The Rag Issue 6

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Jul 252014
The Rag Issue 6 cover

Cover at by Justin Duerr

Issue 6: Life Isn’t What You Thought It Was

In The Rag’s 6th issue, many of the characters are struggling with the dichotomy between what life was in their dreams, versus what it has become in reality. The realities here are often quite common: a recent college graduate who’s stuck living with his mother, a young woman looking to climb the corporate ladder and marry rich, a man trying to piece his life back together after a car accident,  a woman living in the shadow of her husband’s death. Each attempts to break out of the mundanity of their existence in different ways, with varying degrees of success.

Each of these stories has details that stick with you. The one that stuck with me the most was in Falcon Miller’s Someone in the Room Will. It was that title refrain, “Someone in the room will … take care of it/me/you”, which can be looked at in a few different ways. An optimist might see this as soothing, the idea that there is goodness around, and if one person needs help and can’t cope, that another will step in to take care of them. A pessimist, however, might see an entire world looking away, hoping that someone else will take care of the problems.

The great thing about good writing is that it’s not narrowly defined, and others will be struck by different details in other stories. You can read some readers’ thoughts by scanning through the reviews on

You can purchase Issue 6 on our website store or on for $4.99. You can also preview the Issue on Amazon, or you can download a preview of the PDF here.


Someone in the Room Will by Falcon Miller
Where the Butterflies Meet by Timothy Ghorkin
many many plumbers by Daniel Fuginski (poetry)
Elevation by Andrea O’Rourke (poetry)
Ayesha Miller by Royce Brooks
An Affair by J.A. Bernstein
Floaters by Benjamin Soileau
Swimming with Sharks by Don Boles
Croton Falls Still by Kara Delavoye (poetry)
Kuskanax Creek Jordan Mounteer (poetry)
Pneumatology by Tyler Petty
Oddly Precious Melancholy by Janna Layton
Dog Days and Wet Dreams by J.R. Hamilton
Best Work by Stacey Bryan
Lightin’ Hopkins Emerges from the Woods at Mooresville, In by D.A. Lockhart (poetry)
Todd’s Mom by David Joshua Jennings (poetry)
On Bread Alone by Josh Goller

Art by Justin Duerr

Nov 052013

The Rag Issue #5Posted below are a few excerpts from some of the short fiction we’ll be publishing in Issue 6, which will be available at the end of this month/early December. Enjoy.

“Someone in the Room Will,” by Falcon Miller.

When the police came, he was at work and Frederick was at school like he shoulda been. I’d just come back from getting my nails done and was going to call Aunt Edda to talk about Thanksgiving. My nails were looking real good. I’ve always kept them long, and this time I had the girl paint them a deep red. Frederick should know that his mother was not just good in bed but also a woman of sophistication, so I did them this way.

Anyway, the police came, and I let them in. I thought they wanted to talk about The Masher in the neighborhood and if I knew who he was. They asked me if Frederick was home, and I said, “He’s at school. Jesus Christ! Is The Masher going after boys now too?”

They said no, but, incidentally, they had some questions about Frederick anyway, and did I mind. The two of them wouldn’t sit down when I offered them the chairs in the dining room. They just stood, so we made a triangle. They had their heads to the side and were really serious. I didn’t know what they had come for, but I turned the TV off.

“Mrs. Van Osten, what would you say your relationship with your husband is like?”

“Fine, I guess.”

“Would you say you have a happy marriage?”

“No, but I’d say it’s a good one. Van said he’s taking me to France soon, and we’re gonna leave Frederick behind.”

“And why are you leaving Frederick behind, Mrs. Van Osten?”

“Van’s jealous of his own son. Can you believe that? He wants to get me back all to himself.”

“And why would he be jealous of his own son, Mrs. Van Osten?” The taller policeman moved his head to the other side when he said this.

“I don’t know. You’d have to ask him. I don’t tell him about me and Frederick, but I think he knows and doesn’t know what to do about it. Frederick’s better in bed than he is.”

The one policeman looked at the other. Then he said, “So that must be hard for your husband, Mrs. Van Osten. Have you two spoken about this—the fact that you think your son is better in bed than he is?”

“Naw. I don’t think Van wants to talk about it, but we are supposed to be going to France.”

“And, Mrs. Van Osten, you say your son’s in school right now. Is that right?”

“Yeah, he’s due home at about four.”

“And how old is he?”

“He’s fifteen, your honor.”

The policeman smiled. “I’m not a judge, Mrs. Van Osten. I’m Detective Clark.”

Then the other policeman moved in a little closer, like I’d said I was in pain and he was here to help, and said, “We’d like to hear more about your husband and son, Mrs. Van Osten. Would you mind coming down to the station and telling us more about them?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. But the cops had messed up my plans, and I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t feel like I had a choice but to go with them since they said they were cops. No one was gonna be here for Frederick, and I had promised myself that I was going to be in a silk underwear set today when he got home, except I hadn’t figured out which one yet, so I needed to try them on. He said he didn’t like lace, and I wear cotton every day, so this was gonna be special.

“What time can I leave your place?” I said.

“What time will Frederick be home?”

“Four p.m., like I said.”

“You’ll be home in time to warm up his dinner, Mrs. Van Osten.”

That was great, except I never made it home in time. I didn’t make it home until four months later. When I got back, Van had left the bankbook and his employee assistance program brochure from his job. A number was circled, and there was a note written over the list of services: “Call them but don’t use your real name.”


A couple of snippets from “Dog Days and Wet Dreams,” by Richard Hamilton

The summer sun was strong and I sipped a bottle of pink lemonade spiked with vodka. I was almost out. I had panhandled and enough fell in my cup for two pints of vodka, with about 2 dollars to spare. I hated vodka, but it was cheap and plentiful. I especially hated this vodka,which was called Ruble, although some called it Rumble or Somerville’s Finest, as it is produced in Somerville and gets you violently, cheaply drunk. It was four dollars a pint up the street. I had a late start that day, having slept till two in the afternoon. Now I was almost out.

Saint Peter walked by, his smiling face grizzled, his voice like broken rocks and smoke. “Hey, Rigsbee! What’s up for today?”

“Almost out of booze. Broke. Half drunk but I’ve got a ways to go.”

“I got an idea. I’ll be right back.”

He walked out of the park. Students and office workers flitted past. In my foggy brain I tried to imagine being normal. To this day I can’t fathom living a normal, decent life. A day job, 40,000 a year, a wife, kids, and just working and coming home for dinner, everyone talking about their day. I imagined an imaginary wife asking me about my day: “Well, sweetie, I sat on the pavement and panhandled and drank booze all day with bums and petty criminals…”

St. Peter returned, on a bike. He rode up to me with a big grin on his face.

“Where’d you get the bike, Pete?”

“Probably belongs to some yuppie that didn’t put a decent lock on it. I went over to the bike racks by the station. So many to choose from. I’ll be right back kid.” He began to ride towards the station and the bike path beyond, quickly though a little wobbly. As he rode off I heard his cracked laugh.

I meandered. I walked back over by the slab, which is a slab of concrete by Store 24. People sat on it, having ice cream, or drinking from paper bags, or whatever. There were benches arrayed around but many gravitate toward the slab. There was graffiti marking it up. The graffiti was always changing. It was washed off, then people would write on it again. I bought a cheap one-dollar coffee at Store 24 and sipped it on the slab. My drunk was fading fast, and the coffee sat uneasily on the vodka and gin. But I was tired and empty and needed a jolt and to consume something. A girl named Caitlin sat on the slab, looking bored. She was a presence in the square, but I’ve never been close to her. She was 18 or 19 and friends with some of the latchkey kids I’ve mentioned. But we were never introduced, though in a roundabout way she would come up in conversation and I would express that I thought she was pretty. She wore a red dress and she was slender and pale and pretty. She had red hair and thick black glasses. Her lip was pierced. Altogether she was like this aspiring down-and-out hipster. She glanced at me shyly and I sipped my coffee and took her in. I lit a cigarette. She walked over, smiling, and asked for one.

“Sure,” I said.

“Thanks!” She took the cigarette and she walked away toward a couple of skaters who were standing around. They conspired together and wandered off.

Peter came back, on foot. He was smiling. He carried a twelve pack. He reached into his pocket and handed me a ten-dollar bill.


 Posted by at 10:35 pm
Apr 112013

We’re about at the halfway point in putting out our next issue, so we thought it would be a good time to catch everyone up on what we’ve been doing and share some of our plans for the immediate future. It’s been a while since our last update, so we’ll first rewind to last September. We threw a party in collaboration with Canteen Magazine at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn, where Ben Schwartz, author of That Thing with the Dog, one of our favorites from our Spring 2012 issue, participated in Canteen’s Outwrite contest and beat both of his opponents, one of whom was a writer from the New Yorker.

You can check out his winning piece here. After that, Vorhees, Starlight Girls and Devon rocked a crowd of some 200 lit lovers while they bought subscriptions, partied hard and enjoyed free booze generously provided by our sponsors, The Noble Experiment and Brooklyn Brewery.

Following the party, we concentrated on getting our 5th issue out. Assisting us this time around was Ronda Rutherford, who’s joined The Rag team in an editorial intern capacity a few months ago. Born and raised near Seattle, Ronda has spent the past many years uprooted from her home, teaching English in Japan and in rural France, earning a Masters in German Literature at UCLA, and now trying her hand at editing and marketing in Manhattan. Ronda helped with the editing of Issue 5 and is involved in the reading and selection process for this summer’s upcoming release.

Over the coming 6 months, other than continuing to work on Issue 6, we have some other plans. We hope to host another party while also looking for other ways to expand our distribution. To that end, we are looking to publish our favorite 8-10 stories from our first four quarterly releases in a print anthology. We plan on launching a Kickstarter campaign in the near future in hopes of obtaining funding for this. The goal is to get some additional money to the writers by paying them for the reprint, while expanding our market by getting The Rag in front of some eyeballs in local bookstores.

Thanks to everyone, both our faithful writers and subscribers. And we hope you continue to enjoy The Rag.

 Posted by at 7:16 pm
Jan 282013

The Rag Issue #5Issue #5: Beyond Good and Evil

What defines an action as good or evil? What drives a person to act immorally? These are some of the questions underlying the selections in The Rag’s 5th issue.

Whether it’s the cop who wants to mold the world to his liking, the recent college graduate who’s looking to make a quick buck through “victimless” crime, or the insurance company employee who just wants to keep his job and find a girl who appreciates him, these characters are faced with tests of their morality. Each has a unique moral compass, which points in directions that are different from society’s norms. But things are never black and white. Good and evil aren’t absolutes, and each of these characters attempts to justify their actions. Where these characters ultimately stand on the arc of good versus evil is up for the reader to decide.

You can purchase Issue #5  individually or subscribe on our website store, and you can also purchase this issue on the  Kindle store. The single-issue price is $4.99. The one-year subscription—which gets you this issue and our next release—is $8.99. Issue #5 is our first as a biannual publication, so compared to our previous quarterly releases, this is a double issue.

You can download a PDF preview of Issue 5 here, or the first story is also available for preview on the Kindle store.


Memento Mori by Stefanie Demas
No Sleep Since 1903 by Nick Mecikalski  (poetry)
Monolith by Petros Karagianis  (poetry)
Yes, Officer by John Woods
Not Giving to the Alumni Fund by David Blanton
Putting in the Work by Steve Russo
Karl’s Last Night by Laura Andrews
The Observer Effect by Matthew Meade
The Man Who Wouldn’t Jump by Isaac Savage
The Queue by Ashley Ahn  (poetry)
Citizen of Megabus by Reina Hardy  (poetry)
Passing Through by Jack Varvill
Zeke Stargazing by Rachel Kimbrough
Vibrancy by Marcus Emanuel
Cats as the Meaning of Life by Misty Lynn Ellingburg  (poetry)
Digital Desert Camouflage by Isaac Pritzker  (poetry)
The Girl with Pretension in Her Hair by Bill Lytton
Olivia by Philip Zigman


Magazine Party!

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Aug 192012

The Rag and Canteen Magazine are hosting a free party on Friday, September 21 at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn, NY. The party starts at 8:30 following Canteen’s Outwrite event at 7:00. This is a subscription fundraiser, where joint annual subscriptions to The Rag and Canteen will be available at a discounted price. We hope all who attend will subscribe and support us in advancing the future of contemporary literature. An open bar will be provided, courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery and The Noble Experiment. Yes, free booze. And bands. Devin, Starlight Girls and Vorhees will all be there too. You must be 21 or older to attend. You can RSVP through Facebook, but please also email Dan ( Remember, this is a free event and occupancy is limited. It will fill up fast, so sign up today. We’ll see you at the party.

 Posted by at 11:35 pm
Aug 082012

The Rag CoverCreative Risk: No Gamble, No Future

In our Summer 2012 issue we’ve explored the side of writing that assumes the risk that comes with invention and ingenuity. As most of us know, those who take risks are exposed to the possibility of failure and sometimes disaster, but taking risks can also result in greatness. We believe the material we’ve found this quarter falls into the latter category.

Some of the themes you’ll encounter this time around challenge the sanity of modern society and the human values that claim to shape it.  This is familiar Rag territory to an extent, but these tales are woven in ways we haven’t seen before. From the wild spasms of foulness and hilarity that coat the pages of Patrick Million’s The Fall of a Fool’s Paradise to the surface density of Allan Shapiro’s Has and Have, the ways these writers attack their themes vary greatly, but in each case it makes for a unique and memorable reading experience.

We’re sometimes asked by writers whether there’s a minimum word count for short fiction. The answer is that any minimum length is entirely theoretical. While it may be impossible to tell a cohesive, compelling and memorable story in a single sentence, some of the writers here are pushing the limits of length. You’ll notice a number of pieces in this issue that could be classified as flash fiction, as this time we’ve found some seriously brief, albeit memorable, stories that we believe master the qualities of concision and subtlety.

This is The Rag’s 4th issue, which also means it’s our anniversary. We’ve been around for about a year now and we’ve published almost 40 writers and managed read nearly 4000 submissions. Over the next few months we will be hosting a number of fundraisers in effort to ensure that our contributing authors are duly compensated for their work in the future, and we thank our some 800 subscribers for supporting us thus far. We have read, edited and published a lot of great work, and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. But we couldn’t have done it without our many submissions from writers all over the world and the generous support of our readers, and so we’d like to say THANK YOU. And we hope you continue to enjoy The Rag.

You can purchase single issue copies for $2.99 or subscribe on our website store or on the Amazon Kindle store. Reviews on the Kindle store are appreciated. You can also read a sample on the Kindle store.

Download a free PDF preview of Issue 4 here.


The Fall of a Fool’s Paradise by Patrick Million
Massacre in Pink by Elise Kaplan
has and have by Allan Shapiro
Inside the Aimless by Samantha Salvato (poetry)
Notes to a Future Me by Kristin Kearns
Scalpel by Kathleen Jercich
13 Units (According to Polish Logicians) by Amber Cash
Intersex by Jenny Lederer (poetry)
The Watch by Rachel Thomas-Medwid
Transformation by Tamer Mostafa (poetry)
Pistol by Philip Cole
Revolution on Ten Dollars a Day by Wes Trexler
Bag Worm by John McKernan (poetry)
Dorela’s Response When Asked About the Current Sociopolitical State of the World by Olatundji Akpo-Sani (poetry)
Terminal by George E. Wade

 Posted by at 2:08 pm

The Way Forward

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Aug 062012

With the pending publication of our Summer 2012 issue comes a milestone for The Rag—we’ve been out for one year. We’d like to first take the opportunity to thank all of the readers and writers who have supported us. Your  trust and interest in what we’re doing is greatly appreciated. 

Some changes to The Rag are also coming. While we don’t plan on saying goodbye anytime soon, we are going bi … annual that is. This will be our last release as a quarterly, as we’re moving to biannual publication.

Rather than publishing four separate issues, we will release a Fall/Winter issue in December and a Spring/Summer issue in June. The overall content should be roughly the same: fewer issues, but more stories and poems in each issue, and perhaps some other content that will be made available in different formats.

This won’t change existing subscriptions: if you already subscribed, you won’t need to renew your subscription until you’ve received 4 issues.  The subscription price will also remain $8.99, though the single-issue price will increase to $4.99 starting with the December release. If you subscribe between now and December, you’ll receive the current Summer 2012 issue, the Fall/Winter 2012 and Spring/Summer 2013 issues, after that, a subscription will cover the two issues per year.

Along with this will come some corresponding changes to our reading schedule. Rather than taking submissions year-round, we plan on having two four-month reading periods. We’ll continue accepting submissions for the Fall/Winter issue until the end of September, with a December-March reading period for the June release.

These changes will give us more flexibility to work on some of the projects we have in mind that are outside of the quarterly electronic magazine confines, that we simply haven’t had time to pursue with the relatively quick turnaround of the quarterly.

As for the more immediate future, the Summer issue is ready to go and will be available on our website store on 8/7. We’ll post some more information about the issue tomorrow.

Thanks again for the support over this first year.

-Seth Porter

 Posted by at 9:43 pm
Apr 132012

Spring 2012 Cover The Rag’s Spring 2012 Issue is out

With the spring season upon us, with all of its positive sentiments and connotations of  rebirth, renewal and enlightenment, it would seem like a good time for The Rag to show a kinder, gentler side. So perhaps that’s why some of the selections in this issue focus on family life—albeit with a distinctly Rag-ish twist. Parent-child, husband-wife: these relationships are examined, twisted, and perverted until the gritty underbelly of family life is fully exposed.

This time around, you’ll find stories touching on elements of personal secrecy, human weakness, morally terrifying tests of human integrity and the id in its purest and most unbridled form—the sorts of themes and questions that truly test the limits of humanity and extract the grayer shades between human and beast. Many of the selections in the spring issue also deal with barriers to communication—fear, guilt, shame, selfishness, technology and language itself—all of these are lurking about, either at the surface or hidden in the depths.

Of course, these stories and poems can mean different things to different people. But that’s what makes good literature: depth of thought, multiple layers, with themes that are broad and subtle, rather than narrow and blunt. That’s what we look for when we select the writing we want to share with our readers, and we hope you enjoy these stories and poems as much as we do.

You can buy and download the new issue now at our store. If you’d like to preview this issue, the first story is available for preview at the Kindle store, where you can also purchase the magazine, or you can download a PDF preview here. Reviews on Amazon are greatly appreciated.

Short Fiction:

Lily by Jonathan Vatner
How ‘Bout it Mr. Twain by Nancy Hill
That Thing with the Dog by Ben Schwartz
Sweatpants by Ben Cornell
Pseudonymous by Tony Zito
The Final Reel by Rachel S. Thomas-Medwid
Silence by Isaac Savage
In-World by Joel Higgins


The Story of a Cold Bud by Olatundji Akpo-Sani
le salamander by Matt Forever
pa pa power by Dan Guerra
Aperture by Kalyna Leigh

Featuring art from Tim Jarosz and Lauren Kolesinskas. Cover art by Alex Eckman-Lawn

 Posted by at 5:36 pm

The Rag #2: No Control

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Apr 132012
Winter 2012

The Rag Winter 2012


The Rag, Winter 2012 Issue

Power & control. Who has it, who wants it, and who wants to lose it? This is the focus of many of the Winter 2012 selections. This is an era where our society’s innovations and technology, rather than imparting to us increasing freedom and control over our lives, instead exert increasing control over us. This theme is perhaps visualized the fullest in Garth von Buchholz’ sci-fi story “Make Mad the Roaring Winds,” which follows Darcy Lim, a human resources officer who’s wrapping up a very long commute–a 3-year journey to a colony on one of Jupiter’s moons. Trapped in his solitary space capsule on an immoveable trajectory towards its destination, Darcy’s fighting to gain a modicum of control over his life and destiny, and suicide or insanity have come to look like decent options.

“They can watch me, they can listen to me, they can read my writing and they can even monitor my bio functions, but they can’t read my thoughts. It’s the last dominion of human privacy, the limitless playground where anything can be formulated and anything can be materialized. And if your thoughts are wise enough, and strong enough, well, they can even begin to give you powers that no one knows you have.” — from “Make Mad the Roaring Winds” by Garth von Buchholz

You can download a PDF preview of Issue 2 here.

Check out some video readings from the winter stories on YouTube. We have a video of Lynn Levin reading from You Take Care Now, Mary Jones and Dan Reilly reading from Timothy Ghorkin’s D-Gen.

Short Fiction

Zombie Night by Justin Reed
Make Mad the Roaring Winds by Garth von Buchholz
Kill Whitey by Wes Trexler
A Clash by Melissa Ragsly
Into the Light by C.R. Penn
D-Gen by Timothy Ghorkin
You Take Care Now, Mary Jones by Lynn Levin
The Leaves are Falling by Tony Zito


Elkhart, Indiana and Coney Island in Limbo by Lisette Eileen Cheresson
Elegy for the Skid Row Men of Old Portland by Nathaniel Hunt
What to Expect by Sarah Bridgins

Featuring original art from Alex Eckman-Lawn and Veronica Chen. Cover art by David Rankin.

 Posted by at 5:12 pm

New York Occupation

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Apr 132012

JW Yates

JW Yates

JW Yates
New York City, New York


What do you even call this thing? A movement? A protest? An insurrection?

The Occupation has already infiltrated the American zeitgeist and changed the national political dialogue in a way that nobody could have predicted. The mainstream media has danced around the subject in a bizarre tango of neglect and hype, leaving the truth standing by as a wallflower.

At this point, the particular politics of Occupy Wall Street are less important than the ugly street-level reality that they’ve stirred up. The occupation of a few public spaces in downtown Manhattan by a rag-tag group of idealists and rabble-rousers has been met with a full-bore siege of martial law.

The Police State is now on open display in New York City. For the past few months, everyone’s favorite private army, aka the NYPD, has been instituting “frozen zones” at will and without warning, shutting off pedestrian traffic with no explanation, demanding corporate IDs, and arresting anyone who tries to cross the street or defy their random checkpoints (members of the press and legal observers included). All First Amendment rights to free assembly and free expression are now routinely sequestered; unique classes of people are created ad hoc on the street as corporately-funded police officers brutally crack down on dissent and protest of all kinds. Block after block of the Financial District are now barricaded into a meaningless maze of metal fences and observation towers all-too reminiscent of fascists regimes from past decades.

In today’s NYC, you are either a regular citizen, subject to arrest and denied entry to public spaces (like Wall Street and Broadway), or you are a corporate person–one who has the permission of the corporate authorities, and full access to the streets of Manhattan.

I’ve been arrested three times in the past two months. Once for praying, once for walking, and once for stepping out of the way of a rampaging cop. To their credit, the cops only beat me up one time.

Having lived the fast life of an underground outlaw/artist for the past fifteen years, my criminal record remained clean and clear until I started speaking my mind about politics and religion in public. I’m not even particularly supportive of the specific brand of light-socialism espoused by the OWS crew, but my disdain for fascism, and my dedication to the cause of free speech, has brought me into a toe-to-toe struggle against the militarized authorities of New York City.

Nobody knows what the political fallout of the OWS movement will be, but, after trolling through the guts of today’s class struggle, I’m certain of one thing: artists, writers and others who take their civil rights for granted are in for a sour treat when this wave of repression hits Mainstreet, USA. If the tactics of brutality and suppression used by Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD get exported to the tidy, boring suburbs of middle-America, we will all know how thin the veil of civility has become in our society. It is no longer sufficient to grumble about inequity and the need for change at cocktail parties and in safe places with friends. If you value your right to speak out and express yourself in an unhindered way, it may now be essential for you to hit the streets and demand those rights in public, before it is no longer possible to do so.

Maybe we will look back in a few decades and see OWS as a glorified internet meme, or maybe it will be seen as the lit fuse leading to the powder keg of revolution, either way it is the duty of the artist to look at their world critically and tell the story of what they see. If all you see comes from cable news or corporate-sponsored print rags, you may want to take a step outside and check the weather yourself.

 Posted by at 4:54 pm