Songs from a Bruce Springsteen Album In Which No One Exorcises Their Personal Demons or Takes the New Jersey Turnpike

Previously by Paula Duhatschek: Everything You Can Buy in a 1977 Archie Comic, in Order of Desirability

“I Enjoyed My Teenage Years, But Don’t Think of Them Often”

“The Knowledge Economy is Coming and I For One Am Thankful”

“The Highway’s Jammed (with Responsible Drivers Who Have Made a Choice to Obey the Recommended Speed Limit)”

“The Homecoming King and Queen Enjoyed an Amicable Divorce”

“I’m Looking Forward to Revisiting My Hometown, Where the American Dream is Alive and Well”

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Rhode Island Beach Bus

The trip costs three dollars round trip. You have to stand in the aisle, it gets so crowded. To occupy yourself, you watch the other passengers, people like you who have waited all week to go to the beach. A man wearing headphones, reading the newspaper. He sits near a beautiful woman with a small child in her lap. Her two chestnut-haired daughters perch on a cooler in the aisle behind you, playing cards. In front of you stands a woman with no teeth, her long hair yellow at the ends, gray at the roots. Her bathing suit straps hang loose around her soft upper arms. She’s so old you think someone might give up their seat for her, but no one does.

“Where’s Helen?” she yells to someone toward the back, a woman with a window seat. “Doesn’t she come on these trips no more?”

“Helen?” The woman near the window wears a broad-brimmed hat that throws her wrinkles into shadow. “I don’t know. She’s probably at her nursing home.” She shrugs. “Either that or she’s dead.”

The toothless woman turns away. She complains to the driver that it’s hot and unbearable, even with the windows open. The driver yells that it’s 91 degrees outside and the air conditioning doesn’t work, there’s nothing he can do. Now the woman shouts at the man in headphones: “You told me it was 86!”

“Yeah,” he says, not looking up from his newspaper. “That was five hours ago.”

You spend the rest of the ride worrying about Helen.

*

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World of Wonder: The Potoo

Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s previous World of Wonder columns for The Butter can be found here.

Here in Western New York, August means mosquitoes. It also means corn, means mosquitoes, means blueberries, means humidity, and means mosquitoes. Mostly mosquitoes. Seriously! I just counted five while having a coffee on my deck at 7:30 in the morning. What I wouldn’t give to have a little potoo bird (or three) in my backyard to catch those blood-thirsty beasties!

Alas, the potoo (POT-too) only resides in central and south America, where they gobble up said mosquitoes and termites. Fully grown potoos are a little over a foot tall, and their traffic-light eyes make them look like they are seeing something horrifying. (You might have also recognized the potoo as the star of its very own “weird stuff I do” meme.)

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This Writer’s On Fire: Mari Naomi

Mari Naomi is and author and illustrator. Her work has appeared in over sixty print anthologies, and has been featured on such websites as The Rumpus, The Weeklings, LA Review of Books, XOJane, Buzzfeed and more. Her work for The Rumpus won a SPACE Prize and an honorable mention in Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Comics 2013. MariNaomi toured with the literary roadshow Sister Spit and is the creator and curator of the kickass Cartoonists of Color Database and the LGBTQ Cartoonists Database.

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Dear Businesslady: A Garden Of Job Advice

Email us questions at advice@the-toast.net, subject line “businesslady.” Previous installments can be found here.

Greetings, Toasties!

Dear Businesslady has been around for long enough that I’ve accrued a robust backlog of unanswered letters, and a lot of them present issues that seem to have pretty straightforward solutions. Leaving them unpublished feels like a violation of my advice-giver mandate—and it’s starting to make me feel guilty. (You know that thing when an old friend writes you a “let’s catch up!” email, and then you take so long to respond that you feel like you’d have to write a Tolkien trilogy to justify the delay, and then that burden seems so overwhelming that you just never reply at all, and you hate yourself? It’s kind of like that.)

To clear both my inbox and my conscience, here are some shorter answers to (somewhat) simpler questions. If you have alternate takes to any of these scenarios, feel free to weigh in via the comments.

I’ve never written to an advice column before, but my coworker has me stumped. We work together well and get along with each other on a personal level. We are also the only two people who report directly to our boss.

Since I started, I have noticed some possessiveness, for lack of a better word, on the part of my coworker.

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How to Love the Back of a Neck

1.

When you love a programmer, you must to learn to love the back of his head. You must love his curls at the nape of his neck as much, if not more, than his eyes.

Learn every inch of his body, every freckle, every rib, every muscle, even when they soften with time. But know that if there is one thing you must master, it is the back of his head.

He will be forever a student, forever a learner, forever bent away from you towards a small black window.

You will meet him before he is a programmer. He will always bent away from you anyhow. His head will be bent up to behold a theater lighting rig, or stooped inside a five-gallon boiling pot of home-brewed beer. He will have his eyes trained on the road while driving you to Taco Bell across a serene Hudson River, or he will be bent over his much-loved copy of Ulysses, his eyes just as underlined as the text.

You will love this about him. You will think, “We. We are passionate. We are learners.”

You may think you love him. And chances are, you do. But realize what it is that you are loving: a neck, always strained, unable to swivel towards you without feeling the crick tighten.

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