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Issue 103

Sleep Debt



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Dale Wisely, Editor-in-Chief




The Note

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In this issue, you will read some stories, because we've selected a couple of short stories and a bunch of narrative poems. We hope you enjoy them. Thanks to all contributors who entrusted their work to us. 


The Note is on vacation this weekend. More about that in a moment. 


In addition to serving as an introduction to each issue of Right Hand Pointing, The Note works at a bar in Indianapolis. She's paid little but is provided a tiny apartment with a bed and dresser and a bathroom upstairs rent-free. The owner of the bar, Lester, is in the late stages of cirrhosis of the liver and The Note thinks he has been showing signs of hepatic encephalopathy. The jaundice is more conspicuous and he is scratching more. He has wordlessly surrendered the duties of operating the bar to The Note, in stages parallel to the stages of the disease. 


Recently, a first-time bar patron, an engineer from St. Louis on assignment in Indianapolis, cautiously made a remark to Lester, who was having a night marked by mental clarity, about The Note's appearance. Not the first time a man in a bar has commented about a woman's appearance; this occasion was distinguished by the Missouri engineer's bewilderment.


"She doesn't look like she belongs here." 


Lester had detected that confusion before. The Note, in her late forties, is tall, upright, handsome, free of make-up, and dressed like a well-to-do woman at home on a Saturday morning. She would look in place at an office where she practiced dentistry, perhaps when letting herself into the office on that same Saturday morning to catch up on paperwork.


"Yeah," said Lester to the engineer. "She used to be a dentist."




"What do they call...with children?"


"A pediatric dentist?"


"You're kidding? What happened?'


"Well, that's her story to tell."


Because of limited space and laziness, I'll skip part of the narrative and go on to tell you that because Lester has been having some good days, The Note felt able to get away for a long weekend and accepted the engineer's invitation to ride with him to Chicago in a rental car for a couple of days of food, music, and sightseeing. Lester gave her his blessing and called his son who is helping out at the bar in The Note's absence. The weather in Chicago is nice. The engineer is a nice guy, divorced, and a remarkably good listener. And, for the first time in years, The Note is telling her story without shame. Regret, but no shame.



click on the hand to continue.

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Issue 103: Sleep Debt

Bailey Share Aizic
Jon Densford
Karen Greenbaum-Maya
H. Edgar Hix
M.A. Istvan Jr. 
Dave Malone
Rupprecht Mayer
[translated by Eldon (Craig) Reishus]
Ian Mullins 
Robert Nisbet
Darrell Petska
Tim Philippart
Stella Pierides 
Louise Robertson
Ronald E. Shield


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Stella Pierides


her toes in the Aegean …

drunk in its beauty

the woman listens to

the wine-red sea



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Robert Nisbet


In an October Sun

Autumn, cooling, cold, a small bay

beside which is a gully, and there

October water hurls its brisk joy

to the gully’s sides, whips cold spray.

We trudge the mile or so back to the road,

passing a paddock, and a groom brushing

the manes of two horses, chestnuts,

who frisk, stamp gently, snort the joy

of autumn, of being brushed with sun.



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M. A. Istvan Jr.


In That Way

An 8-ball railed up on a record jacket

under the bed, briefly the boys return

to family at the kitchen table

in that sliver of time between

a line and the fiening for another.


They return in that way that mom

so yearns to behold again, where

there is sunny talk of sports and girls,

career plans and children, where

there is even sincere talk of quitting.



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Darrell Petska


Looking Straight at the Eclipse

She turned from the darkness beyond her window seat and reached for his hand. "I remember eating red, white and blue mints from a bowl on the table that day we met."


"No, we were already together then. Remember the waiter with a handlebar mustache? The jukebox in the booth? We played 'Moon River' over and over 'til they made us stop."


"Where, then?"


"Dubuque. On a bus. For the hundredth time, Clare!"


"Iowa? When were we ever in Iowa?"


"When we met. We were both heading for Omaha."   


She glanced out the window. "Where are we now?"


"Does it matter? We're together."


"I want to know where we are!"


"Somewhere past Gary, but what's the difference? Cities are all the same."


"I'll never forget Philadelphia!” She nudged him gently.


"We've never gone there."


"I remember being there, that's all."


"Whatever you say." He sighed deeply.


"So why don't I remember Dubuque?"


"Let's talk about something else."


"I mean, I see it plain as day, you offering to buy me a beer and there were red, white and blue mints in bowls on the tables."


He shook his head. "The table with the mints was that '50s diner. No beer there."


"But 'Moon River' on the jukebox?"


"You've got it."


"What did we do when we left?"


"Like now. Rode a Greyhound the rest of the night."


"To where?"


"Might have been Memphis,” he considered. “It was winter.”


"I don't know what to think. But you should know something: I was married once."


"You already told me that. What difference could that possibly make now?"


"Frank, were you married?"


"We should try to sleep."


"You see, I think the red, white and blue mints in bowls on the table happened before we met. Maybe with my husband."


"Clare, the mints were with me. Stop troubling yourself."


"I can never sleep on buses. Do you think I'll forget everything someday?"


"Stop worrying. I'll be your memory." He leaned toward her, kissing her forehead.


"Tell me in detail how it went. I know you get tired telling it, but...please!"


"OK, if you'll try to sleep. Toledo is just a few hours away. It was outside Dubuque. The bus nearly empty. You in the window seat across the aisle from me. You needed a kleenex—I could tell even though you were facing the window. You turned to take it: that's the moment I saw our lives coming together like links in a chain. We kept each other company till Omaha, had coffee and a donut at some cafe—"


"Where the red, white and blue mints were?"


"Would you prefer that?" But he smiled.


"Always be truthful with me. I'm sorry I have to count on you so much."


"The city doesn't matter. We ate the whole bowl. You said you loved how they lingered on your tongue, like a good memory."



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Timothy Philippart



Just drove over the Dismal River.

If your name was always preceded by Dismal,

wouldn’t you flood,

go dry unexpectedly,

house mosquitos,

smell bad,

collapse the dam?


That’s why I never call you Dismal, or

think of you as that, or

write that word on the same page as your name, or

even think of the word in your presence.



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Ian Mullins



Cut the dose in half,

she says, as casually

as a surgeon saying

we cut the leg to the bone,

just above the knee.

Now let’s see you

walk out of here.






Karen Greenbaum-Maya

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Taxi Driver, New Year’s Eve, Munich

Drove him an hour out of town,

then back.

Again, he said. Four hours

together on New Year’s Eve,

midnight came and went

and that was the only thing he said.



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Dave Malone


Country Boy Buys Box Wine

I remember Danny Pitts from a past life—
when his seventh-grade biceps
eclipsed the mooning eyes of boys
and sent shrill coyote barks
down the line of gym girls.
Even the coaches gasped
at his locker room bravado—
the shocking groin outgrowth,
spools of hair thick as robin nests.



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