SHAME WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE BY SARAH BROKAMP 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 55
Sven strutted into the café, his hair gelled into lethal points. The buckles on his right boot were undone, whipping his bony ankle as he walked. His left foot was bare aside from a fraying navy sock. He was wearing a shirt that said STAY ALIVE IN 85 in bold black letters. He collapsed into the chair in front of me. A waiter rushed over. “What are you having?”
Sven looked up at him. The waiter looked young, maybe 26, with slight acne scars. His name tag spelled out Chez in curly lettering.
“I don’t know yet,” Sven said.
“If you don’t order something you can’t sit here.” Chez shifted his weight from foot to foot, tip change jangling in his apron.
“What about standing?” Sven asked.
“Don’t be cute with me.”
“How much is a pat of butter?” Sven gave him a toothy grin. Chez was not amused. “Are we going to have a problem?”
DUST DAY BY AIDA KARANXHA BODE 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 55
TWILO BY DONNA DALLAS 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 55
1978 IN THREE-WAY TIE BY MARK GOZONSKY 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 55
ATLANTIC CITY LOVE STORY BY DOMINIC ROSEGARDEN 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 55
AIDA KARANXHA BODE
My storytelling begins with my grandfather who raised me with all kinds of different tales, from classic ones, Anderson’s tales, to legendary ones, the Arabian tales, to mythical, the ancient Greek stories. All these became so real in my mind, that I started to see how alive they were in a different way in the world that I lived.
I was born and raised in communist Albania, in a city in the southeast of the country known for its pursuit of knowledge and education, Korca. It used to be the center of trade and the place where the first Albanian language school was established. Korca suffered greatly during communism, and I understood that all the sufferings of the heroes in the tales my grandfather had told me were similar to the sufferings of my family in my city during communism.
I wrote my first poems when I was 14 years old, and my first story, which was published by Korca’s newspaper, at 16. Since then, I’ve written so that I can be connected to life, to the stories it allows me to live. It’s very curious that life itself is based in writing. Our DNA is a series of written codes, or stories. Hence, writing for me is a responsibility we have to Time itself. We’re accountable for every word and the spaces in between.
This story has at its center a day from my life. My mother passed away when I was 20. There were so many ways that I missed her (there still are so many ways that I long for her) and as I looked around my home I realized all the details and emptiness she left behind. There is some fiction here, enough to make this story bigger than my loss and bigger than my longing. I hope it will help readers reflect on their own relationships, friendships, family, love, and realize what holds them together. For me, words, light, wind, although abstract in themselves, are like that Higgs Boson that makes everything stick together.
I have always had a need to tell stories. I find purpose in creating. Art is communication in its most honest form and dedication to art means constantly interacting with the space you live in. Whether it is through going out into the wilderness to sketch plants and flowers or writing stories for my little sister, I have always been drawn to creating in some form.
I wanted to write something honest and relevant. With the recent bombings and shootings still blistering my brain, I went looking for a time where this pandemonium had also existed. I came across the Berlin discotheque bombing and was astounded by its pertinence to today, how many lines I could draw between then and now. I hope this piece resonates with those searching for a way to respond to chaos or understand the emotions of this kind of experience. Connection is my goal and my happiest moments have been when I am able to share my work with others.
Image by Austin Vesely, Instagram @austin_tilt_mode_vesely
I’m a retired professor of English literature, a lifetime Dickensian, and Scandinavian American. A recent transplant from New York I live in Pasadena, California, where I am active in regional poetry groups and events. Most recently my poems have been published in The Journal of Modern Poetry Anthology 2016 Protest edition, and in the 2017 and 2018 issues of the Altadena Poetry Anthology.
There are two voices inside of me. One is the voice of reason, calm, and consistency. The other, the voice of fantasy and macabre, with a stubbornly wild imagination. When the two voices cross over and greet, well, we have what is called a mind-carnival. Where the ground opens up and there are angels and imps and everything in between that can shatter as well as birth life to paper. At the musing point, I lay confessions, dreams, and wishes down and I call it as I had seen it—or wanted to see it. Whether it be a vision or a real event, this all folds into the telling of the story, my story perhaps, or someone else’s. I leave it up to you to decipher what is your piece and what is mine. When I am not jaunting to the underworld of words, I am travelling, living and breathing, and anything I see or feel will be transposed onto paper so beware…..I want to write everything. When I’m not travelling the globe or writing all your shit, I’m balls to the wall working and raising a family, which is the most humbling of responsibilities. When I’m not scorned, I’m published, often enough and thankfully in 34thParallel, as well as The Opiate, Anti-Heroin Chic, Beautiful Losers and Sick Lit Magazine among others.
There’s a good deal of literary precedent for stories that take place in diners. Hemingway and Kerouac come first to mind. If you’re familiar with The Killers you might recognize elements of it in this story. There was a time that whenever I went to a diner I always had to order a slice of apple pie, thanks to Sal Paradise.
The diner in my story is deliberately nowhere in particular, yet some place you might know. I imagine the Roadway being in middle America, but I made sure to throw in a homage to home. I grew up on Staten Island and as a teenager my friends and I would go to a diner called Perkins, so I named Irma’s dog Perkins.
Six years for this story to percolate. I would draft, edit, submit, have it rejected, give it up. Then, a few months or years later, I would go back and repeat the process. Between other stories, between getting married and having a son, I kept writing, kept practicing, and (I think) got incrementally better at the craft. I wanted to write my diner story, and now it’s done.
“All the ways were darkened” is a phrase from the Odyssey—at least from the translation I read. This phrase represents that, in the end, Irma and the rider have at least one thing in common: they had to choose from a menu of unpalatable options.
In most stories that deal with destructive relationships either the characters suffer or there is a happy ending. I wanted to write a story where the two aren’t mutually exclusive. If there wasn’t something seductive and affirming about these bonds, people wouldn’t keep going back for more. To anyone who has had a bad relationship (who hasn’t?) Deanna’s reluctance to move on despite how crappy Kievon makes her feel might be frustrating, but it’s what we do—we choose the familiar over the unknown, even if the unknown might be more positive. This story is a part of a novel in stories where their relationship comes up again and again over the course of a decade in various forms of what you see in Atlantic City Love Story.
I also liked the idea of writing a female character who shows strength and agency, but it’s left ambiguous at best whether she’s made wise choices. The setting is intentional as well—Atlantic City, particularly in winter, is a place where flashing lights and the hopes of striking it rich sit across the street from areas of destitution and bleakness. Even the hope provided by the casino, however, is hollow and unromantic, much like the relationship of Kievon and Deanna.
One of my favorite parts about writing the story was the arguments. I don’t know if anything is more fun to write than the dialogue between characters when they are bickering. I think arguments also give an opportunity to show emotional complexity by seeing how much the characters care about or fear each other based on how willing they are to escalate or “cross the line” during the dispute.
I teach English at Grand Arts High School, Los Angeles. I have been published in The Santa Monica, Massachusetts, Literary Reviews, Texas Monthly, and The Austin Chronicle.
Images by Stephanie Astrow.