Having to waste our lives like this, letting our time on this earth slip away for nothing.

  “

THE HALLMAN BY CORA CRUZ 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 63

No one talks about what it does to us, having to waste our lives like this, letting our time on this earth slip away for nothing, every day at work the same as the one before, watching ourselves never improving, never growing, not ever going anywhere.

This was the hellishly hot week I was let go. I was a copywriter in fashion expected to write 65 clothing descriptions a day.

FASHION COPYWRITER BY ELLEN BLOOMENSTEIN 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 63

Do not write about love.  

  “

THIS ABOVE ALL ELSE BY CORIE ROSEN 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 63

This above all else: 

Write nothing pastoral. 

Do not celebrate the seasons.

Do not clasp hands with time. 

Do not write about love.  

(Whatever you do, please don’t do that.)

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Can you not see what’s happening? 

  “

WHERE DID ALL THE DENTISTS GO? BY ROBERT EMMERS 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 63

One morning after we’d been together eight years, Miss D announced that we must flee the city. This notion, she said, had assailed her dreams over a period of some weeks, and indeed she had recently seemed pensive and distracted. I enjoyed living in the city, especially given the easy access to material, blackmarket and otherwise, for my project, but Miss D, whose dreams could be forceful indeed, was adamant. Can you not see what’s happening? she said.

The Good Book tells us, He will bring health and healing— Are we talking about calcium here? Why, yes, along with iron and zinc.

DOUG’S INTERNAL HEALTH BY JAY BERMAN 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 63 IMAGE BY KEITH LUKE

  “

Doug overlooked just one thing: Mickey had mild dyslexia. You’d never know it, but it slowed his reading speed and forced him to concentrate on reading and writing more than most people. When the revised website went online Mickey inadvertently changed Doug’s Internal Health to God’s Eternal Health, and Doug didn’t notice.

Get the mag.

34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 63

FASHION COPYWRITER BY ELLEN BLOOMENSTEIN, THIS ABOVE ALL ELSE BY CORIE ROSEN, THE HALLMAN BY CORA CRUZ, WHERE DID ALL THE DENTISTS GO? BY ROBERT EMMERS, DOUG’S INTERNAL HEALTH BY JAY BERMAN, THE HUNTER BY MARILEE DAHLMAN.

  “

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CORA CRUZ   

My approach to fiction is a committed realism, as much as I can manage. I know that is not everyone’s approach. And I know that begs the question of—you know—what is real, what is truth, what is truth-telling, what is the role of a “truth-teller” in our society, or in societies historically; which is why I tend also to be reflexive (philosophical) even in the “fiction”. There’s always a distancing, you portray a situation, a first personal experience and perspective, but there are always the reflexive examinations in the background (is what I am saying true? How can I know? Why does it matter? How could/should it be evaluated?)

My Hallman story attempts to articulate what I see, from rather extensive personal research, as a working-class point of view that continues to be underrepresented, political hype notwithstanding. Despite the protagonist’s ostensibly laid-back personality, he is observant and has something to say. For the theoretically inclined, I’ll drop one spoiler: yes, the reference at the end is to Julian Jaynes’ 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. For any familiar and interested, I would suggest that perhaps the so-called “bicameral mind” is less a lack of “consciousness” or introspection, than a rational tradition in the MacIntyrean sense, viz: “an historically extended, socially embodied argument that is reflexively concerned with how to conceive the goods that the tradition exists to pursue, or that ‘define’ it.” (citing MacIntyre’s “After Virtue”). Otherwise stated, the narrator’s vestigial bicameralism, rather than merely a neurological leftover (though it surely has its neural correlates), may primarily be a tradition of thinking with corresponding values, notions of goods and the good life, that are deeply embedded in his cultural practices. This tradition is not necessarily to be equated with “underclass” consciousness, for it is far more than that, though there are historical-economic reasons now for such identification. It does put our narrator at odds with more discursive, Post-Axial variations of rationality and justice; and it is at odds with modern liberalism in both its conservative and progressive modes. But it is a tradition which has not been entirely lost, and which continues to emerge sporadically—an ancient stratum deeply interwoven in our biological and cultural fabric. 

I live in New York, an independent scholar and writer. I also more or less hold down a day job in financial services and manage on occasion not to completely neglect my three kids. My recent novel is The Meditations of Manuel de la Vega. I’ve also written for the Tulane Review, New Millenium Writings, the Comparative and Continental Philosophy journal, and a couple times already for the 34thParallel Magazine. I studied philosophy at Hamilton College and then at the New School for Social Research.

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CORIE ROSEN

This past fall, I attended a writer’s residency in Western Massachusetts. The leaves were falling from the trees, the streets full of their red and golden bodies. It was cold and remote and romantic. Toward the end of the residency, I found myself sitting at the town’s only bar, a narrow lakeside tavern. While I was finishing my glass of wine, I got into an argument with a wild-eyed math professor in his sixties. The professor—whose name I never got—insisted (after he’d drunk two or three martinis, his hair going wilder all the time), that math is a kind of Romanticism, a pure aesthetic. Mathematics, he claimed, is an expression of true nature, and true nature is always beautiful. I argued that aesthetics are shaped by culture and experience, but he disagreed. To him, the discipline itself was the aesthetic, not the content or even its forms. 

Months later, as I was working on a cycle of love poems (a sort of short story in poetic narration), I started to think about whether romantic love, like math, might be its own aesthetic. I wrote this poem, I think, to explore that question. Our world, the world of social media, of false personas, of the commodification of sexual partners, of constant advertising of the self to others, seems to preclude the kind of elementally pure romantic love that writers from earlier periods have exalted. (I like to think of what might have happened if Keats and Shelly had been on airplanes and Instagram, instead of at manor houses and in row boats). 

That pure, elemental, love still exists, I think. We’re just not supposed to talk about it, maybe because it’s difficult to understand, because it can’t be easily explained, commoditized, or sold. I think this poem is asking whether there is still space for something like a pure aesthetic when it comes to experiences of love and of wonder. The answer that I think this poem offers is that it isn’t possible to ignore love or the beauty of the natural world around us. For all of our apps, swipes, and stories, we are only ever our most naked human selves. 

I have a degree in literature from UC Berkeley, a graduate degree from UCLA, and have taught writing at Arizona State University and at the University of Colorado Boulder. My writing has been published in Arts & Letter, Juked, and Crab Creek Review. My first book of poems, Words for Things Unsaid, is to be published by Aldrich Press in 2020

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ROBERT EMMERS

I was always both entranced and mystified by stories. I can remember, when I was five or six, visiting great-grandfather in the nursing home to which great-grandmother, who’d had it up to here, had exiled him. He was half-reclining in a window seat wrapped to the neck in at least three plaid blankets because this was winter on the south coast of Maine and the nursing home wasn’t lavish with the forced air. He was telling me a story that featured a crowd of retainers watching the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots. He got in all the gory details—the falling ax, the spurting blood, the severed head rolling down the steps. I have no idea why, for heaven’s sake, he thought the story appropriate for a six-year-old. But I do remember thinking there was something magical going on here.

How did great-grandfather know where to start? How did he know what happened next? How did he know when he had come to the end? How did he know who the people were in the story? It was all so mystifying. (I was six years old.)

Some years after those sessions with great-grandfather, while I was dropping in and out of college, attempting to play the banjo and hoping to get a junked bug-eye Sprite running again, I was trying to write short stories. Many involved a character named Annie who lived with the first-person narrator. “That year they lived in a house by the river. The river flowed down from the mountain. The mountain was blue in the haze. The stones in the river were white, the water was cold, my sandwiches were good, etc, etc.” Yes, in those days Papa was still The Man, but my stories were so bad they weren’t even bad Hemingway. They were bad bad Hemingway. Anyway, eventually, I went into newspaper work—imitating Papa again, but also as a way to write and get paid for it. That led to a career covering organized crime, blithering politicians, government corruption, and so forth. (Covering mobsters was especially fun: yes, they really do talk like that. And politicians? Way back, I was covering our local congressman and the large contributions he was getting from banks. Congressman, I asked him, what about this contribution from blah blah blah? He scowled back at me and said, Why, that’s peanuts. They couldn’t buy me for that! Can’t make this stuff up, as they say.)

For my next career I segued seamlessly into the role of private detective and fraud investigator. (Being an investigator is basically the same as being a reporter—you find out things and then write them up, in this case for your client.) Investigating was a ton of fun too. I mean, what’s not to enjoy about getting the goods on some scammer who’s knocking down $10,000 a month tax-free by faking injury or disability. And then getting to write up his prosecution referral! And, of course, there are side benefits like getting to carry a gun and having a license to flip at people while a cigarette dangles from your lip (in those days we were allowed to smoke) and occasionally being scared to death, which gets the adrenalin pumping marvelously. 

And then for my third career, I decided I’d better start making some real money so I took a position with a PR firm that specialized in handling crisis situations. What this meant was that if you got arrested or sued or otherwise found yourself in a dicey situation, we’d handle the media in complement to your lawyer’s handling of the legal stuff. In practical terms, this meant almost all of our clients were corporations or wealthy individuals because they were the only ones who could afford our outlandish rates. Mostly what we did was write strategy plans and statements to be delivered by the accused and pitches to try to get reporters interested in favorable stories about our clients. A lot of the work was pretty boring, although it did have its moments: getting a good zinger into a story or coming up with a really devilish strategy. On the other hand, I also thought many of the firm’s clients actually deserved the trouble they were facing, which made my eventual exit inevitable. 

And so, finally, I come to my fourth and, I fervently hope, last career: writing fiction again, like I wanted to do all those many years ago. Taking that long detour really pissed me off for a while. One day, feeling down, I told my wife how angry I was, in retrospect, at taking that swerve into newspaper work and the subsequent careers. It was my own fault, I told her, but just think where I’d be today if I’d just kept at the fiction writing back then! Forty more years of learning my craft! What a dummy I was!

It was only later, thinking about what I’d complained of in my fit of pique, that I came to an interesting realization. Although it was, in many ways, inadvertent, even in some ways accidental, maybe I wasn’t such a dummy after all! Because (and maybe you tumbled to this long before I did) each milepost on that long detour did manage to teach me something about storytelling: How to write logically, with the inessential pruned away; how to discern and then use the details that make a report (or a story) come alive; how to marshal an argument, which is the backbone of any narrative.

But beyond these lessons, and in my opinion more important, are the experiences I compiled during my detour from fiction writing. I now know how it feels to have an otherwise mild-manner husband confess to me that he butchered his wife and if he hadn’t been caught would have gone after everybody else who’d ever said a bad word about him. I know what it’s like to watch rescue workers pick up body parts leftover from a plane crash. I’ve listened to all the self-justifying blather of venal politicians and corrupt officials. I’ve dodged and weaved through the nonsense spewed by entitled rich people who think they should be excused their sins because… well, because they’re rich. I’ve met dope dealers, gun runners and people smugglers, and the cops and government agents chasing them. I’ve interviewed mothers who just lost their children. I’ve lived on the street with a couple of homeless guys. I’ve…

I could go on, but I won’t. (There were also, by the way, a lot of relatively normal people on the list.)

So, in my 60s now, I’m living in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania with my wife Rosetta and our canine pal Casey. And at last I’m writing full time and have managed to publish short stories in a number of literary magazines, and I’ve got a novel in the can which I think is pretty good but which the agents (screw ‘em!) don’t, and another novel underway. I’m also working on a novella featuring miniature android dogs and a family on the run from Los Hombres Derecho that I hope will kick off a short story collection.

But the process of storytelling still remains mysterious to me, just as it did to my six-year-old self listening to great-grandfather in the nursing home. How did he know where to start? How did he know what happened next? How did he know when he had come to the end? How did he know who the people were in the story?

An image will come to me, generally a person in a particular place. I’ll have no idea who this person is or where this place is located. But a sentence will form and I’ll write that sentence down and then sometimes, if the magic is working, other sentences will arrive: the person, now a character, will begin to take on flesh and will do something, and the place will start to become a setting, and another action will follow the first and details will begin to infiltrate the setting and it will all proceed from there until eventually a story is told.

Or, if the story gods have decided not to favor me at the moment, it will just lie there, that first sentence, just lie there and die there and turn into just so much detritus.

I have no idea why. I might as well be that six-year-old again.

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ELLEN BLOOMENSTEIN

I was writing a lot about job experiences and thinking about a book to write about jobs in fashion. Then when my actual job ended and I had had an awful job and then it did end (thank god) I decided to write about it while embellishing the facts and drawing from other experiences as well. I wanted the characters to be me and my actual boyfriend, so I didn’t change our names. I did, however change the names of all the other characters. I wanted this story to seem real and have the reader wonder whether it was fact or fiction or both which indeed it is. I wanted to blur the lines between fact and fiction. 

I’ve had stories published with 34thParallel, Drunk Monkeys, Pig Iron Press. I’ve also had poems published on Referential, Zeek, Good Foot, Rosebud, Sonora Review, and more. I have an MFA from the New School and an undergraduate degree from Skidmore. I’ve also self-published a novel and novella. I do work as a copywriter in fashion in New York City and I’m lucky enough to live with my favorite person, my boyfriend Adam.

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JAY BERMAN

I’m a retired newspaper reporter and editor and university journalism professor. Just two years out of journalism school at the University of Southern California, while working for the Daily Breeze in Redondo Beach, California, I wrote the local reaction story to the assassination of President Kennedy. A year later, I covered the Beatles’ first West Coast news conference and the 9.2 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska. 

I became city editor of the Daily Breeze and, a few years later, of the Santa Monica Evening Outlook. Along the way, I picked up a master’s degree in journalism, also from USC, just because it seemed like a good idea. I spent a few years in governmental press relations, working on the 1977 campaign of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley as news secretary.

In 1981, thanks to that MA, I took a teaching job at California State University, Fullerton, serving as adviser to the student newspaper, the Daily Titan, for nearly 12 years. Graduates from our program during my time there have worked for the New York Times, New York Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Seattle Times, Rocky Mountain News, Louisville Courier-Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Detroit Free Press, Newsday, Hartford Courant, Portland Oregonian, Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo, and other publications. I’ve been retired for a decade. I’ve done a bit of freelance writing, largely baseball- or travel-related. My story on the John Lennon Museum near Tokyo was published by the New York Times. Another, on the continued popularity of Buddy Holly in the UK, was used by the Times of London. My interview with the operator of the southernmost brewery in the world, in Ushuaia, Argentina, was in the Orange County, California, Register.

But few newspapers use freelance work these days, and a couple of friends encouraged me to try short fiction. I liked the idea. This is my second try at it. I like that after a half-century of scrupulously being sure that all my quotes from contacts are accurate I can now make up my own quotes. I still enjoy writing as much as I did nearly 60 years ago.

jayandirene@aol.com

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MARILEE DAHLMAN

I love hiking (especially any place where you might see a bear). I visited Glacier National Park not long ago and learned that in 1850 there were 150 glaciers and now there are 26, and some say it’s inevitable we will lose all of them over the next few decades. I believe in science and the power of fiction to bring attention to what science tells us about ourselves, our planet, and our future. I’m not saying a story should be preachy, but I think it’s OK if the writer weaves in some meaning. There’s an environmental doomsday element in The Hunter but hopefully people just enjoy the story, too. I grew up in rural Iowa and spent summers on my grandparents’ farm in Minnesota, so maybe that’s why I like a good Western novel or anything with a little adventure. I’ve lived in Dallas and New York City and now I live in Washington, DC, where I work as an attorney. I’m a new writer and I have a short story that will be published in Down in the Dirt magazine later this year. 

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