Welcome to Issue 66. We have writing that darkly plays with form and voice this week in the work of Virginia writers Philip Raisor and Steve Bills. We have news about WRITING THE DMV reading and celebration kick-off at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference with our friends at Day Eight and Yellow Arrow Publishing. If you are in Kansas City in February for AWP, please stop by and say hello to Kathleen Wheaton and Holly Karapetkova, our fiction and poetry vice presidents, who are taking the lead at our exhibit table.

We are open for submissions and reading for our spring issues of WWPH Writes. We are also very busy reading manuscripts for 2024 and are grateful to all of you who submitted to our annual contests.

Read on!

Caroline Bock
co-president and prose editor


Philip Raisor has published a memoir, an edited collection of essays on W. D. Snodgrass, and six volumes of poetry, most recently That Naked Country (2019). His work has appeared in Southern Review, Sewanee Review, Prairie Schooner, The Writer’s Chronicle, and elsewhere. He lives in Virginia Beach.

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First Page of Apartment Lease – Welcome

Here are the rules. The rules are the gendarmes 
of all orderly behavior. They speak three languages.
They carry their own bed pillows, and should not be
encroached upon by rats, cockroaches, faulty outlets, 
tasteless music past ten, uncollected mail, and most-of-all
odors emanating from dead bodies of pets or ex-lovers:
      1.    Breathing is required of all tenants.
      2.    Smoking or vaping is not allowed in buildings.
             Neither is cancer, poliomyelitis, COVID-19.
      3.   Payment of rent on-time is primary. Bitcoin
            is not permitted as payment, since landlord
            or his agents have no idea whether it’s
            currency or not.
      4.   INDEMNIFICATION. Don’t fall down, trip
            over junk mail, collapse or vomit in hallways
            after high-intensity exercise, or encourage
            annoyance noise (ex. GameStop, Fox News).
In the event you cannot bide by these rules, negotiating
of outcomes is possible: don’t sign lease, pay a double
security deposit, see if you can enroll in a crash course 
in financial obligations. The landlord has some pull 
at the university.


©Philip Raisor 2024

Steve Bills is a retired high school/college English teacher from Virginia. He has published short stories occasionally since 2000. His non-fiction is more frequently accepted—see The English Journal, US Naval Institute History, and Naval Engineers Journal. Steve is a husband, father of two teachers, grandfather, and Navy veteran (BS USNA, MA UMD). 


February 28, 2020

Yes, Doctor, as you see on my form, my name is Cordelia, and yes, my birthday is tomorrow. Our birthday.

Well, thank you for the kind wishes. I appreciate it. Sorry to barge in, but I don’t appreciate being treated like a junky. As I told your receptionist, my doctor took a long weekend and I haven’t been able to reach him and I REALLY need a refill on my prescription. I don’t know how I let it run out. Yes, Xanex, that’s the one.

Yes, perhaps this is a bit irregular. Your receptionist was quite rude, by the way. She said that I didn’t need an escort—that your office was way in the back. I can’t abide rudeness.

I did not raise my voice. What do you mean, calm down? Oh, I see you have a smoke eater. Do you mind if I smoke? Yes, I have a lighter, thank you.

My doctor, I’m going to fire him. You do know Dr. Rubenstein, correct? Yes, Harold Rubenstein. He never remembers my problems from one appointment to the next. It’s exasperating. My sisters see him too, and he can’t keep us straight. Well, thank you, I will sit down. It’s been a difficult day without my medication. Is that smoke eater working?

Yes, we’re triplets. I’m the youngest, obviously. My sisters are Viola and Tess, born eight and twenty minutes before I was. After twenty hours of labor, Mother became a tragic heroine aficionado. Funny, right? I think I’d have chosen Disney-heroine names. I would be Cinderella, of course. I see you like secondhand smoke.

How old are we? It depends, I guess. My sisters say they will be fifty-two tomorrow. Since I only have birthday parties every four years, I will be thirteen. This will be my thirteenth official birthday since 1968. I can’t survive a party on unlucky thirteen without my medication. Dr. Rubenstein’s recording said you handle his patients when he’s away. Correct?

Oh, I know I look older than thirteen, but I certainly look younger than my sisters. Let me show you our Christmas picture.

Thanks for saying that but Tess, thank God for Botox, still looks okay. They both have teenage children, while I have none. That explains their extra weight and the exhaustion in their faces. Those monstrous children have robbed them of vitality. Without their Auntie Cordelia, they’d really be a mess.

Of course, I have insurance. Your rude receptionist scrutinized my paperwork. I thought she was going to take my fingerprints. I just received my insurance card in January, and I’m unsure how it works. I just got married. Do you like my wedding ring? You’d think I’d learn, but I’m on husband number three. My mother calls me Zsa Zsa. Can you believe that? Like nobody gets divorced in this country. Anyway, his company’s insurance is different than I had last year. It’s confusing.

What’s that? Have I been drinking this afternoon? What’s that supposed to mean? How many times do you turn thirteen? I had a little Champaign to celebrate—what’s the big deal? Yes, yes, I know you can hear me.

My parents? MY PARENTS? Can’t we dispense with the Freudians for five minutes and just give me the damn prescription? My pharmacy closes at eight.

My hands, they shake a little, yes. Sometimes I get angry and yell, but who wouldn’t?

Back to my parents–I guess that’s where every psychiatrist begins. My parents are still alive in Sarasota, although they say they’ll be here for the party. I need to be calm for the party. My mother will drive me nuts without my pills. Is there some way we can get on with this? Do you know my parents actually have prepaid cemetery plots and crematoriums picked? The tottering dears have always been well organized. Except around our birthday, when they seem to be off-keel. I think they blame us for being born on the bissextile day. Did I mention that I was unexpected? The obstetrician had told them they were having twins—but there I was. They’d only purchased two cribs.

We were supposed to be born well before the 29th, on Valentine’s Day, in fact. They were unprepared for three leap-year babies. They’d picked Valentine’s names for two—Rose and Amora. There we were on leap year morning after Mother’s horrendous labor, and they immediately abandoned the names they’d picked. So many Lear fans make comments about my name—mostly on her stupidity for not kissing up like her sisters did. Nothing comes from nothing, right?

Having a birthday party every four years adds lots of pressure. It demands something better than a cliched party. It’s such a famous bash now that the guest list has exploded with all my sisters’ children and our parents’ friends and so forth. I keep the list, and oddly, we’ve had several cancellations this year. Some respiratory thing going around. But it will still be extravagant.

One of Tess’s boys offered me a gummy. Can you believe that? He said it would calm me down. Of course, the party will flame out like the Hindenburg crash without my pills.

Yes, I’ll be quiet. I apologize. No, you don’t have to call security.

Why, I’m throwing the party. I can’t trust anybody else. That’s been proven repeatedly, starting with my missing crib. My husband can’t throw a party. He hired a caterer who was going to serve pizza on paper plates. Oh, he’ll get me a nice gift. He can be trusted as far as gifts go. The ring proves it, right? But I bought myself a little special present too. I showed it to your receptionist when I locked her in your coat closet. Do you think she’s all right in there? It seemed a bit stuffy.

©Steve Bills 2024


JOIN US AT AWP in Kansas City on February 7-10! We’re kicking off the conference with a WRITING FROM THE DMV reading with our friends from DAY 8 and YELLOW ARROW PUBLISHING. Come celebrate with us! We’re so excited to return to AWP after a number of years. More details on our WRITING FROM THE DMV reading here. Find our exhibit table with Yellow Arrow Publishing at #T3034.

And on February 15th, don’t miss our first-ever WWPH Reading with the MoCo Underground:

More on all our winter events in DC, Maryland, and Virginia here.

For our readers in Maryland… from our friends at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. FREE POETRY CONTEST for Maryland residents age 18 and older sponsored by Enoch Pratt Free Library and Little Patuxent Review. Deadline: March 1, 2024. The winning poem will be published in Little Patuxent Review and celebrated at a public reading. For complete guidelines, see prattlibrary.org/poetry-contest

SUBMIT to WWPH Writes.
We are reading now for our spring issues. We are an inclusive, writer-driven community and want to see your poetry and prose (1,000 words or less). Free to submit. Send us your work via our Submittable link here.