After 2,000 Years, Hades Finally Decides to Let Sisyphus Go by Hagan Maurer

What does this job mean to me? Well…I mean everything. It taught me so much. This rock is my life, my everything. I push it up, down; the shit we go through together man.

Oh definitely! I even named him!

Heh, well, Roundy. I know, I know, it’s stupid, but it’s really what stuck. Humor is a big thing for me, ya know? Keeps me going. I don’t have much, but Roundy and I, we keep each other going. Day in, day out…

Ha! Oh man, a-bunch-a crazy shit! Most people think my days were the same and yeah, I definitely had a routine, but I mean… This one time I was halfway up and this bird just comes out of nowhere. Really gunning for me. It sucked! By that point, I’m in my groove, ya know? Roundy and I are on the same page and then boom! A bird fucks it up; starts pecking at my arms, fucking annoying as hell. Heh. Get it? Sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, I tried fighting it off, but I could barely keep Roundy up. I had to make a decision, Roundy or the bird. I’d never let Roundy go before the peak before. I always tried to keep one hand on Roundy, no matter what. It seemed important to me…

I mean, I guess. But it seemed significant, ya know? I’d never let him go like that before. I just didn’t understand that there’s always another day, ya know? I looked at Roundy and I said, “I’m gonna have to let you go; we’ll get ‘em next time.” And I watched him slide down the mountain all the way to the bottom. Bird still pecking me and shit. It was heart-breaking more than anything. It was the first time I had to let him go…

The bird? Oh well, we actually talked for a while. He was kind of homesick. Had been down here for like 5 years? Cute little thing really. Part of the Prom Squad. Like Prometheus. But yeah, no one ever thinks about the birds. They have to peck and peck and suffer the screaming day after day. Awful stuff, really. He said they don’t even get to swallow. Anytime they tear flesh they have to open their beaks and let it fall out of their mouths. They get a lunch break instead! I know right? A lunch break, with a job like that. Guess I should consider myself lucky.

My first day was definitely the worst. I’d just gotten here; all hell-lagged and shit. I mean, I’d just died. I couldn’t really remember much, but they said, push that boulder up the mountain. I mean they were fucking scary demons like really hellish. I said, why? They said, you’ll see. I started pushing and pushing and fuck, I was out of shape back then. It took me two days, but I got it up there. I remember the pride. Oh damn, I was so fucking proud of myself. They came up and said, push it down. I said, I spent two days on this shit! Eventually, I got it. That was the best day. I said, oh, that’s it! I named my rock Roundy and ever since, yeah, that’s been how it is—But yeah, it’s over now…

I asked them that! Begged them really. They said, you should leave. Can you believe that? I want to stay and they said, you should leave. I just don’t know what will happen to Roundy, ya know? We had a connection. I mean he means everything to me.

I don’t know. I’ve really no idea. I’ve been here for 2,000 years! But what can you do? This is Hades after all; you do what they say. They said, you should leave. But I can’t!

I’m gonna talk to them tomorrow…

Hagan Maurer is an undergraduate at Drake University studying Creative Writing and Philosophy. He currently lives, works and studies in Des Moines, Iowa. His work has been published in the Drake University on-campus journal, Periphery. Hagan enjoys writing flash-fiction, micro-fiction, short stories, poetry and plays. His works often contain elements of satire heavily influenced by the philosophies of Jean-Paul Sartre and writings of Samuel Beckett.

Stone Cold by Jonathan Freymark

Heroes should stay dead, they leave no room for the living. Achilles, hero, heroic, champion of the Trojan war. His legacy lives on in statue form, glistening marble, seen by children on their 8th-grade field trips, most of whom laughing, making jokes amongst abashed unamused teachers about how the sculptor forgot to sculpt a pair of pants on the mighty man.

“Statuesque”, the word used to describe the hero of legend. A towering pillar of strength. Passed down from generation to generation, from a father’s father to a father’s son. Each new time met with beaming faces, burning eyes, a desperate longing to become a hero, an unyielding titan, a man.

Manhood, personified in heroic statue. Unassuming stone carefully crafted into a representation of everything that it means, meant, to be manly. An ideal, a notion, an expectation, living on within the chiselled abs and bulging biceps. A corpse of a concept living well beyond its lifespan preserved like a tinned fruit within the confines of a marble mausoleum. An antiquarian attempt at articulating all the aspects of Achilles.

“Heel”, an instruction, a command, given to dogs who misbehave. To “heel”, to withdraw, to “hold back”. The same command given to young boys who start crying on the bathroom floor during their 8th-grade field trip because Tony made fun of their makeup. Hidden amongst the bodies of Achilles, Ajax, and Agamemnon, a failed attempt at replicating what it means to be a hero, agony.

Emotion, not something considered when sculpting a hero. To be a hero is to be a man, to be a man is to be indifferent, immovable, stoic, statuesque, repressed. To coat one’s mind and body with the same iron woven into the veins of the ancient heroes. But these are not qualities of a “man”, they are qualities of a rock. A pallid, dead, unfeeling, unthinking, rock. To be Achilles is to be a rock, mind trapped within the marble, much as how many feel trapped in the body of who they are not, confined by the artist’s desires.

Who is the artist to Achilles anyway? Who are they to decide that emotion isn’t exactly what should be considered when creating the hero? Who was ever given the right to decide that makeup cannot be what makes up the man, or that a man inside a skirt is not still a man? Achilles wore a skirt did he not? Who was it that decided that Achilles should be deemed a man for his capacity of violence and not his capacity of love for Patroclus, his fellow man? Maybe marble is not the only material that can represent heroes, represent young boys, represent men. Maybe some men are better shown in silk, tender, gentle, but still strong in it’s own right, possessing the strength to wave freely, to not “heel”.

“Heal”, an action, an ideal, to repair one’s self and others, to move forward. “Healing” the process needing to be taken up by many men. The same action being undertaken by young boys, young men, drying their eyes and standing up anew, confident in their identity, their expression. No longer hiding, rather revolting against marble mausoleums and masochistic masculinities, forging an odyssey of their own, creating the strength needed to eclipse even Zeus himself.

“Kintsugi”, an act of healing, to repair one’s cracks with gold, as it is the cracks that create the heroes. What was previously defined as a failing, a weakness, now a testament of strength, of the men living on inside of the marble, in spite of the marble.

Achille’s heel, a fault, a flaw, a failure, a fundamental part of the hero absent in the artist’s marble. If Achille’s is a hero then to be a hero is to be flawed. Heroes leave no room for men. Flawed men, imperfect men, cracked, broken men. Men who used to cry on bathroom floors, tiny tears welling up like priceless jewels on cold linoleum now standing up in protest because maybe they liked the way they looked that day, maybe they were proud of it, confident of it, in themselves. Isn’t that what the statues were meant to represent? The hero’s glory, his courage, not his Promethean physique or Phrygian power. We must crack the marble of old. We must create the space for these new men, the new heroes, to exist in. We must learn from the failings of Achilles.

Jon Freymark, born in Harare Zimbabwe, is a Neuroscience and Writing double major at Drake University preparing for medical school. With an eclectic background like that it’s no wonder he can’t decide what to write, and you can find pieces from him on anything from medical records to Brazilian Ji-Jitsu. His favourite cosy writing spot is a Perkins at 2am and his proudest life achievement is remembering where he last left his glasses. He swears he’s funnier in person.

Winn-Dixie Man by Melody DeRogatis

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and my wife doesn’t like it much. I never really understand why. I got Katie and Brad through community college. I get her roses every birthday, valentine’s day, and sometimes “just because”. Sure, it’s not glamorous, but we’re not glamorous people.

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and there’s certain things I’ve gotten really good at.

I can re-stock the Coca-Colas, warm ones in the back, in 10 minutes flat. I don’t even need to take the cold ones out of the cooler.

I can lift 125 pounds across the slippery linoleum floors, without falling down once. (And that’s an accomplishment, because I am a clumsy guy.)

I can even get through a check-out line with up to 15 people in it in the five minutes I have before I go on break.

They may not be the most practical skills, but they serve me well in what I do.

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and the thing I’ve gotten best at is telling which of the girls has eating disorders.

Nah, it’s not what you think… it’s not the way they’re made up or anything like that. They can be anything. Short, tall, fat, skinny, black, white, whatever. Some of them wear the tiny jean shorts that just cover their butts, with the skimpy little tank tops… Some of them wear baggy, ugly sweaters that you can’t even tell they’re a girl.

But they do all look the same, in a way, at least. They don’t stand right. They sway back-and-forth, or they slouch all weird. They never smile. But really, the weirdest thing, I think, is the way their eyes are all glazed-over like. They never make eye contact with anything. Not the cheeses, not the pop, and definitely not me.

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and I always see these girls the same place. Well, not the same place, exactly. Of course, it’s always at the Winn-Dixie… but sometimes it’s at the deli counter, or by the bags of chips, or even swaying by the check-out counter staring at the gum.

“Can I help you find something, miss?” I always have to ask. Winn-Dixie rule #1: always provide the most excellent customer service of which you’re capable.

“No, thanks.”

“I’m good, thanks.”

“Oh… uhh… what? No. Thanks.”

I always catch them off guard… but they always say “thank you”. They’re in their own little world… staring at the food. I know that they don’t really need anything. The customers, the ones who need something, they usually have a confused look in their eyes… not a dead one.

But I figure, if I can distract these girls from the monsters in their mind for a minute… how many calories in frozen garlic bread, how much sugar in a Reese’s cup will put them over their amount for the day, or whatever, I’ve done my duty as a customer service representative.

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and I’ve never once told anyone that I understand these girls.

My pap saw me cry once when I dropped the little bit left of my ice cream cone on the hot, Sarasota ground when I was a boy. He hit me.

“Why are you crying, boy?” he bellowed at me.

Men don’t cry.

Men don’t care if they’re fat. Or ugly. If their wives don’t want to fuck them.

My wife certainly wouldn’t understand. My kids definitely wouldn’t.

Men with guns don’t have eating disorders.

I’ve worked at the Winn-Dixie going on four decades now, and I’ve always wanted to tell these girls that it’s going to be okay… but I can’t bring myself to tell them that I understand.

Why would a 60-something, overall-wearing, trucker-burping man understand what these girls are going through?

But I know what it’s like to stare longingly at the pints of Chunky Monkey.

I know what it’s like to get the “look” when I help myself to an extra couple dinner rolls… not from my ma, but from my wife.

I know the feeling of wanting to slice my neck open to see if all the fat will drip out.

But I’ve worked at the Winn-Fixie going on four decades now, so what do I know?

You’re Never Too Small to Dream Big(For those that are little or young at heart) by Sean Cullen

Whether it’s the rains in July muddying the grass, or snow-capped houses in December,

Time always brings change.

As you lay down, staring up at everything that seems so far away:

the moon drifting across a star speckled sky,

the faraway glimmering of galaxies noone has named yet,

never forget dear child,

you’re never too small to dream big.

As you too drift along in life,

at school,

at home,

from chore to chore, trudging forward through the little miracle that is life,

I invite you to stop.

I invite you to feel the world around you.

Let the mother Earth envelope you in a blanket, a breath of wind that whispers a thousand soft melodies,

a reminder that everyday is made up of moments that implore us to stop and smile.

You’re never too small to dream big.

But if, for a moment,

when you stare up at cascading shades of grey and white that greet you with no sunshine,

or a skyline of night as black as coal, the wind chilling your hair to stand on end.

If you find yourself frightened by a horizon so wide it compels you to spin your head like an owl.

If it makes you feel small.

O sweet child,

you’re never too small to dream big.

No matter where you are in life, you have your whole life ahead of you.

It’s true when a thousand colors you can’t name paint the world so perfectly you wish time would stop,

it’s true when it seems like there was never any color to begin with.

It’s true when you’re born,

and it’ll be true when shades of grey pepper your hair.

So, if you feel a knot in your stomach tying you down,

or hear a voice telling you something is impossible,

Breathe, O sweet child.

and I insist you remember:

You’re never too small to dream big.

Sean Cullen is an aspiring Asian-American writer from Racine, Wisconsin. He has a background in history which he attempts to incorporate into his writing along with his racial identity, but he doesn’t quite have a handle on either of those things so for the time being he’s writing children’s poems and humorous fictional pieces.

Explosions in Movies Tell You All You Need to Know About the World by Maddy Lemons

Michael Bay’s work is only tolerable if you’re in the mood for sexy girls and continuous explosions. Explosions can be pretty fun, until the noise gives you a headache and your eyes begin to burn with the second-hand pyrotechnics experienced through the screen. The explosions bother me less now, which actually bothers me more. Less bothers more, more bothers less. Such is the nature of human beings. Luckily Dan doesn’t mind the deafening explosions, not being able to hear them. Hard for an explosion to be considered “deafening” by an actual deaf person. He loves the flashes of light, the so-simple-it-hurts dialogue, and the painful screeching robot noises are only sparks to him. No matter how many times I attempt to drag him to the gorgeous foreign art films, with their subtitles and nuanced performances, Dan always gravitates back to the mindless explosion movies. He doesn’t even catch half the dialogue, with all the actors shout-screaming their lines while running and being knocked around like GI dominos, but at least he enjoys himself, which is more than I can say for my cynical self most of the time.


Sparks of light would make a great new version of sign language. Maybe then people wouldn’t stare at the poor retards-sorry-but-that’s-what-they-think-inside. Maybe then they’d like the pretty sparks, and think Hey, I should learn that, that’s neat! They don’t know that it’s amazing what you can say with sign language. Dan with his resounding “FUCK YOU AND KISSES ON MY ASS!” when we fight, the words not quite lining up to how people in movies talk. Contrary to popular belief, ASL does not translate directly into English, and you’d be surprised how odd the grammar would seem if it was translated word for word. I’ve always compared it to Yoda’s odd word order, or order of words that is odd. I always fire back with OFF THE LIGHT DON’T MAKE ME SO SEE YOU YELL CANNOT!”  which almost always works, because for now I can still live in darkness, a little beady-eyed Golem ready to strike the Fellowship when they least expect it.


Deaf people are close. Too close if you ask me. The Breakfast Club ain’t got nothing on Deaf friend groups. Dan’s friends share everything. Absolutely everything you’d want to know and everything you don’t. No Karen, I really didn’t need to know that your last boyfriend was in to BDSM play, and that he liked his hands tied up because his hands were how he normally called you SEX WHORE and BUTT BIG SLUT, and he loved losing the ability to dirty sign to a sexy deaf lady in a Donald Duck costume. Dan and I didn’t need to know that, and neither did the rest of our little friend group. It doesn’t help that I needed Dan’s help to understand a lot of her frantically signed sexcapades. Dan doesn’t need to be getting any ideas about costumes.


Pretending nothing is wrong feels a bit like espionage. No sexy dresses, champagne, or assassinations for me, but still. When you can’t understand someone, berate them for mumbling. If you can’t understand on the third repeat, laugh and hope it wasn’t a question. When the coffee-maker beeps and you don’t hear it and you have to drink cold coffee, blame the acoustics of your stupid apartment. When you ask someone to repeat what they said, and they say “it’s not important” for the eightieth time, resist the urge to shank his ass with your stiletto heels. Dan never minded repeats when we first started dating. He garbled his speech with the same accent all Deaf people share, and he would keep saying it for my dying ears. Now we sign almost everything, and I only ask for re-dos when he uses a sign I don’t know. Funny how the language invented specifically for people who can’t hear well works so much better. You’d almost think deaf people were meant to sign, instead of parroting spoken language in a way that makes assholes in bars laugh. Then the laughing assholes get a full can of beer chucked at their heads by a crazy girlfriend who’s gone full Terminator.


Sound seem so important to us everyday live-by-the-sound people, but Dan lets me know that I’m not a broken creature just because my hearing is going out. Just because each explosion fades away just a little bit more with every movie we see doesn’t mean I’m worth less. The darkening of the room means more and more, but he doesn’t care. His hands, normally used for speaking, would caress my face whenever I cry over what I will soon lose entirely. I always appreciate his touches, because that means he’s willing to give up his ability to speak just to be closer to me. He taught me how to communicate with what one day will be my people, and how to look forward to the community I’ll gain instead of mourning what I will lose. Silent explosions may make me sad, but the man willing to silence himself for me and make us fools to the world is enough. Explosions be damned.

Maddy Lemons is a senior writing and biology double major. Her hometown is Des Moines, Iowa, and she hopes to attend graduate school in Iowa City after graduation from Drake.

Caesura by Ren Culliney

Johann: historically masculine; Germanized form of the Hebrew וחנן, or Yohanan. Meaning: “God is merciful.” A form of the Latin and Germanic “Johannes”. Anglicized as “John”.

It wasn’t his father’s name or his grandfather’s name or anywhere else in the family, and he wasn’t even German, but something about it stuck the first time he heard it: music history, eleven o’clock, hard wooden seat in the lecture hall.

“Johann,” he whispered, and something inside of him shifted. Some part of him starting to rearrange.

Genevieve laughed, of course, when he told her. “Really?” she asked. “You’re gonna name yourself after some dead guy who wrote lullabies?”

“I like it,” he murmured.

“What do you even know about Bach?”

“He was an orphan by ten. And he was one of eight kids.”

He was only one of two, of course, his parents trying over and over again, rounds of primitive IVF and old wives’ tales and once, after three rum and cokes and a couple shots of whiskey, inviting their neighbor over. When they found out his mother was pregnant it was a miracle; when it turned out to be twins, two hungry mouths to feed on a poor man’s wages, it was a curse.

When he told his mother she cried. Soft tears, not angry, not even shocked. Just quiet. She dabbed a tissue under her eyes and it reminded him of the opera.

When he told his father, he didn’t say anything, just got up and went to the kitchen. A familiar sound: shots of liquor straight from the bottle, no chaser.

When he told his uncle, he let him sleep on the couch for a few nights. His aunt cooked breakfast. His cousin, two years old, was too young to question it. She wouldn’t even remember.

(1986, over a decade later: “Mom, who’s this?” Pointing to a faded Polaroid, two identical girls arm in arm, hair so blonde it was almost white, both of their faces painted with a lightning bolt in red and blue. Captioned: ‘the girls are obsessed with Bowie. ‘Lady Stardust’ is J’s favorite song.’)

Henry had just nodded, looked him over approvingly. “Johann,” he said, testing the word out in his mouth. Honey sweet. Like molasses. “Johann. I like it. It suits you.” Henry was on his way to class, upper-level poetry, book caught under his arm, hair disheveled, perpetually looking out of place and out of time.

In a show of irregular fraternity, he pulled Johann into a tight hug. “You’re like a brother to me,” he said, and when Johann cried, he only held him closer.

When his sister found out it was madness. “You’ve got to be shitting me,” she said first, monotone. And then, when the look on his face revealed that he wasn’t, in fact, shitting her, “you’re never gonna be able to come back here again.”

“I know,” he said, and it wasn’t even angry.

She crushed him to her chest. His hair, newly cut, just barely touched the bottom of her chin. She’d always been taller, and it didn’t help that she’d taken to wearing heels and he’d taken to slouching. “Promise me you’ll be safe,” she whispered into the top of his head.

He pretended not to hear. He’d never liked lying to her.

In some way it was easy to tell Ricky. In the alley behind his favorite bar, grimacing around a bummed cigarette, it was like pulling teeth without anaesthetic, and somehow it was the easiest confession he’d ever had to make.

Afterwards, Johann couldn’t stop thinking about the look on Ricky’s face. It was the same way he’d looked after the last time they’d fucked: like he’d stepped in something disgusting and couldn’t wait to scrape it off.

Johann stayed outside and smoked for awhile. He’d tried to quit a few times but never for long–it was the only thing he’d inherited from his father.

His living room: a few days later, and already the pictures of him had been removed. “I don’t understand,” he found himself saying, even though he understood perfectly well.

“You can’t stay here anymore,” his mother said, and even though she’d cried when he told her, she’d already made up her mind.

He opened his mouth to say something, and then realized there was nothing left for him to say.

“Joanna,” she said, “you need to leave.”

He left.

Ren Culliney is a queer writer based in Des Moines, IA. They’ve been writing since childhood, with at least four unfinished drafts of novels gathering dust on their mom’s old hard drive. While academic writing takes up most of their time at the moment, they prefer writing speculative fiction, creative nonfiction, and other forms of hybrid and experimental writing.