Not One of Us, #32

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.

"Another Coming" by Sonya Taaffe
"A Deconstruction of Beauty" by Danny Adams
"The Barn" by Mark Steensland 
"Found" by Patricia Russo
"Where's the Matter" by Brian Maycock
"C2" by Alarice K. Breidert
"Painting Possibilities" by Jennifer Rachel Baumer

Not One of Us is a magazine focusing on "people (or things) out of place in their surroundings." Editor John Benson contends that he doesn't go into assembling each issue with a theme. "I just look at the stories I have for a particular issue and come up with some common thread."  Issue #32's theme is "dislocation," and it includes stories about "an angel in changing times, beauty where it doesn't belong, a barn out of place, alien beauty in the eye of the beholder, matter too dark to see and a muse ready to start painting possibilities."  It also includes seven poems.

The only story in #32 that caters to the "alien" in alienation is Patricia Russo's "Found."  A woman, Abbie, finds an alien baby and takes him home believing that he will learn to love her as she's come to love him.  She also finds herself alienated from her friend, Peig, when she calls the alien "ugly," upsetting Abbie. Who can't relate to that?  Having a friend mad at you for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or having different tastes in art, in what makes the perfect partner, or even the perfect alien.  When conflict arises, I sometimes act like it's never happened, or I apologize.  In either case, I move on, which Abbie isn't willing to do. That flaw makes her more human. "Found" was exceptionally well written, odd, and, especially at the beginning, funny. 

Preceding "Found" is Sonya Taaffe's "Another Coming."  Despite the name, the story doesn't have anything to do with extraterrestrial life forms.  It deals with the same theme as Patricia Russo's story, the quest for love and acceptance.  Acacia finds herself pregnant but doesn't know who the "father" is, her lesbian lover or the man they've both slept with. As far-fetched as it is to think Quince could sire the baby, the story is provocative; its in-your-face style will cause readers to think, react, and feel for the characters, much in the way that Tom Piccirelli does in "Choir of Ill Children."

"Another Coming" was one of the best stories in this issue. It shows Taaffe's ability to write both prose and poetry in passages such as "When men began to increase on earth and daughters were born too them, the sons of God saw how beautiful the daughters of men were, and took wives from among those that pleased them."

Taaffe also contributed two of the poems in Not One of Us #32: "Refractions" and "Daughters of the Ash-Tree."  The other five poems belong to Karen R. Porter,  "Unseen" and "Dirty, Funky Muse"; Nancy Bennett, "Blood Boils"; John Grey, "Ugly Joe"; and Kent Kruse, "All Those Nights of Dying."

Anyone who has lost a loved one will relate to Jeb's behavior at the death of his wife and child in "The Barn" by Mark Steensland. Such a loss could cause anyone to view things strangely. We understand Jeb's need for closure and believe he was denied it when the authorities cleaned his son's blood from the baler.  But would we see the barn any differently? Perhaps. But maybe not the same way Jeb does, as some prehistoric creature with muscles and bones exposed, baking in the sun.   This analogy between the barn and a prehistoric creature brings to mind how bizarre the mind works in times of crisis, but also allows the reader to superimpose the barn's red paint and white trim with Jeb's imagery.  I can tell you, after reading this story, I will never look at another red barn in the same way.  
"Certainly, I'm not what I once was" Alarice K. Breidert writes as the narrator in "C2."  "Neither is Mrs. Hernandez."  This short-short is told through the eyes of the tenant in apartment C2, someone who can't differentiate between reality and her delusions.  She also has a fixation on seeing her busybody neighbor dead, which adds to the mystery:  Whose body is in Ceilia's apartment?  Could it all be in Ceilia's mind?  Has she killed someone else, believing it to be Mrs. Hernandez while off her meds?  Personally, I don't believe it matters if these questions are answered.  Not knowing adds to the story's mystique. 
Danny Adams's "A Deconstruction of Beauty" depicts a cop who stumbles across a painter who only paints things that don't exist. Even though this story is worthwhile, I didn't enjoy it as much as the others preceding it.   Its pacing dragged before its message could sink in.  I was, however, impressed with the author's style.   
Brian Maycock's "Where's the Matter" mirrors what's happened in many towns where the largest business closes shop, laying off its entire workforce.  The town slowly dies unless new companies come in, rehiring those who have been let go.  This is the focus of "Where's the Matter?" When Fartown's mine closes, jobs are lost, residents' livelihoods are in shambles, and hope is replaced with a lack of ambition, as in the case of the story's narrator.  The mine's closure marks his downward spiral toward mediocrity.  He lacks ambition and is content with that until a scientific interest rises concerning the old mine, hinting at job prospects.  Nevertheless, it still takes a man with less intelligence and his wife's prodding to apply for a position. This also serves as a pivotal moment in his relationship with his wife.  It opens his eyes, making him realize she has been having an affair, and everything falls into place.

Of all of the stories in this issue, it is Jennifer Rachel Baumer's "Painting Possibilities" that I related to the most.  The main character in this story is an artist who juggles her artistic endeavors with working for an advertising agency and other artists.  When she decides to move forward with her own career, quitting some of the tasks she's done for them, she is severely criticized.  But there is a time in every artist's career—regardless of medium or genre—when they need to move on. 
Robin M. Buehler is a journalist in New Jersey. She has had poetry, fiction, book reviews and photography published in places including Sabledrake, Gothic Revue, Dark Walls, Ancient Heart, Poetry Stop, Poetic Voices, Canadian Zen Haiku, ByLine, Sacred Twilight, Sigla Magazine, and Taj Mahal Review. Her short story, "Weekend at Pocono Manor," will also soon be released in the anthology No Longer Dreams, released by Lite Circle Books.