Remember, back when we were teenagers, when we got our hands on a used toilet, took it to the streets with props and cameras, built a website, a farm system of “guest dumpers”, an online following, got banned from schools, made enemies, toilet heists, and everything that threatened to tear it all down?
       I mean, what we did with that toilet! These are the things legends are made of, what you look back on nearly 20 years ago (has it really been that long??). And it’s not what you think - well, maybe a little - to take a humble, discarded toilet and transcend it into the ranks of minor celebrity.
       Over the years, people have asked me, “So when are you going to write a story about Iowa Dumping Grounds?” Because they remember. I suppose if you were part of this insanity, how could you forget? Regardless of whether you were right there sitting on that porcelain throne or a million miles away, it’s time to take you back to where it all began. Believe it or not, this story took me over a decade to finish, is one of my absolute favorites, and you guessed it, it's the featured story this month.
       Now here’s the bad news: we’ve been giving away professional quality short stories for years. The costs (particularly the demands on our time) grow. And if we want to keep the lights on - not to mention continue paying our writers fairly - well then, we need revenue. Alongside Iowa Dumping Grounds, we’re proud to announce our ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP. Moving forward, three to four stories a year will be locked behind a paywall (the majority will still be free!), and if you want to read them, you’ll have to cough up a few bucks.
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       And for those who are new here and would rather read something a bit more deep or meaningful (though Iowa Dumping Grounds does, surprisingly, contain a deeper message), check out one of our back issues from earlier this year.
Danny Hankner
Danny Hankner

Literary Spotlight
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          The toilet was standard, factory white porcelain. Although the seat and cover were missing, the silver lever remained intact, along with a steel-braided hose dangling from the tank like the tentacle of a metallic squid. Rust stains bled from the screws, and the interior was warped and stained from years of hard use, a juvenile juxtaposition against the glossy exterior reflecting amber in the setting sun as the toilet - slightly askew - nestled comfortably in my front yard.
           I stood over this abandoned contraption, mind whirling through the numerous possibilities of its advent, when my dad threw open the window and enlightened me.
           “That’s the work of one of your idiot friends,” he hollered. “You get that thing outta here!”
           My dad was never one to keep up with the Joneses – in fact, he had always been one to provoke the Joneses - but I didn't have time to contemplate this sudden change in neighborly aptitude. Daylight was dying, and I had a bulky piece of hardware to dispose of.
           I ran through the rolodex of local depositories in my mind, but emerged with one viable option; the only dumpster in town familiar enough for me to feel ‘safe’ tossing in such a commodity. After all, I’d have to classify this sort of disposal as, shall we say, lightheartedly illegal. In the rare offenses where my life has graced such misdemeanors, I’ve always erred on the strength in numbers theory, that way if you get caught, everyone shoulders the blame; a perverse team lift, if you will.
           I pulled out my flip phone, pressing both the dial button and toilet lever. The ghost of a smile dusted my face as I placed the phone to my ear and simultaneously watered the front lawn.
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          The Fareway grocery store sulked in the middle of town, flanked by an old Hardee’s converted to office space on one side and a low-income apartment complex on the other. They sold fresh meats, pastries and produce, and inordinate amounts of Busch Light. Many of my friends had moved off to dorm rooms or rental houses, but I remained, commuting to the bigger city for my training; running pipe and pulling wire in nasty grain processing plants with surly old men. It was a shock to the system, starting a career at age 19, considering it was only a few short months ago that I was bagging groceries here at Fareway.
           I eased into the parking lot as the last wisps of daylight faded behind the horizon, then backed into the spot adjacent to the dumpster and waited. No more than a minute passed before the crimson body of a Monte Carlo rolled into the lot, Nemmers stoic behind the wheel. Though short and athletic, Nemmers fancied cupcakes above all else. This combination transformed our dear friend into the original dad bod long before the term rose to prominence. He worked Fareway’s produce aisle, preferring the solitary chopping of fruit to the endless bagging and forced interactions with other human beings. Oftentimes, Nemmers would peek out from behind the coolers and, spying no customers within oratory distance, would scurry out with his cart, quickly restocking the empty shelves as if on the heels of a storm, and return to his confinement without conversation.
           This time, however, Nemmers had company.
           The passenger window rolled down. “Do you have the goods?” asked Cody. Nemmers preferred silence, so when he had to communicate, he’d bring a friend.
           I motioned toward the back of my Dakota. “See for yourself.”
           The pair exited the Monte and hovered over the side rails of my truck, Nemmers flaring his nostrils, as was his way. “It’s a toilet all right,” he confirmed, and pulled a pair of rubber gloves from his back pocket.
           I climbed out of the cab, popped the tailgate and jumped into the back. The others followed suit. We stood over the toilet; the orange parking lot lights gleaming off the porcelain made it look almost human, like a tired old man at the end of his days. Nemmers and Cody wrapped their fingers around the bowl.
           “It still works,” I said, a taste of melancholy on my tongue. They must have sensed it too, for they relaxed their grip and stood upright.
           “It almost seems a waste,” offered Cody. “To throw away a perfectly good toilet.” The darkness played tricks on my eyes, for the bowl looked back at me and offered a pitiful, open-mouthed smile, as if to say, “Why me?”
           Nemmers’s pragmatism kicked into gear. “Do you need a toilet?” he asked.
           “Then what would you use it for?”
           It’s moments like these that define us, separating the alphas from the rest of the pack. Where some shine under athletic prowess, building businesses, or climbing figurative ladders, I can say that our contributions to society never came in the form of tangible goods. Rather, what we offered humanity was of little monetary value; the absurdity of the young and the restless.
           “Let's take dumps in it,” I said flatly.
           Cody and Nemmers were taken aback. “What? Why?”
           “Not for real, mind you.” And I offered them a glimpse into the dark recesses of my mind. “There’s a half-naked guitar guy who stands in Time Square every day. Women flock from all over to take their picture with this man.” And I looked up, a flame of brilliance smoldering in my eyes. “This could be our half-naked guitar guy.” I bent down, running a hand along the porcelain, not unlike a lover’s caress. “Instead of holding a guitar,” I finished, “we pull our pants down and pretend to defecate.”
           I’m not sure under what spell I put them, but to my astonishment, the pair agreed that this was a cavalier idea. We hauled the toilet out, placed it between truck and dumpster, and opted for a test run. Cody and Nemmers looked away while I dropped my pants and squatted. The first thought to strike me was not how bizarre two young men snapping photos of another man sitting on a toilet in the middle of a parking lot on a crisp Friday evening was, but rather how insanely frigid porcelain gets in October.
           Had this been today, we could've easily snapped a photo and been done with the gag, but this was the mid 2000’s, the dark ages of cell phones, where if you simply wanted to type the letter Z in a text message, you had to press the 9 button an agonizing four times.
           Nemmers's flash wasn't working and Cody's camera was being grainy.
           I’d hear the shutter, followed by, “Nope, that didn’t come out,” or be lit up by a brief flame of white, then catch a groan of disapproval. This carried on long enough that a middle-aged couple walking a dog happened by. I'll give the boys credit, they at least huddled awkwardly in front of me like a pair of penguins keeping warm, so that the strangers merely saw my bare legs sticking out before hurrying away.
           Eventually, we got the photo, and with it a newfound sense of purpose. We were excited, hopped up on adrenaline and youth, and hungered for more, but we knew the Fareway parking lot could not contain this fledgling idea.
           “Then where will we go?” asked Cody.
           “Take it to the streets, boys!” I shouted, and we hopped in the truck and peeled out.
           'The streets' turned out to be Chuckles's house, as he lived a mile out of town with no neighbors to poke suspicions or call the cops. We killed the lights before pulling into the gravel drive, parked behind the horse barn and moved in. As we suspected, the glare off the TV shed light enough into the kitchen to make out Chuckles, who was currently going through an ESPN phase, lying on the floor watching endless clips of useless commentary.
           He may or may not have been sleeping as we hauled the toilet onto the porch. I grabbed a newspaper laying on the stoop, dropped trow and spread open the paper. The flashes blended well with the flickering TV screen, and before we knew it, we were hauling our toilet back to the truck and cackling like a pack of hyenas.
           The first dump was taken, the first victim had fallen, but never would we have guessed what would happen in the days to come….
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Dear Story Unlikely,
       I discovered your magazine while searching for markets for my fiction. One particular thing that stood out to me was your Our Story section. I'm sick to death of publishers pandering to X or Y community, trying to up their social credit score. I just want publishers to care about publishing good stories. Not politics or religion in their many popular forms. It sounds like you're interested in good writing no matter where it came from, and I appreciate that. I'm starting to read through your published stories, and I like what you're doing. I'll do my best to craft something worthy of your pages at some point. 
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“Every great story begins with a snake” - Nicholas cage
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As a publisher, we have rules that writers must abide by if they want to get published. Some of these aren't that big of a deal, but others, like ‘if you submit to our contest, don't submit this story anywhere else until the reading period is over,' or ‘don’t mark our emails as spam', are a major no-no.  Offenders get put on our ~dun dun dun~ Excrement List, aka lifetime ban on getting published. We keep this list to show people that - for once - we're not joking..  Don't be like the perps below - you're much too savvy for that:
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