Boxcar by David-Matthews Barnes

David-Matthew Barnes is the award-winning author of several novels and collections of stage plays, monologues, scenes, and poetry. His screenplays and teleplays have been official selections in the Hollywood Screenplay Contest, the Inspired Minds Short Film and Screenplay Competition, the Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition in London, and the Film Makers TV Writing Competition in Los Angeles. He has been an arts educator for more than a decade. For more information, please visit




A screenplay for a short film

Adapted from the one-act play



The night is providing a false sense of calm.

The hour is late.

Beyond a quiet, remote gas station is a cemetery for trains.

Stillness blankets the train yard. Empty, rusted rail cars litter the space, discarded and long forgotten.

Beyond the perimeter of a broken chain linked fence, the landscape is sparse and the horizon is endless. In the distance, a faint glow and flicker of lights indicates civilization exists in the form of a small town.

From opposite ends of the yard, two young men approach.

AUSTIN, 17, approaches from the left. He’s not as tough as he looks.

HARLEY, also 17, approaches from the right. Despite what he’s been through, he still has hope.

They meet in front of a rail car.

It’s clear they do not need words to speak.

Austin climbs up to the rail car. He reaches down and offers a hand to Harley.


The interior of the boxcar is dimly lit. Spill from the nearby neon gas station sign mixed with moonlight seeps in through cracks, creating an ethereal glow.


The boys find a place to sit.


I think you had the right idea comin’

here, Harley.


When the whiskey kicks in, maybe it

won’t be so scary.


What are you scared of?


Nothing. (Beat.) Coyotes.


They won’t mess with you unless you

mess with them.


Tell that to my cousin Francine.


What happened to her?


She got attacked by a pack of ‘em.

They almost ripped her face off.


(trying to convince them both)

I don’t think there’s coyotes in the

train yard.


If you say so.


You don’t believe me?


I think they’re everywhere.


I wish some of ‘em would make their way

over to the dance. Devour those fuckers.


I wonder why they call it Homecoming.


It has to do with football.


Doesn’t everything?


Spirit week. You ever seen such a bunch

of idiots?


We grew up with them. We’ve known they

were dumb since childhood.


You know…you could’ve gone if you

wanted to…to the dance, I mean.


Why would I?


Everybody else is.


You’re not.


That’s because…




I’d rather be here with you.


You feelin’ the same?


I think I’m feelin’ the whiskey now.


It’s the cheap stuff. It’ll hit ya hard.


Lately it seems everything does.


You gotta toughen up.


Like you?


Yeah. Otherwise, those coyotes…

they’ll tear your heart out.


What would’ve happened?


What do you mean?


If we would’ve gone to the dance tonight.


Both of us.




I don’t wanna think about that.


You’d think we’d be dead my morning?


No. (Beat.) By midnight.


I should’ve drank more whiskey.


I wish we had a radio.


What for? Neither one of us can sing.


Naw. But we can dance.


You’re outta your mind.


I am. (Beat.) That’s why you like me.


Among other reasons.


Name ‘em. The reasons.


You want the entire list?


Top five.


You’ll have to settle for three.


Fine. I’ll take what I can get.


I like you because you do my World

History homework for me.


That’s because it takes you too long. I

finish it so we can spend more time



I like you because I’m the only person

who’s ever seen you cry.


Now, don’t go tellin’ people about that.

I’ll deny it. You hear me?


I like you because you’re good to me,

Austin. You take care of me.


Always have. Always will.


I like you…because you’re still here.

You’re still alive.


You didn’t die on me.


That’s four things. You said I was only

getting three.


I’ll tell you the rest later.


There’s no rush. We got all night.


And then what?


The sun comes up.


And it’s just another day.


Hey, at least we got each other.


If anybody ever found out…


Did you hear that?


No. What was it?


I think it was a coyote. Outside.


In the train yard? I thought you said…


Maybe it’s hungry. I bet he’s looking

for food.


You want me to hold you?




Because you looked scared.


Not as scared as you do.


I’m actually hungry.


Yeah, I forgot to eat dinner, too.


In the morning, let’s go to Marie’s.

We can get glazed donuts and chocolate



Okay. They open at five a.m.


Even on a Saturday?


Oh, shit. Maybe they open later on the

weekends. I don’t know.


We’ll go by there when the sun comes up.


Are we spending the night here?






You don’t wanna be with me?


Of course I do. It’s just…we’ve never…


I think I’m ready now.


I think I am, too.




Oh yeah?


You should’ve brought a radio.


Or a gun.


Why would you say that?


Not for me. To protect us. From the



Who’s going to protect you?


I don’t have anyone else.


Exactly. So, don’t go doing any more

crazy shit like last weekend.


I’m okay now.


No, you’re not.


It’s only because I wanted to take you

to the dance. It’s not fair.


We don’t make the rules. We gotta go

some place where love is legal.


When do we get to have a say in somethin’?


Once we get the hell outta here.


(after a moment)

I tried.


I know you did.


But you left something behind.


I’m sorry.


We made a promise. Doesn’t that mean

anything to you?


It kept me alive.


I didn’t see it coming, Austin. I knew

you were sad and fucked up over the shit

you had going on at home. But I didn’t

know how bad it was for you. Cecilia

said something was wrong with you. I

told her, “Yeah, but that’s why I like

him so much.” She told me to keep an eye

on you, to look out for you. She didn’t

realize you were doing that for me. That

I couldn’t even take care of myself, let

alone you.


As Harley speaks, we see the following sequence of events unfold:

-VERONICA, also 17, rushes into and through Harley’s ramshackle house, searching for him. She is frantic when she finds him in his bedroom. Immediately, Harley knows something is wrong.

-Austin is working in a retirement home, serving food to the residents. It’s clear he likes his job. It’s clear they like him.

-Austin is leaving a military recruiter’s office, defeated.

-Veronica is driving Harley to the hospital. The mood is tense. Veronica chain smokes, while Harley fears the worst.

-Harley and Veronica arrive at the hospital. Eventually, they take an elevator to the seventh floor. There, Harley approaches a locked metal door. Austin’s sad eyes appear in a narrow, small window in the door, pleading for love. They two boys speak with their eyes.

          HARLEY (V.O.)

So, when Veronica showed up at my

house that morning, I had a feeling.

I knew she’d been crying and we both

know she never cries. I thought maybe

something had happened to her aunt or

maybe Rico and Candi had broken up

again. I never imagined it was you.

She said afterschool on Wednesday you

went to the recruiters downtown because

you were planning to join the Army. I

called her a liar because you promised

me you’d never leave me behind in this

place. I told her you loved working in

the cafeteria at the old folks home

because you know they need you there.

You know how to make tapioca just the

way they like it. She said the Army

rejected you. They turned you down. They

didn’t want you. Is that why you did it?

Or was it because people are figuring it

out? They know what’s going on between

Do we even have a word for this, for

what me and you are to each other? What

do you call us, Austin? In your head, I

mean. In your dreams. The wild ones. I

went with Veronica to the hospital

because I didn’t believe her. I had to

see you with my own eyes. We drove their

in her uncle’s big ass car. She chain

smoked and we listened to the radio. I

don’t remember what song was playing

because all I could think about was you.

Finally, Veronica said, “Talk, Harley.

Say something. Anything.” So, I did. I

told her I realized there was no way in

hell you’d ask me to go to Homecoming with

you. I was better kept as a secret, tight



and hard, close to your chest. I told her, “Austin said I was the best kisser. He

wants to spend forever in each other’s

arms and blah, blah, blah.” She wasn’t

listening to me. She was thinking about

her brother who blew his head off

last Christmas Eve. She told me once

she found him underneath the tree.


I felt empty when we got there. We got

lost in the hospital looking for you.

Then, some nurse told us you were in

the psych ward on suicide watch on the

seventh floor. As we rode the elevator

up, I remembered it was spirit week at

school. Nobody cared about nothing except

that stupid football game and the dance

that’s happening right now. I had more

important things on my mind, like why was

I watching my friends get pregnant, flunk

out, overdose, be banished away to

boarding schools by step-mothers whose

smeared lipstick says it all.



We are back in the boxcar.


They wouldn’t let me in to see you. But

you were there on the other side of that

metal door. All I could see were your

eyes through that small window. Just a

little rectangle of glass. But that was

all I needed. To see your beautiful eyes.

And then I knew. The sadness inside of

you was too much for you to bear.


It still is.


I know.


That’s why I’m here.


I can’t make sense of it sometime. Of

what I feel for you.


Then I guess it’s a good thing we got

each other.


I would’ve asked you…if we were at

Homecoming…I would’ve asked you dance.


What would’ve you said?


I probably would’ve said you’re a crazy

son of a bitch.


We already know that.


You know I can’t say no to you.

Austin stands. He extends a hand down to Harley. It’s an invitation.



Then don’t.

Harley accepts the unspoken invitation by placing his hand in Austin’s. He stands.

Slowly, the two men begin to sway together, as if they were dancing to a love song only heard by them.

In the distance, the haunting cry of a wild coyote is heard.

They ignore the warning.

                                                                                  FADE OUT

Native Son by Steve Werkmeister

Steve Werkmeister is an English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. He was born and raised in Nebraska and now resides in Olathe, Kansas, with his family. His first poetry collection, The Unauthorized Autobiography: Composed of Fragments, Distortions, Mythologies & Lies (PunksWritePoems Press), was published in fall 2016. He has a literature-focused blog at, and you can find him on Twitter @SteveWerkmyster.



Native Son


When I was a kid,

every old Mexican I knew


claimed their family was

really from Spain,


had secret Jewish blood,

or was part Gypsy,


deftly denying

the obvious aboriginal roots.


It puzzled me, literally.


I understand why no one

wants to say my family


was shit on by the Aztecs,

& then the Spanish,

& then the French,

& then Americans.


No one wants to say

my family got so used to it,


we crossed the border

to get shit on here.


Everyone wants to be


the child Arthur pulling

sword from stone,

the baby in the manger,

the prince, not the pauper.


But I didn’t fit that, either,

being half & half, marginal

even among the marginals.


So here I am, just what

you see: a not-quite Mexican

writing, a not-quite German

writing, a not-quite American

writing, content to handle my


words like berries, to

tend most tenderly


my lines like rows, to spend

millennia crafting poems


just like the land that wrought me.


Track 16 by Benjamin Schmitt

Benjamin Schmitt is the Best Book Award and Pushcart nominated author of two books, Dinner Table Refuge (PunksWritePoemsPress, 2015) and The global conspiracy to get you in bed (Kelsay Books, 2013). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Sakura Review, Hobart, Grist, The Columbia Review, Two Thirds North, and elsewhere. You can read his scary stories for kids in the Amazon Rapids app. He lives with his wife and daughter in Seattle where he also reviews books, curates a reading series, and teaches workshops to people of all ages.



Track 16


Tonight you asked me

how a kid could just go bad

I told you about standing

at the magazine rack when I was twelve

pretending to read Auto Trader

while stuffing Playboys and cigarette cartons

down my pants to sell at a discount

in the halls of my Christian school


The soil can accept

the roots of a tree or the roots

can accept new soil

it doesn’t matter so much as the growth

roots and soil are familiar

and grow like the poem

spreading branches through the margins

of notebooks into computer hard drives

and then maybe even into the lap

of someone I will only curtly brush with words


But you kept on asking me

why only some grow

and others do not

and what they will

eventually grow into


Let’s hope our daughter never takes

thirty pills of Dramamine at once

going five miles an hour on the interstate

as a dog criticizes her driving

from the passenger seat


Sometimes the flashlights of adulthood

shine in childhood windows

police plant drugs on orphans

and take them away again

teenage Abrahams hold

stillborn Isaacs in courtrooms

handcuffs bark on the wrists of star athletes

young prostitutes commit suicide

in plaster casts of Taylor Swift songs


In darker years I learned

how to make a burrito in a towel

with Fritos and ramen noodles

while crackheads joked about raping me

somehow I loved you then

and felt you in the linoleum

ten years before we met

maybe the crimes hollowed me out

to hold the rainbow bones of your laughter

I guess what I’m trying to say is that

maybe bad kids grow beautiful loss












Self-Portrait as Chicken Dinner by Erin Slaughter

Erin Slaughter is editor and co-founder of literary journal The Hunger, and the author of two poetry chapbooks: GIRLFIRE (dancing girl press, 2018) and Elegy for the Body(Slash Pine Press, 2017). You can find her writing in Prairie Schooner, Passages North, F(r)iction, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Originally from north Texas, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Her first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from New Rivers Press in 2019.


Self-Portrait as Chicken Dinner


She is a flocked hen going further

west. Like a rucksack slung

over the shoulder in an old

movie, what she contains is less

important than the visual.


When did she become afraid

of her own foolish cluck and scrape

away from the claw-footed earth?


For home is not a blank thing

that wanders. For shelter

is a wooden stake

through the heart.


And always that dead

ghost glazes her skin, thin

film ruddying feathers.

She names it love and gives up

on soap or articulating hurt.


Catalog her contents, blueprint for slicing

open: the cute, crumpled gizzard.

The menagerie of howls caged up

in her heart. When she is hollowed


like the animal ribs of a hundred

historical Thanksgivings,

it’s the handles that pierce

corn from either side to keep it

in place. All we cannot bear

to notice as the cob collapses

shucks and lifts its yellow,


brittle prayer to a hall of teething

mirrors. To a hallway of mirroring teeth.

Suga by Fierce Sonia (Editor’s Pick Winner)

Fierce Sonia’s work, Suga, has been selected as our Editor’s Pick by New Plains Review’s Visual Art Editor, Stella Kim. We found the piece to be beautiful, strong, and one of our favorites from this round of submissions.

Fierce Sonia is a mixed media artist. She builds a substrate with acrylic paint and collage. A narrative is constructed by the tension between the lush layers moving to dreamy feminine mindscapes with a brighter palette. If you listen closely her work has a soundtrack, a rhythm, a pulse that will give you a magic carpet ride to a fairytale that restates your own heartbeat. She has a public studio at Torpedo Factory: 105 North Union Street, studio 5 Alexandria, VA 22303 Follow on Facebook
Or @fiercesonia on instagram

Suga, mixed media acrylic piece, 18″ x 24″, 2018.

Visual Art by John Chavers

John Chavers enjoys working as a writer, artist, and photographer. His work has been accepted for publication at The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library – So It Goes Annual Literary Journal, Cream City Review, Whitefish Review, 3Elements Review, JuxtaProse, Camas Magazine, Stonecoast Review, Permafrost Magazine, and The William and Mary Review, among others. This April he will be a guest artist with The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists (SiM) at Korpúlfsstaðir in Reykjavík.


Flourishes in Partial Shade, Digital, 11 x 14 inches, 2017


Fresh Purple Flesh, Digital, 11 x 14 inches, 2016

Visual Art by Ian Hanesworth

Ian Hanesworth is a visual artist living and working in Minneapolis, MN. Their artistic practice investigates the systems of reciprocity and the malleability of queer identity through material explorations in textiles, printmaking and painting. Ian is a current senior studying fine arts at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design.

Medicinal herb study, Woodcut print on cotton fabric naturally dyed with elderberries, 9″ x 13″, 2017


Apt 304, Oil paint on wood panel, 48″ x 44″, 2016

Vernlangen by Matteo Bona

Matteo Bona was born on January 1st, 1997, in Asti (Piedmont, Italy). He studied at the Public Scientific High School Francesco Vercelli. Now he study Foreign Languages and Modern Literatures at the Università del Piemonte Orientale. He published his first poem’s collection “Beyond the Poetry” during 2015 and “Nothingness Sense” during 2017. He received the Roma 3 Academic Prize “Apollo Dionisiaco” for the Unpublished Poem and the “Cesare Beccaria” Prize for the Figurative Art, both during 2016. He’ll publish the “Cesare Beccaria” prizewinner artwork into the Garfield Lake Review (Spring Issue), paper journal of the Olivet College (Michigan State, USA), on behalf of the editorial board.

Verlangen, Digital, 21.87×31.08 cm, 2016.

Make-up: A Living Painting by Camelia Badea

Kamelia (born Kamelia Badea, in 1994, Bucharest) currently lives and works in Bucharest, Romania. In 2016 she graduated from the Painting Department of the National University of Arts of Bucharest, being the student of one of the greatest contemporary artists of Romania, Mihai Sârbulescu. In 2015 she received Erasmus scholarship and studied at Ege University from Izmir, Turkey.

‘Foxy’ – Acrylics on canvas, 50×60 cm, 2016

‘The Pink Side of The Moon’ – Acrylics on canvas, 60 x 80 cm, 2016

‘SAMCRO’ – Acrylics on canvas, 60 x 80 cm, 2016