Spring 2016 | Issue 73
AtLant s a creative magazine
Behind the Scenes with: Black Mantis
Featuring new work by Victoria Griffin Rebekkah Leigh LaBlue
Staff Editor in Chief Chris Livernois Layout Editor Colleen O'Malley Copy Editor Nikki Kroushl Prose Editor Ryan Budd Features Editor Madison Roberts Poetry Editor Caroline Orth Art Editor Hannah Granberry Photography Editor Hailey Black Web Developer Raja Dang Jalernpan Promotions Coordinator Layne Smith Managing Editor Becka Jackson 1
Editor’s Note The city of Atlantis is one that extends outside of its physical limits. It’s not is not just a city, but a world—a world that no visitor wants to leave once they enter. I think that the magazine is a lot like the city it’s named after. Just by opening the cover of the magazine, you have been invited into a world that will make you forget the one you’re actually in: a world full of the arts, the best work that North Carolina students have to offer. This issue, we received an unprecedented number of submissions: over 1,000. As the world of Atlantis continues to grow, it begins to push the limits of the forty-eight-page canvas it has to express itself. Having received so much great work from talented artists, we weren’t able to publish everything we wanted to. But as you turn the last page in this issue of Atlantis, know that the journey doesn’t have to end there. We have our annual poetry slam, which is yet another example of how the Atlantis community continues to showcase some of the best work in the state. This year we also started our Dreamweave Storytelling Festival, Scrabble Night, and we collected books for our book drive. Each one of these events has helped Atlantis expand beyond its original scope, growing into an organization just as professional as the magazine has become. Beyond our print issue, there’s endless content online—exclusive content that didn’t fit in the last print issue as well as issues from the past few years. But all of this content, the world of Atlantis that we have all become a part of, wouldn’t exist without hearts of everyone who has become a part of the Atlantis family. Readers, contributors, and volunteers have all become a part of this world—one that I’m proud to call home. I can’t wait to see what we make this magazine over the course of my time here. Your new Editor in Chief, Chris Livernois
Beauty Begins Within Woman in Gray Animal Affinity Balance Queen of Spades Examine Portrait of Matthew De'Rive
5 11 16 17 20 21 27 31
Elizabeth Helbling Dillon T. West Davis Russell Kate McCracken Ann Miller Woodford Sarah Hennessey Anna Richardson Dustin Sicard
Fiction Corpse Knitting Needles Replaced The Big Spill
6 15 17 24
Alexis Garrett Annastasia Pratt Victoria Griffin Victoria Griffin
Nonfiction γυνή (Women) 12 Lori Wilson By the River 28 Kenneth Thies Clay 33 Karen Sims
Photography Swamp Somewhere Else Vitamin Sea Tracks with a View Night Market Beach Lightning
3 9 14 22 35 39
Anna Bumgarner Rebekkah Leigh LaBlue Jennifer Welch Thomas Reenberg Lauren Schultz Dustin Sicard
Poetry You Need Reminding More Than I Do Walking Along Highway 52 Advice for Women Who Want to be Small On the End Last Night, West Fullerton Couch
4 15 22 32 36
Rebekkah Leigh LaBlue Sara Sellers Erinn Seifert Joshua Houston Aidan Healy
Sweet, Not Savory 7 Chantai Thomas You're Gonna Feel Right at Home 37 Kenneth Thies Contributors' Notes 41 Cover Art Legs by Joe Megally 2
You Need Reminding More Than I Do Rebekkah Leigh LaBlue 1997 The first time you hear me laugh, I cough up three tablespoons of broken glass on the kitchen counter, and you say, “To share blood is to drink guilt to the coffee grounds.” 2000 I fixate on chandeliers: the ones you cut from swallowed bottles hang from the rafters like night-lights. 2003 Lullabies sung with car exhaust. Your Rubik’s cube charisma. That wine rack rattle strut, steady as a metronome on steroids. I learn piano in your likeness. 2006 Ducks paint themselves on the pond ice when hunters have their way. “Girl, hush up those tears. That shade gives sunsets a run for their money.” 2009 The king of hearts disappears from every deck in the house. 2012 August, a Saturday. I receive the only letter you ever sent. The comfort in paper cut kisses. Watch how love coagulates. 2015 I spend a weekend in a psych ward. Word on the street is you raised me like a shot glass. A boy with toothpaste caps where his gauges should be calls me by a nickname I haven’t heard since long before I told mother to change the locks. You ghost. Keep coming around.
Beauty Begins Within Elizabeth Helbling 5
he touched me. The soft bridge between my shoulder blades. The stiff angles of my jaw. Even the sparrow tattoo that spread its watercolor wings across my right thigh. Everything. His fingertips grazed my skin like a mortician examining his product. Laying it down on his table. Carefully—so carefully that I should’ve expected to see rose petals spattered like bloodstains on the smooth, sterilized surface. He pressed his heat onto the cold shell of a corpse; I waited until he was inside me. Until I felt his scalpel slicing me open—digging through skin I assumed was mine. I moved it, didn’t I? Moisturized it every night. Dragged it through every yoga class. Taught it to be strong and firm and something I could rely on. Dressed it in clothes I bought and wore and walked and danced in, so only I should take them off no one else— He told me what I liked when I couldn’t speak. Bodies can’t speak—only people. And I wasn’t a person that night. They can talk. Move. Fight. Bodies lie on the table, neatly dismantled and reassembled. It’s the mortician’s job to move them. To make them look almost human again. A body can’t argue with his decisions. It can’t say “no.” Even if it could, it wouldn’t matter. It’s the mortician’s job to sew her mouth shut.
Sweet, Not Savory Chantai Thomas
emily o’brien is a baker who doesn’t watch Cake Boss O’Brien up. What she calls her “problem-solving skills” and has no desire to bake for a career. “It’s just a hobby,” she often pull her through difficult projects and keep the cake says. “The way that I use baking is purely for my own sanity.” pops rolling. O’Brien, a sophomore at UNCW, was turned on to baking When asked if she has any tips for amateur bakers, after her older sister made her “a big, beautiful, excessively O’Brien offers this advice: “If you want a cake, make it. It giant cake” for her sixteenth birthday in 2012. That served does not have to be beautiful.” as a catalyst for what would become a passion of hers. “I Even at this point in her baking expedition, O’Brien thinks wanted to be able to do that,” O’Brien says, “so I taught there’s still much to be said for practice, practice, practice. myself.” Her favorite way to learn new decorating techniques is to Over the past four years, O’Brien has worked on at least fill a piping bag with icing and practice different patterns forty different projects, all received with and designs on a plate until she’s confident delight. The cakes that she’s decorated run to replicate it on a cake. She also “Baking is a science; enough the gamut—she’s done everything from emphasizes the importance of not taking whimsical and full of color for a four- decorating is an art,” she what you love too seriously, no matter year-old’s Toy Story-themed birthday, to reflects. “Every artist has what it is. prim and polished with intricate detail for their medium. Mine is “Once it becomes something that I have a high school graduation. Cupcakes, cake to do instead of something I want to do, sticky icing.” pops, and ice cream cakes are well within it’ll just kind of lose it for me,” O’Brien O’Brien’s skillset, too, all made carefully says. from scratch. In addition to being a baker, a decorator, and a lover of Although she does like to bake, O’Brien’s real joy in all things chocolate, Emily O’Brien is a self-proclaimed making cakes lies in the decorating. “Baking is a science; perfectionist. decorating is an art,” she reflects. “Every artist has their “I’m a little hypercritical, and I don’t feel bad about that,” medium. Mine is sticky icing.” she says. The creation she’s the most proud of is her sister’s bridal Although all of O’Brien’s cakes fall under her own inshower cake: a two-tiered, lime green affair; the party’s theme tense scrutiny, her demanding approach to baking results in was Monograms and Margaritas. The tastiest confection delightful and delicious treats for those lucky enough to get she’s made so far was a last-minute chocolate cake with a bite. strawberry filling and Nutella buttercream icing. As for O’Brien on the sweet versus savory debate: “Sweet, “It tasted exactly like a chocolate-covered strawberry,” she not savory,” she says. “I think I’ll always be a sweet person.” recalls. Of course, O’Brien has had her fair share of struggles You can follow Emily’s cake collection on Instagram here: scattered throughout her successes. @emilyscakes95 “There are times when little things go wrong that make you want to lose your mind,” she says, citing one particularly uncooperative batch of icing for a family Thanksgiving cake. Certainly complications such as stubborn icing, flat cakes, and general sensations of unease are not uncommon when it comes to baking, but even those little things don’t trip 7
Rebekkah Leigh LaBlue
Woman In Gray Dillon T. West 11
on the left side, the female saints appeared, separated from the men on the right. The icons decorated the walls— each with halos of gold around his or her head. The pew in which I sat was located closest to the patron saint of Athena, who held a cross and looked down at me, and I imagined her asking me this: “Where have you been all this time?” In mythology, the goddess Athena used her strengths to protect the Greek capitol. She became Zeus’s favorite child despite her rebellious conception. When Zeus’s wife Metis became pregnant with Athena, he tricked her into shape-shifting as a fly, and as the story goes, proceeded to swallow her whole. Metis’s namesake derives from a word used to describe a quality that combines both wisdom and cunning, and according to the myth, Zeus felt threatened by her and the child she bore. But Metis’s death by her husband’s hand couldn’t stop the powerful Athena, her unborn child, who eventually sprang from Zeus’s skull after giving him one of the worst headaches in history. In this moment, I sat underneath a version of Athena at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. I hadn’t been to church since I was thirteen years old. I’m baptized as a Methodist, but that’s just a technicality. At St. Nicholas, I was both foreign and familiar. My grandfather from Bulgaria was raised Orthodox; although, as an adult and as a scientist, he rarely practiced the religion. More than half of the St. Nicholas service was recited in Greek rather than English, and even though I couldn’t understand it, the words resonated with ease and a beauty I can’t explain. The priest and the others at the front—I’m not sure what to call them—chanted the words rather than spoke them. But in all honesty, I was at St. Nicholas because of pastries, because of baklava and finikia and koulourakia and other baked goods I can’t pronounce correctly. The kourambiethes are my favorite—almond treats covered in powdered sugar. I work at a bookstore about a mile from St. Nicholas. My boss, Kathleen, attends this church with her family. Her store is named Pomegranate Books, after a Greek myth involving Persephone, another daughter of Zeus. When I first told Kathleen about my love for the church’s annual Greek festival and bakery sale, she explained the process of making the pastries. Groups of women take on different jobs, and from the way she described it, I imagined a sort
of polite hierarchy. In the church kitchen, they argue about how to roll the baklava or twist the koulourakia because on one Greek island, they do it this way, but on the other island, they do it that way. After the St. Nicholas liturgy, I met Kitsa, a friend of Kathleen’s, who makes the butter cookies. With other women of the Ladies Philoptochos Society, she sold the pastries in a room near the church’s front door to raise money for hungry people during the winter holidays. She prepared a box of the cookies I requested, and, while staring at the distinctly dark Greek curls in her hair, I told her I wanted to write a story about the women who bake them. As she handed me the delicate pastries, I thought again about Athena and her skills of wisdom and craft. I began admiring the goddess’s talents as both a warrior and an artist—how hard it is to be both strong and loving, I thought. Kitsa gave me her phone number and home address so that we could speak again, then I left the church and ate three kourambiethes in the parking lot. The white powdered sugar snowed onto my black skirt. when i arrived at kitsa’s home a week after the bakery sale, a large Greek flag hung by her door. She and her husband, Sam, welcomed me inside, and I passed by religious icons and small dolls in traditional Greek dress, featuring bright patterns and headdresses similar to the ones in photographs of Bulgaria on the walls of my grandparents’ home. In the living room, they watched Greek television— they can get three channels by satellite, Sam told me. Both he and Kitsa translated the Greek soap opera for me so we could watch together. During a commercial, I asked her about the Ladies Philoptochos Society. “Philoptochos,” she said, “means ‘friend of the poor.’” In Greece, I learned, the language is rooted within itself. She continued by describing the group’s accomplishments through various forms of philanthropy, such as creating food baskets for thirty families and planning auctions to raise money. In a thick accent, she told me how the Greek ladies help the community. I remembered, at the liturgy, a woman had told a story about her daughter, who found comfort and peace by attending her church’s meeting for mothers of toddlers.
The group reminded her to be purposeful and mindful, the mother said. “What is your purpose in life?” she asked the church crowd. The only time I heard a woman’s voice during the liturgy was in reference to motherhood and stewardship. Before the mother’s speech, Father Jon Emanuelson and eight or so other men, including the altar boys, wore many pieces of gold clothing and decadent accessories. When they walked together, they beamed. But the female speaker only wore her normal church attire, which I can’t remember now. “Life is a mystery to be lived rather than a puzzle to be solved,” said the speaker. a few days after visiting kitsa’s home, I contacted Father Jon, who has been at St. Nicholas for about three years. “If we didn’t have the Philoptochos Society, there would be many needs that would be unaddressed,” he said. “It’s all a part of the customs that you give to those in need . . . A lot of the time, it doesn’t get talked about.” Once, the ladies reached out to a family who lost everything they owned in a fire. The society members collected clothes so the family could have something to wear each day during a time when they felt overwhelmed, without a place to call home. “That was only told to me because I asked them,” Father Jon said of the story. A lot of the time, it doesn’t get talked about, I repeated in my mind. Kitsa called the Greeks “friends of the true stranger.” In her home, she fed me butter cookies and prepared Turkish coffee, served in a miniature teacup and saucer that I admired for its floral charm. In Greece, she said, the people meet at metropolis coffee shops, where the business owners sell pastries and the customers shake hands and kiss each other’s cheeks. But in the old days, Kitsa said, women weren’t allowed to enter these establishments. Yet the older women bake for their children to keep the tradition alive in the United States, where many Greek people have immigrated. The U.S. Census reported that about 1,390,000 citizens originate or descend from Greece. “We really should keep the culture Greek. They gave so much to the world,” Kitsa said. i spoke to courtney malahias, the church’s Sunday school director, who married into the church and greatly admired her mother-in-law, who lived with her and shared the Greek traditions before she passed. When Courtney became a mother, elderly women encouraged her to bring her twin infants to the liturgy, just for a moment, so they could smell the incense in the church. She remembered, during one holiday, she watched the women bake for a sale. They played Greek Christmas carols, and a woman began crying at the sound of one song. Between tears, the woman told Courtney this: “You don’t understand. I haven’t heard this since I was a little girl.” 13
Hearing this story, I thought about tradition and wondered why I’m attracted to the Orthodox women. I don’t agree with the some of the Bible’s customs—no matter which version it is—but I wanted to know why the priest and his band of golden men do what they do. Why do they move their heads up and down during certain prayers? How do people know when they’re supposed to stand and sit? Why do people pray on their knees? Many of these traditions don’t make sense to me, but when I met with the women, I began to understand their intentions. What is your purpose in life? I repeated in my mind. Other than Kitsa, the recipe owners couldn’t speak to me due to language barriers. Instead, I met with Koula, a daughter of another baker, and she shared stories about her mother, who is one of seventy-something first cousins. She was constantly cooking and constantly baking, Koula told me. “My mother’s generation—they are workaholics,” she explained. “They’re power women. They’re just unbelievable.” During wartime, Kitsa’s mother watched her uncle get beheaded. To protect her, her parents sold her to be a maid. Then she threatened to kill herself if her father didn’t retrieve her from Athens. I told Koula that my German grandmother gained a half-sister after her mother was raped by a Polish man and that my Bulgarian female cousins ran barefoot on dirt roads while running away from wild dogs. They’re power women, I repeated in my mind. During the founding of Athens, the goddess Athena and the god Poseidon competed to be the namesake of the city by offering the townspeople gifts—a spring from him and an olive tree from her. In a democratic election, she won by one vote. Then the men fussed, forcing the women to relinquish their right to vote in future elections. Though it took women years to regain suffrage, Athena carried on proudly and with courage. She protected her city and nourished its people with olive oil from the tree she gave them. What is your purpose in life? I repeated in my mind. I never returned to St. Nicholas to attend another liturgy, though I still frequent the church grounds during its annual Greek festival and occasional bakery sale. On the Saturday of the last festival I attended, I stood in line to purchase a sample box of pastries and was eager to taste a kourambiethes again. The sounds of Orthodox folk music played in the background as young women practiced the famous Greek dances on the festival stage. I was pleased to see Kitsa managing the dessert booth; one by one, she asked the festival-goers what they wanted and how they were, then presented them with the sweet goods they requested. I watched her work hard to help the people and raise charitable funds for the society, and I reminded myself of stories about the Philoptochos women baking the treats that adorned the tables. A lot of the time, it doesn’t get talked about, I repeated in my mind.
Vitamin Sea Jennifer Welch 14
Walking Along Highway 52 Sara Sellers The car sped off when I saw your shoe fly into the gray sky. Your body rested at jagged angles. White bones lit the storm in your skin. I lay with you tangled to solid yellow lines. Your broken wrists pointed a sharp south. I only had a jacket. I swaddled your arm with the sleeves. I didn’t know you, but I called you “baby.”
Knitting Needles Annastasia Pratt
you left the shears on the steps again, Mom, I say. She’s sitting on the porch with two large knitting needles resting in her palms. I tell her, You know you’re not supposed to garden without me. She sits silently, rocking back and forth. The crackling of her chair matches the steady tempo of the needles in her hands. Where did you get the needles, Mom? They were in the bag when I got home, she says. The metallic needles are bare. You’re not supposed to drive the car, I say. You know that. She looks up at me, staring blankly. I blink. My eyes are heavy from the forty-minute drive to her house. I have made it every day for the last three years. She tells me to stop calling her Mom. Did you take your medicine this morning? Have you brushed your hair yet? I saw the photo album out on the table, Mom. Have you been flipping through it again? Have you been remembering? I ask. The blue cushions dip beneath her weight. Sunlight filters through the branches of trees, illuminating her face. She is a beautiful woman. Her wrinkles follow the lines of her eyes and curl over her ears like the stray gray strands of hair from her head. Leathery skin stretches over her thin forehead, tanned from the hours spent outdoors, pushing me on the swings and planting wilted flowers. The sun knows her forehead in an intimate way. It’s the same way a friend greets the childhood home they grew up in. It’s the same way her lips greeted my forehead throughout my life. It’s the same way her fingers caress the needles. Mom? Quit it, Helen, she says. I’m not your mother. The sun catches the shining knitting needles. The bright light stings my eyes. My name is Jenny, Mom. 15
Animal Affinity Davis Russell 16
the memory of my parents is blurry. I remember the smell of lavender soap when Mama hugged me, straight out of the shower, her skin still damp beneath her thin nightgown. I remember Daddy shooting hoops with me in the driveway freshman year and telling me the other boys would stop picking on me soon. “It won’t last long,” he said. “It never does.” I wish it had. Now there are two strangers in my house. They look like my mom and dad. They sound like them. They move like them. But they’re not them. They don’t know I know, that I can see through the masks they wear. “Hello, son,” he says to me when I walk through the door. The newspaper crackles like cereal as he folds it closed and sets it on the kitchen table. My clothes smell like cafeteria pizza, and I drop my backpack in the entryway. The bag lands with a whisper, only the zippers clinking against the hardwood, no books to weigh it down. “Now, honey, pick that up and put it where it belongs.” She scolds me from her place over the sink, wagging a sudsy finger at me. “Take it to your room, okay?” I stare at her, the woman who looks like my mother. She has the same black hair, the same pearshaped body, but her eyes are flat. She never gives me that keen look, a little haughty, a little sarcastic—that I’ll still give you a whoopin’ when you’re thirty look. My gaze is hard. Her face is frozen like a mannequin’s. Thawing slowly, her lips sink from their fake-looking smile. I curl my fingers around the handle of my backpack and carry it into the living room, flinging it onto the coffee table like a year-old magazine in a waiting room. The couch is hard as a bench beneath me. The remote is on the end table. I reach for it, stretching over an empty Coke can. Then I hold the remote in my lap and stare at the black television screen. “Hey, bud. Think we can talk?” The man who looks like my father walks into the living room. He’s shaved his head— to keep me from realizing he couldn’t style the thick red hair and beard the way my dad did. He starts to sit on the couch next to me, but instead he eases into the armchair across
the room. I keep my eyes on the black screen. “Your mother and I have been talking.” They think I don’t know. They think I’m stupid. They think I can’t tell the difference between the man and woman who raised me—who loved me—and these imposters. “We’re just a little concerned . . . ” The black of the television screen is moving in circles, but I can’t tell because it’s all the same color. It’s sort of like how I can’t really tell a difference between the way the man’s voice sounds and the way my dad’s voice sounded. I just know. He even calls me bud, the way my dad used to. My fingers stiffen. I think about shooting basketball in the driveway. Good shot, bud. “Your principal called again today.” I can’t be sure exactly when they made the switch. I was seven or eight, still at the age when days seemed like weeks except in the summer, and the people around me were more of moving, talking shapes than actual beings. So I didn’t notice at first. Then again, maybe they did it a little at a time. Maybe they took a few pieces of my parents and replaced them with something different—not completely different, just a little off. Maybe they did that until everything I knew of my mom and dad was gone. It might have taken years to get every piece, every thought and mannerism, switched over. Then what was left? Two people who looked and sounded a lot like the ones I used to love. But they weren’t them. It was sort of like replacing a dead goldfish. A two-year-old might not tell the difference, but the damn thing just isn’t the same. And the first goldfish is still dead. “We’re going to have to make some changes.” I swivel my head slowly. I wish it could spin all the way around, like the girl’s head in that horror movie. Maybe that would scare him. I look at the man like I’d been looking at the television screen, watching the pigments in his skin swirl in circles on his cheeks. Amazing that They think I don’t know. They think he can’t feel it. Maybe he can’t feel anything. I’m stupid. They think I can’t tell the Maybe underneath his skin, he’s made of difference between the man and cobwebs stretched over rusty metal bones. I stare at the man, cock my head to the side, woman who raised me—who loved and wonder if I could kill him. What would me—and these imposters. happen? I’d been over the possibilities so many times in my head, the options. What am I supposed to do? No one would believe me if I told them the truth—I can’t even say it out loud. If I run, they’ll find me. It’s either kill them or kill myself. I don’t even know if they can die. “Really, sometimes it feels like you’re not even listening.” He’s going for that snarky lilt my dad always played up when he was angry about something. He’s close, really, but the timing is a little off, the final syllables a little forced. I know the difference. I miss my dad. I get up and walk into the bathroom, leaving the man sitting alone. Did he keep talking after I left? I don’t know. I close the bathroom door and turn the lock. The mirror is dirty with streaks and dust and toothpaste splatter. I put my hands on the cold porcelain sink and lean toward the metal, looking into my own eyes as if they belong to someone else. They’re gray, my eyes. Anna always said that was the damnedest thing, said they were like storm clouds ready to open up. Said she could watch my emotions streak across them like lightning. A piece of sandy hair falls across my forehead. I feel her hands in my hair, her nails painted red. They’d trail along my neck and down my back, over my side and underneath my shirt. I think I loved her hands even more than her lips. I think I loved her. 18
I fucking miss her. I slam my fist against the sink. I feel my little finger snap under the force of the others. I hold the hand to my face. The skin is already darkening, the joints swollen. It looks like it did the day I punched the lockers at school, the day I realized Anna wasn’t Anna anymore. I remember that she spoke quietly. My Anna wouldn’t have done that. She would have yelled. She would have hurt. “We’re over,” she said. I told her no. I told her we were meant to be together. I loved her. What was she thinking? What had changed? I remember her shaking her head, softly, slowly. Holding her hands in front of her, showing her palms. I remember fear in her suddenly dull eyes. “Is this because of that?” I said. “Because it was a mistake. It was a mistake. There’s nothing wrong with me. The doctors said so. I just got angry. I just got so angry when he called me a loser. I was just tired of it. But he’s fine. He’s fine and I’m fine and there’s no reason for you to leave.” I remember her backing away. I remember her walking sideways down the hall, away from me, and then I knew. They took my parents slowly, but they took Anna all at once. She was just gone. Her hair was still dark chestnut brown, and her eyes were still pale blue, and her lips were still as perfect as the day I met her. But her hands, they were different. And she never painted her nails red again. A drop of liquid rolls down the side of my face. I can’t tell if it’s sweat or a tear. I can’t remember the last time I cried. There’s nothing to cry about anymore. The days pass like a montage on a movie screen, one after the other, falling away like calendar pages. The mirror is steady on the wall, but as I look into my eyes, they are steadier. There is no doubt, no indecision. There is nothing. When I realize what’s happened, I am afraid for the shortest of moments. Then it’s gone. My heartbeat remains heavy in my chest for another few seconds, reminding me what I have seen. They’ve taken me, taken nearly every piece of me, and I didn’t even notice. I look down at my hands, one swollen and bruised, and flip them over to see my palms. Every line is just as I remember. I lean closer into the mirror, inspecting my skin, my teeth, my lashes. Everything is the same. But there is no lightning in my eyes.
Queen of Spades
Ann Miller Woodford
Examine Sarah Hennessey 21
Advice for Women Who Want to be Small Erinn Seifert
If you want to be small, start where you are already big: in words, in temper, in heart. Begin where you are already large, where you bubble and expand, the parts of you that claim enough space to make a Father sitting next to you on the subway sweat until he drips. Take your sex, take your sound, take your selfishnessâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; now, tear those out, tamp them down. Down again. If you want to be small, start by being quiet. Start by holding back, by holding your tongue, by crossing your legs for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in the train car. If you want to be small, become a ghost. If you are a woman and you want to be small, all you have to do is be a woman.
Tracks with a View Thomas Reenberg
The Big Spill Victoria Griffin
tanya broke her hand against the wall when she disembarked the train to St. Louis and found herself in Guatemala. She didn’t trust Guatemalan doctors, so she let her mashed fingers bleed in her lap during her second train ride. She stepped onto the platform, looking for the Gateway Arch. The Rocky Mountains pierced the sky in the distance. “Damn it.” She bit her lip and called a taxi, found a Boulder doctor to patch her hand together. “Fresh off the train?” he asked, fitting the splint onto her wrist. “Yeah, trying to get to St. Louis.” “Good luck. I’ve been trying to get to Chicago for years. Finally landed here and decided to start a practice.” Tanya watched him tighten the splint, snug—she winced. Realized he had made a joke and gave a short, crisp laugh. “Any idea how to make it to Missouri? I’ve got to get there before my boyfriend goes home to Mobile.” The doctor pulled her splint tighter. “Boyfriend, huh? How long have you all been together?” “Seven years.” “Well.” He thought she was lying. “Sounds like you’ll have to fly. The pilots get a little turned around these days, but I guess we all do. Got to be those new cars, running on milk. I think it’s curdling, and the fumes are curdling everybody’s brains. Hope you make it, though.” He had finished with her splint but was still holding her hand. Tanya pulled it away. “Thanks.” She began to wonder if he’d been near Nevada during the spill. She bought a ticket for the first flight out—4:30 a.m.—and slept in the airport. She woke to the smell of giant pretzels and grabbed her meager luggage: a worn leather backpack. She remembered packing it three years ago, snatching it off the corner of her headboard and stuffing it with socks, toothpaste, and clean panties. Then, her hips had filled her jeans, and her cheeks were pink as a sunrise. That old Tanya slung the backpack over her shoulders and took the first train to Nevada the moment she got the call. Max’s words, distinct and useless like detached limbs, still pinged against her skull. Yucca Mountain. Hurry. She didn’t understand, didn’t know what was waiting for her in Nevada. Was he hurt? She pored through her memories, trying to recall the last thing she had said before he left two years ago. She remembered his words. “It won’t be long. It’ll fly by.” He had laughed at the joke, but she hadn’t. The thought of Max flying a plane had always terrified her. He’d sobered quickly and kissed her. “And 24
when we see each other again, I’ll make good on that promise,” he’d said, touching the diamond on her finger. “Mr. and Dr. Allen. Sounds good, doesn’t it?” She could still see his smile, those heavy lips, and feel how tightly he had hugged her. But she could not for the world remember what she had said to him. She couldn’t help but feel, as she boarded the train to Nevada, that she had sacrificed the love of her life for a PhD. Tanya clamped her fingers around her ticket as she fought her way toward the gate. People crossed in front of her, running, sweating, their faces twisted with tension. A woman with gray hair pinned high on her head stepped into the terminal after disembarking. She looked around, eyes stretched open, mouth ajar, until her gaze caught the sign bearing heavy black letters: lambert–st. louis international airport. The woman fell to her knees, a wide smile visible before she bowed her head—until a man in an Army uniform burst into tears at the sight of the same sign and stepped on her hand. Tanya dodged a wailing child clinging to her father’s wrist. The girl’s wails were nearly lost in the airport’s chaos. “I want to see Mommy!” The man’s features all scrunched toward his nose, as if trying to disappear. “I know you do, baby. I know.” He hauled the girl into his arms and dangled from his wrist her little backpack, featuring a cartoon rabbit. Tanya couldn’t recall the character’s name. It should have gotten better, she thought. A few people should have found their loved ones. A few people should be happy. She still remembered the sign, could read it as clearly as she had three years ago. It was burned into her memory just as the St. Louis sign was branded on the Army man’s eyes. She could see the heavy lettering, feel the heat from tightly packed bodies as they filed into the train station three years ago. She stepped off the train, still marveling at its speed. The trip would have taken thirty hours before, but the bullet train had arrived in Reno in less than five. She had been skeptical at the announcement of the global project—a system of bullet trains using existing tracks and new ones built across ocean bridges. She had called it ridiculous, and she had scoffed at the It should have gotten better, she announcement that the newly modified switches would thought. A few people should have be operated remotely, at an international control center, found their loved ones. A few people its location still not announced. But she was thankful for the system after Max’s call. She just needed to feel him should be happy. safe in her arms. He would be waiting for her at one of Reno’s cheapest hotels. The address was scratched on the back of the grocery receipt in her pocket. It would be a twenty-minute taxi ride from the train station once she pushed past the crowd. She was calculating the fare against the cash in her wallet when she saw the sign. Željeznički kolodvor split She dropped her shoulder and forced her way through the crowd of people, all twisting in circles, panic clouding their features. When she finally broke free of the train station, her hands shook at the beautiful view before her. Red-orange rooftops and the blue Adriatic Sea against the sandy coast of Croatia. Tanya boarded the plane to St. Louis and found her seat. She crossed her legs and tried to ignore the dumb-looking woman beside her, chomping bubble gum like cud. The woman’s eyes were a little too dull, her hands a little too still. Someone behind her said, “Think this pilot got checked out good?” They were supposed to run them through vigorous testing, Tanya knew. Max told her about the tests pilots had to undergo after the spill. They ran MRIs, CTs, PET scans. But only the ones who were closest to Yucca Mountain showed symptoms. The nuclear waste traveled like leaves floating across oceans. Footsteps over the country brought it from Nevada all over the US. And boats and planes brought it everywhere else. It faded with each transmission, but it was there. And the world still didn’t believe it. It was so much easier to blame the control center—its location had never been disclosed— but that didn’t explain the planes. Most assumed it was a conspiracy. The Christians 25
blamed the Muslims, and the Russians blamed the Americans. Local newspapers across the States insisted the government was responsible, and everyone else blamed the media. No one thought to blame the big spill in Nevada until dementia numbers spiked and planes started falling from the sky. Tanya closed her eyes. 67+82=149. Blue mixed with yellow gives you green. The capital of Wyoming is Cheyenne. She opened her eyes and looked at the seat in front of her, patterned with disorienting blue octagons—no, hectagons. Her finger ran over the Velcro of the splint. If she didn’t make it to St. Louis in time to see Max, she would sue that damn train company—a long line, but she would wait. After all, every dime she’d ever made now belonged to the airlines and the train company. She had told Max as much when she’d called from Budapest last month. “I’m out of money.” "You stay put. I’m coming to you.” “The train will never get you here.” “I know. I’ve been flying a private jet for a woman in Chicago.” “She’s going to let you come find me?” “No.” “Max—” “You stay put. I’ll be there.” She could still hear his voice across that phone wire—steady, confident. He’d covered his terror like world leaders had covered the spill, but Tanya had heard it all the same. And she had tried not to be afraid for him. By tonight, Max would be on his way to Mobile, Alabama, his hometown. His dad would be waiting at the airport. His mom would be at home in her rocker. That was all she could do anymore, since a few months after the spill. She rocked back and forth, back and forth, her head swinging like a tattered doll’s. When they landed, Tanya headed straight to the information desk. “Excuse me.” She leaned against the desk to catch her breath. “I need to make sure flight 209 to Mobile, Alabama is still on time.” The woman behind the desk had heavy eye shadow and a Dolly Parton hairstyle. She clicked her fake nails against computer keys. “Nope, looks like that flight’s cancelled. Several of our pilots are . . . out of commission.” “I had some cargo intended for that flight.” The woman looked at Tanya. Her eyes looked like dusty wood. Her lips glided slowly over her teeth. “All of the 209 cargo was shipped early. By train.” Tanya sprinted out of the airport and hailed a taxi. It sped through the traffic, at her insistence and the promise of a generous tip. Big raindrops splattered over the windshield like bursting bubbles. Lightning flashed across the gray sky, and water was pummeling the earth when the taxi finally deposited her at the train station. She was out of breath and soaked when she flagged down the attendant. Tanya stood under the covering while he allowed the rain to batter his cap. “My—my boyfriend. His coffin. Train to Mobile.” The attendant smiled stupidly. “That train’s gone, miss.” His eyes were dull, and the lines in his flesh looked like thin twigs. Tanya looked up at the open sky. The rain was almost as heavy as it was the night Max stole the jet. She’d heard the storm was terrible, with wind strong enough to tear down Heaven’s gates. But he had gone up, and then he had come down. The clear Budapest sky had mocked her as she mourned. 16+56=74, she thought. Blue mixed with yellow gives you . . . The train would carry Max’s body until the engine sputtered out. Tanya stared down the tracks, wondering where the nearest switch was and who would choose her love’s destination. She thought she should take the next train and ride until her heart gave out. She thought she should lie down on the tracks and let the rain wash her away. 26
Portrait of Matthew Anna Richardson 27
By the River Kenneth Thies
it’s not the most recent picture of my father, but it’s the one that comes to mind when I think of him. It’s an old photograph from before I was born, when we had hi-fis instead of Wi-Fis. He stands there, broad-shouldered and full-bellied in flannel and jeans. His hair and thick beard are still jet and his large and goofy bifocals leave a hint to his humor. He half-waves, half-salutes from the edge of Lake Lure, the water quietly chopping; each tiny crest of its wind-rippled surface mirrors a brilliant early-autumn day. Lush green mountains rise up and wrap the water in a familial embrace. My mother, with her camera, catches his trademark smirk— the one that runs in our family emblazoned itself across his lips—with all his might and gentle comedy. my first memory of music is my father listing back and forth in his big wooden rocking chair, singing along to his records of Marty Robbins, Johnny Horton, Roger Miller, and others. I sat on the green carpet floor of our living room, directly in front of the double front porch windows that drew fresh, warm light into our ’70s brick ranch home. I couldn’t have been older than two or three. It would take me a long time to come to appreciate my father’s music. He grew up on old country western music and bluegrass, which is not to be confused with the standard Budweiser Pop they call “country” nowadays. He told me that he didn’t much care for traditional country either, until he had gotten into his twenties—his teen years filled with the likes of Steppenwolf, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix. He sang, too, had a voice like Cash—deep and burning with conviction. His voice makes my own seem quaint, timid, and childish. It’s the conviction, the gravity. A sound is a vibration. You can feel it. When a vinyl album is produced, it is recording the actual vibrations from the instruments and voices and their reverberations through the air around it, so that when you play it back, you can feel it. When an album is recorded in digital, it records the frequency in between the electric currents, and therefore only mimics the sound when it is played back. That is why it feels empty—because, simply put, it is empty. I decided years ago that I would be a vibration, something that is felt and heard, like my father. •
dad taught me lots of things over the years: how to hunt, to fish, to fight; how to harness paper, Bic lighters, and gasoline to start fires. And those are just the ones before kindergarten. He always seemed to have an old saying to pull out of his back pocket or wing on the spot. “You can’t just fly off the handle every time you get your feelings scraped up. Sometimes you got to be like a duck and let the water roll off your back,” he said once, after I got in a fight with a friend of mine in sixth grade because he called me fat. (I was.) There were several of these euphemisms for fighting— the men in my family are known for short tempers, bad dispositions, and quick fists. Dad wanted to make sure that his boys weren’t troublemakers or bullies, though. This genuine North Carolina piedmont-backwoods-nonsense wasn’t just nonsense. It actually helped me get a hold of myself, taught me to pick my battles. He also told me, “Don’t you go starting nothing—but you damn sure better finish it.” Always get back up no matter how many times you’ve been knocked down. Dad also liked to tell us what I call “life lessons” from his youth. Which, more often than not, were “glory stories.” These included souped-up car wrecks, tales of great fishing trips and near-deaths with copperheads and tornadoes while hunting. The one I like the most is how he and a friend of his named Don would ride around the back roads of Davie and Rowan County, drinking Rebel Yell whiskey and shooting cats and road signs with their revolvers off the side of the road out of a Jeep Renegade CJ-7. He was also a professional clown who worked birthday parties with Don once upon a time, so regardless of truth, I choose to recall this story with them decked out in circus gear. dad was born in 1950 with myasthenia gravis, a degenerative muscle disease that can be fairly managed with an active lifestyle and medication, but tends to create problems. His battles began early. Due to his condition, he had to spend a year in a wheelchair in the ’60s during high school—one nearly as rural as they come, even today. He recalled this with bitterness as he “found out who his true friends were” and watched the baseball games he should’ve played in. 28
Later, in ’77, he had to have open-heart surgery. In those days, the only way to do that kind of surgery was to saw open your rib cage. His chest-long scar was the first one I ever saw. He and my mother had been married for three years then. He gave her the option to leave him, to find a man in better health. She stayed. sometime in the spring of 1974, my mother was only a year or so out of high school and out “dragging town” with her friends one afternoon. Two guys pulled up beside them and got their attention. Knowing my mother’s friend, the driver decided to park the car, go grab a soda, and catch up. Left alone, the other guy saw my mother sitting on a bench and came over to pass the time with her. Six-foot-three, lean, and jet-haired, he wore jeans and a pink tank top that boldly stated, “Don’t hate me ‘cause I’m sexy.” “He was so handsome,” my mother has said. “I was so nervous, and scared that I just kept rambling on the whole time. He called me a couple of weeks later and asked me to go see a movie; I still don’t know how he got my number”— she always cackles a little bit in this part of her story—“and so I asked him, ‘Why didn’t you ask me out the other day?’ He said, ‘Well, I was gonna—but you wouldn’t shut up.’” Later, they went to go see Live and Let Die. in the picture, it is the mid ’80s. They are at Lake Lure, near the Black Mountains of North Carolina around Asheville. They fish, they camp, they laugh, and they take photographs. This is shortly before they will have me, their first child that they have been trying to have since their wedding in ’74. This is before they discover that my mother has a cyst on the ovary that is carrying me and before my father all but has his left arm ripped from his body by a ropebinding machine at the factory. This is before the rods and screws will piece his arm back together and give him the slightest visage of a cyborg. This is before the doctors will find a way to remove the cyst and I will be born, wide-eyed and loud-mouthed. This is before he gives me his first and last name. This is before my brother gives my mother absolute hell through her pregnancy. He gave him his first and last name, too. This is before five strokes, numerous heart attacks, a severe back injury, and two separate bypass surgeries that tainted the ’90s. i have always been proud to be my father’s son. Not once have I ever heard him speak ill of my mother or his sons. He never laid a hand on us that wasn’t needed for correction, 29
and he never laid a finger on my mother out of anger. He quit drinking after he got married and stopped smoking after his first stroke. He wanted to serve in the military, but they wouldn’t take him due to the myasthenia gravis. He even volunteered before he could get drafted into Vietnam. He was able to make amends to himself when he got accepted to be a correctional officer at a medium-security prison in the area. I remember being awestruck by my father, this idea of him uniformed, walking into a place barricaded with rows of razor wire. “You have to be careful on the inside,” he would tell my family, “because the inmates will file down their toothbrushes on the bars and come at you with them. That’s called a shank; any kind of homemade knife is a shank. The other week we had a pair of scissors go missing and we had to lock down since there was three weapons on the loose.” “Three?” my mother asked. “Yeah, three. The two blades, plus the screw holding them together.” Whatever it took, he worked to care for us. And even when disabled, he kept trying to get the doctors to clear him to go back. when i left for college in July of 2007, he walked outside with his cane, crying and then hugged me. Not yet in his sixties, his health had begun to wane. He lost his balance and I caught him and propped him up on my truck. He said, “I’m proud of you, son.” It was rare to see my father cry. But I watched him as I drove away. I was the first one in my immediate family to attend a university. i had never seen the picture of my father at Lake Lure until I was preparing photo albums for his funeral. We had had doctors tell us that Dad had only had six months to live for over twenty years, so we never really took them seriously when they said things were bad, or that they didn’t know if he’d pull through. After one of my father’s strokes, we were all standing beside him in an emergency room, and the doctor who had just got him stabilized told us, “He is almost certainly going to be paralyzed on the left side of his body for the rest of his life.” Not two seconds later, my father started kicking his left foot and was trying to rip IVs and monitor pads and wires from his body with both hands. The doctor looked like he had seen a ghost. My father had been in a particularly bad spiral since January of 2014, when he fell on the ice coating of the walk-ramp of my parents’ house. He had compressed a
couple discs in his back and was taken to Rowan Regional (now called Novant Health), the same hospital where, years ago, they botched his double-bypass surgery, and he had to come back for a triple. There the doctors proceeded to give him too much anesthesia—enough to put him under and decompress his discs—and, as it turned out, send him into cardiac arrest. Because of this, they would have to install a slim, automatic defibrillator in his chest to keep his heartbeat normal. Except they would have to do it twice because the staff at this institution didn’t turn it on the first time. From there, he would be in and out of the hospital about once a month until early April 2015, when he was last rushed to the hospital. They didn’t know yet if was heart failure, a stroke, or any number of things. I stayed until he stabilized, knowing that I needed to be back in Wilmington to work and to continue my first semester back at the University of North Carolina Wilmington since 2011. I left Dad at the hospital in Salisbury, North Carolina on April 7th, confident that he would be home in a few days and that I could come back up the following weekend to check up on him. On April 8th, at 7 a.m., my brother called me at a gas station on South 17th in Wilmington and told me, “Dad’s gone. We need you up here.” The last thing I said to him was, “I’ll be back soon, Pop.” But I wasn’t. I wasn’t there when he drifted away. Whoever will be my wife, and whoever will be our children, will only meet stories of him. It’s a four-hour drive from Wilmington to Salisbury. I made it in less than three. I met my family at the funeral home to see my father one last time before he was cremated, per his wishes. He was in a gown, in a room too sterile and too quiet for comfort. I fell upon him, my arms long enough to hold him as he had with me so many times before. Then I learned what it meant to weep. As my brother, your youngest son, pulled me away, I swear I saw you smile. “okay now, watch me as i do this,” Dad said, holding a fishing line attached to a rod in his hand. “You run the line through the eye in the hook and then wrap it around six times.” He demonstrated his instructions as he spoke. “Then you take it and run it back through the first loop and tighten it real good, understand?” I nodded. “That way, the hook won’t come loose and you won’t lose your fish.” It is the first time my father has taken me fishing. I’m uncertain of my age, but I know that I have not started school. The High Rock Dam is massive, holding back the tremendous wall of water that is the Yadkin River, which
eventually turns into the Pee Dee River in South Carolina. We have just finished eating Beanie Weenies, straight out of the can, as real men do. “Then, once you’ve got your line on, you put your bobber up a little ways—” “Why?” I interrupted. “Well, otherwise your bait will be too close to the top of the water and the fish won’t bite,” he said, taking pride in teaching me these valuable life skills. “Then we take a worm or whatever bait you’re using and put it on the hook like this.” He scavenged a thick and wily night crawler from the bait cup and pierced him a few times on the hook. “Then we throw it in the water!” I said. “Then we cast it in the water,” Dad said patiently. “You lean back the rod—making sure no one’s behind you—and keep your thumb right here on this button, and then you flick your wrist and follow through, letting go of the button before you come back below your shoulder.” He tutored me, going through the motions. “Now watch.” He laid out a perfect cast that seemed to hang in the air forever and travel to the far banks of the other side of the river. Then he reeled it back up and handed it to me. “Now you try.” My cast was not as graceful, nor did it travel very far. But I caught my first catfish. It was the only keeper we got the entire day. when i went to pick up my father’s ashes at the funeral home, I sat in the parking lot for an hour bawling. I couldn’t bring myself to “just go home.” I remember talking to him and his fine box, his being now much smaller and heavier than I expected. We had planned on driving around or fishing or seeing a movie just weeks prior. I had sat with him in the hospital for days, talking and watching westerns. John Wayne was his favorite. Sitting in the parking lot, I held my father in my arms, and as a strong April wind blew, a maple nearby shed thousands of samaras that helicoptered around my truck like a cloud. Dad and I weren’t going to get gypped out of our plans, after all. I strapped him in the passenger seat and put in my Waylon Jennings CD and headed east down to High Rock Lake and got out on the shore for him to see the water. We double-backed west to Davie County to drive by the house he grew up in and to visit his brother Ivan, who had preceded him two years previously. I took the same back roads that he had raised so much hell on back to the house. We didn’t have the money to buy a gravestone or to put him in the ground at the time. Instead, we made him a memorial on our mantle beside my mother’s favorite picture of him, a professional photo of Dad is in his best suit. A wife is entitled to such things. After the funeral, when I was returning the photos to their proper places, I asked my mother if I could have the Lake Lure picture. She said yes. 30
And then she grew introspective and solemn. “You know what’s weird about that picture?” she asked me. “It looks like he’s waving goodbye,” I answered. “Well, yes, but what I was going to say is that years ago, when he was on what he thought was his deathbed and he was in so much pain, he looked at me and squeezed my hand, and said, ‘Baby, I want to go home.’ And I said, ‘I know you do, dear.’” She wiped her eyes as she spoke. “He said, ‘No, I want to go home.’ So I hugged him and I said, ‘I know what you meant, dear.’” My mother grabbed my hands and told me that this is what he had said next: “When that time comes, I’ll be there— just across the river, where the fruit grows. I’ll have a line out, and I’ll be waiting.” In Memoria: Kenneth Ray Thies December 14th, 1950–April 8th, 2015
De'rive Dustin Sicard 31
On the End Joshua Houston It’s worn off and I don’t have any more to walk on to go on reverie of a reverie after three decades of night and it’s still early. I’m surprised by how many people are out. Sitting at a bar I’m trying not to flip, trying to remember I’m in love and there are butterflies copulating mid-air somewhere at any moment. I’m trying to forget my flat wallet and go for the girl instead of punching the owner and getting kicked out by both.
What happened and why would he choose to hold on to anything but her and how could he keep hold? Civilization’s just a fancy word for looking the other way, and for womankind kind hips turned to salt.
Cuz Jack, pfff ! What America? What dudes and chicks in visions jazzy or whatever at all and not smokestacks and tracks and wires and lasery monsters of light unliving in the steel? No one knows what an america is. She’s a chupacabra, elusive. She’s right there, but there’s no looking straight at her red mouthing mystery vanishing from throbbing towers, always vanishing. What happened to man getting on his knees for her forgiveness face-to-face with loins of lonely centuries? 32
david and i were lying zombified on the bed, the Exposed under a microscope, their muscles form blankets confused with limbs amongst the warmth of fleece, in structured sheets of tetrahedral silicon dioxide and linen, and sweatshirts. Outside, the campus buzzed with its octahedral aluminum oxide. Highly ordered and otherwise expected Sunday productivity, yet here we were in our selfunflinching, these sheets slide across each other on thin contained cocoon of rebellious laziness. Here we huddled layers of water, the magic of flexibility nothing more than in our relaxed conversation, the topics folding as easily into hydrogen bonds—just weak enough for movement, but pseudo-profound musings as the pillows did beneath our strong enough to hold their shape. It’s this malleability that weight. Today, our discussion of cacti had evolved into a endeared clay to the first crafters some 30,000 years ago. conversation on the purpose of a liberal arts education, From the earth they believed we came, and from the earth the value of learning how to learn, and the metamorphosis they pulled our first fertility figures, pots and bowls, beaded from jittery freshmen to comatose seniors. We concluded jewels, and evil-repelling pendants. They saw the miracle that cushy, comfortable college—a safe space between of shaping the world around them, and humanity hasn’t adolescence and adulthood to find yourself and discover stopped shaping it since. your passions!—is an overpriced personality incubator. Maybe college is less of an incubator and more of a kiln. “We’re solidifying,” he said, smiling in a half-serious, Survive the firing and you come out tougher, disregarding a classroom-debate sort of way. “We’re at the part of our lives few splits and cracks. I pushed the covers off my head and where, within the next five years, we’ll become who we’ll slid out of the bed. I was starting to feel the full heat of my be for the rest of our lives.” He gave some examples. The weekend procrastination, and Monday morning loomed career decisions we would make, the relationships we would around the corner of the dying sun. An insulated chamber form, and the plateauing neuroplasticity would all conclude of extreme stress seemed about right to me. A glorified oven, in some sort of identifiable person by for changing mud into dinnerware, the time we were twenty-seven. And decoration, and art. They saw the miracle of shaping during these four years of college, we were expected to begin this process: the world around them, and we thanksgiving break tiptoed up to learn not only how to mold sen- haven’t stopped shaping it since. and pulled us down from behind, tences into prose but preferences into following a week-long gnawing coherent beliefs. of pre-finals assignments. I slid How terrifying. Fickleness has always been a part of my into the passenger seat of my friend Caroline’s Honda nature. Yet even I could see my own patterns of behavior Accord, feeling alternating waves of coffee abuse and sleep becoming more consistent, my decisions more finite, the deprivation. We would be spending Thanksgiving at her opportunities for personal change slowly evaporating as mom’s place in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, a welcomed the days inched toward graduation, just five months away. break not only from school but also from my large and I started to envision the gumminess of my brain hardening overbearing extended family in Florida. in my skull, then remembered that was not how biology At the last minute, I grabbed a bag of fortune cookies worked. we’d purchased for our Halloween party a month earlier. We “That scares the shit out of me.” I laughed and pulled decided it would be a fun idea to crack open the future at the covers over my head, trying to forget about the writing every town we passed to help the six-hour drive run a little assignments and unread chapters competing for attention quicker. As we left Charlotte behind, we were encouraged with an incoherent résumé and half-hearted application to to Investigate new possibilities with friends. Now is the time! teach English in Japan. Caroline and I laughed. We were always encouraging Protected beneath the blankets, I thought of my each other into questionable “new possibilities.” Just the grandfather’s art studio back home, of the crafted dancing other day, we’d spontaneously driven to the local CVS and bodies, each impressed by his careful hand. I imagined the found ourselves standing in the hair products aisle. By the clay figures drying in a line, awaiting a run through the end of the night, four empty beer bottles and a box of hair kiln and a plastering of glaze before a final wash of fire dye had gone in the recycling. Caroline had played postwould leave them complete and glistening, an allusion to rock instrumental music as she applied the bleach, stopping movement frozen by heat. to read the instructions again. I’d sat on a stool in the 33
middle of the bathroom, questioning every decision I had ever made. Two hours later, I had stepped out of the shower, a shock of fuchsia greeting me through the condensation on the mirror. “So, are you sick of it yet?” Caroline asked as we crossed the border into South Carolina. I glanced in the side view mirror, raking my fingers through bubblegum strands. It had been so easy to drastically change my appearance with twelve dollars, a couple hours, and a willing participant in the shenanigans. How much longer would I be able to get away with stunts like this? How long could I actually put off the process of growing up? I turned and beamed at Caroline, cracking open another fortune cookie as we passed Rock Hill. Life is a series of choices. Today yours are good ones. “No, I love it.” on our last day of thanksgiving break, we went to the beach. Pawleys Island is surrounded by the Atlantic on one side and a creek on the other, presenting two very different beach-going options just minutes apart at its long, skinny ends. On the creek front we have your textbookexample estuary, thin fronds swaying in the breeze and the occasional long-necked fowl swooping over gentle ripples of dying sunlight. On the other side of the island, the ocean breathes heavily, sighing its shallow tide and inhaling back into distant blues. With the creek to the west and the sea to the east, the setting sun painted its own gradient across the ecosystems. Before we left, we picked up a souvenir. Right by the visitor’s entrance to the beach lay a giant mass of what looked like black, volcanic rock. Upon closer inspection, the mass turned out to be not rock, but clay. I couldn’t believe it. I had been planning to process my own clay from the soil back at school, ever since my accidentally distressing conversation with David a couple months earlier. I wanted to make a ceramic fish for my grandfather, since it was the first thing he had taught me to sculpt in his studio when I was kid. But the meticulous process involves diluting soil in water and, through a series of churning and settling, extracting the clay particles, which are then pressed and dried into a workable state. Instead, here was a ready-made product pulled from the creek and processed by the ocean, left to dry on the sand in larger quantities than I could have ever produced. It seemed too good to be true. I reached down and pulled a chunk from the mass. I wiped off the outer layer of sand and took a sniff. It smelled like my childhood at my grandfather’s studio. Instantly I was transported back there, to spending hours with my fingers and mind immersed in my work, an oversized apron tied behind my back. After I had mastered aquatic life, the possibilities for muddy fantastical creatures were endless, and I was fascinated by the way I could alter my new friends
at any time, with the smallest tweaks and additions and with the help of a little water. Back at Pawleys, I pinched the dark material between my fingers and recognized the texture, the silkiness beneath the grit. This was definitely clay. “Do you have a container or something in your car I could put this in?” I asked Caroline, who was doing her best to take me seriously with my crazed expression, pink hair, and hands covered in foul-smelling gunk. She offered either a tennis ball holder or a trash bag. “A trash bag would be perfect,” I grinned, remembering how my grandfather always used plastic covers to retain moisture in unfinished works. I pulled several heavy chunks of ocean clay out of the beach and into the bag. I would still have to scrape off the sandy outer layers to get to the manipulable material underneath, but I knew I had more than enough clay to work with. As my trash bag full of potential art bumped alongside our backpacks and laundry on the drive back to school, we cracked open another fortune cookie. “What’s it say?” Caroline asked, keeping her eyes on the road as I palmed half the cookie into her hand. “Oh, it’s a good one,” I told her. Welcome the change coming soon into your life. Names used in this work have been changed.
Last Night, West Fullerton Couch Aidan Healy The city sounds are a joyless constant coughâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; unscrews my ears like tuna cans and spits in them and i lie mouthless.
You’re Gonna Feel Right at Home Kenneth Thies
many are the sounds drifting through Wilmington, “We’re not trying to rewrite the rules,” Bunting says. NC’s riverside streets. It is not unusual to hear a cacophonic Their self-titled EP is a hit from start to finish and is as plethora of music from one block to the next, but there is empowering as it is fun. One might describe their music a refreshing wave that leaves the bystander awash in cool as the bridge between when music was good in the ’90s awe when an original band strikes the right chord inside and when it started improving again around 2012. “At of them—something wholly new and unwitnessed. It Home” is noticeably influenced by the early ’90s grunge is the feeling of being right at home. Black Mantis, who scene. In fact, this song sounds like it should have been performed at the 2015 Atlantis Fall Release Party, is one of on Pearl Jam’s second album. “Down” eases into its verse those bands. with just a hint of a Red Hot Chili Peppers-type riff that The group is two years old and is comprised of quickly rockets off the steady beat with the lofty chorus. Wilmington music veterans who each have a unique Be careful with the gas pedal if you happen to be driving background. Guitarist Madison Bunting has a long history to this song. of being a sideman in numerous original and cover bands, Black Mantis’s song versatility could be explained by most notably Flannel Rebellion. Black Mantis’s drummer each of its members’ many influences. Barbour is a fan of and UNCW alum Matt Barbour started with his college Stewart Copeland, John Bonham, and Stanton Moore. band, The Black Socks. On vocals and bass guitar is Steve “It’s about the groove,” he says. Mousseau, who has toured with his Mousseau, on the other brother in a band named Kaedee. hand, is a fan of the folk artist If there’s one thing that’s important Gregory Allen Isaac, as well “The last time I was in Pennsylvania,” Mousseau says, “I was hanging out for a music artist, it’s finding a way to as ’70s bands such as Scott with my brother and Zoe Bonham (the be engaging without getting boring— Holiday, Other Lives, and daughter of legendary Led Zeppelin something far easier to say than to Scorpion Child, and some drummer, John Bonham), she plays new age psychedelic bands. with my brother in a band now with accomplish. He also cites Barbour’s old a couple of other guys.” Mousseau’s band, The Black Socks, as nonchalance is maddening. “She’s cool.” an inspiration. When asked how the name Black Mantis came to fruition, “They told me I should play bass,” Mousseau says, “and Mousseau says, “There was this chick that a bartender on then they gave me a beer.” Wrightsville Beach was telling me about, who he gave the Bunting is influenced heavily by ’90s rock acts, including name [Black Mantis]. So I said, ‘That’s a great band name!’ Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Type O Negative, and newer Then I stole it before he could use it. So basically, there’s this straight-ahead rock groups like Red Fang, Ghost BC, and oblivious woman out on Wrightsville Beach that has no idea Dawes. that she is the inspiration behind our name.” “I’m a riff rock guy,” Bunting reflects. “I just bring in riffs.” Black Mantis describes their music as more “Rock-Indie” If there’s one thing that’s important for a music artist, than “Indie-Rock,” emphasizing more on riffs and dynamics it’s finding a way to be engaging without getting boring— than the all-too-familiar pop hooks of the genre. There something far easier to say than to accomplish. are psychedelic elements, and the music is purposefully “I think that modern music is taking a turn away from the uncomplicated. folk-pop or grunge-grass or whatever you want to call it and 37
is moving back to more straightforward rock,” Mousseau says. “There’s something to be said about something that stands the test of time.” “Even the stuff we’ve already recorded is very eclectic,” Bunting says. “We’re not trying to stick to a certain formula—it’s just whatever works.” Black Mantis’s music is dynamically different, but still holds a central thread that keeps it obvious that this is Black Mantis. Part of any musician’s spirit and character comes from their point of origin with their passion. Bunting got started playing guitar because his mother played. “There was always one in the house,” he says. Mousseau started playing piano in elementary school, but stopped because kids kept confusing the terms “pianist” and “penis.” Then, after he moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania, he met Barbour and The Black Socks and started playing bass. Barbour started playing guitar at eight years old, but stopped a year later because his teacher told him he had to learn “Oh, Susanna” before learning to play the songs he wanted to: songs by the Beatles and the Steve Miller Band. “Then, about four years later, I fell in love with drums,” Barbour says. “I drove my parents crazy with them. Then I brought them down to college, and I was in a suite right beside the RA. They hated me.” During Barbour’s time at UNCW, he was the Editor in Chief of Atlantis in 1992, a subject that came up when
he played the Atlantis 2015 Fall Release Party at Bourgie Nights 23 years later. The guys in Black Mantis say they aren’t expecting any national tours or anything of the sort. They just want to write songs and play. Their self-titled EP can be found at www.blackmantiswilmington.bandcamp.com/releases for free. “With all of us being audiophiles, I would be surprised if you don’t see a vinyl from us in the near future,” Barbour says. “We’ve been through the meat grinder and the payto-plays and all that; this is more of an emotional outlet,” Mousseau says. “We’d rather play in front of 200 people for nothing than get paid $200 and play for no one.”
Beach Lightning Dustin Sicard 40
Contributors Anna Bumgarner’s work aims to reveal the childlike, wondrous nature that the world has to offer us that at times can seem so lost amidst traffic jams and meaningless conversation. There is magic left to be discovered within the boundless expanse of the universe, if only we take the time to venture into it. Alexis Garrett is a California native who just wants to make her people proud. Aside from her seasonal rain dances and daily sacrifices of goats (and the occasional chicken), she pays tribute to her village through offerings of fiction and poetry. Victoria Griffin is an East Tennessee native, currently studying English and playing softball at Campbell University. Find her at VictoriaGriffinFiction.com. Aidan Healy is a senior at UNCW. He studies philosophy. Elizabeth Helbling thinks that every line, shadow, and shape you see is written from the word “beauty” overlapped again and again. The skeleton, being the most internal part of you, represents beauty beginning from the inside. Her piece symbolizes where she has discovered beauty truly illuminates from. Sarah Hennessey is a junior at UNCW aiming to share her art with her peers and community. She is excited about the progress she has made in figure studies, as well as her developing skills in intaglio and relief. Joshua Houston may or may not exist. There have been purported sightings of him, but nothing conclusive. It is unknown if he was born or if he congealed out of the various goos of downtown sidewalks in order to karmically haunt Wilmington out of some methane diffused cosmic justice. Rebekkah Leigh LaBlue is a freshman at UNCW double majoring (or at least attempting to) in both biology and creative writing. Slam poetry consumes the rest of her free time. She is incapable of making good puns, and spends too much time writing about matchsticks. Kate McCracken received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. She has shown her work in Kansas City, MO, Asheville, NC, and her current resident city Carrboro, NC. She finds writing about herself in the third person amusing, and writing about where she is from and how she was educated mostly irrelevant. She is happy to ask and answer any questions that apply to your or her fancy. Please email her at email@example.com. 41
Joe Megally is currently a film studies student at UNCW. From abandoned asylums to Moroccan markets and from London pubs to the French Riviera, he spends a lot of his time traveling and exploring while trying to develop his photography ability. Annastasia Pratt is currently a junior at UNCW pursuing degrees in English literature and creative writing. Thomas Reenburg is a film major at UNCW. He first got into photography in high school and has since taken it up as a full-time hobby while doing freelance on the side. Traveling is one of the most important ideals of his life. His go-to Netflix show is X-Files and the person that inspires him the most is Kanye West. Anna Richardson is a sophomore at UNCW majoring in studio art and minoring in economics. She was born and raised in the beautiful and progressive city of WinstonSalem, NC. She has an appreciation for the outdoors and traveling, along with fine cuisine and interesting people. Davis Russell was born and raised in Wilmington, NC and is currently attending UNCW. Although he has only been seriously studying art for about seven years, he often uses memories and ideas from when he was a child to inspire his surreal compositions. There are common themes such as introspection and empathy for nature found throughout his work. Lauren Schultz has gotten the opportunity to live and travel around the world, but is still waiting for some place to just feel like home. Erinn Seifert is currently a student at UNCW, working towards her BFA in creative writing with a concentration in nonfiction. She anticipates graduating in spring of ’17. Sarah Sellers is a junior at Catawba College, where she is majoring in writing and literature and minoring in secondary education. She is an editor for the college’s literary magazine, The Arrowhead. Dustin Sicard believes that when you love doing something and you are connecting with everything around you, time doesn’t matter as much anymore and there is a calming sense that flows around you. You are open. This is how he feels when he's creating and designing. Karen Sims was born and raised in Taichung, Taiwan, but calls Davidson, NC home for the moment. She’s not really
sure what she’s doing with her life, but enjoys fresh orange slices in her tea and hopes to one day create a women’s craft beer magazine. Kenneth Thies is a devilishly handsome charmer with an air for romance, finance, and style. He is also a liar. Jennifer Welch likes to spend her free time eating, sleeping, and beaching. Chantai Thomas is a sophomore pursuing a degree in professional writing with a minor in philosophy. Her goal is to one day work for a publishing house as an editor who reflects often on the dismal state of humanity. In the past she has been lauded as “a character” and “kind of like a chic grandpa.” Her favorite pastimes include being right, reading the news, and watching too many movies. Dillon West is from Rutherfordton, NC. His preferred medium is graphite. He has been drawing for as long as he can remember. He moved to Wilmington after serving four years in the United States Army. He transferred to UNCW from Cape Fear Community College and plans to graduate in 2017. Lori Wilson grew up hating to read because she always wanted to change the story. She will graduate from UNCW with a degree in creative writing, a Certificate in Publishing, and a Certificate in Professional Writing. After graduation, she hopes to work with words (in whatever capacity) and, one day, establish a nonprofit for female writers. Ann Miller Woodford, born in Andrews, NC, is seeking an associate’s degree in business at Tri County Community College. She holds a BFA in art from Ohio University, and has worked on an MA degree at Western Carolina University. She loves painting people and places around her in the mountains of North Carolina. She uses her art to create African-American-oriented greeting cards, playing cards, and dolls to fill the gap in ethnic products.
Spring 2016 | Issue 73
AtLant s a creative magazine
We are looking for all types of art, photography, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry with a unique perspective. We want our readers to experience your mood and talent through your own brush, pen, and/or camera. Show us your most creative, innovative, and personal take on the expansive world around us. To submit to Atlantis, you must be a current undergraduate or graduate student at any public or private university or community college in North Carolina. Contributors may submit up to ten pieces of art, photography, fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Please follow the guidelines carefully. They can be found on our website at atlantismagazine. org/submit.
For each genre featured in our magazine—art, photography, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and features— there is an editorial staff comprised of a qualified genre editor and several UNCW student volunteers. All submissions are anonymously coded by Submittable before being thoroughly reviewed by the student staffs. The submitter’s name is not disclosed until each editorial staff has made final content decisions.
All rights are reserved to the individual authors and artists. Permission must be obtained to use any material from this publication in any way. Fonts used: Avenir, Adobe Calons Pro, Grand Hotel, and PT Sans.
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In Loving Memory of Jason Bradford
“And during these four years of college, we were expected to begin this process: to learn not only how to mold sentences into prose but preferences into coherent beliefs.” —Karen Sims,“Clay”