The past is open in all ways. We wade into its murky banks, sinking our toes into its silt. We let its waters lap at our ankles, our knees, our waists, until we're carried along by an inevitable current.

The Passenger Pigeon's call once echoed along the banks of the so-called "Pigeon River" in North Carolina. During their annual migration, they would flock in massive murmurations, their bodies nesting snugly into the boughs of American Chestnuts.

The Smoky Mountains begin at the Pigeon River, stretching along its banks until reaching the Little Tennessee River, snaking from Mount Chapman to Tricorner Knob to Shuckstack. They rise out of a wild past, out of salamanders and black bears, out of limestone and schist.

About All Ways Open is a publication aiming to tell small stories about place: stories about pigeons and mountain ranges, stories both real and imagined. It's an experiment in opening writing outwards, directing readers towards visual histories and archives. We aim to think in triplicate: to consider past / present / future, visual / written / read, self / friend /community. We consider arrangments loosely, allowing threads to tangle segments together.

All Ways Open is open for submissions.


Mariah Rigg

Gambler’s Chance

Laura wanted to see Grandaddy’s grave, so Billy drove us to Circle Cemetery. We’d never been to Briceville. Mama left the day Grandaddy died, and by the time Laura and I were born, she was living in Nashville, so far from the coal mining life she’d been born to that she couldn’t see why we were curious about it.

Our dad’s folks were mean. They’d been bootleggers, were now businessmen. From Mama’s stories, Grandaddy was saintly in comparison. He’d carried the other men’s coal when they were sick, taken in every stray who needed a bite or a bed. While I didn’t mind being mean, didn’t mind people looking twice at me, Laura felt different. I knew goodness was a muscle, but Laura thought it was something that could be inherited.

Circle Cemetery looked like any graveyard—full of tombstones and sod. Laura found Grandaddy’s tombstone and cried over it. Billy took her hand. He didn’t know she was pregnant with someone else’s kid. He still thought he had a chance. I let him have it. I left to look for a view.

Before Billy started chasing Laura, he was my friend. There had been a time when I was the one who thought I had a chance. But Laura wasn’t just the nicer sister, she was also the prettier one. And for some reason, she always seemed to want what I had.

The December air tangled my skirt as I climbed the hill. At the top, I found a group had already claimed it. One of the women waved, an apple in hand. 

“You here for the hiking club?” she asked. 

I nodded because I had nothing else to do. Because I didn’t want to go back to the cemetery and watch Billy with Laura. The woman patted the blanket beside her. I sat.

“There’s the Devil’s Triangle,” she said. 

I squinted but couldn’t see what she was pointing at. Everything around us was naked and dead. In the distance, I heard Laura call for me. I didn’t stand. At my feet, dried grass waved in the wind.