Dotted Line Dotted Line

Fiction Winter 2022    poetry    all issues


Joyce McCown

Kristina Cecka

Jeremy Glazer

Richard M. Lange
Night Walk

Eleanor Talbot
The Calamitous Consequence of a Small Thing That Gets Big

Christopher Mohar

Nicholas Darmody
All Those Not Seen

Darcy Casey
A Hard No

Weston Miller
Dystopian Lit

Chelsea Dodds

Michael Sadoff
The Day I Saw Janis

Jeannie Morgenstern

Nicholas Darmody

All Those Not Seen

“You’re late, amigo.” Donnie told Dick as he walked in. Donnie looked funny sitting on a rotting stool in his luxurious suede suit. Most people wouldn’t show up to the Terminal bar with a $50 watch for fear of getting it stolen, but he was perched on his stool with his ankle on top of his knee as if he was smoking at the country club. Of course, the pair had been coming here for years, before Donnie took up a suit, but the scummy bar had never changed. Maybe everyone knew him by now. Maybe he sat there with such confidence that the surlier patrons assumed he was deranged and would rather steer clear. Even if Dick could afford the suit, he would never dare to come to this part of New York dressed like Warren Buffet.

Whatever the case, Dick pulled the stool out next to him, letting it screech across the floor, and sat down. The bar was slim and long inside like most Manhattan bars. The bar stretched along a wall of rowed liquor and beer signs with stiff stools to match its patrons. The mirror behind the rows of bottles was so dirty it could hardly catch the light. “Late my ass. It’s seven like always.”

Donnie brandished his watch, holding a cigarette in his other hand. “Well, it’s 7:02.”

“I got distracted. This city is getting soft, man.”

“Oh, dear Lord, not the milkshakes!”

Dick looked at him.

He laughed and punched his shoulder. “Aw, c’mon. Don’t be square. I’m only kidding, man. I hate it, too.”

Dick ignored him and flagged down the bartender. “Give me a beer.”

“Light or dark?” His voice was so scruffy Dick almost missed the words.

“Light.” Dick looked at Donnie. “You’re gonna get yourself killed walking around here with that on, you know that?”

“Aw, they know me. Besides,” Donnie opened his jacket to unveil a revolver holstered right into his jacket. “This is custom made. I can still handle myself. The city is ‘getting soft’ anyways, right?”

Dick shifted in his seat. “Well, it might not be 1970s New York anymore, but 1980s New York isn’t exactly the Hamptons.”

“I survived Vietnam. I can survive a few bottom-feeding New Yorkers. No offense.” He said, not really caring to offend or not.

“None taken.” Dick said.

Donnie took another draw as the bartender poured his glass. He blew the smoke out to the side and eyed him. “So what do you have for me?”

The bartender set down a frothy glass, and Dick placed a couple quarters down in return. He took them up without a word and left to tend to the other end of the bar.

“A few different shots. I got one of some Harlem guys playing dominoes, one of kids swinging around a fire hydrant in the Bronx, a few more of street graffiti.” Dick tried to list off his photos without expression to hide that he had exactly nothing, but the roses failed to hide the garbage he knew he had in his suitcase.

“So jack?”

Dick laughed. “Yeah. Jack.”

Donnie let out some air and took a long sip from his whiskey.

“How long have we known each other, Dick?”

“Twelve years since basic, right?”

He brought his fist down on the bar hard, rattling our glasses. The old black man on the stool next to us glared, but Donnie didn’t care.

“Twelve years! Of those that have occupied our professional relationship, you’ve always been his most consistent stringer. So why are you drying up now? You holding out? You sucking off some other editor behind his back?”

Dick dismissed him with his hand and took a drink. “You know you’re the only editor who’ll take me.”

“Bullshit! I’m just the only editor that you’ll take.”

“Well, you’re the only one who isn’t some puffy college elitist,” Dick said, rolling his glass. “I can’t stand being looked down on by those cunts.”

Donnie sighed and relaxed back onto his stool. “I know the feeling.”

“Ah,” Dick said. He pointed two fingers and squinted at him. “At least you can hide your service behind a degree. I’m sure they love seeing New York University all scribbled out on that resume.”

Donnie shrugged. “It helps. It can’t be all bad for you though. Combat photographer is still just a photographer, not a grunt.”

“They don’t see no difference.”

Donnie nodded slowly. “Well, at least you’re not cheating on me.” He paused. “You holding up okay?”


“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You need a girl in your life. It steadies you. Look.” He held his still hand over the table. “No shakes. Nothing since me and Mary got married.”

“Wow. Great party trick.”

“I’m serious. Ugly as you may be, every man needs a woman. There’s bound to be a blind girl poking around the subway somewhere just waiting for Dick Wilson.”

Dick cracked a smile. “Fuck off. I’m good, really.”

“Don’t you have family? Mother, brother?”

“Yeah, we talk.” It had been a couple years.

“Good. That’s healthy. A man shouldn’t be alone.”

Dick drank the fill of his glass and waved for another. “You know what day it is, right?”

Donnie looked off to nothing. “Don’t I know it.”

“Ten years to the day.” Dick said. Dick took the fresh amber glass from the bartender and drank that one too. “I still dream about it, you know.”

“I know. Me too.”

“You think it’s fate me and you were the ones who made it out?”

“I don’t think much about fate at all,” he said. “Besides, there were more. Dave. Jack moved out to Ohio. Hernandez.”

“Hernandez shot himself a couple years back.”

“That so?”

“It is.”

Donne thumbed the bar, staring down into the wood. Finally, he said: “Look, man. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you gotta move on. Hernandez couldn’t either and look where that got him. No sense in being guilty. You just need to duck your head, forget, and start a new life. You get me?”

“I don’t know how anyone can go about their cushioned lives here with all the shit in the world.” Dick said. “It’s not just Vietnam. It’s everything, man. People have no concept of what’s real and what’s not anymore. So much pain in the world, and they just step on it like it was never there.” His voice rose before he knew it.

“Just watch yourself, alright?’

Dick turned to his glass. “Alright.”

They slouched over the bar for an hour longer and turned to lighter things. They talked about Reggie Jackson’s home run against the A’s, the Pope being shot that morning, and how good it had been since that “sonofabitch” Carter left the Oval office. After an hour or so Donnie looked at his watch. “Ah, it’s about that time. Mary starts getting worried if I’m out too late.” He grabbed his hat off the counter and stood up. “You get me something good for next week now, you hear?” He shifted a bit. “The New York magazine is trending more and more towards shopping and fashion and all the glitzy crap. You need to fight for your place by bringing me the good stuff. You need to bring me pictures this city can’t ignore. Bring me the raw, unfiltered evidence of everything that goes ignored, or we’re going to keep getting washed out by all this consumerism. You’ve got talent, but your pictures need more edge. We need more talent and less of these doe-eyed college kids. Understand?”

Dick nodded. He wasn’t sure if he meant what he was saying or if he just pitied him.

“Good.” He slapped his back and left through the doors, letting in the city behind him.

After most of these meetings, Dick paid his tab after the weekly wife excuse and left for his apartment to watch late night game shows, but tonight he stayed at the bar. He stayed at the bar drinking whiskey until the stools began to empty, their patrons staggering out the doors to God knows where. A thought occurred to him, and he ordered another whiskey to drink it down.

When Dick stood up his legs had lightened, and he had to catch the bar with his hand. He looked up. The bartender was counting the cash in the register, and the only other customer left looked like he was going to be blown off his perch if the AC kicked on. No one knows anyone this time of night. Dick shouldered his bag and walked out the door as soberly as he could.

The familiar smells hit him all at once. Secondhand smoke, sweat, ash from unseen fires. This was New York City. It was probably the only place in the world he belonged. He passed by familiar old bars and strikingly unfamiliar “handcrafted” milkshake joints that stained the blocks with their clean blushing fronts. He remembered the gone relics that had been in those same spaces not one year prior. Though the streets still lingered with degeneracy, Dick knew the prostitutes that he could no longer see, and he knew the scourge that were being swept away and forgotten at the city’s frontier. Dick knew the real city, and he knew the plastic face that would soon be rewritten as the face that had always been.

Walking down the empty sidewalks drunk and alone at night made him feel like he was floating. He found himself straying closer to the dark alleys, daring something to make a move. He started tracking down the few other midnight walkers with his eyes as they passed, drawing angry gazes and curses that floated by him. His shoulder caught one of these vagrant ramblers as they passed. The man shoved him, and Dick’s heels tipped over backwards with his “motherfuckers” until his back caught the wall.

“Watch yourself, motherfucker.” Dick slurred. The man said something else before his fist wrapped Dick’s jaw and left him in a gray puddle.

The world spun around him as he walked away.

The scum soiled his jeans as Dick finally felt that pain. His jaw throbbed, and a sudden wave of guilt flooded his mind and swam with those friends Dick knew a decade ago. A person walked by him without looking down. Two more passed without a glance before Dick stood up and continued on.

Dick trotted down the subway stairs, pushed through the turnstile, and got on the 3 train to Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. Somewhere between Chambers and Fulton Streets Dick thought of Donnie and the nothing in his briefcase and decided Dick was not going back to his apartment after all. Dick soon found myself on the 4 train to Woodlawn because that was the only train waiting at the station where Dick switched. Before long Dick was on the R train to Astoria then the 7 train to 42nd street then a few others after Dick stopped paying attention. Dick held his camera in hand the entire time, looking for a miracle shot. Although he usually worked during the early hours of the morning, Dick never worked this drunk. Photography was one of the few things left in life that he approached with true discipline. Despite his drunkenness, he was sobered with every new picture.

The world looked different through a camera lens. It was much easier to understand. A man sat on the opposite end of the car with his hands clasped as he looked forward. At a glimpse he was painfully regular. Very easy to miss. Dick raised his camera and clicked to take a picture. The man probably knew he was painfully regular. The more Dick looked the more he could see the weariness at the edges of the man’s eyes, the kind that doesn’t wash away with a good night’s rest. If he ever even had those these days. The man looked over curiously at him then at the camera then back before staring forward once again.

Dick switched trains at the next station and left the man to continue on to Cortlandt street. Graffiti had almost completely overtaken the mustard paint on the walls, scribbled happlessly in its own language. Dick read what he could discern. “Stompy” here, “Satan” something there. Dick raised and lowered his camera. He slid down a few feet to the left and found this angle was better. Click.

The more trains and stations he visited, the better he felt. This was when the city felt most alive, when all the well-off were fast asleep, and the scourge could be free. They thought they were saving the city by washing the streets and raising the prices. The true New Yorkers knew they were just stealing the city one block at a time. He could see the city’s salvation in every photograph. No matter how many blocks they stole away, he knew they would carry on. The homeless, the broken, the destitute. They are ignored their entire lives until he can capture their soul in a photograph. It’s the only hope I have left in this world. The only thing worth fighting for.

As Dick bumped along with the next train, Vietnam started to swim back to his head. It nagged at me daily, but he always drank it down. He reached for his flask. Whether it was the cool touch of the metal or the mood he was in, he pulled back and let the memories come. He remembered the rain, that god awful rain, and trading socks twice a day to keep his feet dry. He only had two pairs on the patrols so he would keep the wet pair wrapped around his neck to dry it before rotating. He remembered the infantry platoon he had been attached to well. Dave, Fitz, Donnie, “Lee Harvey”, Smith, and the others. During one ambush Dick was pinned with them at a small cropping of trees. After several hours they had completely run through their ammo, and they could see the enehis circling around them. Dick yelled “Grenade!” and threw his Bell and Howell 16mm camera as far into the trees as he could as they hauled ass backwards away into the trees. The ploy must have worked because the gunfire stopped, and they escaped back to the rest of the platoon unscathed. He could remember their uncontrollable grins, and how they talked so fast they couldn’t separate the words. Later when the Marines required that Dick pay back the money for the camera, none of the bastards would chip in. “That’s yo’ problem, Dick.” Smith had told him as he was scrubbing down the bolt on his M16. “I din’t go beggin’ you to save his ass.”

Dick was smiling, but the longer he thought the more it faded. Those men could only be thoughts now. What he would give to have those pictures on that camera. He took a drink from his flask.

As 4 o’clock came and went, he began to get tired. He knew he had some good pictures, but he couldn’t help but feel disappointed. It all felt so pointless. Best case scenario he would get a picture on the front page, but then what? All those people, the well-off Americans who hated him so, would stop at the newsstand and see his picture. They would study the faces of the underground with some morbid curiosity, pretending to be shocked at the degradation to feel moral. Maybe they would feign interest to feel intellectual. All from a safe distance though, of course. All while sipping their cappuccino. His flask was empty. He needed to find a drink.
Dick stepped off the train somewhere in Brooklyn and looked around. The train pulled off and the station was quiet, except for a couple men huddled together across the tracks. Dick turned towards the stairs and started thinking about how far the nearest open convenience store would be. If any were open this time of night at all.

A shout from behind nearly made me jump. Across the tracks the taller man was tugging hard at the other man’s bag, but the second man refused to let go. Dick immediately pulled up his camera and knelt against a metal column to steady himself. The shot was perfect. The two men were pulling opposite one another, positioned perfectly between two columns. Dick snapped pictures as quickly as he could.

As they shifted around, locked in their criminal tug-of-war, the second man reached into his jacket. Pop. Pop. Pop. The bullets chimed throughout the station as they ricocheted around the metal and concrete. Dick felt a punch in his gut and crumpled forward. Without a thought he propped up on his elbows to keep snapping pictures. The taller man was on his back now, cradling his chest in an awkward position as he rolled. The second man got to his feet, having fallen backwards with the bag, and stood over the other. Pop. Pop. Pop. Click. Red mists puffed with every shot. Through the lens Dick saw him look up at him. “Shit.” Dick lowered the camera and froze. The man stared at him for an eternity. Dick froze like a deer caught in the sights of a hunter. Without a word the man pulled his hood tighter against his head and ran down the platform, disappearing up the stairs.

Dick’s first thought was what he was going to do if the man came back down the stairs on this side to kill the only witness. Dick tried to stand, but a pinching in his gut held him down. He rummaged through his pockets for his knife and pulled it out, but it only had a four inch blade. I heard a click. He’s out of ammo. His second thought, which was far more concerning to him, was that the man might destroy his camera and the pictures if he did come down to finish the job. “Come and try it.” Dick grunted as he rolled onto his back. He waited for the tapping of footsteps to start back down the stairs, but they never came. All was quiet.

Once Dick was sure the man had left he untucked his shirt and wiped around his stomach. He held his breath when he felt the wetness near his belly button and released the air when he looked at his blood-coated palm. One of the ricocheting bullets had hit him, likely severing an intestine based on the burning pinch he felt. Dick took his knife and began cutting into his jeans. The blade nicked at his thigh, but he knew he had to be quick. He took the slab of denim and folded it over the oozing hole. Next he whipped off his belt and fastened it around his waist to hold the denim in place, poking a new hole in the leather to accommodate the tight fit. Dick could hardly breathe, but the denim stayed firmly over the wound. He rolled on to his stomach and pulled myself to his feet using the metal pillar. The adrenaline had left and the sting in his stomach began to burn hotter and hotter. Dick shouldered his bag, camera inside. Get help. Move.

As soon as his hand left the pillar Dick buckled back to his knees. He crawled to the stairs and then up them, holding onto the wound the whole way. Every move made me grimace. This was hell. He continued on under the turnstile and started up the last set of stairs when he really began to feel lightheaded. He collapsed to the stairs and used his one free hand to drag myself up each step. The pain was subsiding which terrified him. He began to feel delirious. At the top of the stairs the sweaty city air hit him. Am I losing too much blood? Dick looked back down the stairs and felt his soul sink back into the underground. A shimmering crimson trail had been left in his wake. He felt his denim patch, which was only moderately soaked through. It was holding up fine.

Then, his heart sank at his realization. Dick reached around to feel his back and found his jacket soaked. He had been shot clean though and didn’t realize it. He had completely forgotten to check for an exit wound. The blood was pouring around his back and onto the ground.

Dick pulled himself to a wall outside and hauled himself to a sitting position. Whatever small morning hour it was, the street was empty. Three-storied apartment buildings surrounded him, with crude commercial awnings and signs at their feet. Across the street was a nail salon, pharmacy, some outreach church, and a liquor store, all with graffiti-clad garages clasped down. Maybe I can get a drink after all. Dick laughed. He would be dead long before those garages opened for the morning. As humid and miserable as the air was, he enjoyed it. His only regret was that his camera would be picked off by some junkie, and he would lose these pictures forever. Around here bodies were picked clean before the police could ever reach them. Dick would lose more people. This had really been his best work yet, too. Donnie would have been proud. Dick closed his eyes.

A babbling down the sidewalk let them open. Dick turned his head to see a scrawny man staggering about. It sounded like he was murmuring to himself. Dick realized this was his only shot. “Hey.” Dick said and felt the pain in his stomach. “Hey!” Dick yelled and buckled forward at the burning sensation.

This the man heard. He stopped with great surprise and saw Dick laying a few steps in front of him. He walked up, muttering quietly, and stared with great bewildered eyes. Dick could see the veins in the whites of his eyes even in the dark.

“I need your help.”

He kept looking.

“Can you please help me?” Dick closed his eyes, trying to not think about how futile this was. “There’s money in it for you.”
The man nodded slowly. By God, he had a response. Dick pulled the camera out from his bag. “This is an Olympus 35 SP. You can sell it for maybe $70, $80. It’s yours. You could sell it tomorrow if you want.”

Somehow his eyes got bigger. Dick’s throat had gotten very dry, and he tried to clear it to no avail. His head kept getting lighter, and he was losing track of himself. Dick continued anyway. “It’s worth $70 or $80. I don’t know. But the pictures on it are worth even more than that. If you can take it to his friend tomorrow, you can get money for the pictures and the camera. You understand?”

Again Dick got a slow nod. This was going splendidly. “Perfect. I’ll write down the address.” Dick opened his notepad. He tried to think of something clever, but after a few moments he scribbled into his notebook.

220 East 42nd Street

Ask for Don Russo


Caught a bullet on the subway. Nostrand Avenue.

One other dead. Shooter got away. Pictures in camera.

Give the money to the junkie.

Thanks for your support.



“You can read, right?” Dick choked. He nodded. “Good.” Dick handed the note and camera to the junkie. It took all the strength left in him not to rip the camera back from his reach. Dick knew this deal was his only chance at saving his pictures. Saving more people. He stood there gawking at him. “You can go now, thanks. Remember, more money for the pictures.” With shaking hands, Dick lit his last cigarette and had an idea.

“Wait. Take a picture of me.”

The man looked at him. “Picture?”

“Yes, picture. Just hold the camera up and click.”

As he fumbled with the camera, Dick opened up his jacket to show the belt and the blood, though there was blood everywhere at this point. He left the cigarette in his mouth and looked into the lens. Dick couldn’t remember the last time he had been on this end of a photo. Click.

“Thanks.” Dick whispered. He lingered for a few seconds. Dick wondered if he was considering whether to get help for him, but Dick could see in his eyes that even this man knew he was done for. After a time he finally turned and ran down the street, camera swinging wildly. When he was a hundred yards off Dick heard the babbling start up again.

The street was lonely. Dick sat there watching a traffic light switch from red to green for no one. His cigarette burned until he couldn’t pick it up from his lips anymore, and he turned and let the butt fall to his side. He remembered when he first came to the city, straight after his deployment was over. His family had kept asking me why he had to leave. Why he wanted to live in such a slum of a city. They kept asking the same questions until they gave up talking to him at all. The truth was Dick never knew the answer himself until now as he laid under these ghostly lights. He saw so many friends die in a void. They died ahead of a world that would never know them or even like them. It only felt right that Dick should be forgotten as well.

Dick started to breathe fast, but he couldn’t find the air. The faces of his friends flashed through his mind, but when they ran out, he began to see other faces. Faces that a scarce soul would recognize, faces that the eyes glazed over in crowds without a second thought. Yet every one of these faces held rich lives and struggles and wants that were never acknowledged, and Dick saw them there all at once in the night. They were the faces Dick photographed, the single mothers, the men at the dead end of their lives, the alcoholics, the refugees, and all the others who were never seen. Dick smiled. He hoped the pictures would get to Donnie for him and every other person struggling in this city, but he felt right knowing he had fought the good fight regardless. Maybe someday people will start to look after each other better.

The sky turned a pale blue as sunrise neared. A deli shop owner came to open the shop and cursed the hobos when he found a man fallen over to his side face-down against the garage door to his shop. When he shook him to wake him up, he felt the blood and cursed again when he realized he was dead. He called the police and urged them to get rid of the body before customers began to show up. Someone had stolen the man’s wallet and picked his pockets clean before his body could be reported. By eight o’clock, the sun washed the street with light, and the body was gone. He was booked as John Doe, aged mid-thirties, found on Nostrand Avenue. Time of death around 4:45 AM.

Nicholas Darmody is an American contemporary writer from Palestine, Texas. A recent graduate of West Point, he is currently serving as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army.

Dotted Line