We are ending May with a bang. Somewhere between the sacrosanct and the sacrilegious. Somewhere between Mexico and Orion’s Belt. Wherever hunger becomes desperation. Somewhere….

Jamie Iredell’s “Madame Ordoñez” is like the fifth season of Weeds but with characters who seem like they could be you or me (rather than a suburban-mother-turned-pot-dealer who always seems to thwart trouble). What drew me to the story was not that I had read with Jamie during an event in Nashville and was already an admirer, but the story’s guts. The guts, the pace, and vulnerability of the characters, who are all searching for hope in their own way, and how Iredell paints them with compassion. Some turn to Jesus; others turn to artichokes. This piece informs this issue, as if the accompanying selections are smaller slices of Madame Ordoñez’s own Castroville, where she dishes out hope when the despairing hold out their palms for her to read.

Marcus Speh’s “Before the Bloodbath” echoes the religious notes of “Madame Ordoñez,” as well as the characters’ village and the Catholic church looming in the background of not only the city, but its citizens’ psyches. Speh, of course, drives flash fiction like it’s a vintage Alfa Romeo, knowing always how to handle the gearshift because he’s so comfy in the bucket seat. He never crashes. If I say anything else, this paragraph will be longer than his story.

Joshua Michael Stewart’s poem “Whir” is a glimpse into what I imagine is one of Iredell’s characters’ lives—the loss of innocence colliding with talk of the future, the pull-back when being pushed forward. “Addiction,” Matt Mullins’s video creation, does the same, giving voice to the heart of the matter of Castroville, whose denizens all crave different things, are all addicted to something, even if the drug is freedom, longing, or desire. Or belief.

This issue wonders out loud: What should we do when standing on a precipice, when the air feels impatient, when jumping feels like too much but standing still feels like too little? What then?




Photo Source: Godly Gentleman