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**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

**WEB: STUPID QUESTIONS Aaron Edmund Sitze
THE LIARS Heather McShane
SUICIDE SUE Suzanne Nielsen

Aaron Edmund Sitze

Sitze is a teacher in rural Illinois and has stories published or forthcoming in Monkeybicycle, Carve Magazine, Eclectica, and Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens.

Question: Why can't real life be more like the movies?
Answer: In Nebraska, she bunches up her sweater and stuffs it between the seat and the door, making tired attempts at conversation. When her head droops, she raises her eyebrows and regains herself, but it's clear that she's on the losing end.


"Go ahead," he says. "Just get some rest. I don't mind."

"No." She forces her eyes open. "I'll stay up with you. It's fine." She sits up a little and looks out the window. After a few minutes, she's nodding. Her jaw slacks and falls open, and he sees the little pond of drool collecting in her lower lip.

Her body jerks. "What horse?" she says suddenly.


"I thought you said something." She wipes her mouth and leans against the window. Her eyes are closed again.

"I didn't say anything," he says. "It's OK if you want to sleep, you know. I don't care."

"No," she says. "I'm fine."

The snow continues to fall. Slowly, dumbly, it brushes against the windshield like stars, gathering in little spots on the wet highway. It reminds him of Star Trek, and he thinks about the gray beanbag chair in his parents' living room where he watched Saturday morning television as a child: Knight Rider, Dukes of Hazzard, Chips.

Ahead, brake lights scatter the darkness like alarms, and suddenly the night is bright and red. His eyes scan: a car turned sideways, another car in a ditch. Headlights the wrong way. Red beams too close. He swerves. A tow truck marooned on the shoulder has lowered its ramps, yellow lights immediate and anxious. The lanes are compacted with cars now and the snow falls lightly, lit redly against the night. He barrels down the shoulder into the fray. The tow truck driver waves at him with two flagging arms and then dives out of the way.

The ramps are as wide as car tires.

I can jump it, he thinks. I can jump it all.

Question: Why can't life be more like the movies?
Answer: It was an unwritten rule in Dave's house not to bother his father when he was working at the kitchen table, presiding over the spread papers like a surgery. If Dave was bold enough to touch the table, his father's hand would dart out and snap Dave's wrist with the pen, and Dave would cry and his father would call him a wimp while his mother busied herself around the house, brewing coffee and shooing Dave outside into the neighborhood. She smiled nervously and wrung her hands and the sweat collected on her forehead. Those were the winter days, the short days that dropped suddenly into darkness, leaving him blind and abandoned in the snow.

"Don't forget mittens," his mother said. "And a hat. Take your hat. It's cold out there."

"Kay!" his father called. "I need gas receipts!"

"Go on now." She wiped her forehead and forced a smile. "Take a hat. It's cold out there."

"Kay!" his father thumped the table and the papers rustled.

She smiled quickly and opened the door. "Go on now," she said.

"Goddammit Kay!" Dave heard him yell as she closed the door.

It had snowed again, and the yard was clean and blue and quiet in the afternoon, interrupted by shrubs and trees that spilled onto the landscape like ink. Dave stomped out past the fence onto the street and kicked the snow on the road. When he got to the park, there was already someone there, a girl on the swings. He came near, and she got off and pretended to be interested in the monkey bars. Dave sat down in the swing and pressed at the snow beneath him with the toe of his boot.

"What's your name," she said.

"Dave," he said.

"Oh," she said.

"What's your name," he said.

"Kate," she said.

"Oh," he said.

"You like these swings?"

"They're OK," he said. "I can get pretty high."

"So," she said.

"So watch," Dave said. He leaned back and kicked his legs, pulling the chains back like levers. In a few seconds he was above her, and a few seconds later he was soaring above the playground, pulling against the incline, pushing against the drop.

Kate clapped and cheered.

"Let go!" she called.

Dave scowled at her and pushed higher. The swing weakened at the apex, gathered slack, and collapsed back into gravity, sending his stomach lurching, and Dave pushed against it all like a warrior. His body was an engine.

"Let go!" she clapped.

On the next rise, Dave slipped out to the edge of his seat and arched into the air, steadying himself with the chain in his left hand. His legs twisted and he spun gracefully. The treetops bowed as he rose above them, bending their green branches and lowering humble eyes before him, and Dave acknowledged them and the blue dome of the sky, turning his face to the sunlight. When he looked down, Kate smiled. She moved her hair behind her ears and clapped delightedly.

Question: Why can't life be more like the movies?
Answer: Oh come on, she says, don't give me this. Don't play this.

I'm not playing anything, he says. It's not a play. I'm just saying.

Saying what, she says. You know this place sucks. We both know it. We don't have to stay here. We have options, you know.

That's not it.

Come on, she says, let's get out of here. Forget your parents. Let's hit the road.

I don't know. I have a pretty good thing here, he says.

Working for your father? He treats you like shit and you know it. Come on, let's face it, he treats everyone like shit. I mean, sorry, but you know that's true.

I don't know. Maybe.

She draws close and hugs his arm so that he can feel her warmth. Come on, she says softly. Let's get out of here together. You and me. Just like always. It'll be perfect.


I don't know, she says. Colorado. Let's go to Colorado.

That's not going to solve anything.

So what? Who cares? Come on.

I don't know, he says.

Come on, she says. Think about it. We pack up my car with some clothes and hit I-80 through Iowa, Nebraska, middle of the night, without telling anyone. Fourteen hours and we're in the mountains. I'll get a job, you get a job, we find a nice apartment and take hikes in the pine forests. Watch the sunsets. Swim in mountain streams. Come on. I'll drive first.

It's not that easy.

Of course it's that easy, she says. Listen. Can't you hear that? Can't you hear the music?

Sure, he says. Sure, I hear it.

Well, there it is, she says. That's our exit music. Isn't it beautiful?

Question: Why can't life be more like the movies?
Answer: Dave clicked off his alarm at 1:15 in the morning and slipped out of bed. He was already fully dressed, except for his boots, which he slid on. He double-checked his backpack: heavy blanket, candles, two canned beers stolen from the basement fridge. He double-checked his pockets: lighter, gum for fresh breath, lip balm in case she asked, and one condom, pre-ripped for easy opening.

He pushed open the window next to his bed and paused, listening for the sounds of his father's heavy movements. Nothing. Next, the screen. Nothing. Years of practice had sharpened his hearing. Silently, he dropped his legs out of the window and lowered himself onto the roof of the porch. He shut the window carefully and waited. Nothing. Crouching, he hopped over the side of the roof and landed in the snowy lawn, rolling against the shock. He counted to 100 to see if any lights came on, and then was gone.

"Kate," he said from under the wooden bridge. "Hey. Over here."

"Hey," she said. She was dressed in layers, three shirts, sweatpants over jeans, three pairs of socks stuffed into tennis shoes. She looked plump and comfortable. Dave tried not to look disappointed. He kissed her, longer than usual, and smelled the wintergreen of her gum.

"Did you get out OK?"

"Yeah," he said. "I jumped off the roof."

"Cool," she said.

"Yeah. I could have really been hurt."

"I'm glad you weren't," she said coyly, and snuggled closer to him. He jutted out his chin and leaned his backpack against the wooden pillar.

"What's in the bag?"

"Nothing. Just some stuff," he said, "in case we need it."


"So," he said. He reached his hand around her back and tried to trace the lines of her bra through the thick clothing.

"So," she said.

"What do you wanna do?" he said.

"I dunno," she said. "It's pretty cold." She hugged him tightly.

"The bridge doesn't have any snow on it. I checked."

"The bridge?"

"Yeah. It doesn't have any snow on it."

"So what?"

"I dunno." He brushed his lips against the side of her neck. "Let's go up there and check it out."

"The bridge? You want to do stuff on a bridge?"

"Could be cool," he said nonchalantly.


"I don't know," he shrugged. "Might be sort of cool." He tried to look cute by tightening his lips, but it just made him look sour.

She pushed back from him and frowned. He raised his eyebrows innocently.

"Oh my god," she said. "You thought about this, didn't you. Before you got here."

"What? No," he said.

"You did," she said. "You thought about coming here and messing around on the bridge. Oh my god. This was your plan? What, like it would be all crazy and wobbly and sexy or something? You're cracked, Dave."

"Wait, I never said that. I was just saying the bridge didn't have snow on it. That's all."

"That's all."

"Yeah, that's all. Look, no snow on the bridge. See? I was right. That's all I was saying. God, what's the big deal? Can't I say whether or not something's snowy?"

She studied him.

"I don't know," she said. "Forget it. Maybe we could just go for a walk or something."

"Yeah," Dave said. "Sure."

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