Michael Whalen


This shot was taken out the window of a tiny plane as it descended toward Aitutaki (Cook Islands), with the aircraft and outer reef reflected in the bullet-like shape of the spinning propeller nose cone. Landing appears less plausible when the broader panorama is superimposed on the limited canvas of the propeller, as grand notions often do when taken in the narrow view. My work combines creative photographic techniques with artistic post-processing, delivering unique perspectives on ordinary subjects. I particularly enjoy the A-Ha! moment when viewers decipher the original subject matter within my imaginative contexts. To view additional artwork, please inquire at michael.r.whalen@comcast.net.


Image. Imagine. In 500 words or less.


another afternoon on the tarmac
waiting to go out with Daddy
with all the shopping bags
(and the secretary cum stepmother)

this is a Wednesday in July
the year of Lord & Taylor, 1985
a time when G4s are at our disposal
(and no one thinks to carry cash)

when you are ferried like this
the world is fully navigable
and we strike heroic poses
by virtue of touching down

few understand how it happened
how it ever got paid for, and by whom
these would be the wages of sin
(and we would all pay and pay)

but today, outside Scottsdale,
we anticipate the ground crew
and wait, as if we had a choice,
for the windowed door to open

Rebecca H. Harris

How Not to Die

Don’t slip on soap, don’t fall on tracks, don’t go diving where it’s shallow. Don’t eat alone, don’t drink alone, don’t stand by the edge in a high wind. Don’t let your hair get tangled in the drain at the bottom of the pool.

When unloading or cleaning your firearm, turn the barrel away from your face.

If your lover’s husband comes to the front door and knocks hard late at night, don’t answer. Don’t drive after dark with your lights out, don’t step on Superman’s cape, don’t mix prescriptions. If you feel light-headed, sit on the ground until it passes. Look out for black ice. Don’t be a hero.

If you meet your lover’s husband in a bar and he says, “I’m going-a get you, kid,” don’t grab his nose and twist it until the wife-beating motherfucker squeals like a damn pig. Don’t go out after dark wearing all black. Stay away from open fields, tall trees, and electrical wires during thunderstorms. Avoid that man at the front of the plane in his cheap suit, sweating and looking furtive. Don’t cross against the lights.

If your lover’s husband tracks you down at work and flings all your pens to the ground and starts shouting until the security guards have to come take him away, don’t taunt him, telling him you know his dick is smaller than yours and his wife never loved him anyway. Nor should you ever, ever leave a candle burning unattended. And please don’t stand up in a moving vehicle. Watch out for metal plates on the sidewalk that could be leaking stray voltage. Step carefully when you get into the shower. Always wear a life vest.

Now, if your lover’s husband comes to your house again one night and sneaks up the back staircase, so as you’re downstairs eating leftovers for dinner he’s waiting for you, and as you’re watching Baseball Tonight he’s still waiting, and as you’re brushing your teeth and farting into the silence and thinking it’s good she’s with him tonight, because you’re tired and can’t handle her crying again, he’s still waiting, and when you go into the bedroom in just your boxers and your socks and your old t-shirt from college that you never thought would be the last thing you put on in your entire life, he’s there standing by the bed waiting for you, saying, “Show me where. Show me where you did it with my wife,” don’t say, “Right here, buddy. Right here.” Because as you know, death is rarely an accident.

Britt Peterson

How to Vacation

No one likes traps, so mind like a steel drum. Go home. Cut a lime into wedges and stuff one in the throat of a beer. Seal the opening with your thumb and turn the bottle upside down. The little green moon rises slowly. Now it is night.

Move your chair closer to the space heater. Move your tongue around in your mouth until you find the place where breathing sounds most like the ocean. Think tropical thoughts.

For example, no one knows how large an island has to get before it stops being an island. For example, colorful money is supposed to remind us of birds. Teach some to sit on your shoulder.

Jeffrey Morgan

Pilot in the Blood

We were headed straight into Mt Wilhelm in the Bismarck Ranges, the highest mountain in Papua New Guinea—and I mean on a collision course. At over 14,000 feet, Wilhelm is a gross knob of granite in the Western Highlands. It’s not like the majestical Puncak Jaya, which is two thousand feet higher, just over the border in the Indonesian controlled part of New Guinea. That godlike peak at sunrise is the definitive argument against atheists. Wilhelm is just a lonely, ugly place in the clouds, made to crash a plane and die remembering ancestors. I said to Bob, “Let’s gain some altitude—like now.”

“You know I killed seventeen men officially in Vietnam? I don’t know how many ordinary people.”

I said, “Bob, this isn’t the time for that kind of moral life reconnoitering. We’re about to hit a very big mountain!”

“I was responsible for more stuff in Central America and Africa. You know that right?”

“Bob. As far as I know, you’re an ex Air New Zealand pilot who owns a coffee plantation and drinks too much. I personally forgive all the past or don’t care. But I’m going to kill you if you don’t pull this plane up now.”

“Very glad to hear you say that,” he said. That’s just what it was like. Fly the machine. That’s all that matters. Press down and shoot the guns on command.”

“Could we please just avoid disintegrating into oblivion and either turn or rise very fast?”

“Worrier. What makes you think I can’t set down on top of that mountain?”

“There is no top, you maniac! We’re not in a helicopter—and you’re stoned out of your mind!”

“You mean after over 300 combat missions and 30 years flying I don’t know an airplane from a whirlybird? I must be high. Hang on.”


“I’m just going to dislodge one little rock from the top with some flow-wind. I’ve been flying since I used to bite the testicles off of sheep back in NZ.”

“You’re never getting a free drink in my bar again,” I said.

He did dislodge a rock—from the very top of the second highest mountain on the weirdest island on the planet. And then he banked hard, north toward the distant water. I was never sure with him if I was in a fixed wing or rotary blade aircraft—he was as he said, a pilot in the blood. Long ago, he held a Cobra in place at full flutter two feet high under heavy fire, to rescue wounded men while wounded himself. He received every medal the U.S. Marine Corps has to offer while being foreign born. When he landed in friendly terrain, it was determined that he’d lost the most blood. Yet he flew the machine. I don’t nearly die with just anyone.

Kris Saknussemm