Editor’s Note: This Notebook is a Shattered Jar

The notebook arrived a few months ago in a box of old things my mom sent from the house I grew up in. It was originally a gift from a high school sweetheart, filled with notes from friends about my talents and how much they appreciated me. It sounds, at first description, like the kind of thing that would fill me with nostalgia for my punkish teen years. But opening the notebook was excruciatingly awkward. The gift had been prompted by my low self-confidence and anxiety, which left me feeling like friends secretly despised me and regularly led them to actually despise me, after I confronted them for imagined transgressions. I didn’t even read the notes–I didn’t need to, I knew they were full of the same kind comments that had been used reassure me throughout my life (comments that I would not–or could not–believe). Instead, I tore those pages out and threw them away. The only thing that remains from the original gift is a Tolkien quote penned on the notebook’s inside cover:

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

tumblr_nmuvzrd51g1rne95fo6_500I recently watched Song of the Sea, an animated film by Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon. The film’s villain is the owl-witch Macha, who turns mythical creatures–like faeries and giants–into stone to “save” them from negative emotions. She stores her own difficult emotions and memories in bottles and jars. Of course (spoiler alert!), Song of the Sea is about a brother and sister’s successful attempt to turn Macha back into the good witch she once was and release the enchanted creatures from their stone holds. They’re able to do so when a magical song–sung by the sister who is, it turns out, a selkie– causes Macha’s bottles and jars to break. Macha’s forced to swallow up the despair she’s been hiding from, and this swallowing allows the desired transformation to take place.

My notebook feels a little like one of Macha’s shattered jars–a ghost of the emotions it once contained. The Tolkien quote on the inside cover doesn’t let me forget what this notebook was originally for; neither does my anxiety, which I’m learning to manage but continue to live with. Yet, I am able to re-inscribe it, re-purpose it, fill it up with something new. I’ve been using it as my Tiny Donkey notebook–where I jot down to-do lists or take notes during our editorial meetings. It’s a fitting use for it, I think. Reading, studying and writing about fairy tales has become, for me, a wondrous obsession, the kind of thing that serves as a temporary respite from a self-doubting and anxious brain.


This Editor’s Note was written by Tiny Donkey Editor Wren Awry.

Simultaneous Map

by Brian Ma

Staring at the map on which I had traced all the known movements of my aunt, who had gone missing during the war, the vertiginous suspicion that her movements were taking place at the same time as my search for her came over me. In that case, her itineraries on my map (traced in red) and the ground I had already covered (traced in green, the two not necessarily neatly overlapping) were not two journeys that happened at two discrete and different times but were, in actuality, occurring simultaneously. This meant that at any one moment I was anywhere along the green trail she was, at that same moment, on any one point of the red trail. To continue this logic, it meant that at any intersection of our itineraries we had unknowingly crossed paths, meaning that I had already uncomprehendingly seen her seven times, meaning that my quest, in actuality, has ended seven times, meaning that I had already discovered penetrating truths about myself seven times. Along the way I would have seen the new gleaming buildings that were built after the war and the foreign investments but also trees on fire and falling bombs. There was no need anymore to search for her to keep her from disappearing and there was no need to keep myself from disappearing either. Her world: dark then bright. The simultaneity spread like a virus. Like a sketch being colored in, everything became, was, and is, Time Present. The war, the buildings, and, in fact, all the wars and all the buildings.


Brian Ma lives and works in Seoul, South Korea.

“Simultaneous Map” won first place in Tiny Donkey’s Once Upon a Cartographer Contest.

The Pleasant Grove

by Aimee Harvey

The place I was born was neither magical nor dream-like, but for us—her seven and I five—it was a place of wonder. The truth of it, though, was that my cousin and I were simply too young to realize the grim conditions in which we lived. The place we grew up was called Pleasant Grove, which proved itself to be a lie of a name because it was neither pleasant nor a grove of any sort, it was instead an ugly place, the bad part of an urban paradise. There, the houses had walls with holes in them, and pieces of old and broken-down cars littered the lawns around us. But this is something one does not notice until they grow older, when they become desensitized to the wonder of even the most magical places. Of my time there, I can only remember the summers, which were always unbearable and humid. The air was always thick and our hair was always frizzy; we were happy and we did as we pleased. We were ignorant to the ugliness, to the despair felt by those who lived in that place, many of whom could never leave.

For us, though, every single day there was one of exciting routine. We’d circle the pecan trees in the yard of our neighbor, and gather the pecans in plastic bags our grandmother saved from the grocery store. We would crack the shells in the way our grandfather had taught us, enjoying the fruits of our labor between slurps from the garden hose. We’d pet the goat that my grandmother had stolen from my grandfather, who lived across the street, partly to spite her ex-husband and partly to save the goat from being turned into dinner. The goat was kept in a makeshift pen made of chicken wire in our backyard, and we would squat beside him, laughing at the socks my grandmother had taped to his horns to keep them from causing us pain. During the evenings, we would be taken by the hand to St. Augustine to show our devotion. We would sit in the pews in a room lit softly by white candles, in peaceful silence. We would clasp the plastic beads we were given, not really knowing what anything meant. This was youth, but this was ignorance. This was poverty, but this was bliss.


Aimee Harvey is a nursing student at the University of Arizona.

Hungover and Fever Dreaming

by Brittany Hailer

In my white negligee—grease-stained, straps falling to my elbows—I suck marrow through the bones of a chicken carcass. I lean on the rickety table, my knees on the hardwood floor. I’ve woken up starving again. Insatiable and needy, I toss the fragments of skeleton over my shoulder. I can hear them scraping across the floorboards behind me. What is left drips from my chin. Hunched over, I see that the bones were bleach-white, picked clean. My kitchen is a desert. I crawl to the fridge for more.

On the bent wooden table is Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. The book is open to “The Tiger’s Bride.” I read the words and drool across the pages. I bite my cuticles until they are soft and wet. My skin peels back leaving red ditches along my nail beds. I read the fairy tale, humming, mouthing Carter’s words.

I decide I want this mask the Tiger wears: a man’s face, too perfect, rich eyebrows and yellow eyes. His body, striped and muscular, paces the castle. Although his jaws drip blood, he is still hungry. He growls from beneath the mask, but no one pays him any mind. The ceramic gentlemen face goes on smiling as the animal adjusts his silken black gloves.

I wipe my mouth with bare wrists, hair past my waist in knots. I hate the tattered negligee clinging to my hips. It pulls at my belly, and sticks to my skin. I can’t move like I want to.

“Or maybe I should be the Tiger’s Bride?” I say to the flickering light bulb in the empty fridge, “I’d get up off my knees and stop eating scraps then!”

I walk back to my bedroom and pull the nightdress over my head. I imagine the Tiger licking my skin to reveal a shiny new coat underneath, black and orange stripes snaking up my torso.

If I were the Tiger’s Bride I’d place my hand firmly in his offered paw, I think to myself. I’d crawl into the earth then, and come out clean then. I wouldn’t be hungry then.

I lie on my back, the ceiling fan rotates, a soft breeze lilts over my body. I lift my hands to catch the cool air. I stare at the dirty cracked fingernails I want so badly to become claws.


Brittany Hailer is a creative writing teacher in a women’s rehabilitation center. She has taught creative writing workshops at the Allegheny County Jail. She is the managing editor for IDK Magazine. Her work has appeared in In the Doorframe Waiting, HEArt Online and Atlantis Magazine.  She earned her MFA from Chatham University. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Ghost Moose

by Ivy Jade

I should note that there were no moose in my fairy tales. Mice would weave dresses and songbirds wing in to harmonize, rats prey on babies, wolves leer at unaccompanied minors, and snakes give terrible advice, but for all her bedtime vespers Grandmother never had a word to offer on the moose. Moreover, I lacked an authoritative source to aid in personification of muskrats, ground squirrels, and particularly heather voles. The cats (duplicitous, self-serving) enjoyed sucking members of our abundant backyard vole community down to dollhouse rugs, and I struggled to decide what to make of it. Of course, a mouse in the house was inclined to die in the walls as opposed to sew me a back-to-school sweater, and the only rat I knew was Evans, who ate a lot of yogurt chips and liked to sleep in my sleeves.

Of the moose I had absolutely no guidance. Rocky and Bullwinkle couldn’t be taken as communion; it lacked the mystic energy of tale layered over tale, the spiritual ambiguity of a frog emerging from the well with a golden ball or an ugly little man spinning straw by starlight.

Now that the moose are dying I wonder what it means for the stories, and I figure not much. There are ghost moose, which surely should mean something (hypothetical: the Little Match Girl is rescued from mortal hallucinations on the back of patchy, white-skinned moose), but moose as a fairy-species were passed over when they could have been messengers of kind fatality or knobby-kneed saviors, always owl-like with wisdom. Instead the ticks got them, a thousand sucking parasites to fell a thousand pounds of animal. Carbon dioxide got them, far from the realm of wicked witches or sadistic stepparents.

When I tired of the princesses, Grandma ought to have subbed in a moose for Little Red. I like to believe a moose would know a wolf in sheep’s clothing. She would never be selfish or preening. She would know to fear the foe and not the forest, though I admit I’m spouting pure conjecture. I do know that a moose forswears a moral. She promises uncertainty and wildness. Moose are all the allegory I need for a good story, antlers added. They fade into Faerie meek as ghosts, and the birds build nests from their fur.


Ivy Jade studies biology at Smith College. She is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota and maintains a personal interest in the preservation of at-risk species.

Hollow Mountain

by Wren Awry

At home, by the river, dishes pile up in the sink and the front steps are cracked and littered with Pall Mall cigarettes. It is chaos there: filthy with too many people living in too small of a space. Here, in the woods, it’s calm. At least it is in this stretch of twenty feet, with nettles and rhododendrons and tulip poplar leaves crunching underfoot. I chew on spicy sassafras, let it fill my mouth with the taste of this place: earth and green, unbearable green. Almost heaven.

Almost. Large portions of the mountain underfoot are hollow. Throughout the twentieth-century, it was mined out bit by bit, its coal shipped to cities like Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.

Ali Baba’s mountain held forty thieves; in the Grimm Brothers version, a girl attends an elven baptism in a mountain and learns that her three-day stay was actually seven years. Appalachian trickster Jack slips through a hole on a mountain slope. He finds a mirror world down there, with a house and a barn and a woman to wed.

This is not that kind of mountain. A few ridges over, billions of gallons of toxic coal sludge are stored in a slurry pond on the mountaintop. The pond is built over a network of abandoned underground mines. Massey Coal is blasting rock just two hundred feet away, further destabilizing geology. [1] For those who live downstream, the slurry pond is an ever-present threat: a dam break could send forty feet of water through the narrow Coal River Valley. [2]

(I do not live downstream, not really. I am a stranger here: an idealistic twenty-year-old trying to “save the mountains.” I will move back to New York as soon as it becomes untenable. I will take my memories with me, turn them in to metaphors.)

There’s an old mine entrance on the trail, a stone archway half-hidden by twisting rhododendron limbs. If Jack came along, I wonder if he’d skip right in, try his hand at tricking a giant and eating off of his subterranean table. Times have changed, Jack. You will only find darkness, bitumen, rusting tools, the occasional drip, drip, drip.


Wren Awry studies Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. Their creative nonfiction has been published in Loom Art Zine, and they occasionally write criticism for the Anarcho-Geek Review.


[1] “Renewable Energy on Coal River Mountain.” Journey Up Coal River. Aurora Lights, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://auroralights.org/map_project/theme.php?theme=wind&article=14>.

[2] “Land Use: The Brushy Fork Slurry Impoundment.” Journey Up Coal River. Aurora Lights, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://auroralights.org/map_project/theme.php?theme=crm&article=2>.