasn’t going anywhere. It became painfully clear to me that if I wanted to escape the revolving meat grinder that is the restaurant industry I needed to act drastically, I needed to pay $60,000 a year to learn how to become a famous and very-well-paid-author, and I needed to do it in a new city. Now I am a first year Graduate Student at the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago, pursuing a MFA in Creative Writing. My Chicago Financial Survival is draped between two On-Campus jobs, and I am three notches above destitute, but, I am writing better and more frequently than ever before, I am drinking less. I never write pieces like this. I lean more heavily towards Detective Fiction and General Tales of Intrigue, but I could no longer ignore this chunk of time where I had the most emotions I might ever have. I have written about restaurants before in my stories, but this story felt, to me at least, to be the most truthful. I already miss the restaurant lifestyle.
LAURA ROSE DILLON
I write because I can’t avoid it. It’s how I process life. It’s how I grapple with things I don’t understand. I went to school for architecture and lighting design. Throughout my education I was constantly rediscovering how integral writing was to my design process. It added heft to observations and ideas, and enabled me to navigate them with more precision and clarity than any other mode of creation. I sketched, built models and drew plans and sections to articulate a design—but it was the act of writing that brought it to life. I try to write the way I was taught to draw—to let my hand run a little ahead of my imagination, gradually tracing the contours of each blurry, trembling thought. What I enjoy most about design also applies to the way I write.
The End Zone is my second published short story, the first being a flash fiction piece published in 2016 in the architecture/culture journal Clog.
I’ve been writing for about 14 years. All the billable hours I had to log in as an attorney and the emotional hours I logged as a mother of two daughters, overshadowed my writing time. Now that I’m retired and my daughters are grown up, I’ve been resurrecting, revising, and reconfiguring my writing. I’ve been lucky to be part of a very supportive and talented writing community in Santa Cruz. My participation began in a “writing practice” group, where I wrote for three hours at a time in response to various prompts. Once I had produced enough writing pieces and had more time to write on my own, I switched to a group in which about 10 other amateur writers (all wonderful women) give constructive feedback on essays we share with one another. Two members of the group have published memoirs, another is launching a book, and many of us are being published in literary magazines. Without this talented group of writers, including the facilitator who is a published author, I may not have continued to write and my writing would not have been as rich. Additionally, writing would have been a very lonely process.
My essays have appeared in Qu Literary Magazine, Coachella Review, Exposition Review, and Phren-Z, as well as an anthology Tales of our Lives: Reflection Pond (2016) edited by Matilda Butler. I am a volunteer writing and poetry teacher at the Santa Cruz County Jail, which has taught me that there are talented writers everywhere.
I lived near Los Angeles and was very much part of that stereotypical world: the hair, the clothes, the dates. I went to clubs to be seen, maybe even discovered. By day I worked a corporate job. By all accounts I lived a comfortable life, privileged even. But something was missing. I felt a bit like a hollowed-out being glomming onto things I thought would make me whole. If I was honest, my existence was tentative, and I started thinking there was something more for me. There was more for me. I found the thing that was missing in Alaska working trailcrew over a season. But that’s a whole other story.
I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with writing. Coming from a family of engineers and businessmen, being a creative wasn’t exactly encouraged. I went through school as a closet writer, it being nothing more than a hobby. I graduated college and went to work for a large corporation. It wasn’t until a decade later, when my son was born, that I began writing in a serious way. I started crafting essays and poetry about pregnancy and motherhood. Then I started writing about other stuff. I got involved with a local literary arts organization and eventually fell in with a critique group.
I’m a writer and a visual artist. Much of my work is finding out how those realms interact, compel each other, play havoc and hopscotch with genre and form. I aspire to write essays in stories, poems in prose, graphic narratives that non-fictionalize fiction, and fail to meet expectations in ways that make people happy without knowing why, or caring.
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and attended the Columbus College of Art and Design, the New York Studio School of Painting, Sculpture and Drawing, and the State University of New York/Empire State. I worked for many years as a psychiatric orderly, and then an Art Therapist. For the past 30 years I have been an ESL instructor with college, private and non-profit programs. I live and work in Madison, Wisconsin, where I teach English to refugees at the non-profit Literacy Network. I have also been a producer at WORT community radio for 25 years, hosting the spoken-word show Fiction Jones. My fiction, non-fiction, poetry and visual art have been published in The Collagist, Diagram, Wisconsin Academy Journal, decomP, Your Impossible Voice, and Otoliths, among others. My illustrated flash-fiction is published monthly as Williard World in X-R-A-Y. I walk around, and dig up dirt to plant wild flowers.
Ever since my mother went into labor with me in a movie theater, I’ve been growing as a film fanatic. Moviegoers is my ode to the magic of seeing movies on the silver screen, especially with my lovely girlfriend, Jenn Marie. The poem references two of my favorite films—ET The Extra-Terrestrial and 2001: A Space Odyssey (which we saw recently in IMAX).
My writing is published in the 34thParallel Magazine, Memoir Magazine, Midwest Film Journal, The Polk Street Review, and THiNK Magazine.
My works have been published in South Carolina Review, Xavier Review, Phoebe, Baltimore Review, New Orleans Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, American Literary Review, 34thParallel Magazine, 14 Hills, Witness, Journal of Experimental Fiction, Le Scat Noir, Optional Press, and many others.
A professor at the University of Texas at Austin, I have published widely in intellectual property law, particularly empirical studies of the patent system, and I argue assiduously that I am not as boring as that sounds. I began writing fiction six years ago because I had been aching to do so for decades. I had wanted to become a novelist after being introduced to Hemingway in my first college English course. I soon realized some things, however, among them that I did not have enough life experience to write anything anyone might want to read, and I had grown up poor and didn’t wish to remain that way, and so I studied accounting and then law.