New Voices 2014
New Voices: Lander University’s Student Journal publishes art, academic essays, personal reflections, and creative pieces written by Lander students from all disciplines. The publication is produced each spring semester by a team of student editors who review submissions, choose essays for inclusion, and edit final selections.
New Voices is a publication of the College of Arts and Humanities Lander University 320 Stanley Avenue Greenwood, SC 29649 Student Editorial Board: Mary DeLong Lakisha Gladden Jana Wilson Art Director: Taylor Trevathan Faculty Advisors: Dr. Misty Jameson Dr. Amy England Dr. Andy Jameson New Voices congratulates Anna LaGrone, Winner of the 2014 Dessie Dean Pitts Award firstname.lastname@example.org www.facebook.com/newvoicesLU Table of Contents ESSAYS “Thomas More: Saintly Reformer, Witty Jokester, or Malicious Bully?” by Anna LaGrone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 “Old Man Methuselah” by Stephen Sanders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 “Nothing but a Man: Breaking the Black Male Stereotype” by Robby Maynor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 “Living with a Double Consciousness” by Kamren Mangrum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 “Overcoming Dyslexia” by Ashley Scardace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 “Sitting in the Spotlight vs. Sitting in the Dark” by Bryanna Evans . . . . . . . . . 24 PHOTO Mr. Nice Watch by James Elliott . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 POEMS “Casting Stones” by Haley Wallace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 “Carousel” by Leigh Coates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 PHOTO Illuminate by James Elliott . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 SHORT STORIES “Afterthought” by Jordan Buckner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 “Rain-Smell” by Leigh Coates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 “Santa Needs another Year” by Haley Wallace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 “The Motorola Murder” by Bobby Suit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 “What Comes to Mind” by Robby Maynor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 PHOTO Blizzard by Megan McDonnough . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 1 by Anna LaGrone Dessie Dean Pitts Award Winner Thomas More: Saintly Reformer, Witty Jokester, or Malicious Bully? One of the English Renaissance's most noted figures is Thomas More, the staunchly Catholic lawyer who opposed King Henry VIII's divorce and his break from Rome, later dying for these beliefs. More is also remembered for writing the satire Utopia, which details the lifestyle of a supposedly idyllic group of people whose life directly contrasts that of the typical 16th-century Englishman. Many, including the scholar Sanford Kessler, consider More to be a proponent of religious equality because of Utopia. In his essay “Religious Freedom in Thomas More's Utopia,” Kessler argues that More wrote the text to promote religious tolerance among all branches of Christianity and to advocate for the reformation of the Catholic church. More, Kessler believes, wanted the religious tolerance in Utopia to serve as a model for a similar tolerance throughout Europe, and he makes much of the fact that More and Erasmus, the theologian-hating Humanist, were close friends. In an essay by Scott Hoaby, “Utopia as a Parody of Humanist and Ecclesiastical Thought,” a second view of Utopia is presented, one in which Hoaby argues that More wrote this satire for purely comic reasons, that it was merely a parody of the Humanist movement meant to entertain. As such, Hoaby believes that More's most well-known work should not be viewed through the lens of reform because More himself did not view it seriously at all. These two essays illustrate the diametric opposites of the pervading views surrounding Thomas More, with many seeing Utopia as a blueprint for reform and others seeing it as an amusing parody. However, both arguments are far from the reality of More's life. The real Thomas More was neither an advocate for reform nor a wisecracking comedian, but a brutal man who had little tolerance for others. More was a violent, closed-minded man who wrote Utopia to provide a scathing satire of the Protestant Reformation and to illustrate his contempt for religious equality, as clearly proven from a historical perspective. Throughout the course of his essay, Kessler sings More's praises, painting a romanticized and ignorant portrait of More as an idealistic proponent of religious tolerance. Kessler claims that More's Utopia is actually the birth of Protestant thought and not Locke's A Letter on Toleration. He says that More's position of religious tolerance in Utopia provided the inspiration to other like-minded reformers, showing his dislike for Catholicism and his discreet support of the Reformation. Kessler says that More wanted this sort of reform to spread across Europe and that Utopia is the first defense of religious freedom in the West. He declares, “[More] did indeed favor religious freedom...by presenting an attractive, albeit fictional, account of this principle's political advantages” (Kessler). Kessler asserts that Erasmus and More were both advocates of reform and disliked the theology of the time—since More and Erasmus were such close friends, and since Erasmus was so openly critical of Catholicism, More must have shared the same views by extension. Kessler points to the fact that after Erasmus wrote The Praise of Folly, More wrote a series of letters defending his friend, something he would not have done, Kessler thinks, if he did not support Erasmus's views. “This new religious freedom,” says Kessler, “would foster church unity by curbing zealotry and encouraging respect for a broad range of religious opinions.” However, Kessler seems to disregard the crucial parts of More's personality that actually show his lack of tolerance, and he wholly ignores More's actions during his life that incontrovertibly prove that More did not want religious equality for all, much less a Catholic reformation. Kessler even seems to disregard certain parts of the satire itself, making his argument undeniably weak. Conversely, Hoaby's essay takes a very different but equally incorrect stance. In it, he addresses one aspect of More's personality that has often been overlooked by scholars, his wit. Using More's supposed sense of humor as a basis, Hoaby argues that More wrote Utopia purely as a parody to make fun of the Humanist ideals of tolerance that Kessler claims he supported. Hoaby takes the interesting approach that, by over-analyzing More's mentions of reform and Communism, other key facets of the text have been ignored, like irony, jest, and parody. Hoaby believes that so many scholars have insisted on interpreting More literally that his real purpose has been obscured by the baggage of more “serious” ideas. The theories that Utopia is the birth of Protestantism and that More was the father of Communism overshadow More's text and amount to an attempt to find meaning in what More himself considered an amusing parody. Hoaby points out both More's lifelong love of jokes and the comic elements prevalent throughout Utopia, beginning with the nonsensical names. More included these names to let the readers in on the joke, says Hoaby. He also points out More's correspondence with his friends prior to the publication of Utopia, letters in which all the communicants pretended that Raphael and Utopia were real, thus creating an elaborate joke between them—all of which later turned into the satire as we know it. 2 3 Still, Hoaby's view of More as a wisecracking prankster is also inconsistent with More as a person; while More was indeed known for his wit, as Hoaby emphasizes, his purpose in writing Utopia was not nearly so light-hearted as amusing fellow scholars. Rather than being a comedy or a call for tolerance, however, Utopia should be seen as More's mockery of religious freedom. By placing it into the context of More's life, it becomes evident that More did not espouse the supposed ideals of Utopia. Neither of the above essays fully address the reality of More as a person, how his own actions reflected his true opinions. Most important to this argument is that More was by no means a tolerant man. He wrote of tolerance in Utopia to satirize the Reformation, not because he himself believed in religious freedom, as was shown repeatedly in his life. Despite Kessler's assertion that More was an idealistic advocate of freedom of religion, this simply was not the case. More was always a rigid Catholic who viewed Protestantism as heresy; as a young man, More wanted to join the Church and be a clergyman. Although later he became a lawyer instead, he was still so devoted to the Catholic faith that he took up the practice of wearing a shirt made of horsehair to chafe his skin and make him do penance for the sins of humanity. Even more extremely, he also began whipping himself, as a priest would do. He continued this habit of self-flagellation throughout his life to show his support of Catholicism. As for his lauded friendship with Erasmus, More saw him as a fellow intellectual. They had been close friends for years, and it was only natural for More to defend his friend. It must also be emphasized that Erasmus's The Praise of Folly was a satire, and while it did criticize corruption in the Catholic Church, it did not specifically lambast Catholicism itself. It was Erasmus's discreet way of offering his suggestions that corruption, not Catholicism, be repaired; it was not an attack on More's chosen faith. The difference between More's support of satire and his support for Catholicism was clearly shown with the rise of Martin Luther. A radical reformer, Luther is best known for his Ninety-Five Theses. In 1520, Luther published three works that denounced Catholicism by attacking the church, which More angrily responded to in his Responsio Ad Lutherum. In this scathing critique, More defended the Catholic faith, taunting Luther as “a lousy little friar” and a “drunken ape.” More actually refers to Luther's ideas as being “shit which your damnable rottenness has vomited up,” not exactly the attitude of the fellow reformer Kessler would have us believe More was. Soon after, More wrote A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, which made his support for Catholicism and his hatred for Luther even clearer. In it, he vehemently declares that the Catholic Church is the only true church and the only means of salvation. Perhaps most damning to the idea of More as a tolerant man and a proponent of religious freedom is the glaring way in which he persecuted “heretics,” those accused of Protestantism. More was personally in charge of burning heretics at the stake and interrogating and torturing others, a job that he seemed to relish. One example of his brutality was the way he killed the “heretic” John Tewkesbury. Arrested for selling an English translation of the Bible, Tewkesbury was imprisoned in More's own home so that More could personally administer his punishment. More had him bound hand and feet into the stocks for six days without release and then had him whipped at the same tree at which More whipped himself. Many also said that More had him tortured with knotted ropes, a medieval torture device that involved twisting cords around the victim's head until they cut through the flesh, caused blindness, or both. More denied this story, but three eyewitnesses all agreed that More had indeed knotted Tewkesbury's head until he had blood pouring out his eyes. Later Tewkesbury was racked until he lost the use of his legs before being burned at the stake. Surely this grotesque tale is at odds with the modern view many have of Saint Thomas More. He was directly responsible for the death of William Tyndale, the famed scholar and fellow Saint who translated the Bible into English so that the common people could read it. After More offered the modern equivalent of a million dollars for Tyndale as a reward, someone turned the man in to More, who imprisoned him for sixteen months before burning him alive. Although More persecuted many fellow human beings, he was gleeful that he had been the one to finally kill Tyndale. These simple historical facts, easily proven, show that Kessler's view of More as being a tolerant reformer is simply inaccurate. More was a violent man who clearly thought that the use of brutality was justifiable and absolutely did not want tolerance or religious freedom. He saw Catholicism as the only true religion and thought nothing of torturing and killing those with a different faith than his. This staunch support was also shown in the matter of Henry VIII's divorce from Katharine of Aragon. Knowing full well that his denial would infuriate the king and endanger both himself and his family, More refused to support Henry's divorce because it went against the doctrine of the Catholic Church. More stubbornly protested against the divorce and later was vocal in his disapproval of Henry's break with Rome. Predictably, the tempestuous and immature Henry had More imprisoned for his refusal to sign the 4 5 document that made Henry the head of the new Church of England. If More had actually wanted reform, he would have welcomed the chance to break from Rome and create a new church system; instead, More chose almost deliberately to be a martyr for the Catholic faith. Repeatedly, he turned down Henry's pleas for support, refused to come to the coronation of the new Queen Anne Boleyn, and refused to sign the Act of Succession. These continual snubs finally infuriated Henry to such a degree that he accused More of treason. At his trial, More was almost masochistic in his declaration that Henry could never be the head of any church, and in a twist of irony, More himself was executed in 1535. His repeated defiance of the king makes one wonder if More actually wanted to die for his faith and be forever remembered as a martyr. Regardless, he was no reformer. Also worth addressing are several sections of Utopia which have been misinterpreted throughout the years and cast light on More's less than saintly views. For example, the nude viewing of prospective couples has been claimed by Kessler as More's idea of an equal choice between genders, while others, like Hoaby, see it merely as a comedic device. What many people do not know is that More actually subjected his own daughters to this. He brought a suitor, Will Roper, up to his daughter's bedroom one morning and made both his daughters display themselves naked for Roper; then, More slapped his daughter Meg on the backside and said he claimed her for himself. This seems to suggest perversion rather than reformation and throws into question More's “close” relationship with Meg that has been made so much of. Kessler writes of More's desire for gender equality, but again More's actions prove otherwise. More wrote texts degrading women as being put on the earth solely for reproduction, and he once said that he preferred short women because it was better to choose the lesser of two evils. Also, the idea that More advocated divorce seems simply silly when one recalls that More died to protest a divorce. Those who claim that Utopia’s narrator Hythlodaeus presents a mirror of More’s views are simply being illogical, as shown repeatedly throughout the text, a fact that Kessler chose to overlook. Hoaby may have been partially correct about More's use of humor—the references to the land of Sansculottia (meaning “without undergarments”) and the Flatulines attest to this—but More wanted this humor to be a clue that Utopia was not to be read at face value, that he did not support the ideas within. Rather, from a historical perspective, an image of More as a violent, close-minded bully emerges, one that is actually supported by hard facts and not speculations. Clearly, More was no saintly reformer who wanted religious freedom and tolerance, nor was he really a man of humor who did not take his master work seriously. Utopia was a serious work, but one that satirized the Reformist ideas of equality and tolerance to show what More perceived as their absurdities. More himself believed nothing of the sort, as he showed countless times during his life. In this case, his actions did speak more loudly than his words, and it is purely misinterpretation that has created the image of More that endures today, of good Saint Thomas who wanted tolerance. This was just not the case. More was a bully who persecuted anyone who threatened his beloved Catholicism, who burned men at the stake for owning a Bible, and who does not deserve the title of Saint. Works Cited Kessler, Sanford. “Religious Freedom in Thomas More’s Utopia.” The Review of Politics 64. 2 (Spring 2002): 207-230. Internet Archive. Web. 24 March 2013. Bibliography Hoaby, Scott. “Utopia as Parody of Humanist and Ecclesiastical Thought.” Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, Illinois. 7 Apr. 2005. All Academic Research. PDF file. 24 March 2013. Huddleston, Gilbert. “St. Thomas More.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. Web. 24 March 2013. Jokinen, Amiina. “The Life of Sir Thomas More.” Luminarium. 6 July 2012. Web. 25 March 2013. Kessler, Sanford. “Religious Freedom in Thomas More’s Utopia.” The Review of Politics 64. 2 (Spring 2002): 207-230. Internet Archive. Web. 24 March 2013. More, Thomas, trans. Paul Turner. Utopia. London: Penguin Books, 2003. Print. 6 7 Old Man Methuselah by Stephen Sanders My Grandfather—a man whose domineering, one-of-a-kind personality and almost unbelievable life makes him akin to a weathered hero or an Old Testament patriarch, like Methuselah, a man that has forever had something of a mythic status in my mind—was recently diagnosed with cancer of the liver and gallbladder and has, within a matter of weeks, shriveled into a raisin and mere shell of himself. That something of the sort has happened is not particularly surprising. Grandpa is ninety-two soon to be ninety-three, and he hasn’t had anything worse than a cold for at least thirty years. I knew he’d have to falter sooner or later, and he’s been luckier than most to have had such a long run. It is just that the diagnosis and sheer rapidity of his decline have taken me and my family by surprise, and it has hit us all pretty hard. You see, my grandfather has a kind of unashamed self-important stubbornness and grand humor that endears him to people. My grandfather is a charmer. My grandfather has a strong sense of independence, and he’s kind of off his rocker—though that is a familial trait that runs back to the trunk of the Sanders’ family tree. I have been told that I come from a long line of storytellers who loved to make a fuss, unashamed jokesters who made a living with their hands. And that’s him in a nutshell: a tough, talented, talkative old bird and craftsman that, in his hay-day, worked wood as though it were butter. He didn’t have power tools or anything fancy; he had knives and sandpaper and skill, and for the longest time he earned a living carving statues and refinishing furniture in the shop behind his house, until the stain and other chemicals he worked with ransacked his system and made his teeth fall out and he had to retire. He’s carved everything from a life-sized bust of Abraham Lincoln to Popeye, from a familial coat of arms to clawed-foot furniture to a wooden pistol you could rob a bank with. And when he fought in WWII on a destroyer escort, he carved the spitting image of a sailor from a block of wood that he sawed off from the end of an all-important and carefully measured shoring, a beam of timber that would be used to help plug up the hull in case of an emergency. It is worth noting that his superior officer promised not to report him under the condition that Grandpa make a statue for him too. When his shipmates told him that they saw sailors all the time and wanted to see something they didn’t get to see all that much, he carved a nude woman—the only woman he’d ever seen without clothes. When Grandpa came back home and showed my Grandma and her parents the statue that he had carved in her likeness, she made him cover the wooden woman with a masking tape swimsuit. Grandpa liked to show off his carvings whenever he could, and even when he didn’t have them on hand, he always had something to say, some story to tell. He talked an awful lot about WWII and the year-and-a-half he spent as a mounted horseman in Beach Haven, New Jersey, riding along the shoreline on the lookout for Nazi submarines. And the time he found a spy come ashore and chased him down on his huge horse PDQ (Pretty Damn Quick) and that, after he had knocked the man down and leveled a shotgun at him, he had said, “Mister, if you can speak English you better stay where you are.” He’ll tell complete strangers about the undercover German woman who masqueraded as an American and lived in an inconspicuous little house, that she’d feed unwary soldiers poisoned cookies and kept a HAM radio antenna in her chimney to message the Nazis in wait beneath the water. He’ll tell people that he knew the cartoonist that invented Batman—yes, really—and he swears up and down that he was the brains behind the idea for the very first flight simulator, though he never got credit for any of it. I know it sounds kind of ridiculous, but he knows an awful lot about mechanics and aviation, and he swears up and down and has the blueprints. I don’t know if it definitively proves anything… but he has the blueprints. Grandpa made memorable scenes. When dad was little he knew that the telltale stomping that began around ten o’ clock each night was my Grandpa keeping beat like a madman as he began his hour of nightly polka practice before he went to join my Grandma (a patient woman) and go to sleep. Grandpa played his accordion for my Grandmother’s father when he was trying to woo her and was told by my great-grandfather Papa Poole that everything would turn out just fine between them so long as he kept his fingers on those keys and that accordion on his lap the whole time. And once, when one of my Grandmother’s friends—a spinster—came to the door, he was lounging around watching T.V. in his boxer shorts. When Grandma told him to put some pants on, he told her that “it’s ok,” and that “if she hasn’t seen one before, she won’t know what it is.” After my Uncle Steve and Grandma died, Grandpa became something of a recluse. It was hard on him, having the both of them pass back-to-back within the same year. It hardened him. And, without my Granny there to nudge him, the homestead fell apart. The 8 9 paint peeled, and the nine-odd cars in the front and back yards—trucks and station wagons from every decade since 1960—rusted and have since served him as overlarge trunks. The house is in a similar state, cluttered with mementoes and sentimental throwaway that most people would mis-identify as worthless junk. There is a pile of bricks and a cement mixer off to the side of the house, and you can still see where he started to brick the front wall and then suddenly stopped. I guess he figured it wasn’t worth the effort if Grandma wasn’t there to appreciate it. For the last thirty years, Grandpa has more or less done his own thing. He’d sit in his yard and feed his cats, which numbered anywhere from two to twenty depending upon the year, go out once or twice a day to eat at one of four restaurants with my Uncle (dinner being an all-important and, for all intents and purposes, sacred undertaking in the Sanders family that mustn’t be rushed but chewed slowly and appreciated, at least at first, with relative quiet), and sit in his newest station wagon with the radio on. Little bit by little bit, he got feebler. He still drove and took care of himself, but the weight of his age was now readily apparent. I realized more and more that Grandpa was (is) supremely old—ancient, even. It was an ordeal convincing him to let the EMTs take him to the hospital. There had been talk for a while about taking him to a nursing home, but whenever he heard such talk, he’d rant, and he’d rave and bemoan, and there was a fear that if anyone forced him to go against his will that it might just kill him. My great- grandfather and grandmother both died in the hospital, and he’s felt an animosity toward the medical establishment ever since. Instead, we convinced him to live with my Uncle, though that lasted for little more than a week before his health took a turn for the worse, and it became painfully obvious that he had to go to a hospital. When my dad and I visited to check-up on Grandpa, it had only been a few weeks since we’d last seen him, and, though we had been forewarned, we were in no way prepared for the sight that followed. Grandpa lay crooked in a wooden bed painted with a rainbow jigsaw pattern. Light shone from the little lamp with a cocked shade. A television played colorized WWII footage, and a giant red-tinted Hitler appeared onscreen when we approached. Grandpa appeared to be comatose; he looked off-color, and, once roused, he stared at me with clouded blue eyes and said, “Hello there, buddy!” in a weak, scratched voice—a gurgling that sounded as though he were speaking through phlegm and water. His breathing seemed forced, and he struggled to suck the air down and push it back through the cavern of his mouth. I held his huge carbuncled hand, rough from a lifetime of labor, and asked him how he felt. “I feel a whole lot better now.” He had lost a lot of weight. His beard had grown long from the tip of his chin and spread to cover his cheeks and neck. The bone structure behind his face poked-out prominently. His eyebrows hung—long tufts of curled white. Lines traced the bags that sat beneath his bruised reddish eye sockets. It was too much to handle. He slept through much of the afternoon while Soviet infantrymen fought the Nazis near Kiev on television. There was a clock placed in his eyesight. There were too many clocks in that room. There were only two of them, but at the time I felt that there were too many clocks in the room, that they were somehow cruel to him. He seemed to ache with each movement, and as I kissed his forehead and struggled to understand him as best as I could, I tried to put myself in his position. It felt feverish. I felt fever and tire and hurt. I imagined it was frustrating when people couldn’t understand the half of what you said and instead just smiled stupidly and said, “sure” and “you betchya.” When awake, he’d ask for juice and reprimand my father for not feeding him applesauce fast enough. I began to scribble what I saw and felt down on the back of loose leafs from Ulysses that I had wedged and folded into Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. It, for some reason, felt very important to me that I record what was happening. I wanted to wring each moment for all it was worth. It wasn’t even an idea. It was an instinct and urge. He shook his head and moved his hands weakly when he slept. He petted the air, and I imagine he dreamt that he was making something. Maybe it is that I was not able to appreciate him until I had, at least to some extent, grown past the short attention span and egocentricism of adolescence. Maybe it is that I found a vulnerability and sweetness that came with the decrepit state of his final years, whereas during my childhood he seemed an aloof and imposing figure, a distant giant that I respected but could not approach. Maybe it was just that, in his old age, I apprehended, or think I apprehended, a kernel of the human condition that resonated with and within me, but, for whatever the reason, I have become increasingly protective and increasingly fond of my Grandfather. I learned to love him on a level deeper than the skin-deep affection that I had previously given him: that uncritical half-love that we so often and so unfairly bestow 10 0 11 1 upon the elderly that are starved for attention. I felt a connection to him. I empathized with him, even when I knew what he wanted wasn’t reasonable—ridiculous, even—and began to understand that some of the crazier stuff he did toward the end was just his way of trying to right a wrong—that he desperately needed to feel important. I could not help but align myself to him, and to see him in such a state was, and still is, terrible. After an afternoon of watching him, I went out into the hall to stretch my legs and clear my head. The portrait of an Anglo-American Jesus tried to reassure me that everything was going to turn out just fine. But I was not so certain, and when Dad and I went outside so he could smoke his pipe, we discussed the severity of the situation. At a certain point, I think, you have to violate a person’s autonomy for the sake of his overall well-being, and when my Uncle came home later, the three of us had a conversation on the matter. I think that my Dad and Uncles and I did not want to tell their father “No.” I think there was a hope that Grandpa could bounce back, that his stubbornness would keep him going and that he could and would live forever—a delusion that we can no longer afford to indulge in. The next morning my Uncle called EMS to take off with Grandpa. He was not all that happy about it and told the men he’d kick them in the berries if they touched him. The EMTs told my Uncle that they couldn’t help him if he didn’t agree to go. Now, I still don’t know how he did it, but somehow my Uncle managed to get Grandpa to agree, and soon thereafter we all met at the hospital. Grandpa called the rush in the ambulance “a ride straight to hell.” When I went back to see him in the ER, he winked at me. Flesh that had once been muscle hung loosely from his skeletal arm as he stretched. The skin that had been covered the day before, the soft wrinkled paper-like skin of his chest and upper arms, was a horrid yellow beneath the fluorescent light. The crescent of hair that had receded well behind the top of his head, save the few long hairs that clumped together toward the center, appeared disheveled and wild. He smelt of ointment, the awful brown disinfectant stuff that the nurses had rubbed onto him. He smelled like stale air. I held his hand and felt the tendons in them. I thanked him for agreeing to come. There could only be two of us at a time in the ER, so we—the “we” growing larger as more and more visitors and family members came—took shifts. He said he felt like he was sitting on a two-by-four and complained about the catheter. A woman came and repositioned him and rubbed jelly on his stomach. She pressed a scanner against him to listen to his innermost workings. It sounded like a jet taking off. Pulse (thump). Pulse (thump). Pulse (thump). We had to answer numerous questions and explained to the nice, though somewhat bewildered, M.D. that—No, he had not seen a doctor in twenty odd years—and—Yes, that he would let himself die before he admitted that something was wrong. They eventually moved him up to a proper room. Grandpa looked better once we got an IV in him; he was much more comprehensible than he had been, and there was talk of times past and distant relatives and old friends. There was name-dropping, and my Grandfather nodded and smiled a very faint smile as he tried to sort through the more obscure branches of the family tree. There was talk of Tarzan movies and ice cream. Then, late at night when everyone had left and only my dad and I remained, a buff-looking doctor sat down and told us straightforwardly that Grandpa had cancer. My Grandfather looked shocked and said that he was scared. We called my Uncle on the phone and talked it over with the doctor while Grandpa dozed. It seemed unlikely that he could survive chemotherapy, and the disease had eaten him up so much that there really wouldn’t be much point to it. After that, Dad and the doctor left. I had figured that he had been asleep throughout the conversation, but when I walked over to him Grandpa looked at me matterof-factly and told me he wanted mashed potatoes and gravy. He told me in a weak warm voice, “Let it go. I want mashed potatoes.” And that was his way of telling me he didn’t want chemo. I told him “of course, whatever you want,” went outside, and then shook and wept in the quiet so that no one could hear. The next morning they moved Grandpa to hospice. Hospice has been good to Grandpa. His mind is still sharp, although he tells me to excuse him if he doesn’t notice anything too much. He’ll say that it is distressing to have something sneak up on you all of a sudden. He’ll say that people tell him he has cancer and that he doesn’t believe it. People talk to him about the life he lived and tell him how lucky he is to have lived so long. But for Grandpa, I think, it seems to have all happened awfully fast. To him ninety-two doesn’t seem all that old. It took him by surprise. I realize that none of this is especially exceptional. Everyone has encountered and must face death eventually, but I think that one of the reasons we as a society have such a hard time with it, excluding the obvious, is that we go to great lengths to hide from it. Instead of accepting it for what it is, a natural and necessary part of the regenerative cycle, 12 13 we have convinced ourselves that is un-natural. We do not include Death in our day-to-day consciousness and disassociate ourselves from it. We erroneously identify it as an evil and far off instant when it is, in fact, an integral element interwoven into our corporeal form, from conception to the first lump of embryonic flesh—developing as we mature until the fruition at the final cusp when the fruit—life itself—is either plucked prematurely via extraneous circumstance or, having ripened to fullness, succumbs to its own weight and falls of its own accord. I don’t know. . . . Maybe I’m a romantic who loves history and family to the point of ancestor worship. But whatever the case, I can honestly say that, while I watch my grandfather pass, here with a temporarily heightened sensitivity to my own mortality and the mortality of everyone around me, for all the hurt, there is something beautiful at work here. It is sad; there is no denying that it is sad and, in a manner, terrible, but in that terribleness there is also something beautiful. It is beautiful that we’re made from dust and, at the same time, that the carbon in our bones comes from stars that gave-out eons ago. There is beauty in a life well-lived, in the little moments and fleeting half-forgotten feelings and the memories that remain forever etched into your spirit: in the elements that culminate and intertwine to make a story—the story of a life—that are ultimately, in their totality, ineffable. And though I had hoped to somehow capture Grandpa and hammer him out into sentences, as though that might save him, though I had hoped to capture the lines of his face and keep them alive here in the written word, I think I am at the point that I can accept that it is too much to put into words, that at a certain point we have to step back and shrug-off the weight of the world and accept the indescribable and let it, the Earth and the whole of history and whatever else there might be, wash over us and take us into itself. And, taking all of that into account—in the end—I guess that all I can really say is that my Grandfather lived an eventful life. He loved and is loved and is a right memorable character—and I sure am going to miss him. Nothing but a Man: Breaking the Black Male Stereotype by Robby Maynor Set in Alabama in the 1960s, Michael Roemer’s film Nothing but a Man (1964) is the story of a black man’s struggle to exist in Jim Crow America. The film follows Duff Anderson—a young railroad man. Duff has few responsibilities; he is a bachelor and has a son that he does not take care of or even really know. When he meets the small-town schoolteacher Josie, he decides to settle down—he quits his job on the railroad, marries Josie, and tries to settle into a more permanent job. However, things are not easy. Duff faces racism at every turn and tries to thwart it with rigidity and pride. He becomes an abusive and vagrant husband and eventually abandons his wife altogether. Throughout the film, while trying his hardest to fight it, Duff embodies in full the Jim Crow era black male stereotype—he is an abusive husband and absent father and cannot remain in a stable job. It is not until the end of the film, when Duff sets aside his pride and returns to his family, that he sheds this racial stereotype and becomes an example of a good and moral man. In the beginning of the film, Duff can be seen almost as a sort of man-child with no responsibilities and no family or home to tend. While this may seem to Duff at first like freedom, he realizes that it is really just another way in which he is an outcast from society. He belongs nowhere, and he is a member of no familial or societal structure. Despite his efforts not to be, he is just another black man absent from the white patriarchal social structure. After marrying Josie and finding a more stable job, Duff leaves behind the young black male stereotype but quickly finds himself in another, perhaps more damaging pigeonhole. After confronting racist practices at the mill where he is newly employed, Duff is fired and blacklisted from other respectable jobs in the community. The only job opportunity that he can find is as a farmhand picking cotton, and his pride prevents him from doing it. This forces Duff to rely on Josie’s salary to maintain the household—which is frustrating and emasculating to him—and although Josie is very understanding of this, it only makes Duff angrier. Eventually, he grows so discouraged that he begins to beat her and even leaves his wife and home. Although Duff is trying to beat the racial stereotype by standing up to racist whites and refusing to work as a cotton picker, it is his stubbornness and pride that ultimately typecast him in the eyes of whites. He becomes simply another 14 15 black man with no job who abuses his wife and abandons his family. He does not appear to them as the hard-working, proud man that he is, but as a caricature used to reinforce their hatred. He is a man who is broken and beaten, a stereotype forged in a fire lit for freedom. When Duff leaves Josie, he goes to Birmingham to see his father. When he arrives, his father is in a drunken stupor—he can’t stand up or talk or function at all, and after a very short time, dies. While reflecting on his father’s death, Duff realizes that he is headed down the same path, letting racial prejudices force him into his own unjust place in the dregs of modern society. It is at this time that Duff realizes that, if he truly wants to become more than just another black man trampled by racist America, he must put away his pride and live his life the right way—even if it means taking grief from men in power or doing a job that he feels is beneath him because that is the only way he can move up in the societal structure. Duff leaves Birmingham and goes straight to the home where his son is living. He picks him up and loads him into the car and takes him to his marital home. When he arrives there, Josie is waiting, and the movie ends with Duff hugging her and crying, whispering the film’s most memorable line: “I feel so free inside.” This statement from Duff is important because it illustrates his realization that there is a level of freedom that every man has that is achieved from within and cannot be taken away. Duff has always thought that he cannot be free because he is black and oppressed; however, after seeing the demise of his father and the path that he was headed down, he realizes that freedom in society is not everything. He must be free for himself—free to raise his child, free to be a loving husband, free to ignore his pride and live the best life possible in the situation into which he was thrust. Realizing and essentially gaining for himself this freedom, Duff breaks the mold of his previously self-imposed stereotype by becoming a free and humble man. While this is an interesting and important theme, what should really resonate with viewers is the fact that this internal freedom is necessary because of the utter lack of freedom African-American men experienced in Jim Crow society. Whereas pride and a strong will are often portrayed as defining strengths in a character, they are in this case a flaw—traits that Duff must abandon in order to achieve some semblance of happiness and self-satisfaction. This point illustrated to viewers at the time of its release the pressing need for reform in the racism-driven American society of the 1960s, and it works today to commemorate the suffering that African-Americans experienced and keeps fresh the constant need to work towards total ethnic equality. Work Cited Nothing but a Man. Dir. Michael Roemer. Perf. Ivan Dixon. DuArt, 1964. DVD. 16 17 Living with a Double Consciousness by Kamren Mangrum In 1903, African-American sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois defined the term “Double Consciousness.” He describes it as the way in which African-Americans try to live with being both black and American. To do this, one must look at his own actions and character through the eyes of someone else: “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” Often times, I've found myself viewing my actions through the eyes of others in an attempt to “read their minds.” Perhaps the best and most accurate way to describe a double consciousness is to compare it to the punch line, “Is it because I'm black?” I've heard that joke many times from black comedians, but sometimes it isn't a joke. Sometimes that question requires serious contemplation to ensure my safety and to ease the minds of those around me within a public space. I first felt the pressure of my double consciousness when I was nine or ten in a grocery store. There had just been a bad snow storm, so I had on a huge winter coat. While my mother was at the check-out line, I went and looked at the candy. I was standing in front of one of the shelves positioned low so that children can be enticed by the vibrant packaging. I noticed a store clerk walk toward me. She just stood there and watched me. Feeling uncomfortable, I went back to my mother, and the clerk promptly went back to her counter. At first I thought that was strange; then, I considered the situation. I had on a thick coat, which would be easy to shoplift in, I was small and unsuspecting, and the shelf hid me from sight. Even at such a young age, those facts were so apparent to me that I find it frightening today. Now jump ahead eight years. It was night time, and I had just bought a few things for the house. On my way back to my car, I heard the click of a car door being locked beside me. I was very aware this happens all the time when a person waits in his or her car while someone else shops. However, that did not stop me from thinking about it. I thought about how many people may have walked past that car before me. Why did that person decide to lock the door just then? Maybe it was a coincidence, and he or she just forgot to lock the door. Despite all of these possibilities, the reality is that person decided to lock the door when I walked by. It is hard to rule myself out of the situation. This led me to ponder what I could have done to ease that person's anxiety. Should I have skipped, whistled, or smiled on my way to the car? This was my double consciousness trying to understand the other person’s point-of-view while considering my own actions as well. But is it fair that I have been conditioned to think this way while others simply act? That person probably didn't take the time to think reasonably. The chances of me rushing up to a random car, groceries in hand, and trying to force myself in are unlikely. I also doubt that person ever stopped to think of how I would feel as a result of that simple action. The most recent time I felt my influence on public space was much more direct. I live about one mile from my high school, so I took to walking home instead of driving. Being a senior meant my schedule wasn't full, so I left fairly early. On my way home, I saw a police car pass in the opposite direction of my path. I thought that was weird because I had never seen a police car on that road in the five years I've lived in my neighborhood. It is fairly suburban, and the road I walked was always devoid of cars. I sarcastically thought to myself, “That cop is going to come back for me.” The next thing I know, the police car pulls up next to me. I had on headphones and didn't hear the car approaching from behind, so I had no time to prepare. It’s amazing how much you can think and consider in just a few seconds. While the police woman was getting out of the patrol car, I went through my entire day mentally. I woke up, showered, and got dressed like a normal person. I went to school, paid attention, and did my work like a good student. Did I break the law at some time during that day? There are crimes being committed constantly and in all different places, but she decides that my walking home from school was a pressing issue. She asked me for my ID and why I wasn't at school. At that point, I could only imagine what people who may have seen me at this moment would have assumed. I would have just been labeled as a delinquent that needed to be dealt with by the police. I knew my rights because I learned them in school, but did I really know them? I considered asking her why I was being questioned and not giving her my ID as an act of defiance. Or was it my right to do so as a law abiding citizen? Then I considered her point of view. I was a black male walking away from a school during school hours. Perhaps I was skipping. Regardless, I was overly polite and did what she asked, all the while suppressing my anger. But what choice did I have? There have been instances of black men being accused of belligerence, which led to police aggression. In the case of Florida A&M football player Jonathan Ferrell, he was shot and killed by police after a car 18 19 accident. He was attempting to solicit help from a woman in a nearby home. In his deliriousness, he was shot by police officers who arrived believing him to be a home invader. Although my case was not nearly as extreme, these thoughts weigh on the mind in high-stress situations. These events sum up a large portion of what has formed my double consciousness over the years: a constant cycle of being angered by the actions of others, swiftly followed by an effort to achieve an understanding of said action. It is unfortunate that I have found myself doing this, but it is essential to my well-being. You will never know when the instinctual reactions of another individual may cost you your life. The reality is that the minority of the cases where harm is done overshadows the majority of times when a black man is just a black man, or better yet, just a person. Even now as I write, I still somewhat identify with why people are so cautious. However, most of the time, people simply do not take the time to delve into the consciousness of someone outside themselves. People must be made aware of this fact; it is important for people to make some account of their experiences. Only then can a change in the public psyche truly begin. A person intent on causing harm probably will despite our best efforts. Nevertheless, treating everyone as if he potentially will do harm causes emotional and mental harm. This, in turn, can lead to anger and even delinquency. These delinquents then go on to commit the crimes we fear so much. Despite all this, I think that progress is being made. My parents grew up in a time when no one would think twice about being openly discriminative towards a minority. My father told me of days when he would be chased from his school to his house with a whirl of rocks and racial slurs at his back. Today, I can say that, although I still face instances where my double consciousness must take over, I believe that it is far less than in the generations before. Work Cited Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. 1903. New York: Dover, 1994. Overcoming Dyslexia by Ashley Scardace My dad is a man I looked up to my entire life and still do. He never let anything be a hindrance in achieving satisfaction in life. When I conversed with him about his literary history, I took into consideration his struggle with dyslexia and the impact it had on him while growing up. It took me sometime to realize that I have a parent who struggles with some form of literacy, which I never understood when I was younger. He has fought and coped with it all of his life, and I couldn’t begin to imagine what it was like for him or anyone else with this impairment. Although my dad struggled with dyslexia on an emotional and intellectual level, he didn’t let it stop him from being successful in his career and as a parent. My dad had so much difficulty comprehending while reading that it cost him many years of a good education because of his dyslexia. In third grade he was prescribed glasses because “[his teachers and parents] noticed [he] had a vision problem,” but it was more than that. On the day of his graduation, he sat in another classroom completing extra credit work while “[his] mother and father waited in the auditorium” for him to get his diploma. He was held back almost more than once during his years of schooling. It wasn’t until his second year repeating seventh grade when the school finally did something about it. They put him in a class called “remedial reading,” which helped him to understand and comprehend what he was reading, something he wasn’t able to do in his earlier years of school. My dad didn’t have a spectacular home life either. His parents and older brother didn’t pay much attention to him or the issues he was having at school. His older sister was the only one who took the time to read with him and help him out, but “[he] hated that when someone read [a book] to [him] [he] understood it, but when [he] tried to read it [himself] [he] couldn’t do anything.” He told me his comprehension skills bothered him more than anything and worried him a lot. One of his accomplishments, though, was the very first chapter book he read front to back and actually “comprehended” called Dead Start Scramble, and he managed to gain a bit of self-confidence because of that. I couldn’t begin to imagine the emotional toll dyslexia has had on my father. For him to tell me, “[He] [had], and still [has] dyslexia,” was, to me, like him saying he wasn’t going to let his dyslexia control his life like it did when he was younger. During his school years, 20 21 homework that took a “normal” kid forty minutes to an hour to complete took my dad the rest of the evening. He confessed to me that “[he] would ask for help from a friend or bully someone to do it for [him].” I couldn’t believe my father had to result to such drastic measures in order to get through school and not to be labeled as an outcast. He spoke of his constant frustration of reading “word by word, line by line, paragraph by paragraph and [he] wouldn’t remember a thing.” He had to concentrate more than other children his age, and it complicated his life greatly. Even now, he admits that “[he] has a big fear of opening a book and relapsing,” forgetting everything he was taught on how to overcome his dyslexia, and “even now things switch on [him].” During my father’s younger years, he admitted to me that “[he] used to cry all the time [and] actually ripped a book into pieces once.” He had a troubled childhood. He constantly acted out and missed school. He was “very brutal at a young age to a lot of people [and] [he] think[s] [he] made it as far as [he] did on 99% common sense.” He became very reckless, missing school and ignoring any attempts to improve his reading skills and comprehension. He got into trouble numerous times and embraced a bad boy image. He was “very sidetracked and disruptive, [and] having to get used to something like that is weird and unfair. [He] always asked, ‘Why me?’ [He] hasn’t really met anyone with the same problems as [him],” and it really bothered him. My father still has trouble comprehending even now that he is older. He relies mainly on common sense to get him through life just like he did when he was younger, but he admits that there “really is no need since [he’s] retired.” He still struggles with spelling and vocabulary, but it doesn’t bother him to have to ask for help every now and then. “It’s like limbo. You can’t fill the void,” and there are just some things that can’t be improved upon. I believe he isn’t bothered by it as much because nobody judges him for it. My family accepts him as a regular person, not as a man with a reading problem. He isn’t bothered by it as much as he used to. It’s become his personality and molded him into who he is now. My father still struggles with dyslexia, but “there’s not much [he] can do about it now. [He] kind of just [goes] with it. It doesn’t bother [him] that much.” He’s just happy none of us ever grew up having the disorder “because there were many signs with the way [we] used to spell stuff when [we] were little, but [we] got through it. It was just simple child mistakes.” We would write a letter or a word backwards, but none of that kind of behavior showed up later in life for any of us. One of my dad’s biggest fears is any of his grandchildren developing dyslexia or looking down on him for having it. Any possible children in my future will look up to my dad just as I did when I was growing up. If they notice and ask, I’ll let them know why their grandfather can’t spell or read things as well as they can, and they’ll understand his dyslexia like I do now. Even though dyslexia impacted my father greatly on an emotional level while growing up, he never let any weakness show through when teaching us, his children, while we grew up. I can remember him always reading to me and helping me learn my ABCs. I wasn’t aware of his dyslexia until I became much older, but even then it was an odd concept for me to grasp fully. You wouldn’t know my dad struggles with dyslexia by looking at him, but every now and then he’ll ask me, my mom, or my siblings how to spell a word. He described his words as getting “pinched and staggered,” and it’s almost like “imagining the letters of the alphabet on top of one another, then stretching back out.” He hates it when he’s corrected on how he writes or types something, and “it sucks, but it kind of helps [us] understand how important is it to understand your vocabulary and your English […] it’s important for [us] to read and understand what [we’re] learning.” He thinks of it not only as a curse, but a gift. It gives him the chance to “keep tabs on how intelligent [we] are by asking [us] how to spell things.” My father didn’t graduate high school, but he never let that stop him. After dropping out, he worked many small laboring jobs. A lot of the machines and tools he used had manuals that showed what to do if something messed up. Eventually, he answered an ad in the newspaper asking for a driller. He “got lucky” and landed the job as a geotechnical and environmental driller. The position required him to operate a life-threatening machine, and most of it was “all hands on learning,” but everything he needed to know about how to become a driller or a driller’s assistant and handle contaminated materials was “in the Hazmat and OSHA books” assigned to him. They were huge and “entailed a lot of reading, so [he] tried to read them because there was a reward for [him]” in the end. He got through that job and made something of himself, but he unfortunately got hurt on the job and had to retire early. We didn’t always have a computer in my home, and my dad wasn’t so fond of it when we first got it. “You guys are so connected because of the Internet, but disconnected from the real world” were the words that came out of his mouth when I asked him about how he felt with the new technology we have today. He doesn’t mind it now, though. It has 22 23 helped him with the spelling of words and comprehending them. Spellcheck helps him a little bit, but even with it, he still asks us because it doesn’t look right to him. “[He] spell[s] words the way [he] think[s] they sound, so when [he] see[s] them [he] read[s] them that way,” and I find it tragic that it has to be that way for him. I always hate correcting him on his mistakes because I know how he reacts to it. I’m a perfectionist just like he is, and it’s maddening to see all of his slipups when I’m watching him type or write something. I have to hold my tongue because I rather not make him upset and sad. My father is a brilliant man. He’s aggravating at times, but a great father. He played a big role in becoming the person I am today. He never let his dyslexia stop him from getting what he wanted in life, whether it involved a career or his job as a parent, and he bestowed that drive to succeed into his children. Yes, dyslexia troubled my father in more ways than one, but with his story, he showed me something very important. No matter how many times he wanted to or did give up on himself, he pushed on. He moved forward in his life and didn’t let dyslexia define who he was as a person. He accepted it and controlled it. It has shaped him into the man he is today, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything else in the world. Sitting in the Spotlight vs. Sitting in the Dark by Bryanna Evans After playing the cello for nearly nine years, I have come to a time in my musical career when I am no longer the musician, but the spectator. It was always a joy to get the pre-concert jitters and butterflies before entering the stage. Now, when I go to the concert hall, I watch the musicians as they get just as nervous as I once did before beginning their piece. After seeing both sides of a concert, I have discovered both musicians and spectators share the joy of attending, but experience it differently. As a cello player, in preparation for the spring concert, I had to practice every day for months to be able to learn the music. When in a rehearsal, I did not just memorize the notes on the page, but I also learned about the composer and his goals for the piece. I learned to play as musically as possible, to put myself into the music spiritually and emotionally. Over several months, I had built a lasting relationship with music that I will soon remember for the rest of my life. Now, sitting in the back of a dark auditorium, I do not get such an intimate feeling. I only have one chance to hear the music live, and that will only last for twenty minutes. The difference between hearing the music once and listening to the piece every day is that the musician knows what to listen for. The musician is aware of the difficulties in each section that everyone has worked for, while the spectator may go the entire night without realizing the hard work of the sections. But once the curtains are open and the concert is about to begin, both performers and audience members are on the edge of their seats. In the middle of a performance, I ask myself, â€œHow is each person interpreting this?â€? As a musician, I would only be allowed to concentrate on the cello score and the conducting of my director; however, being able to feel the strings on my fingers and the bow in my hand was all that I needed to take away from the night. Similarly, now in a concert hall, the only parts of the concert I can focus on are the cello sectionâ€”the frantic movement of their bows, the flipping of the pages of the score. As a spectator, I become like a sponge, absorbing every aspect of the section, waiting for what is to come next. Nonetheless, it is nothing like the nervous exhilaration of sitting in the spotlight. Lastly, I believe there are similarities to how either the musician or the spectator will remember a performance. As a spectator as well as a musician, there is always one detail that I remember, and that is lighting. Regardless of whether the light was aimed away 24 25 from me or directly on me, lighting helps illuminate people in music. Sitting in darkness helped my eyes go towards the light and towards the idea of new perspective. After a concert, I would remember the key signature of the piece, the composer, and the underlining detail. Leaving now is different. I remember the light bouncing off wooden cellos and the smiles of hard working musicians. As a well-rounded music attendee, I have seen the various ways a concert hall can be perceived. I have been on a stage in New York City with hundreds of people watching, yet I have never been more excited for a concert than for the one my sister will be playing in December. And although I want to be right beside her on stage, I could not be happier to sit in the auditorium seating and watch her shine in the light. Whether or not the concert will have the same or a new effect on me during my sisterâ€™s performance, I could never change the everlasting love I have for orchestral music. 26 Mr. Nice Watch by James Elliott 27 You say as a cig hangs from your lips, â€œDon't give yourself up. Have some self-respect.â€? Smoke pounds my eyes, and your eyes, piercing. I'll keep my sins private, my lips closed, as you puff and exhale, mouth gaping. I hack against your vice. I'll keep my sins private. Let smoke be your omen. Casting Stones by Haley Wallace Carousel by Leigh Coates Twelve painted horses froze, chipping cream-flank flakes over the steel stage like shreds of confetti tossed in fistfulsâ€• harlequin horse hues. Their skin struck poses, broad shoulders squared and brindled heads reared high, forever snorting into an amber sky lit by fireflies' lime-lights. Under layers of settled dust, merry go round lost its name to solitary years collecting rust of a themeless park. Shambles of steel skeletons ride the skyline's spine. 28 29 Illuminate by James Elliott After-Thought by Jordan Buckner “Crazy little buggars, they are. They attack anyone who steps a foot on their island. The first time we went, two of our guys got killed. Since then, I stay clear of them. But their society has not been contaminated by the modern world, you see? They are perfect for my studies on natural human interaction. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? But no need to worry, I have since been able to traverse their island undetected and study them in silence. We will be on and off, safe and sound, and you all will have the research you have always been waiting for,” Shawn explained. They carefully beached the small old boat on the rocky shore of the island. It was well past midday by then. The sun beat down. They were exhausted from the long trip, and the dense forest offered shade. Leaving their bags on the shore, their curiosity pulled them in. “We can go take a look at their village if you like. It’s fairly close, so I think we could make the trip in just a few minutes and be back with plenty of time to set up camp,” Shawn said. Ron was excited to see the locals. He had heard great stories, and this was an amazing opportunity for him. He would be the first biologist to study the living habits of the Sentinelese. He couldn’t believe the government offered him a grant for this. The hike took just a few minutes. Ron was surprised how close their campsite was to the village. “Well, here is the spot, but something is off. . . . I don’t see any of them. They should be just over that ridge there,” Shawn said. Shawn was a strong man and showed little emotion in his daily affairs. Something was different here, and Ron could clearly see his distress. “Is it possible they have just relocated somewhere else?” But Shawn was already fiddling with his satellite phone. “Oh, no! My battery is drained!” replied Shawn. “We have to get back to camp and look for my spare. But first we need to check their camp. I have to know what happened to them.” 30 31 “Are you sure? Is that safe?” asked Ron. Shawn was already walking down the slope towards the Sentinelese camp. Ron hesitated, but seeing as Shawn had the only pistol, he had no choice. It was still safer that way. As they approached the camp, a strong rotting smell overwhelmed them. There were corpses everywhere. Ron was disgusted. The bodies were at best four weeks old, and there were gaping wounds all over them. “Looks like the plague,” he said to Shawn. “We should have been more careful,” replied Shawn. He unfastened his pistol and loaded a bullet into the chamber. “We’re going back to the shore right now; then we’re leaving. I don’t know what that is, he said indicating the gaping sores, but if they are still on the island, then it’s too dangerous to stick around not knowing where they are.” The sun was just beginning to show signs of fading when they arrived back at camp. The boat bobbed in the sun, soaking up the gentle waves of the sea. Shawn hopped in, lowered the motor, and pumped the fuel ball. Ron stood in waist-deep water at the bow. The motor groaned and reared, but no fire came forth. “Shit, shit, shit!” Shawn mumbled from the console. Ron looked over his shoulder. He feared for his life. People died here less than a year ago. Why had he been so impatient? Why had he not prepared more? If only he had searched for more sponsors so he could have a working boat! Ron knew he needed to be strong. “Let me take a look at it. I used to have a motor just like this one when I was young.” After inspecting the motor, Ron found a compromised fuel line. It was clogged full of sand and rubber. They were stranded, and Shawn couldn’t find his spare phone battery. The night fell faster than ever, and Ron found himself struggling to set up the tent with Shawn in the dark. Finally, it was done. Shawn feared making a fire, so they just sat in the dark and ate small pieces of granola. Hours later, Ron was still awake. “Hey, Shawn, did you forget how long it took to get here?” Ron asked, looking into space. This was a trick his father taught him to use; it was a good way to let whatever is outside your tent know you are there. But there was a silence over the whole camp like a strong evil. Ron saw nothing. If it weren’t for the gravity pushing against the thin pad, he might as well have been in space. Then, close to his head, he heard something exhale through the thin nylon sheet. Then it sniffed twice. He couldn’t move. “Hey, Shawn, wake up for a minute,” Ron said quietly, but in the strongest voice he could muster. As he spoke, he held back the fear and pushed firmly on Shawn’s chest. He didn’t wake. There was no one to share in his fear. Ron lay there the rest of the night, almost in protest of Shawn’s sleep, listening and waiting. Finally, the reluctant sun rose. “Morning, mate,” said Shawn. Ron turned to Shawn. “Morning,” Ron replied sluggishly. “You alright? You look tired.” “I just didn’t sleep well. I heard, well…. things last night.” “What kind of things?” “There was something large walking beside our tent; it breathed on me, right beside my head.” “Jesus! Why didn’t you wake me?” “Well, I just figured it was some animal. And besides, I tried to wake you. But what’s the big deal?” 32 33 “There aren’t any animals on this island that could do that. There are only birds, rats, and the occasional snake.” They left the tent and found that their bags had gone and the food container with them. They only had the items left in their pockets. Again, Ron felt fear come over him. “Ok. Well, worst case scenario we were scheduled to return today, so as soon as someone notices we’re not back, they will send someone looking,” Shawn said. “But how will we make it that long? They already know where we are, so we won’t make it through tonight.” “We have to at least try. How about we go looking for some food? We can have a fire during the day, and besides, I’m starving. I have a couple of small crab traps on the boat we can use to catch a couple of rats or something.” “But, I don’t understand. Why would there be rats here?” asked Ron. “Someone must have brought them, but what shipping or trading boats have ever come here?” “None that I know of; you and I are the only people crazy enough to come here.” They worked at making the rattraps and baited them with little bits of granola left in Shawn’s pocket. They waited. Shawn sat carving a stick into a sharp point while Ron flicked his pencil in his hand. Ron looked up at the sun; it must have been at least three hours since they set the traps. Just then they heard a high-pitched squeal coming from the direction of the trap. Shawn looked up at Ron then took off running. When they reached the first trap, there were two rats inside, except there was blood all inside the cage. One of the rats was on top of the other, ripping and eating its flesh while the other squealed in agony. Shawn killed the remaining rat. “We should go back to camp,” Ron said. “I need to dissect the rat’s brain.” “Why?” “Listen, I was recently at a conference where they lectured about a parasite infecting brain tissue in rats. I don’t remember much, but it essentially controlled them and sought to spread the virus through bodily fluid contact and would use any method necessary to infect others. The infection spread within hours. The infected became stronger than the other rats; in only a day’s time, their bodies modified themselves for hunting. They dilated their veins for better blood flow and dilated their eyes for better vision. But all of this leads to losing their natural being; they become cannibalistic,” explained Ron. “You think it has spread to humans?” “Well, it would explain the flesh wounds on the Sentinelese. If these people are infected, we don’t stand a chance. They will be smart. They will hunt us like prey, and if we don’t die, we will become infected. Come on; we have to give it a shot. If the rat was infected, it will have distinct black markings around the corpus callosum.” While Shawn started the fire, Ron carefully cut into the rat’s soft flesh and used a small knife to crack the skull. It was easy to do. It seemed as if the rat had been dead for days. Sure enough, there were the black spots. He threw the dead rat into the fire. It was now late in the afternoon. Both men just sat. There was nothing to do, just wait and be quiet. Just then, a small single-engine plane cruised through the orange sky. “Hey!” Ron yelled. “Shut it!” “What? Why?” “There’s no way they would hear you. If they saw anything, it would be the fire. Plus, who knows what else on this island heard you. We still don’t know what we’re dealing with!” The plane didn’t make any more appearances. Night fell. The two men sat near the boat in complete darkness. The waves crashed down methodically trying to replicate the battle of 34 35 fear and hope in Ron’s mind. He didn’t know how Shawn was doing and was afraid to ask. They chose not to bother each other with the problems on their mind. There was movement by the tree line, near the campsite. The moon that night shone softly from its small slit that projected through the night sky; the stars glistened. The men watched while figures gathered around the tent. No sound was heard while they systematically ripped through, hoping to find them inside. Earlier in the day they had taken off their clothes and placed them in the tent. They knew this couldn’t last forever, but it was an intelligent decision. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing from offshore this time of year; they had no idea how well these things could smell. Shawn and Ron prepared themselves. The figures from the tent went back into the woods. “Maybe they can’t smell us here. Or they might have given up for tonight,” Shawn whispered into Ron’s ear. These were tempting words. Ron wanted to rejoice, but he knew better. He knew better than to think that he could see them, but the figures couldn’t see him. He again felt sick. As if right on schedule, a figure re-emerged from the woods. It walked carefully toward the beach, exactly where the two men sat. Ron watched it intently, the fear growing. But he felt confident that he and Shawn could win if this was the only one to engage them. About ten yards behind, another figure appeared. Then, several more came into view. Ron lost count after fifteen or so emerged. They stood in a circle and huddled against one another. Time passed. Ron could not tell how long, but it seemed like a dream when they started running. The crowd of figures grew closer; Ron could hear them gasping for breath, gasping for food, for life. Shawn stood and shot into them. Their bodies flung to the ground, but others were just behind to take their place. The figures were close now. You could see their emaciated bodies, but they commanded their limbs with such zeal. Ron yelled. He thrust his spear into a chest, but the force of the crowd flattened him on the ground. The spear had broken but was now a barrier between him and the creature lying atop him. He heard Shawn screaming and prepared himself to die. He felt his flesh tear away; he joined with Shawn in a chorus. But from above, there was a bright light. The beasts fled their prey. Shawn had stopped moving, but Ron held up his hand to block the light to try and see. Was this his death? It was too loud to be death. It landed beside them, and several figures got out. They were covered head-to-toe in some suit that aided in their protection. They came to Ron and Shawn. “Are you bit?” The figure uttered through the mask. “What? Yes, help me!” Ron yelled. A different figure lifted Ron’s leg and inspected the wound. Another checked Shawn’s pulse and shook his head. They got up, boarded the helicopter, and left the two. Ron lay there watching the helicopter grow smaller and smaller. It was quiet. 36 37 Rain-Smell by Leigh Coates When Toby finally came home, the silence was devastating. He wanted there to be some kind of applause, even if it was on a small scale as it was with the lingering crowds of beer-gutted men, sipping their Budweisers and nodding in his direction. He almost considered doing a split right in the middle of the kitchen just to lighten the mood that had thickened the air like milk left to sour in the sun. The older man eating toast at the table made no note of recognition when Toby first arrived with a dirty duffel bag tossed over his shoulder; in fact, it was as if he hadn't seen Toby walk in at all. “Could you get me a beer while you're up?” A gruff inquiry between bites of dry toast scattered crumbs throughout the longer patches of stubble growing along his broad jawline. “What, Pete, don't I get a ‘hey’ or something?” “Hey, little bro.” A swallow later, “Mind gettin' me a beer while you're up?” “Unbelievable.” Toby exclaimed as he dropped his bag onto the table and half expected all of his worries to tumble out in plain view. “I haven't seen you in five years, and you're still bossing me around!” “Is that really a surprise?” Pete was a man with broad shoulders, and when he leaned back from hunching over his plate, his sheer width spanned half of the table while Toby could barely outweigh the back of a kitchen chair. “It really isn't.” A silence passed between them, something Toby disliked. He expected long bouts of meaningless conversation about how he'd been or what he'd been up to to tide him over and make him feel at home, like nothing had changed since the day he packed up his duffel bag (splotch-free then), took his bass guitar—the black one with the bolt of purple lightning down the middle—and let the screen door slam behind him. That was all he needed to cut ties with the lonely house at the end of the cul-de-sac where the only mistake he could have fathomed making at the time was looking back and seeing a small face pressed against the window where the beginnings of angled rain exploded into silver droplets against the glass. “So, where's Quinny?” Pete reached for the salt. “Just missed her.” “That's right; it's a school day, isn't it?” How could he have forgotten that? Toby groaned, dropping into a chair on the other side of the table and straddled it backwards. Resting his chin on the seat's back, he watched Pete salt his scrambled eggs a little too generously. “She's in fourth grade now, right?” “Lucky guess.” Toby beamed, rocking forward and balancing on the front two legs of his chair. “Good on me. I could use some luck lately.” Especially with how his band couldn't get a free gig at birthday parties these days. It was as if rock stars prancing around stage in colorful spandex, squeezing mic-stands between their thighs, was an odd parade of the past that now classified as an eyesore―one of many parents claimed would scar their children—if only to see it removed from the parking lots of sweaty tourist attractions. After Pete had cleaned his plate, going so far as to collect bits of scattered toast crumbs with the tip of his thumb, he shot Toby a curious frown. Thankfully, Pete seemed to buy most of his answers when Toby told him of how nice Maine was in October or how Hullivan, the band's assistant manager, snored so much that, one night, the rest of the guys had stuffed a shit-ton of tampons in his mouth just to keep him from breathing through it. Pete just nodded with a stone face or furrowed his brows at the outrageous things his younger brother seemed to get himself into. His adventures were comical at most, nothing as grand of a picture he'd painted before leaving the old farm house. Toby had always been that way for as long as Pete could remember, and Pete remembered plenty. He remembered when Toby swore off love after that hussy with the star-stickered cheeks uprooted his heart and left him a young girl on the back porch with a note clasped to the front of her gingham dress with a paper clip. A girl with a glower who needed more love than he could have given her. With nothing to keep him grounded, nothing but the promise of an older brother, Toby let the wind blow him where it wanted like an unearthed clump of marigold in the hopes he'd take to the soil again eventually. The chair creaked dangerously as Pete leaned back. “So, you're back?” “I'm here, aren't I?” Toby cracked a grin, one that halved his age and made him seem more like a college kid inside a thirty-eight-year-old's body, raging with hormones that ran in dizzying circles, but never quite completed themselves. “That's not what I meant.” He frowned. There came the awkward silence again. “So?” “You know. For good?” 38 39 It wasn't a hard question, and yet Toby found himself steel-jawed as many different excuses he could feed his brother warred with one another in the back of his mind, all leading to the same conclusion: he hadn't made a decision. “Pete, you know I―” As he opened his mouth wider, filled to the brim with nothing else to say, the phone rang. “I'll get it!” Welcoming the distraction, he slammed his palms flat against the table as he shot up in his seat and ducked into the hallway, practically pouncing on the phone as it prepared to ring for the last time. “Owens residence, Toby the Tornado speaking.” He wound the cord around his forefingers as a deep sigh echoed from the kitchen. Pete probably knew that Toby would make answering the phone into an asinine ritual just in case one day a rabid fan of his traced his number. “Erm, yes, hello.” An unimpressed voice drawled on the other end, painting a picture of a bored receptionist in Toby's mind, one over forty with thick glasses, too much lipstick, and a mole beneath her left nostril. “I'd like to speak with the father of the Owens girl.” “Yeah? Well you're talking to him.” There was a scoff and a rustle of papers that Toby took no notice of as he bit at a hangnail that had bothered him since before he'd driven down to see Pete and Quinn. “I'm sorry, Toby the Tornado, but Quinn's records list Mr. Pete Owens as an emergency contact. Is he in? There seems to be a problem regarding his daughter.” “I'll take a message.” Toby said, practically grinding his teeth at the lady's audacity but held his tongue like his breath was building up in his chest when he heard “Quinn” and “problem” in the same sentence. “Please let Mr. Owens know that Quinn did not come to school today.” The torrents of rain raced towards sidewalks in desperate need of weeding, thundering over the land, and swallowed Toby's bellows against the howling wind. A tall stick of a man garbed in a yellow rain slicker, he hardly stood out against the gray streaks of storm that fell around and through him, soaking him to the core as he struggled to keep from joining the puddles under his galoshes. There was no answer, no frightened cry of recognition—nothing but rain. He pressed on, lingering over the areas of small-town hopelessness where a young girl might take shelter from the downpour. The elementary school was no significant distance from Pete's house. Following the trails of wildflowers that grew alongside the road with partners of waving weeds, he cut the corner and a stop sign and headed down a row of shops where florists and coffee brewers made honest livings. They probably knew him as the most dishonest person in town, for the time being anyway. That was the problem with small towns—too much gossip and not enough of the truth. It was why he hadn't visited before; after all, he didn't need the effects of his wild fancies to reflect on Quinn. The mountain of questions piling up inside him blocked the path to clear thought, growing at an alarming rate until it was impossible to tell the difference between a stray dog's sneeze and a child's. All he knew was that he had to find Quinn. He had to. But what exactly he would say to his chestnut-haired daughter when he finally tracked her down was beyond his panicked agenda that consisted of finding her and squeezing her so tight she could never wriggle free and disappear again. Multitasking was a gift, and unfortunately for Toby, God hadn't gifted him with anything except fast fingers, a mediocre road life, and a lost daughter, who, truth be told, wanted to be found by anyone except him. The roar of an engine and several splashes of gray gutter sludge later, he was glowering into the open window of a minivan with the paint peeling off the sides that rolled up beside him just as he was about to cross the street. “Any sign of her?” Pete asked, attempting to throw concern into his gruff voice only to sound more stern than he usually did. A selfish relief washed over him; so Pete hadn't found her yet. Maybe he could still turn this whole thing with Quinn around if he managed to locate her before his brother, the man who was more of a father to her than he ever was. “I'll find her.” “It's getting late, Toby.” Pete's calm demeanor cracked ever so slightly, revealing a truth harsher than most. “Just let me handle this.” “So when she's in danger, you're suddenly her father again?” Toby gripped the van's open window and leaned in as rainwater dripped onto the passenger seat. “I've always been her father, despite what you and the rest of the goddamned world thinks.” He strained to keep his voice civil as the blatant skepticism in the receptionist's drawl echoed along the spine of his thoughts. After all, who better to find an uprooted girl than a weed? “You left her. Left her with me so you could blow off her calls. Maybe you should listen to the goddamned world for once because it's right.” 40 41 Ignoring Pete's startling change in volume, Toby turned on his heels like the day he'd left Quinn by the window, and he ran. The gutters, now filled with a raging river of rain that swept hordes of dead leaves along like capsized rafts, raced along beside him, and before long, he was traversing the alleyways near the center of town—anywhere his girl, the one he sometimes forgot to call every other month, could have gone astray. He shouted for her by name, never lingering too long over the cardboard boxes that lined the side alleys for fear that she might hear him farther down and bolt away. She had the right to after all, with the way he'd been acting. Maybe he could hide behind the excuse of the frustration he felt from the recent concert turn-outs or lack thereof in order to explain why he'd been neglecting their monthly chats on the phone? But there was only so far excuses went when it came to Quinn; Pete had influenced her in that regard. “Fuck.” His mind raced, speeding past his lumbering gait, with the horrible imagery of what could have happened to a young girl on her way to school. He'd wish the fate of a thousand shitty concerts if it meant she was safe, and he'd find her in one piece―not a sobbing face in the window he'd left behind so long ago. A girl's face, disembodied by wet streams over glass, cried while Pete's hand gripped her shoulder to make sure she stayed rooted and immune to the wind's beckoning. That's when he found her. Huddled under an overhang behind an old storage building was Quinn, the same little girl he'd left with Pete all those years ago, but with longer legs, shorter hair, and a grumpier expression only visible from the tip of her nose up. The rest lay behind her arm, propped up on her knees. She had pulled them tightly against her chest and turned to face the other way when she noticed him. Ignoring his earlier fears, Toby strode over and leaned against the building beside her, half hoping she would be the first to exclaim how scared she'd been and how glad she was that he was there, then not let go of his pants leg for the world like she used to. “What do you want?” She finally spoke, her voice muffled by the arm resting in front of it. Now, Toby didn't know what to expect from her. “Skipped school for this? You must have one boring teacher.” He glanced towards her, hoping to see a smile in her eyes from his jibe, but there was nothing but that stone face of Asher's in her expression. Guiltily, he stooped and followed her gaze, but found nothing of remote interest in the rain-slickened streets. “You're not funny.” Each word came out more forced than its predecessor as if they tasted bitter in her mouth. Toby watched her, surprised by the sudden accusation and the way she screwed her eyes shut and turned her head away from him. “You're just mean.” A snuffle and a sneeze later, Quinn went on squeezing her knees, looking like she wanted to curl up into herself. With quick fingers, Toby unfastened his rain jacket and draped it over her small, shivering form. She flinched but kept on curling up as tight as she could manage. “You must be mad.” When she gave no indication of her hearing him, Toby crossed his arms in front of his chest and looked the other way to smooth the frizzles of her frustration with a mockery of it. “But so am I.” As an afterthought, he added, “You worried Uncle Pete.” Punching the longer parts of his jacket into a puddle, Quinn retorted, “No one asked you to worry! And for your information, I wasn't skipping. It started raining, and I forgot my umbrella at home.” She fixed the hood of her father's raincoat over her head and tugged it over her eyes. “My hair got wet. I didn't want anyone to see.” “Why?” “Because it looks dumb.” Another snuffle erupted from under the hood. “Sounds like a great reason to play hooky.” Pete's bitterness soured her words. “Least I have a reason.” Toby winced. “Alright, so I shouldn't have forgotten to call you this month.” “Shouldn't have, but now it's too late. You're supposed to call me.” Her frustration struck him, and before he knew it, he'd looped an arm around her shoulder, tugging until she tilted and her cheek was forced flush to his side. The awkward silence he hated so steeped the air between them. “I'm really sorry.” He hesitated, “Not for forgetting this month, but for not calling you more. You deserve more than a month, kid. Believe me, Uncle Pete's already yelled at me.” Hell, he wanted to yell at himself. Quinn was so silent Toby thought she had fallen asleep. She startled him when she grumbled, “He smells weird.” “Give the guy a break.” “It's not like I have a choice!” She exclaimed through puffed cheeks. “My van doesn't smell any better.” The sour smell of sweating feet Toby knew all 42 43 too well―all because the men aboard refused to shower on a day-to-day basis. Quinn snuffled at his side. “You don't. Smell―I mean.” “What is it with you and smelling people anyway?” The concern in his voice caused Quinn to give a frustrated wiggle. “I don't!” “What's that supposed to mean?” He humored her. “You know how rain doesn't really have a smell, but it kinda does? It's like that.” His nostrils flared around the wet air, but the fresh scent of before-the-rain-falls had long vanished, washed away down the storm drains swallowing brittle leaf boats. “Are you a blood-hound?” He remarked. “Shut up!” Toby laughed and only tightened his grip on her in case she tried to wiggle out from under his arm, but Quinn seemed strangely content in a way, hiding her face in the crook of it. He could still remember her as the ankle-biter he'd left behind, remembered how she could never quite fall asleep unless he held her long enough and let her quietly breathe in his rain-smell. The first year he went on tour, Toby wondered if she had found it hard to sleep without him, or if she had settled for scents of oncoming storms in his place. Surely they were far less destructive. “Hey?” She shifted under the heavy arm and tilted her head back. Her eyes, even under the hazy-green glow of the streetlamps were a stark contrast in color, at least compared to Pete's, and though they were younger and brighter than his own, Toby felt an inner satisfaction settle upon him like another layer damp on her jacket. “I wouldn't have come back if I didn't miss you so much.” A flicker of uncertainty touched her face. She straightened quite suddenly away from his side as if she'd been dropped into the spotlight of a hissing crowd. As the drops of sky slowed to a soft sprinkle, Toby watched the headlights from passing cars blink on in the street as they cut through the dusk. Santa Needs another Year by Haley Wallace Tyler sat in the living room, red-eyed and slouched, staring at the barren space beneath the Christmas tree. The morning sun shining through the curtains made the stains on his footed pajamas visible, evidence of his late-night snacking. He looked at the clock on the coffee table—8:45 and still no sign of Santa besides the little statuette on the coffee table. No presents wrapped to perfection. No cookies partially nibbled. Despite the red and gold decorations adorning the room, Christmas had skipped him over, and he had stayed up all night just to watch it come. He ran into his parents’ room to relay the horrible news. His mom’s snoring drowned Tyler’s voice, but he still managed to rouse his dad. After a few seconds of groaning and fighting consciousness, his dad jumped up startled and looked at the alarm clock in a panic. “Dad, Santa never came! I stayed up all night and never saw him, and there’s nothing under the tree! Why didn’t Santa come, Dad?” Tears ran anew from Tyler’s eyes. Jim lowered his head sideways into his hand, staring at the closet where the presents were still in hiding. “Why didn’t Santa come?” Tyler kept pressing for some answer, any answer. Jim shook his head with his eyelids pressed against each other, as if they were trying to keep the secret hidden themselves. “You didn’t sleep?” “No, I was waiting for Santa.” Kathy’s snores slowed, allowing silence to fill the bedroom. Suddenly, Jim’s eyes flew open with hope. “He didn’t come because you broke the rules, son.” “Rules?” “Yep, you’re supposed to sleep; if you don’t, he won’t come. You broke the rule.” “Oh, yeah,” Tyler said, lowering his head and pouting. “If you go on to bed now, maybe Santa will forgive you and come back. Maybe he’s just trying to teach you a lesson this time, so you won’t do it again,” Jim said, staring at the closet. Tyler’s head sprung up in excitement. “You really think so, Dad? You think he’d do that?” 44 45 “I don’t see why not. He’s Santa. He’s a nice fella, you know?” Jim said as he led his son to his bedroom door down the hallway. “Now, try getting some shuteye, and we’ll see what happens when you wake up,” he said, smiling gently and ruffling his son’s hair. “Okay, Dad,” Tyler said, shutting his bedroom door. The worried father walked back to the master bedroom. He opened the closet door and began unloading the presents inside. “Everything okay, Jim?” Kathy was finally awake due to the commotion of the morning. “Santa messed up,” he said, lugging a new bike into the living room. “It’s not your fault dear; the alarm didn’t go off,” she called out, wiping sleep from her eyes as she rose from the bed. He walked back into the room empty-handed. “Can I get a hand, Kathy?” “Sure, dear. You know, you could have just told him the truth. He is eight, after all.” She stacked some boxes to carry into the living room. He picked up his own stack of boxes. “Santa needs another year. He’s just not ready yet.” “You or him?” “You know he’s not ready yet, Kathy.” “All right, dear,” she mumbled as she picked up the stack and walked into the living room. As Kathy arranged the presents below the tree, Jim stopped a moment before collecting more presents from the closet. That old Santa statuette stared at him from the coffee table with its yellowed beard and a chip missing from its left black boot. That little thing had made it through many years with no more missing than that little chip. He remembered when that chip broke off. It happened to be a white Christmas that year, and he had been so excited about the snow that, in his running, he knocked it off his mother’s coffee table. He was lucky it had only been a chip. Jim heard a door creak in the hallway. His eyes opened wide in fear as he crept into a hiding place behind the sofa. Kathy continued putting out the gifts as Jim flailed his arms at her, trying to get her to hide. “It’s time to grow up, Jim. You can’t stop it from happening.” She didn’t turn to look at him. Tyler peeked around the corner from the hallway and his eyes grew bright with excitement as his jaw dropped. “A bike, a bike! I got a bike!” Jim came from behind the couch and watched in awe as his son tore open the packaging. He had seen Kathy putting out presents; he has to know it isn’t Santa, right? Jim’s thoughts only grew more confused as he tried to figure it out. Tyler ran up and hugged him, knocking him out of his thoughts. “Thanks, Dad!” “Huh?” Jim turned to stone at his son’s embrace. Tyler ran to his mom and hugged her as well, leaving Jim even deeper in confusion. “Thanks, Mom! This is the best Christmas yet! You guys are even better than Santa! I don’t even care that Santa didn’t come! This is awesome!” Kathy smiled. “Well, if you’d like, we could do this every year for you from now on and lighten Santa’s load. What do you think, Jim?” “Yeah, Dad! Can you?” At his son’s smile, Jim heard the words of his own father echoing back into his conscience. He was seven again as his father told him Santa wasn’t real and that the family couldn’t afford presents that year. His father meant well, he learned years later, but the young Jim didn’t feel ready for the weight of those words. Jim didn’t want that pain for Tyler. Jim gazed at the plethora of presents signed “Santa” surrounding the Christmas tree, then at Tyler, who was still smiling at him and hoping for an answer. Jim thought about how much he missed his father, a man who always wanted the best for his family, even if the best wasn’t what he thought it should be. Perhaps, Jim thought, this was a bit of Christmas mercy for a worried father. Jim wiped away a small tear in the corner of his eye that was aching to escape. “Yeah, son. We can do that. I’ll let Santa know you don’t need him anymore, that you’ve got us.” “Awesome!” Tyler continued opening his presents as Jim sat in a daze, staring at the Santa statuette on the coffee table. 46 47 The Motorola Murder by Bobby Suit It was Friday, it was sunny, it was 4:30, but most important of all, it was PAYDAY! Me, Styrone, and Scott had just finished getting up all the tools and were lazily sitting around on upside-down sheetrock buckets, waiting on Lou (the guy we was working for) to bring us our checks. After a couple of minutes kicking at the dirt and shufflin’ around, Sty finally stood up, looking at his watch, and said, “Man, Lou needs to hurry his slow ass up and bring me my money, I gotta get home before six o’clock.” “What’s happening at six o’clock?” Scott asked. He kicked his feet up on the sheetrock bucket Sty had just been sitting on. You see, Scott had a vested interest in Sty— especially Sty’s check—because him and Sty rented this nappy-looking “lake-trailer” together and Scott was gonna make sure he got his half of the rent-money before Sty disappeared for the weekend. “What’s happening at six o’clock?” Sty smiled. “Boy, where you been? At six o’clock E.T.’s gonna have them nude skydiving women from Russia. And E.T. don’t play; they show it all.” He kicked Scott’s feet off the bucket and sat back down. “Come on, Sty. You know good’n well, regular tv ain’t gonna show no naked women. I don’t care what country they from or how fast they zipping by, especially at no six o’clock prime time,” I said. “Oh yeah, yeah, they are, Bob. E.T.’s different. Last night ‘fore I went to bed, I was just fixing to cut the tv off when all of a sudden, ‘Whoop, there it is.’” I seen ‘em with my own two eyes—titties flying everywhere—and you know how I love dem puppies.” He pulled a cigarette out of his pack and stuck it in his mouth. Well, about that time, as fates would deal it, ol’ Sty drew a two of clubs ‘cause in through the side door came his newly-acquired (and not that well-endowed) bride-to-be, Miss Vickie Marie. He never saw her. She snuck up behind him, twirling a little white flower in one hand; with the other hand, she put her finger over her lips and gave me the signal to “Shhh.” You could tell one thing for sure by the look on her face; she loved her man. I tried to wink at Sty (to give him the signal to shut up), but the more I winked, the more he laid it on. “There’s one girl,” he continued, “A redhead” (Vickie was blonde) “and boys, let me tell ya what, she was the best looking gal I ever seen in my whole life.” I coughed and made a sweeping throat-cut sign. Sty was oblivious. He done turned to Scott by then, and he wasn’t bout to shut up. He continued, “Scott, that redhead had the biggest, juiciest cantaloupes I ever seen, and I’m gonna tell ya what, I wouldn’t mind having me one of dem Russian girls.” Vickie’s mouth fell open. I tried to say, “Sty . . .” but he cut me off real quick. He was preaching by then, and Scott (who liked a little titty himself) was the wide-eyed congregation. “Them Russian gals,” he continued, “there’s just something about ‘em I like. They so much more sexier than these river-rat women round here.” And with that, he closed his eyes and leaned back a bit (to dream about Russian gals, I guess). That daisy smacked Styrone across the back of his head so fast it coulda been a bullet. And before the petals had hit the floor, Miss Vickie was out the door, boo-hooing like a funeral procession. I don’t think a real bullet coulda done more initial damage either ‘cause old Sty fell off the sheetrock bucket and hit the floor, sprawled-out like a man truly shot. Scott’s mouth dropped open. But Sty wasn’t down for long. He made a miraculous recovery and took off after Vickie, the whole time yelling, “Wait a minute, Baby. I didn’t mean it like it sounded. Darling, please, please let me explain. I was just joking round with the boys, please, Baby, listen to me!” The car crunk up, and we heard tires squealing all the way out the driveway. Scott looked at me, and we rolled in the floor laughing. Hell, Styrone didn’t even get his check. **************** Well, Monday morning rolls round, and I showed up at work, and ain’t nobody there. Wasn’t nothing special though ‘cause Sty and Scott were always late, especially on Mondays, so I went ahead and started painting. About ten minutes later, Scott walks in, alone, and he looked like death warmed over and left on the table. I asked, “Damn, Scott, you look like you ain’t slept a wink. Y’all musta partied all weekend?” He barely lifted his eyes off the floor, “Party? Shit, ain’t been no fuckin’ party, Bob. You won’t believe what happened this weekend at the trailer. Sty and Vickie went at it like cats and dogs all night Friday and all day long Saturday. Hell, it went on all weekend. I ain’t 48 49 slept a wink. One minute, Vickie’d holler shit like, ‘I’m leaving yo’ sorry ass; you love them tv girls more’n you’ll ever love me.’ And then Sty’d break down in tears and start begging, ‘Please don’t leave me, Baby. I can’t live without yo’ precious love.’ Stuff like that. It went on and on and on until about three o’clock Sunday morning it finally came to a head.” I froze then (where is Sty?). “Oh, lord, what happened?” I shouted. Scott continued almost in a whisper now, “Well, bout three o’clock last night, I was laying in bed, just about to finally go to sleep when out of nowhere, Styrone jumps up off the couch where he’d been sitting for the past hour trying to hold Vickie’s hand and started screaming at her, ‘You want me to show you how much I love you, Baby? You want me to show ya?’” Scott said he jumped outta bed then and ran to the living room. Sty was still carrying on, “You want proof that I love you more’n any woman in the world, Russian, whatever, I don’t care where they from? O.K. then, I’ll show you,” and he started for the shotgun leaning in the corner of the living room wall. Scott said he fell to his knees and hollered as Sty went for the gun, “Don’t do it, Sty! Don’t do it, please. Think about yo’ mama,” he pleaded. “At least calm down a minute and think about what you doing. Suicide ain’t never the right way out!” But Styrone didn’t have suicide on his mind, not in the least. He had something far worse: MURDER! When he got to the corner of the living room where the shotgun was leaning, he turned to Vickie, and just as serious as Romeo speaking to Juliet, he said, “Baby, if proof of my love for you is what you want, then proof you shall have!” Vickie screamed then, “No! Baby, don’t do it, I love you,” but it was too late. Sty reached down, went right past the shotgun, grabbed up the tv set, raised it high over his head, and with the vengeance of Samson, smashed it into a million tiny pieces on the floor. It was the only thing of value in the whole nappy lake-trailer. Even worse than that, it belonged to Scott. What Comes to Mind by Robby Maynor “Pass me one of them beers, Jacob,” Daddy said. I stood up half-way off the cooler and the little boat rocked. I opened up the lid beneath me and pulled one out and gave it to him, never taking my eyes off the little cork floating out in front of me. He grunted a thanks as he cracked it open. Some ways off behind us a fountain was spitting up bucketsful of water and making a big racket. We moved on around the edge of the pond, Daddy paddling us real slow and quiet with one arm. I reeled in my hook and checked the cricket. It was still there, all soggy and still. “Go ahead and put you a fresh one on.” I pulled one out of the bucket and hooked him up under his neck and chunked it back out into the water. As we came around one of the last big pines on the corner, the bank opened up, and you could see the big white houses standing with their backs turned to us. After a little while, I heard one of those little prop planes buzzing out overhead, and I looked up and saw it flying like in slow motion over the pond, a big banner trailing behind it with an old glass Coke bottle on it, advertising for the race. “Who you thinks gonna win it?” Daddy asked. I looked back down. “I don’t know. Labonte. Gordon maybe.” Daddy snorted. “Wouldn’t bet on that one,” he said. “Earnhardt likes to win in Charlotte.” He picked up the paddle and moved us on a little piece down the bank. We’d been fishing for two hours or so and hadn’t caught a thing. There wadn’t nothing to catch—the water was green for God’s sake, full of chlorine. I didn’t even want to go, but Daddy insisted, so we packed up the truck and drove three hours to sit and bake in a rickety little john boat all day. When my Granddaddy was alive, we would drive up there every year and stay the whole Memorial Day weekend with him. The pond was real then, just a little overgrown fishing hole in the middle of the woods. We would catch bream until our stringer couldn’t hold no more, and then we’d drive back to the old house and fry them up in the front yard and listen to the race on the radio. He was a pioneer of racing his self, Granddaddy that is. He ran on tracks from Kannapolis to Brunswick with the likes of Ralph Earnhardt and Cotton Owens, back when not too many people were even aware stock car racing was going on. When he got older, he 50 51 built hotrods in his barn and grew watermelons as big as outboard motors. He was some kind of hero, a damn Southern Jesus. My hook snagged on something, and the cork went down real lazy like. I pulled on it, and it gave a little bit, and so I hauled it up to the edge of the boat. Daddy leaned over and looked at it. “Sons-of-bitches,” he said as he pulled it in. It was an old water-logged skateboard with the tape peeling off the top of it. He unhooked it from my line and reared back and threw it up on the hill where it skidded across somebody’s patio and banged on the bottom of their back door. A little man with glasses came out and looked down at the board like it was a dead rat some cat had left there. He looked up at us. “What the Hell is this,” he hollered out to us. “You tell me,” Daddy said. The man cupped his hands around his eyes like to get a better look at us. “You folks live here?” “Sure don’t,” Daddy said. The man started wringing his hands. “Well, um, you know, technically this is residential property and, well, quite honestly, you shouldn’t be out here.” Daddy stood up and the boat tipped back and forth. “Says who exactly?” “Well, I believe it’s…” “Look here motherfucker,” Daddy said, cutting the man off. “I been fishing in this pond since you were shitting yella.” He spat into the water. “So what you need to do is go ahead and carry your ass back in the house.” The man dropped his hands from up around his face and tilted his head back and forth and then turned around and went inside. Daddy sat back down. “How about another one of them beers, boy?” That night when we got home, Momma was gone. Before we left she and Daddy’d gotten into one of their big knock-down, drag-outs in the yard, cussing and screaming and fighting. She said she was leaving, but I didn’t believe her. She always said that, but that time she meant it. She packed up everything—the TV, the pictures, the books, packed it all up and hauled ass. When I first walked in, I couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe she’d finally manned up. Daddy come up behind me, and when he saw it, he stopped and looked around and started laughing, just laughing like there wadn’t nothing funnier in the whole world. It made me sick, made my whole body hurt. That night Uncle Joe came over, and him and Daddy stayed out in the yard all night. I lit up a candle I’d found and read a book I’d brought home from the library. I thought for a little while about crying but didn’t. With Momma gone, our old house changed. It withered up and croaked. It was strange to me; I didn’t like it, but Daddy—he sank right in, became a part of it. He was a rough old bastard as it was, God knows, but that just made it even worse. He didn’t seem real anymore, didn’t seem human. It’s like there wasn’t no skin on his bones, but leather. And no heart and no blood and no guts—just pipe fittings and motor oil and beer. As the time went by, Daddy started working more and more, started coming home after dark every night. The house would always be real shady, just a lamp on where I was doing homework and listening to old cassettes. He would sit down on the hearth and struggle out of his boots like they were glued to his feet and undo the straps on his overalls and drink beer and smoke cigarettes, and we’d sit there and listen to the music together, him tapping his foot on the dusty old rug, everything good. In November, Granny decided to leave Mint Hill and bought a tiny old house not far from us. With Granddaddy gone, she couldn’t keep up the old home place, and I reckon she got pretty damn lonely too, living up in the middle of the woods all by herself. Me and Daddy drove up with a big flatbed trailer and loaded up all of her stuff. We didn’t bring half of it; it wouldn’t have fit in the house. We picked through it all and brought what we thought she needed. When we was all ready to go, Daddy went out and started nosing around the barns, opening them up and going all through them. When he found one of Granddaddy’s hotrods, a ‘55 Ford he never got to finish, he decided we had to take it with us. There was just enough room left on the trailer. We spent the rest of the fall putting a new motor in the old car. It took a few weeks’ worth of evenings tearing the old one out; then Daddy ordered another one and we spent a month or two putting it in—cleaning everything out, sanding it down, getting it right. When it was done, it was faster than Hell. One night when Uncle Joe was there at the house working on it, I was sitting up on one of the benches studying and doing homework. “Bring me that seven-sixteenths socket,” Daddy said from under the hood. I didn’t hear him. “Jacob!” I looked up. “Bring me that seven-sixteenths!” I put my notebook down 52 53 and dug a wrench out of the toolbox and took it to him. He shook his head. “The socket son, the fucking socket.” I went back to the toolbox and got it. A little while later I was back on the bench working on my schoolwork. This time it was Joe. “Nancy! Naaancy! Come over here and hold this light would you?” I couldn’t stand that shit, but I got up anyway and went and took the flashlight from him, and he crawled underneath the truck. “Hold it still would you?” When he finished, he got up and took the light from me. “Thank you ma’am,” he said, and I went back to the bench. A couple minutes later he was calling again. I ignored him. He kept on. “Nancy! Nancy!” I acted like I couldn’t hear him, like I was real focused. I couldn’t read a damn thing. My asshole was on fire. All the sudden I seen something shining, and I looked up. It was a beer can, and it hit me right in the head, right in the eye, a perfect circle right around the ball. I jumped up and grabbed at my face, and when I did my notebook slid off my lap and into an oil pan. The pages soaked up the grease like ink. I looked at Joe, and he just stood there chuckling—a retarded drunken grin scrawled across his face. I picked up a wrench and chucked it at his stupid face as hard as I could, but somehow the drunk bastard moved out the way and started laughing even harder. “Asshole.” Daddy gritted his teeth and got up off the ground and took off the old Dale Earnhardt hat he always wore and hung it up on the mirror of the truck. He come and grabbed me by the nap of the shirt and pushed me out behind the shed. As soon as we were out in the dark he slung me forward and onto the ground. By the time I turned over onto my back he was on top of me, his forearms on the notches of my shoulders pinning me down to the ground, his face pushed right up into mine, our foreheads touching. His breath smelled like stale beer and chewing tobacco. “What the fuck is wrong with you, boy?” he said through his teeth. “With me? It wadn’t…” He head-butted me so hard my eyes jarred, lit up and flashed like heat lightning. Then he sat up and spat to the right of me, and I started crying a little bit. He shook his head and laughed, scoffed at me. “Don’t act like a big man if you ain’t one, candy ass,” he said as he got up. “And don’t make me speak to you again.” When I went back into the shed Joe started snickering, but Daddy cut his eyes at him and he quit. Even his own brother knew that man wadn’t human, didn’t take no shit. I spent the rest of the night under the hood and out back sand-blasting parts. The next morning at school the teacher came around and checked our homework. The oil from the pan had seeped in so deep the whole page was black. She didn’t even ask. She just shook her head and wrote a zero down in her book and kept on down the line. Since we didn’t have a TV anymore, every Sunday we went over to Granny’s to watch the race. She’d cook us up a big dinner and we’d eat until we were just about to bust and then we’d lounge around the TV and watch. Earnhardt was, of course, Daddy’s favorite—the old Intimidator. He and five million other sons-of-bitches all over the South stood up and cussed and screamed and hollered and cheered every time he nudged a man out of his way, every time he put one of them in the wall, every time he won. Daddy loved that man, absolutely loved him, but by that time he was old, he was on his way out. I pulled for Jeff Gordon in his rainbow colored Chevrolet. He was the man then—he’d won two or three championships, and he wadn’t even thirty. It burned Daddy’s ass up, I mean, it pissed him off real good. “How could you like that fucking faggot?” he’d say. “He’s from California!” He’d shake his head. “Look at him! Look at him! He won’t even use his bumper! This fucker is ruining racing!” The honest truth though is that I didn’t care much about any of it. I spent most of the time at the table playing cards with Granny, pretending to pay attention. “How’s school going?” she’d ask. “Pretty good.” “That’s good.” She’d lay some cards down. “What’re you reading?” I’d tell her, and then we’d be quiet for a minute. “I worry about your Daddy,” she’d always say. “Mmhm.” “He works so hard.” “Mmhm.” “And he doesn’t eat enough. You know it’s hard to live…” “Oh goddamn,” Daddy would yell and jump up and get close to the TV. “What happened?” I’d ask. “Old Swervin’ Ervin.” 54 55 “Mmhm.” We’d all be quiet again for a minute. “You take care of him for me, don’t you?” “Yes ma’am,” I’d always say. “I know you do, baby, I know you do. He needs you, darling. I know he’s so glad to have you.” She must have said that same thing fifty times. And it was a load of bullshit. That man didn’t need a damn thing. That year Bobby Labonte won the championship, and Earnhardt came in second. Daddy said NASCAR had cheated. The next night he came home from work with a TV he got from the pawn shop and plugged it up in the place where our old one had been. “Turn that damn radio off,” he hollered. “I’m tired of hearing that bastard pluck around on that one goddamn string.” “Do what?” I asked him. I couldn’t hardly understand what he was saying. We listened to them tapes near every night. “Turn it off, I said. I’m trying to watch this new television set.” I got up and went to see what the Hell he was talking about. He was sitting back with his feet propped up, squinting at the little half-visible screen. “Set down,” he said. “See what you think.” I sat down for a minute and half watched some bullshit news program until my chest swelled up so tight I couldn’t take it, and so I got up and went back to my room. He laughed one of those rolling, growling alligator laughs that made the hair on my neck stand up. He stayed there sprawled out on his thrift store lazy-boy staring at that box and smoking handfuls of Vantage Ultralights all through the night until he finally wore down and fell asleep. The next night was the same thing, and again the night after that. Soon enough it became normal and expected. Every night it was the same thing. He even developed a little schedule: the news at six, some stupid sitcom reruns, supper, the news again at ten, then asleep before twelve. Every now and then I’d try to sneak a few songs out of the old stereo, but he’d always holler about turning it off before too long. When winter came that year, something happened, and the cold skipped over the northeast and settled over the South for months. Mobile looked more like Minneapolis, Raleigh something like Rochester. It snowed at our house for the first time in ten years, and three times as much. The ground was buried and the branches were covered and the trunks on the trees looked sunk up to their knees. Ice hung from the roof, and the power lines like spit. It was beautiful. Daddy was like a kid. I’d never seen him so happy. Together we bundled up in zoot suits and knit hats and gloves and went outside and played for hours. We built these two snowmen in the yard that were like seven feet tall, the bodies and heads so big we had to heft them up together. We used snuff cans for eyes and old shotgun shells for the mouths, and Daddy even found and old Hickory branch and gave his snowman a dick. After that we had a snowball fight and made angels and traipsed through the woods just looking around—it was like a dream or something, like everything was different. Daddy loved it. He fucking reveled in it. When February came, a lot of people were sick of the cold. They were ready to fish or watch baseball or plant their gardens, and so by the time the drivers all went down to Daytona, and the Budweiser Shootout came on the TV, you could almost smell spring coming. You could actually feel it getting warmer. On the day of the 500, we crammed back into Granny’s house and huddled around the TV and watched with the freshness and intensity that you only have for the first two or three races. Looking back now I don’t remember too much of anything what happened during the race up until the end. I don’t think anybody does. With about ten laps left Earnhardt’s entire team was running one, two, and three—Michael Waltrip was leading, Junior was in second, and Dale was in third. “The old boy’s gonna do it again,” Daddy said. “He’s just biding his time.” They went on, and Earnhardt dropped back. The pack was on him. Five laps left, and Sterling Marlin was on his bumper—inside, under the apron, back up to the high side—nothing. Dale was there every time. Waltrip and Junior pulled away. “Shit!” Daddy said as he jumped out of his chair. “He’s blocking. The old fucker is blocking, he don’t want to win. He’s gonna let his boy take it.” “Sure looks like it,” Granny said. “Ain’t no looks like, that’s what he’s doing, goddamn.” He inched up closer to the TV. “Block him, old boy. Shut ‘em down.” Everybody stayed quiet for a minute. Michael and little Dale drove further away. I was watching the number three. He was up, then down, he was everywhere. They were three-wide, Earnhardt splitting the middle, while some five car-lengths ahead the leaders drove away. They dropped the white flag, and the cameras locked in on Waltrip. 56 57 “You better do it if you’re gonna do it, Junior,” Daddy said. He was inches from the TV. “Goddammit, do it. Do it, boy! Don’t waste your Daddy’s driving now, do it!” He was screaming; he was on his knees hollering at the TV. “I hope Michael wins,” Granny said. “He deserves one.” “Shut up, woman!” Dad said. “Don’t talk like that.” Everyone was quiet. They rounded the last turn. They went down the backstretch in line, like they were connected by a couple links of chain. “Awwwh!” the man on the TV screamed. “Earnhardt’s in the wall.” The camera cut to the wreck for a second. “Holy shit,” Daddy said. The camera cut back, and Waltrip drove on, crossed the line, won. Junior finished right behind him. He never even pulled out. “Goddammit,” Daddy said. “I’m happy for Michael,” Granny said. Daddy shook his head. “I hope Dale’s alright,” the man on the TV said. “I mean, he’s alright isn’t he?” They showed the replays, and nobody said anything. Me and Daddy went outside and leaned up against his truck, and he smoked five cigarettes in a row down to the nubs and drank a twelve pack of beer and neither one of us said a word. After a little while I took one of the empties and strung it up from a branch and shot it with my Red Ryder. I shot it over and over again. I shot the chamber dry and then filled it up and shot it some more. By the time I was done, it was shot to an aluminum pulp, and every time I hit the thing it shook like a maraca. Some hour later I heard the back door open, and Nana came shuffling out. “Jake,” she said. “Little Jake.” I turned around and Daddy looked up. “He didn’t make it,” she said. “Earnhardt’s dead.” I turned back around. “They said he died on impact.” I put the gun back up into my shoulder and shot and the can rattled. I cocked it quick and shot it again. “Quit that fucking shit,” Daddy hollered. “Goddammit quit that shit.” I heard Nana go back inside and shut the door, so I turned around. Daddy was slumped up against the hood. He had his hat off and laying across his heart in some sort of salute and a cigarette was hanging out the side of his mouth, smoking, and his face was red and screwed up—tears streaming down it. “You got to be shitting me,” I said. He craned his head slowly, still crying, and looked at me, stared at me in my eyes, his face wet. “That man was my hero,” he said. “My fucking hero.” I turned and spat. I tried to feel something, tried to think up something to say, but I couldn’t, so I just shook my head and walked off towards the house. These days when people ask me what my Daddy was like, I always tell them that story, that my Daddy was the type of man that cried when Dale Earnhardt died. They never know what to make out of that; they always look at me kind of funny and laugh. The truth is, even I don’t know what to make out of it, not really. But when somebody asks me what he was like, that’s what I say, because it feels right, and it’s always what comes to mind. 58 59 Blizzard by Megan McDonnough New Voices is published with the financial support of the Lander University College of Arts and Humanities and the Department of English and Foreign Languages. The editors would especially like to thank Dean RenĂŠe Love and Dr. Jeffrey Baggett for their encouragement and assistance. The rest of the editorial staff would like to congratulate Mary DeLong on completion of her degree. We will miss you! Thanks for all your hard work over the years!