Advertise | Newsletter | About/Subscribe | Submissions | Art Walk | Books | THE2NDHAND Writers Fund

**PRINT: Our 30th broadsheet, GIVES BIRTH TO MONSTERS, by Chicago-based Spencer Dew, is a tale of one man's small heartbreak, the backdrop to a contemporary landscape of well-meaning but ultimately shallow political activism, fractured communicative lines, and more ultimately enduring drives toward total inebriation. In classic Dew fashion, he'll have you laughing all the way to brink of the void. Dew is the author of the short-story collection Songs of Insurgency (2008). This issue also features excerpts from our David Foster Wallace collaborative mini-tribute by THE2NDHAND editor Todd Dills and Bellingham, Wash.-based Doug Milam, author of our 27th broadsheet

THE LIARS Heather McShane
SUICIDE SUE Suzanne Nielsen

Sarah Joy Freese

Freese has been previously published in Prick of the Spindle, Monkeybicycle, Word Catalyst, and others. She teaches writing and literature at Colorado Christian University and recently completed an MA in writing and an MLIS in library science. For more of her writing, mostly of the literary review type, she blogs here.

Three people have had their limbs amputated in the middle of the night. One, a freak accident, occurred to an unsuspecting apartment letter. The woman, 23, had recently signed a lease on her new apartment in a building being renovated on the floors both directly above and below her. The first night in her new place, a stack of bricks had broken through the floor above and had proceeded to fall the following two floors, taking her hand in the process. Had Janie been all curled up in bed as she normally was, this would not have been a problem, except for the newly installed sky and floor light and some heavy dust, all of which the building inspector would demand be fixed within the week. However, having reached to move the alarm clock for better middle-of-the-night vision purposes, her hand had been slung over the edge of the bed at just the right angle for the bricks to fall directly on it.

Columbia College Fiction Writing Department

The arm was severed just below her elbow, causing Janie to have to use her left hand to dial 911. Before the ambulance could arrive, Janie had passed out from the loss of blood, though more than likely also because she had just lost an arm and staring at the place where her arm had been made her a bit woozy.

With Cynthia and Jack, the story becomes a bit sketchier. Both Cynthia and Jack have similarities, as any recently divorced, single parent struggling to make ends meet might. Both kept late and early hours, completing household chores long after the children had gone to bed. Both brushed their teeth left-handed, though that was probably due more to their own active parents having dominant opposite hands. Neither could stand the texture of tomatoes, avoiding foods such as goulash and spaghetti and always being sure to pick the red fruit (which they had both learned was not a vegetable in the third grade) from their side salads.

Both had felt hands tearing away their own flesh right before they woke up to the horror of realizing that their own limbs had been severed in the middle of the night.

But that's where the similarities end.

Jack's Story
"Daddy, read me a story, please!" Jack's young charge, Abrahm, crawled into his lap just minutes before his bedtime.

"OK, but it has to be a quick one," Jack said, truly relishing the time spent with his son, even if it meant a cranky morning wake-up.

"Dr. Seuss?" Abrahm always reverted to his favorite author during times of "quick" story reads.

"Sounds like a good choice," Jack said, choosing One Fish, Two Fish and The Cat in the Hat from the bookshelf next to his study chair. Halfway through the second book, Abrahm was already drifting to sleep. Finishing the book in a quieter voice, Jack picked his son up and carried him to bed, careful to not crack his head against the doorframe. He hadn't brushed his teeth, but Jack didn't really feel like waking him up to do so. He looked so peaceful, dark African-American curls (inherited from Jack's side) resting against the pillow, with his mother's own Caucasian side showing through in the soft skin tones and lengthy eye lashes.

Sarah would notice that he hadn't brushed his teeth.

Sighing, Jack padded down to his own room, the soles of his calloused feet brushing against the plush carpet, sticking a bit in a section where Abrahm's ice cream spilled earlier in the evening. He would have to remember to clean that up before ants got to it.

Slipping into a pair of boxers, after slinging his work clothes in a chair nearby, Jack rubbed his hands over his face, wearily. Mentally running over his list of things to do the following day, Jack lay back on his pillow staring up at the ceiling, left leg flung over the side of the bed.

He woke up to the most horrendous pain that he had ever felt in his life.

Reaching for the lamp, he felt the absence of something.

Light: on.

Panting. Screaming.

Lots of blood. Everywhere. Where was it all coming from?

His foot. It was gone. No, his entire lower calf had been taken. He vaguely remembered...

"Daddy?" A voice down the hall called.

Quickly he threw a sheet over his leg, biting back another scream. No need for Abrahm to see this much...

The blood was everywhere.

Call 911.


My leg! It's been taken?

Excuse me?

My leg is gone!

Your leg is gone? Did you cut your leg sir?

No! I mean, I didn't, but someone--

Are they still in the house?

OK, sir, I am going to send a police--

And an ambulance! There's blood everywhere!


But tell Them not to turn the sirens on ... kid.

And then, Jack passed out.

When he awoke, he was in the hospital room, flowers everywhere from family, friends. How had they heard?

And then the questions: Were you drinking? Doing drugs?

Of course, Jack answered no to both. He'd been extra careful since the divorce, struggling to keep and connect with Abrahm. And the test results came back clean as well.

There were more questions, of course, but no more answers.

No sign of forced entry. The doors and windows were all locked tight. And while a police investigation occurred over the next three months, six if you count paperwork and wanting to make it seem like the county deputies were earning their rightful wages, eventually they gave up.

The final report: Unidentified suspect entered home of Jack Koriac between the hours of midnight and 2:30 a.m. Victim's leg amputated. No sign of forced entry.

The evidence box was moved to the cold case file.

Cynthia's Story:
Cynthia had just kissed her oldest daughter, Vanessa, goodnight, having stayed up late with her for some mom and daughter bonding time. Vanessa had asked to make chocolate chip cookies with her mom when she came home from school and after Cynthia completed the day's laundry and dishes and finished up some paperwork from a late business meeting, she finally found the time to put the two younger girls to bed and have V start on the cookie batter.

Most of it was eaten during the pre-cooking stage.

They both had stomach aches as they went to bed.

Cynthia completed her usual nighttime routines:

Check locks on door twice.

Turn light on above kitchen sink.

Brush teeth.

Remove contacts.

Floss teeth.

Turn on electric blanket.

Use mouthwash.


Remove socks.

Change into pajamas quickly before cold seeps into skin.

Take sleeping meds, but only half a pill because we are trying to cut back.

Lay awake for an hour and a half worrying about all that had to be done the following day.

In truth, Cynthia was awake when they took her left arm. She remembers seeing a flash of green. Or maybe it was a blob of blue? Whatever it was, it definitely had teeth. In fact, it had ripped her arm off with it's teeth, didn't even need to hold it between its hands like one might do when eating a chicken wing.

There was no growling. Only silence.

And the sound of Cynthia's screams.

She did not have time to cover up the blood or muffle the noises before all three of her girls joined her in the room. Heather and Michele began crying. Vanessa joined her in her screams.

There is no need to repeat the 911 conversation.

It wasn't so much the eternal absence of the limb that drove Janie, Cynthia, and Jack to a life of obsessively researching their accidents. All three adjusted well to the absences in their life.

Janie would never again live in an apartment, and would actually move back in with her parents until she found and married the man of her dreams: an architect.

Cynthia and Jack would have similar nightmares for several years.

Jack would commit suicide. Being a single dad is sometimes just too hard.

Cynthia would adopt another girl, one who was confined to a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy. It helped to have someone to connect to, after Vanessa moved out because she could no longer look at her mom. The other girls would eventually follow their older sister.

Cynthia named her daughter Caitlin.

**DONATE TO THE2NDHAND if you like reading our our respective broadsheet and online series -- any donation above $30 gets you a LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION to THE2NDHAND's quarterly broadsheet. See this page or send a payment through PayPal here:

OUR FRIENDS AT The Left Hand make great soap, salves, balms and other natural hygiene-type stuff, in addition to publishing a zine and running a book swap, a performance series and more from their Tuscaloosa, AL, homebase. When they offered to make something for us, we jumped. We introduce THE2NDHAND soap, an olive oil soap with a quadruple dose of Bergamot, "for the readers we've sullied..." Price is $6, ppd.