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

**PRINT: THE2NDHAND’s 31st broadsheet features a short by Portland-by-way-of-Montana writer Aaron Parrett that captures the power and glory of ambivalence after, during, and prior to what the unemployed poet-protagonist comes to clearly see as, if not love, then surely "Tolerance," the story's title. Parrett is the author of The Translunar Narrative in the Western Tradition as well as numerous stories that have been featured in lit mags around the nation. No. 31 also features a piece by Kyle Beachy, author of the newly released novel The Slide, out from Dial Press, and a vanguard discount coupon and special FAQ from the herbal remedies and soap makers at The Left Hand (thelefthand.net).

**WEB: WALLS Amy Woods Butler
ANT RANT Willie Smith
BLUE CARTS Zachary Cole
DECISIONS Matthew Brian Cohen
HIDEOUS BOUNTY: G.O.D. | Andrew Davis

Amy Woods Butler

Amy Woods Butler lives in south St. Louis. She has never painted anything with chalkboard paint, but she has been known to scribble on walls.

When they first moved into the house the long hallway was covered in faintly carnivorous-looking flowers that frightened Beth.

"It'll scare the children," she told her husband when she hired the wallpaper removers a week later.

DecomP Magazine

"But it's floral," Scott said. "It's pretty, for godssakes."

When the wallpaper came down, it revealed apple green walls pocked with nail holes that Beth, on a whim, painted over in chalkboard paint from a half-empty can she found nesting in the basement. The paint was a soft, powdery black that gave the flat hard walls, as the decorators say, the illusion of depth. She felt like she could see for miles when she looked into them and that with a step taken in just the right spot, she could cross over the threshold into a new world.

Beth was myopic, and had learned to occasionally turn the slight, easily correctable disability to her advantage.

"Interesting," said her husband on his way to the TV room.

"Thanks," said Beth, putting her glasses back on.

The children, a girl and a boy, scrawled on the chalkboard wall for a day or two before abandoning the pleasure for good, and on the third day, after wiping down the surface with a sponge that left behind a spectral crowd of faint white stripes, Beth composed a story on the walls, a running line of text that circled round and round till it reached the dusty baseboards. On the way to the TV that evening Scott paused to read a few sentences.

"Hmmm," he said. "Have a good day?"

"Yes, I--" she started, but he had gone.

Beth began writing a new story every few days on walls wiped clean of her previous labor. The stories grew not only in complexity and dash, but in length as well, so that soon she laid claim to wall space in both the kitchen and the hall bath, which she painted with the remaining chalkboard paint. The stops and starts of the cupboards in the kitchen made the writing cumbersome, so Beth hired a neighborhood teenager to help her remove them and carry them to the basement, where they lay on their backs like coffins.

"You feeling okay, hon?" Scott asked one night as they got ready for bed.

"Never better," she said, clicking off the light.

After a few months, Beth grew tired of writing her stories, and began drawing pictures on the walls instead. At first she drew simple line drawings, little more than the stick figures her children scribbled in unseen places around the house and in the secret corners of the car's upholstery. Art is everywhere, she hummed happily. After a few weeks her work became vivid and complex, if still rather clumsy. In the garage she found a bucket of colored sidewalk chalk, fat ungainly pieces gnawed by the rain; chalk dust seeped through the house, settling in a film on the windows and bedsheets.

"I'm a little worried about you," Scott said, loitering in the hallway. He rubbed his face with his hand, hard, up and down, a tic that came and went and sometimes, but now came and stayed. Ever since the TV clogged with chalk dust and broke he'd been out of sorts. "I made you an appointment to see the doctor."

"I'm fine," Beth said.

"Don't you want to get better?"

"Good morning, good morning," the doctor boomed. "How's our patient today?"

"I feel great." Beth straightened in her paper gown.

"Maybe just a touch of a bug," the doctor said, turning to approach her. "Sore throat? Swollen glands?" He roamed his hands over her neck. "Two children, is that right? Wonderful, wonderful, the joy of life. I have two myself. Well, three if you count the youngest."

"I've been doing some artwork, you see, and--"

The doctor let loose a short grunt that dangled rudely in the air a moment before dissipating. "We'll do a few tests, get to the bottom of it." He slapped her chart shut. "For now, I suggest you take it easy, relax a bit. Try some TV before bedtime, very relaxing. A sit-com, maybe a reality show or two," he said, pulling out a prescription pad. He scrawled something on it and handed it to her. "Take this once a day. You'll feel better before you know it."

Beth went home and took a nap. She felt a cold coming on. The next day, Saturday, Scott painted the walls a cheery yellow.

At the fabric store a few days later, Beth's head felt soupy, muffled in snot. Maybe it was just the new medication? Mild side effects, the doctor had said. They would subside after a few weeks. Or not. No promises either way. Beth shambled through the cotton-dampened air looking for some material for new curtains. Scott wanted something bright. In front of her, a bolt of fabric stood at attention, lurid green and brown spots swimming on an ivory background. Retro was very in right now, according to the saleslady. Leaning next to it was a vaguely 50s-style pattern, a print covered with cartoon women in stilettos holding casserole dishes aloft, with aprons cinched around impossibly tiny waists. Beth fingered the fabric. That one's kind of cute, a disembodied voice floated from somewhere behind her. Maybe Beth would sew the curtains herself. At the counter, the saleslady ran her shears smoothly through the cloth, slicing in half a row of beaming housewives, and minutes later Beth was home, Scott tucking her into bed with soft little clucks and murmurs -- "I told you you were sick, didn't I?" -- his face gone baby-smooth and stupid with relief. The buzzing in her head silenced everything but the outside world. The curtains would have to wait a few days, she decided.

They'd have to wait till she felt better.

**SUBSCRIBE 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.