Tag Archives: Charity

Gateways: “Bloodletter” by Leigh Hellman read by the Gateways Cast



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Leigh Hellman. Leigh is a queer writer, originally from the western suburbs of Chicago, and a graduate of the MA Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After gaining the ever-lucrative BA in English, they spent five years living and teaching in South Korea before returning to their native Midwest.

Leigh’s short fiction and creative nonfiction work has been featured in Hippocampus Magazine, VIDA Review, and Fulbright Korea Infusion Magazine. Their critical and journalistic work has been featured in the American Book Review, the Gwangju News magazine, and the Windy City Times.

Their debut book, Orbit, is a new adult speculative fiction novel available through Snowy Wings Publishing. They also have a historical fantasy piece included in the Snowy Wings Publishing anthology Magic at Midnight, and their short fiction piece “the circle of least confusion” was previously featured in the Gateways series.

Leigh is a strong advocate for full-day breakfast menus, all varieties of dark chocolate, building a wardrobe based primarily on bad puns, and bathing in the tears of their enemies.

This is “Bloodletter”.

[The Free Page Sunday Edition, Ads & Obits Section, July 27th]
Human being seeks companionship, has lots of time to spare. Willing to make a trade for genuine commitments. Please contact Gilda on the local Swaps board; thoughtful responses only.

[Local Swaps Board thread, originally posted at 9:47 AM on August 2nd]
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: looking for gilda from the free page ads
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: they were talking about a trade
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: has anyone heard of them? any leads on a connection?? i’m terminal and a timeflip would be a fucking miracle

USER 1 [REDACTED]: hey…I didn’t see this ad but just a word to the wise…there are a lot of scammers out there who set up trades for timeflips and then never show or even worse they run fake flips…I don’t want to discourage you but you should just be careful everyone’s out here trying to get it for themselves…

USER 2 [REDACTED]: I actually got a good flip a few months ago, so there are decent traders out there. I would recommend always meeting in a public place and then booking a joint appointment at a legit clinic. Some people don’t want to pay the fee, but honestly I think it’s worth it for the peace of mind.

USER 2 [REDACTED]: Oh, and get ready for the kickback. I only had it for a day or two after, but I’ve heard of some people who felt it for weeks. Just make sure you don’t sleep too much because of that, since it drains the flip faster than it’d usually go.

USER 3 [REDACTED]: I think ur talking about GILDIANANGEL

USER 3 [REDACTED]: shes old school like that

USER 3 [REDACTED]: u should message her tho

USER 3 [REDACTED]: I never see her on threads nemore

[Private Message, sent at 3:32 PM on August 2nd]
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: hello, i think your name is gilda? that’s what folks on the boards said anyway. if you aren’t gilda (or you’re not THIS gilda) you can just ignore this message. my name is quinn and i’m terminal. i got the diagnosis about 3 months ago but i’ve been trying to figure out a plan b because i’ve got things left to do. nothing really important—i’m not some big shot out there—but things i’d like to see done before i go, you know? my doctor (well he’s not really my doctor he’s more like my second opinion) told me about timeflips. i’d heard about them before but i thought they were still really restricted after all those lawsuits. but then i saw your ad in the free page, if you’re the right gilda, and i thought “hey, nothing to lose” so that’s why i’m messaging you here. all my commitments are genuine, until my time’s up. i’d be happy for the company while the clock runs down.

[E-mail, sent at 10:04 AM on October 15th]
From the Office of Dr. Ratner, General Internist
PATIENT: Arbore, Gilda

Please be aware that, based on your most recent comprehensive scans, we strongly advise that you not participate in any activities that may further weaken or damage your systems. Your results indicate repetitive Progressive Vital Siphoning or PVS (commonly referred to as “timeflipping”) which has aged your internal organs by approximately 20-30 years. Studies have shown that repeated PVS cycling can have compounded effects, with each cycle increasing the damage to the donor at exponential rates. If you have any questions about these results, or if you need help in managing your health concerns, please feel free to schedule a follow-up appointment during standard business hours.

[Chat log, from January 21st]
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: yeah man it’s crazy
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: i still can’t believe it

USER 4 [REDACTED]: u sure it’s not a scam?

ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: nah she just wants attention i guess
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: or like someone to talk to
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: i thought it was gonna be something freaky
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: like weird sex stuff
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: but it’s just like getting lunch and going to the movies and shit like that
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: she doesn’t even try to hold my hand

USER 4 [REDACTED]: and how much u gettin?

ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: a month for every session
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: i got like 2 years already
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: if anyone’s getting scammed it’s her hahaha

[Timeflippers Anonymous Board, originally posted at 11:19 PM on March 10th]
USER 5 [REDACTED]: EXPERIENCES FROM FLIPPER TO FLIPEE?

I’ve done a few flips with a few different flippers and I’ve had totally different experiences! Some of them are really cool and just do the trade and you can go your separate ways…but some of them get so needy! Like I get that I’m taking like part of their life time from them but…they asked for it! They agreed to it! So it feels like a trick when they get super attached and act like I owe them and should be their new best friend or something afterwards!

IDK…am I being a jerk about this? Has anyone else had this kind of experience, or do I just have bad luck with flippers?

[Private Message, sent at 1:07 PM on May 9th]
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: hey gilda sorry for the late message i just had something come up a family emergency that i gotta go out of the city for so i can’t make our session this afternoon
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: i know we did the flip last weekend so i definitely owe you
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: we’ll reschedule once i get back i promise
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: thanks for being so cool, g

[E-mail, sent at 8:35 AM on June 18th]
From the Office of Dr. Ratner, General Internist
PATIENT: Arbore, Gilda

Please be aware that, based on your most recent comprehensive scans, we have upgraded your condition from degenerative to terminal. We do not have the facilities to offer end-of-life care management, and therefore we strongly advise that you begin seeking out a hospice service for your anticipated needs. Our list of recommended providers is available upon request.

As you start your care management transition, we want to remind you that we remain committed to your health and can continue to provide standard services in the interim. If your diagnosis is downgraded in the future, we hope that you will consider returning as our valued customer and patient.

[Chat log, from June 30th]
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: the clinic said that i’m in remission
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: they downgraded me from terminal
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: i’m fucking stoked

USER 4 [REDACTED]: thats awesome! u gonna do somethin??

ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: yeah i was thinking about a party like the old days
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: “congrats on telling death to fuck off” hahaha

USER 4 [REDACTED]: u gonna invite the whole crew? what about ur flipper?

ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: hell yeah to the crew
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: i don’t know about gilda though
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: it’d be awkward right?
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: everybody would be asking “who’s this?” and i’d have to be like “oh she’s the recluse who sold her time to me for friend dates”
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: and she doesn’t even know any of you guys
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: nah, i don’t want to put her in an uncomfortable position
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: i’ll hit her up later for a thank you coffee
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: she’d like that better anyway

[Private Message, sent at 5:59 PM on July 14th]
GILDIANANGEL: I haven’t heard from you in a while, Quinn. How’re you doing?
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: oh man sorry for the radio silence, life’s been nuts and i’ve just been all over the place
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: but i’m doing pretty good
GILDIANANGEL: I’m glad to hear that. Would you want to schedule another session, or maybe just get some food sometime?
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: yeah i’d definitely be up for that sometime but unfortunately i’m just so swamped right now, you know how it is
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: i can let you know when i’m free once stuff clears up?
GILDIANANGEL: Sure.
ANDTIDEWAITFORNOMAN: cool cool, you’re the best!

[Timeflippers Anonymous Board, originally posted at 2:44 AM on July 23rd]

GILDIANANGEL: WAS IT WORTH IT?

Longtime flipper here, just thinking about priorities. A lot of folks say that they started flipping for money, but it was never about that for me. Back when I started, it felt like I had the conveyer belt of a lifetime churning out in front of me and it didn’t matter if I sliced off a month here or a few weeks there. It felt like I was tapping in to something bigger out there, like I was threading myself into the lives of my fellow humans and they were threading themselves into my life too. It felt like I was weaving myself into a cosmic tapestry so that—even when I was by myself—I’d never really be alone.

I guess I was looking for that “greater than myself”; not sure if I ever found it.

[The Free Page Sunday Edition, Ads & Obits Section, July 27th]
Gilda Arbore—“She’s gone too young,” said everyone who outlived her. 

 

Kate Akerboom is a multi-creative individual living in Chicago. She loves telling stories, especially about the past, and considers it an honor to tell new ones that people come up with. By day, she talks about animals at Shedd aquarium. By night she creates as much as she can. Kate is a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay holding degrees in Theatre Performance and History.

 

Molly Southgate is 12 years old. According to her IMDB page, she has performed in 5 films, 1 industrial documentary, 9 Chicago plays, 4 Chicago stage readings, an Iron & Wine music video, multiple commercials, and she has hosted or guested on over 500  podcast episodes. Molly is also a food blogger on Instagram and has Somehow found the time to act in Super Richard World III right here at Otherworld Theatre.

 

Gaby Fernandez is the Special Events Manager at Otherworld Theatre. She has been an ensemble member since 2018, and loves creating, performing, and discovering new works with such a diverse and unique company. She has been professionally acting since she arrived in Chicago over 4 years ago, and fell in love with the Chicago storefront theatre scene.

 

Alex B Reynolds began their acting career as Sherlock Holmes in the second grade, and has since been seen around Chicago in such roles as Gandalf the Grey, Luigi Mario, and Skeletor. They are so grateful to return to the Gateways Reading Series, and can otherwise be heard on the “Meet/Cute” sitcom podcast, the Filmthusiast “Final Cut” podcast, and on whatever customer support line is paying their bills this month.

 

Rob Southgate is a professional actor in commercials and films, a professional podcaster, and a professional public speaker. He is currently preparing the debut of his first book and busily booking a national tour of the SMG Podcast Marathon. Rob loves sharing ideas with others and creating opportunities for his creative associates. Along with his wife, Martha, Rob started Southgate Media Group as a creative outlet and a way to incorporate all of their interests and their past experiences. SMG is home to over 100 podcasts, blogs, and video channels. If you think Rob has a lot going on, ask him about his amazing daughter, Molly. 

 

Kim Fukawa has been seen all around Chicago. Most recently she has worked with The House Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, and Babes With Blades Theatre Company. She is an artistic affiliate and occasional fight choreographer with Babes With Blades.

 

Jasmin Tomlins has been making noises with her mouth for 33 years, most recently as a determined vintner on the streets of the Bristol Renaissance Faire and here at Gateways. She is grateful for the opportunity to give voice to these stories, and to receive the meaning that stories give voices.

 

 

 


Gateways: “Living Creatures” by Gwen Kelly-Masterton read by Jasmin Tomlins



TRANSCRIPT: This story is written by Gwen Kelly-Masterton. Gwen Kelly-Masterton is a director, playwright, and all-around Theater Person from Chicago. She would like to thank Gateways for once again providing her with that essential element all writers crave– a deadline. This is “Living Creatures”

 

The first miracle takes place two weeks after a huge meteor burns up in the sky and leaves the news feeds buzzing with UFO rumors. Footage of the miracle is readily available– what mother, given the opportunity, wouldn’t record her sweet son selflessly donating his ice cream money to a homeless man?

Lila watches the video over her dad’s shoulder. The little boy, his long blond hair pulled back by a green plastic barrette, approaches a ragged man sitting on a piece of cardboard. The little boy hunkers down into a squat, as if coaxing a shy animal, and holds out a crisp ten dollar bill. The man carefully coughs into his elbow, then holds out his hand, and the kid gently places the bill into it. The blond hair flutters in a sudden gust of wind, and a ringing sound grates in the microphone. The kid turns to face the camera, and his little face lights up in an ecstatic grin. “Mommy, look!” he shouts. The image blurs as the camera moves too quickly. There’s a muffled exclamation and a flash of sky before the recording ends.

“That’s it?” says Lila, wondering if she misheard the word “miracle”.

“Hang on,” says her dad. He flicks past a few links and pulls up another video. It’s black and white, even grainier than the footage of the man and the boy– probably a security camera. The homeless man can’t be seen from this angle, but there’s the boy, and that must be his mother. The mother turns– jerkily, the footage lags– as another figure comes into frame toward her. The little boy runs forward and the new figure lifts him up. The mother sinks to her knees.

“That’s her husband,” says Lila’s dad. “The boy’s father.”

“So what?” says Lila.

“So, he died is what! Three weeks ago. In his sleep, must have been a heart thing. Here’s his obit–” he flicks up a page trimmed out in solemn lavender, featuring a head shot of a white man with thinning hair and a goofy smile “– see the date? Bunch of people saw his body, and buried it. No question that he was dead. But now he’s back! The boy did a good deed, and God brought his daddy back to life back to life.”

“Wow, yeah, Dad. God sure is great!” Lila rolls her eyes and goes back to her game. But it seems to be true. Multiple witnesses, including family members and the city coroner, confirm that the man who is now alive was definitely dead.

A week later, a border agent in the desert stops his partner from kicking a migrant woman in the head– then turns around and trips over a suitcase full of cash that cameras confirm had not been there the minute before. Two days after that, a woman on her way home to propose divorce to her surly, uncommunicative wife reaches out and grabs a ragged child by the back of his shirt, preventing him from running in front of a truck. She arrives home to an empty house– and a six page love letter from her wife, apologizing for everything she’d put her through and promising that as soon as she gets home from her first ever therapy appointment, she will tell her everything she’s ever avoided bringing up about her parents, her first marriage, and why she doesn’t like to be called “sugar”. This one is less provable as a miracle, but both women and dozens of their friends make a compelling case that nothing less than divine intervention could have had this effect.

One incident is a fluke, two is a coincidence, but three is a pattern. Religious types have a field day, of course, and the buzz about aliens continues, but as testimony pours in, even the most hardened skeptic eventually has to admit: these days, being kind to someone in need might get you not just karma but cold, hard results. Uplifting the downtrodden quickly becomes a fad, and then a frenzy. Soon, anyone who goes out in public looking poor is quickly mobbed by philanthropists waving money, warm hats, and bottles of artisanal spring water, just in case they’re one of the magic ones. Eventually, even city officials get in on the game. They’ve had proposals for housing and resources for the homeless sitting on their desks for years– wouldn’t now be a great time to take another look? Between the authorities’ change of attitude, and one or two entrepreneurial do-gooders investing a percentage of their more concrete miracles in existing shelters and charity orgs, homeless shelters and migrant camps undergo abrupt and thorough makeovers. After all, it’s reasoned, if $10 can raise the beloved dead, who can say what state of the art steam showers, memory foam mattresses, and a 24-hour gelato bar might do?

Lila, her best friend Kayden, and a few others lean stomach down on the schoolyard swings, and discuss what miracle they would get if they got one. “World peace” is shouted down with derision, but food-related ideas are extensively debated– they have a late lunch period this year, and breakfast was a long time ago. Kayden smiles mysteriously and doesn’t participate, but after school she texts Lila to come over, and asks if she can keep a secret. When Lila says yes, they go down to Kayden’s basement, to the creepy crawl space they used to lock themselves in to practice for the apocalypse. Now, it’s unrecognizable– the lights work, for one thing, and the whole space has been cleaned and retiled. A gauzy canopy overhangs a small but luxurious bed in one corner, and a large screen on the other side plays some old cartoon to a red velvet loveseat; a lady with weird proportions is singing some kind of hymn. Lila walks around to stand by the screen. Curled up on the loveseat is a girl wrapped in a fuzzy blanket. Her eyes are unfocused, and the singing is coming from her, not the big-eyed cartoon lady.

“Hi there, sweetie!” lilts Kayden from the doorway, in a singsong voice as if she’s talking to a dog. “You okay, hon? Can I get you anything?” The teenager ignores both her and Lila, and starts rocking back and forth, still tunelessly singing: we were proud, we were proud, they sent us here for pride. We must learn, we must learn, the truth must be our guide. The fuzzy blanket slips a little, showing bare skin the color of the teething beads Lilah wore as a baby. When she finally looks up and into Lila’s eyes, Lila looks away immediately and tells Kayden she has stuff to do at home. At home, Lila’s dad is sitting at the table, crying. He hands Lila a printout from the veterans’ hospital. “God’s gonna sort this out for us, baby,” he tells her, and Lila tries to believe him, but for weeks she dreams she’s trapped in the crawl space, trying to scream but only singing comes out.

Reports of miracles continue unabated. Soon the newsfeeds are all asking the big question: should such a valuable resource really be squandered on any Joe Schmoe with a sick kid and some inherited debt? Or should it, perhaps, be channeled to those who can use it to solve the really important problems? More and more people who look like they might have a miracle or two up their sleeves are whisked away to lives of supervised luxury in the high-end gated resorts that replace the shelters and camps of pre-miracle times. Most of the resorts allow visitors, for PR reasons, and after considerable wheedling Lila’s dad agrees to take her. It’s a fancy place all right, though not in the way that Lila expected. There’s hardly a wall without a richly painted mural; most of the images show violence and destruction, but the colors are incredible. In one place, men and women are hard at work with shovels and picks, dismantling the outer wall of the compound. “We don’t stifle self expression,” explains their cheerful tour guide, “but of course it will be repaired before the structure is really compromised.” 

Lila is hoping for a chance at a miracle, of course, but guests are kept well away from direct contact with the resort dwellers. Lila can’t catch anyone’s eye except a man in red pants with a patchy bald head, who picks his way across a group of people lying face down in the dirt, naked and singing, and taps on the glass that encloses the guest area. When Lila taps back, the man holds up a sign: Human Dont Belong In Here Get Me Out. The tour guide mutters into her radio, and gives Lila a coupon for the gift shop. Lila buys a jumbo bag of chips and crunches through them all on the way home, blocking out the sound of her dad’s cough. 

The next day, at Kayden’s house, Lila begs to see the girl in the basement again, promising faithfully not to steal Kayden’s miracle. The girl is even thinner now. Her hair is a mess, and she has dark circles around her eyes, like Lila’s dad. Lila starts to cry. 

“Remember, you promised!” chides Kayden, moving between Lila and the girl. Lila steps hard on Kayden’s foot, and Kayden calls her an orphan bitch. Lila shoves Kayden against the wall by the door, forcing her finger onto the lock. It clicks open.

 “Run!” shouts Lila as Kayden struggles and shrieks. The singing stops, and the girl peers around the back of the couch, eyes huge at the sight of the open door. “Get out of here! Go! Be free!” The girl runs, clutching her blanket. Lila knees Kayden between the legs with all her strength and sprints up the stairs after the girl, letting the door swing shut behind her as Kayden collapses. She doesn’t have much time– there will be hell to pay when Kayden’s parents hear Lila attacked their daughter, and Kayden’s probably calling them right now.

At the end of the driveway, the girl from the basement stares up at the sky. She looks taller. Her amber skin glows in the evening light, and the blanket flaps around her like wings. “Wait,” Lila rasps, out of breath. She tries again. “Wait!” It’s a proper yell this time, but the girl doesn’t answer or move. It’s like Lila isn’t there.

Lila’s ears buzz with anger. “I let you out,” she screams. “Don’t you want to repay me? Do it! I freed you, God damn it! You stupid, lazy, ungrateful– Do the miracle! I know you can! You have to save us! You have to save my dad!” 

A gust of wind cools Lila’s tearstained face, and the ringing echo of her scream seems to build instead of fading. The figure at the end of the driveway turns, and drifts back toward Lila, all eyes and fluttering darkness. As a multitude of pupils contract to pins, and ragged wings stretch out to tear at the air around them, Lila understands that expecting salvation from such a creature is nothing but hollow pride.

We were proud… sings the thing, as if it heard her thought. We must learn… Lila closes her eyes; the dimness inside her lids glows with electric warmth. When Kayden’s parents get there, they call her dad, but he hasn’t seen her.

Later, when the resort walls all collapse simultaneously and the chaos begins, the news feeds blither on about aliens. Lila’s dad, alone in his hospital bed, knows they’re wrong– it’s all just proof of the power of God. On his last night alive, he sees a vision: wheels within wheels, interlocked and turning in a vast machine, each wheel covered in slowly blinking eyes and fanning wings. It’s important, he thinks hazily, that the wheels can see. They could choose to fly away. But they remain.

 

Jasmin Tomlins has been making noises with her mouth for 33 years, most recently as a determined vintner on the streets of the Bristol Renaissance Faire and here at Gateways. She is grateful for the opportunity to give voice to these stories, and to receive the meaning that stories give voices.