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Crossing Borders (story supplement)

by Grant Perry

bonus features:
alternate ending to Barry Graham's "Bad Beat" by Blake Butler

"Owen Morris's Other Creativity Games (to date)" by Dave Madden

deleted scene from Mary Miller's "Pearl"

behind the scenes:

We part at Shanghai airport. Her brother’s brain tumour operation has been brought forward, so that’s the reason she’s leaving.  She says goodbye and I say good luck.  We hug and then separate, looking at one another and then at her luggage as a familiar, but nonetheless awkward, silence builds.  There is something needy and desperate about the hug.  But it’s not me she needs. 

I take the train to Beijing and speak to no one.

I visit Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City and queue up to look at Mao’s stuffed body, waxy and doll-like.  I buy souvenirs — a cigarette lighter that plays a frenetic Auld Lang Syne, a room thermometer, a couple of t-shirts — all of which bear The Chairman’s beaming clown face.  Most of the time I lay on my narrow bed and watch the television:  old British TV programmes dubbed into Mandarin and football matches from three seasons ago.  I decide to write her a letter, to straighten everything out.  Then an episode of The Professionals begins, so I put aside my pen, turn the volume down low and dub the programme back into English, giving Bodie an effeminate lisp and Doyle a thick Welsh accent. 

On the Trans-Siberian Express I sleep on the bottom bunk and use the spare top bunk for my luggage.  I had tried to get a refund on her ticket, but the bureaucracy involved soon overwhelmed me and I gave up.

Travelling north from Beijing into Manchuria the landscape is noteworthy only for its bleakness.  As we pass from China into Russia we disembark to change trains; the rail networks each operating on a different gauge.  In the bitter cold station I look for sustenance — bread and cheese and beer — but draw a blank.  In fact there is nothing here to spend my money on.  I will eat noodles and crackers for the entire journey.

I spend my days gazing out the window and reading my guidebook for Moscow.  Already I know I will buy a fur hat from the deaf-mutes in Red Square, take a tour of the Kremlin and observe the stateliness of the embalmed Lenin in his tomb.  If I get a sunny day I will stroll through Gorky Park, no doubt unable to stop myself from whistling the refrain from The Scorpions’ “Winds of Change”.

I play the occasional game of chess with Viktor, a Russian tank commander with whom, along with his taciturn wife, I’m sharing the compartment.  I speculate whether the wife may also be a deaf-mute given the lack of dialogue I witness between them, and wonder if this is an affliction peculiar to these parts, but there is nothing in the guidebook to confirm this.  Viktor wins game after game.  I am easily distracted — even here, where there are no distractions — and make mistakes.  Viktor slaps his forehead and insists I replay my moves.  As the journey moves into its fourth day we play chess less frequently and Viktor immerses himself in a translation of James Hadley Chase’s “No Orchids For Miss Blandish”.  I miss the chess games and attempt to return to the barely-begun letter, but it soon becomes a tiresome list of sights seen and familiar asides.

On our fifth night I wake with pins-and-needles in my arm and begin to massage it back to life.  The train rocks across the tracks and Viktor’s wife mutters in her sleep, the first words I’ve heard from her.  Gradually the sensation returns to my fingers.  Out of the window a snow covered birch forest, lit by a tinfoil moon.  Silvery trees gyre in and out of sight, ceaselessly.  A herd of deer appear in a clearing and then vanish as the train pushes onwards.  I take the unfinished letter from my bag, crack a window and post it into the wilderness.

an "origins" essay behind his Leisure Suit Larry essay by Matt Bell

an old essay about Magic: the Gathering, with new footnotes, by Mike Alber

an essay on noodles, with recipe, by E.P. Chiew

short supplemental stories:
"Picture I Stole from My Lover" by Stefan Kiesbye

"Adam, Jacob, John, Paul" (with baseball card) by Jennifer Pieroni

"Crossing Borders" by Grant Perry

short interviews with the cover artists:
Ryan Molloy

Steven Seighman

David Kramer

more bonus features:
a short story by Fart Party comic artist Julia Wertz

Gene Morgan and Matthew Simmons Discuss Dino Run

Gene Morgan and Matthew Simmons Discuss Ninja Hunter

Gene Morgan and Matthew Simmons Discuss Rose & Camellia