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**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: WHEEL Paul Lask
SIDES Heather Palmer
TIKI EXPRESS Pitchfork Battalion (Dills, Ballentine, Holmes)

Paul Lask

Lask lives and writes in Logan Square, Chicago, IL, where he was also a member of the bands the Ghost and the Tight Phantomz.

"We need to do something to stop that howling." My girlfriend said that. I didn't say anything because I'd been trying to figure out a Wheel of Fortune puzzle. I'd been so into the puzzle that I was able to cut my steak without looking. "Honey," she said, putting her hand over mine, "hey." She pointed to the floor, where, once I looked, I could hear the dog that lived below us, howling. "We need to do something. It's driving me crazy."

I watched the last couple minutes of the show to see if the lady from Jacksonville would win the new car. She won, but got the cash instead.

Columbia College Fiction Writing Department

Halfway down the back staircase I stopped. The howls were reminding me of the duck calls I used to hear in Wisconsin. I closed my eyes and tried to remember that lake. When I knocked on their door the dog started yapping, different than the howls. It was an English Sheep that we didn't like because we didn't get along with the couple who owned it. I knocked again and the thing went nuts, scratching at the door, running circles, scratching again. I listened for a while, then went back upstairs.

"No one's home," I said, standing at our back door.

"I'll call Ted." She walked out of the kitchen to get her phone in the other room.

"Wait," I shouted. "There's that key in the basement."

She came back holding her phone.

When we moved in, our landlord Ted had shown us the extra key he kept in the basement. I think he thought he was letting us in on something, like it made the three of us tighter, but I'm not sure. The key was still there, on top of the circuit breaker.

When I opened their door the dog rushed me. I had to push it off with my knee and hands at the same time. "Easy, buddy," I said. I looked up and saw Sarah leaning over the railing.

"Come on out with us," I said.

We let the dog out the backdoor and watched it romp around our small yard. I started thinking about what I'd do if I won the Wheel cash. Maybe buy a fishing boat.

Once we let it inside the thing quit howling. We went back upstairs and Sarah made a bag of popcorn. We were about to watch a good show about crime detectives when someone knocked at the front door.

"Hey James, you guys called?" It was Ted. I got up.

"No," I said, opening the door. "Wait, Sarah, did you call Ted?"

"Sorry," she said, "I might've accidentally--"

"Looks like she accidentally--"

He stepped into the doorframe. "Hey, I'm having a party this weekend. You guys should try to come." He had gel in his hair and his breath smelled like beer under peppermint. He was wearing one of those devices people attach to their ear so they're able to talk without holding a phone.

"This weekend?" I asked.

"Yeah, it's my 32nd birthday, but I'm not telling anyone. Besides you, I haven't told anyone. Yeah, Lucky Gators? Be there in a few," he said, holding a finger up to show he'd get back to me in a second. He backed out of the doorframe and I looked at Sarah. She was finishing the popcorn without me.

"Anyway, sorry, hectic, birthday week, you know? So we're having a party Saturday. You guys think you can make it?" He stepped forward again and stuck his head through the doorframe.

"Sure. Are you going to invite them?" I pointed down.

"Psh. Right."

"Cool," I said.

I watched as Ted crossed the street and got into his car. I looked at the little piles of snow that'd gathered on the tree branches. The branches swayed at different times.

We laid in bed that night watching the 10 o'clock news. We'd done this all winter and, like we did, Sarah conked out and I muted the TV and watched with closed captioning. By the middle of the Tonight Show the howling started again. Sarah woke up.

"Oh God. Hurry up."

"It's OK," I said. She was pulling out of a dream. She hadn't been stirring, but when I looked I could see little sweat beads dotting her forehead.

"What? Oh, take him out James."

"It's not my job. It's not my dog."

"Please." She traced my thigh with her fingernail. It'd been weeks since that.

"When I get back?" I asked.

She nodded, biting her bottom lip.

"All right," I said.

When she lifted her arm to fix my hair I realized she could be Vanna White. I could be Pat Sajak. I'd grown up with ideas of those two backstage, but had sort of left it at that. But I'd recently heard something about role playing, and it all of a sudden made sense.

I put on my socks and sweatshirt and walked back downstairs. I stopped halfway again, considered taking out the trash, two birds one stone, but decided against it. I knocked to make sure they weren't home, and the dog started scratching and running its kitchen floor circles. I went and got the key and this time when I opened the door I moved out of the way, like a matador in a bullfight. When we got outside there was Ted, leaning against the chain-link fence with his arm in the air.

"Thirty fucking two," he slurred, the gel in his hair no longer doing its duty. The dog ran past him into a corner and lifted its back leg.

"Hey Greg. How was Lucky Gators?"

"Don't," he said. "How do you know that?"

I realized I'd been listening in on his conversation and that this would be hard to explain. "What time did you say your party was this weekend?"


"Cool." I whistled for the dog, as if it was mine, and led it to the back door. "Talk to you later," I said, closing the door.

As I walked back upstairs I imagined Sarah dressed in a sparkling gown. She'd be trying not to laugh. She's very pretty when she tries not to laugh. When I came into the bedroom she was sleeping. The light from the television made her look warm, and as I climbed into bed I thought about the ducks returning.

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