Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from our favorite emerging writers
Can you believe how cold it is out there? You'd think after a lifetime of cold weather we'd be used to it by now but every year winter sneaks up on us, puts its hands over our eyes and gleefully watches as we scramble to stay warm.
The one bright spot during this dreary time is that being forced inside provides plenty of opportunity for reading and writing. This week we're delighted to share Rachel Rodman's Happy Endings, a poignant story told in vignettes about helplessness and hopefulness in the face of abandonment and trauma.
As usual, we welcome you to read, share, and submit your own work to The Rail.
Stay warm out there, and happy reading--
The Derailleur Press team
When we found her, she had been alone for months.
Her foster parents enrolled her in soccer. It would, we all thought, be a way of gently modifying her present associations with grass and open meadows.
They also got her a dog, fluffy and white.
But there remained a hollowness to her, a lean waiting.
Her teachers saw it at school--the first school, after years of isolation, that she had ever been able to attend. I saw it during my site visits.
“Bo Peep,” said her state-appointed psychiatrist gently, during their weekly therapy sessions. “Your sheep are never coming back.”
Welcome back! This week we have a pensive poem from past writer John Tustin. Please read and share, and consider submitting something yourself.
Meanwhile, the Derailleur Press team is working hard on publishing our upcoming chapbook (available to preorder here) and planning the rest of 2022. Keep an eye out for some upcoming announcements!
Stay safe, readers.
The Derailleur Press team
At this point
The best I can hope for
Is to feel good for a moment
Or a minute
Or perhaps a half an hour
Nearly always means
A pleasant surprise
Or a simple pleasure
Like eating good food
Or complete evacuation of the bowels.
I got out of the hot shower
And then into some clean clothes.
It’s the best I’ve felt all day
And I don’t know if that means
My life has degraded
Or that I’ve simplified my desires to the border
Sometimes I hold in my urine
Until I’m about to burst
For the delayed satisfaction of relief
Or allow myself to hunger
So that anything I eat
Will taste like the ambrosia of Zeus.
If that means this is almost the end
Then I’ll just say goodbye now
And then go piss
Because since about line 15
My teeth have been just about swimming.
John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals since 2009. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.
Happy New Year, Readers and Writers! It's rough out there, but here's hoping you had the chance to spend some time with loved ones in a safe and meaningful way.
We're excited to start the year with a collection of six poems from Spanish writer Izaskun Gracia Quintana. Her poetry plays with space and percussive language to pull you in and keep you there.
Thank you so much for your continuing support, and happy reading!
The Derailleur Press Team
unauthorized sentences floating in the ignorance of what counts and doesn’t reach us
while we fear your next step and our discomfort
how easy to evoke you and get lost on your stage
how comfortable to impersonate the unknown and take care of what doesn’t exist
or isn’t coherent
or doesn’t explain your words beyond each expression
we are experts in what we do not master
where we aren’t wanted
annoying within this blurred frame until the next concoction and a new conspiracy
Welcome to The Rail's last story of the year! We hope you're not yet tired of reading our thanks to our readers, writers, and supporters over the last two (!!) years because we're not tired of writing it.
Today we have a coming-of-age story that is a thoughtful and sometimes tough read, following a student at a British prep school as he navigates adolescence, masculinity, and grief.
As we careen toward 2022, we hope you are having a safe and rejuvenating winter.
Happy reading, and Happy New Year!
The Derailleur Press Team
Wuss. Wuss. You’re a
Sissy. Wuss. Sissy. Don’t throw a
hissy. Sissy. Wussy.
Gav, stop being such a pussy. Don’t throw a hissy. You’re a wuss, you hear me?
Gav, mate. You’re so fussy.
Guys, it’s Gav the Wuss.
Gav the pussy.
The fussy wussy sissy, throwing a hissy.
Gav enjoys disappearing into his own interiority. Getting lost there. Spending hours, days, weeks digging around finding something he didn’t know he was looking for.
He has to. It’s survivalist. Instinctual. Necessary. Comfortable in here, he can evade the daily looks of contempt en route from the changing room to the football pitch – soccer field, as Americans prefer. The perennial reminder that he doesn’t belong here, dressed up as collective external scorn.
These thoughts come as continuous jets of water hammer the shower floor around him, strategically dodged by the hulking naked body seated beneath and behind the shower head – his, something reminds him.
We here at Derailleur Press hope you had a restful and meaningful holiday weekend!
This week we're closing out our series on Intimacy with a story from Mattue Roth. This thoughtful piece examines the painful intimacy of prayer and tradition.
We hope you've enjoyed reading these stories as much as we enjoyed selecting them for you. And if you loved what we have published so far, visit our store to preorder your copy of our upcoming fiction chapbook Late Stage.
-The Derailleur Press Team
A Hollywood backlot last week. I was there to visit a friend, who’d recently gotten a semi-regular job as a minor character on a major sitcom. Actually, she was my best friend’s girlfriend. But I was in L.A., and my friend wasn’t, and the girlfriend invited me to come to work with her. They were rehearsing, running through the same three-minute scene an infinity of times. I sat in the empty audience bleachers and watched them walk around a fake living room. I envied the ability to be able to do what they did, to rewind time again and again to make it perfect. Inside the hermetically-sealed warehouse, I got the sense the sun was going down. I went outside, to the hallway, and found a place to pray. Three steps back, three steps forward, I transformed that little area into a chamber for G-d to inhabit. I stood still and swayed back and forth.
I hope today's story finds you well, or at the very least safe and cozy. We know it's especially hard to focus right now as we careen toward the holiday season with Covid still hanging over our heads like a big grey cloud.
But since you're with us, we're very excited to share Birthday Crashers by Alan Barstow!
Birthday Crashers explores emotional intimacy within a couple who are struggling with fertility issues as our main character gets lost among the pastries and partiers at his wife's nephew's fourth birthday party.
And don't forget to PREORER our first chap of the new year, available here!
Happy reading, and please take care--
The Derailleur Press Team
It was Jess’s idea to arrive early, and now, Daniel could see, she didn’t know what to do.
“I could help with Nicolas,” she said.
Daniel followed her eyes across the park, past the concrete picnic tables donned with blue plastic table cloths, past where a caterer positioned a three-layer cake and platters of croissants and pastries. He looked beyond where a Star Wars bouncy house inflated and some sort of black cardboard mashup duct-taped into a dome sat. Beyond all this Nicolas stood as stiff as C3P0. He was four years old today. Jess’s younger sister, Amy, crouched with a hand on her son’s shoulder, but the birthday boy’s eyes were locked on his Velcro shoes. He wasn’t frowning, but he wasn’t smiling, either.
Daniel figured Amy was trying to psych him up for the party. He thought Jess should leave that to Amy. He knew better than to say that.
“I could take Abigail,” Jess said.
All chub and rolls and wispy, translucent hair, two-year-old Abigail sat balanced on Amy’s hip, gnawing on a teething necklace. Beads of saliva as fine as spiderwebs dangled from her sausage fingers. If Jess were to take her, Daniel thought, Abigail would sneer, Mama, want mama, like she were cussing.
“I have to do something.”
Daniel watched Jess watch her sister. Amy adjusted Abigail. She took Nicolas’s hand. She wore a flowing burnt orange maternity dress and cream knee-length sweater, a ready-to-burst baby belly falling to her knees as she crouched. Highlight reel worthy, Amy’s husband, Bill, had bragged to Daniel, mother of the millennium.
Happy Friday! It's been a real bear of a week for all of us but hopefully we can turn off our climate, pandemic, and political anxiety for a few moments to enjoy the newest piece in our Intimacy series. This week we're featuring a beautiful and haunting story from Canadian writer Keltie Zubko.
We wish you a safe and healthy weekend, and we'll see you next week--
The Derailleur Press team
P.S. our upcoming fiction chap is available for preorder now! Visit our store to reserve yours today.
It’s a good thing these storms only come every twenty years.
This one began as the last one had, lulling us at first with intricate pieces of frozen lace that spun and drifted hypnotically from the sky. Luscious and light, they grew imperceptibly weighty, lost definition and became dense splotches that piled up on every surface. Time distorted and warped so that soon we found ourselves in a tight, silent cocoon, forced to stop and look wide-eyed at each other, wondering how we got here. Who would have thought snow could do all that? When it started this time, I remembered that other storm.
That one, the last big Pacific Northwest storm struck when our kids were little and before my husband died, a confluence of forces from sky and sea, extremes of temperature and moisture, dumping several feet of heavy, wet snow in mere hours. It was more than we could handle. Our city had limited snow removal equipment and our inhabitants lacked the skills or experience to drive in it. It mocked and tested our blasé west coast attitude. We didn’t need or own windshield scrapers and winter boots here meant rain boots. While the four-wheel drive owners frolicked in it, most of us hunkered in and waited it out. At least it taught us the virtue of loving the ones we were isolated with. But this time I waited alone atop the hill at the end of our street, watching it arrive with no other face to mirror mine.
This time, I knew the choice: solitude in the eventual power outage, no one to hold my hand and trace my scars in the darkness, or I could seek some other storm. I could, perhaps, answer the call to blood and bone that still lived, the glance of understanding or tone of voice that leapt across the gap between life and death. I could, I thought, make one last bold drive through the white night of a blizzard and find someone to face it with me.
As we plow through toward the New Year, we want to thank each and every one of you for sticking by our press as we continue to champion new work!
We're starting off this week with something a little different than we've published before. Adam Berlin's ten is sexy and seductive, but also cheeky sly and cheeky. This piece is perfect for fans of Adele Waldman's The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. and will leave you feeling a certain way.
We're publishing this series on Intimacy to celebrate the upcoming release of our fiction chapbook in the new year! Preorder your copy today!
She’s doing the same thing I’m doing, sort of.
After rapid back-and-forth emails (biography questions and answers, banter to prove we can banter), she tells me she’s studying writing. I tell her I teach writing. She sends an email with a selfie attached—she’s standing in front of a mirror wearing a summer skirt that shows off thin, strong legs. Her face is smudged by the indoor flash. I send her a jacket photo looking starving-artist moody.
She finally admits it. She posted on Craigslist to get material for a story. She’s taking a Lyrical Essay course and wants to collect as many emails as possible, then make them into a verbal collage. I email her a question. What exactly is a lyrical essay? She emails back, I don’t fully know. I tell her I like Hemingway, Spartan and simple, and she tells me she likes Joyce and David Foster Wallace and Rankine and Jean Toomer and plenty of others in between, which makes her, she assumes, less lyrically-challenged. I ask how her lyrical essay is coming along. She says she’s received too many responses. She asks why I answered her post, beyond the obvious. I tell her I’m writing a story of my own. About the thrills of Craigslist dating? she writes. Thrilled to meet you, I write back. I leave the rest out—that I plan to bed ten different women from CL in ten days. I’m from the write-what-you-know school of fiction. I live it, then tweak it, shaping reality to get across theme.
Thank you for joining us for the latest addition to our Intimacy series! I'm pleased as punch to share Gracie Bialecki's Recovery, a beautiful story about art, relationships, and letting your past go.
We also wanted to share that our upcoming fiction chapbook Late Stage is coming out in January 2022! Visit our store to preorder yours today.
- Derailleur Press
We came by plane then boat, sun-drunk by the time we made our way to the villa. We pulled bags up worn stone stairways and down ancient alleys, arriving with the nonchalance of those who have done this before, who know what to carry and what to leave behind.
I’d arrived from Ibiza with only a backpack. The flight was so easy there was no reason to say no to Elliot’s invitation. At school, he and his friends were called The Intellectuals — studying philosophy or art history and dabbling in esoteric drugs. He’d been the one who organized lavish parties, which had grown from dorms, to rented Victorians, to his family’s island home. His twenty-seventh birthday was an excuse to throw another, and of course, he would. I was a year younger, but had already had enough brushes with the twenty-seven club to value survival over revelry.
Elliot and I were both in Europe but he hadn’t seen me in years, and he was inviting the person he’d known — the party girl-turned-DJ who spun night into day. Still, his email was an unexpected gesture, and I took it as a sign of something shifting. Elliot didn’t mention me mixing, because we were friends. Friends who gathered on islands.
We're so pleased to publish this eerie story by former Derailleur Press writer Eirini Melena Karoutsos. This brilliantly eerie short story about the discomforts of intimacy is perfect for fans of Iain Reid's I'm Thinking of Ending Things, and may just keep you up at night!
Keep an eye on Derailleur Press's social media for upcoming announcements on our chapbook releases, and of course keep an eye on The Rail for more brilliant writing each week.
- Derailleur Press
We were driving to his grandmother’s house. He wants me to meet her, while there is still time. Mark told me before we left that she had practically raised him. So, we were going over the river and through the woods except the woods are just miles of farmland and the river is a ditch that runs along the empty highway.
I can’t remember what time we started driving and my head aches from a hangover I don’t remember earning. Yesterday, Mark spent 45 minutes showing me the house on Google Maps. I watched the clock tick in mild awe of his feat, and yet the name of the town escapes me. I can’t ask, and Mark doesn’t have the GPS on.
I try a few conversational gambits, but each dies in the sort of way that forced conversations tend to do when you don’t actually want to have them: painfully, and seemingly dragging away a piece of your soul with them. The silence between us is both familiar and oppressive, private and yet perverted. When Mark quotes a John Mulaney joke for the third time, I want to jump out of the car, but then I feel guilty for my extreme reaction. Instead, I fiddle with the knob on the radio again, searching for music. It spins under my fingers, making a faint clicking sound until I find a classic rock station, which feels wrong in winter, but eventually it too goes to static. Mark jumps and turns the radio off. “You might as well give it up.”
Startled, it takes me a minute to realize he was talking about the radio.
“I mean,” I respond, slightly flustered, “I’m sure there’s at least an oldies station somewhere.” At this point, I wouldn’t even have minded some Evangelical screaming about damnation, burning, and “the queers.” It would have been something new to talk about, or at least background noise.
“It’s like a radio dead zone,” he says, and adds, “There’s absolutely nothing,” as though reading the fleeting thought on the tip of my tongue again.