__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1


From the Editor Canyon Voices is more than just a simple collection of stories and art. To me, Canyon voices is the future of the literary and art worlds. We don’t just publish anyone who submits, but rather the best of the best and we pride ourselves as a platform for aspiring writers and artists to enter the world of publication. As an aspiring author myself I know the excitement of creating a world and bringing to life something that had only existed in your mind. Canyon Voices takes those creations and puts them on display for the world to see. This is no easy task! We get a lot of fantastic submissions and combing through them to select only the best is not as easy as one might think. Luckily, we have an outstanding team, lead by our senior editors, and guided by the careful hand of our Professor Julie. This issue broke with a lot of traditions with a new format, new deign program, and new creative team, but I think that this issue will be one of the best issues to date. This year has been a struggle for a lot of people, in a lot of ways — most notably a worldwide pandemic. But we managed to accomplish some amazing things. From the transition to mostly Zoom classes, to the aforementioned format change, and even a little dabbling in raising dead writers for a Halloween celebration, Canyon Voices and its staff continued the long tradition of bringing exceptional works to the masses. I am honored to have played a part in this issue and am proud of everyone who poured their energy into this magazine. Without this amazing staff, there is no way this issue could have been produced. Thank you to all of my fellow students who helped create this amazing work. Lastly, I want to thank all of the creators who submitted to the magazine. I never cease to be amazed by the creativity that comes across our table. It is truly my favorite part of this experience. We see some of the best works from people of all walks of life and have the privilege to select them for this magazine. To all who submitted and were approved, know that your pieces were accepted because of the amazing work you put into the pieces. For those who submitted and did not make it in this issue, please do not be discouraged as there wasn’t a bad piece that we saw. For those who are creators and didn’t submit, look to your fellow creators and use them as inspiration to make the leap and submit your works! The world needs creators like the ones we feature in Canyon Voices and I truly believe that those featured in this issue will go on to entertain many more than just our readers. — William Hightower

CANYON VOICES

PUBLISHER Julie Amparano García Editor-in-Chief William Hightower

Design Director Skylar Nielsen

Managing Editor Jonathan Valenzuela Assistant Design Editor Katy Anderson Social Media Manager Jordan Brown Senior Fiction Editors Skylar Nielsen Jonathan Valenzuela Fiction Editors Katy Anderson Gage Doncaster William Hightower Ross Holding Dorailiana Ledesma Benjamin Suddarth Senior Poetry Editors Meredith Price Hunter Thraen Poetry Editors Jordan Brown Lindsey Saya Senior Creative NonFiction Editors Skylar Nielsen Jonathan Valenzuela Creative NonFiction Editors Ross Holding Dorailiana Ledesma Senior Scripts & Clips Editor William Hightower Scripts & Clips Editors Katy Anderson Gage Doncaster Benjamin Suddarth Senior Art Editor Ross Holding Senior Alcove Editor Jonathan Valenzuela Cover image: The Origin by Caleb Worcester See the Artwork section for full image CANYON VOICES is a student-driven online literary magazine, featuring the work of emerging and established writers and artists. The magazine is supported by the students and faculty of the School of Humanities, Arts, & Cultural Studies at Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences. Click here for submission guidelines.

FALL 2020


“Atlas Temple” By Doodler Skelly


FICTION | DON FOSTER

A Talk with Hank By Don Foster

Roy sat in his F-150 with a bag of pistachios between his legs, waiting for Donna to show up. He pried the crack in the shell and popped the pistachio into his mouth. A plastic bag was next to him where he dropped the shells, but he wasn’t paying attention when he dropped them and sometimes they rolled into the rip in the vinyl seat and disappeared into the foam stuffing. He looked around the school parking lot again for Donna’s car. Not finding it, his eyes settled on the custodian trying to erase FUCK spray-painted on the brick exterior. Roy didn’t need his son’s clothes. He had enough of Damon’s belongings at his trailer now, but he needed a reason to meet Donna. There was a situation happening between Damon and Hank, Donna’s new husband, and it was now Roy’s situation since it involved his son. Roy hoped Donna could intervene before things escalated. So he got her to bring him a duffel bag of Damon’s clothes, and this is how they did it now, meeting in neutral zones, like feuding factions at a peace accord. She pulled up in a red Camaro, leaving a parking space between their vehicles. Roy set his pistachios on the dashboard. He didn’t close the door behind him. The Camaro was new. “I thought Hank only bought himself toys. You must’ve worked hard for this.” She squinted at him through her open window until his figure blocked the sun. “Just get the bag,” she said, popping the trunk.

CANYON VOICES

He walked around the back. Next to Damon’s stuff was a bag from the drugstore. He looked through it. Pantyhose and a unique shade of lipstick he hadn’t known her to wear. Hank probably put her up to it, probably liked the way it looked on his pecker. He grabbed the duffel bag and closed the trunk harder than necessary. “Easy,” she shrieked. He walked over to her door. He tapped his knuckles against it, figuring the best way to put it. His figuring led him to conclude there was no best way to put it. This was Donna, after all. “Did you talk to Hank?” “It’s his house, what do you want me to say?” “I told you what I wanted you to say.” “Damon got smart with him.” “You send him to his room. Take away his TV or BB gun, whatever. I’ve never laid a hand on that boy and I’ll be sure as shit no stranger will.” “He’s not a stranger. He’s his stepdad.” “Well, he’s a stranger to me. I’m the dad. He ain’t steppin’ in front of me. I’ll stomp his ass.” Donna tugged at her shirt where it had settled in a small fold in her stomach. A fold that had been a lot bigger before she had put herself back on the market. “You’re making a bigger deal out of

FALL 2020


FICTION | DON FOSTER

this than it needs to be. It was a little spank on the ass, not like he got the belt out.” Roy took a step to the right, putting the sun back in Donna’s eyes. He shoved his hands in his pocket so he wouldn’t strangle her. “Look, the math is real simple on this one. Hank puts his hands on Damon. I put my hands on Hank. You better get him in line, Donna. It’ll be you creating the problem, not me.” Roy walked back to his truck. “He’s a lot bigger than you, you know.” Roy slung the duffel bag into the bed of his truck. “My eyes work,” he said, then spat on the ground. The Camaro’s tires chirped as she pulled out of the school parking lot. Roy leaned against his truck, waiting for the dismissal bell to ring. The custodian was still working at the profanity with his useless arsenal of cleaning supplies. They went to Chick-fil-A that night. After finishing their nuggets and waffle fries, Damon went into the play area. He was getting too old, but he was short enough to blend in with the younger kids. Roy walked to the counter and bought milkshakes. He walked back and watched his son through the plexiglass until Damon noticed. Damon waved and Roy lifted the milkshake.

“It’s something my dad did. I like the contrast.” Then he thought about it some more. “You shouldn’t ever get too comfortable with one thing.” “What do you mean?” Roy remembered sitting where Damon was. The truck was almost new when his father bought it, and it was left to Roy after his dad passed from a heart attack three days shy of his forty-seventh birthday. The truck was old now, rusted wheel wells and the bed scratched and scarred from the loads it carried. Donna had wanted him to get rid of it; instead, he rebuilt the engine. The cold air rushed in and sucked at the heat blowing from the floor vents. He could see his father holding a Camel near the window between drags. Roy felt the urge to light one up, so he grabbed one of the nicotine lozenges he kept stashed in the ashtray. Damon asked him again. “About what?” “About not getting too comfortable with one thing.” “I don’t know how to explain it, but you’ll understand when you’re older.” Damon sucked on the straw until his cheeks caved in. “I can’t get nothing through this dang thing.” “Give it a minute to melt.” 

The strip malls and streetlights faded behind them. “Why do you do that?” Damon asked. “Do what?” “Drive with the heat on and the windows cracked?”

CANYON VOICES

“They should give you wider straws.” Damon pulled the straw out and licked the milkshake clinging to the opposite end. He shoved the straw back through the lid until he touched the bottom of the cup and repeated this exercise several times until the liquid eventually thinned out and he could use the straw for what it was made for.

FALL 2020


FICTION | DON FOSTER

“I try to put the windows down when mom’s driving, but she won’t let me. She always screeches, “What are you doing, what are you doing!” Roy laughed at his son’s impression. He turned onto Tanner Mill Road. His trailer was just ahead on the left, past the sycamore catching his headlights. When Roy picked Damon up the following Thursday from school, his son had nothing to say about gym or recess or the boy sitting next to him during math smelling of feet. Nor did he elaborate on the cursing girl with Tourette’s or Ms. Hayward, the old math teacher with the skintags on her neck. Roy sat on the concrete steps in a flannel shirt, navy dungarees and a beer in his hand. He watched Damon dig through a blanket of leaves under the oak tree. “Want to go to Chick-fil-A?” His son didn’t answer, so he repeated the question. He watched Damon hold a leaf close to his face, staring at the veins branching from the midrib. Damon crunched it up and threw it forcefully only for the wind to scatter the pieces back into his face. Roy picked off a fragment that landed on his flannel.

when he broke he said everything he needed to say and everything he never intended to say because anger and sadness were strands on the same rope. He ran his hands through the leaves, but weakly this time, skimming the top. “Don’t tell mom I told you, okay?” Roy unclenched his jaw. “Don’t worry. I won’t have to say nothing to mom.” He set his empty bottle on the step and walked over to his son, a twig snapping beneath his shoe. He knelt beside him and wiped the tear from his son’s cheek with his thumb. “I’m going to fix this.” * Roy always drove. He was paired with Dave most days, but even when he was with the other plumbers, or “technicians” as Wendall, the owner of Camden Plumbing, liked to call them, Roy drove the lettered van. They approached a big house in a cramped subdivision, this one with carriage style garage doors and a backyard fenced in white PVC. Roy pulled next to the curb, careful not to block the mailbox. “Everyone in this neighborhood is the Joneses,” Roy said. “For sure. I lost count of how many houses have these fancy garage doors,” Dave said.

“What’s eating you?” Roy took a sip of beer. “Nothing.”

“And koi ponds. Don’t forget the koi ponds.”

“I know the nothing act too well to know it’s never nothing. C’mon, spill it. You’ll feel better.”

“Do those fish live through the winter?” Dave asked

The boy hung his head. He combed through the leaves with his hands, focusing on the rustling sound. His hands and the leaves and the sound, those were the only things he needed to consider, not Hank or how he felt or how he wouldn’t cry. But the latter took over and the pressure of doing the thing he didn’t want to proved too great, and

“Don’t know. But I’m sure the folks in this neighborhood got enough credit to replace a few dead fish.” Roy opened the door and started up the sidewalk. Halfway to the door he remembered something. “Hey, go get the hose.”

CANYON VOICES

A pretty brunette answered the door in a fitted

FALL 2020


FICTION | DON FOSTER

tee and yoga pants. She talked as she led them to the basement. She had some sort of accent, but the guys had a hard time placing where. “My husband and I moved in last month. He noticed the water heater is expired.”

label. “This thing’s only a few months past warranty. I bet this guy’s an engineer or something.” He shook his head. A weary laugh brushed across his lips. “Practical people always staying on top of their shit.”

“It quit working?” Dave said.

“Better than the inverse,” Dave said.

“No, it’s working, but it’s past the manufacturer’s warranty date. We’re trying to stay ahead of it.”

Roy broke the galvanized connector pipe at the top of the tank and swiveled the gas pipe just enough so they could scooch the old tank out of the way. When it was done draining, Dave disconnected the hose and kicked it to the side. They carried the unit upstairs and out the front door and down the brick steps and laid it by the back tire of the van. They slid the box containing the new unit out of the van, and Roy cut the box open with a utility knife. Roy carried the front end so Dave wouldn’t have to take the steps backwards with his bad knees.

“Gotcha,” Dave said. He nudged Roy as they descended the steps, nodding at the woman’s ass. Once they were where they needed to be, she said, “I’ll be upstairs in my office.”  They watched her walk upstairs. After she closed the door, Roy turned to Dave. “You can fantasize about it all you want, but you and I both know we’d disappoint her in less than thirty seconds.” “Hell, maybe you,” Dave said, “it takes me way longer than that just to get my willy hard these days.”

Roy spread some Ultra Seal onto the connectors. He turned the water back on. As the water filled the tank, he turned the gas on and checked for leaks.

“They got pills for that.”

“I’ve got a left field question,” Roy said. “I’ve got my glove on, go ahead.”

“I know. But I can’t afford them on what Wendall pays us.”

“When you were raising Ben, did you ever spank him?”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Roy said, shutting off the water and gas valves.

“Maybe once or twice,” Dave said. “Not hard, but looking back maybe I should’ve whacked him harder. If I’d been tougher, he could’ve turned out better.”

Dave dropped the garden hose to the cement floor. His knees cracked when he bent down to screw the hose into the adapter at the bottom of the water heater. He walked the other end of the hose over to the laundry room and draped it over the utility sink to drain the water from the old tank. Roy checked the manufacturer’s date on the

CANYON VOICES

“I don’t have a problem with spanking. I’ve just never had to. Damon’s a good kid. Don’t know how me and Donna pulled that off, but somehow we did.” Roy lifted his hat and scratched his patchy scalp. He’d been putting off shaving his head, although he knew he shouldn’t put it off much longer. “But I’ve got a situation with

FALL 2020


FICTION | DON FOSTER

Donna’s new husband.” “If I had a stepson, I’d let the father handle that kind of thing. As long as he was around, that is.” Dave leaned against the doorframe and wiped his hands on his pants. “Hank’s a real piece of work. Driving around in his big truck like he’s doing something while his Mexicans make him rich. He’s jealous of my boy. He don’t like something hanging around he can’t claim.” “How’re you going to fix it?” “Don’t know. Hank’s a big sonofabitch, like you. But both his knees work.” “Think you can put him in his place?” “I guess I’ll find out.” Roy spotted his wrench on the ground and put it in the toolbox. He looked around the basement. A pool table, a home gym, lots of fun extras. “I thought a basement was for hiding the shit you don’t want seen. Look at this place. I bet that table cost four grand.” “Got themselves a wet bar, too.” Roy grabbed his toolbox and Dave coiled up the garden hose. At the top of the steps, Dave flicked the lights off. Roy bounced around the vinyl on socked feet, doubling his jab, throwing some hooks, mixing in an uppercut, the light from the floor lamp projecting his silhouette against the black television screen. He watched his movements on the screen, darting in and out and shuffling, parrying imaginary blows while throwing punches with bad intentions. He shadowboxed until his lungs gave out and he slumped against the armrest of the sofa, his face buried in the cushion.

CANYON VOICES

Planning an attack was tricky. He couldn’t show up at their house and command Hank to step outside. Whoopin’ a guy’s ass on his own property was a bad look. The courts get funny with things like premeditation, and he didn’t need to jeopardize his custody situation. Roy stood up once he caught his breath, walked to the fridge, grabbed a bottle of beer and twisted the cap. He sat on the sofa and clicked on the television, flipping through channels until he found a John Wayne movie. John Wayne was playing this cattle and timber baron named McLintock. Nothing in particular jogged his memory, but ideas got unpacked like that, always in those moments when he’d stopped trying to sort them. What was it, a few Sundays ago when he and Damon were on their way to Wal-Mart to buy a bicycle pump when they spotted Hank’s truck in the parking lot of the grocery store? Hank did the groceries Sunday mornings, something Donna revealed on one of those rare occasions their conversation didn’t veer toward insults and profanity. “Hank’s real picky about his cold cuts. He doesn’t mind going, so I just let him go. Goes early, before the games. Frees me up to do laundry and whatever around the house.” * Roy leaned against the counter, sipping coffee and gazing out the window above the kitchen sink. The nylon rope was snapped on the clothesline. Beyond the clothesline was another trailer in no worse shape, but the yard showed what kind of trash lived inside. A rusted lawnmower with two flat tires, a pile of scrap metal half jutting out of a blue tarp, a window air conditioning unit, a gas can bleached pink by the sun, and a wheelchair no one used except the calico cat sitting in it, flicking his tail, eying a black-capped chickadee peck seed from the

FALL 2020


FICTION | DON FOSTER

birdfeeder hanging on a branch in Roy’s backyard. Watching the cat flick his tail, he determined he should get around to hanging the feeder from a higher branch. Roy turned around, finding his boy yawning, wrapped in a NASCAR blanket and his hair sticking out in five different directions. “I didn’t hear you get up.” Roy took two steps and grabbed the coffee pot, topping off his cup. “I don’t like the smell of coffee,” the boy said. “You’ll get used to it when you’re older. Lots of things you get used to when you’re older.” Roy thought about punching in and being told what to do five days a week. His boss charging ninety bucks an hour for what he paid the men twenty. Then there was Hank parading around in his sparkly F-250, popping in on a job fifteen minutes here and there, doing the telling. “Then there’s some things you don’t get used to. You just do them.” “So, you like coffee? Or you just drink it to stay awake?” The boy rubbed his eyes and yawned again. “Both.” The boy wrapped the blanket tighter to keep warm. “Last night I had a weird dream. Do you have weird dreams?” “Now and then.” “I dreamt I was a snake about to eat a rabbit. What do you think that means?” “Maybe it means you were hungry.” “I don’t feel hungry,” the boy said.

CANYON VOICES

“There’s different types of hunger.” Roy watched the cat watch the chickadee. He finished his coffee and put the cup in the sink. He went to his room and put on a pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt that had a picture of the Appalachian Mountains. “I’m stepping out for a bit.” Damon started for his room, but Roy stopped him. “You don’t need to get dressed. I’m going to the store, be back in an hour.” He handed the boy his phone. “If you get bored, you can play with this. I think there’s a game or two on it. Keep the doors locked and don’t open for anybody.” He caught a rock song on the drive over, something they used to play in the locker room before Friday night games. The feel of pads beneath his uniform, the smell of feet and sweat — it was all right there. Incredible. Couldn’t remember what he had for lunch the day before, but a song he hadn’t heard in years dredged the smallest details from the shadows. He cranked it up. He was there before he wanted to be. Hank’s blue truck was there, too. Roy checked the clock on the radio, deducting an hour to get the true time. He watched a fast food wrapper skid across the parking lot. He felt much the same, being carried by forces beyond his control. He cobbled together a plan. If the bastard knocked him down, he’d shoot for an ankle or leg and drive him to the ground. There were ways around his size if he kept smart. Keep his chin tucked, just like dad had taught him in those backyard boxing lessons. The automatic door parted and Hank appeared, pushing a cart with a wheel that alternately wobbled and dragged against the blacktop. Roy let him get to his truck. Then he opened his door.

FALL 2020


FICTION | DON FOSTER

Hank was holding a plastic bag when he noticed Roy standing there. Roy landed a solid cross on the big man’s jaw, knocking him back against the truck. The bag fell, a tomato and lemon rolled into an oil slick refracting a spectrum of colors. The tomato mushed beneath Roy’s shoe as he dug a left hook to Hank’s ribs, doubling him over.

He turned into the short driveway of dirt and crushed oyster shells. Tufts of grass folded over in the middle where Roy’s tires didn’t hit. He shut the ignition and sat there for a minute, listening to the engine tick and feeling the draft through the crack in the window. He sat there until he saw his boy peek through the curtain, making sure the man outside was his father before unlocking the door.

“How’s it feel?” Roy yelled. “Touch my son again and I’m bringing more than my fists next time.” An elderly black couple in church clothes tucked themselves back into their car no sooner than they stepped out. A mother pulled her young daughter to the far end of the parking lot. Hank slouched against his truck, wheezing, a string of drool hanging from his chapped lips. Roy stood there awkwardly, his fists tight as stones. Was it over? He was expecting a fight, at least a wild, lunging counter. For the first time, Roy realized Hank wasn’t so much big as he was fat.

For more information on author Don Foster, please visit our Contributors Page

Roy picked up the lemon and plastic bag and placed it in Hank’s cart. The tomato stuck in the tread of his shoe made him walk funny back to his truck. The miles passed under a blur of adrenaline. Once the endorphins had evacuated, clarity came, like the sun burning off a morning fog. He thought whooping Hank’s ass would bring him joy, at least a reprieve from his self-loathing tendencies. But now he realized it would always be in him, this longing to be more than what he was. He could spend a day or a lifetime studying the Wendalls and Hanks and never put his finger on what made them better, how they could go about extracting what they wanted out of life. It was frustrating, the not understanding, but there was one thing he was clear on. Hank would never lay a hand on Damon again.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


FICTION | DON FOSTER

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


FICTION | MAX JOHANSSON-PUGH

The Beginning of an End By Max

Johansson-Pugh

After returning the pamphlet to where it had lain, Johan shouldered on his jacket, slumped down onto the porch and pulled on his leather shoes – tying the final knot, muddied water wrung out onto the tongue. ‘What does it mean by ‘verdant’?’ He thought. Johan looked out onto his land, where his red, rotten wheat stood, spoiled by the year’s heavy rains. The low light picked up this red hue and painted the rest of the homestead a similarly dismal colour. He hated this shade of red. Johan grabbed his digging pole and stepped off the porch. In all directions mounds of stone stuck out of the land; the soil, too, was riddled with stones. Walking through the spoiled wheat, onto the rest of his acreage, he thrust the pole into the ground with each third or fourth step. The sound of iron striking rock rung out – four steps later, ringing out again. The land was poor for growing crops. It seemed as if every season Johan tilled the land more rocks would avail themselves – this hard truth in constant reminder by the harsh din of iron meeting stone. A woman’s voice filled his mind: ‘You know we can’t, Johan. We just cannot afford another one, we can’t risk it.’ Johan turned, facing the sun. In the pale light the bags beneath Johan’s eyes could be seen, each bag indicative of mortgage repayments he’d been late paying. He continued lifting and striking, walking several paces, lifting and striking, steam now rising off his shoulders like cold water on hot stone. “Verdant fields,” he said. “…an ocean passage away.” Johan pulled up the heavy pole and walked a few paces, slower than he had initially. He thrust the pole into the dirt and it abruptly stopped. He had struck a large immovable rock; a reverberating shock jolted through his arm and a piercing crack rung in his ears – the pole fell heavily to the ground. “Does God have no mercy for us who till stone country!” He squatted, holding his hand which throbbed with a smarting pain, waiting for composure. It took a while before he continued. After the ringing receded, his father’s voice entered his mind: ‘Son, we must have faith that God will raise crops as they once were, and even greater. We must believe.’ ‘Believe! If belief is all it takes, we should have crops from the door to the horizon. Faith,’ – this word he remembered with disdain – ‘faith is not the issue here.’ His father had picked up their strewn copy of A Prayer for the Fruit of the Earth and placed it back on

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


FICTION | MAX JOHANSSON-PUGH

the table. ‘Do not lose sight son, the Lord is almighty, we shall harvest and sow and till as He pleases. No man, however cocksure he may be, will challenge that.’ The wind changed direction and the musty smell of the farm passed over Johan. Again, he raised the pole and struck the ground. ‘Maybe it means fruitful,’ the motion of lifting and striking straining his thoughts as it would were he speaking aloud. He walked past the byre, considered selling his remaining cattle and, as he always did, reserved the decision until tomorrow. Johan turned around, back toward the homestead, for the final round of striking. Parallel to his line were his potato crops. Rot had blighted the patch – every second potato had to be tossed – it was hardly good enough for animal fodder. Johan bent down to pick out a rancid stalk; the black stalk was slimy to the touch, lingering on his fingers. He returned his shocked, sticky hand to the digging pole and finished the round. ‘Acres of verdant fields, just an ocean passage away.’ Johan walked back onto the porch, relieving himself of his digging pole and draggled shoes. Beyond the acreage he turned his back on, knolls of tussock reached for the heavens and low, mossy swamp lands brought them down; swathes of sandy soil, strewn with juniper and pine root, stretched across the land and spruce woods and maples trees dotted it – the rest was cursed with stone. Johan took off his jacket and didn’t look back, his day was done. Inside, the fireplace sent billows of smoke up the chimney – embers crackled on the hearth. Kids’ laughter could be heard from the other room. In front of him lay a worn pamphlet underneath the prayer book; his wife stood by the table, her hand pulling away furtively from the literature, her winsome face smiling at him. Johan kissed her full, childlike cheeks and they held one another. His wife could not help noticing Johan’s strong body and the effect it had on her. Johan’s eyes were fixed, burning a hole into the worn pamphlet that lay on the table.

For more information on author Max Johansson-Pugh, please visit our Contributors Page

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


FICTION | ELIZABETH NELSON

A Seven Letter Word By Elizabeth Nelson

Muliebral innocent. Seven letters across, an “e” filling the fourth square. I tapped my pen laboriously as the waitress refilled my cup, the steam making transparent gyrations into invisibility. My wife was late. She was never late. I was wondering whether or not I should pause in passing the time and begin to worry instead. It was April and the ground was covered in snow, a pristine, postcard-beautiful covering, perfectly obscuring the horizon so that land and sky shared a single shade. A divine fuck-you from Father Winter. Muliebral innocent. Seven letters across. An “e” filling the fourth square. Nothing came to mind. Except words that were unwanted and the wrong number of letters. Cold. Loneliness. I watched the snow swirl across the parking lot in dry, glittering gusts. Glacial. A seven-letter word meaning ice sheets. Despair. A seven-letter word meaning without hope. She was on her way to lay another seven-letter word between us, an anguished word. I knew it, had known it, but I had done nothing to stop it. Divorce. A seven-letter word for…the end.  That’s what I was thinking when the door swung open with a startled ring of the bell. A boy -- or was he a man? -- blew into the entrance way, stomped his feet to shake away the snow, and took a seat at the counter. His hair was thick, glossy, and he was without a coat. He wore only a

CANYON VOICES

sweatshirt and dark-washed jeans. He moved with enraged grace. The waitress set a menu down in front of him and he mumbled something in reply. She took the menu away. He shifted in his seat, swinging long legs to the opposite side and into my view where I saw that he wore high heels, a deep shade of purple, and his feet, which he now reached down to grasp between his long-fingered hands, were an unnatural color. A small satchel slung over his shoulder dropped heavily to the ground, a victim of gravity as he bent over his frozen extremities. I only realized I was staring when he paused, suddenly, and snapped his head in my direction, his gaze grabbing mine with the same rage of his entrance. Defiant. A seven-letter word for what the fuck are you looking at? I blushed, something I haven’t done in decades, that I can recall, and looked back down at the pen in my hand, the tattered newsprint beneath my coffee cup. My god, his eyes. He could have been 16 or 30, only a whisper of stubble and unnaturally blue eyes, Paul Newman blue. Glacial, meaning icily unsympathetic. How had I missed this walking across the barren parking lot? And then he was sitting across from me, the

FALL 2020


FICTION | ELIZABETH NELSON

satchel landing with an aggressive thud against the booth’s wall, coming to rest on the red vinyl. He slid onto the bench, perched his forearms on the edge of the table, folded his longer-fingered hands and leaned forward. “Hey there, papa,” he cooed, swaying gently in his seat then returning to cat-like stillness, reminding me of the steam from moments before, and also a snake. “Watcha workin’ on?” He was chewing gum. It was purple, the same color as his heels, and I could see the faded candy between perfect white teeth in not so much of a smile as a Cheshire cat grin. Here you go, the waitress was saying, setting down a cup of coffee before him and walking away. Did she not see how he was taking over my booth, leaning toward me, his shoulders spiking sharply beneath the thinning fabric of the sweatshirt, a college sweatshirt, I could see that now, the collegiate letters fading, nearly unrecognizable, waitress, come back, please, can I get another booth? Why was my heart beating so fast? “Buy me this cup-a-joe?” he said, unblinking, staring, daring me to break the gaze, get up, shout, punch him, do something. I was stunned. “Sure,” I mumbled, weakly, and he leaned back with satisfaction, stretching long, thin arms along the edge of the booth, Jim Morrison style. “So. What’s your story?” “I’m waiting for my wife.” Damn. What business is it of his? Dullard. A seven-letter word for idiot. “In this shit-hole diner? What for?”

CANYON VOICES

“What’s your story?” My senses were stilling, my dignity drawing sentry. “I’m on an adventure,” he said, smiling broadly. He blew a bubble. It popped with a snap and I saw the waitress watching us. She looked away when our eyes met. He took the gum out of his mouth and crushed it into a napkin, set it aside, and wrapped his hands around the mug. There was dirt beneath his fingernails, in the creases of his knuckles. “You’re not really dressed for an adventure,” I said. “I got my party shoes on!” he exclaimed. A moment slithered by. “Where are you headed?” “Some place.” “Where are you coming from?” “Some other place.” And then we were silent, sipping coffee in a shit-hole diner, watching the spring snow. His left hand left the mug and came to rest on the back of mine. Reflexively I snatched my hand away, sat up, slamming myself against the back of the booth. In doing so I knocked over an untouched glass of water, full, ice-cold, and its contents splashed across the table and dribbled over the edge, staining my thighs, crotch. “Jesus!” I snapped, launching myself from the booth. He started laughing then. “Turn it into wine, daddy!” He giggled. “Damn,” I muttered, and started toward the toilets. I stopped half way, turned and grabbed my things from the booth. I wanted to take them with me, keep them in sight. The boy stopped

FALL 2020


FICTION | ELIZABETH NELSON

laughing, looked almost hurt. I stared him square in the face as I collected my coat and bag, and I wondered what he saw reflected there. In the men’s room I dried off as best I could with paper napkins, then stepped into a stall. As I was finishing, I heard the door open, the lock turn, bolt slide into place. I zipped up quickly, swung open the stall and found the boy leaning against the door, his pose sensual, his hands tucked behind him, his weight on one leg, the other angled, his foot poised delicately on the toe. Those fucking fuck-me high-heeled shoes. Was he a boy or a man? Or some lanky-limbed, androgynous fashion model, strung out, transgendered, who the hell knows…Beguile, a seven letter word for what is wrong with me? I insolently washed my hands. “You think I’m going to steal from you?” he asked. I didn’t answer. I dried my hands, picked up my things and turned toward the door. He would have to let me pass. As I turned to face him he came toward me, quickly, dexterous, and took my face into his hands. He kissed me. Coffee. Artificial grape. Cigarettes. His tongue pushed open my lips and darted against mine. My arms, engaged with my coat and bag, dropped these possessions and I grabbed at his wrists, began pulling away. He resisted, gripping my jaw, kissing me harder, and against all logic, all prior experience, I felt a swell from below, a sudden rise, and this reaction terrified me. I wrenched myself from him, shoving him hard against the door. Someone started knocking, saying I’ve gotta piss. I was panting, heat rising off my face, my neck, I was turning away, hiding, furious with my body’s treachery. The boy was

CANYON VOICES

crying now, sliding to the ground, his long legs neatly buckling beneath him, his butt coming to rest on top of the heels of his purple shoes, his glossy head bobbing forward into his hands, shoulders shaking, heaving. No sound and then all sound, a great intake of breath and a single wail before he stuffed his dirty fingers deep into his mouth to stifle the sorrow. “Just a minute,” I said toward the door. “What?” came the muffled reply, growing irritable. The doorknob jiggled. “I said, just a minute! Use the ladies room.” An obscenity, then receding steps. I steadied myself on the edge of the sink, then picked up my fallen things and set them aside. I took toilet paper from the stall and reached it toward him. He took the tissue, blew his nose, and did not meet my gaze. I should leave. I nearly did. He was blocking the way but I could move him now. I started to reach for my things. “Please stay, “ he said, reading my thoughts. “I’m sorry. I got the wrong idea…I do that sometimes…” He looked up, his face an offering, a plea. A boy. He was a boy for sure. Forgive. A seven-letter word for hear him out. His ability to draw attention, to take and hold your gaze, to pin it to his purpose, was undeniable. So I sat down on the unclean floor, and I asked him for his story. Once he started he could not stop, the words like the spring snow, falling down, twisting back up with a gust of thought, swirling like glittered dust to drive home a point. The tears drew highlights

FALL 2020


FICTION | ELIZABETH NELSON

on his flushed cheeks, confusing his age further, a child in the body of a man in the prime of his life. He was at the beginning of something and at the end of something else. Drifter, a seven letter word for movement without purpose. I knew something about that. He showed me the tracks on his arms, the chip in his pocket. His body was nearly healed, but his soul still deeply anguished. He’d been with a lover up in Canada, but since that had run its course he was on his own, meaning random couches, strangers’ beds, and in and out of shelters though most turned him away. He was headed south to see his sister. She had a friend of a friend, someone who ran a nightclub and they were looking for new acts, maybe his was a fit. He sang. He played piano and guitar, mostly in drag. He could dance, could mesmerize, charm men and women alike. Sometimes they rushed the stage. They reached for him, caressing his hair as he leaned down, touching his taut calves as he strode past, snatching at the hem of his skirt, yanking, revealing a polished tush adorned with a bejeweled G-string. He was wanted. He was desired, a seven-letter word for take me now. He was loved, worshipped, until he wasn’t. Until the masses turned. Until someone -- men, always the men, the straight men -- turned violent, frightened by their own desires, scared shitless by their wanting, by the fire of his touch, he loved straight men, why, oh why, did he always love those who found him intriguing, sexy, novel, but were forever incapable of requiting? Tragedy. A seven-letter word for disastrous event. Typically on repeat. Why do they never love me? he asked. Why didn’t he love me? And the tears fell into my palms, formed a seal between his skin and mine, wet my own cheeks, dampened my chest, his

CANYON VOICES

head pressed there, my arm encompassing his shoulders, his head, bobbing with the task, knocking gently against my chin. I held him. If I’d had a son, would it have felt like this? And when the sorrow subsided, the once relentless grief had run dry, at least for that moment, he looked up and into my face, and I looked down and into his, and we kissed. Was it sex? Paternal concern? Kinship? A sevenletter word for being close, connected. Had I fallen in love with this boy (or was he a man?) for this single moment passing simultaneously through his life and mine? All I knew was that my blood turned luminescent at the meeting of our mouths, somersaulted through my veins, igniting everything with golden fire turning magenta, growing blue-violet, rising dark orchid, until I was a child of color and light. A kiss. Only a kiss. And then he held me. When we left the men’s room and returned to the booth, we found my wife waiting, reading the paper, drinking coffee, a half-eaten muffin now at the edge of the table. It felt as though a lifetime had passed. The sun was shining now and a ray struck her hair, casting a halo around the back of her head. I fumbled through an introduction, an obscure explanation, and she smiled, shook his hand and let it be, another secret between us. She seemed content, and I was unable to read her, predict what was coming when we’d find ourselves alone again. We’d been married for seventeen years, but I realized I no longer knew her. How had that happened? Where’s your sister? I asked him over a meal. We ordered half the menu. We ate together. It was

FALL 2020


FICTION | ELIZABETH NELSON

awkward but everyone seemed to be in agreement, eager to delay whatever was coming next, the following task at hand, talking about divorce, getting back on the road. We were a mismatched lot, but amiable, finding comfort in the bizarre intersection of our lives, in plates of scrambled eggs and fruit salad, little saucers of overly crisp bacon and tattered sugar packets.

Then he was gone, refusing our offers of a ride, money for a taxi (no taxis out here anyway), and we stood in the frozen parking lot and watched him walk away in his new coat and shoes, the purple heels poking out of the satchel. My wife took my hand.

His sister lived in New York. He’d taken a detour though not by choice. Some trucker, he said, rhyming under his breath, mumbling “motherfucker,” then stuffing another bite of pancake into his mouth. Just another infatuation that had soured. This explanation was intended

I then did something I had not done for a very long time. I pulled her into my arms. I put her in that place that he had warmed, had readied for her, and I held her there. A few hundred yards away, along the shoulder of the road, he turned, knowing I would still be watching, and he waved.

to justify the high heels, but we didn’t understand, so we let the subject drop.

I did not take my hand away from my wife’s back. I imagined that he did not mind.

My wife asked questions, pulling more of his story out of him, and I heard it a second time, saw it through her eyes, maternal and feminine. She, too, was falling under his spell. I saw the shine at the back of her irises. When had I last seen that heightened glint?

“It’s ‘ingenue’,” she said.

And when there was nothing left to say or eat, we sat comfortably in the silence, drinking coffee and watching the falling shadows. We paid our bill and prepared to leave, my wife and I not forgetting the purpose for this derailed meeting, but silently agreeing to let the matter wait.

Yes, of course.

She had an extra coat in her car. I had no idea why and I didn’t recognize it when she brought it in, but I was grateful to her. She helped him into it, watched approvingly as he buttoned it to the top, and then she handed him sneakers. She was tall and remarkably they wore nearly the same size. They’re purple, she said, winking at him, and he laughed, for the first time a genuine laugh, a full and glorious sound rising from some guarded place that he was letting us peer into.

“I’ll do better,” I said.

CANYON VOICES

“What?” She pushed away from me, looked into my face. “The word you couldn’t find. On the crossword. Thirteen across. Ingenue.”

“I’m not leaving you,” she said. Obliged. A seven-letter word for I don’t deserve you.

And together we watched the boy walk out of sight.

For more information on author Elizabeth Nelson, please visit our Contributors Page

FALL 2020


FICTION | ELIZABETH NELSON

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


FICTION | JULIA K. KEFFER

The Crying Baby and the Song Dogs By Julia K. Keffer

Desperate women through the ages have passed on recipes and tips for settling a colicky infant. But out in this faded little neighborhood, a young mother was on her own, and truth be told, it was by pure luck that she discovered it was coyote music, born on the warm breeze, that proved to be the best medicine for her crying baby. One late April evening, after hours spent endlessly rocking the unhappy bundle in her arms, Mama noticed her fussy newborn settle down suddenly – once the sun had well and truly faded, the saguaros turned to bristling, shadowy sentinels – and the coyotes in the winding culverts at the foot of the mountain began to yip and howl and call out to one another. After that, there were many times when the baby’s colic had her fretting at all hours of the night, and Mama was growing especially weary, that she would spread a thick old blanket under the mesquite tree in the backyard, set the baby down gently, and lie next to her, softly fingering the miracle of her milkweed puff of hair. As the moon made its journey, the song dogs would start their chorus, and the child’s whimpering would grow softer and taper off to silence as she fell asleep to the strange lullaby. Most babies grow up and have babies of their own. And that is just what happened to this one. When she became New Mama, she no longer lived where the mountain and saguaros guarded the houses, but in a place of humid temperatures, poplar trees and fireflies. Her baby cried and cried, just as she had once – and rocking, cooing, and singing didn’t seem to do much good. One moonlit night, in an act of instinct or inspiration, this former baby, now mama, held her inconsolable infant tenderly in her arms, threw her own head back, and howled long and full-throated into the velvet darkness. Crying Baby stopped at once. New Mama looked down and saw her daughter’s brown eyes staring intently up into her own, wide in solemn wonder.

n n n For more information on author Julia K. Keffer, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


FICTION | JULIA K. KEFFER

The Mockingbird and Busy Mister By Julia K. Keffer

Once upon a time, Busy Mister had lots to do. The family. The job. The friends. The yard. The car. The shopping for this and for that. And he was happy to do it all. It was a nice little life. But to be productive, he needed his sleep. And for much of the year, he could get it. But every spring, when it was time to open the windows and breathe in the cool, fresh night air, he was disturbed. After dark, when his head rested softly upon the pillow, a mockingbird, perched on a low-hanging branch in the yard, began to sing. Night after night. Spring after spring. Year after year. Busy Mister was a kind and reasonable man. He endeavored to ignore the warbling songs. He tried earplugs and covering his head with a pillow. He bought a whirring fan to drown out the nightly bird calls. In desperation, he would sometimes throw off the top sheet, jump out of bed, rush outside, and clap his hands to surprise the bird out of its singing. It would pause for a bit, but start up again, a few moments after Busy Mister returned to bed. It went on like this, until spring turned to summer, and then the singing would cease, only to recur the following spring. The years went by. And Busy Mister got less busy. He retired from his job. The children grew up and moved away. His lovely wife of many years took one final afternoon nap on the couch, from which she never awakened. And her loyal dog followed her soon after. That spring, the mockingbird again returned. And Busy Mister found, to his surprise, that he was relieved at the familiarity of its song. One soft night, hearing its call, he took a deep breath and stepped out on the back porch to greet it. “At last, my friend,” said the mockingbird. “Are you ready?” Busy Mister nodded his head, and the two of them flew away together, never to be seen again.

n n n For more information on author Julia K. Keffer, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


FICTION | W.T. PATERSON

Vulgar and Offensive By W. T. Paterson

When my mother lost her second husband, I didn’t know how to feel about it. She had eloped and sold my childhood house after I moved to the city to try my hand at acting, all of my nonessential belongings sold at a yard sale. The cash came in a birthday card from the new address, and that’s how I found out. She still lived in the same small lake town of Clearview, Oregon, but just a few streets over. Clearview is the type of place where people either got out, or they didn’t, and there I was moving back in with her. We had beers together, that second husband and me, Thanksgiving and Christmas the same year watching action movies on late-night cable. That was it. Sitting in his house, my mother already asleep, the man’s pale glowing face like a ghost, he looked already gone, never really there. It didn’t make sense, but somehow I knew that was all we’d ever have together. Come the next fall, he landed pneumonia and choked to death in his sleep from the fluid in his lungs. My mother offered the sectional couch in the first-floor sunroom. It folded out into a stiff queen bed and pointed at the unused flat screen by the glass door. Up the creaking stairs was the master bed and guestroom, but I wasn’t allowed to stay in the guestroom in case my sister came home. She’d been gone longer than I’d been in the city. And when I say gone, I mean no one knew where she was. The sunroom had more windows than wall space. Bamboo curtains rolled at the tops of the glass; it was an effort to get them all down. My first night there I didn’t bother and then couldn’t

CANYON VOICES

shake the feeling of being watched. I pulled the thin comforter over my head too afraid to look out the dark windows fearing a face staring back. I stayed that way until morning. When I got out of bed, I caught my mother’s nosy neighbor—an older woman with wild, witchy hair—watching me change from the window in her kitchen. “I want you to get a job,” my mother said. She came downstairs in a bathrobe and thick glasses. In her mind, a job would keep me out of the house during the day, and home at night to keep an eye on things. She spoke with that disconnected effect of some bygone era as if finding work was as easy as asking for a job. She said, “Ask for the manager and shake their hand. Smile. Wear a tie.” The grocery store called me overqualified. “Eggs go on the bottom,” I said, “bread on top. An idiot could do this job.” The hiring woman shrugged and said no thanks. She turned and walked behind the special-needs bagger stroking his hair like a cat. The boy smiled. I left wishing I’d chosen better wording. The sandwich shop near the highway didn’t bother with an application. Instead, the owner asked if I knew the difference between salami and capicola. “That’s what’s standing between me and an $8 an hour job?” I asked, and the man pointed at the door. That’s the thing about loneliness, it turns people into wolves and when we see each other, all we want to do is battle it out to see who

FALL 2020


FICTION | W.T. PATERSON

has it worse.

vent.

The only place that offered me anything was the local movie theater, the one without stadium seating or digital projectors, the type that played movies from reels of film, and seeing how I wasn’t in high school, it didn’t feel like a victory. The operating manager was a girl named Jenni that I’d gone to school with, someone who’d been friends with my sister. She still lived in town, still wore sugary perfumes and cherry flavored lipgloss, still kept her hair in a high ponytail. During the interview she told me that she had plans to one day leave and never come back, but to keep that between us. Then she looked at me like she wanted to ask something and I knew what it was before she found the words.

“Always room for you at the inn,” he said, and I could hear the long drag and exhale of a cigarette. Jorge was good that way, he gave you his attention so as long as something occupied his hands. He was the type of guy that stood outside of liquor stores in a leather jacket, sickly hair slicked back, ripping through smokes, waiting for people with a certain kind of look.

“Any updates?” she asked. I shook my head no, struggling to breathe, pushing dark thoughts out of my mind. We went outside to continue the “interview” and Jenni lit up a smoke. She offered me one, but I waved it away to focus on the rumble of the distant highway, of people doing things, going places, leaving and returning. Jenni lived at her parent’s lake house and still threw ragers for high school kids when her folks left town. She told me how every spring they dragged the lake and how, if she was lucky, they found a body or two of some missing person. The town kept it quiet, but it was almost always a kid from another county, or a family man swollen and bloated, crushed by impossible debt. “When can I start?” I asked. Jenni burst out laughing and put her hand on my chest. “Whenever you want,” she said, and popped a piece of mint gum into her mouth to mask the bitter smoke. That night, I called my buddy Jorge in the city to

CANYON VOICES

“Nah, straight and narrow,” I said. The television on mute, flashing images reflected off of the dark windowpanes around me, swallowing me, taunting me. The woman next door, my mother’s neighbor, drew her thin red curtains and undressed against the glow, her naked, ghostly silhouette both distant and present. “Ain’t no such thing,” Jorge said, then wished me well. I told him I’d be in touch if things changed. When I stood to unfurl the bamboo shades, I jumped at the sight of my own body reflected back. It looked like I was outside next to the woman’s window staring into the room of which I stood. In my white shirt, I, too, looked ghostly and distant. My mother went to bed at the first hint of darkness and rose with the touch of first sun. She rapped on the glass sunroom door and asked what time I started work, then went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. “Not until 2 p.m.,” I grumbled, rising out of bed to the smell of cooking English muffins. She must have thought I was lying because she opened a newspaper to see what time movie showings started. There were a few at noon, but she said nothing about it. The kitchen floor had checkered black and white tiles like a 50’s diner. “My hope for you was the grocery store,” she said, re-folding the newspaper. It was clear she’d been crying. Her thick glasses did little to hide

FALL 2020


FICTION | W.T. PATERSON

the pink swelling of her lids. “The news did a story on that bagger, the one with retardation.”

who took one look at my body and asked how much I benched.

“You shouldn’t say that, Ma,” I said, rubbing my face where the imprint of a couch pillow ran three lines from jaw to scalp.

“Ain’t no way you got this job because you wanted it,” he said, flexing his broad shoulders through the maroon employee polo. “What’s the score?”

“He puts notes of encouragement in people’s bags. Little daily affirmations. Isn’t that cute? I got one that read any day above ground is a good day,” she said. Then she paused and looked out into the small backyard like she had seen something, but when I looked, it was just an old wooden swing blowing from a branch in a tree in a different neighbor’s yard. “You don’t say,” I said, and yawned. “What do you think of that story?” she asked. Her eyes looked hopeful when she turned to me, like a cartoon character falling in love. “I think it’s vulgar and offensive,” I said, folding my arms across my bare chest. The central air hadn’t kicked on and the room stirred with chills. “They wouldn’t have done that story if he wasn’t special needs. They’re pretending we’re all the same. But we’re not all the same. The story wouldn’t be special if we were the same, and so they’re calling more attention to the one thing they want us to look past. I mean, if I dropped notes into stranger’s bags they’d phone the cops.” “Oh,” my mother said, and sat on a chair looking at the refrigerator. She didn’t move. She sat there breathing. I wanted to reach out and touch her, hug her, to ask for my mother back, but the English muffins popped, smoking and charred around the edges. My first day at the theater was exactly what I’d imagined. Sweeping popcorn off the sticky floor after a show let out, hauling trash bags to the dumpster in back, learning the POS at the snack bar from a shag-haired high school hockey player

CANYON VOICES

“No more questions,” I said, but the kid pestered me for the rest of the shift with anecdotes about winning the big game, or locker room mishaps, or how one day, he was going to be alone with Jenni and confess his true feelings even though she was older. He said he’d almost done it once at a party, but took too many tequila shots and lost his nerve. With an hour left in the shift, paperwork done, all duties learned, my future laid out like a movie reel in theater three, another kid came in to take over concessions. The shag-haired hockey player ribbed him for a while, and then clocked out. “That guy is the worst,” the new kid said. He reached into the popcorn machine and grabbed a fistful. He leaned against the freezer and tossed pieces into his mouth. “Name’s Greg,” he said, wiping a palm across his gut and extending a buttery hand. “Riley,” I said, and didn’t shake. Across the room I saw my mother walk in and buy two tickets from Jenni up front. She stumbled in a daze to the dark entrance of a theater like her movements were pre-planned, an animatronics human running the programmed motions. If she saw me behind the snack bar, she didn’t acknowledge, so I followed from a distance into theater two and watched as she laughed at the talking dogs, wept at the singing birds, and cheered for the dancing pig as though a child, a little girl, might be sitting next to her. When the credits rolled, I ducked into the lobby. My phone lit up with an incoming call. It was my mom.

FALL 2020


FICTION | W.T. PATERSON

“What time do you think you’ll be home tonight?” she asked. I watched her walk outside as she waited for an answer, phone pressed to ear like nothing in the world existed, not even me. “Soon,” I told her, and she asked that I lock the doors before bed. Jorge said he was curious about the woman next door. “People like watching, and being watched,” he said, sucking smoke into his lungs. “You know better than anyone.” “Maybe I’ll give her a show,” I said into the phone, and Jorge laughed. When the conversation ended, the sun had just started to set. Streetlights clicked on to push back the creeping dark against the tall pines along our quiet street. My mother went to bed and before long her nasally breaths turned rhythmic and deep. Jenni texted a picture of herself standing over a stove making pasta without a shirt, bright blue bra center frame. Sauce dripped from her chin to her chest. She wrote Cooking mishap! Again! LOL! The wolf in me began to howl, so I walked up the creaking steps past my mother’s bedroom and stood in the door of the empty guestroom. The lamp next to the bed was turned to the dimmest setting, the lampshade painting the room orange and purple. I took off my shirt and sat on the edge of the bed wondering what it would be like to feel my face on the pillow, to see if it still smelled like my sister. Next to the closet stood an almost-full CD tower, the lettered spines bleached by the sun. An oval mirror like a ship’s port hung on the wall. Fuzzy white slippers poked from beneath the bed. I didn’t realize I had started crying until I held the phone up and snapped a selfie, my skin shining purple and orange. Still, I sent the picture with the caption cold, empty bed thinking it was sexy and suggestive. Jenni didn’t respond. CANYON VOICES

The light from the sunroom spilled into the side yard where pine needles scattered the lawn and shadows loomed like waiting fingers to snatch away sleepers. I wondered what my mom felt when her second husband choked to death and she had to sit by watching, helpless. From the guestroom window, something moved outside. I knelt by the sill. My mother’s nosy neighbor tip-toed from shadow to shadow, peeking through the sunroom window. Her wild, witchy hair caught the light. Her thin nightgown moved in the breeze. I felt cold for her. She looked up into the glow of the guestroom and I stood, my upper body filling the window. The woman ran back inside her home and turned off the lights. By the time I went downstairs into the sunroom, I got the sense that she wasn’t asleep, that she was waiting in the dark for something, for me, for the chance to glimpse a life that was not her own. That first year in the city, I blew my money on acting classes with has-beens and took three lowwage jobs to stay afloat until I met Jorge and learned there were other, more profitable ways to make a living. If the woman wanted a show, I’d give her a show and maybe we’d both feel validated. I turned off the light and slid into bed without drawing the shades. On the cusp of sleep while the creeping sensation of being watched tickled across my flesh, for a moment, I thought I heard the sound of creaking stairs. *** A few weeks into work, Greg told me about an upcoming vacation. “Flying to Las Vegas,” he said, filling his travel mug with soda from the fountain. “I have a friend out there.”

FALL 2020


FICTION | W.T. PATERSON

The popcorn kettle hummed ready. I filled the inside with kernels and oil waiting for the tiny explosions to spill over and flood the case. “Must be a good friend,” I said. “Vegas is pricey.” “We’ve actually never met. Just online,” Greg said. “We’re both gamers.” The popcorn wasn’t popping so I put my fingertips against the kettle to make sure there was heat. The metal vibrated, cool to the touch. Greg leaned over and jostled the plastic coated power chord. The kettle hummed louder and inside of a few seconds, the kernels went off like fireworks. “Maybe rethink your trip,” I said, staring at my reflection in the glass popcorn case. “He’s not some weirdo. Besides, if he is, I can take care of myself,” Greg said with the unearned confidence of youth, the untested swagger of comfort, the naïve belief that the world was fair and just. When I looked at him, I knew that when he came back, if he came back, he wouldn’t be the same kid. Jenni pulled me into the break room and sat me down at the round table. “Today is your thirty day review,” she said, and opened a binder. She ticked a bunch of boxes and closed it. “You pass.” “Ok,” I said, and stood to leave. “Wait. Talk to me for a sec. I’m a little starved for conversation that isn’t about seventh period social studies,” Jenni said, and reached across the table for my hand. She looked like she knew something, like she wanted to tell me something but didn’t know how. Her hand on my hand, her lotion-lathered skin across my dry mitts, it was the closest thing to intimacy I’d felt in years. Around us were framed posters from blockbuster

CANYON VOICES

movies and an ancient refrigerator with a printed schedule to the freezer door. “I barely sleep anymore,” I said, and closed my eyes. I squeezed her hand. “Same,” Jenni said. She walked around the table and hugged me sideways, her head on my chest, torso against my ribs. Her hair smelled like nicotine. It reminded me of my sister after she met her ex Rob in the months before her disappearance. “Come over tonight. After work,” I said, and Jenni squeezed tighter. The shag-haired hockey player walked in and saw us standing there, his eyes filling with hurt until finally saying the delivery guy needed the manager’s signature. When I went to drive home that night, one of my tires mysteriously had no air so I waited for Jenni to lock up. We drove in her car with the windows down so she could smoke, and I breathed the cool air’s thick smell of damp woods and evergreen. My mother was asleep. I drew all the shades but one and unfurled the bed. Jenni told me not to get any funny ideas, even though she was under the covers before I was. We turned the lights off, kept the TV on, and said nothing to each other. The neighbor’s silhouette drifted between windows. Close to dawn, neither of us asleep, I broke the silence. “Where would you go?” I whispered. “Anywhere,” Jenni said, and for that split second, I felt like my sister might still be alive, somewhere else, anywhere else but here. Jenni ran her hand up my leg. She kissed my mouth, the taste of ash thick on her tongue. She kissed my chest. Without meaning to, I slipped into the sweet comfort of sleep. When I woke up, she was gone and my mother paced the kitchen.

FALL 2020


FICTION | W.T. PATERSON

“Sometimes,” the woman said, looking into the backyard, “I can still hear her voice.” *** A tow truck came to change the tire on my car, even though I swore up and down that I could do it myself. Jenni said that since it happened on the movie theater’s property to an employee, their insurance covered it, and why not let someone else do the work? A guy with a long beard, thick arms and chest and legs with a solid, round gut, jacked up my car and puffed away at a cigarette. Sometimes, I felt like the only person in the world who didn’t smoke. The shag-haired hockey player watched with arms crossed from the ticket booth. “My folks are away for the weekend,” Jenni said. “Let me cook you dinner.” She hooked a finger through my belt-loop and pulled me into her, our crotches colliding, like my falling asleep cranked up the volume on whatever she thought was going on between us. “Can you see the lake?” I asked. “Wide-open view,” she said, and then suddenly stopped. She started to say something, her neck making groans and clucks like the beginning of words, but she held a cigarette to her lips and sucked down smoke to quiet the sound of whatever it was she needed to say. “All set,” the tow-truck driver said, and got back into his car before I had the chance to kick him a twenty. My mom came in again that night, this time asking for two tickets to a war movie. She walked through the lobby like she wasn’t actually there, like she was floating, like the world was a dream that she could wake up from at any time. I followed her into the theater and sat three rows

CANYON VOICES

behind watching her watch bombs go off, and planes zoom by, and soldiers fall into bloody piles. When moments got intense, my mother leaned over to shield the eyes for whoever she thought was sitting next to her. The movie ended. I hurried back to the snack counter. My mother exited to the lobby and saw me leaning against the popcorn machine. She froze, then looked at the door, then back at me. She eyed the candy in the glass. I said nothing. Then, she left, and I went into the theater to sweep up knowing full well there wouldn’t be anything left behind. At the end of the shift, I called to say I was going out to eat. “Lock up when you get in,” she said. I heard the television on in the background like she was waiting for me downstairs in the sunroom, and I wondered if maybe she had something to tell me. I imagined the bamboo shades still coiled at the top of the dark glass panes. Jenni’s parent’s house sat on a plot of land overlooking the town’s lake. No close neighbors save for crooked white birch trees and looming pines. A dirt road led to a gravel driveway, which led to a wrap-around wooden porch with loveseat swing and rocking chair. The dark water sparkled and stretched into the sky. Crickets chirped. The air sat heavy in my lungs rich with the turnover of life, of decay, of new life. Inside, the open floor plan blended kitchen with sitting room with dining room. Stairs lifted to a second story where a library loft looked over the sitting area. Large glass windows faced the water. Smaller windows faced the surrounding woods. I sat on the couch. Jenni dimmed the lights and my reflection faded into the sparkling dark of the lake.

FALL 2020


FICTION | W.T. PATERSON

“What are you hungry for?” she asked, straddling me. She shoved her fingers into my hair and I smelled the sugary perfume on her neck, the recently applied cherry lip-gloss, the stale smell of nicotine on her shirt. “What if who I am, and who you think I am aren’t the same person?” I whispered. She pushed her pointer finger against my lips until my head pushed into the back cushion. I imagined high school parties where kids drank from red cups, yelled over each other, made drunken bets about skinny-dipping in the lake. I thought I heard gravel crunching outside, the wandering ghosts of all of the parties I never went to. “I had such a crush on you in high school,” she whispered and bit my ear. I put my hands on the sides of her legs. She slid the shirt over my head and tossed it to the floor. Then she took off her own shirt. She bent forward so that our foreheads touched while she wiggled out of her work pants, and then straddled me again until so much of her skin pushed against so much of mine and I felt safe. We hadn’t kissed yet, not properly. I hugged her, squeezing my fingers against her back, digging my face into her shoulder wanting to collapse inside whatever this feeling was. She ran her hand down the side of my face until her fingers wrapped my throat. She squeezed tight enough that it hurt to breathe. I relaxed into it. The gravel crunched again. I glanced outside and through the dark pane of glass, I saw the face of the shag-haired hockey player looking in. Jenni felt my body jolt, and when she looked, she saw him too. She screamed. Still in my pants, I stood up and ran outside. “Hey!” I called after him, the crunch of his sprinting steps disappearing into the dark.

CANYON VOICES

“I had to know!” he shouted back. I couldn’t see him, but his voice sounded wounded, angry, hurt. Then, he was gone entirely. “Little perv,” Jenni said, phone in hand ready to call the cops. “I should kick his fuckin’ ass.” Jenni said she didn’t want to stay alone that night, so I told her to come back to my place. She did and when we got home, she went to the bathroom on the first floor. The vent kicked on and standing in the kitchen, I heard her crying. In the sunroom, I folded up the bed and drew all shades but one. The woman next door’s shadow moved across a window. The vent still on in the bathroom, I slid out of my pants and stood naked in the light, erect. The window looked like a pane of glass, the type of glass in the rooms where Jorge brought me, where I put on the rubber horse mask and played with myself while people dropped coins into slots, each one worth $100. Two-way mirrors. I never saw the people watching me, didn’t need to, except for once when a lighting rig malfunctioned. It was my second year in the city. No acting gigs had panned out except for this and the money was bank. Jorge took ten percent and we both lived like kings. When that lighting rig snapped, I saw the people behind the glass, the old men with kidney spotted faces, the boozy women with toolarge lips, the creeps in coke-bottle glasses and sweaters with thin hair, and in the final booth, I thought I saw my sister’s ex Rob. I couldn’t be sure, the rubber horse mask obscuring my vision, but I was also sure. He was with someone else. I didn’t see who. It didn’t feel like my sister, but I’ve replayed it a thousand times over. I moved home four days later to a house that wasn’t mine, to a mother that wasn’t the person I’d left behind. Knowing the neighbor watched from the window in the kitchen, I pulled and stroked, tensing and relaxing, beating and flexing. Slow, then fast, FALL 2020


FICTION | W.T. PATERSON

then round, then forward. My chest tightened. The kitchen light clicked off into the red glow and I saw the woman’s wild, witchy hair silhouetted against the glass. When I let loose, it shot across the room and onto the bamboo shades, the couch, and my pillow. The bathroom vent turned off and the door clicked open. I fell to my knees and waited. Jenni found me on the floor, saw the shades, the couch, the pillow, and stepped back into the dark hall. “I thought you loved me,” she said. When I looked at her, she held a trembling cigarette to her lips, but didn’t light it. Then, as if she hadn’t seen what she saw, as if the last thirty seconds didn’t exist, she walked into the sunroom and asked what I wanted to watch. She pulled cushions off the sofa, unfurled the bed, and laid out the comforter. I crawled next to her. She kissed my cheek. And that was the end of one thing, and the beginning of something else. All of the lights in my mother’s neighbor’s house had gone out. We’re still dating, Jenni and me. Real dates, too. Dinners, walks through the woods, nights in. I met her parents, and having Jenni around gave my mother a reason to try again, to stop drifting and start anchoring. One morning, I found her in the kitchen humming. I’d never heard her hum. Part of me felt her happiness to be something vulgar and offensive, because how could anyone ever be happy? But I sat at the table and listened. “Your sister loved this song,” she said, then whistled the rest. “Mom,” I said, and then froze. I wanted to tell her that I was sorry, that it wasn’t her fault, that sometimes good people fall into bad situations without knowing they’re bad, which didn’t make

CANYON VOICES

them bad people, it just made them human. Instead, I said, “I think Jenni is still asleep.” My mother stopped whistling and went back to humming. Greg never came back for another shift at the movie theater. Apparently, he’d returned from his trip, but that’s all we knew. The shag-haired hockey player quit, and in the spring police showed up because he’d gone missing. His parents were worried. I saw in Jenni’s face something envious. I knew she thought he’d gotten out, he’d figured a way. Just before Memorial Day, the town dragged the lake and pulled out his body all bloated and swollen, his lips blue, his skin milky white. It never made the papers, but Jenni and I watched from her parent’s porch, something dark and heavy between us, both of us knowing, neither one of us saying it. I still work at the movie theater. Jenni enrolled in community college and I took over her role. My mom still comes in, still buys two tickets. I still watch her from a few rows back and I don’t know if she knows I’m there, but she must, because one day I turned around in my seat when I felt something familiar and comforting, a certain aura, and found Jenni watching me. It made sense that it wasn’t the first time. All of us in that theater bound together by something unspoken, we sit there watching each other wondering what the other is thinking, curious as to the secrets eating away at our lupine souls, for as long as the movie lasts. For more information on author W.T. Paterson, please visit our Contributors Page

FALL 2020


POETRY | ELIZABETH NELSON

In the Golden Hour By Elizabeth Nelson

I look for you in the golden hour. On Sunday afternoons, the saddest day of the week, I look for you. In the angled light slanting across the top stories of mismatched buildings along 6th Street, When the hot afternoon pavement is wet, steaming from an unexpected shower, When the city’s din pitches feverishly forward, nearly ringing into silence, I look for you. This city is our home, and I look for you there. I look for you in Hell’s Kitchen, Where you live with your beautiful wife Along the broken sidewalks of 9th Avenue and in the dirty reflection in the windows of Amy’s Bread because I understand how much you adore croissants. I will never look at pastries the same way again Butter and raspberry jam undo me. I look for you on gray days, When the sky and Manhattan are sharing secrets, their transparent faces pressed so closely together they can be mistaken for lovers who are either kissing or fighting. At night, on the subway the red line specifically, because you frequent the Upper West Side, those little dog parks where people wear trench coats and fashionable sneakers early in the morning, watching their pampered fur balls chase one another, and shit in the brown gravel. And I hear you say Scoop it into a little plastic bag and carry it around? No thank you. It goes directly into the garbage, old man. What’s age got to do with it? I just don’t like carrying around someone else’s shit. I look for you, When I dance In the kitchen on Saturday nights, in my husband’s arms… My beautiful husband… I close my eyes and you are almost there with us, an unwelcome house guest, like grief. But I won’t let you leave.

Poet’s Recital

I look for you, until I find you.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


POETRY | ANDREW BERLES

Poppies By Andrew Berles

The docile field mouse Forages maroon meadows In hopes to find food A modest treat to placate Sweet sublime seeds of poppy

Poet’s Recital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


POETRY | ANNE WHITEHOUSE

After Fifty Years, An American Soldier Returns to My Lai By Anne Whitehouse

When we came to Vietnam, we were young and naive. Once here, we realized we’d been fed a lie, and it became a part of us. I looked into the eyes of the enemy and saw myself. To kill him would be suicide, to love him salvation. Some horrors cannot be expiated. To the spirits of the innocent dead— the grandmother with the child in her lap, the baby at its mother’s breast— I offer the music of my violin while incense burns on the family altars of their descendants. Seeing this country at peace, I feel a peace long-denied, watching children at play, with no burden of war.

Poet’s Recital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


POETRY | BRENDA MCCAFFREY

Where I’m From By Brenda McCaffrey I am from long blades of grass like swords cutting toes as I run through the yard with ten coconut trees and a hundred banana trees, the old Banyan with that black and yellow spider, a washing-machine-box spinning on the lawn – our space capsule taking us to distant planets I am from touches and hugs: Mamma Joe, Miss Mamma, Big Mamma scents of plumeria, gardenia, gardens with double-yellow hibiscus as big as saucers hovering like golden clouds, my skin rosy from the sun leaving traces in time: my back marked by a swirling map of the cosmos I am from Jules Verne, snuggled in the old black leather chair with squeaky wheels, on luminous summer days, riding my violet bike barefoot, down the long road to the open-air library, my skin perfumed with the scent of old books and sweat small fingers touching The Mysterious Island, butterflies in my stomach I am from this world, immersed in senses, and dream of other worlds.

Poet’s Recital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


POETRY | LEONORE WILSON

. Frieze By Leonore Wilson This is the denouement, consequence of hours after the toil with children, after the seasons of birthdays and anniversaries. This is the place you drift to merely a spectator watching spring behind your window shades observing the petals half-looks, faithful throb of fruit and seed. No end to March wind’s tail, the perpetual business of nesting birds, monarchs unwrapping their Lazarus linens. You in mid-life are a terminus, docked no longer traveling, but rigged, dormant. You observe the myopic nightfall, hear the respective roll of homeward traffic smell the crisp slow leakage of family dinners. Time has left you devoted to regret and remembrance, the recurrent images of self-surrender, ardor when nursing your infants on the shallow banks among the flute like dragonflies, good darkness of blackberries, place of solitude and surrender where the plover hides her eggs among the pebbles and the briar quail tremble, this the intimate kingdom, the sleepy meadow’s render.

Poet’s Recital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


POETRY | LEONORE WILSON

The Eagles

Up-(syllables like bright blossoms, bees)

By Leonore Wilson and there I had renounced my spirit, hadn’t I, in the middle of my life,… how distant I was from everything— the future the past, the present poisonous though flowers were blooming, and birds singing …

on the telephone poles pinnacles, on the very top-raggedy nests, seasonal aeries made of grass and plants, moss and sticks; and the bald eagles like treble clefs, crowded energies, wind-whirled creatures perched and we made our eyes pointy

I had exhausted the content

to see these sun lords stirring

of this world, hadn’t I? And then he brought me out into the spring air; me, his mother

to take them in; for didn’t power crouch there, the combed particles

nearly a year in bed I was… He laced my shoes, dipped my neck into my dress

of time, the exotic atoms, and so we tilted our heads sideways, oh if you could have seen us

ran the boar brush through my hair.. reader, our desired presence, our blended breath, (he rescued me, he coaxed me out…..) drove the little car, and drove and drove until we came to the blue lake and he said, look, look mom up, further, up no , go further…….

for that is what awe does, doesn’t it….. oh serene eternity when black melancholy fled and doubt, anxiety and regret.

Poet’s Recital CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | KATHLEEN SWAIN

Moons, and Junes, and Ferris Wheels By Kathleen Swain

My first word was moon. Every night that the moon shone that summer, my parents took me out onto our porch and lifted my child’s hand to the glowing orb peeking through rolling banks of fog. “Moon,” they said, and waited for me to respond. Most often I would reply in universal speech, laughing and shaking my red ringlets in the moth-shadowed light of a 1980’s relic porch lamp. Our porch was a smooth slab of concrete with two quick steps up to a white-painted door. To the left, it cut a 90-degree angle onto the concrete plains of our shared driveway, but to the right, it faded into a gravel yard sculpted into geometric shapes by scattered Agave parryi. Each agave’s wide, bluish-gray leaves spiraled into threatening rosettes tipped with knittingneedle-thick black points. On these nights, the concrete and agave must have stretched themselves into the sky, splashing their colors onto the moon. The moon must have looked to me like pieces of that wide swath of concrete coalesced into a floating sphere, the moon’s highlands dotted by the deep colors of the agave swimming in splotches of maria. As a child, the moon was a plaything big enough to reach. The world and its vault of heavens were enchanted. In those days I read fantastic tales of space travelers, carnivals, and of men on the moon. When I was old enough to stand on my

CANYON VOICES

own, I would watch the eastern sky, unblinking, waiting to see the great bright crescent of the moon grow above the hills into a celestial spotlight, certain that I could see the fluid movement of the Earth rotating through its daily cycle. One June night when I was fourteen, I went to the town’s fair with a group of friends. We had already reached that liminal period between childhood and adolescence, and I was beginning to feel the cruelty of the world gripping me. The sign at the Ferris wheel said: Maximum Two Passengers per Car, Please. We had an odd number of people. I sat in the open-air car as it rode up above the glowing city, sitting in the middle to distribute my lone weight across the cool neon-plastic seat. At the top of the wheel, the ride halted, and with cotton candy sticky fingers I held onto the swinging car until its rocking steadied. Above me, in the clear starless night, was the perfectly cut sphere of the moon casting a diffuse milky halo into the sky. The car jerked backward, swinging me back into the brightness and chatter of the fair, but I watched the moon until it bled into the Ferris wheel’s bare and bright bulbs. Four years later I was spending another night staring into the richness of a Sedona June sky. The monsoons had not yet come, and the atmosphere was flickering with stars. I had

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | KATHLEEN SWAIN

scraped a dining table chair across the parquet floor and to the window to sit down, because by then I was too sick to stand. On nights that I couldn’t sleep, I sat in the pressing darkness, sometimes in silence, but often with music playing low into my ears. Music then was my savior, allowing me an easy escape from the fears of an unknown sickness. That summer Joni Mitchell was my prophet, and I lived vicariously through her loves and hopes and heartbreaks. In her most famous song, “Both Sides Now,” she rides the wave of her voice through troughs and peaks of sound: I’ve looked at life from both sides now From win and lose and still somehow It’s life’s illusions I recall I really don’t know life at all. She wrote the song in her early twenties, and her green voice pauses on the words “I really don’t know life.” Later in her life she recorded a jazzy version of the song, flattening the waves of sound into a smoothness that fits her older, smoky voice, but I was drawn to the first version and Joni’s youthful understanding of maturity and the pain of leaving childhood behind. In the song, she lists objects and ideas of childish imagination: “Ice cream castles in the air…moons, and Junes, and Ferris wheels.” As I curled my legs into a crisscross on the teetering chair I thought of the moons, Junes, and Ferris wheels of my youth. When I was younger, they had held such import in a sincere way, but now they seemed full of sunshine and moonlight and silly fantasy.

CANYON VOICES

What were dreams when they were torn away so unceremoniously in the march towards maturity? As I meditated in the growing darkness, a sliver of silvery light brought the Mogollon rim’s ragged precipice into contrast. Soon the juniper and pine forests around Sedona were bathed in the liquid light of a full moon. Was this the same moon I lent my first word to eighteen years ago or had something changed in either one of us? Were we just childhood friends bound to drift apart by age, or was the moon something rare and steady in my life? I looked at the cratered highlands, the dark lava seas, and the bright white splash lines that tell tales of violent ancient impacts. I saw the moon in a scientific way, dissecting and categorizing its plains and valleys into a lunar map that revealed it as Earth’s little sister, reflecting the sun’s light back onto us at night. Moons, and Junes, and Ferris wheels. I thought again about all the objects of my youth scattered across the years. Junes would always change, carnivals came and went with a flurry of activity as Ferris wheels were reduced to metal bones, but the moon would never go away. I kept watching as the Earth pulled east towards the moon at the zenith of midnight, and then raced away from her into the dawn light. Moon. I would always have the moon.

n n n For more information on author Kathleen Swain, please visit our Contributors Page.

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | KATHLEEN SWAIN

Ozona, 2018 By Kathleen Swain

Love is uncertain because love is a choice, and people change their minds. It is always a question with no answer.

The night didn’t stand a chance. By the time we got to Ozona we were wilted, and our tingling legs barely carried us into the room. I managed to chew through a square of Bucee’s chocolatevanilla fudge before crashing onto the crispy bedsheets, but Patrick fell asleep in his shoes. That evening we had roller coastered into the West Texas darkness after skirting San Antonio in the dusk, leaving behind rivers of green trees for plains of grass and silhouetted windmills. Florida was three states behind us and even further from our minds. It was road trip concentrate: we went as fast as we could, running along the southern border of the United States from his life to mine. Seven months in Florida gone, Arizona time waiting. Patrick was driving the new roads as I called hotels with road-grimy fingers. It took six calls before we found an empty room. Who knew why West Texas was so popular on that March day? We just kept bulleting into the night. *** Hotel rooms in America are more spectacle than reality. They are communal-private, a meeting point of secrets and seances with lives one will never know. In hotels reality is suspended and transformed into anticipation. Strange water pressure. Bibles in rolling nightstand drawers that smell of sawdust. Amenities binders with coffee-stained pages. Air conditioners that blow patterned curtains into a flurry. Worn carpets with questionable stains. Televisions with the Weather Channel on 24/7, turning drizzles into downpours. Those little soaps and shampoos in their delicious crinkly packaging. Cold hallways and breakfast rooms with stale pastries. Racks of bright-colored brochures. In hotel rooms I secretly hope that my shower steam will reveal previous occupants’ longings, symbols coded on fogged mirrors with plump raisin fingers. Hotels are places of illicit affairs, family feuds, pillow fights, and cool early mornings. Is it all a fever dream? ***

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | KATHLEEN SWAIN

We woke up wrapped around each other and with a desire to go home. Four days on the road was long enough. Austere black-and-white photos lined the walls and I wished I had time to study the stark prairie through the ripples of the room’s window, but Arizona was waiting. In the breakfast room an attendant guided us to a buffet ornamented by fidgety people. The windy morning was silent inside as I spooned batter into a waffle maker. At a sticky table we ate, and we talked. “I wonder what they do around here.” “Dunno. You should look it up.” “Well, it must be ranching, or something like that. It’s pretty desolate out here.” “How are your eggs?” Congealed sulfurous lumps on a scratched plate. “Not great. How’s your yogurt?” “It’s yogurt. How’s your waffle?” “Bland.” *** In trying to accommodate the needs of the widest swath of people, hotels often end up in the uncanny valley of dwellings. Maybe it’s the glowing EXIT light that keeps the room from embracing darkness; maybe it’s the hum of an ice machine in the carpeted hallway, or the door connecting two rooms and two lives into forced closeness. Whatever it is, I find it hard to sleep well in a hotel room without the aid of too much sun or too much exercise. Uncanniness is also what draws me to hotels. In a Hampton Inn, or a Holiday Inn, or a Best Western, the normal rules of life don’t apply. On a hotel balcony I stand barefoot on warm concrete and watch cars whistle past on the interstate, turning white to red. At a hotel I wander the evening grounds and brush past cycads whose undersides are etched in the glow of ground lighting, as bats fly overhead and the pool wafts chlorine through a courtyard. We eat room service on paper plates, and I pour sugar from a wrinkled packet onto a napkin to dip my finger in the sweetness. ***

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | KATHLEEN SWAIN

We left the hotel later than expected. Patrick slid the slick keycards in their tight-fit paper case and we gathered our barely-opened bags into a jostling heap on a luggage cart whose brass cage was smeared with fingerprints. Before leaving I poked my head into the indoor pool room to smell the chlorine haze. A woman sitting in the hot tub like a pink anemone stared at me and I closed the door. It was nearly noon and the day was still windy. Spindly trees whipped in the medians of the newly paved parking lot and the asphalt ended with a jagged stutter onto dusty roads. As we were packing, the wind slammed a car door onto my pinky. I wrapped my finger in a ragged napkin and waited inside. We were less than a mile down the interstate with cars passing us above 80 when I realized that I had given wrong directions to the gas station. “We have to turn around.” “What?” “The gas station is behind us. We have to go back.” Neither of us said much as we waited several miles for an off-ramp to appear. When we saw it we slid onto a dirt road that seemed to go nowhere, tunneled through a graffiti-scarred underpass, and barreled back east towards town. We passed by the hotel again and I noticed how tall and clean it looked in the burnt grass and dust. At the Valero I got out of the car to stretch and look at candy bars and jerky in the convenience store. A man in a cowboy hat entered with the door’s ding and I averted my eyes, trying not to stare. *** The secret of hotels is this: they give an illusory home in exchange for the stopping of time. They are nodules of singularities that interrupt one place from another. The comfort they offer is skindeep, because hotels lack the idiosyncrasies that turn a house into a home. I have stayed in many hotels. I never miss home more than in a hotel room. *** Our love began in a hotel room. I flew across the country to meet him in an awkward situation and it all tumbled into something crazy like a mismatched ball of yarn. That Florida hotel provided safety for the first tentative days. Now we were leaving the last hotel behind in Ozona. As we drove west on the interstate, the hills that were dark lumps the night before yellowed CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | KATHLEEN SWAIN

under the sun and then evaporated into rocky desert hills lined with creosote and cacti. We played music and the landscape grew luscious as we cut across every north-south, cardboardcutout mountain range, and spatial depth drowned in pools of miraging air. We laughed and ate M&M’s and finally left Texas for the yucca flats of southern New Mexico, where we saw a roadrunner at a rest stop and a coyote at a gas station. The light grew long as we cheered over the border into Arizona, and a sunset bled and bloomed over the new hills and behind mountains that blackened our horizon. Over the last hill Tucson shot a city glow into the night as we careened down the road toward that immortal question.

n n n For more information on author Kathleen Swain, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | OREN SIMCHY-GROSS

A Past Both Unspeakable and Unspoken By Oren Simchy-Gross

“I am not one and simple, but complex and many.” - Virginia Woolf, The Waves   My ancestors, like so many other Jews throughout history, fled from certain locations to evade physical danger and stigma attached to their Jewish identity. Fleeing was not a choice. It did not mean letting go of strong bonds to family and one’s culture, but instead a need to collectively protect those bonds, even if that meant hiding and remaining quiet about their past.   They understood that the stigmas of deep-seated prejudice and the label of “Jew” would still follow them in some way on their journeys to America, like a phantom that is always closer than it appears. Decades pass, the fear lessens, new generations of Jews arise, and they cope as best as they can. Perhaps their diaspora is a little less painful now that they’ve learned something from their ancestors. When I listen to my mother retell the few family stories that have lasted until this day, the intrigue leaves me sitting on the edge of my seat. We always look at each other with more questions than answers.   My great-great Uncle David was one of these relatives that neither I nor my mother knows much about, apart from how he died at age twelve at the end of the 19th century. 

CANYON VOICES

He was simply trying to get to school one day when some local Irish-Catholic boys from the neighborhood stoned him to death. They yelled things like “Dirty Jew!” and “Christ-killer!” These kids are etched in my imagination without specific facial features, only by violence, stones, bigoted insults, and the hate that they must have learned from their families. He was going to school, learning a new language, and learning how to live in a secular world. In Kiev, the Neumann family was Orthodox, much like most of the Jews in the Ukraine. A typical day in Kiev for David and his siblings involved going to shul to study Torah and learn Hebrew on a daily basis. He’d attend services with his father three times a day. All of these practices were, and still are, a part of the orthodox tradition. Each of them would wear a yarmulke and a “tallit” (a prayer shawl) every day. They carried this tradition in their hearts across an ocean, and eventually to Ellis Island in America.   It is an ordinarily sunny day, as far as I can imagine. A winter chill weighs down upon the snowy streets of rural Plattsburgh, New York, when they attack David. He is only about twelve years old at the time and does not consider himself unlike any other curious boy in America. Despite the fact that he, his siblings, and his parents have recently fled to America from the Ukraine, they all act appropriately cordial to their neighbors. They speak with heavy accents,

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | OREN SIMCHY-GROSS

both in the Ukrainian and Yiddish vernaculars, saying very little in English. But why should they have to conform and change who they are if they came all the way to “the land of the free”? David and his parents, after escaping religious persecution, still follow their beliefs, traditions, and rituals in Plattsburgh, and they still choose to dress accordingly. David, the day he is killed, is probably wearing an outfit that his parents and other orthodox Jews from Ukraine wouldn’t question: a sweater with a tallit underneath, cotton trousers, leather shoes, and a yarmulke on the back of his head. Little do they know that, despite the thousands of miles that separate them from their home country, evil and hatred also exist in America, only they are much less visible. When one of these particular stones hits David in the lower side of his stomach, he might be thinking about the cherished friends he had to leave behind in Kiev, his birthplace, his classes at his new American school, or perhaps the shape of the clouds that day. I doubt he is wondering to himself what would happen if a group of kids his age swarmed around him at that moment with the sole intention of killing him. But during this era, these local IrishCatholic kids have grown up genuinely believing that the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Therefore, killing a Jew, in their eyes, would be some sort of vigilante act of retribution. David was a Jewish immigrant boy who was just embarking upon his new life in America. Yet as soon as David left his house on that wintry morning in his neighborhood, his yarmulke and tallit signaled to the gentile children that he was a viable target. They chuck a bunch of stones and rocks at David and he immediately feels a horrific pain in his side because one of the stones ruptures his

CANYON VOICES

appendix. When his appendix bursts, it leads him to bleed to death internally. The IrishCatholic kids who surround David first yell, “Get up, you dirty Jew!” David does not move or make any more sounds upon collapsing to the ground, besides silent moans of agony. At this point, the frightened kids realize what they’ve done. They scatter and run as far as they can from the murder, outrunning the consequences of their actions. After listening to my mother tell this story to me, I close my eyes and imagine my great-great grandparents at the moment they are told that their son has died and how it came to be. Some next-door neighbor could have found him, or even some stranger who was just visiting Plattsburgh. The young boy with curly dark hair lies there on the snowy grass in the fetal position, motionless in the silence of the daylight. With wide eyes I ask my mother, “Were any of those boys who killed David caught? Did they face any legal punishment?” She says she honestly does not know if they were caught. The only reason she knows this story about David at all is because her father, and my grandfather, Samuel David Gross, told her when she was about my age after she asked him, “Where did your first and middle name come from?” Apparently, Samuel was the name of David’s father.  The day that David’s parents’ lives changed forever was, otherwise, an ordinary day in upstate New York. Their faces go pale in blank horror when the couple from the house next door gives them the news of their son’s death. His mother restates the information in utter disbelief, her eyes conveying the emotion that her words could not. “What—what do you mean my David is dead?” his mother asks. After fleeing persecution from the Czar, who was

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | OREN SIMCHY-GROSS

cleansing their villages by exiling all the Jews, the Neumanns assumed the worst was over for them and their children. They had finally arrived safely in America, the country where life was full of possibilities. Of course, I ask myself, did that one stone alone kill my Uncle David, or did he become yet another victim in the long history of the scapegoating of Jews? And does choosing to remain mostly silent about David’s story and others like it actually allow one to move on, emotionally? It’s easier for me to ask these types of questions because I am distanced from these people and events by several generations of time. Obviously, I couldn’t possibly ever come to truly know David.    Later on, after David’s death, Ruth was born, my great-great grandmother and the last child of the Neumann family. She did not mention anything about the person who was her older brother; I assume she was too young to remember much about what happened to David. Ruth’s parents chose not to talk about those events and instead attempted to carry on with their lives, deciding silence was a form of protection for their children. It astounds me that, although I will probably never learn anything more about his life, David was a real person who shared DNA similar to my own, someone with quirks and characteristics who probably looked like me in some way. The reason why Ruth and her husband Bill never spoke of Judaism with their three children, Sam, Naomi, and Vicki, is not fully clear, even to my mother, which leaves us mutually puzzled.  Nevertheless, that story of Uncle David’s death did not disappear. The memory of him has been guarded, concealed, and valued. Ruth chose to remember him by giving her only son the middle name, David. Also, my great aunt Naomi, Sam’s older sister, named her son David. The lack of oral storytelling was not simply due to a conscious omission of family history. During the

CANYON VOICES

early 1900s, anti-Semitism was still ubiquitous in many ways, but in Plattsburgh, where my grandfather grew up, there was no Czar threatening to destroy all the Jews like the one who ruled Ukraine. Many held hatred for Jews, but their hatred was ideological for the most part. It didn’t pose the same immediate, catastrophic consequences that it had in previous eras. I ask myself, “How could everyone always keep silent about being Jewish?” My best guess is that when they raised their children, my great grandparents instinctively focused on protecting their family above all else. They didn’t have to worry about being captured or persecuted the next day, but instead they anticipated the emotional turmoil of reopening old wounds. Their intentions were pure and good because they wanted to shield the eyes of their children from any unsettling information about the devastation and persecution their ancestors faced.  On the surface level, it appears as if hiding family history is due to some kind of shame, but it runs much deeper. When I talk to my mom or my grandfather, my impression is that maintaining this silence was a way to keep one’s traumatic past private, especially if there is a lack of personal reconciliation with those events. It’s a way of possessing the knowledge of sensitive information but also being cautious in how one handles this knowledge.     Not all questions can be answered, especially when those who have lived decades before me were the only people who knew these answers. Seven or more years after my experience with anti-Semitism in high school, I do not see the students who bullied me much differently than I envision the children who killed my uncle David. I understand that those who berated and harassed me were not targeting me as a whole

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | OREN SIMCHY-GROSS

person, but only the abstract construct of my Jewishness. The ones who verbally and emotionally assaulted me did not know a thing about who I am at my core, as a human being. That is why continuous silence or discretion is not always the solution. If there aren’t enough people to overtly speak out against the hatred and dehumanization of Jews, this hatred becomes more and more socially permissible.  

The one question I never ask my mother is, “Why on Earth did our family hide these things?” I might never truly understand the pressures of survival and life-threatening anti-Semitism that David and my other Jewish ancestors had faced throughout their lives. I do understand that very few of them had the privilege I have now, the opportunity to openly learn about where I come from, just like any other human being. 

For more information on Oren Simchy-Gross, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | DAKOTA WILLIAM SZANISZLO

On Being an Unpublished Author ou l’impressions première By Dakota William Szaniszlo

There is a certain sense of freedom being an unpublished writer, a vague thrill that flashes imperceptibly across the psyche when seeing a blank page and, like a bright-eyed schoolchild absorbed fully in the bliss of naïvete, the unpublished writer is overcome by the sense of possibility, by the limitless choices available. Before any precedents have been set, the unpublished writer is free; the unpublished writer knows no bounds, because the unpublished writer has not set the perspective to see the horizon with, therefore, to the unpublished writer, the horizons are endless. Before publication, the myriad of slight stories with potential characters running through the undeveloped set of a half-imagined production are all as equally real in their intangibility; all creations are yet uncreated, and endless stories congeal on the brink of possibility, each one scratching and clawing at the translucent flesh of each and every other non-creation, desperately searching for a way to clamber through the creative faculties of the writer into its own artificial sense of existence. There, within that blank page, the unpublished writer can see with the vivid perspicacity of a suddenly upheld handmirror the infinite reflection of their entire essence, folding and unfolding again in kaleidoscopic variegation and, in such a reflection, it is not surprising how easily crestfallen one may become, how infinitely overwhelming such infinite possibility may seem. The voice of the author seems such a definite thing. And what anguish such an idea causes to

CANYON VOICES

so many a prospective writer fraught over trying to discover or develop their authorial voice. How daunting a task it may seem to attempt to stack up to all those that have come before and simultaneously distinguish oneself as unique, or at least genuine. The task itself is an absurd exercise in futility. In attempting originality, one is inevitably struck by the recurrent realization that there is no such thing. Those that can make their peace with this are the lucky ones. For the rest, the anxiety of constantly trying to give the illusion of originality is attached to their heel like a shadow, breathing always down the back of their neck. But for those yet unpublished, their voice is still as limitless as their potential writings, and is yet to be set down in a firm, definite precedent. There is an omnipresent titillation of excitement when imagining the multitude of authorial voices one could adopt, or that mysterious one that many writers agonize over finding—the genuine individual voice that, in theory, each and everyone possesses; for it is only the theoretical writer that can so perfectly and without affectation theoretically write in a theoretical voice, and therein the unpublished writer has a luxury possessed by no other writer. The unpublished writer has, by not taking any steps yet in any direction, superseded any sort of expectations and preconceived notions of their style. They are above reproach and beyond compare. Of course, inevitably, any prospective writer

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | DAKOTA WILLIAM SZANISZLO

must take the plunge into publication if they wish to make writing a career and, therefore, that perfection felt whilst peering over the brink of eternity must needs shatter like the reflected image of the moon in a disrupted lake surface. They emerge into the literary world, voice declared clear and defined, and are left to wander, aimlessly grasping at the fading lights of ideas now restricted by the path they carved for themselves. But then again, for those whom it works for, a pigeon hole may be a very cozy place, and many may not even notice, or care. To prevent any projecting assumptions, let us not examine with too much scrutiny the published literati and instead return to that moment of perfection as the unpublished writer contemplates the infinite sphere of possibility lain before their metaphoric footnote. Here they stand on the precipice, of what they know not, frozen in place somewhere outside the smothering grasp of time. We leave them here so as to magnify or, more accurately, peer closer— ignoring the unimportant outer features and first embedding ourselves, like the needle of a budding masochist, beneath the topmost layer of skin. As of yet, we see no blood, no sinew, no organ or bone; we see only flesh, enveloping us like a blanket, warmly radiating from below. Deeper still we must delve towards that warmth, burrowing past pores, follicles, vessels and capillaries, plunging through thick interwoven muscular fibres, slipping in between the protective skeletal cage, until we fall straight into the chest cavity of our temporally frozen writer. Here we must pause to look around, or at least reach out with invisible tendrils, glancing over the various organic machinery of the body in search of a soft rhythmic pulsation. Straight to the heart of things we cut—and here we could rest for eternity, describing the inner workings of the cardioid organ and the emotions it's said to contain within its chambers, but onward we must continue, shooting up through the artery

CANYON VOICES

like a blood clot straight to the brain. As we arrive at our destination, we must let ourselves completely dissolve, slowly peeling off layer after layer of opacity until we become one with the intricate construct of the writer's brain. No longer separate or individual, we meld together with the rapidly morphing amalgam of potential writers that float in and out of possibility like unstable vespers, fighting for existence in the pre-literary arena of our unpublished writer's mind. We think to ourselves, 'I could be any of these writers; the novelist, hunch-backed, poking furiously at a typewriter, lost in a world of creation; the journalist, playing detective down in the dirt, burning the candle at both ends, sacrificing for the story; the essayist, desk covered in disheveled papers, both writings and research; the poet, pouring heart and soul like self-spilled blood onto the paper. I could be any of them, but I can't be all, for among even this paltry excerpt from the long list of types of writers, there are infinitely many more sub-types, each with slightly differing voices. How can I choose? I could don the persona of omniscient authority; I could be the casual talker, the over-explainer, the storyteller, the speech maker, the characterdriven dialogist, or the setting forward thinker. I could write under a different pseudonym and style for every piece and perhaps forgo the choice completely, changing shape at whim. Perhaps I'll imitate everyone. Or I could just cut individual words from every great novel, every impassioned poem, every ingenious essay, every informative article, every truly remarkable piece of writing that’s ever been written, and paste them together in a literary collage, escaping from the need to develop a voice at all. Then again, isn’t that the essence of writing anyway? Just the attempt at creating a unique arrangement of the same words that have been used endlessly over and again? Ouroboros. The paradox feeds into itself and I'm going in circles. How do I reconcile such

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | DAKOTA WILLIAM SZANISZLO

desire for originality with the complete knowledge of its impossibility? Who does art exist for? For the sake of the artist or the audience... or could it possibly exist solely for art itself? How do I materialize an ideal? How do I make a performance of honest self-expression? Which way should I begin? Heavy... the mantle, the pen, the weight of human history… becoming part of the organism...a cell… a cell.’ Our thoughts become unrecognizably fragmented as we separate ourselves from them, leaving only an evanescent feeling of desire, without any firm surety of what that desire burns for. Once completely separated from our writer, mind and body, it is time to separate further, to separate from each other, dissolving our 'we' into a 'you’ and ‘I'. Now is the time for me to address you directly. Now is the time for you and I to clear the air of a certain literary smoke of mystery, if you will, and dissolve the customary affectation of nonexistence for a moment. As I sit here typing away, with the gentle sound of rain rhythmically pitter-pattering on the window, ruminating on why my 'O' key is sticky —not in the mechanical sense, but the tactile—I try to imagine who it is you are, and just as vast as the amount of potential writers that an unpublished one embodies, so too is the amount of potential readers available to a yet unfinished writing. So, before I amalgamate you all in my mind as a unified singular Reader, I'd like to keep a few individual for a brief word. If you feel this does not apply to you, then I apologize, and hope that you rest assured knowing that all of the rest is dedicated entirely to you. I will be quick and only wish to say a few words. Appropriately first, to you the first reader (that is the proofreader, the second opinion) I would like to say that while I probably won't be changing

CANYON VOICES

anything, besides a stray, unnoticed typo, I appreciate your indulging in my whim consisting of two parts narcissism, one part self-doubt, and being the first to give life to this dormant, yet unread writing. Next a brief address to you, quite possibly the most important reader. For behind your hardwood desk, over which you can see the stacks of potential publishing fodder—and further in the distance the foggy silhouettes of bustling bodies, with the word 'ROTIDE' pasted over them in bold, black, backwards facing letters, slightly Russian looking in the letter reversal—or maybe in your home office or possibly even leisurely on your smartphone—you hold the key to the existence of every other reader of this article. You have the power to materialize the as-of-yet only imagined readers that have been with me through thick and thin from the first line onward, and I urge you, along with an infinite chorus of nonexistent voices echoing behind me, to please do so. Now I address You. Amalgamated into a singular, you are the Reader—the one currently tracing these words with the sidelong sweeps of your eyes. You are the one that gives meaning to the writing. You are the one without which this solipsistic world would not exist. Your gaze, to the written word, brings life and lifts you to the strata of divinity, sole god to this new world which you create. Without you, the written word would just lie there like a seed buried deep beneath the ground, eternally dormant. And so I say, never die! Let there be a constant, oncoming flux of readers to amalgamate until the end of time. For without you, universes filled with imaginary worlds, all populated with your own interpretations of every reading, would simply cease to exist—slowly fading away, as each dimming light flickers out into absolute nothingness.

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | DAKOTA WILLIAM SZANISZLO

To be unpublished is to be free, but it is also to be nonexistent, so let us unfreeze our nearly forgotten about unpublished writer, allowing them to take that plunge into existence—blazing onward into the infinite unknown, to be born again as a published writer. They disappear into

that imperceptible distance leaving only a soft impression like the phosphene negative of a bright light imprinted on the inside of one's eyelids, flickering with each blink. Then slowly that too fades away, dissolving, disintegrating, disappearing.

For more information on author Dakota William Szaniszlo, please visit our Contributors Page

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | NATHAN STAFFEL

Last Bus to Sky Harbor By Nathan Staffel

Our conversation started with the weather like most do. The bus driver commented on the rain. It was drizzling and gloomy and very un-Phoenix like he assured me. I asked him about the aquifer level. It was at grim levels I had heard. He confirmed what I had heard but focused on the rain. It was a welcome, albeit insufficient, relief. He found the positive within the darkness.

optimized for pain. I am convinced that the clerk must reboot a refurbished Dell computer running Windows XP after each customer. Why else do you have to stare at the screen for fifteen minutes before I decline an upgrade to a midcompact? I toed the yellow line at the bus's front so I could make it to the counter before anyone else.

I watched him drive out of the corner of my eye. He wore a lanky frame that looked strong at some point in the past. He hadn't shaven for a few days, but not in a chic way. He must have slept in his Carhart jeans and flannel the night before by the look of the deep-set wrinkles. His name was Frank. His eyes sagged.

“Where ya from?” Frank asked, unphased with my head buried in my phone. I realized he mistook my standing at the front as an invitation to converse. I gave a matter of fact reply and returned to my mindless scrolling. Frank didn't seem to care. We settled into a few minutes of silence while Frank effortlessly navigated the road.

His left hand grabbed the microphone: “Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to Phoenix. It's about a fourteen-minute ride from the Phoenix International Airport. This is the last bus to the Sky Harbor Rental Car Center for today.” I could tell from his robotic gestures he had driven this route so often he could have done it in his sleep. Left turn from the second turn lane. Left blinker off. Right blinker on. Check mirror for oncoming traffic. Clear. Proceed to righthand turn. I stood on the yellow line, careful not to cross although his worn-out demeanor told me he wouldn't care. I felt as tired as Frank looked. I wasn't looking forward to renting a car, an act that seemed as outdated as sending a fax or leaving voicemails. The process of renting a car is CANYON VOICES

“I saw a driverless car over here the other day,” he started up again, pointing to the intersection. I perked up. I was interested in this. Self-driving cars were the final nail in the coffin of the rental car companies. I could be rid of this whole nightmarish experience, I thought. I put my phone away. “Is Phoenix a popular place to test driverless cars?” I asked. “Yeah. It must be because of the straight and wide streets,” Frank replied. Unlike LA and San Francisco, where most selfdriving technologies were being developed, there was nothing organic about this city's development. It was very planned and very organized.

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | NATHAN STAFFEL

“What do locals think about it?” I asked. He pointed out that not all locals welcomed it. He told me about an incident where a driverless car hit a pedestrian crossing the street. It was a minor accident, no significant injuries. The pedestrian was at fault. She ignored the crosswalk light. She still sued, and the papers wrote sensationalized headlines. We've all read the anxiety-inducing stories of automation. It's hard to have a conversation about the topic without it veering off into a dystopian or utopian ending. Reality is more nuanced. To my surprise, Frank sided with the tech company. “It could've been worse if it was a human driver,” he said. It was a good point. Many times, the debate over the dangers of self driving cars has nothing to do with the data. There is no question that driverless vehicles are safer. An estimated 36,120 people died in vehicle-related accidents in 2019 in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This was reported as welcome news as it was about a three percent decrease in fatalities. One day, we'll look back at the era of human driving as barbaric: humans hurling two-ton metal cages down a narrow stretch of asphalt, mere inches away from each other, while scarfing down sandwiches and flipping through radio stations. It's utter madness. The resistance against driverless technology will come across as silly as the first arguments against electricity. But if the opposition to automation is irrational, it is nevertheless understandable. Humans are just more comfortable being maimed and killed by other humans rather than robots. Automation introduces an unsettling new experience: tragedy absent of emotion.

CANYON VOICES

The woman hit by the driverless car wasn't injured. But she had no driver to cuss out. She picked herself up and stared at an empty vehicle. It just idled patiently, waiting for her to gather the contents of her purse and get off the street. There was no catharsis for the aggrieved. So she screamed. She raged. And then she sued. We're facing an onslaught of automation across all industries. We know the consequences, and we know what we have to do: retrain, adapt, and evolve. Yet, very few people are actually doing that. Instead, we're standing in front of the idling robot and screaming. Our unsettling relationship with automation is only beginning. There's no grace in being the woman screaming at the car or the rental car company refusing to innovate. Neither is there grace in telling the victims of automation to get a new job. This is more than a story about exponential efficiency. Automation is a story about identity. With every job replaced by automation, there is a myriad of human interactions lost that shaped who we've become. What happens to the human psyche when technology rids us of every friction point in our lives? I don't want to learn patience while the clerk stairs at the computer for fifteen minutes. I want rental car companies to die. The debate over automation has taken a detrimental binary tone. It's either dystopian or utopian, screams or silence. There are concise cases to be made about the societal benefits of automation. Still, we lack the poignant examples for our souls. Technology is a uniquely human feature, and the single factor propelling our species to total and complete domination. It's been our superpower, but it may become our kryptonite if we refuse to evolve, either through screams or silence.

FALL 2020


CREATIVE NONFICTION | NATHAN STAFFEL

If there was any victim in this story, it was Frank, not the woman hit by a robotic car. He was a blue-collar guy, the one we most associate with the victims of automation. He was a man who had been around and worked many different jobs and dealt with many different people. Friction was a defining feature of his life, and it showed. But Frank isn't the victim in this story because he's going to be losing his job. Unlike the entitled woman ignoring safety signals, Frank's reaction was measured. Frank was smart. He knew technology. Frank was rational and understood the folly of the woman's rage. He knew he needed to retrain, adapt, and evolve. But for some unspoken reason, he was still driving a bus. Frank's voice should be the one we elevate to escape the binary debate. Unfortunately, the woman's hollowed cries have drowned him out. Frank turned into the rental car facility and pointed to a construction project on the left. A

mountainous structure of steel and concrete towered over the bus station. Men welded tracks while others wired electrical boxes. “They're building an automated tram,” he said. No more bus drivers was what he meant. We pulled up to the curb as another human guided Frank into his spot. He didn't need to look at his colleague. He'd done it thousands of times. Frank’s movements were robotic. The bus hissed and settled down, and Frank's bony shoulders slouched over the wheel in sync with the lowering suspension, as if they were one and the same. Frank sighed and the door swung open. I never asked Frank why he still drove a bus. It wasn't my place. So the unspoken reason remains a tragedy absent of emotion. I wished him good luck. He half-waved at me as I hustled off to beat the crowd. His focus was elsewhere. Stoic, he watched men in hard hats laughing as they hauled rebar to the tram.

n n n This story first appeared in “The Smart Set.” For more information on author Nathan Staffel, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | ALEX NIEB

Nostalgia By Alex Nieb

Nostalgia is a short story based on the concept of memories being represented as threads. The video follows through the mind of the character, as he explores his mind and remembers his past experiences. Nostalgia was filmed when the COVID-19 outbreak was rapidly growing in the U.S. and most of the population underwent an extended period of quarantine. Due to being stuck inside the house all the time, it gave me an excuse to use the abundance of unused footage I had when going on adventures the past few years. The use of old footage worked well with the concept of memory, essentially, since these videos really were my recorded memories. The idea grew out of inspiration from a Japanese installation artist, Chiharu Shiota. Shiota works with threads signifying memory and death and has an abundance of objects tied into the threads that are webbed around a room. I wanted to play around with that idea but introduce video, as the concept can be applied creatively and efficiently through the editing software involved in the postproduction process. (To read more about Alex Nieb please visit our Contributors Page) CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KENDRA N. KAHL

Mud By Kendra N. Kahl

Characters Leah: Female, is in her between 30-40 years old. Searching for meaning in a life that appears to be what others want. The Chorus: Multiple age groups. Various ensemble members. There should be enough of them to create a living creek through the playing space which ebbs, pushes against LEAH, and ripples. Imagine a creek that is alive with the echoes of humanity. Setting: A creek with a prominent tree nearby. There must be water and mud. (The CHORUS creates a creek below a bank. They each have access to a bowl of water. They sit still and cross-legged, facing US with their heads bowed.) (A tree stands behind the creek on the bank. It has seen a fair share of life and must be rather large with course lines of bark. It also has a ‘tattoo’—a love heart with LH + RM and a date of 17 years ago. LEAH stands near the tree.) LEAH Never thought you’d find me here again, huh? Yeah, me either. (Beat.) I guess I just... I mean… (LEAH desperately chuckles.)

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KENDRA N. KAHL

God, just look at me. Talking to a fucking tree. That’s nice. Like, way to go me! Mother earth is happy you’ve returned to the “giving tree” or whatever. Jesus. Maybe I should cut you up into a canoe and sail down the creek. (At the word “creek,” the CHORUS, from SL to SR, extends their left arm, looking and leaning left. This is a ripple, as if the canoe were sailing across the water. They ripple back to their original positions with their heads bowed. LEAH looks above them, imagining herself in a canoe.) Away from whatever this (LEAH refers to herself) is. (LEAH looks at the tree.) Sorry. I’m just— You know, you haven’t changed a bit. Same wrinkled face. Same tattoo. I definitely have. I mean, I’m flattered that you even recognize me what with this weird haircut I got the other day. Like I walked in just for a trim, you know— and as I sat there staring at the weirdly bedazzled wall and the highly eroticized floating heads, I thought to myself: You need a change. Which at the time, I was like 4 inches off. Change. Yes. I’m in. Like, going rogue.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KENDRA N. KAHL

But I think hair salons have like an exorbitant amount of chemicals in the hairspray air or something. The longer you breathe in the scent of fried dead cells growing out of people’s heads and burning hair product the more likely you are to make terrible decisions. “Oh, yes, Barbara, coffee with caffeine at 6 pm sounds great!” “Oh, well I was thinking about making a change, ya know?” “It’s totally time! I mean, it’s not like I’ve worn my hair like this for over a decade because it looks good or something.” “What will my husband say? Oh, Jim’ll be happy that I’m happy!” So, uh, yeah. Whatever. It’s just hair I guess. It’ll grow back. I mean Jim really wasn’t too thrilled. But I just looked him in the eye and said: “It’s my life. It’s my hair. Get over it. You haven’t been here, so I didn’t think you’d care.” And that was that. I walked out. Slammed the front door and the car door. And before I knew it I was standing on a muddy bank of a shallow creek talking to a tree. (Beat. LEAH looks at the creek. The CHORUS slowly lift their heads in unison to look back. LEAH takes off her shoes and stands on the bank. The CHORUS watches LEAH.) I don’t really remember the last time I was here. God, I guess it was, uh….yeah I guess it was….huh. I was so I stood in this exact same spot. I do remember that much. And I made some lame joke about how I was “beating around the bush” or something. (LEAH painfully but joyfully smiles.)

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KENDRA N. KAHL

I mean, it’s still kinda funny, I guess. And true. (LEAH rolls up the bottoms of her pant legs. She sits on the edge, hanging her feet into the creek. As she dips her feet in, the CHORUS slightly ripples outward from her.) (LEAH plays with the mud and the leaves and the twigs on the ground around her hands. She digs her fingers in the mud and rolls it between her hands.) (LEAH stares at the creek. She begins to cover her arms with mud. She runs a hand down her face, through her hair. The CHORUS mirror her movements as her reflection.) I just … have this feeling? Like underneath everything. Telling me that my life isn’t real that: no matter what I do it’s wrong and I just (LEAH grips a handful of mud in her hands. She becomes fixated on the dirt as she grows more insistent.) I don’t know. I just Can’t Stop Running. That’s all there is to it.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KENDRA N. KAHL

Running from something— Running to something— it really doesn’t matter. Because I don’t even know which it is. Mind running— Heart running— Feet running— And I’m not sure I ever will. All I know is that I’m Running And I’m so tired. (LEAH slams the mud back onto the bank. She accusatorily addresses the tree.) And I know what you’re thinking: “Why don’t you just stop then?” And I really wish I could. I really do. (LEAH turns back to the creek. A member of the CHORUS raises their bowl of water, almost an offering to LEAH.) (LEAH makes her way into the creek. The CHORUS remains seated but begins to slowly wave from SL to SR as a running creek. LEAH puts the mud on her hands into the outstretched water bowl, washing her hands of the dirt. She nervously laughs.) I wish I could just stop and let it pass me by. Stand in the middle of it all and let it pass me by. (LEAH has finished washing her hands. The bowl is passed between ensemble members toward SR with the motion of the creek as it is washes away.) I mean, you know You’ve got it pretty easy there.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KENDRA N. KAHL

(Another outstretched bowl. LEAH washes her face, her arms, her neck.) Can’t even run if you wanted to… Can’t even run if you wanted to Can’t even run if you wanted to. (LEAH seems to break from a trance. The bowl is passed to SR.) But then I guess that’s the difference between you and me. After a while I’d start getting sucked into the bottom. Stay still rooted to the spot buried alive you know? (LEAH pulls her feet up and begins to walk slowly upstream (SL). The CHORUS slightly pushes back against LEAH’s movements. Their motion toward the left meets her legs with an arm or an elbow. The CHORUS begins to slowly turn toward SL, focused on LEAH.) God, I look back on my life and I think: Damn. People would kill for what you have. A job. College sweetheart. Two kids, one boy, one girl. Little house with a picket fence life. And I look at my life and think: Damn. What did you even do. You dreamed of getting away from your dumpy little town just to settle somewhere else. Thirty miles down the road Pathetic. A job that you complain about?

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KENDRA N. KAHL

Kids that fucking hate you half the time? Yelling crazy shit about how you ruined their lives Because you can’t afford to buy them clothes with stupid brands all over them; Or time out isn’t fair; Or you never have time for us. And a husband Your college sweetheart, that is more protective of your hair than he is worried about you finding him looking at other women As you go out on your anniversary “date.” The only time you’ve been out in four months And life isn’t— And I’m just so— “God, Leah, I can look, can’t I?” “I hate you.” “This isn’t what I asked for.” “Why are you and daddy yelling?” “Don’t wait up.” (Some members of the CHORUS extend their bowls to LEAH.) “Why is everything such a big deal to you?” “Well then quit! Who’s stopping you?!” “You got so lucky with Jim.” “I wish I had your luck.” “I’m going out with the buddies again, sweetheart.” “Are you and daddy fighting?” “Don’t wait up.” (More members of the CHORUS extend their bowls to LEAH.) “You’ve got stability.” “Where did you put it? You know I need that!” “You really won the lottery, didn’t you?” “Well now you’ve done it.” “I hear it’s going well over your way.” “Don’t wait up.”

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KENDRA N. KAHL

(Still more of the CHORUS members extend their bowls to LEAH.) “You can’t hide forever.” “You’re ruining my life!” “What treasures you have in those children.” “Where’s dad? He understands.” “Why are you and daddy fighting?” “Why are you still on at me!” “Don’t wait up!” (LEAH thrashes in the creek as the last CHORUS bowls are raised. The CHORUS members thrash as a ripple, spilling some of the water from their bowls. LEAH watches the sloshing. She becomes still. So does the creek. The CHORUS begin to lower their bowls in unison.) Running. Running in my mind— Running all the time (Beat. The CHORUS return to their movement as before, running SL to SR. LEAH pulls a couple small pieces of paper out of her pocket.) Remember when I used to come out here and write in that stupid diary of mine? I’d, like, give myself little writing pep talks. You know “You can do it.” And “Stay the course.” And all that. I think I saw it on a stupid TV show when I was like 11. Thought I was the coolest around I don’t remember what happened to that notebook. Probably got lost when…

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KENDRA N. KAHL

So, uh, the other day, when I felt like I just couldn’t get away from trying to just get away from everything, I sat down. I sat down and wrote some words. (LEAH fiddles with the papers.) It’s silly. I know. And a whole lot of good they’ve done me. I mean, here I am, standing in a creek talking to a fucking tree Just like after dad— And this isn’t even my creek anymore. I mean, any minute someone might come out of that worn old house banging the screen door, passing the overgrown knockouts, eaten by Japanese beetles. Step along the crabgrass interlaced with the true green and tell the delusional person to leave— leave their family alone. And I wouldn’t blame them. And boy, I’d run then. Or maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I’d just let the moment pass me by. See what happened. Root myself just like you. Grow a wrinkled face. I’ve already got the tattoo. (LEAH takes a moment to stare at the paper in her hands. A moment of finality. She places the papers in the creek one by one. As she does so, the CHORUS takes them and passes them to each other as if the paper were floating downstream (SR). When CHORUS members touch the paper, they say the words on it, creating a ripple of the words LEAH has written.) CHORUS Stop running. (Echo.)

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KENDRA N. KAHL

You deserve the world you create. (Echo.) Hard decisions don’t come easy. (Echo.) Start living. (Echo.) You shouldn’t run from your problems. (Echo.) Run after what you want. (Echo.) (Silence. LEAH bends down and takes a bowl of water into her hands. She pours the water down her face and arms. She hands the bowl to a CHORUS member.) (LEAH makes her way back to the spot on the bank she entered the creek, the CHORUS members follow her with their bodies, facing US again.) (LEAH puts her hands down on the bank to step out of the water. She has fresh mud on her hands once more. As LEAH steps out, the CHORUS becomes still.) (LEAH stares at her reflection in the creek again. She moves the mud between her hands and then onto her arms and neck. The creek mirrors her movements.) (LEAH turns and grabs her shoes and stares at the creek.)

LEAH Well, no matter what, no matter how clean the water runs at your feet, you still have to track back through the mud on your way out. (LEAH breaks her focus on the creek to put her hand on the tree. She turns back as the CHORUS rises to standing. Leah stares at the CHORUS. The CHORUS stares back. The CHORUS watches LEAH exit toward SR, barefoot. The CHORUS follows LEAH’s exit with their bodies, facing SR.) (The CHORUS slowly turns back to US. Sits, cross-legged as at the beginning. They bow their heads.)

(BLACKOUT)

n n n For more information on author Kendra N. Kahl, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | KINGSLEY PASCAL

Together and Then By Kingsley Pascal

“Together and Then” is a short glimpse into a relationship told from the perspective of a girlfriend leaving her boyfriend’s apartment and her boyfriend watching her go. Each time they both leave the interaction with a feeling and/or emotion. In the beginning, those feelings and emotions are shared. But as their relationship goes on, they start to become a little out of sync and not always on the same page. In relationships there are often so many ups and downs: super high highs, and low lows, and I wanted to show that. The quote at the end is something that I think many of us might grapple with, as even when we do get something we want, it still sometimes doesn’t work out the way we imagined. But that’s life. (To read more about Kingsley Pascal please visit our Contributors Page)

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

2 Times in 10 Minutes at the 7-11 on 5th By Jeff Goode

Characters: Lotto Lady Clerk Soccer Mom First Robber Second Robber Setting: A 7-11 store (A small convenience store. The CLERK is counting out the money in the cash register. LOTTO LADY bursts into the store.) Lotto: All right, I wanna play my numbers. Clerk: You gotta wait. Lotto: 13 – 22 – 23 – 46 – 66 – powerball 7. Clerk: You gotta wait till I finish counting my drawers. You know that. Lotto: I’m not gonna miss my numbers ’cause you count too slow. Clerk: I count fine. You’re gonna miss your numbers because you keep interrupting me. Lotto: I play my same numbers every single day in this store. You can’t stop me.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

Clerk: No one’s trying to stop you. Lotto: I’ll go somewhere else. Clerk: Then go somewhere else. You know I have to count out my drawers right now. We do this every day. (counting) 25, 26, 27, 28… Lotto: It’s a conspiracy is what this is. You seen the news? $370 million dollar jackpot. Clerk: Yeah, I seen the news. How is that a conspiracy? Lotto: Because you don’t want to see me rich. You hate to see a girl get her own. Clerk: That’s stupid. Lotto: I could be playing my numbers right now if you wasn’t slow-countin’ me. Clerk: Why would I want you not to win? Lotto: Oh, you know why. I don’t have to tell you. You know why. Clerk: Do you know what happens when somebody wins a big jackpot like that? Lotto: No, but I aim to find out, as soon as you quit messin’ around. Clerk: The owner of the store that sold the winning ticket gets a percentage of the jackpot. Lotto: How much percentage? Clerk: I dunno, but if you won that $370 million, I’d be rich, too. Lotto: You’re welcome. Clerk: So I don’t wanna hear about how I don’t want you to win. The only conspiracy here is you keeping me from counting out my drawers so I can sell you your damn lottery ticket on time. (counting) 29, 30, 31, 32… Lotto: (irritably) I’ll come back.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

(SOCCER MOM walks in, as LOTTO LADY is walking out.) Mom: Excuse me, hello. I wonder if you could help me? Clerk: Not now, lady. You gotta wait in line. (She looks around. There’s no line.) Mom: What line? Clerk: Look, I don’t have time for this while I’m trying to do math in my head. I gotta cash out these drawers now, for security reasons, so you’re gonna have to wait just like everybody else. Mom: This won’t take a minute. I don’t want to buy anything. Clerk: Well, if you’re not here to buy something, then you really gotta wait. Okay? Mom: I don’t think you understand. I’m lost, I just need directions. I took a wrong exit off the freeway and I’m afraid I don’t know this area at all. Clerk: And I’m afraid you don’t understand if I don’t change out the register like I’m supposed to before my wife comes in to work her shift in about 10 minutes, she’s gonna murder me in ways I don’t think you fully appreciate. Mom: This is kind of an emergency. I’m supposed to pick up my daughter after soccer practice at six, but I took a wrong turn going to her new school, and this is not the right part of town at all. Clerk: Well, if this is an emergency— Mom: Oh, it is. It really is. Clerk: Then you can dial 9-1-1 and get some real help. But if all you want is directions, you’re going to have to wait. (counting) 33, 34, 35, 36… Mom: (feebly) Okay, I’ll wait.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

(LOTTO LADY bursts in, cuts in front of SOCCER MOM.) Lotto: All right, I wanna play my numbers. 13, 22, 23— Mom: Excuse me— Lotto: 46, 66, powerball 7. Mom: I was told to wait in line. Lotto: And I got about 2 minutes to get my numbers before I’m too late to win my $370 million, so you better not be thinkin’ about telling me how I gotta wait on you. Mom: Sir— Lotto: Don’t talk over me. He ain’t gonna help you. He gets a percentage if I win. That’s the law. (CLERK comes back from putting the excess money in the safe.) Clerk: All right, money’s in the safe. Twenty’s in the drawer. Can I help who’s next? Mom: Look, I just need directions. I just want to go home. Lotto: You gonna cut in front of me now? Did you see what she did? Do you see that?? It’s a conspiracy. Mom: I just want to get out of here. I’m lost. I’m on the wrong side of town. Lotto: Oh! I did not just hear you cut up in front of me and call my whole side of town “wrong”. Mom: I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant. Lotto: What’s wrong with it, huh? Mom: Nothing, I’m sure it’s lovely.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

Lotto: It ain’t lovely. It’s crap. But we don’t gotta stand for people like you comin’ in here, tearin’ it all down. Neighborhood’s got feelings, y’know. Mom: I’m sorry, but this is very upsetting. I am lost, and I am late. I just lost my job. And I’m freaking out. Lotto: (to Clerk) You better stop her freakin’ out. I’ll take my business elsewhere. Don’t think I won’t. Clerk: Free country. (handing her a lottery ticket) Here you go… 13, 22, 23, 46, 66, powerball 7. Lotto: Hey, that’s my numbers! Clerk: Yeah, I know. That’s your ticket. And next you’re gonna ask me to turn up the TV so you can watch the results at the end of the 5 o’clock news. Lotto: Stay outta my head. Clerk: That’ll be a dollar. Lotto: (to Mom) Hey, lemme have a dollar. Mom: Me? Lotto: Oh, now you’re too good to help a friend in need? Mom: You’re not my friend. Lotto: You wanna be my enemy? Mom: This is unbelievable. Lotto: Now she don’t believe me. You think I'm a ghost? Clerk: One of you better give me a dollar or it's going in the trash. Lotto: Lady!

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

Mom: (irritably handing over a dollar) Oh, here! Clerk: There you go. Mom: I can’t believe this. Is it my turn? Lotto: Come on, turn up that TV! I gotta listen for my numbers on the news. Mom: Don’t you have a home? Lotto: You did not just talk about my home. Clerk: Okay, it’s turned up. Next in line. Mom: Yes, hello. I am having a very bad day— (A ROBBER bursts into the store with a gun.) Robber: All right, this is a stickup! Everybody be cool, nobody gets hurt. Mom: Oh my God. Clerk: Not again. Mom: What do you mean, “again”?! Lotto: Would y’all keep it down? Tryin’ to hear my news. Robber: (to Clerk) You! Open up the register. Clerk: You got the worst timing, buddy. There’s no money in the register. Robber: That’s bullshit. Clerk: I just changed out the drawers. It’s all in the safe. Robber: Don’t make me shoot you!

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

Mom: (her hands in the air) It’s true. We saw him do it. Please, don’t shoot anybody. Robber: There’s no money in the cash register? Clerk: I’ve got twenty bucks in here. No, wait, twenty-one. Robber: Aw crap. That’s not even worth stealing. Lotto: Then don’t steal it. I’m tryin’ to hear my news. Robber: All right, then open up the safe. Clerk: I can’t. Robber: You’re the owner, aren’t you? Clerk: My wife’s the only one knows the combination. For security reasons. Robber: What, she don’t trust you? Clerk: You gonna break my balls now? Robber: Nah, I’m just sayin’. Clerk: So what’ll it be? You want the twenty bucks? Or how ’bout I give you some candy bars instead? Or a can of soda? Lotto: I’ll have a soda. (goes to get a soda) Clerk: Well…? Robber: Hold on, don’t rush me, let me think. Mom: (hands still up) Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. (A SECOND ROBBER bursts into the store.)

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

2nd: All right everybody, this is stick up. Nobody move. I’m serious! Clerk: You gotta be kidding. 2nd: I’m not kidding!! Lotto: You’re too late. We’re already being robbed. 2nd: What? When? 1st: Right now. I’m robbing the place already. You’re too late. 2nd: Aw, you’re kidding! You already emptied the cash register? 1st: Well… No. Clerk: That’s what we’re trying to decide. 2nd: If there’s money in there, hand it over. 1st: No, it’s mine! I was here first. 2nd: Then why’s it still in there? 1st: Because it’s only twenty bucks. Clerk: Twenty-one. 2nd: So? Twenty bucks is twenty bucks, give it to me. 1st: Use your head. There’s cameras all over these places. I don’t know about you, but I’m not gonna have my face all over the news for armed robbery if all I’m gonna get out of it is twenty dollars. 2nd: Aw crap, you’re right. That’s not even worth stealing. (TV: “And tonight’s winning lottery numbers are…”)

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

2nd: Hey, wait, I got an idea. What if you go ahead and rob the store, and then I rob you after? Then technically that’s not a crime, ’cause the money doesn’t belong to you anyway. 1st: So I get nothing? Why would I go along with that? 2nd: Because I’ve got a gun. 1st: We both got guns, moron. 2nd: Yeah, but you were here first. 1st: Hey, be my guest. You rob the store and then I’ll rob you. 2nd: Hell, no! 1st: See? Now you know how it feels. Mom: Oh my God. This can’t be happening. 2nd: This sucks. 1st: All right, let me think. (TV: “13 – 22 – 23 – 46 – 66 – And the powerball number is…”) Lotto: Oh my God… (TV: “7”) Mom: Oh my God! Clerk: You’re fucking kidding me. 1st: What? Lotto: (hysterical) No, you’re kidding me! You’re kidding me!

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

Mom: Oh my God. That’s incredible. I mean, what are the odds? 2nd: Of what? Clerk: (covering) Uh—of two people robbing the same store at the same time. This is one hell of a coincidence. 1st: You just figured that out? Lotto: Three hundred seventy— Clerk: Yeah, the odds must be… Lotto: Three hundred seventy million!! Mom: …to one. Clerk: Yeah. Mom: Something like that. Lotto: (hyperventilating) Oh. My. God. 2nd: Why is she doing that? She’s making me nervous. Clerk: Well, fellas, I tell you what. Here’s the twenty-one dollars. Why don’t you guys just take it outside and split it. 1st: Who gets the extra dollar? Clerk: Why don’t you two figure that out? 2nd: No, no, no, he’s right. I’m not going down for twenty bucks. Lotto: I can’t feel my legs. Mom: I think she’s having a heart attack.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

1st: Well, make her stop. You’re a nurse. Mom: I’m not a nurse. 1st: You’re not?? Mom: Why would you say that? 2nd: Look at how you’re dressed. Mom: What’s wrong with the way I’m dressed?? Clerk: Um, she’s not from around here. 2nd: Oh. Never mind. Mom: What? What?! Clerk: Okay, guys, here! (pulling out his wallet) I think I got a couple bucks in my wallet. It’s yours. And help yourself to a six-pack or a bag of chips on the way out. Whatever you like. 1st: Why are you in such a hurry to get rid of us? Clerk: Why? Well, um… Mom: (whispers) The robbery. Clerk: I mean, obviously, because you are robbing my store. Of course. And that’s very bad for business. So if you could please take this money now, and I can get back to running my business. And maybe later tonight you can stop back and rob me again when I have more money! Or, actually, my wife will be in later, and she knows the combination to the safe. Yes! That sounds like a great idea. 1st: Hey, that’s it! We don’t have to just rob the cash register. 2nd: You want to steal the safe?

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

1st: No, the customers. 2nd: You want to steal the customers?? 1st: No! We rob the customers! One of them’s gotta have some cash. Clerk: No. Um… Don’t do that. Lotto: They can’t have my money. 1st: See? I knew one of them was loaded. (to Mom) I kinda thought it would be you, though. 2nd: (to Lotto) All right, hand it over. Lotto: They can’t have my money! Clerk: Shut up. Look, leave her alone. She’s crazy. She doesn’t have any money. She just says things like that. (to Mom) Ain’t that right, lady? Mom: That’s right. She’s completely broke. In fact, she had to borrow a dollar from me to buy a lott— (CLERK and SOCCER MOM exchange frightened glances.) Mom: —of feminine products. 2nd: Ugh! Mom: Tampons, and feminine deodorant. Pregnancy test. Enema. 2nd: Never mind! I don’t wanna know! Clerk: Look, just take the money. But leave the customers out of it. Especially the crazy ones. 1st: If she borrowed money for tampons, where are they? Clerk: Where?

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

2nd: Don’t make her show you! 1st: No, I wanna see ’em. Something’s going on here. Everybody, turn out your pockets. Crazy first. (SOCCER MOM finally snaps.) Mom: All right, fine!! Yes, I have money. Here, take it! Take it all! You want more? I’ll write you a check. Look, there’s credit cards. Here’s my car keys. Just go!! 1st: Now we’re talkin’… 2nd: How come he gets the car? How am I supposed to get home? Mom: (handing him house keys) Fine, here, you get the house. And you can give him a ride. Please, just leave us alone. 1st: This is the craziest robbery I’ve ever been in. Mom: You think this is crazy? I’m just trying to pick up my daughter from soccer practice! I took one wrong turn, and I’m lost on the bad part of town. And I know you people don’t want to think it’s the bad part. But I don’t get robbed twice in 10 minutes where I come from! I’m not even supposed to be here, but I have to pick up my daughter at her new school. She doesn’t need a new school, but my husband and I just split up and now he wants to establish custody, so he’s got her in this place. But that’s not the worst part. I’m late to get her, because I lost my job, because the company’s going in another direction, and that direction is apparently away from the one where they pay me to do my shitty ass job. And they don’t have the decency to at least wait until after my custody hearings are over, so now my husband is going to get the kids, because I can’t support them and their tuition at the private school he picked out just to fuck with me. My daughter is waiting for me somewhere all by herself, but I don’t know where, and it’s getting late, and I’m not even on the right side of town, and if anything happens to her while you two are bickering about twenty dollars, his lawyers will make sure I never see her again, and it’s all because this asshole wouldn’t give me directions back to the freeway when I asked nicely, so now I’m here being robbed, not once, but twice in 10 minutes, which is actually, believe it or not, better than my real life right now, so maybe I should just stay here!!

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

(Everyone is stunned. SOCCER MOM angrily snatches the gun out of the FIRST ROBBER’s hand.) 1st: Hey! Mom: Now, take my money and get out of here, or so help me I will do something I regret. 1st: She got my gun! 2nd: That’s ’cause you’re an idiot. (FIRST ROBBER snatches the gun out of the SECOND ROBBER’s hand.) 2nd: Hey! 1st: Now who’s an idiot? 2nd: Give me that! (FIRST ROBBER points gun at SECOND ROBBER to keep him at bay.) 1st: Now, look, Lady, I’m sorry about your kid. But you really don’t want to shoot nobody. Mom: Don’t tempt me. 1st: Nobody’s tempting anybody. But, no offense, you don’t seem like the type. Lotto: No, no, she is, she’s the type. She’s been crazy since the first time she walked in here. Mom: Shut up! Lotto: You see? Mom: Okay… Maybe I’m not a killer… 1st: That’s what I like to hear.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

Mom: But I did try to commit suicide in college. 2nd: What the—? Mom: And I think I’ve still got what it takes to endanger my own life. (SOCCER MOM puts the gun to her head.) Clerk: Holy shit. 2nd: That’s messed up. 1st: Are you nuts? Why would you do that? Lotto: I told you about her! I tried to warn you. Mom: I am not having a good day. 1st: Put down that gun. 2nd: Don’t try to stop her! Go ahead, lady, do it. That solves one of our problems. Clerk: Maybe for you. But if she shoots herself, that guy’s got big trouble. 1st: Why’s that? Clerk: Are you kidding? If they find her dead in my store from the bullets in your gun. Ain’t no jury in the world gonna believe she stole it from you in the middle of a robbery and decided to shoot herself. She pulls that trigger, you’re going down for murder. Over a lousy twenty bucks. Lotto: Twenty-one bucks! Ha! 2nd: Don’t listen to him. Let her shoot herself. I’ll be your witness. 1st: Who’s gonna believe you?! 2nd: Then give me the gun and I’ll do it.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

1st: You shut up! And lady, just put the gun down. You don’t want to shoot yourself. Mom: Are you sure? I told you about my day. 1st: I mean it, lady, give me the gun. Mom: No! No!! You give me the gun. Or so help me, I will blow my brains all over this store. 1st: All right, calm down. Mom: Give me the gun! Right now! 1st: Okay, here you go. 2nd: What are you doing? (FIRST ROBBER hands her the gun, she puts them both to her head, and BOTH ROBBERS put their hands up.) Mom: Now I want you both to close your eyes and count to ten. And when you open your eyes, I want you to leave. And don’t come back. Clerk: (whispers) They don’t need to count to ten. Mom: I want them to count to ten! 1st: All right, no problem! 2nd: Do we still get to keep the car? Mom: Count! 1st & 2nd: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. (They both slowly open their eyes. And then bolt out of the store. CLERK and LOTTO LADY exchange stunned glances, and then…) Clerk & Lotto: Yes! We won the lottery! Oh my God! We won! We won!

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


SCRIPTS | JEFF GOODE

(They scream and hug each other.) Lotto: Lady, I gotta give it up. You saved our asses. Clerk: That was amazing. How can we ever thank you? (With a crazed look in her eye, SOCCER MOM turns both guns on the two of them.) Mom: I…want…two…million…dollars. Lotto: What!? Man, I knew this was not my day. Clerk: You’re going to rob us now? Mom: No, you’re going to give me the money. As a reward. One million from you. And one million from you. Clerk: One million each?! She’s got 370 million. I only get a percentage! That’s like half my money! Mom: And I just about shot myself in the head because you wouldn’t give me directions back to the freeway. So you’re going to give me one million each. (to Clerk) And you’re going to give me directions. (to Lotto) And you’re going to give me back my dollar. Or I can call those two back in here, and give them their guns, and tell them where they can find $370 million in this place. Y’got that? Lotto: Yeah! Yeah! No, don’t do that. We’re cool. Clerk: You got a deal! Yes! Mom: All right… (She slowly lowers the weapons. All three exchange stunned glances, and then…) Lotto & Clerk & Mom: Yeah! We won the lottery! Oh my God! We won! We won! We won! (They scream and hug each other as the lights fade to black.)

n n n For more information on author Jeff Goode, please visit our Contributors Page.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | ASUR MISOA

Asur Misoa

Island | Digital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | ASUR MISOA

Lost Civilization | Digital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | ASUR MISOA

Waterfalls House| Digital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | ASUR MISOA

The Quest - Day 1 | Digital

Asur Misoa is a freelance artist from France. She specializes in fantasy digital art. You can find her illustrations at: Portfolio : http://artstation.com/asur-misoa Facebook : facebook.com/asur.illustrations Instagram : http://instagram.com/asur_misoa/ Twitter : twitter.com/AsurArt .

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | CALEB WORCESTER

Caleb Worcester

The Origin | Digital 3D CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | CALEB WORCESTER

A Short Rest | Digital 3D

The Mechanic | Digital 3D Caleb Worcester is a designer and illustrator in Kansas City, Missouri. Thoroughly tech obsessed, his work explores the barriers between nature and artifice in artworks heavily inspired by the smoky neon settings of 80's sci-fi intermingled with the rich textures of 1960's illustrations. He has worked with artists and musicians across the globe to collaborate on interactive, and innovative, artworks. You can see more of his work at: https://worcestercaleb.wixsite.com/website and on Instagram @calebrateds CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | JADE SHENG

Jade Sheng

Awakening | Digital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | JADE SHENG

Home | Digital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | JADE SHENG

Interpreting Ulysses 02| Inkjet Print on Film and Plywood

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | JADE SHENG

Modern Love Dilemma | Digital

Jade Sheng is a designer, illustrator, and art director. Her narratives and interests are often expressed through typography and portrait drawings, with great attention to detail and the message. As an artist, Jade isn't afraid of stepping into new grounds, experimenting in the virtual space, as well as playing with tactile materials. As a designer, she puts effective visual communication as a top priority. Jade is currently the art director at FNewsmagazine for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she is pursuing her MFA in visual communications. Find her on Instagram @jadeysheng, @jadesheng.studio and email her at Lsheng@saic.edu.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | ANNMARIE PERRY

Annmarie Perry

Free Yourself | Spray Paint

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | ANNMARIE PERRY

Letting Go | Spray Paint

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | ANNMARIE PERRY

Walking into the Storm | Spray Paint

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | ANNMARIE PERRY

The Calm | Spray Paint

Annmarie Perry, also known as Spray Can Ann or Rattle Can, began producing spray-can art 10 years ago. As a self-taught artist, Annmarie continues to expand her talents to new adventures including chalk art, airbrushing, oil and acrylic painting. Her work had been featured on Glendale 8, Channel 3, VFW, and won an award on YouTube in 2017, finishing in the top 10 of all the spray paint artists. While beginning her career as a hobby, her passion for art quickly grew to inspire company “Out of My Mind.� Traveling the Southwest, her company sells and exhibits her spray paint art at county fairs, festivals and local charity events. You can find her here: Etsy: OutofMyMindPaintings. Instagram: @outofmymind69. Facebook: Facebook.com/outofmymindperry.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | VANYA ALLISON

Vanya Allison

Laundry Day | Oil

Streetscapes| Oil

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | VANYA ALLISON

Starting to Snow| Oil

Changing Times| Acryl Gouache on Black Watercolor Paper

Vanya Allison is an award winning artist who has been painting and drawing for most of her life. Her favorite medium is oil, and she also likes working with water medium. Her paintings tell a story by creating a mood, using looser brush strokes, leaving certain areas unfinished and/or deconstructed. This allows the viewer to personalize and complete the story. She likes painting streetscapes, landscapes, still life and people. Vanya has studied at the School of Visual Arts, NYC., and Scottsdale Artists' School, Az. She has participated in numerous shows and exhibitions, and her work is in many private collections. She can be contacted at vanyaallisonfineart@gmail.com and her paintings can be viewed on Instagram at @vanyaallisonfineart.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | DARRYN CLARENCE

Darryn Clarence

My Name is Human | Digital

Darryn Clarence is a South African artist/animator based in Melbourne, Australia. He is doing his best to express his deepest thoughts and perspectives of the world. The description given to this artwork is from a game called Disco Elysium, where the protagonist is talking to the embodiment of nature. He asks the creature: “Who am I?” The creature responds, “You are a violent and irrepressible miracle. The vacuum of cosmos and the stars burning in it are afraid of you. Given enough time you would wipe us all out and replace us with nothing -- just by accident.” The creature was not describing the main character, but humanity as a whole, our natural state of destruction. You can find him on Instagram @plotgram.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | MYRIAM BOUDREAU

Myriam Boudreau

Queen of Hearts | Body Painting

Myriam Boudreau is a 30-year-old, French-Canadian artist. She is self taught and focuses on paintings, drawings, makeup, bodypainting, modeling and more. She uses her art to inspire other people, to express her emotions and to feel mind free. She does a lot of collaborating with other artists. She is also a single parent. “My 8years-old daughter is my strength and gives me the passion to do my art for living.” She created the headpiece featured and the body painting. Find Myriam on Instagram @lymyni_art. Photography by Cyril Mourissargues. Find him at Instagram @cyril_m_photographie. Model Ophélie Chambily. Find her on Instagram @ophelie_cby.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | SOPHIA ASHCRAFT

Sophia Ashcraft

Crazy | Traditional

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | SOPHIA ASHCRAFT

Dumb | Traditional

Sophia Ashcraft is sixteen years old and is a junior in high school. There are a lot of jobs she would like to partake in, but art would be her job of choice. She is quite awkward and has been through a lot. This is the happiest she has ever been her whole life. She spills soda quite often, so keep your keyboards away from her! She has a mouse named Minnie. (I just wanted to let you all know that.) She is just riding on a rollercoaster, but it’s not ups and downs, but more like just ups and ups, ya know? You can find her on Instragram @sophiasclutterart.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | COLE PARKER

Cole Parker

Desert Stars | Photography CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | COLE PARKER

Kristina Dunes | Photography

Mt. Tame Golden | Photography

Cole Parker is a 20-year-old photographer born and raised in San Diego, California. Inspired by the location around him, he quickly became passionate about photography after getting his first camera. He tends to gravitate towards coastal locations along the Southern California oceans, where he feels the essence of his beautiful city is captured. You can find Cole Parker’s artwork on Instagram @colepark.er

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | RACHEL SALNERS

Rachel Salners

Cthulhu | Digital CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | RACHEL SALNERS

Demeter | Digital

Frail | Digital CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | RACHEL SALNERS

IMG_1766 | Digital

Rachel Salners is currently a student studying animation at Cal State Fullerton. Tim Burton, Laika Studios, and dark early 2000’s shows like Invader Zim were her biggest inspirations to pursue a career in art and animation. Later on, she learned more about art history and incorporated ideas from movements such as German expressionism and surrealism into her work. Her favorite medium is black ink which she uses to add a gritty looking tone by hatching along the contour of her figures. Themes of the bizarre and grotesque are common in her work because of her interest in the horror genre. She hopes to work as a character designer and one day a showrunner when she graduates and pursues a career in her field. You can find her on Instagram @Ungeziefer_art.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | EGON STANÄŒIR

Egon StanÄ?ir

As above, so below| Traditional An amateur artist from Croatia, Egon also plays guitar in a band and is currently working on a few music related projects along with art. He is 21 years old and works as a security guard (for now). He aspires to create art that will make people think and admire at the same time, in a visual and audible way. This piece is called "As above, so below," and what it represents should be interpreted individually. You can email him at egon.stancir@gmail.com CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | DHRUVIL BHAYANI

Dhruvil Bhayani

Hallway | Digital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | DHRUVIL BHAYANI

Isolation Edit | Digital

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | DHRUVIL BHAYANI

Stranded | Digital CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | DHRUVIL BHAYANI

Wilderness | Digital Dhruvil Bhayani is a freelance photographer from India who shoots fashion and portraiture. But since he had to stay at home because of the pandemic, he decided to broaden his skill set and learn 3D softwares so he can create his own world in the 3D workspace. He implemented his knowledge of photography into 3D which helped him make his work visually pleasing in terms of lighting and composition, and now he’s making these renders almost every other day. You can find him on Instagram @luminance__ CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | DOODLER SKELLY

Doodler Skelly

ATLAS TEMPLE | Traditional + Digital CANYON VOICES Fall 2020


ARTWORK | DOODLER SKELLY

BUGGERS | Traditional + Digital

CANYON VOICES Fall 2020


ARTWORK | DOODLER SKELLY

FALLENRUINS | Traditional + Digital

CANYON VOICES Fall 2020


ARTWORK | DOODLER SKELLY

SHIP REPAIR | Traditional + Digital

Doodler Skelly is an anonymous, self-taught, 17-year-old artist from Finland. He mostly draws all kinds of weird creatures and fantasy environments. He considers himself a rather new artist, as he’s taken art more seriously for only 2 years now. His medium of art is a weird one. He makes all of his line arts traditionally, only colors are digital. What he tells people everywhere is just simply: “I draw stuff.” You can find him on Instagram @doodleskelly CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | RACHEL SMARTT

Rachel Smartt

Grandma's Balcony | Digital CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | RACHEL SMARTT

Last Night’s Dream | Digital CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | RACHEL SMARTT

Changchun Rain | Digital CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


ARTWORK | RACHEL SMARTT

Shedding | Digital

Rachel Smartt is a self-taught Australian illustrator who marries bold and dreamy surrealism with sharp ink lines and urban landscapes. With influences ranging from Chryssa to HergĂŠ to the swiftly changing environments from her international travels, Rachel offers sanctuarized visions of civilization, creating very simple, complex little worlds. You can find her on Instagram @rachel.smartt

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | ELIZABETH NELSON

The Poetry of Storytelling An Interview with Elizabeth Nelson By Lindsey Saya

Hello Elizabeth, thank you for being a part of Canyon Voice’s Authors Alcove. When did you decide that poetry was something you wanted to pursue? What is it about poetry, as opposed to other artistic expressions, that draws you in, in terms of creating art? I wrote poetry as a child. Drawing was my first artistic expression, poetry second. It was a natural progression for me because I love words and find them as tangibly stimulating as visual art. Poems go right to the essence of a feeling, a moment, an experience—they are very economical. You can tell an entire story in a few lines, because most stories, what really matters when you boil them down to their bones, are about a specific state of existence in time and place, heart and mind. Poetry condenses the human experience into a beautiful, palm-sized package, but when you open it, like Alice’s rabbit hole, it keeps going and going and going, daring you to follow. Your poem In the Golden Hour is working on so many levels. It is a tender poem of lost love, missed opportunity, and the hardship of letting go, or rather the sadness of being unable to let go. How much of this poem is auto biographical and how much of it is storytelling? Everything is storytelling, whether autobiographical, inspired by, or purely imagined. Even when a work of art is lifted from your own life, it becomes a story the instant you CANYON VOICES

Read Elizabeth Nelson’s work, “A Seven Letter Word,” in the Fiction section and “In the Golden Hour” in the Poetry section.

choose to tell it. A memory is also a story—the way we remember, the way we choose to tell that remembrance—that story becomes the truth. What actually happened is lost in the instant the moment passes. What is left is the story and how we choose to tell it. I know how the woman in the poem feels. That level of nostalgia, especially when attached to an atmosphere of place, is home for me. It’s like time travel. I can know it’s fall in 2020, but if the air smells just so and the sun is warm on my skin and the sounds of my walk remind me of a spring’s past, it’s not a far leap for both mind and body to step into another time, another place. For that moment, I am living inside the memory, and all of me is present in that past. The woman of In the Golden Hour is time traveling. I do that all the time. One of the beauties of In the Golden Hour is how setting and the imagery of that

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | ELIZABETH NELSON

setting propels the emotion of the poem. Often this poem seems to serve as a love letter to New York City. How much does New York appear in your writing? A lot! I lived in Queens and worked in Manhattan for almost ten years. I often say that New York saved my life. I needed to be far away from my homeland and moving to NYC can feel like moving to another country. After the initial culture shock, I fell deeply in love with the city. Eventually, I grew weary of the lifestyle and moved away, but my time there, learning the city and making it my own, will forever be part of me. Once an honorary New Yorker, always an honorary New Yorker. She’s very much like a past lover. Writing letters to her lets me time travel into all that I still adore, without the realities of why I left. An interesting thing about your story A Seven Letter Word is its use of gender or rather gender roles. The Character of the boy serves as this non-binary, non-gender conforming person that challenges the main character’s sense of self but also can charm, so to speak, the wife of the story. What was your aim in making this character gender fluid, and is gender or gender conformity/non-conformity something that often arises in your writing? I wanted to create a common ground for the husband and wife to meet upon. This common ground—the boy—could be many different things. A mutual affection or attraction. A child they never have or maybe one they lost. A shared experience or story. All of these things, and it can be different for each of them, might bring them together, might give them just enough purchase on the threads of their unraveling relationship. I also wanted to create an afternoon that is CANYON VOICES

exceedingly ordinary, and yet something extraordinary happens in this very small space. A shared secret that looks different from each character’s point of view. The boy is a mystery, a secret discovered to each of them, separate and together. I am also fascinated by the evolution of gender in our world. It was only a few years ago that I fully understood gender as a social construct, that I started learning new terms like pansexual and how to use they/them pronouns. I had this feeling of ‘why didn’t I know about all this sooner!?’ I love the idea and act of pushing open the tight little box we’ve built around human sexuality and love. Why should it be in a box at all? I also think, if given the opportunity and safety to be wholly honest, many people would discover their capacity for love and attraction is really quite expansive. Who are the artists/writers that have influenced or shaped you or your work? Recently I’ve had the pleasure of reading these phenomenal and inspirational works: Parakeet by Marie-Helene Bertino, In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha, and After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry. I love everything by Roxanne Gay. I have always enjoyed the short stories of Elizabeth Gilbert, and her book on creativity, Big Magic, forever changed how I think about my engagement with the enchantment of creating. Also, Alice Munro, Adam Johnson, Paula Vogel, Barbara Kingsolver, Sena Jeter Naslund, Sarah Waters. I am drawn to character first and plot second. What does your artistic process look like? Is there a certain place, time of day, state of mind, or food you need to write? Do

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | ELIZABETH NELSON

you prefer solitude or a café, perhaps, when writing? Most of my life I haven’t had a process or anything that looks like a disciplined practice. I wrote for deadlines or when I couldn’t contain an idea and putting it to paper was the only way to stop obsessing and sleep again. Waiting for a deadline or that sort of burning inspiration works for some, but I let a lot of years go by without finishing many projects. When I started writing The Golden Hour, which is my play that the poem comes from, I wrote in the mornings before my full-time day job. I still write in the mornings before work. I get up an hour early and for that one hour, I write (or draw when I need a break). 6AM is a magical time for me. My house is quiet. My neighborhood is quiet. My family is still asleep. That hour begins dark and is light by the end. My mind is open and fresh and not yet stressed out by the day’s work, responsibilities, and chores. And when I begin my day like this, I am typically more centered and at ease. There is another crucial element to my practice. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, if my characters begin to speak, or a phrase forms in my mind, I stop what I am doing and capture it, usually on my phone in an email to myself unless my laptop is close enough for me to run to. I have to type it—recording my voice doesn’t work for me but it might for others. I always encourage other writers to do this. Don’t wait. Don’t trust that you’ll remember it. When creativity taps you on the shoulder (or hits you upside the head), pay attention. It might feel like a little scrap in the moment, but those scraps add up. I’ve written entire plays like this, in tidbits on the subway, in the middle of the night, pulled over in my car, on a sidewalk while walking my dog. Those kernels are often gold, incredible rabbit holes you’re going to want to run down later

CANYON VOICES

when you have more time. What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? And how has it shaped your writing? Sometimes done is better than perfect. Know when you’ve reached that moment. Also, follow your curiosity. (Without judgement.) In the Golden Hour is such an intimate poem. Do you find most of your work to be more personal or observatory of the world around? Yes and yes. To some degree, all writing is autobiographical. Our ideas and imaginings are filtered through our experiences, our joys, our wonderment and fears, our failures, and our hopes. The world is an incredible place, full of impossible beauty and magic. It’s also, at times, a pit of despair. I think the human experience is vast, and writing—or any sort of creating—is an opportunity to engage with that vastness, to capture a little bit of stardust and examine and admire and learn and feel and expand. And then to share all of that. Also, I think most art is intimate. Or at least, intimate to whoever it touches. I am so thankful for the creations that have edged directly into my heart and soul. I feel less alone when that happens, more a part of the world and its community. I learn so much from the ways that others observe and experience the world. I hope what I create helps do the same for someone, for whoever might need it at the moment in time. How does writing or making art change you? Writing helps me process experience. Someone once said to me: you’re an emotional exhibitionist. I have a lot of feelings. So many

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | ELIZABETH NELSON

feels! Writing helps me channel all that stimuli and understand it on a more logical level, which helps me function in the world. Plus, I’m an empath. Writing wrings out my emotional sponge. What is next for you artistically? I have always wanted to write a book. Earlier this year, I started writing what I thought was a series of essays, or autobiographical short stories. About 20,000 words in I realized that the story I want and need to tell is my own. It’s scary to say this out loud or write it down, but I think I’m writing my first book, a memoir about growing up in a violent household, the death of my father and brother, and grappling with loss, anxiety, and adulting in today’s world. I don’t know...we’ll see what happens. But for right now, I’m following my curiosity. I want to see how the story ends.

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | DAKOTA WILLIAM SZANISZLO

The Possibilities of an Unpublished Author: A Perceptive Conversation with Dakota William Szaniszlo By Dorailiana Ledesma What inspired you to be a writer? I have always loved (and voraciously consumed) art in all forms and media, but for me, writing has always been the most fascinating. Unlike music or painting, or the culinary arts even, it doesn’t appeal directly to any one of the senses. Instead, it appeals to the mind—it guides the imagination to create for itself the same sensory effect that external stimuli do, and that has always amazed me. I still practice other forms of artistic creation, but writing has always been the expressionistic output that has come most naturally for me. I love words: the rhythm of the syllables, the intermingling of the meanings, their textures and flavors, their tone. Connecting words together, and seeing the subtle ways in which those tones change, in which the different shades of their meanings are highlighted or dampened, is simply delightful. The act of writing is in itself an inspiration. How many unpublished pieces do you have? Do you hope you can finish them one day? Well, I have several spiral-notebooks all filled with poetry and short-stories and other sorts of writings that I scribbled throughout my teens and early twenties—some of which I have considered compiling into some sort of collection for publication, but most of which I am happy

CANYON VOICES

Read Dakota William Szaniszlo’s work, “On Being an Unpublished Writer,” in the Creative Nonfiction section.

forever being the sole reader of—and multiple love poems that were only meant for their own singular audiences. However, I have four finished short-stories that are soon to be sent out for publication, another two that I’ve started with the utmost intention of finishing and publishing (although, between you and I, only one of the two will most likely ever get done), and a nearlycomplete novel that I am very excited for. Aside from that, there are the countless stories and story ideas that I’ve begun composing intellectually—some admittedly more concrete than others—the majority of which I certainly plan on setting to paper some day.

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | DAKOTA WILLIAM SZANISZLO

Any certain routine or process you go through that helps you write? My usual routine involves immense amounts of procrastination interspersed by intense, but short-lived flashes of inspiration. And then editing. Lots and lots of editing. For my general writing process, I like to begin with a mental composition, crafted over the course of several months worth of daydreams and nightmares. Then, I make a handwritten first draft, usually on 3x5 note cards, filling each card with cramped illegible scrawl and then crossing out and replacing nearly every other word before typing up a fair copy. That fair copy is then subjected to mass revision and sent to a few trusted proofreaders. After their input is ignored, I obsessively nitpick the piece until I feel nothing else can be changed. This process was stolen, for the most part, from my all-time favorite writer, Vladimir Nabokov. Was your piece, “On Being an Unpublished Writer”, written during a time when you were an unpublished writer or is it more of a reflection of a past reality? It’s funny you should ask that. Or insightful, rather. The reality is that “On Being an Unpublished Writer” is my very first published piece of writing. However, my intention was to write it from the (prospective) perspective of an accomplished writer in their prime—perhaps even past their prime—as they reflect on a past reality, reminiscing on being an unpublished writer, trying to recapture that somewhat naive wonder they once had and all the while grappling with their own artistic contradictions. So, in a sense, both.

CANYON VOICES

Your piece has a sort of optimism towards being an unpublished writer that speaks on the excitement of being one. However, there are also subtle instances of struggle that come with being an unpublished writer. What do you personally find to be the most difficult part of this process? I am a bit of a self-defeating perfectionist. Oftentimes I hold myself to higher standards than I could ever be capable of, and so, rather than lowering those unrealistic standards, I tend to give up before I’ve ever really begun. I imagine many writers, or artists in general, have a similar self-defeating aspect to them; the execution of the art could never truly compare to the imagined ideal, after all. For me, the hardest step is always the first. The largest hurdles are always self-imposed. Only once I’ve stopped worrying about artistic ideals and literary traditions can I have fun with the free expressionism of writing; most of the time I just have to force myself to start. Similarly, the last step is almost as difficult as the first—deciding when enough nitpicking is enough and just letting a piece go, setting down the final punctuation and sending it off to (hopefully) be published and read. How do you overcome your adversities? I like to think that adversities are also opportunities. All struggles and perceived failures are chances for growth, lessons that can teach you something about the world and about yourself. For me, overcoming adversity is a conscious decision to never stop trying. Whether it is within the daily grind of our modern existence, or the struggles of seeking publication, that decision has to be made to always pursue life to the fullest and not let “failure” stand in the way—an entire army of scathing critics with a barricade of endless rejection letters could not

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | DAKOTA WILLIAM SZANISZLO

keep me from continuing to write and send out my work. You refer to the concept of originality as an illusion. What do you believe writers should be striving for as opposed to the idea of “originality”? More than originality, I believe writers should strive for honesty. Whether or not an idea has been expressed before is much less important to me than whether or not that idea is being expressed genuinely. I do still believe Originality is an important ideal to pursue, just like Truth and Perfection, but I think it is just as important to understand and accept that absolutes like that are unobtainable—only then can one hope to come close to such ideals. Through the act of reaching for the unreachable, inspiration is born. Whether or not that inspiration comes from divine sources or solely from the artist’s mind is a philosophical and theological debate that I don’t wish to get into at this time. But, as I see it, everything already exists, every thought and idea is already out there, somewhere in the infinite universe, and all one can really do is try to notice and appreciate those various aspects, all those sensations that stir the soul, and then attempt to connect them in a way that is somehow personally meaningful. There is also a lot of mention about possibilities, freedoms, and even voices. For every writer I imagine it’s different, how do you see your possibilities and voices as? That is a question I struggle with in some ways. I feel the writer’s voice suffers a similar fate to that of the singer. That is, there is always some form of affectation involved. From Pavarotti to Lou Reed, there is always some level of stylization and performance. What the exact relationship is

CANYON VOICES

between performance and expression is a paradox that intrigues me. It seems, there always is an element of one within the other. Ultimately, I hope to be able to embrace those contradictions and find the best aspects of both—a voice of honest, self-expression that is free to change style and technique as desired. I wish to use those limitless possibilities of performance in order to find some way to express my own perspectives and personal meanings. In my opinion, the best art has a certain unity between style and content—that is what I ultimately strive for with my authorial voice. Can you elaborate on this quote “To be unpublished is to be free, but it is also to be nonexistent…to be born again as a published author.” what change, or rebirth is there when one becomes published? I regard that sentence in a similar way to the old philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Sound waves don’t just cease existence if they can’t reach an ear; a writer’s hard work and personal expression should not be discredited just because they haven’t been published. But, from a humanistic point-of-view, if an event is not experienced, or an experience not documented and retained in human history, then its very existence becomes speculative, or irrelevant at the very least. Once published, your fallen trees can be heard. The other side of that, however, is that once you have an official start to your oeuvre, there becomes a more definite differentiation between the multitude of unwritten story ideas bouncing around your head and the ones that are written and ready to be published. Things get a little more real. You have to decide which ones to write and send out, because there isn’t enough time in the world for every one of them. For me, this will inevitably

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | DAKOTA WILLIAM SZANISZLO

cause the same existential anxiety that one may feel when looking at a massive library, with shelves upon shelves of books, and trying to decide which one to read next, knowing full well that you will never be able to read them all. They say that once your work is out there it is no longer completely yours, how do you find this relates to your piece? I would agree with that sentiment to a large degree. I believe art exists outside of the actual medium used, held somewhere between the artist’s intention and the audience’s interpretation. No two people truly see a painting in the exact same way; no two people will interpret a piece of writing in the exact same way

CANYON VOICES

either. Therefore, once it’s out there, your work becomes something that is intimately owned by each person who reads it—it is no longer solely a product of your own mind. This sentiment is reflected in my piece most pointedly in the direct address to all the amalgamated readers for, once published, it is really they that give any meaning to a piece of writing. By that point, the author has done all they can. The publishers have done their part. It is the Reader who is tasked with the rest of the creation. If there is one thing that you want readers to take from your story, what would it be? Enjoyment.

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | SOPHIA ASHCRAFT

Being Yourself Through Art: Inside the Unique Style of Sophia Ashcraft By William Hightower

What got you into art? It was probably this homie in fourth grade. I looked at his art and it was awesome. He could draw eyes and ears, and stuff and it was GOOD! I decided I wanted to draw like that so I just kinda got into it. I started drawing and it was really whack because it was really bad at first, but now it’s cool. Do you have any influences? Dude totally. Salvador Dali. He’s cool. That one guy in fourth grade, he was cool too. What do you like about Salvador Dali? Dude, like everything! His style is dreamlike and I love surrealism. It’s like nostalgic with the colors that are kinda pastel without the pinks and purples. Just yellows, oranges, and blues. Do you have any style you prefer? Yeah, graffiti and surrealism. Clutter art I will call it, but I don’t know if that is what it is called. It’s just kinda like all of my ideas on one page. If I was to separate them I would have so many unfinished art pieces because I would forget about them because it’s a lot of craziness, but having them all together makes things simpler. How long have you been drawing? I have been drawing since fourth grade and I am now a junior in high school so like seven years. My style has definitely changed. In fourth grade I

CANYON VOICES

Look at Sophia Ashcraft’s work in the Art section.

started drawing flowers, people, and landscaping. In seventh grade I started drawing eyes, they were everywhere, on like almost every page. Freshmen year is when I started getting into words and stuff. I saw this one girl’s art, what I would call clutter art, and I was like dude I like this and I want to try it, so I did. It has changed a lot still though because my old style of clutter art was cuckoo bananas. How long would you say it took you to get comfortable with drawing? Maybe like a year or so because some people were not as supportive as I would have liked. My mom… she did not really support me or felt that it was not like a career even though she was a cosmetologist. She would scold me behind my back, but when people complimented me, she would act all supportive. See their reactions made me feel better about my art, but she still

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | SOPHIA ASHCRAFT

made me feel shit about it. The scolding had a bigger effect on me than the compliments.

successful art career, which would be totally cash money!

That sounds like it would hold you back. How did you overcome that?

Any words you can give to help inspire others to get involved in the arts?

Well, this homie named Billy said “This eye is totally sick man” and I was like woah I have confidence in this shit now! His opinion really matters, I don’t know why, but he just existed. I really enjoy showing him my art because he was always supportive and would give me compliments and supportive feedback. It definitely helped me overcome the past.

Just try everything that looks interesting, because it could be your thing you know? You can say that one lady did cool art stuff and maybe I could too you know? Just try your best man because I don’t know it’s just like getting your heart out on the canvas. Oh, and fuck people because they can’t tell you what to do. They can’t tell you how your art is supposed to be or how it looks, just draw or paint or sew or something. It’s awesome. (chuckle)

Do you have a favorite piece you have created? Yes, a lot of them. Most of the ones I submitted I liked a lot and the one I am creating now I like a lot too. I am kinda on a writer’s block type thing right now and I haven’t really been motivated. Is this the first time your work has been featured in anything?

Do you have an Instagram or anything else you would like to mention? Yeah, you can come vibe with me at sophiasclutterart on Instagram. Getting into Canyon Voices convinced me to start an art centered Instagram page and I am looking forward to who I become!

No. So like in elementary school we had art and I made this weird clay piece and they wanted to feature, but I wasn’t able to go and see it at the ceremony. In eighth grade, I was also featured in an art thing, but I couldn’t go see that one either. So, this is the first time you will get to see your accomplishment’s on display? How does that feel? Oh, dude totally awesome! It made me feel really excited because I will actually get to see this art piece somewhere and I can show my friends. I will be like yo check this out and they will be like “woah this is awesome.” Also, I am finally proud of myself for my art and am finally really comfortable in my art. Also, this might start a

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | MATT BELL

The Power of Fairy Stories: Sitting Down with Matt Bell By Skylar Nielsen Matt Bell’s next novel, Appleseed, is forthcoming from Custom House in July 2021. His craft book Refuse to Be Done, a guide to novel writing, rewriting, & revision, will follow in early 2022 from Soho Press. He is also the author of the novels Scrapper and In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, as well as the short story collection A Tree or a Person or a Wall, a nonfiction book about the classic video game Baldur's Gate II, and several other titles. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Conjunctions, Fairy Tale Review, American Short Fiction, and many other publications. A native of Michigan, he teaches creative writing at Arizona State University. His novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, was a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award and an Indies Choice Adult Book of the Year Honor Recipient, and was selected as the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, among other honors. Both In the House and Scrapper were selected by the Library of Michigan as Michigan Notable Books. For someone unfamiliar with your work where should they start? Probably my novels, there’s two out now: In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, and Scrapper. In the House, is the more fabulous and mythic story of the two, and Scrapper is a more contemporary detective novel set in 2015 Detroit. The choice comes down to taste. CANYON VOICES

Can you tell us anything about your upcoming novel Appleseed? Sure, Appleseed is an eco-fabulist speculative fiction novel that takes place over a millennium, starting in 1799 and going seven hundred years into our future, using the American folk tale of Johnny Appleseed as a lens to view climate change, the environment, and a plot to geoengineer the stratosphere. Scheduled to be released July, 2021. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? I wrote a little bit when I was young, but that tapered off by high school. I went to college to be a lawyer, but dropped out after a couple semesters. It was around that time I saw Fight Club in theaters, and I remember thinking “that must be a book” —there was something very bookish about it. That lead me to reading more contemporary literary fiction, like Chuck Palahniuk, George Saunders, and Raymond

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | MATT BELL

Carver to name a few. It was then I went back to school as an English major, deciding to write seriously because I wanted there to be more of what I was reading. So, to answer your question, about twenty or twenty-one. Are people born writers, or is writing a skill? I am sure there is some level of innate skill, but I really, really think anyone can learn how to do it well. Why would I teach creative writing if I didn’t think that was so? Everyone has the ability to write and write well. Like most things in life, it’s a little bit of both. One of the exciting bits about life is that you learn to do a lot of things you didn’t think you could do. What is the value of fiction in a post-truth world? I don’t know, are we in a post-truth world? I guess it feels like it some days. Politicians running for office now will say, “I am going to believe in science and not fiction,” and it’s like well, okay, slow down there. Those things aren’t opposed to each other. It’s a false dichotomy. I think fiction is one of the other ways we arrive at truth in a way that seems indispensable. I’m also interested in the way that books are models of reality: you can build a model and test it. If a book feels true it’s because the model feels true, and that’s exciting. The reason I like imaginative, speculative, and fabulist literature is the way defamiliarization can disarm you. When we go into a space that is not quite reality, our guard goes down, we can think and feel through these issues anew, without the rabid lack of civility those same issues evoke in the real world. My novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, is a novel about marriage and parenthood that is really close to how I actually felt and thought about those things, it’s

CANYON VOICES

just wrapped in a fabulous package where people are singing moons into the sky and fighting giant sentient bears and I think “right,” that’s it. Weirdness somehow gets me closer to how I really feel about being a husband or being a son, in a way memoir or the news is never going to. I’m never going to watch the news and think, “Oh, I’m able to work through that in a very safe and calm way.” It’s just not going to happen. That’s the value of fiction in my eyes. Your novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, contains a series of fairy tale-like elements. What drew you to fairy tales and why are they important? I love fairy tales, myths, and folklore. Some of my favorite reading growing up falls into those categories and is sort of the foundational material of my work. I remember there was a book of Greek myths I would check out over and over and over again from the library when I was a kid. Fairy tales are also just good fun: Little Red Riding Hood is a cool story. Maybe my favorite thing about fairy tales and myths is that they are infinitely retellable. Their elements feel inexhaustible: there is a reason why there has been thousands of retellings of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, for example. The five or six elements which make up any one of these types of stories somehow don’t get cliched despite their exhaustive retellings, because there’s some permanent mystery there, something elemental. There is a story in my short story collection called “Wolf Parts,” that is 40 consecutive paragraph-long retellings of Little Red Riding Hood. I think I wrote about 60 of them that I paired down for the story. I just boiled down the elements and kept permutating them. It was really fun. I couldn’t wear the fairy tale out: I could probably write another 60 of them and I

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | MATT BELL

love that. I like how those stories feel like bedrock. What distinguishes the fairy-tale from other genres of fiction? There are some stories that feel like they are trying to contain as much of the world as possible, the archetypal “Great American Novel,” comes to mind. But with fairy tales, instead of trying to contain the world, they feel like an attempt to generate the world, or a world. It feels like the world begins with the first sentence and then builds the ground from there and the rest of the world expands from it. Similarly, not much exists outside the individual fairy tale: mostly fairy tales don’t refer outside themselves. They are like these little worlds generated by language, which I find incredibly attractive.

tend to agree with Neil Gaiman, who says something like, If you were in jail, why wouldn’t you want to escape? When you escape into a book and have an experience there, you come out with real tools. Ways of thinking, ways of feeling, and ways of solving problems that help you escape the real jail that is imprisoning you. Whatever that metaphorical jail is for any individual. The way you think of yourself, your life situation, or politics. When you read these stories, you come back better equipped to live. And so, the “escapist” is not hiding out in books but learning to live in books.

Is the consolation of fairy stories their most distinguishing characteristic and highest value, like Tolkien says, or do you take a perspective closer to China Miéville in that consolation “mollycoddles its readers?” Is escapism noble or trite? I don’t think those two are the same thing. As far as consolation goes, I don’t think of fairy tales as consoling, there are many challenging ones out there. I feel than an episode of Law and Order is a more comforting cultural story than Little Red Riding Hood. In Law and Order, there is a rupture in society, and the good guys show up and they solve it and fix it, they put everything back together. I think most fairy tales are a lot more dangerous than that. If they are consoling it’s that in many of them people get what they deserve, but most fairy tales still tend to be more complicated than that. Escapism is a different thing, I think escapism is used as a bad term but I don’t know that it is. I

CANYON VOICES

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | RACHEL PASSER

Surprises of the Writing Process: Behind the Book with Rachel Passer By Katy Anderson

What was your inspiration for your recently published novel, The King of Minear’s Son, and when did this inspiration strike? Well, my inspiration was Tolkien, Game of Thrones, BBC’s Merlin, etc. But being silly with my friends and coming up with weird characters for ourselves was also the inspiration -- Chapter 3: The Tea Witch was the first chapter I wrote and it was originally just a short story, a standalone. I feel like I’m rambling, but basically, I was the Tea Witch with my friends (I put on a witchy voice while making them tea when they came over). Two of my friends inspired the Forest Halflings. I wrote the short story (Chapter 3) and fell in love with the setting and characters and had to write more. Before I knew it, it was a novel work-in-progress. It became very important to me to have it become a completed work, a whole book.

take my story, but a lot of things also just came to me when I was writing (in my opinion, that’s the best part of being a fiction writer -- I love it when the characters come to life and begin to think for themselves and act on their own). Sometimes, the writing process surprises me.

What was your writing process like for The King of Minear’s Son? Are you an avid outliner?

What did the publishing process look like for you with The King of Minear’s Son?

I’m not much of an outliner. I would pretty much just outline one chapter at a time, get it written, think about where I wanted to take my novel next, and then write another chapter. Something happens in the middle of The King of Minear’s Son that told me how my story would end -- but I only knew what would happen; I didn’t know how it would happen. Basically, I had things I wanted to include and directions I wanted to

I wanted to at least give traditional publishing a shot. It was my dream to be traditionally published, but if I had no luck there, I would have self-published. I happened to submit to 90 literary agents and 27 independent publishers. I obtained a contract from one of the 27, a publishing house called TouchPoint Press (five months after they requested my full manuscript when I sent them my query letter and synopsis). I initially only submitted to agents because I

CANYONVOICES

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | RACHEL PASSER

thought that was the only way, but then I finally learned that my word count was far too low to interest an agent (my word count is in the 40K’s and agents are looking for works more in the 70K-100K range (maybe 60K is passable to some for debut authors) and that authors could submit directly to independent publishing houses.

for practically a year now (2020 problems?). I don’t know where I want to take the plot and I just haven’t felt motivated or inspired. It’s been very frustrating.

What advice do you have for authors trying to get their novel published?

I think I’ve always suffered more from being intimidated by a scene I set out to write than struggling with actually writing it. I have a siege in one chapter, and I was really intimidated about writing a siege. I think I re-read a battle scene or two from my Lord of the Rings books, did some light research, and then felt confident enough to just write it.

If you want to go for traditional publishing, submit only to independent publishers if your word count isn’t at least 60K-70K. If your word count is over 100K, you might want to consider trimming or getting an editor to help you trim it down. Also, of course, submit as widely as possible, and make sure the agents or publishers you’re submitting to are looking to acquire manuscripts in your genre (otherwise you’re wasting your time) -- do your research. Is there anything you had to edit out of The King of Minear’s Son for publishing purposes? Funny that you ask! Yes -- so, right when I thought the editing process was really wrapping up and my manuscript was pretty much good to go, my publisher told me I had to get rid of an incestuous relationship (between my main character and his half-sister that he never knew he had, who he met for the first time at age 22 -of course, still super gross that it was incest, but it was far from Jaime and Cersei Lannister level, lol!) Do you plan on having The King of Minear’s Son stand alone, or do you want it to be the start of a series you build upon? The King of Minear’s Son is very much a standalone, however, I am trying to write a sequel. Unfortunately, it’s been stuck at just four pages

CANYONVOICES

What was your hardest scene to write in your novel?

I know you were formerly a Canyon Voices editor yourself! Do you think your experience with the magazine helped you with your novel in any way? I really loved being an editor for Canyon Voices. I did three semesters of CV!! Definitely the most rewarding and exciting thing I did throughout my whole college career, and I’m not just saying that -- you CV editors really are in the publishing industry for realz (obviously - but it’s super cool, right?). Yeah, I would say my experience helped me because I myself was judging submissions and learning what made a piece worthy of publication. And also just because reading interesting works inspires you to write interesting work. Reading is your best teacher as a writer. What do you struggle with the most, when it comes to writing? I struggle most with actually disciplining myself to write. But besides that, I would say I struggle the most with describing the environment. I guess I find that boring and don’t do much of it (I’m very unlike my man Tolkien there). Characterization/character development and dialogue tend to come easy to me, but

FALL 2020


AUTHORS ALCOVE | RACHEL PASSER

descriptions are not my strong point. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel? Back on my Tolkien-talking, I’m a huge fan of his lesser known books, The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin. What makes your book unique and why should people want to read it?

CANYONVOICES

It's unique because it follows the Greek Tragedy format, for one, and also because, unlike many fantasy novels out there, mine is a very short, easy, quick read. There's a lot of plot and a diverse cast of characters who are complex and colorful. Also, I consider it gothic-fantasy because it also contains a lot of gothic elements, such as supernatural occurrences, and it's pretty dark and gloomy.

FALL 2020


ABOUT US CANYON VOICES LITERARY & ART MAGAZINE is dedicated to shedding light on the works of emerging and established writers and artists. Founded in the spring of 2010 at Arizona State University’s West campus by one professor, Julie Amparano Garcia, and six students, this journal strives to bring the creativity of writers and artists to light within the community and beyond. Supported by the students and faculty of the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies at ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, CANYON VOICES accepts writing and artwork from writers and artists from all corners of our planet and from all walks of life. The work of maintaining and producing this magazine is entirely student driven. Since its formation, CANYON VOICES has expanded into a full credit, hands-on class. Students build a full literary journal each semester, heading every aspect of production, including soliciting submissions, editing, marketing, design and layout, and publication. We strive to bring you an eclectic range of voices each semester.

OUR MISSION At CANYON VOICES our mission is to provide an online environment to highlight emerging and established voices in the artistic community. By publishing works that engender thought, Canyon Voices seeks to enrich the scope of language, style, culture, and gender.

CANYONVOICES

CONTACT US Questions, comments, feedback? We would love to hear from you. Contact us via email at: CanyonVoicesLitMag@gmail.com You can also visit us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/asucanyonvoices

FALL 2020


SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

SUBMITTING WORK To submit your work, please send it to CanyonVoicesLitMag@gmail.com. Be sure to attach all the work you wish to submit to the email. You may include an author biography and a photo, which will be included in the magazine should your work be chosen for publication. We are affiliated with Arizona State University, and we uphold academic standards. If your work is accepted we reserve the right to make changes. You will be contacted should your work require more extensive edits. We accept simultaneous submissions. All documents submitted should be double spaced with a 12 point font, in either Times New Roman or Arial. Poetry may be single spaced. All written documents must be submitted in (.doc) or (.rtf) format. Artwork may be in JPEG format. All work submitted must have a title.

FICTION Up to two stories may be submitted per issue. Each story may be 20 pages or fewer.

POETRY

CNF

Up to six poems Up to four stories per may be submitted issue. Two pieces may (no longer than be 20 pages. two pages each) per issue.

SCRIPTS Up to two scripts may be submitted per issue. Script maximum 15 pages.

ART Up to ten pieces, with at least 300 dpi or JPEG format (<1 MB). Include detail on medium.

EXPLICIT MATERIALS

READING PERIOD

Because this is a university magazine, submissions containing sexually explicit material and explicit language will be reviewed and determined eligible for publishing depending on the context of the material in the work. Material deemed inappropriate or gratuitous will be rejected.

Our editors read submissions in August, September, and through October 1st for the fall issue. The reading period re-opens in January, February, and through March 1st for the spring.

CANYONVOICES

FALL 2020


Profile for asucanyonvoices

Canyon Voices Issue 22  

Literary and Art magazine. Produced by Arizona State University's students at the West Campus. Featuring fiction, poetry, creative nonfictio...

Canyon Voices Issue 22  

Literary and Art magazine. Produced by Arizona State University's students at the West Campus. Featuring fiction, poetry, creative nonfictio...