Fall 2012 ART
VOLUME 39, ISSUE 1
Circle auburn.edu/circle facebook.com/theauburncircle twitter.com/AuburnCircle
Cover Photo: â€œSun of the Godsâ€? by Marley Livingston
â€œAll good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.â€? - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Auburn Circle Fiction 10 Symphony 31 Rebekah Rielle
Makes Your Heart Move
Pushing Up Dasies
The Church of Dramatic Experience
Arise, You Weary Wanderer
Ghosts in the Desert
Awake, You Traveling Soul!
The Man in the Green Jacket
When You Held Your Daughter
A Night on Niles Road
Washing Dishes in Costa Rica
Kody Blackwell Scott Fenton
Michael Landreth Emily Shank
Non-Fiction 19 Frio
What it Means to Me
Poetry 8 Kentucky’s Bitter Mistress
Sestina: Variations on an Urban Pastoral
Poetry (continued) Her Lover’s Return
Spanish Sun Rob Brice
Garden of Eden Caroline Barr
Chandler Jones Chandler Jones Rob Brice
Rebekah Rielle Gray Gill
Made to Climb
Kiersten Wones Alyson Smith Rachel Davis Cary Bayless
Poetry (continued) Lying in Darkness Alyson Smith
Photography (continued) 33 Cliffs
Aaron Mattox Kiersten Wones
Marley Livingston Brock Hanson
Photography Front Sun of the Gods Cover Marley Livingston
Snow Meets Sky
It Only Snows Here Once a Year
Anna Claire Freeman Jennifer Stilwell
La Morete del Fiore
46 Venice Brock Hanson 47
Going Down Brock Hanson
Stay Golden Ponyboy
Chatter on the Bench
Graphic Design (continued) A Few Words about Auburn
A Force of Nature
Adventure Near Victoria Falls
Art Face in the Shadow
The Venetian Woman
The Old Man and the Sea
Travel Around the World
Photography (continued) Stadium Sunset Jennifer Robinson
Earth Art: Yellowstone 3 Sarah Wright
Anna Claire Freeman
Through the Gate Shelby Rice
A Long Drive Dana Stuckey
Where the Buffalo Roam
Emily Quinn Emily Quinn
Elizabeth Walker Babs Benesh
Fashion 74 Pleated Origami (Sketch)
Auburn University Band Camp Set
Features Adventure the Great
Graphic Design Scratch and Structure
Anna Claire Freeman
Boy Scouts of America
Laura Cobb Laura Cobb
Featuring: Makes Your Heart Move by Paul Vance (pg12) Sestina: Variations on an Urban Pastoral by Michael Landreth (pg 18) The Church of Dramatic Experience by Scott Fenton (pg 26) An Interview with Adventure the Greatâ€™s Chandler Jones (pg 38) Ink Stains by Caroline Barr (pg 47) Brad P. by Aaron Mattox (pg 72)
Letter from the Editor
It gives me great pleasure to present to you the Fall 2012 issue of The Auburn Circle, which means that the semester is drawing to a close. And what a semester it has been. Here at the Circle, things have been particularly busy. We started off the year with many new faces; in fact, the great majority of our staff this semester is comprised of people who are new to the Circle. But with new people come new ideas, and in a magazine that prides itself on creativity, new ideas are always welcome. One of the main things weâ€™ve been working on this semester is making the Circle more accessible to students; this magazine is for all students on Auburnâ€™s campus, not just English majors or students in the College of Liberal Arts. And this edition of the Auburn Circle is the first step towards that goal. We have implemented several new design elements, including a table of contents in order to make navigating the magazine easier. We are also pleased to be able to bring you a four-page feature on one of Auburnâ€™s own bands, Adventure the Great. We talked to Chandler Jones, singer and lyricist for the band, about his inspiration. This magazine has been my heart and soul for the past four months. I hope it brings you as much joy and happiness as working on it has brought to me.
Shelby Rice Editor-in-Chief
Staff EDITOR IN CHIEF Shelby Rice MANAGING EDITOR Gabby Bates COPY EDITOR Michelle Bangson GRAPHIC DESIGNER Whitney Kent PUBLIC RELATIONS Alissa Best Lillian Parker Aashana Vishnani FICTION Matt Diaz Alicia Jackson Matthew Pollock NON-FICTION Haley Sanders Adam Smith POETRY David Kuyk Kiersten Wones PHOTOGRAPHY/ART Derek Herscovici Dana Stuckey Kristie Tingle FASHION Melody Kitchens
Kentucky’s Bitter Mistress
I suffer assuredly with the saints and sinners and bandits From the love of sweet and smooth Kentucky bourbon She’s a mistress hidden in the dark homes of my brothers With a kiss that’s as lovely as it is sinister and bitter I hear the scars of dark stained hearts mourning in sounds of bluegrass And it’s just as haunting as the crunching of broken bones. But these severed ruts and wounds don’t heal like bones She’s a thief stealing everything I’ve got like a bandit I self medicate ritualistically with bottles and bluegrass And I’ve got her name tattooed on my chest, scripted Bourbon This house is too damn hot and I’ve turned too damn bitter She’s kept me alive this far, but will surely kill me just like my brother. And I’ll never forget the night she took my younger brother I can’t sleep anymore thinking of his mangled body and bones When he slammed the door of his car his breath was bitter And now all I’ve got is his old dumbass hound dog, Bandit I leave him leftovers by the back door with a bowl full of bourbon He cries when he howls and I pretend it don’t haunt me like bluegrass. But I can’t blame him cause I cry too listening to bluegrass The only thing my mistress spared was the memory of my brother I think that’s when I slipped into the woozy kisses of bourbon She’s ravaged and branded my soul after claiming my body and bones I beg and plead for her to steal that too – take it away you goddamn bandit But she won’t because she knows it’s keeping me paralyzed and bitter. Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t survive being this angry and bitter I spend most nights on my porch strumming bluegrass For me, comfort comes in the night as if I was a bandit And sometimes I could swear that, singing along, is my brother But I know that it’s really just the rattling of my bones Against this now empty glass bottle of my baby, Bourbon. And it looks like I’m alone again tonight, save my trusty lady Bourbon She’s in a hell of a mood and the loneliness has made her bitter I’d give anything to have a real someone, to feel bones on my bones Or to hear a sound other than howling or my sorry attempt at bluegrass But I’m only loved by the same woman who loved and took my brother Tonight’s the night, and she’ll finally steal me away like a bandit. Serve bourbon at my funeral, and I’ll ask that you play bluegrass Rest my swollen, bitter body next to my baby brother And leave my bones for the bandits.
Katie Blevins poetry
“Solemn” by Megan Silas 9
Teresa closed the refrigerator door with her large buttocks, one hand on each side of a gallon of pistachio ice cream. The cheap kind. Phillip only bought the cheap kind. She glanced at the kitchen table, covered in bowls and snot and pizza crusts, before making her way to the living room. She walked with a spoon clenched between her teeth like a Spaniard tangoing with a rose. Or a pirate climbing with a knife. She took a small bronze key off the hook by the front door and jiggled it into the key hole, listening for the little click as the bolt slid shut. When she reached the dingy pink couch, she maneuvered herself down, careful to avoid the largest barbeque stains by landing directly on the seam. The seat cushions bent upwards to cup her body. She used just two of her sausage-link fingers to peel the frosty lid up and off the ice cream cradled in her lap, laying it carefully to rest atop a pile of mismatched Power Ranger gloves and torn envelopes on the side table. As Teresa raised her spoon to pierce the smooth, artificial-green surface of the ice cream, the first echoes of children reached her ears. Already? They had been told not to come back until dinnertime. She thought about Phillip on his work trip in Miami, probably laughing into a warm wind with a mojito in his hand while she was stuck with the kids—all five of them—in dreary, sub-zero Vermont. He wouldn’t be back for two days. She lumbered to her feet. She could hear singing. Some disgusting song they picked up at the park, no doubt. She wrinkled her nose. Five of them. How had she ended up with five of them?
Rebekah Rielle fiction
Teresa walked over to where her father’s old record player sat in the corner. She pulled the needle to the right and watched as the black disk spun and wobbled. For a moment, all she could hear was the soft mechanical whirrings of the spinning track— and then, from outside, her son’s guttural scream: Get off my back, slut! Johnny’s voice dissipated into a mass of snarls, and then she heard the muffled crunch of rubber soles in snow. Something raked across the wooden boards of the front porch. Teresa cringed again, lowering the needle down onto the record. The gentle first notes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 rose and floated around her like late summer leaves swept up in a whirlwind. The doorknob turned a quarter inch and then stopped. She reached down with her spoon and dipped out a large bite of pistachio ice cream from the carton sitting well-behaved on the couch, moaning like a cow
in heat as the soft lump slid down her throat. She allowed her body to fall against the wall, eyes closing to the soaring crescendo of flutes and horns. The banging on the door blended easily into the symphonic roar of waves. The runny noses and shivering, grimecovered hands could be, if not forgotten, easily ignored simply by keeping her eyes shut very, very tight. She was standing on the back deck of a seaside bar, the pink sun playing in the rippling folds of her sarong, light blue, riding low on her hips. Phillip was humming but he didn’t know it, his fingers busy twirling a lock of hair at the nape of her slender neck. She took the drink from his hand and set it on the rail. Then, smiling mischievously, she ran—down the steps, across the sand, and finally, with a squeal, into the ocean. She felt the warm salt water rock against her tan body. She tasted it in her mouth and in his, and her ribs ached with life.
“Scratch and Structure” by Laura Andreades 11
Makes Your Heart Move
I sit in a chair and it’s uncomfortable because it’s in a doctor’s office. I have no opinion on doctors’ offices, but the chairs in them always seem to be very uncomfortable. My therapist made me come here. It has very low armrests and the cushion is flat. There’s no design, just a greenish-blue cushion. The doctor tells me I’m sick. She says that it’s malignant and in my colon. I don’t feel anything though, except for the chair. The doctor tells me that my condition is very rare. So rare that only six cases in the US have been recorded. She instructs me where to go from here. I picture a person named Alex having to tell family and friends, calling them on the phone, over lunch, over coffee. I can see that when Alex tells them, there won’t be a reaction at first. Their faces become frozen, their vocal chords tighten. Alex responds to this by saying hey, don’t worry, it’s only butt cancer. It’s really just a whoopee cushion I can’t get rid of. They smile. They don’t get the joke and neither does Alex, but they smile. They are able to speak again. Alex has broken the spell. Well at least you have a sense of humor about it, they say. And Alex says yeah, that’s always a good thing. And they’ll bring their mugs to their mouths but won’t sip anything or they’ll laugh and it’ll fade away as they look at their shoes or the phone will become silent as they wonder how to change the subject without sounding selfish. I wouldn’t blame them or anything if they did. I’d rather hang up and watch a movie than
Paul Vance fiction
speak to someone who only tells me bad news because they feel obligated to. I know who the real selfish person in that scenario is. The doctor asks me if I have any questions, and I think about it. I can’t find any so I say no and get out of the chair and leave. The chairs in my therapist’s office are usually pretty comfortable, but today they aren’t. I don’t know why though. He asks how the depression is doing and I tell him that it’s going good. I tell him that he was right. The reason I had stayed in bed not eating, not sleeping, not bathing or peeing or pooping, watching movie after movie for four straight days the week before wasn’t because I was depressed, which I thought, but it turns out it was because I was actually sick with a real illness. He says mono, wasn’t it? And I talk about how I like the lighting in his office. The overhead, fluorescent light is always off and he has about six lamps around the room that make a golden light and make the
colors in his office feel safe to be around. His voice gets softer. I ask him if he likes to watch movies. Not just as a thing he does, but as a hobby he’s passionate about. He says no. I decide he doesn’t need to know. I don’t want to be that person. He has to listen to people talk about their problems all day. People who as kids sometimes woke up with their stepdad’s semen on their face. People who were kidnapped and beaten until they went unconscious and miss it. People who can’t shop in grocery stores because they would stay in there for hours rearranging the cans and bags and boxes forever and ever until they got thrown out or something. My problems aren’t as bad so why bother mentioning them. It’s not that big a deal. I let the guy have an hour of peace for once. My dad calls me like he usually does and asks how I’m doing. I say I’m doing fine. I tell him about the last movie I saw, which was
“Vulnerable” by Nicole Degree 13
Once Upon a Time in the West. I re-watched the first twelve minthe sand in the desert is so clean, the music is so loud and powerutes when Mr. Harmonica is introduced about five times before I ful, and the people are cheering. It is hard to watch it now though went on with the rest of the movie. I want to be someone like Mr. because it’s hard to see and it’s hard to breathe and I don’t know if Harmonica. A hero and someone that matters. I have this thrill I can move my arms and legs but I almost cry every time. when the train horn blends with his hauntWe get my depression pills and visit ing harmonica sound. I am so excited. My “He says it’s good that I think that the doctor again. The chair is the same heart actually moves whenever I watch a because that means my depression one I was in when I was diagnosed. It’s good movie. It is the only thing that can do pills are working. It’s a good thing still uncomfortable. My dad asks so that to my heart. questions that I never think of. that I’m scared. It’s good that I care. many He says he doesn’t know which movie What are the symptoms. Is there any I’m talking about. I don’t explain it to him He smiles and says now I’m normal.” way we can fight this. What is the time and I say that he should watch it and he says okay. It is silent like it line. Is chemo an option. What is the illness called again. What usually is and I don’t know what else to say so I mention that I am caused it. Is there any way he can help. What is there to do. How sick. He says is it depression? And I say no. I tell him it’s malignant long will this last. and in my colon. That my condition is very rare. So rare that there have only been six recorded cases in the US. I tell him I don’t feel They decide that I’m going to have surgery in a week and take anything though. some of it out of my colon and see what that does. The night beHe asks me how long did I know this and I said three weeks fore the surgery after my dad watches me take my pills we watch and he gets mad at me and starts to yell and say how could I not Once Upon a Time in the West and my heart doesn’t move when mention this before, that I’m not fine, that I need medical care. He the train comes and the harmonica is being played; I don’t feel says how could I even sound so calm with news like this, don’t I anything. And I get scared. care. Three weeks already. Am I scared. My dad says why do I love movies so much? And I say they I tell him when he says he’s going to drive fifteen hundred make my heart move, but they aren’t today. He says are movies the miles to see me not to worry. That it’s only butt cancer. How bad only thing that make me feel that way and I say yes and he says could such a funny thing be. It’s like a whoopee cushion I can’t get that he thinks that that is a sad thing. He says that there are many rid of. He says what does that even mean and I say I don’t know many things that can make me feel that way but I don’t believe but don’t worry everything’s fine. It’s no big deal. What does it him because only movies have ever made my heart move like that. matter. He says I need to look more. He asks if I have been taking any medication recently and I say for the cancer? And he says for the depression and I say that I I lie on a bright table at the hospital. I wear a patient’s gown keep forgetting about both. and my sick butt is showing. I say that if they hear a noise it’s just He says no wonder why I don’t care. the whoopee cushion. It’s good that I keep a sense of humor. I cough a lot before I see any doctor and some blood comes out. I My dad drives fifteen hundred miles from Austin, Texas to my rest my head on it. They are about to take me in and stick an IV in apartment in California. It takes him two days. He knocks on the me and I yell for Dad and he comes in and asks what’s wrong and door and it takes me ten minutes to get out of bed and the whole I grab his hand and my ass is in the open and I start to cry and I time he’s knocking. I open the door and I ask him if he wants to don’t remember the last time I cried, and I tell him I’m scared and watch a movie. He asks where my pills are. After about an hour we that I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s going on with me anymore. find one bottle under my bed and near the wall and another under He says I’m sorry for what? And I say I don’t know. I’m just resome dirty dishes on the floor. We can’t find my depression pills. ally scared right now and I don’t want to die. I don’t want that. And He reads the instructions on the ones we did find and he makes the table is wet near my face and the lights are bright and reflect me open up my hand and drops the pills in them. He watches as off the surface of the table and the floor and I can’t get away from I take them. He does this every day. Makes sure I take my pills. it and it makes my eyes hurt. I keep saying with my eyes closed I He says that the place is disgusting and takes the rest of the don’t want to die. He says it’s good that I think that because that week to clean up all of the cups with mold in them on my nightmeans my depression pills are working. It’s a good thing that I’m stand and in the other rooms, he vacuums all of the crumbs of scared. It’s good that I care. He smiles and says now I’m normal. sandwiches and potato chips on the floors and throws the canI start to throb and tremble and cough some more and I can dy wrappers on the couch in the garbage after he empties it. He picture my ass shaking in the air and I’m still crying and my teeth asks how long they’ve been here. He sticks a moldy banana in my start to chatter and I say that I don’t like this, I don’t like this feelface and I have to keep my mouth closed and he says look at this. ing, I want to go back to where nothing mattered. Look at how I’m living. He throws the banana at my chest and it The surgeons have a hard time sticking an IV in me because squishes against my shirt and sticks there. He tells me to take off I’m trembling so much but they get it and I fall asleep. my shirt and I do and he puts it in the washer with other dirty clothes. He never stops complaining and yelling at me about it and Movies don’t make my heart move anymore. I don’t feel anyI watch Lawrence of Arabia three times. My heart moves whenever thing when I watch them and I don’t know what’s wrong with me Lawrence returns from saving the man stranded in the desert. He because I don’t want to watch them anymore. I don’t like being means so much to so many people and the camels are running, normal.
I throw up three times a day. I do it so much that I don’t bother brushing my teeth every time. I dream that I’m watching 2001: A Space Odyssey and I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe and a tree grows out of my mouth. I lie on my couch and the tree gets bigger and bigger and I gag and I can’t breathe. I taste the bark and I can feel the roots grow inside my body. It moves down my throat and into my arms and my heart and my legs and I can’t move because I can’t breathe but I’m not dying. The branches grow and tangle and thicken and people start to bud out from them. They hang on the branches by their necks and I still can’t breathe and one of them looks at me and says this is good for you this is good for you and I can hear breathing from the TV but I can’t see it because the tree in my mouth is in the way and up through the ceiling. My dad trusts me now to take the pills on my own and I only take them half of the time. I flush them in the toilet so it seems like I’m going through them and my dad won’t notice. It’s been four weeks and the cancer isn’t slowing down. The surgery didn’t work and my dad looks worried. I start chemo. I do it almost every day and now I’m flushing all of my pills and I’m not scared anymore. I watch Seven Samurai and my heart feels warm and alive again. I want to join in their group of samu-
rais. I want to save the day. I watch it two more times. There is a pile of hair at the end of the couch when I finish. I cut my wrists and I do it that way because it was the easiest way to try it out. I was wondering. My dad finds me on the floor with blood on the carpet and screams and uses the phone and I’m in the hospital again. He yells at me and screams and says have you been taking your medication and I say for cancer? And he says for anything. And I say I forgot and he starts to cry and say he’s trying to save my life and I’m trying to end it and why am I so stupid and he slaps me in the face as I lie in the bed that smells like nothing. I don’t feel anything though. I ask him if he wants to watch a movie when we get out and after a few minutes he says okay. My dad watches me take my pills and makes me open my mouth and stick out my tongue. We go to chemotherapy and I sit in a comfortable recliner as it happens. I’m scared again but I’m too tired to shake and it takes seconds for the doctor to stick the IV in me. I become terrified after a little bit and I feel so tired and I start to yell at my dad. I say that it’s his fault for making me feel so scared. I say everything was fine before he came here and he ruins everything because he feels like he has to do something when really I just want to be left alone. I say I don’t want anybody. I was fine, I wasn’t scared. I was fighting death my own way and now he’s made me naked with my bare ass in the air and nothing
“Moher” by Andrew Whited 15
to fight back with. we get there the sun is setting. He helps me out of the car and we He says that what I’m going through is normal and I say fuck go out in the middle and he sets out a blanket on the sand and he normal and I call him a worm and just as bad as the cancer. And lays me down and I look up and I can only see a little. The sun is the water in his eyes makes them look bigger and he uses them to gone now and I see a ton of blurry stars and he says that there are look at his watch and he says it’s time. He reaches into his bag and more stars than normal and he says it’s because the light pollution pulls out my pills and makes me take them and I open my mouth in this area is so low that we can see more. We sit without talking and stick out my tongue and I can tell he holds his breath when I for a half hour and he says I just wanted to bring you here for a do this it smells so bad. special reason and he says just wait for it He says that he thinks I knew that “I can see the Milky Way moving so I wait and cough and wait and hurt all Mom was dead before anyone else. That from left to right in the sky and I over. He tells me go to sleep which is easy when I popped out I didn’t cry or scream to do I am so tired. or anything. I was already in mourning. realize that this is the only thing I dream that I am in a buggy at a groMaybe I knew she had died because when that I will ever see that will look cery store and it isn’t moving. I start to cry. she did I was still attached to her he says. bigger than the earth.” Everything is so still. I didn’t cry. I wake up and look up and I can’t see He tells me that when I was six months old I made up for it by anything. I hear someone say there is this huge dense band of stars crying all of the time. The only way to stop me from crying was to in the middle of the sky. They say it’s the Milky Way. That I am put me in a buggy and drive me around inside a grocery store. He looking at it straight-on like a Frisbee and that’s why that part of remembers he spent nine hours in the grocery store every week. the sky is so dense with stars. I keep trying to see and all of a sudHe remembers where everything was by heart. den I can see everything around me. I see the small mountains I say beans? And he says aisle six next to the soups near the on the horizon and I see that the stars aren’t just white, but some bottom. I say taco seasoning? And he says aisle two, right near the are blue and purple and it makes the sky colorful. It’s so bright end of the aisle and up top. and soft and it feels safe. I can see the Milky Way moving from I say I was a weird kid and he says now I’m a weird adult and left to right in the sky and I realize that this is the only thing that I say sorry you have to take care of me. I will ever see that will look bigger than the earth. It’s so big that And he says it’s okay. I start to actually see the earth rotating. I can feel it too under my body and I start to feel it inside me and it makes my heart move The new medication makes my legs not work. I can’t walk so much. I feel like I am part of the earth and looking at the Milky straight and I wobble everywhere. It hurts sometimes. I call for Way up in the sky making the earth look so small makes me feel my dad when I need to use the restroom and he picks me up from so big and I feel important and I don’t want to die and I feel better the couch and walks me there and I pull down my pants as he sets than ever. I don’t cough anymore. I don’t hurt anymore. I watch it me down. for years and years. It gets really cold sometimes and sometimes it I wake up in the middle of the night and I hurt all over. My gets really hot but I still watch it all the time. A tortoise burrowed dad runs in and asks what’s the matter and I say nothing, I’m just underground tries to come to the surface of the sand, but I block scared. He asks me if it was a nightmare and I say I forgot and he its way. After a few months it does it again. I say that I’m sorry but says do you want to watch a movie? And I say I don’t. I say I don’t I can’t move right now. Another year goes by and a goat or a sheep want to die and he says me too and that he’s glad I don’t. or a deer with huge antlers walks up to me and says aisle four next to the instant potatoes and I say thanks but I don’t know why. It The doctor gives me two more months to live and I tell my makes a loud sound and it hurts my ears for a little bit but then it dad I don’t want the pills anymore and he says he isn’t sure. And makes me feel better and it’s almost like the Milky Way is making I promise him I will be different and he says as long as I still take the sound. The deer or sheep or goat lies down next to me and my depression pills for him and I say okay. rests it head near my hand and I want to pet it but I can’t. We throw away all of my left over pills and a month goes by we So I just keep watching the sky for even more years and the are watching a lot of my favorite movies but my heart isn’t moving antlered animal dies but I feel like I am the earth and my heart is anymore and I feel scared and anxious. moving more than it ever has before. He sees me trembling and says am I scared again? And I can’t I can feel the earth move now and it makes me feel so big and say anything. It’s worse today than yesterday and he asks me if I meaningful. I wonder if this is what Mr. Harmonica or Lawrence feel anything else and I can’t say anything. My eyes aren’t working or the samurai feel like. anymore and I can’t breathe very well and I feel hot all over. He And I’m not scared anymore. wants to know if I want to go to Death Valley tonight and picks me up and puts a jacket on me. He drives an hour and a half and when
Auburn Circle 1
Hibernate If, by fate, I were a bear, I have no doubt that I would ravish deeply in the air of whatever breeze flew by.
When Winter called, I would retreat, no need for flannel or fire, on my own, not in defeat, to rest for my Spring’s desires. I’d have no use for Winter with her cold and bitter wind. My cave, I could re-enter if she passed my way again. But I’m a man, never a bear. I mustn’t misconstrue. And I am forced to sit exposed: the harsh Winter of you.
Stephen Burns poetry
1. “Snow Meets Sky” by Anna Claire Freeman 2. “It Only Snows Here Once a Year” by Jennifer Stilwell
Sestina: Variations on an Urban Pastoral 1 The signs were put up long before the scrape and burn of the pine grove began. Smoke was visible from the nearby road for months; the powder of turned dirt blew into the neighborhood, our cars stained. The claws of cranes waited like hands folded in prayer over piles of cement blocks and brick. 2 We must wear gloves when throwing brick. We move fast; if we’re not careful the edges scrape our hands so badly we can’t work. I’d prayed for a job so long I’d begun to imagine God a smoky apparition not due my faith. He cleanses my stain of disbelief in this nagging mist of red powder. Maybe God’s seen too much reduced to powder, everything he thought good encased now in brick. How has He tolerated this determined crawl of gray stain across the landscape? It’s always like this now, the scraping sound of bulldozers smoothing asphalt, the sinister smoke from burning trees, roots hanging like intestines of slaughtered prey. 3 Mayor Goodman visits our construction site to praise quick progress on the addition to his skyline. Rain-powdered steel beams rise behind him escaping like hard smoke into the sky, workers stacked before him like bricks. Muddy earth cakes his shoes, but dirt has often been scraped from his feet. Men in charge avoid stains. 4 My wife doesn’t know her sandwiches are a stain on the face of my day. At lunch I walk into the pines and pray a blessing over my food. From my sandwich I scrape what mustard I can; it’s dried to powder in the straw around my favorite spot. Bread like a brick, I eat half then have a cigarette. She doesn’t know I smoke. 5 It’s the smell of jobs and progress, these charred pines, the smoke a gift to the city. To call this concrete a stain on nature is to say humans don’t lay brick as naturally as beavers dam, spiders weave, mantises pray. It’s what we do. Our DNA still carries the powdery remnants of cavemen; the things in our way get scraped. Yet a few trees still stand, avoiding the smoke, some bird’s answered prayer. Eventually they come clean, stains. All is made from powder and water – planets, humans, trees, bricks. Nothing gives up. Everything scrapes.
Michael Landreth poetry
“Urban” by Megan Silas 18
I used to pass them on my way to the market in the mornings. Most of them were young, at least not too old to find themselves lined along the fences on Frio. Fathers and sons stood together, rattling the chain link and waving their dark arms in the morning sun. This was the same sun that would later come down hard and fast on their necks; it would come fast like the polished chrome rims spinning towards the offices. “Aquí!” They would yell, usually reserving their voices only for white men driving trucks. They were there for work. If they didn’t get work, they would drink. As the south Texas heat beamed down on the pavement, the workers would become intertwined with the homeless, distinguished only by their rough hands, bandanas and sixteen ounce Tecates. The fathers and sons took off their cheap straw hats, reminiscent of the tourists’ across the highway at the Mercado. Across the street, strung between light poles, were the alternating yellow and red flags of the old car dealership. They would clap together when the afternoon wind picked up. They sounded like applause. After five, the female secretaries would walk down the streets towards their cars with their cheap black slacks stretched taught against their young legs. They would offer themselves out as a secular communion, holy and sacred to the lonely fathers and sons. The workers would yip and howl like the coyotes of old Encinal and the lands they tried to forget. But they can’t forget. So the men continue, and as they swing their heads low in a prayer to the not-so-virgins of Guadalupe, they have all but forgotten where they came from, and why. But that was okay for now. Maybe tomorrow they would find work, make enough money to send home. Looking off towards the south, a worker’s eyes glazed over slightly. “Vamos,” one of the men would say. “Drink the beer before it sweats.”
Logan Tussey Non-Fiction
It is not enough that I lay with you, That our bodies move to surreptitious tempos; I crave the source, melting your fingers into my bones, Down where you once told me that The skylines seemed to shift in tempo of rosewood claves, From Bogota to Santiago to Buenos Aires, Through your hot lands and warm bath rivers, Even on a day’s trek from San Paulo to Rio de Janeiro. I want to follow you home and see your treasured places, The hills you roamed as a little girl, The sky that you watched, And the old tree that you wished upon for promise and family. I want to gaze at the moon you loved, the constellations you know, And the stirred speckles of stars beyond; I want to travel the rolling roads on which you were made, In light, birthed in clay and water before you first knew a kiss. I want to feel my feet press in the pebbles On the rural paths leading to your city. I want to inhale your homelands, a rapture of fragrance and serendipity, With the passion of the twinkling night, the warmth of air, the dances Where you and your sisters spun and pirouetted, as stained-glass ballerinas, And you in later years, Were found standing statuesque, Lovely, with hands of dark grain and irises of rainforest. On what day was it born? That Bossa Nova beat in your walk? When did you first shift your weight on your gritty city streets, With music in each bend of your toes? I know there was one Spanish Sun where, Under its new day radiance, you went from girl to woman, Adorned with gold and purple over the luster of your skin, And a smile that wickedly ran with your indifference. What can I say of you? You are cocoa and caramel— And the sway of a rippled sunset glistening in magenta and fire. You’re the hot ocean mating with the land, and deeply, After darkness, you twirl as an unraveling shooting star. I want to speak to you in your native tongue, And taste your language in my saliva, Feel the glowing images of your rich childhood So that your blood might live in me. It is not that I lack, that I desire you, Nor is it that I seek completion, But I want to know the heart of the Earth, Far from the choking throes of civilization, And you, like no other, dance with her step for step; You move together with her in a perfect samba, So that with your cheek upon my chest, We and the land melt inward, breathing as one body, Waxing and waning, As the immortal days and nights.
Rob Brice poetry
“Mechanic” by Dana Stuckey 21
Pushing up Daisies
Spoiler alert: this story is going to end. Just like everything else. Just like Pops. Just like you. Sorry if that’s depressing. I’m still upset by the whole situation is all. At the moment, the situation is this: I’m sitting on a hard, wooden pew in the front row of a richly appointed church, wearing a suit I bought yesterday, elbows on my knees. I’m staring at the white satin on the inside of the open lid of the glossy, black coffin in front of me that holds the withered remains of what used to be my grandfather. When I say death, what image comes to mind? A skeleton in a tattered black cloak, maybe. Hood pulled low, necrotic skin clinging to his yellowing finger bones as they wrap around the splintered grips of his scythe; funny that Death’s never a woman, isn’t it? Or maybe you’d prefer I didn’t say death at all. People don’t often talk about death directly, and we’ve come up with clever ways of sidling up to the subject. One can bite the dust, kick the can, buy the farm; if you’re a sailor you might go to Davy Jones’ locker or – my personal favorite – if you’re a military man, you could end up Tango Uniform, which is to say, “tits up.” Think about it – all this linguistic effort to avoid facing up to the fact that our petty lives aren’t permanent. So I’m sitting here and I’m concentrating hard on not looking away from the casket so I don’t have to see the red eyes of my cousins and brother. We’re all sitting here waiting for the preacher to shut up so that we can heave this giant wooden box into the hearse waiting outside. Pallbearers are what we are. The first part of that word, pall, is interesting. Literally, it means “coffin,” but figura-
Kody Blackwell fiction
tively, it can refer to a dark cloud hanging over something. So, in company. He loves to work, has all his life. If he has a day off, a few minutes, when Reverend Long-Winded over there is done he’s out cutting wood for the winter or weed-eating the fencerows. blathering, our job is to figuratively bear the dark cloud from the Naturally, he always had a different relationship with Pops than I room—presumably so that everyone can get on with their lives. I did. Not better, not worse, just different. When Pops had his first wonder if the figurative pall will stay hung over the literal pall, or heart attack last year, my brother would be over there to mow his if this pall bearing gig is a lifetime appointment. lawn and Bush-Hog the pasture in the back whenever Pops called. Okay, maybe I’m being snide—not about the pall bearing, but Me, I didn’t get to see Pops much these last few years since I about the preacher. Thing is, it’s not really personal. He’s just doing moved away for college. I only get to come home on long breaks his job, same as any other preacher would. How’s he to know that and, apparently, when a family member is dying. When I did my grandfather never went to church a day make it home, he’d always take me out to eat at in his life that my grandmother (God rest “I wish we’d hurry up because the buffet in town. We’d eat the same fried fish her soul) didn’t make him? So my disdain and instant mashed potatoes and talk about the isn’t directed at him, per se. But what really my forearm’s starting to tire, same things: how good the fish was that night gets me is that he’s standing up there and and I’d rather not be the one to (it wasn’t), what he’d been up to (always, “oh, bold-faced lying to everybody in this room, drop our grandfather’s casket.” not a whole lot”), and what I’m planning to and they know it, and he knows it, and nodo when I finish school (not a clue). I know it body gives a damn. I know he didn’t know my grandfather perbothered the hell out of him for my future to be so ambiguous—at sonally; they probably never even met. If they had, I’d be willing my age, he was on a tour of duty in Germany—but he never said to bet Pops wouldn’t have thought much of him. And so I know anything about it, always nodding and saying he knew I’d figure he’s not nearly as sure of my grandfather’s eternal salvation as he’s it out someday. making out to be. I wonder if visions of hellfire and brimstone The only things me and my brother have in common at the are dancing in his head while he’s up there talking about “Roger’s moment are that we both look like we’ve never worn a suit in our forty eight years running the dragline out at the Peabody mine,” as entire lives—probably because we haven’t—and that we’re both if that qualifies him as some kind of expert on Pops’ life. holding on to the cold, brass handles of this coffin. On the funeral Rustling fills the church as the preacher asks us to rise and evdirector’s count of three, we all lean away from it with stiff arms eryone struggles to their feet on arthritic joints and sleeping musand heave it off its stand. Now, I saw my grandfather the day he cles. We, the pallbearers, are standing in the front on the plush, took his last breath, and he can’t have tipped the scale at much red carpet, clasping our hands over our crotches, and staring at over a hundred pounds, but let me tell you what, when we get that our black shoes that could use a bit of polish, or maybe just a good coffin in the air that son of a bitch is heavy. It’s almost ridiculous dusting off. The preacher says a prayer that turns into a thinly how much material must have gone into making that thing; all veiled sermon – subtext: “Why not be sure of your own salvation to be buried underground and never seen again in a matter of so your funeral’s not as painful as this old bastard’s?” – and then hours. I mean, I’m no wimp—I’ve thrown my share of hay bales he says, “amen.” The funeral director closes the casket, then directs into a barn—but I’m struggling hard trying to carry this thing out the audience to wait outside. This is our cue to move. the door. And then there are stairs to negotiate before we get to We file to either side of the casket, three to a side. I end up on the hearse! Nobody told me I should have worn an Under Arthe driver side of the rear end, right across from my brother. As mour base layer just so I wouldn’t sweat right through my jacket. we bend down to grasp the thick brass bar that runs the length My hair is plastering itself to my forehead, but I can’t do anything of the coffin, I make the mistake of looking my brother in the about it because I need my left arm for counterbalance. I wish we’d eye. On the rare occasions when he breaks down and actually hurry up because my forearm’s starting to tire, and I’d rather not cries, he puts on sunglasses. So do I, so does my dad; it’s sort of a be the one to drop our grandfather’s casket. family thing. But you can’t put sunglasses on in a church at your As we’re about to step down onto the stairs, I look up and see grandfather’s funeral; there are rules about that kind of thing. So my mother standing by a pillar to the left of the stairway, one arm when I look across at him, I’m startled by the sight of tears wellfolded across her stomach, the other arm propped up on it and ing up in his bloodshot eyes, his sunglasses bulging in the breast holding a Kleenex to her nose, tears running down her cheeks. pocket of his jacket. I look at her and then glance at my brother to see if he sees her It’s hard to imagine how we could be any more different, my and he does, so I look back at Mom. She mouths the words “I love brother and me. Everything about his appearance is functional, you,” to me and gives a tight-lipped nod. utilitarian. Me, I’ve got more of an aesthetic look going on. He’s Mom being here is a ray of light in the dark storm of emotions short and sinewy, with square, proud shoulders; his close-cropped that this process is turning out to be. See, my dad and mom split hair is bleached blonde from the sun, and the peeling skin and up a few months back. And although the divorce went as smoothfreckles on his nose and the tips of his ears belie days spent workly as divorces can go, relations between them have been—how to ing outside. I’m tall and somewhat slender, with longer brown hair put this—strained. Which wouldn’t be a big deal under normal that’s always falling in my eyes and olive skin that mostly sees the circumstances, but obviously these aren’t normal circumstances. fluorescent light of the library at school. When I called her from the hospital two mornings ago to tell her He graduated high school last year and went straight to work, Pops was gone, she broke down and told me he was always like getting on at the union and landing a job trimming trees, trying to a father to her. And she said that even though her and my dad follow in Dad’s footsteps and eventually go to work for the power weren’t together anymore, she still wanted to come to the funeral.
I don’t know if her and Dad have really talked about all this yet, but the fact that they’ve both just been in the same room together is no small thing. We manage to stumble stiff-legged down the stairs and slide the casket onto the rollers in the back of the black, station-wagon-looking hearse. As soon as we do, my brother’s hand is in his pocket reaching for his Oakleys. I mentioned that I was at the hospital the morning Pops passed away, so I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you about that little foray into perdition. It started at two in the morning, with me sleeping like a drunk at the end of a three day bender. I was jarred awake to the Mario theme song boring through my eardrum and the harsh light of my cell phone’s LED screen flooding my room. I fumbled around with the phone with my eyes still closed until I could force my fingers to open it and throw it against my face. I mumbled something that didn’t sound like “hello,” and my dad was at the other end and, borderline sobbing. By then I was wide awake, and by the time he got out that the nurses weren’t giving Pops much time, I was already pulling on a pair of dirty jeans off the floor. I told him I was on my way and then I ran around my room in a daze until I managed to find my keys and wallet and a decently presentable shirt—incidentally, what does one wear to a death? I’d never thought about it before. I went with a plain green t-shirt; my old, black Nikes; and, as I said, a crumpled pair of dirty Levi’s. I ran outside to my car and the dogs started barking and it was cold and the t-shirt was a bad idea and I yelled at the dogs to please shut the fuck up so I could just get the car door open. And then when I did get it open and get in, the windows were frosted over, so I drove into town to Mom’s house to meet my brother, going eighty miles an hour the whole way, squinting through the
“Face in the Shadow” by Elizabeth Walker 24
porthole my defroster had managed to clear in the windshield and praying I wouldn’t meet a cop or, even worse, a deer, and five minutes later, I was slinging rocks in Mom’s driveway and bounding to the back door. My brother was in the kitchen pouring a thermos of coffee and looking like a pale-faced, red-eyed, stoic zombie and all he said when I came in was “let’s go.” So we walked outside to his truck—because he wouldn’t be caught dead in a car—and stepped up into it and he cranked it up and the roar ripped apart the suburban silence and we drove the two hours to Saint Louis in an hour and a half, listening to country turned way down on the radio and not talking. It started raining, I mean really pouring, as we were coming into the city, and I ventured the first words to ask my brother if he was all right. He said he was. The next time either of us spoke was when he started cussing about missing the exit. When we finally made to the hospital he drove around and around looking for a parking spot because his jacked up Chevy wouldn’t clear the entrance to the parking deck and we eventually ended up parking right out front in a spot labelled “Emergency: 15 minutes or less.” We made a mad dash for the front doors and then, when we got inside, our clothes soaking wet and our footsteps echoing in the vast, empty lobby, we realized we had no idea where to go. They had moved Pops from the ICU to a regular room since we had been there the night before; I guess they knew there wasn’t much more they could do. We both tried Dad over and over again until the cell service cooperated. When we got through, he told us to go to the elevators on the right and go to the ninth floor, all the way to the end of the hall. Then he said to hurry. So we ran to the elevators, thinking we’d be too late, and I was remembering that I hadn’t told Pops goodbye when I left because he’d been asleep. We tapped our toes and stared at the doors as the elevator rose nine floors, and then when they opened, we bolted like horses out of the gates straight to the room. We walked in and found out what death really looks like. Pops’ mouth hung agape, slack-jawed, his lips peeled back revealing teeth, his swollen tongue probing for moisture, one side of his mouth drooping lower than the other. He was barely recognizable as the man who used to cook me a heaping plate of bacon on Sunday mornings so I could eat it while I read the comics in his living room. Every so often his eyelids would flutter, and he’d half wake up long enough to say something downright disturbing: “How long can this go on?” “God, help me, help me. Somebody help me” “Just get a gun and shoot me.” “God. Oh, God.” But God wasn’t in the room. Hospitals sterilize for more than just germs, and God was relegated to the waiting-room-turned-chapel down the hall, the lights dimmed, a box of Kleenex on the shelf. My brother had gone in there to sit for a minute after we first came in, not to pray but because he’s claustrophobic and Pops’ room made him feel like he couldn’t breathe. A heart full
of grief and turmoil has no space for dubious metaphysics. Save but solid. Still and wholly inanimate. It made my own hand and your God for sunny Sunday mornings in pastoral churches with arm feel heavy, sluggish, cumbersome. It’s not a pleasant feeling. I padded pews and rainbow colored windows. There’s no room for left Dad there, stroking his hair, and walked back to the windowGod when real life is getting on with. When a nurse came in to sill. My brother sat in the chair in the corner with his sunglasses suggest upping the pain meds, Pops said to her, “I hope it stops on. it—stops the heartbeat.” Some animals, when they feel death sneaking up, will wander Sitting there, it was not hard to imagine where the mythology off into the woods to die in peace. As humans, we aren’t afforded of Heaven and Hell come from. Heaven, because watching that this luxury. In all our civility, we deny ourselves a death of our shit, you want so bad to believe that there’s some light at the end own choosing. Suicide is sin. Euthanasia, barbarous. Much betof the tunnel. Hell, because when you look back on it later, the ter to draw out our days by any means necessary, chemicals and idea of everlasting torment really isn’t much of a logical leap. I plastics prolonging a life no longer worth living. Give us life at any think it’s situations like this that caused people to invent the idea cost. Death is the final conflict, never the resolution. of Hell in the first place. Were we looking My dad, my brother, and I, we sat for a way to share our horror? Or were we “Hell is 6,420 heartbeats at fifty there silently—me on the windowsill, my distancing ourselves from it, pushing real- two beats per minute while your dad on the foot of the bed, my brother in ity away with fiction? This, so far as I can the chair—waiting for the doctor to come tell, summarizes people’s reactions to death son and grandsons sit by, helpless, back in and make Pops’ death official. Pepretty nicely: either they go looking for a muttering sympathies too late for riodically, me and my dad stepped outside shoulder to cry on or they find an empty you to hear them . . .” to call someone and tell them what hapbar to sit at. A man either wants to be alone pened—cousins, uncles, Pops’ old neighor he doesn’t. Any lasting fiction stems from an intense emotion, bor. We didn’t talk on the phone in the room because it seemed either the wish to communicate it vividly or to dispel it totally. sacrilegious to do anything but cry silently and whisper in there. Weeping and gnashing of teeth await us, sure, but in this life, not At one point my brother left, ostensibly to go to the bathroom. He another. I was looking at it. We all were. Hell comes as a part of was gone for a long time and I know he was in there punching the life, before death, and there is no “after.” walls, red in the face from crying and trying to hide it. Hell comes when a man is forced to endure past what he After the doctor came back in, we left the room. The funeral would ever have asked for, much less wanted. Hell is the last words home would be taking care of transporting the body. In a stroke he said to me, when he opened his eyes and beckoned me close. As of cosmic irony, my brother’s truck hadn’t been towed from the I leaned in, I placed my hand gently on his shoulder and I watched spot out front. It was surprising how happy that made me, in the him breathing through a clear plastic mask, the withered muscles moment. We left and met Dad down the interstate at the Cracker of his entire body tensing to inhale, the exhalation on its heels, Barrel. None of us had had anything to eat yet, so we sat there and hyperventilating in a fit of physical activity, reaching somehow ate breakfast and reminisced about Pops. I had the bacon. past the limits of his ebbing endurance. Pools of bruised tissue and blood spiderwebbed beneath the Bible-paper-thin skin that Back in the here and now, I’m still standing at the back of this stretched and bunched and hung on his withered frame. His sterhearse watching my brother put his sunglasses on. I look over at num was thrust from his skeletal chest, tendons quivering where my dad and he’s got his on, too, and he’s standing very still, as if meat and muscle once flexed. What he said, before he went under any movement would shake the tears loose. See, as much as Pops’ for the last time, was “I’m proud of you.” death tore me up inside, I know it did ten times the damage to Hell comes when the doctor tells you that, if everyone is ready, Dad. He’s one of those “find an empty bar to sit at” kind of guys. she can up the dosage of the narcotics to ease his exit. Three masWhat you don’t realize is that this kind, along with the “goes looksive doses of morphine are needed to stop the heart of the wraithing for a shoulder to cry on” kind, form a neat little symbiotic like remainder of an old man. Hell is 6,420 heartbeats at fifty two relationship. And as much as it may seem like it’s the “goes looking beats per minute while your son and grandsons sit by, helpless, for a shoulder to cry on” type that needs the “find an empty bar muttering sympathies too late for you to hear them, like, “It’s okay, to sit at” kind, the truth is really the opposite. What my dad really Dad, you can go now.” Or, “I love you, Pops.” needs in a time of trouble is someone to use his shoulder to cry on. I stepped away, turned around. I couldn’t watch any longer. So now here’s my dad, lost, needing someone to comfort. But me My head was floating from the hospital smell of alcohol and stainand my brother, we take after him. We cry with our sunglasses on. less steel. My vision was going black around the borders. Sitting So it’s not going to be us crying on his shoulder. And to say that he down on the windowsill, the sun now coming up behind me, I truly could not process this trauma without someone to comfort put my forehead in my hands and heard the rhythmic beeping is an understatement. of the heart monitor slow, then quicken, then slow, then ring its We all load into our vehicles and join the hearse in the caravan sustained tone out across the sterile room. I looked up to see my to the cemetery. And after all the pomp and the circumstance and father standing next to a corpse, petting the cotton wisps of gray the “Taps” and bugles and flag folding, we’re all standing around, hair on top of his head. looking at a wooden box, feeling sorry for ourselves and sorry I walked to the opposite side of the bed and placed my hand about life, and Mom walks right over to Dad and puts her head back on my grandfather’s shoulder again. The feeling was differon his shoulder and bawls her eyes out. And Dad, he holds her ent. The skin and bone beneath my hand were heavy; not yet cold, while she cries.
The Church of Dramatic Experience “Premature,” she’d say. “Born ass first. Jaundiced like a fat little carrot.” Yes, Julia Glass was a mother, but only every other weekend. She liked her career at the Shoals Community Theatre much better than her biweekly domestic one. There, she was on the board of directors, and she was given free reign; reality, or the reality the Zodiac Players created on stage, jumped when she said so, as long as the money was there. She had a degree in theatre tech from the University of Michigan. She knew what she was doing. It was Julia who decided to put on a version of Grease with an all-black cast, who collaborated with playwright Hoffman James on a version of The Sound of Music told from the perspective of Rolfe the Nazi. Her biography on the Shoals Theatre website listed her as “unselfconsciously transgressive,” and she thought that fit just right. She was the one who wrote it, anyway.
The Mussleman-Flowers Sponsorship Ball was held each October to fill Shoals Theatre sponsors with shrimp cocktails and get them to giggle up checks. It was Premier Sponsors the board of directors was most interested in—you had to give one thousand dollars or more to become one of those. “You’ll get called out by name before each of our shows for the entire year,” Julia would say to men in herringbone jackets. She disgusted herself doing it—she’d wear blue eyeshadow and rose-plum lipstick and flirt with these businessmen who owned air-conditioning and ceramic tile companies
Scott Fenton fiction
until they took their pens from their pockets. Art requires sacrithe Shoals Theatre telephone against her ear. It was one of those fice, she’d remind herself. Just wipe away the rouge and sweat and vintage phones with the cord and the round dial and the dumbdo it again next year. bell shape. Some of the other directors had threatened to replace It was Julia’s fourteenth year at the Shoals Theatre and the it with a cordless. She had no authority over them, really, but she’d fourteenth of these annual fundraisadamant that the classic stay. “Yes, Julia Glass was a mother, but only beenHer ers. She’d spearheaded the project. cell phone started buzzing She’d won thousands of dollars in every other weekend. She liked her career over on one of the tall tables. “Hold public funding so that the six direc- at the Shoals Community Theatre much on,” she said, pulling the rental man’s tors on the board, the professionals better than her biweekly domestic one.” voice away from her ear and dropon staff, could get paychecks every ping him onto the pink wooden fourteen days. Before she’d joined, the theatre was operating on counter. It was Lydia. She was at home by herself for the day, and such a small budget that everyone involved in administration and she was fourteen, so she couldn’t drive anywhere. production worked on a volunteer basis. The budget back then “You rang?” Julia said. was so small that they could only afford two shows each year. Now “Mom, I need you to come pick me up.” it was twelve shows each year—six for the Zodiac Players, who “I’m in the middle of setting up for tonight.” performed for adult audiences, and six for the Gingerbread Play“Mom, please. This is important.” ers, who put on children’s plays. That was Julia’s vision. “We’re go“So is what I’m doing,” Julia said, shaking her head even ing to take everybody to church,” she’d said. She called the theatre though Lydia couldn’t see it. “the church of dramatic experience.” “It’s Joseph.” The city of Florence had called the Shoals Theatre three days “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” Julia said, like she did every time before the Sponsorship Ball to let them know that they were going his name came up. to cut their funding starting with the next fiscal year. They were “He asked Cassidy out two days ago, and she said yes, but she tightening up the budget, they said. It wasn’t a big deal, Julia had told him he couldn’t hang out with me anymore.” assured the rest of the staff. They would recruit two or three hunJulia winced. As her daughter got older, her voice got huskier dred Premier Sponsors, or four hundred Opening Night Sponand sounded more like Carl’s. Carl, who did accounting for a Tae sors, or eight hundred Curtain Call Sponsors. It could be done. Kwan Do school and a retirement community and greeted people At the end of the night, they’d all still have paying jobs. Art would by saying howdy. Carl, who used to caution Julia against spendtriumph. ing money on lavish sets for the Zodiac Players. “You think big, and that’s great,” he said to her once. “But sometimes it pays to be * * * realistic.” He’d said nearly the same thing to her in the honeymoon suite after their oceanfront wedding, and it made her just as anIt was noon, the day of the Sponsorship Ball, and Julia and gry then. It made sense that Lydia would become Carl. She spent Hoffman were setting up the tables. They didn’t get paid for dotwelve out of every fourteen days with him. ing this. Hoffman adjusted the arrangement of orchids on one “Lydia, that’s very sad.” Julia suddenly cared less, and her tone of the tall tables in the lobby without looking. Julia wielded her reflected that. purple pen like a wand, checking off items in her leather-bound “I can see him one last time, he told me,” Lydia said. “He told notebook. She’d sent her part-timers, who worked for free because me he’s at the mall right now, and I can see him for a couple of they loved the theatre or the arts or some story like that, to lunch. hours while he and his mom go shopping for winter clothes.” The taffeta table linens, the ones she’d rented from the place on “That’s great, honey,” Julia said, peering through her round Broadway and Tennessee, bothered her. She had been promised lenses at the phone on the concession counter. She was sure the they’d be a faded, pastel sort of pink, but what she’d gotten was a rental man had hung up by now, and she was not going to be satgarish hot pink, a sixteenth-birthday-party sort of pink. isfied with the hot pink taffeta. She was not going to be satisfied “Just awful,” she said. until she had commitments from two hundred Premier Sponsors “Who’s going to mind?” Hoffman said. and a guaranteed paycheck. “Anybody with half a brain and a teaspoon of good taste.” “I need you to pick me up,” Lydia said. “I need a ride.” Julia wished he agreed with her more. Also, she wished he’d “To where?” What kind of impression would the hot pink tafchange his mind and fuck a woman already. He was the whole feta make on last year’s Premier Sponsors? It reminded her of the reason she’d filed for divorce, or at least that was what she told Carl witch’s discolored, flat gingerbread house in her production of when she met him for breakfast at the Casserole Castle and finally Hansel and Gretel. Even the children in attendance knew somegave him the divorce monologue. Carl nearly choked on a bite of thing was off about that set. They knew it was just thick cardboard scrambled egg casserole when she said Hoffman’s name. Julia aswith nothing behind it. They knew it wasn’t gingerbread brown. sured him that she and Hoffman hadn’t done anything yet, but he’d That was why you didn’t cut corners on set design, Julia wanted to bared his naked soul when they’d written Rolfe’s Story together, say to Carl. Even the smallest of minds could tell when the theatriand she’d liked what she’d seen. cal illusion was broken. “This is not an acceptable shade of pink,” Julia said to the rent“To the mall, Mom.” al man just a couple of minutes later, after Hoffman had taken his “Right.” Julia blinked and remembered what her daughter had lunch break. She stood behind the concession counter and cradled said. “I can take a lunch break, but I can only give you thirty min-
utes in the mall.” She had important things to do. She was thinking big.
rid of it. During the divorce, after Hoffman gave her a firm no, Julia would drive over to Sheffield every night after rehearsal and find a * * * fresh-faced young man at Wandie’s Second Street Pub and say to him, “Have you ever thought about going into acting?” Within an When Julia backed her Prius into the driveway, Lydia took the hour, she’d lead him to the front seat of her car and let him slide shortcut through the garden, stomping on chrysanthemums and his hand down the front of her floor-length skirt. Sometimes she’d petunias to reach the passenger side door. She was wearing the red suck him off, and if he were really special, she’d drive him over to and black windbreaker Carl and his new girlfriend the Golden Cherry Motel for an hour or two. Two Paula had given to her for her birthday. “She liked instability years away from forty, she could get twenty-year“Why aren’t you wearing the trench coat I — that was where the old men inside of her. How interesting. She’d wake bought you?” Julia asked. “The gray one. I never up in her car at sunrise—her hair half-pinned, halfbest art came from . . .” prickly; her mind buckling under the weight of one see you wear that.” Lydia shrugged, and the windbreaker hissed at too many gins—and drive across the O’Neal Bridge Julia. She still had her hood over her head even though she was to her octagonal house, where she’d change out of her costume, inside the car. add a layer of makeup, pull her hair into a bun, and drive to the “Lydia Winthrop Glass. Take off the hood, please. Let’s see that Shoals Theatre to prepare for her encore performance. pretty face.” The last time Julia had been in the mall was four-and-a-half Lydia didn’t move. Julia wasn’t sure what to say, so she turned years ago, when she’d directed a performance of Here Comes Peter on the radio and tuned the dial to the oldies station. They played Cottontail for the Gingerbread Players. They’d done a short scene the songs that she and Carl and Lydia used to sing along with durfrom the already short play the weekend before Easter to drum ing car rides. “Love,” Julia sang. “Love will keep us together.” Lydia up interest in the Shoals Theatre. Rather than boost attendance, pulled her hood tighter. though, the mall performance diminished it. When they got to the mall, Julia pulled up to the Sears enA week after the show closed, Julia ran into two reporters trance and unlocked the door. from the Times Daily beside the catering table at the arts festival “Thirty minutes,” she said. downtown, and one of them—with ponytailed hair that hadn’t “I know, Mom,” Lydia said as she jumped out of her seat and been washed in at least a week—started talking about Peter Cotonto the pavement. tontail. “I had to go watch that trainwreck,” she said. “I had to get “I’ll find a seat somewhere. Call me in thirty minutes and we’ll a photo. I don’t know what’s going on over at the Shoals Theatre, meet up. If you don’t call, I’m not going to wait around.” but this is not what our community needs.” Julia nodded, filled Lydia stomped inside Sears, too. That was another Carl thing. her plate with grapes, and stared at the press badge around the He was always angry around her for no reason. reporter’s neck. She wrote down her name—Diana Burgess—on a post-it note and put it on the wall behind her desk. She searched * * * for every article by Diana Burgess on the Times Daily website and left an insulting comment on each one of them, usually something Julia sat on a bench in front of Bath & Body Works and waitlike “Diana Burgess is a sad, pathetic human being desperate for ed on her daughter. The lotions and perfumes sold in that store attention.” She signed each comment “Anonymous.” were like the slapstick of the scent industry: exaggerated and overwhelming to the senses. They sold fragrances like Sweet Cin * * * namon Pumpkin and Warm Vanilla Sugar, fragrances that made Julia wheeze and her chest tighten. The women who shopped After Julia had waited for fifteen minutes, a homeless man sat there, Julia noticed after a couple minutes of observation, were down beside her and unfurled his crooked fingers on her shoulmiddle-aged housewives who wore orthopedic sandals and had der. chins that disappeared into their necks. Their lives were so dreary “Are you good?” he asked her. that they shopped at Bath & Body Works to reward themselves for “I’m fantastic,” she said, moving her shoulder out from under washing a week’s worth of dishes and laundering their husbands’ his hand. dirty boxer briefs. That was enough for them: being maidservants He shook his head. “Are you holding?” to accountants who hunted quail and daughters who pronounced “Do I look like I sell drugs?” Julia asked, adjusting her scarf. their own middle names wrong. “I’ve been coming here every day for the past 372 years,” the Only seeing Lydia for a few days every two weeks made it man said, “and I know a pusher when I see one.” harder for Julia to know what was going on in her daughter’s life. This was why she didn’t come to the mall. This was why she Her house had been declared an unstable environment. She liked shopped online, for her clothes, and her home décor, and her jewinstability — that was where the best art came from — but hearelry—Carl said she wore so much that she sounded like Santa’s ing it from a man dressed in black robes made her scoff. She was sleigh when she made the slightest movement of her wrists. She perfectly stable, she’d protested. If anything, Carl’s house was the never needed her packages in a hurry, but she always requested unstable environment. He’d fallen off the treadmill in his garage first-class delivery, just to see those words on the shipping label. twice, and he’d broken bones both times, but he still hadn’t gotten That was something she’d have to give up if the night didn’t end
with hundreds of committed sponsors. She glanced at her wristwatch—Cabot Watch Company, Hartford Street, Mile End, London—over and over until she’d been on the bench for twenty minutes. A woman rolled up with a stroller, dropped shopping bags from Gymboree, sat down just a couple inches away from her, and started gnawing at a pretzel until she met Julia’s gaze through one of its doughy loops. “Do you mind if I sit here for a minute?” the woman asked through a mouthful of pretzel. “I just don’t have enough hands for all this.” She pointed her half-eaten pretzel at the stroller and then at the shopping bags in rapid succession. “Go for it,” Julia said, barely concealing her disgust. “Think real hard before you have one of these,” the woman said. “A pretzel?” “No.” The woman dangled her pretzel over her baby in the stroller and dropped a few salt chunks. “I already have one of those,” Julia said. “She’s fourteen.” One thing she could say about Lydia with certainty. She’d eaten a slice
of the birthday cake. The woman flicked her eyes down and back up. “Really? You don’t look like a mother at all.” Julia smiled. She didn’t, did she? She was wearing her plaid print chiffon blouse, her pencil skirt, and her white lace scarf. Not the blue eyeshadow or the plum-rose lipstick yet—that would come later. The woman wiped her hand on a napkin and said, “I do love my child, by the way.” “Of course.” It was so easy for her to say that, to say that she loved a thing that couldn’t even speak. What did she even know about the thing? Nothing, she knew nothing.
* * *
The yellow sign outside the women’s restroom said “out of order,” but Julia stepped inside anyway. There weren’t any seat covers left, so Julia sighed and unzipped her skirt and did the squat. The graffiti on the inside of the stall door assaulted Julia’s eyes, but
“Static” by Nicole Degree 29
before she could look away, she saw the words “L.G. loves B.W.” in * * * a red Sharpie scrawl. Her eyes scanned over those first two initials, looking at the angles and the loops. She didn’t think it was Lydia’s Lydia called as soon as the thirty minutes were up. Julia was handwriting, but she couldn’t be sure. She didn’t know who her already in the car, flipping through the catalog from the rental daughter was anymore. The Lydia she knew best was the Lydia place and comparing shades of pink. There was a distinct differwho had been a hard case to crack in the potty-training days. Even ence between Queen Pink and Tickle Me Pink. Maybe, Hoffman when she knew how to use the toilet, she went in her pants, just had said to her after they’d gotten the call about public funding, because she “wanted to,” she’d say. Julia dressed her in Pull-Ups she could be a music teacher at Sheffield Elementary. His sister until she was seven. Sometimes she’d forget to pack extras, and taught kindergarten there, and she’d told him there was an openshe’d tote her around the administrative offices of ing. Maybe she could. Maybe it wouldn’t be so the Shoals Theatre in soggy clothes that felt like “The Lydia she knew best bad. She could teach them to sing “Frere Jacques” sand after the tide came in. was the Lydia who had and clap their hands on beat and ding the little She finished up as quickly as she could and been a hard case to crack triangle. Wouldn’t that be something? leaned against the sink, adjusting her white lace “I was thinking we could go get some frozen scarf and brushing her flyaway hairs back into in the potty-training days.” yogurt,” Julia said when Lydia climbed inside the place. Her phone started buzzing again, this time car, “and maybe you could come to the Ball toinside her purse. It was Carl, probably calling to tell her something night. I could buy you some nice clothes. It would be fun.” she already knew, or to brag about how close Paula was to becom“I thought you had to be back to set up.” ing a certified dental hygienist. Julia put the car in reverse, her mind mapping out the route to “How can I help you?” the frozen yogurt place downtown. “They’ll be alright,” she said. “Jules, it’s a Lydia thing.” “It’s just banners. Banners and tablecloths.” “I am in a public restroom,” she said, threading her hands unLydia’s arms whooshed as she crossed them and considered der the stream of hot water. the offer. “I’m okay,” she decided. “It’s just about her allergy medication. I meant to tell you yesJulia took a hand from the steering wheel, stretched it past terday. She and Paula went for a jog the other night, and she might Lydia’s neck, and rapped her fingers on her daughter’s right shoulhave gotten into some pine needles. Her legs were breaking out. der. “No,” she said. “You’re not. You’ve had a hard day.” So just make sure she takes a pill after dinner tonight.” Lydia ducked under her mother’s arm. “I think it’s going to be Julia looked for a lever on the motion-sensing paper towel disokay. I talked to Joseph’s mom about it, and she said she’s going to penser for several seconds before realizing she was supposed to have a word with him.” wave her hands in front of it. The ones in the Shoals Theatre were “You did what, honey?” She smiled quickly and leaned toward old-fashioned, crank it yourself. Those were familiar to her. her daughter. “I already knew that, Carl. She already told me.” “I talked to Joseph’s mom,” Lydia repeated. “Well, that’s good. I heard the Ball is tonight. How’s all that Julia pressed the brake pedal for a yellow light. Her daughgoing?” ter’s words shoved themselves inside her ears. Her skin prickled in “Goodbye, Carl.” She scrubbed her hands dry and hung up the boiling pink heat. “Great. Isn’t-that-great.” phone. The Ball and all that was going just fine. Lydia didn’t say anything. She didn’t comfort her mother. She just looked out the window and pulled her hood over her face. * * * Julia stared at the dashed lines on the road, at the big-name pharmacies on either side of the stoplight, at the little floral shop Julia met Carl in New York City, after she’d been there for a where she’d ordered the orchids, but her eyes took in none of it. year selling computers and waiting for someone at an off-Broad“You can tell everything to everyone else, but not me. You can go on way theatre to call and offer her a job. He was in the travel section little jogs with Paula, and—” of Second Hand Prose, the used bookstore across from the apart“You never listen, Mom.” ment that housed her futon and her John Updike novels, which “Because you never talk. Talk to me!” A honk from the car you just had to read, she made sure to tell everyone. Carl was in behind hers made her jump. The car lurched forward. “Please,” she the city vacationing, if you could call it that. He was in business added, her voice nasally, her face contorted in a shape she hadn’t school. He wanted to start his own accounting firm. Julia showed worn since the mornings after her nights in Sheffield. him how to use the subway map, let him take her out for drinks, Lydia sat completely still. That, Julia briefly thought, was a and kissed the crook of his elbow. Five days later, she was on a skill that could be put to good use onstage during tableaus, the plane to Alabama, holding his calloused hand. He’d paid his collittle frozen moments between scenes. lege tuition by mowing yards and lifting boxes. That stimulated “I don’t have anything to say,” Lydia said, sounding a little her more than his dick ever could. She was attracted to stories, dismissive but mostly bored. Bored of someone she’d shared flesh to ideas, to “I’m a self-made man.” She thought it made her more with. Bored of someone who’d propelled her into the world ass interesting. That was enough for her and Carl for ten years, until first. he finally started his own practice and left her to her little plays, “You don’t have anything to say,” Julia mocked her. “After all to audiences of supportive parents and hardly anybody else. She’d this. After coming all the way to the mall. After crying your heart always have that, wouldn’t she? That was hers. out on the phone earlier.”
“I didn’t cry.” “You did,” Julia said. “All because of some boy you hardly even know.” She glanced at the rearview mirror and saw her rental catalog tucked between her seat and the console. She remembered the Tickle Me Pink taffeta table linens. She remembered the city’s new budgetary priorities. She remembered selling computers and “Frere Jacques.” “Take me home.” “Sure,” Julia said, squeezing the steering wheel like it was a balloon to be popped after the Sponsorship Ball. “That’ll solve everything. I’ll take you home, and then you can lie in your room all day and just cry your guts out.” There was nothing behind her
skin. Just empty space. “Take me home. Please.” “Fine,” she said. “Fine, I’ll take you home. You can sit and think about how you’ve acted today.” Her mind drifted to Hoffman, to the Shoals Theatre volunteers, returning from their lunches and spreading Tickle Me Pink taffeta table linens on every tall table in the lobby. Her mind drifted to blue eyeshadow and plum-rose lipstick, to two hundred Premier Sponsors, to the phone call with the city council and their empty apologies and their promise of pulling the curtains shut. “But first,” she said, “I need to stop at a place on Broadway and Tennessee.”
Her Lover’s Return inspired by Raymond Breinin
Her hands embrace during his approach. This last moment of want. Then sighs and mouths collapsing on each other, their hair greying by the cast of the sky. Every day after will be old with a desire for this longing—better even than straining and pushing into flesh. Now their bodies are too hot when he lays a heavy arm across her belly, fingers spidering down to an inside warm that wants none of this every day, every day. None of this
reunited. The tulip bouquet he carried for her withers in a glass jar. Why hadn’t he brought silk roses and left for war again. Or work. Or a sick mother. Or anything to mean she could long for him again. So he could return again to knock the dust from the fabric.
Karissa Womack poetry
“La Morte del Fiore” by Kristie Tingle 31
Garden of Eden
i want to waltz with you in the Garden of Eden to tumble down a path of daises laughing to climb the twisted knots that scrape our knees and share the sweetness of what is forbidden we look to the sky into our beautiful eyes and feel the juice of humanity drip over our lips pooling around us we stretch to feel the pulse of imperfection in our fingertips
Caroline Barr poetry
â€œVictoria Fallsâ€? by Megan Silas 32
laughing at shame for we are man and we are alive i want to scream with you dream with you our chins stained red we are free and if the rain falls let it be sweet music for I want to waltz with you in the Garden of Eden
I throw rocks at the sky to watch them fall down. Every path quickly grows crooked. They cling to the sky but can only grasp the ground.
We are kindred bodies. The stars and I. Both fear oblivion: we burn out, then die. I throw rocks at the sky to watch them fall down.
People curve the same when they open and close – From the crook of the nose to the curl of the toes. I throw rocks at the sky to watch them fall down.
So what does one do with infinite’s dark kiss? Instead of falling in the daunting abyss we cling to the sky but only grasp ground.
The earth possesses the same sort of slant; I can see it everywhere. Planet to plant. It clings to the sky but only grasps the ground.
A desperate hand crashes gently into mine. The universe around slowly begins to untwine. But I throw rocks at the sky and watch as they fall down still clinging to the sky but only grasping ground.
Ashley Goerke poetry
“Cliffs” by Andrew Whited 33
Daria I was in the bedroom we shared at Logan Square, doing homework or studying—something important—when Blake came in the apartment, out of breath and wide-eyed. He had pale skin, reddish-brown hair and strong eyebrows. “Adam,” he said, his tall, skinny frame leaning awkwardly in our doorway. “What are you doing right now?” “Right now?” I said. “Right this very moment,” he said. “Just studying a little.” He had a contemplative air about him, like he was pondering a proposal of epic proportions. He always had a wild, adventurous manner, and appeared constantly to have something important to say, although he rarely carried on conversations. He had the same look standing there, leaning uncomfortably on the doorframe, staring at me, grinning broadly, like he was about to speak. I stared back. “Wanna go on a bike ride?” he said finally. “Umm,” I looked at the LED clock on my desk, looked down at my textbook, and then finally looked back at Blake. “Okay,” I said, trying to be as excited as he was, “Let’s do it.” We got on our cheap mountain bikes and rode down Hemlock, Samford, and Donahue. I stayed
Adam Smith Creative Non-Fiction
behind Blake, trying to keep up and enjoy the overcast spring afternoon at the same time. As we approached the Research property between S. Donahue and S. College Street, Blake veered us off the bicycle path towards the woods. We traced the perimeter of the woods a short way before getting off our bikes and entering the woods on foot. Walking into the woods was like entering a mystical world. It reminded me of when Blake and I were kids and we would play in the woods behind his house, climbing trees, hauling wood or branches that were bigger than us to make forts. There was one area we stayed away from: a fallen rotten tree that Blake insisted was the home of some black widows. “So what are we doing?” I asked. “We are now in the kingdom of Daria,” he said. “Narnia?” “No, Daria.” “How do you spell that?” I said. “D-A-R-I-A.” “Oh, gotcha. It sounds like Narnia. Do you think it’s named after The Chronicles of Narnia?” “Huh,” he said. “I never thought of that. I just chose the name ‘Daria’ because it sounded cool.” “This is really cool,” I said. “Do you come here a lot?” “Nah, I’ve been here a couple of times. But you really have to be wary. These woods used to be a joyful place, but now the ruler has made it a country barren of happiness. The woodland creatures have all fled to different parts, that is, all the ones that could escape.” “Who is the ruler that has done this?” A hushed look came over his face, and he lowered his voice as he said, “You haven’t heard?” “No,” I said. “They call her the White Witch,” he said. “Who is she?” I asked. “She’s the evil ruler of these woods. She came to power years ago, and she has captured many innocent travelers and turned the good natives into her slaves.” “That’s not good,” I said. “No, but there is still a remnant of the good that existed before she came to power. Every once in a while, you can catch a glimpse of the black fox.” “Why is he black?” I said. “I don’t know,” Blake answered, “but he’s very elusive. You might be so lucky as to see him for a brief second, but if you blink, he’ll be gone.” He bent down with a swift movement and picked up a stick, which he began using without apparent need. “You gotta have a walking staff,” he said. “Oh, yeah,” I smiled. “You remember those weapons we used to make with Steve and those sticks we used to sharpen into spears
and throw at things, and we called them ‘staves’?” He cackled, short and loud. He nodded, “Yeah, and remember the ‘Nair Fair’?” I laughed wildly. The “Nair Fair” occurred when the three of us were hanging out at Steve’s house one day, and we had a competition to see who could come up with the most horrifying situation to walk in on in a bathroom. The game turned south when we hung a baby doll by a piece of yarn from the showerhead. We had forgotten about it until Steve’s mom confronted us a few hours later, visibly traumatized, asking us if we had done it, and if so, why? “Remember when Steve’s mom found it?” I laughed. “I don’t think she wanted you to come back after that.” “I know,” he said. “That was so weird.” I shrugged, “Yeah, but it was funny.” I found a stick for myself, matching Blake’s spirit of adventure. We walked around for a while, but it was not too long before we started retracing paths we had already tread. I started wondering when we were going to return home, so I could keep studying. “Listen,” he exclaimed suddenly. “Do you hear that?” “What?” I said, startled. “I don’t know,” he said. “I think… someone’s coming.” A white truck approached on a dirt road that ran through the small clump of woods called Daria, a reminder that the outside world really was not too far away. “Hide!” Blake said. “We can’t be seen.” “We can’t?” I said, slightly embarrassed, because there was a good chance whoever was in the car had already seen us. “No. We’re not welcome here. If they see us here they’ll capture us.” He said this as he darted behind the nearest tree. Following suit, I scurried to squat behind a bush, and we watched anxiously as the white truck continued driving slowly down the path until it disappeared from sight. I felt a little foolish for hiding from the truck when we were innocently walking in the woods, woods that probably weren’t anyone’s private property, and that weren’t near any house. “That was too close,” he breathed. I was a bit short-winded myself. “Yeah,” I said. “We have to keep our eyes peeled.” We continued walking through the woods with our hiking sticks, but the stakes felt a little bit higher now; there was more excitement in our step. The trees thinned abruptly on the south edge, opening into a clearing where the ground was no longer covered with leaves and pine straw but with dead earth and gravel. In stark contrast to the Daria we had emerged from—silent, repressed, but still beautiful—was an ugly expanse of land leading up to a pair of old, shabby buildings that I guessed were part of the Research Center properties.
“Falling” by Megan Silas 35
These buildings obviously did not belong in the world of Daria, and I assumed that they probably had something to do with the White Witch and the tyranny she had established. “Ohh,” I said mournfully. “What are those foreboding buildings doing here?” “I don’t know,” he said quietly. “Probably something constructed by the White Witch.” Suddenly, I had an idea. “I think this might be the Scientists’ headquarters.” I needed someone threatening, but not obviously diabolical. They needed to be people, and not animals or aliens. They needed to be a group of people that looked normal, but who really have lethal underground power of some sort that nobody but a chosen few could detect, like the Death Eaters in Harry Potter. But they couldn’t be magical, because I didn’t really believe in magic. It could have been a crooked faction of the church, but I didn’t really think the church was a problem, and that would seem too much like the Da Vinci Code. “Scientists” were less controversial, but wholly believable, and I went with the theory with such natural confidence that it became true. “I’ve heard of them,” he said. “What are they doing inside those buildings?” “They work for the White Witch,” I said. “What kind of science do they do?” he asked. “They have been steadily gaining power in the past few decades. The rumor is that they have been kidnapping people and doing experiments on their brains. They are trying to discover the meaning of everything, but they are killing people and destroying society in the process, not to mention these ugly laboratories they have been building all around, replacing beauty with manufactured ugliness.” “Wow,” he said. “They must be in line with the White Witch.” “We have to protect Daria from them,” I said. “Their power is great.” We walked back into the woods. I sensed that we were wrapping up our afternoon in Daria, and that Blake was leading us back to our bikes. We came out of the woods again onto a dirt road that Blake thought would lead us to where we had started our journey. I knew that Blake was directionally challenged, and I was begin-
“Cumberland Island” by Marley Livingston 36
ning to suspect that we were not returning to our bikes at all. or the explosions will not affect the barn. Second, we’ve got to proSure enough, we rounded a bend and came to a length of chain tect ourselves from the explosions.” stretched two feet above the dirt path, blocking off traffic from “Okay, let’s do this,” he said. the main road, which was about 50 yards away. The landmark that In that moment, our hearts and eyes were completely focused most intrigued us, however, was a run-down barn to the right of on the perilous but good mission that lay before us. the path, on the opposite side from the woods. The grass around I looked at my phone again. 4:40. “Okay, it’s time.” the barn was only slightly overgrown, but it looked like the barn We each threw our first two grenades in less than a minute, hadn’t been touched in years. I didn’t feel at all like a trespasser, making exploding noises with our mouths, bracing ourselves beeven though we had to climb a fence to get onto the property. It hind a tree to protect ourselves from flying shrapnel the bombs was a walk-in barn, no doors to close anyone out and windows dispersed. with no glass. There was an unmistakable feeling of gloomy aban“For these next three,” I began, “We have to climb up this tree donment we experienced inside. Rusty tools and watering bowls and launch them from up in the tree. Because these last three grehad been left like relics on the dirt floor, along with some old nades are heavier, and we can’t throw them as far, but they have to bags of dirt or fertilizers. There was nothing particularly ominous strike the building from higher.” or unusual—nothing, except we noticed Blake hurried up the tree first, and I that in several of the horse pens (or what- “Of course, there was almost followed. We launched our final three greever animals they kept), there were crude- certainly a compelling story nades from the tree branches, Blake about looking collars attached to secured chains. about this barn, something that a body length and a half higher than me. In the quietness of the abandoned barn, was probably connected in some We clung to the trees and smothered our shaded by its own solitude and the cloudy, cheeks against their rough bark, hoping breezeless sky outside, the collars looked way to the history of Daria and that the sturdy wood would protect us from like crude torture devices. Of course, there the rise of the White Witch and the fire emanating out from our explodwas almost certainly a compelling story the Scientists.” ing gum balls. After we launched the final about this barn, something that was probgrenade, I looked at my cell phone, and it ably connected in some way to the history of Daria and the rise of was 4:47, only three minutes before the White Witch and her gunthe White Witch and the Scientists. wielding Scientists would overtake us. “What is this place?” Blake asked. “We have less than three minutes to get on our bikes before We looked around at the sad interior of the barn, and I said, “I the Scientists capture us. We gotta run fast!” don’t know, but whatever animals lived here must’ve lived a rough We climbed with agility back over the fence and ran down the life.” dirt path toward familiar sights. I wasn’t sure where we were, but “This is terrible,” he said. “I bet the White Witch used to use it felt like we were going the right way. I hoped so, because we had this barn to keep animals locked up. That’s probably why there’s so about 90 seconds to find our way out. much less animals in the forest now.” “Take cover!” Blake shouted. Shots were raining over our I said, “I think the Scientists would come here to do experishoulders; we didn’t have to turn to know that the Scientists were ments on animals. Now, the animals are probably long dead, and on our heels with guns they that fully intended to use to kill us. We the Scientists have moved on to human experimentation now.” kept running without stopping, sometimes ducking our heads, Blake shook his head. “That’s awful.” sometimes leaping to the right or left, our mouths buzzing with I nodded in agreement. It was awful. “We’ve gotta do somethe crack of gunfire and whizzing bullets. thing,” I said. “Before we go, we have to complete a mission. We My cell phone read 4:50. have to destroy this cursed barn, so that the scientists can never “We have 45 seconds,” I yelled, not sure if that was true or if come back here and use it again for their evil purposes.” we actually had less time before it turned 4:51. I was starting to “How will we destroy it?” Blake asked. recognize the path we were on now, not far from where we had “We have to burn it down,” I responded automatically. “We entered the woods. have ten grenades—five for each of us.” “Thirty seconds!” I yelled. The shots continued to ring out, I reached to the grass and began plucking up fallen sweet gum but we kept running, and shortly I could make out our bicycles balls from the grass and stuffing them in my pocket. Blake gathparked at the end of our path, near the dividing edge of the field ered some, too. and the forest. “These are our grenades,” I explained. We made it to the bikes, scarred and wounded by bullets, but “Okay,” he said. “But we have to act fast, because as soon as none that were life-threatening. I looked at my cell phone, and it they hear us they’ll come after us, and they have way more numread 4:51, but I didn’t tell Blake this. What would be the point in bers than us.” saying we didn’t make it out when we clearly did? “You’re right,” I said. I reached in my pocket and looked at my Before we pedaled away, Blake turned and addressed the forcell phone. “Right now, it’s 4:38. We’ll begin the assault at 4:40, est as if it were a person, “Goodbye, Daria, until we meet again. and we have to be on our bikes by 4:50. If we’re not, there is a good May the black fox live long in your land.” chance we won’t make it out of here. We rode away from Daria victorious in one battle over the evil “There are two important requirements,” I continued. “First, that grew within its forests, an evil that would persist for years and we have to make sure we hit the building on all ten of our throws, years, though a little weaker than before.
Adventure the Great
For the past two years, Adventure the Great has brought soulful and invigorating music across the Plains and beyond thanks to the mind of Chandler Jones. Jones, lead vocalist of Adventure the Great, grew up in Florence, Alabama. Florence is a town with a rich and creative history. According to a Native American legend, the duly named Singing River running through Florence has magical, musical powers. Perhaps the legend is true. “My main focus my whole life has been music,” Jones said. Son of a biologist mother and a songwriter father, Jones is now a junior at Auburn University studying Radio, Television, and Film. Outside of school, he spends most of his time focused on his music. He began playing guitar and writing his own lyrics around the age of 12. “I carried around those little memo notebooks in my pocket,” Jones said, “and would just write during school and during class instead of taking notes.” “I don’t write as often as I should now. I spend so much time on one song because I allow it to have room to breathe. It’s definitely a process,” Jones said. Still, to Jones it’s worth the wait. He even waited to name his band until he felt absolutely certain. To Jones, Adventure the Great embodies a philosophy of “the spiritual and the earthly realms colliding.” “Adventure the Great is the process of finding and experiencing beauty,” Jones said. “It’s the ‘aha’
Lillian Parker Feature
moment. It’s the sensation of complete bliss.” He formed the band, originally named Adventure, during his first month at Auburn. He had created the name Adventure the Great several years before, but was unsure if this was the group for the name he was saving. Two events changed his mind. The event that definitively brought Adventure the Great into existence occurred one night in downtown Opelika. During his first visit to Opelika, Jones and one of his friends were exploring when a train began to approach. “This train comes, and we’re standing by the tracks. And the next thing you know, we’re running along the train,” Jones said. Jones eyed the ladder on the side of the train and jumped, as his friend did the same. “We stood up, and I had my arms in the air,” Jones said. “I saw that as confirmation that this was the place that I needed to start Adventure the Great.” Another pivotal moment in the creation of Adventure the Great were the two months Jones spent working as a counselor for
Cheley Colorado Camps. The primitive camp in the Rockies had no electricity and no cell phone service. Employees had to journey into town to find a place to wash their clothes. “That whole two months out there just completely changed everything. Well… it didn’t change everything, but it took it to a deeper level,” Jones said. “Happiness is still experienced without your iPhone. Everything makes more sense without it,” Jones said. “You just have to detach yourself from everything.” When he returned from Colorado, he changed the name of the band. Jones most often finds inspiration for his lyrics when he travels. In fact, his summer in Colorado produced four songs. One particular day of his summer in Colorado astonished Jones and resulted in Adventure the Great’s “Old Man of the Mountain.” On this day, Jones and a fellow counselor took ten 13-year-old campers into the mountains to play a game called “Solos.”
Chandler Jones (courtesy of Chandler Jones) 39
Arise, You Weary Wanderer
I know what I saw in the belly of a whale: Four kings and queens playing cards with pictures of themselves. One king said to the other, “You’ll reap what you sow. That’s why I’ve planted all my seeds directly in a row. You see, when my seed sprouts a tree One million miles high; I’ll climb to the very top, My kingdom in the sky. And when the bearded man comes with his axe and his greed, I’ll jump from the highest branch On to the other trees.” All things fall apart, you know. All things fall apart so they can grow. I know what I saw flying high above the land. One million marching soldiers, Some alive and some dead. One soldier said to the other, “You’ll reap what you sow. That’s why I’ve scattered all my seeds Some to and some fro. You see, when my seeds leave the earth They will roll over the hills. They will cross the deepest oceans For the chance to be fulfilled. And when the wind blows, and the rains come crashing down, My seeds will get caught in the current And return to the ground.”
In “Solos,” each camper was taken to a different place on the mountain and given a tarp, notebook, piece of string, and an orange. They had to survive by themselves for 24 hours. During that time, Jones and the other counselor were completely unoccupied, so they climbed to the top of a ridge and “hammocked” for an entire 24 hours. But they were not alone. “We were basically trespassing into the environment,” Jones said. Protecting his home, a hummingbird continually visited them. It eventually brought out nine other birds with it to make sure the intruding humans were not disrupting anything. “It was like this ceremony, this initiation into the surroundings,” Jones said. Around 5 o’clock in the morning, Jones woke up and looked out over the range and saw that it was glowing a bright, undeniable red. He jotted down something in his notebook and fell back asleep. “It just didn’t seem real,” Jones said. “Sometimes I still question if it actually happened.” But after that morning, he opened his notebook and realized he had finished “Old Man of the Mountain.” Jones’s favorite book On the Road by Jack Kerouac has also inspired him considerably. He reread the novel this summer while working at Street Talk Media in Nashville. Feeling stir-crazy from being in Nashville for so long and encouraged by Kerouac’s musings, Jones bought a bus ticket to Chicago and “ended up couch surfing up there for a week with my friends.” His trip to Chicago led to some moments of true beauty in which Jones so passionately believes. On the last day of his trip, Jones and his friends went swimming in Lake Michigan. Floating on his back with half of his body freezing from the water and the other half warmed by the sun-
All things fall apart, you know. All things fall apart so they can grow. I know what I heard in the mansion on a hill. One million loud voices singing, “Please, peace be still.” Awake, you travelling soul! Arise, you weary wanderer. We plant so we can grow To discover the undiscoverable. Awake, you traveling soul! Arise, you weary wanderer. All things fall apart, you know To deconstruct the decontructable.
Chandler Jones song lyrics
Adventure the Great (courtesy of Chandler Jones) 40
light, Jones experienced a moment of complete openness and connectivity. Later that same day, he and his friends were headed to the subway when they saw two people get shot. In a rush of terrified bystanders, Jones and his friends boarded a bus that drove by the crime scene. In mere hours, Jones experienced a polar transition from bliss to tragedy. But he ended the day with an odd feeling of understanding and acceptance. “In the weirdest and strangest way, they were so connected. Although the shooting was tragic, it was still beautiful. It just shows that beauty encompasses all, all of the spectrums,” Jones said. “Times like that is when I really start to write a lot,” Jones said, “when I get out of my comfort zone and make myself vulnerable.” Inspiration finds Jones anywhere, and as he quickly admits, “Whenever it comes, it comes.” Far from stealing the spotlight, Jones is but one of seven musicians who comprise Adventure the Great. “Awake, You Traveling Soul” is a band favorite, and they always finish a set with it. “I feel like that song represents us the most,” Jones said. “It’s just really fun.” Although the members obviously work diligently to produce such unique and soul-searching music, band practice sounds relaxed. “We bake a lot of cookies, and I drink a lot of Lipton green tea,” Jones said. Adventure the Great is the culmination of many talented minds with a lead vocalist’s unique and profound understanding of life. Jones has always loved to explore. “In Florence, I would explore the banks of the river, searching for, you know, this moment.” Adventure the Great is this moment.
Awake, You Traveling Soul! Look beyond the walls That build up this fortress Ten miles tall. With bricks red as blood And strong as a levee That fights this flood. There awaits a boat That sails in the evening Without a host. Climb the very wall That separates purity From the unknown.
I travelled on for days Through the rain and the snow. I’ve sailed the seven seas With just a map and a boat. And my message in a bottle reads, “You’ll reap what you sow.” Awake, you traveling soul! Are you not tired of growing old? These days turn into years Like a man taken captive By his own fears. Don’t you know? Have you not heard? That beauty lies within the song Of a bird. Arise, the writing on the wall Says, “Life is an adventure or nothing at all.” I travelled on for days Through the rain and the snow. I’ve sailed the seven seas With just a map and a boat. And my message in a bottle reads, “You’ll reap what you sow.”
Chandler Jones song lyrics
Adventure the Great (courtesy of Chandler Jones) 41
“Wonder” by Brock Hanson 42
When You Held Your Daughter I imagined your fingers calloused From many old pricks where blood flowed. Each year must have been a different saviour, Distinct in its way and luster.
Your arms have hemmed dresses, Lifted buckets of water, Scrubbed the scrapes from your darling sun-pearl; But you’d say it was God that drew in their accents. You’d tell me your mother shaped your mind So that your feet could stand under the weight of each day. You’d never say you were crafted with the salt of sweat Or the fury of your smile... And what name could I give to that? If your smile were mahogany or juniper or December, Would it describe the force of your morning rising? If it were honeysuckle or blueberry or cinnamon, Would it describe your maternal embrace When she lays, eyes closed, in your arms? I’ve seen you sit, with eyes like old cavaquinho melodies, With a mood like a campfire where the burning branches Lifted up their own God-song to a place not as divine As that which you feel when she’s near you. I examine the lines of your face, And I could call them stone or saguaro or hot sun, I could call your hammered hands the sacred moment Of a different name, balanced on too many tongues. And I know your own song that you’ve written in flesh Is deep in your bones, In your grip, In your roots reaching deep into the earth.
Rob Brice poetry
The street-light filters in and stripes my darling’s face like warrior paint, so I can single out his shuddering
Bearded God, fashioner of lips and thighs, tell me that you wed us there, before, under the flying buttresses of St. Pietro,
lips. Glassy beads on necks—a braille, a muttering, As we grind snow angels in sheets of lace.
Or over scones and cappuccino hearts of froth. Or even as we twisted into this little sigh of hotel bed.
But after, the ceiling fan clucks a steady pace, And mine, the only mind awake, is staring
I, for one, don’t need the smoke and show, Just a nod to know you blessed this sweaty cloth.
At the wine we drank, the leaning table’s daring: Our bottle retains a single sip of grace.
Rebekah Rielle poetry
“Orvieto” by Lauren Barnard 44
Washing Dishes in Costa Rica We washed dishes, That one afternoon, Well you washed – I dried, We sighed, There were so many plates to wash, In a room like a closet, But plenty of room to think, Standing at our sink, That faced a big window, That framed a big world, The outside was so bright and green, That it broke through the glass, And all of Costa Rica came, Pouring into our sink, It came pouring in, Like the Pacific Ocean that we could see, Even though it was two hours away, It felt much closer, Than the lives we’d left behind, We sank so low that none could find, We sank like the sun, Being swallowed by the Pacific, The entire mountainside rushed in, The mountainside where we’d sit, At the end of the day, With nothing more to say, And watch the sun being swallowed, The entire mountainside rushed in, Our window, Coffee plantation and all, Did tumble and fall, In on top of us, Now if anyone looks for us, They cannot find us here, For we were buried there, In our room with the sink, Where we sank, Deeper and deeper, Into sighs of contentment, An afternoon well spent, Washing dishes.
Gray Gill poetry
“Ventisette” by Kristie Tingle 45
1. “Foresight” by Brock Hanson 2. “Grand Canal” by Brock Hanson 3. “Venice” by Brock Hanson
Let us tumble, You and I, Like pages down the rabbit hole Words dripping from our lips every falling second We are not afraid of drowning, For words are not tears. No salt to sting our fingertips Raw from thumping heartbeats on our rising chests Gulping ink like Tea Cups cracked in a frantic fury to be heard Our words words words Must fall hot upon the skin, Smeared with our tongues Searching for each other through this maze of the body This endless riddle We plead to the flowers And cannot stop the spatter from our lips Landing dark on their perfect paleness We plead for a path But all the while we tumble Tumble tumble They whisper: all are mad And so we fall with stained lips clasped.
Caroline Barr poetry
It’s not a porcelain act: when our bodies lie they are not so pretty. They shudder, and try to collect crossings of skin, to savor drops of sweat that fall from her puddled eyes, but it’s a not-quite art that dries while they are busy looking away. It’s not a porcelain act: we do not break so quickly. Fragments scatter rather slowly, instead: the soft bend in the hardwood floor, the shape of her hips, creaks a little louder than yesterday. The death-knell’s cringe is not a porcelain sound; we are rusted to its mouth, clanging again, and again, again.
Kiersten Wones poetry
There’s little left but regret to unroll, A scroll that opens once and disappears, Winding down to meet a hollow soul, The ending now revealed amidst my fears. I squandered chances to prevent this end, My mind returns me to the dying oak, Where signs of my regret sway in the wind, And coats the dirt: a clouded downy cloak. Oh that this porcelain were a time machine, To find the time to buy a square to spare. Perhaps my voice will reach to those unseen, “Charmin would be nice but I don’t care.” But I’m alone and no one has a clue, So I’ll just do whatever I will do.
Aaron Mattox poetry
“Going Down” by Brock Hanson 47
Ghosts in the Desert
There had once been a sign at the southern end of Riley, Nevada that told the name of the town to anyone who might accidentally pass by, but it had long ago been knocked over by a cactus that grew up underneath it. There was no money to maintain the town’s infrastructure and no reason to do it anyway, and the cacti grew everywhere. They sprouted through cracks in what had been sidewalks, now mostly reduced to gravel. One had broken through the steps of the Riley Public School building, which had closed three years ago in the spring of 2008 after its final two students had moved away. Sean and I had even noticed them growing through the floors of houses sometimes when we’d peer into their windows to see if anyone still lived there. No one ever did. Sean had moved in with me permanently in the summer of 2010 since he usually slept at my house anyway. He had a blue ’95 Oldsmobile that ran sometimes, and whenever he got it to work, we went to the grocery store. For us, a trip to the store was not the simple task it is for most people, performed with little more effort than taking out the trash. No, for us a trip to the store required preparation. We had to carefully write out an extensive list, calculating exactly how much toilet paper, washing detergent, batteries, and non-perishable food items we’d need to buy. We could buy a few fresh meats and fruits, but not many. We were still on the power grid, thank God, but even in a refrigerator, things would go bad in a matter of weeks. The nearest grocery store was an Albertson’s 75 miles away in Crenshaw, and it was usually a couple of months between trips. There was not much money between us, either, so precision was paramount. We couldn’t waste money on more
Michael Landreth fiction
than we needed. Of course there was no CD player in his car, and no radio signal reached anywhere near Riley, so I had to talk to Sean on the way. “I hear Vegas is like sixty percent Mexican now,” he was saying. “And they work for less than minimum wage. No Americans can get a job there anymore.” “You planning on moving to Vegas?” “They’re gonna take over the whole state. They’ll be in Riley soon enough.” If there had been anyone else my age that lived within 30 miles, I would probably have never spoken to Sean. He was pale with curly red hair and his last name was Callahan, so I assumed he was really of Irish ancestry even though he swore he was German, and that his real last name was Hitler. He claimed his family had fled Germany after World War II to avoid persecution although they had nothing to do with the more infamous Hitler. I disliked Sean immensely. Chris had been the only other person in our graduating class, and he had gone away to college in Reno. His
parents and younger brother had left with him. That had been six years earlier. There had been a few kids in the grades under us, but they had all moved away too as the gas station, the Italian restaurant, and finally the Dry Lake Casino closed down. Now there was no one under the age of forty still living in the town. Except for Sean and me. Neither of us was leaving. We were lifers. “You’ve never seen a single Hispanic person in Riley,” I said. “No,” he admitted, “but a guy from Beatty told me there was a couple of Mexicans working there.” Beatty was an hour west of Riley, not far from the California border. By billing itself as the gateway to Death Valley, it had managed to keep its casino and gas station open. Plus it sat on Highway 93, the main route between Reno and Las Vegas. Hundreds of people passed through Beatty every day. Riley was not so lucky; it boasted only a single paved road, which lead to a larger road well outside of town, and this larger road connected finally with 93. We might see one car a month pass through town. Most of the time they were lost on the desert roads that might run for fifty miles with no one else in sight and no identifiable landmarks to prevent
“Mules” by Andrew Whited 49
their driving in circles. Other times, it was someone looking for a place where they would not be found. “Wow, two Hispanics,” I said. “Sounds like an invasion.” “Laugh if you want to, Brian. You won’t be laughing when they come for our job.” “Who’d want our shitty job? They can have it.” Riley had been founded in 1908 as a mining town; at its height, it had yielded over two million dollars of silver a year, as well as large quantities of less valuable copper and sulfur. There had not been a mine in operation there since the 1930s, but since a number of rigs still stood in the hills at the edge of town, Riley had been deemed a historical landmark. This meant the state could pay us to perform maintenance on the mines. The job amounted to driving out once a day to see if the rigs looked like they were going to fall, and making sure all the shafts were still boarded up. About twice a year some amateur historian would show up in a rhinestone shirt and ten-gallon hat wanting to get a closer look at the mines, so we went every morning to remove the padlock from the gates just in case. In the evening we’d return to put them back
“Nova” by Dana Stuckey 50
on. We mailed our signed reports to the Bureau of Land Management every month, and a couple of weeks later our checks arrived in the mail. Once we had reported an unstable rig to the Bureau. They sent a letter saying they would check on it, but no one ever showed. Eight months later it toppled. Sean was still going on about Mexicans. “If I see any of them in Riley, they’ll disappear,” he was saying. “The desert’s a big place. Nobody would miss them anyway.” “Let’s see if we can find a station,” I said, turning on the radio. “What are you talking about? We haven’t even left Riley yet. You know we won’t pick anything up ‘til we’re close to Crenshaw.” I knew he was right. I hit the scan button on the radio anyway. Crenshaw was halfway between Reno and Rachel, a town just outside of Area 51. The highway that ran through Rachel was smaller than 93, but it did manage to attract the occasional group of UFO enthusiasts hoping to get a glimpse of something in the skies over town. Rachel actually had a functioning hotel with an Area 51 gift shop. And a casino, of course. That and the traffic passing to and from Reno had managed to keep Crenshaw alive,
even thriving, by desert standards. Crenshaw’s population was been set on fire by whoever left them, but this was not necessary. over 3000. In addition to the grocery store, it also had a McDonEven when someone had dumped a pristine late model Camaro ald’s. It might not have been Vegas, but to us it counted as the city. in the school parking lot, we hadn’t gone near it. It still sat there Neither of us had ever been to Vegas. It was only three hours south untouched. We knew better than to look inside a car that someone of Riley, but Vegas might as well have been another planet. had abandoned in Riley. We passed the cactus at the end of town. It was creepy, the way it was shaped sort of like a hand. It would move a little when the The road to Crenshaw was dotted every few miles with signs wind blew hard enough, so it looked like it was waving. It was not warning people not to feed the burros. Wild burros are endana friendly wave, one that thanked you for stopping by. It warned gered, and it was thought that if people fed them they would stop you not to come back. eating the more readily available food of their natural desert habi tat. Also, feeding them caused the burros to lose their fear of passAt college, Chris had studied Hotel and Restaurant Manageing cars. Apparently the warnings had been ignored, because the ment. He’d found a job at Harrah’s in Las Vegas soon after graduburros congregated around roads; we saw at least a dozen every ation, and now he was a floor manager there. I made a point to time we made the drive to the store. Sometimes they would run call him from the pay phone outside of Albertson’s whenever I into the road when they noticed a car approaching, forcing the made it to Crenshaw. As far as I knew there was no working phone driver to stop. When a pack of them surrounded the car, as had in Riley, and I always felt like I should call someone since I had happened on this trip, there was nothing to do but wait for them the chance. Besides Sean, Chris was the only person I knew well to give up and move on. enough to keep in touch with. “Did I ever tell you about the time I rode one of these?” Sean The last time I’d spoken with him he reminded me that I had a asked. job waiting if I wanted to move to Vegas. He reminded me of this “Probably.” whenever we spoke. My response had been the same as always. “I was with my dad,” he continued, “and a pack of burros “What about Sean? I can’t just leave stopped us just like this. I got out of him.” “Staring out the window, my eyes locked the car and one walked up to me, so “Man, fuck that guy. Remember with a burro’s. It must have considered I jumped on his back and he took off when he told us he’d gone to a party into the desert. I stayed with him for at the Playboy Mansion as one of the this an invitation, because it walked right twenty yards before I fell. He tried to up to my window. It got close enough that bite me then ran away. My dad beat bunnies’ dates?” “Yeah,” I said, laughing. “And he its hot breath condensed on the glass. I the hell out of me.” got in trouble for wearing silk pajamas.” watched the animal’s nostrils flare; its Sean’s parents moved from Riley “Right, I remember.” Chris was a few months after we graduated high laughing too. “Only Hef is allowed to breathing was hard and desperate.” school. He had refused to go with wear silk pajamas.” them. I’d never known my father at “I doubt Sean has ever even seen a pair of silk pajamas.” all, and had never known my mother sober. She had not lived long “Dude’s worn the same pair of ripped blue jeans every day for enough to see me graduate. She wouldn’t have cared anyway. I was the last ten years,” he scoffed. “Just leave him, Brian. People disapalmost eighteen then, and although I had an aunt in California pear from Riley all the time. It’s a ghost town.” that I could have tracked down if I wanted to, I did not even conGhost town. When I was growing up the term evoked images sider it. Sean and I never talked about why we didn’t leave Riley. of tumbleweeds blowing across a dirt street lined on either side We didn’t have to. by uninhabited buildings with no other traces that human beings “I saw Ralph the other day,” Sean told me. It was always nohad ever been there. That wasn’t my town. There weren’t many of table when we saw another of Riley’s residents. We knew other us, but people lived in Riley. It was true that most of the buildings people lived there, but we were not certain how many. Sightings in town were crumbling and not in use, but that in itself did not of the others were infrequent, and they moved away all the time; mean it was a ghost town. I was still sure that the casino would it had happened before that people had been gone for over a year reopen one day, that people would come back. No one was ever without our noticing their absence. returning to a ghost town. “Did he say anything?” I asked. Then there were the cars. Who had ever heard of a ghost “Nope. He was carrying his weed eater up to the casino. I town with cars? The town was littered with them, even when I guess he was gonna trim back the brush.” was young. Once Sean and I had counted them; there were over Staring out the window, my eyes locked with a burro’s. It must fifty, and we had no idea who they belonged to. Some of them have considered this an invitation, because it walked right up to were turn of the century jalopies that probably hadn’t been driven my window. It got close enough that its hot breath condensed on in sixty years. Others were newer, though, vehicles left behind the glass. I watched the animal’s nostrils flare; its breathing was by people fleeing the physical and financial collapse of the town, hard and desperate. leaving too quickly to take the car with them. Occasionally an un“You think the Dry Lake will ever reopen?” I wondered. familiar car would show up, one that had not been there before, Sean shrugged. abandoned for unknown reasons behind one of the unoccupied “Whatever. I hope it doesn’t,” he said defiantly. “I hope everyhouses at the end of a dirt road. A couple of times these cars had body moves away. They can’t make me leave. Fuck ‘em.”
I nodded. The burro outside my window swung its head, and I saw how thin and patchy its mane was. If I’d had anything to give it at that moment I would have. When I did not, the burro dropped its head and walked slowly away from the road. It must have been the leader, because as it departed, the rest of the pack followed. There was a hint of dejection in their strides. They would not find food in the desert. It was summer, and everything was dying. It was just getting dark when we emerged from the grocery store. After the air conditioned comfort of Albertson’s, the heat seemed even more unbearable. At least Crenshaw was cleaner than Riley. All the roads in Crenshaw were paved, so there was not the omnipresent dust hanging in the air like there was at home. In Riley, the wind would descend from the hills carrying a yellow mist from the sulfur deposits that still lay exposed up there. It hardly ever rained, so that sulfur covered everything. The scent was awful; the whole town smelled like cow farts. The Oldsmobile had a sizeable trunk and roomy backseat, but because of the amount of groceries we bought it always took a few minutes to figure how to jigsaw them so they would fit. I let Sean handle the task while I walked to the payphone to call Chris. I knew he would urge me again to come to Las Vegas. I knew I would tell him no. We had developed a habit on these trips of Sean driving to Crenshaw and me driving back, so after ending my call I slid into the driver’s seat. Sean was already in the passenger seat, an open bag of cheese balls in his lap. “How’s Chris?” “Fine,” I answered flatly. “You know I banged his mom once.” “Of course you did.” ���No, really,” he said, offering the bag of cheese balls in my direction. I shook my head and steered the car onto the road, pointing it toward home. Just a few miles outside of Crenshaw the country music station began to drown in static. We tolerated it for several minutes, as occasionally the signal would strengthen and we’d get a minute or two of clear song. When even this gave out Sean reached to turn the radio off. “Hang on,” I told him. “Sometimes if you tune it just a little it picks back up.” I turned the dial a couple of clicks to the right, then several clicks to the left. Only static. I was about to give up when Sean screamed. “Brian! Shit!” I looked up to see the burro that had walked onto the road to
meet us. It stared at our fast approach dully, not moving, as if it welcomed the possible impact. Instinctively I turned hard into the desert and slammed on the brake pedal. The car slid right at first, almost hitting a yucca tree that had grown near the road, then swung drastically to the left. I let go of the wheel; I was not in control anyway. I felt the groceries shift against my seat and thought, strangely, I hope the eggs are okay. After two complete circles the car came to a sudden stop, facing the same direction we had been travelling. The engine shuddered and died. For a moment I didn’t move, did not even breathe. I broke the paralysis by forcing myself to slide the gear shift into park. I don’t know why but I started laughing, and looked over at Sean. Both hands were holding the left side of his head. I noticed the window then. It was not shattered, but a web of cracks extended from the spot where his head hit the glass. “Oh, God,” I mumbled. “Sean?” “What.” “Let me see your head.” He pulled his hands away and turned to face me. I’d expected to see a thick pool of blood in his hands, but there was only a thin trace of red in the crease of one palm. I looked at the spot he’d been holding and saw no blood at all in his hair or on his face. “I’m okay,” he said. “Just a little dizzy.” “Dude, you cracked the window.” Sean looked at the damage he had caused with his head and laughed. “Crazy, huh?” He traced one of the cracks with his finger. “See if the car will start.” I turned the key. The engine whirred to life with no hesita-
“Stay Golden Ponyboy” by Lauren Barnard 52
tion. Looking in the rearview, the flat terrain allowed me to see for decided that all I could do was drive to Riley. It was not much of a miles; even in the dark I could still make out the dim outline of plan, but it was a goal. I would be doing something. Crenshaw in the distance. As we passed the cactus I said “We’re home” to Sean, and to “We’re not that far from Crenshaw,” I told him. “We can go no one in particular. I felt ridiculous. I wondered if I should put there for help.” the groceries away. Was I staying in Riley? It was the first time I “Brian, I’m fine.” He popped a cheese ball in his mouth and dared to ask myself that question. It occurred to me that I could smiled. “I just want to go home.” just leave the car with Sean’s body in it. I could stash it behind one I eyed him skeptically. of the many abandoned houses and it would not be discovered for “Drive,” he said. “I tell you what happened with Chris’s mom.” years, maybe never. Sean would be missed no more than any of I put the car in gear and hit the scan button, praying for a rathe residents who’d disappeared from Riley over the years. It was dio signal to reach us through the desert nothing unusual. It was expected. But night. “I was thinking about what would I could not stay in Riley knowing Sean Over the next forty-five minutes I happen to Riley if the Dry Lake never was rotting in a car a mile away. Besides, drove in silence while Sean droned on if I was leaving tonight I needed the about his exploits not only with Chris’s opened again, if everyone really did Oldsmobile. If I wouldn’t drive to Crenmom, but also with our teacher and in leave. How many people still lived in shaw with a body in my car, I certainly the bathroom of the casino in Beatty Riley? Fifteen? Ten? I wasn’t sure.” wouldn’t drive to Vegas. with a girl who worked there. I did not At the house I got out of the car and pay him much attention. I was thinking about what would happen looked around cautiously, certain that no one would see me but to Riley if the Dry Lake never opened again, if everyone really did wary of what might happen if anyone did. I opened the passenger leave. How many people still lived in Riley? Fifteen? Ten? I wasn’t door, hooked my arms beneath Sean’s armpits, and tugged. He was sure. The Bureau would keep sending us checks as long as we sent actually lighter than I expected, and when his body slid quickthem reports, I guessed. Maybe it would not make any difference ly out of the seat I staggered and fell; the corpse I was dragging if no one was left except Sean and I. We never saw anyone else sprawled before me in my yard like a hideous animal rug. I stood anyway. Fuck ‘em. and grabbed him again, completing the task with as much delicaThe turn onto the road that lead to Riley was unmarked, but I cy as it would permit. I made a point not to look at my friend’s face knew it well. It was a little past the halfway point of the trip; we’d as I pulled him inside. If I became too aware of what I was doing, be home in twenty minutes. Suddenly, and loudly, a man’s voice I was sure I wouldn’t actually do it. I felt him starting to stiffen. I filled the car, speaking in Spanish. I’d forgotten that I’d hit the scan dumped Sean on the couch, arranged him as naturally as his body button on the radio, and incredibly it had found a strong enough would allow, then covered the body with a blanket. signal to stop on. Startled by the breach of silence, I quickly turned Before I left I reached into Sean’s pocket and pulled out his the radio off. Lost in thought and the steadily unfolding road, I wallet. There was $28 inside. I had a little over $40. I figured $70 had not noticed until then that Sean had fallen asleep. I drove for would be enough to get me to Las Vegas. Chris would know what another minute before it occurred to me to wonder how Sean had to do. From there I could call the police and explain what had hapnot been wakened by the radio. I reached over and shook him pened. They would see I had no choice, that I had done nothing by the shoulder. He slumped against the passenger door. His eyes wrong. There were bodies all over the desert. At least they would were not closed. He was not asleep. know where this one was. I pulled the car into the desert off the narrow road and stepped I packed a duffel bag with the only other outfit I owned— a out onto the hard dirt. I thought of the possibility that a car might pair of jeans and a t-shirt just like the one I was wearing. I decided pass, someone who could help, but of course none would; even if to grab my tooth brush and deodorant as well. I had trouble opensome lost soul did come by, they would probably be too frightened ing the bag and saw that my hands were shaking. I realized I was to stop for me out here. I opened the passenger door to check crying. I wiped my face and looked around for anything else I Sean’s breathing, and to search for a pulse, but his situation was might need. Surely a change of clothes and a car full of groceries clearly hopeless. His body seemed formless and tired, his eyes cold were enough to get me through the night. I thought briefly about and inanimate. The desert had claimed a victim. I dug into the leaving a note on Ralph’s door, but decided against it. He would backseat, looking for the beer. It had grown warm in the heat. I rather not be involved. Sean and I would just be gone one day, like opened one anyway and finished it in two large swallows. I tossed anyone else who left Riley. Just two more ghosts in a town that the bottle into the desert and opened another, then leaned against was full of them. the car and considered what to do next. The Oldsmobile did not start at first, but I kept turning over My immediate thought was that I needed a phone, but the the ignition, kept pumping the gas, and finally the engine obliged. closest town was Riley, and there was no help to be found there. I As I reached the paved road leading out of town, the wind began could drive back to Crenshaw, but that presented a different probto swirl in the hills. I heard it whistle past the abandoned houses lem—it would mean driving across the desert with a dead body and down the empty streets; in my rearview I saw the dust risriding shotgun, an idea that did not appeal to me very much. I ing behind me, thin and yellow. The desert was never satisfied, sipped the beer and waited for a solution to come to me, but there had never claimed enough dead. As I left town the cactus waved was nothing. All of my options were bad. As I finished the beer I menacingly, warning me not to come back. But I would be back.
“Parade” by Andrew Whited 54
I dreamt about a suitcase. Red. Fabric torn at the zipper. I dreamt of black high heels, just like mine, resting on the white stripe on the highway’s edge. I dreamt that i looked out the window but it was gone; i turned to my sister to say, “What the hell happened to your window?” and she was gone. I dreamt that the sun blinked at me from the piles of dust at my feet; i leaned down to touch it, to touch the sun, because it was a dream and you can do that sort of thing. My fingers came away, suitcase-red. I thought then that i would wake up, because in movies the girl pinches herself and she wakes up but i did not wake up, i could not help I dreamt that i was smothered in black ink and my body was torn up word confetti
Kiersten Wones poetry
Made to Climb
Mossy mountains bed these fallen boys, while in their wasted lungs hot powder still cloys. Within in the field are stepping stones of flesh, made colored canvas: wounds still fresh. These boys have died a thousand deaths. A thousand different ways. Sometimes several thousand a day, losing each and every red choke of sooty air. Faces freeze while warming numb fingers whimpering songs for girls wiping crumbles of sleepless sleep from swollen eyes. Warm splatter on your skin: that of your brothers who fought for those seeming Caesars for those napping Napoleons who dust powdered sugar off their plump lips and canter over each cobblestone as if it were a country.
Alyson Smith poetry
â€œBoy Scouts of Americaâ€? by Matthew Livaudais 56
the air in that dollhouse bar is smog, trickling up the inhabitants’ nasal cavities. thick cigar smoke fogs the glasses of a suit-clad man, fingering a gold leaf plated ring while his stomach swells with overpriced alcohol. lounge music slides like sex over your lonesome skin cells. you straighten the satin clinging like a child to your hips and ensnare that pathetic little businessman in your cage of bejeweled hands and push-up cleavage.
Rachel Davis poetry
The smoke curls into the music’s soft beat, Crushed plastic cups amidst broken bottles, Guitars scratch while lights flash on dancing feet, Swaying as they sing, fair faces mottled. Sticky air matches sweaty tabletops, Grimy shoes crunching to midnight’s raw throb, The next table neighbors taking more shots, Squish into puke on the floor from indulgence, that slob. This is nothing like my green mountain trails, Where air is crisp and stars smile not scream. Vomit or pine straw, ash or fresh gale, Not vodka, my soul, but taste the pure stream.
Cary Bayless poetry
“Chatter on the Bench” by Kendra Beall 57
What it Means to Me
The world flew past me in an array of shimmering colors. Brilliant red hibiscus petals rustled in the breeze of my passing, and shimmering yellow-green maple leaves spun about in lazy arcs as my wheels spit them into the air. That very air buzzed with life, the cool of autumn not yet descending to foreshadow winter’s arrival. Releasing a handlebar for half a second, I raised one arm to dampen my sleeve. The purpose of the gesture, I knew, was to wipe the slick, dripping sheen of sweat from my brow. However, it never seemed to work. Within a moment’s time, my forehead once more glistened with reflected sunlight. In a hurry to be somewhere or other, a blazing orange truck zipped by on my right, driven by two college kids who twitched violently as liquid music poured from their speakers. Intent on getting the most out of their health insurance policies, they had the bone-vibrating bass cranked up to eleven, making my teeth chatter and my glasses rattle. As much out of annoyance as necessity, my arm slid across my slick forehead again. Two clicks, maybe three. My gears shifted with a grating hiss as my feet ground down on the pedals, beginning to mount the hill. Another click. I wouldn’t make it if it got any steeper. I’d have to get off, costing me the slight breeze my movement created, and laboriously cover the rest of the hill on foot. I had no desire to stay in the abusively beating sun any longer than necessary. Standing, I eked the last dregs of energy from my weary body, desperate to cover the final few yards. I was in my lowest gear. As my legs began to burn, I knew that I was coming to the point of no return. I could give up or push myself up the last . . . few . . . yards.
Matthew Pollock Non-Fiction
Success. The world leveled out before me, regaining some semblance of normalcy. Two cars passed as I made my mad dash toward the summit of the miniature Everest, drivers smirking at the idiot who seemed to be struggling through his own private Ironman. Out under the broiling Alabama sun, I was beginning to regret my method of transportation. Coming from a state as flat as a sheet of paper, I had little experience with hills. I never realized how physically draining it was to bike them. The downhill rushes lasted only a few perfect seconds and were followed by overly long intervals of pedaling. The burning rays of sunlight, mixed with the pain that was beginning to emanate from rarely used muscles, made me long for another means of transportation. The university was far behind me, and my dorm doubly so – but there was a car of my own, waiting for me off in some distant parking garage. If I turned around, I could collect it and finish my voyage the easy way. I’d have more than enough music to fill my ears, although
preferably not enough to alert nearby towns of my presence, and an air conditioner that would coat me in all the chilled oxygen and nitrogen molecules I could stand… I shook my head fiercely. No turning back. I’d forever been taught that a job half-finished was the same as one left undone. “It doesn’t matter what you do,” my dad had once said, smiling down at me from his towering height, “so long as you do it all the way.” To stop, turn around, and retrace my steps before reaching my objective would be like admitting defeat just as the war was turning in my favor. My dehydrated brain, struggling to form coherent thoughts, gave me the inevitable order – not only would it be a waste of time and gasoline to turn around, it would also be the easy way out. I was a man now – I couldn’t give up when the going got tough. I had to press on. I glanced down at the shining silver water bottle suspended therein. So close. Just within reach. But if I stopped, my momentum would vanish, leaving me to struggle anew. I’d wait. No rea-
“Stadium Sunset” by Jennifer Robinson 59
son to stop. Not when I was so close, now. Lungs shuddering to of the building, with sweat dribbling so steadily down my body draw the searing air within them, I pushed off the top of the hill. that I could have just come through a rainstorm. If such a creature Once more, for the briefest moment, I was flying. The heat was existed in Alabama during the autumn months. “Excuse me?” I forgotten, the thirst fading from my dry mouth. Beneath me, the glanced over my shoulder as I spoke, seeing if perhaps he was talkhiss of changing gears was the only audible sign that my bike was ing to someone else. When I didn’t catch a glimpse of the poor moving. Before me, the concrete runway stretched off into the sky. sap who was poised to down a gallon of bleach, I realized he was A sea of black asphalt shimmered to my right, nearly molten in indeed talking to me. the summer air, and a forest of bushes and grass beckoned at my “I said, are you going to drink that?” He gave me the intimileft, whispering promises of cool shadows and rest. dating glare that is so well known to men of his profession. I stayed And then the bike began to slow. I had gotten used to the feelmy course before the headlights, antlers trembling, trying to caling by now. Another hill rose up before me, and this time, I was culate my chances in my head. Indifferent to my predicament, a running out of steam. My forehead kissed my sleeve mid-pedal, drop of sweat slid from the tip of my nose, splashing to the thirsty the gesture so familiar that I barely noticed it. Before I had the concrete where it was greedily devoured in seconds. My scorched chance to waver, my hand had found its way back to the handlelips cried out, unheeded, as the man continued to loom before me, bar. Nearly there. remaining safely in the shadows. This time, momentum supplied the majority of my strength – Deciding finally that I had little choice but to reveal my sins I doubt I could have crested that final hill alone. Just as I began to and hopefully discover my penance, I responded at last with slow, the curve evened out. Ahead of me, the building finally came a questioning “Yes?” Shaking his head in sudden, inexplicable into view. At my back, bouncing as my disgust, the guard turned away and disapfeet applied pressure to the pedals once “When I didn’t catch a glimpse of peared, off to patrol the empty parking lot, more, I could feel the smoldering black the poor sap who was poised to or perhaps to berate little children for being bag that held the book. The nearly over- down a gallon of bleach, I realized short. I, unsurprisingly, didn’t wait to watch due book. If it didn’t make its way back to him go. I did have something to do before the the library soon, the debts would begin to he was indeed talking to me.” library closed. Resealing my water, I walked mount. It started out with one dime, and before you knew it, you quickly to the door. Seeing no signs labeled either “NO COLLEGE were swimming in a sea of unpaid college debt. Or so I’d heard. STUDENTS ALLOWED” or “WE REQUIRE THIRST AND I wasn’t eager to put myself through such financial hardship if I HUNGER IN THIS ESTABLISHMENT,” I entered. The withered could avoid it. The last thing I wanted was to fall into bankruptcy woman behind the front desk stared at me as I approached, lookbefore my freshman year of college was over. With that thought ing up from her keyboard with a bizarre mixture of surprise and in mind, I pressed forward, angling toward the cheery redbrick apathy. From all the attention I was getting, I wondered if I was building. actually on fire and no one had the nerve to tell me. Throughout popular culture, an unfortunate traveler is deHoping to break the tension, I nodded pleasantly, clasping my picted crawling desperately across desert dunes with torn clothwater bottle as I gazed across the library. “Sure is hot out there, ing, looking like a mobile skeleton, crying out for water. With a isn’t it?” She continued to stare at me silently, pale pink lips pursed thin sheen of sweaty dust coating my body, and miniature suns rein unspoken judgment. After a moment, I realized I wouldn’t get flected in my eyes, I had only to stretch my arm out in a desperate anything else out of her. Fumbling my arms free of the black bag, plea for water to complete the picture. Dragging myself across the burning my fingers on the hot synthetic fabric, I managed to sucparking lot one wheel’s length at a time, I felt relief sweep through cessfully pry the book free of its confines. “This is due back today, me. I’d made it. but I’m only halfway through it. Do you think I could check it out Parking my bike at a rack that had seen better years, and likely again?” Back home, patrons only had to bring unpopular books even decades, careful not to contract tetanus from its pitted bars, back in every few months, merely to prove their continued exisI pried my water bottle from the bike’s holder. Barely had I loosed tence. Why wouldn’t it be the same everywhere? the lid and raised the bottle for a drink when I realized I had comMoving the small stack of books before her to one side, giving pany. herself plenty of space to deal with the challenge that confronted Thin lips and a scowl regarded me from below two burningher, she donned a weak smile. Her words, delivered by rote, were coal eyes, which condemned everything they glimpsed with as human as those of the robot from Lost in Space. “I’m afraid equal intensity. Below the face, a starched uniform hung almost that’s not allowed.” Danger, Will Robinson. “It has to sit on the obscenely from the security guard’s form, untouched by even shelf for a while so that others can check it out.” Will Robinson. the slightest tickle of sweat. Catching my gaze, one gnarled hand Danger. “You can pay ten cents a day to keep it or come back and moved almost subconsciously to pat an unseen wrinkle from a pick it up in a couple of weeks.” polyester sleeve. Barely had his eyes had the chance to move away I looked at her in dismay. Having parroted her lines satisfacfrom his shirt before he froze, staring my way. Fiddling with his torily, she was already focusing on something else, pretending she walkie-talkie, as though to remind me who was in charge, his face didn’t see me. I turned my gaze to the book, an old sci-fi paperscrewed up in disbelief. “You gonna drink that here?” back that looked as new as the day it had been purchased, some I blinked several times, staring from his face to my water decades before. I was a little over halfway through it. I could either bottle, feeling the condensation that beaded on the metal bottle pay half what the book was worth to keep it until I was done, or dampen my hands. I stood mere feet from the cooling shadows else return to the library in half a month’s time to check it out
again, provided that no one else had developed a sudden, passionI blinked. Throughout the semester, similar words had janate desire for mediocre science fiction. Although I wasn’t entirely gled in my ears, casual prejudice against my people, or at least the averse to making the journey again, I wasn’t sure that my corpogroup with which I was inevitably associated. I had waited outside real form would be up to the task. I subconsciously raised one arm the stadium time and again to watch football games, surrounded to my forehead, wiping away the half-formed droplets of sweat as by eighty thousand of my best friends. I didn’t drink – it was hard my other hand brought the water bottle to my lips. in a college town, but neither alcohol nor I had any desire to get Having paused in her work, the libraracquainted. All the same, I was treated like ian was staring at me with disapproval “With that in mind, they might as the worst kind of alcoholic – we all were, sharply spelled out in her face. I lowered well ban hair as well – budding regardless of who we were. the water bottle slowly, my tongue still alcoholics could easily soak their First, they’d said only water bottles and parched, staring back at her. For a moment, backpacks were allowed in. Then, no backI considered repeating my earlier phrase curly locks in alcohol beforehand packs – they might have had beer hidden – “Sure is hot out there, isn’t it?” – to start and lick them during the game..” within them. After that, you couldn’t bring the entire exchange over again, but before I water bottles unless the police sniffed them decided whether or not to give it a try, she spoke: “We really prefer for vodka. Then they prohibited professional cameras – those for people not to bring their own drinks here.” Her voice remained crafty college kids might carve them out and hide beer inside. And emotionless, even as a hint of something like reproach bubbled no more water bottles either – that involved too much sniffing. near the surface. While they were at it, they told us not to bring jackets – heaven I pointed deeper into the library. “Someone over there has…” only knew what sneaky teens might hide in them. With that in She didn’t turn. Instead, she paused for a moment, thinking mind, they might as well ban hair as well – budding alcoholics carefully before rephrasing her statement. “We prefer clear concould easily soak their curly locks in alcohol beforehand and lick tainers. Just so that we can see…” them during the game. In fact, it was best to keep them away from My voice was flat as I nodded across the hall. “Theirs isn’t clothes altogether – what’s the worst that could happen? At least it clear.” would stop alcohol from getting into the game, and that was really The first sparkle of emotion tickled her expression, giving her all that mattered. eyes the briefest flash of humanity. I had no way of knowing quite From a young age, I had been taught to show respect, be it how it would appear to watch someone a foot taller than you beto elders or authority figures. It was the way one was supposed gin to look annoyed, but I could imagine that the tiny counter to live. So I would let them search my bags and sniff my water between us would begin to seem far too small. She gulped. “The and shave off my hair – it was the right thing to do. I knew it was rule applies mainly to college students…” just the best way to keep everyone safe at the football games. I
“Auburn University Band Camp Set” by Matthew Livaudais 61
simply lowered my head and accepted the treatment. And yet here I was again, standing in a library this time, being treated like a dangerous drunkard. Guilty until proven innocent. The worst of it was that my friends were watching, shaking their heads in silent disbelief. I could almost hear Shakespeare nudging Dickens while Jordan and Modesitt chuckled quietly with Twain and Doyle. This was my place. And somehow, because I attended an institution of higher learning, I didn’t belong any more. As I stared at her, the librarian began to look uncomfortable. Her mechanical side may have prevented her from being apologetic, but whatever human bits remained gave her the kindness to at least show mild sympathy. Or maybe that was merely a façade, covering her inner fear. The six foot, two inch college student standing before her had remained silent for nearly a minute. For all I knew, she was beginning to wonder if I was on a drug-induced trip, preparing to explode into senseless rage. No doubt she was only waiting for me to burst into slurred obscenities before she rustled up my new friend the security guard. For a second, I considered unscrewing the top of my water bottle and upending it on the sanitary blue carpet beneath my feet, just to jar her out of her silence. “Do you have a water fountain here?” I would ask as I drew my arm back, preparing to fling the bottle up into the light fixtures above, sending sparks and glass
everywhere. “Because I just finished one heck of a bike ride to bring back this stupid book, and I’m THIRSTY!” She would begin to scream, and patrons would cower in fear. Only then would I lean toward her, smiling knowingly, and whisper an apropos quote from Shakespeare, just to show her that we weren’t all savages. Maybe then she’d see me as a human being, rather than just another in a long line of college students. But I couldn’t act that way. I was brought up to show respect to others – whether or not I got it in return. Afraid to see what might have come out if I spoke freely, I gestured for her to take the book. Turning quickly toward the door, the weary desert traveler abandoned the oasis, crawling back into the inferno. I unlocked my bike while I seethed. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. At my age, I could be taxed, drafted, and jailed without anyone making much of a fuss. I was on my own in the world. My childhood was technically over. Shouldn’t I be treated as an adult, and perhaps even a mature one at that? Or was I doomed to be labeled a partier so long as I attended college? As I pedaled back to my dorm, I was blind to the beauty of the day. My thoughts passed in a blur of anger and confusion as I pedaled up hills and coasted down them, unfeeling. It wasn’t until my dorm came into sight that I realized that I had yet to take a single sip of water.
“A Few Words about Auburn” by Jeffrey Bolan 62
Lying in Darkness
Night’s few creases of light cascade over cloth, – accenting – movement of lip, of hip, of handy flesh until blurs of tripping tongues tangle without care. Blinds closed casting darkness over thigh over breast over tongue murdering every naked sole to stalk my floors. Every arm of every body that has ever been mine, that has ever held mine, that has ever lain near my flesh, is meshed together: without face or name or time or shame. Fastened in flesh… we lie here in darkness
without shadows (that could show us how we lie). —wood claws at windows, rainy mouths gnaw glass until water runs red, suns search to sear panes into sugar— But the greatest of these shall not shed light into shadows that seek to revert bodies into souls and faces into names.
Alyson Smith poetry
“Untitled” by Marley Livingston 63
The Man in the Green Jacket
Every morning, Sara passed the man in the green jacket walking up the Boulevard Saint Germain, and every evening, she passed him walking back down. He had a grandfatherly sort of mustache and two caterpillars for eyebrows. His steps were slow, the stuttered steps of an old man with no oil in his joints, but his back was erect and he carried no cane. Sara never knew where he went to in between the morning and evening when she was in class. She liked to imagine him sitting in a café somewhere near La Sorbonne, behind a paper and a cup of café au lait. But sometimes, when she passed him on a particularly frigid winter evening, she worried that he had no place to go. Could a man keep himself from going crazy by walking up a street in the morning and walking back down it in the evening? He wore neither hat nor scarf, and no gloves. If he had no family to care for him but had too much pride to beg, could those daily exercises keep him alive? She had always wanted to come to Paris. So when everything became – well, when she needed to get away fast, Paris had been the natural choice. Sara had spared no thoughts for anything beyond the need to get away and how to do it. She had met with her editor, Geoffrey, and put in her two weeks’ notice. He had thrown one of his legendary tantrums, but Sara did not allow herself to be overawed by the twitching of his pompous mustache. She suspected she might miss the sizzle and passion of the food review scene, but really, what was all that compared to the experience of being an American in Paris? She would be learning French at La Sorbonne, following in the footsteps of Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina and Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia. It had seemed like a grand adven-
Emily Shank fiction
ture, the perfect escape. Sara jammed the green call button on her cell phone and hoped Sara had not been in Paris a week before reality set in. She it wasn’t Geoffrey telling her that her position still had not been would have died rather than admit it, but she had very little idea of filled and all would be forgiven if she could be back by Tuesday. what to do with herself. Afternoons and evenings were the worst. “Hello,” she whispered into her phone. She had never liked hanging around in bars. At 33, she felt too old “Sara, this is Mallory.” for the club scenes and museums were Sara repressed a groan, and lonely without someone to turn to and “Every morning, Sara passed the man in slumped back into her seat. She had say, “Look at this!” spent six months avoiding her cousin So Sara began to pretend. The the green jacket walking up the Boulevard Mallory, but she might have known man in the green jacket became much Saint Germain, and every evening,she that sooner or later, like the Greek Fumore to her than a sight along her passed him walking back down.” ries, Mallory would catch up with her. daily route; he was a pseudo-friend. Sara didn’t have it in her to be patient On her way to the métro in the morning, she would imagine saytoday. ing Bonjour to the man in the green jacket and how he might “What do you want Mallory?” nod politely in return. Or perhaps lift his hat, but then, he didn’t “It’s nothing like that,” answered Mallory. Her voice sounded have one. Didn’t he get cold without a hat? One day, Henri, as she strange to Sara, as if her throat was constricted. For just a moment, had taken to thinking of him, might point at a newspaper he had it made Sara want to hug her knees to herself, as she had done as brought with him and ask what Mademoiselle thought about the a child whenever she was upset about something. She had a flash election results? She would shake her head and say c’est terrible, of memory: crouching behind the back porch in the pine needles. what was the world coming to? He would nod and move on. Her They scratched against her bare legs, and poked through her red pretending grew more elaborate day after day, with Henri becomshorts. Hal reached through the hedge, lifting her up. “There’s my ing better and better at English, or perhaps it was Sara improving Birdie.” Mallory clung to his pant leg like a lost kitten. in French – she never really explained that part to herself. It was “It’s Hal,” Mallory continued, “He fell and – he had a stroke all in pretend, what did the logic matter? and – he’s a mess. What that nurse was doing when she should She would imagine that on wintery Sunday afternoons, she have been watching him, I can’t understand. Who leaves a man would find herself sitting alone in a café surrounded by chattering in Hal’s condition alone for ten minutes? She was certainly being families and see Henri come in. She would wave him over to her paid well enough to make him her top priority–” table and pull up a chair for him with delight. He would beam “Mal–” Sara cut in, and her own voice sounded strange as at her in that grandfatherly way – as if they were old friends – well, something terribly close to panic lurked behind its awful and say how nice it was to sit with another lonely soul. She would calm. “Mallory, what are you saying?” smile saucily at him and answer that when two lonely souls gather “What am I saying? You need to come home Sara. You need together, they are not lonely anymore. to come right now.” “Aha!” Henri would laugh, slapping the table in his amuse“But I can’t–” ment. “Mademoiselle is a wit! But you are too young to be so loneMallory exploded like a small balloon. “I say you need to ly. You should be sitting here with your own chattering group of come home, Sara Starling! You are not a twenty-something herofriends, or perhaps out in a park with un petit ami – unless there ine in some cut-and-paste trashy film. You are 33 years old and is someone at home?” you have responsibilities! Who are you to run away from your job “No!” Sara would say, shaking her head in emphasis, “Defiand a man you loved and Hal, who–” nitely not.” A sudden flash of anger cut through the haze that had been Henri would lean a little closer over his coffee cup. permeating Sara’s brain. “Is it a little heartbreak that Mademoiselle brought with her “I happen to like my life here, Mal. I’m paying a lot of money to Paris?” he would ask, with a knowing twinkle in his hazel eye. to be in school here; I can’t just up and quit.” She wanted to add “Not that kind of heartbreak.” that she hadn’t skipped out. She had hired that nurse. She didn’t “Dites-moi!” owe anyone any explanations. But even in her own head, it soundAt that moment, a waiter would appear at her elbow, and Hened an awful lot like the whining a kid does when she’s been caught ri would order two bowls of a steaming onion soup for them. The in her own lie. waiter would leave them a basket of thick, flaky baguette slices “I’m well aware that you skipped out on Hal. And now he’s to sop up the dregs with. Sara would know better than to ask for dying, and you don’t even have the decency to–” butter. “Don’t you talk to me about decency,” hissed Sara, fighting not to raise her voice or otherwise attract the attention of her neighThe crisp, clear notes of an electronic Für Elise spilt through bors, “Don’t you talk to me about skipping out. I made arrangethe sunny café. A few of the red-cheeked chatterers near her table ments for someone to take care of him. The doctors said he could glanced at Sara and then leaned back towards each other. A partichave years before he dies. Not that he’d know it.” ularly haughty-looking woman wearing a long string of fat pearls Mallory laughed bitterly. “He doesn’t have years now. He’s dyand a tawny fur hat whispered Americaine behind her hand to the ing, Sara. ” woman sitting next to her, who had come in wearing a very large “He’s been dying, Mallory.” and very blue Chanel handbag on her shoulder. They smirked. “Sara, this is it. If you don’t leave now, you won’t make it in
time…” “If you don’t go now,” Henri added, “you will never forgive yourself, cherie.” Sara stared at him for a few seconds. “Right,” Sara told Mallory, “I’ll call you when I’ve made the arrangements.” After the call-ending screen flashed into darkness, Sara stared into the half drunk coffee cup in front of her. Henri asked if she was all right. She told him that she felt the way she had on the morning of the funeral. She had awakened at dawn, and hidden under the purple covers, too unsure to move. Scared to even consider which pair of socks she should wear: white, black, or grey. Hal had found her like that a few hours later, as he came in, fixing his tie. It was lopsided; he had never had to put it on without Mother to help him. He had pulled back the covers and told her gently that she must get up. Together, they had picked out the black socks to wear with her black shoes and then Hal had handed her the purple comb for her hair. It had hung wildly around her shoulders; neither of them knew how to braid it or tie it back. As they walked out the door, Sara had seen the green fedora hanging on its wooden peg. She had caught it up, and Hal bent down so that she might place it on his head. It was a comfort, their own little ritual, that was not made incomplete without Mother there. The clock in Église Saint-Étienne-du-Mont chimed two o’clock. It sent a sudden jolt through Sara. She was near the Jardin du Luxembourg, so she would need to find the Cluny-La Sorbonne métro. Henri had gone. She threw a five euro bill down on the table and surged through the doors onto the sidewalk outside. She buttoned up her down coat as she navigated around the little families strolling together in the wintry sun. A detached part of her mind noted that there were never any beggars on Sundays. In the underground station, Sara flashed her purple passe navigo over the turnstile sensor and just made it onto a departing train. She stared unseeingly out the glass doors as the métro cars zoomed through tunnels, stopping every two minutes or so to let passengers get on and off. Over and over, she pondered in her mind which of the two airports that serviced Paris she should fly out of: Charles de Gaulle or Orly? Orly was closer, but Charles de Gaulle had more flights. She didn’t have enough miles to buy a ticket; it was going to cost an arm and a leg. A recorded voice announced in French, English, and something that Sara often suspected was Portuguese that this was her stop. After darting onto the platform, she hurried up the art nouveau staircase onto the more modern-look-
“The Venetian Woman” by Emily Quinn 66
ing street above. She was one of perhaps eight people in the métro ing. She wanted to tell them all that, really, she was fine. station. Traffic around Paris was always rather low on Sundays. “But you’re not.” Henri said next to her. On that day alone, all the stores and most of the cafés closed by “Yes I am!” noon, if they were open at all, so people usually stayed close to He brought the tips of his fingers together and considered her home. for a moment. Five blocks down form the métro station, Sara stopped out“Non, you are not. That is why you imagined I am here n’estside a large green door and entered the door code B-4-5-8-9, then ce pas?” swung open the heavy green door and bustled across the court“No.” yard. It was a practiced motion, a comforting, familiar thing. So His hazel eyes widened in surprise. “Non?” were the peeling and faded names by the door buzzers, at which “I don’t know, I don’t want to talk about it. Go away.” she stared while she rummaged through her purse for her keys. Henri kept silent, but he did not disappear. Some were written in blue, others in red or black. One particularly Sara looked out the window again. She could no longer tell if faded label was written in green, and as Henri was real or not. He wore a green she fitted her key into the lock, all she “She could no longer tell if Henri was jacket, and she had already told him so could make out was a faint H-E-N. real or not. He wore a green jacket, much. Sara rushed up the warped cork- and she had already told him so much.” “Hal Starling is mon père. He raised screw staircase to the room on the me, you know. And Mallory too.” top floor, which was her own. It was peeling and falling apart in “Oui? Pourquoi?” places, and the entire kitchen fit behind her front door, but she “When I was four, my mother went with my aunt and uncle had been glad to find a place for so little rent in the very heart to an old school friend’s wedding. They wanted to have a last hurof Paris. She wondered what Henri’s home looked like. But there rah walk down memory lane, and Dad had to finish a report or was no time right now for imagining. She grabbed her laptop and something for work, so Mallory and I stayed with him. On their her empty red suitcase and started searching for outgoing flights, way home from the reception, their car was hit by some kid drivthrowing clothes haphazardly into the suitcase while the pages ing too drunk and too fast. They were all killed instantly.” Sara loaded. reflected that there was no pretty way to tell someone about her mother’s death. The details never allowed for poetry, but always Hal had booked the flight three months in advance when Sara demanded a blunt, almost shocking statement of bald fact. Otherhad announced that she was bringing Peter home over Christmas wise, it felt too much like feeling sorry for herself. break to meet him. Then at the last minute her batty economics “Do your remember her, votre mere?” professor had rescheduled her last exam. Peter had called Delta Sara had one fleeting memory of Mother that was all her own, to reschedule their departures. This was before the airlines had that was not a bedtime story told to her by Hal. She was standing thought of online tickets. Sara had stayed up late into the night with Mother by the door to the flight gate. Mother had dressed her cramming clothes into her dilapidated duffel. She had told stories in a bright red dress with matching Mary Janes. Her long brown about Hal and Mallory to Peter as they killed their last bottle of hair was braided and hung over her shoulder. Mother had worn red wine. Peter had been so happy, laughing until he cried over white and carried a bright green purse on her shoulder. They were the story about Mallory’s misadventure with red lipstick and two waiting to meet Dad; he was coming back from a business trip. boys, chuckling sleepily about the day Hal had misplaced his They had known him by the green fedora that he was never withgreen fedora and found it later that evening in the refrigerator. out. He had looked very lonely, clutching his black suitcase handle like a lifeline in those three seconds before they called out to him. Six hours later, Sara was trying to settle into her seat as the When he heard their shout, he had rushed over, dropping the suitbuildings on the ground grew smaller and smaller. The cabin was case on the floor where it popped open, the clothes spilling out quite empty. If few people came to Paris in February, even fewer onto the floor. He paid it no attention but scooped up Sara in one left it. She had the whole row to herself, but even stretched out she arm and wrapped the other around Mother. When he let go, Sara couldn’t sleep. However, she was too tired to watch the in-flight could see Mother’s face, beautiful with her smile. movie, so she stared out the window and nursed her glass of red “No, I don’t remember her,” she told Henri, “all I’ve ever had wine. Apart from the roar of the plane engine and the air outside, were Dad’s stories.” it was very, very quiet. Lonely. The flight attendant walked by with a basket for trash. Sara let “Is votre cousine picking you up at the airport?” Henri asked. her pull the little, half-empty bottle of vodka from her slackened “No.” hand. She came back with a little bottle of water and an in-flight “Then it is one of your chers amis perhaps?” pillow. Sara hadn’t known airplanes still provided pillows. “Why are you so full of questions?” Sara said testily and Henri reached over her and pulled down the window screen. drained her glass. She waved the flight attendant down for someHe moved to the seat right across the aisle so that Sara could thing a little stronger; they couldn’t serve peket flambant on a stretch out again. She was so tired, but despite the haze of booze plane, but they would certainly have vodka. The attendant handed and worry, she felt more awake than she had in a long time. It her two miniature bottles, with a sympathetic look in her eye. Evwasn’t Henri she really wanted to talk to. She closed her eyes eryone, even the Algerian taxi driver, had looked at her like that and willed him away. She wanted to talk to Peter, who had never this evening, as if she were a frightened rabbit that needed soothpushed her to get married and change her name. Who had never
asked about Mother, but waited until she was ready to tell him. She wanted to talk to Dad. She needed to explain. To be forgiven. Or at least, to stop pretending nothing had happened. “Ou est Hal now?” Henri asked gently, his voice a whisper. “Taissez-vous. I’m trying to sleep.” Sara’s eyes were gritty as she got off the plane in Atlanta. Her tongue felt like cotton. She couldn’t find Henri. It was 9 o’clock in the morning. The airport was crowded as Sara made her way through the arrivals, through customs, and on towards baggage claim. As she came up the final, towering escalator, she caught a glimpse of a green hat descending towards departures. She rolled her compact carryon off the escalator. Before she could move past the crowd waiting to greet their loved ones, she heard a voice call her name from its depths. As she hesitated, Peter hurried towards her, anxiety furrowing between his eyebrows. “What are you doing here?” she asked him stupidly. He reached for her red carry-on, and she let him take it, still dumbstruck. He did not reach for her hand. “Mallory told me to come and get you.” “But it’s a three hour drive.” Not including traffic. How were they going to survive three hours stuck in a car together on the way to Wentzville? Why was he doing this for her? She had abandoned him too. “Which carousel is your luggage on?” A green scarf passed by them as she pointed to number sevent. The few people who had been on her plane were already gathered around it. Henri was not among them. But of course, he wouldn’t be. Sara and Peter waited in stony silence until the carousel shuddered into life a few minutes later. Sara’s red suitcase was the third bag off the plane. She reflected that she had never before retrieved her luggage so promptly as she hoisted it off the spinning carousel. Peter took it from her, commenting only, “You didn’t bring much with you.” “There wasn’t much time,” she explained. The question she was too afraid to ask hung in her throat. How much time did they
have now? On their way out the door, they passed a small pair of green mittens. Peter had chosen a parking spot close to the doors. He put Sara’s two suitcases into the trunk without a word, and they got into the car. He did not open the door for her. They drove in total silence for forty-five minutes. It was maddening. The sun shone so brightly overhead that it was hard to believe it was February. Valentine’s Day had come and gone. Had Peter spent it with someone? Sara couldn’t blame him if he had. After all, she had run away without any notice or explanation. She had spent Valentine’s Day eating alone in some avant-garde restaurant near the Seine where they served wine in glass baby bottles. She had stolen one when she left, just for the excitement. It had made her heart beat a mad staccato beneath her ribs and the pulse splinter in her fingertips. She had felt the same way when Peter had called her name in the airport. God, she had messed things up. “Peter?” Sara asked tentatively. He did not even look at her. She pressed on. What had Dad always said? “No use crying over spilt milk, just wipe up the damn puddle and pour another glass.” She couldn’t run away anymore. “Peter, why did you come?” “I told you, Mallory called me.” “That’s not what I mean and you know it.” She had not meant to get angry. But suddenly she was feeling everything she had run away from in the first place: anger, fear, exhaustion, guilt. She didn’t dare steal a glance at him. Would he stop the car and throw her out if she kept pushing? “I don’t want to have this conversation right now, Sara.” “Well we need to,” the temper shot up through her like a bottle rocket. “I left, Peter, remember? God, weren’t you out of your mind with worry for a little while?” He glared at her in the rearview mirror, but she continued. “What happened to that job offer in Charlotte, Peter? We needed to make too many decisions, and Dad was losing his mind, so I ran away.” “Stop it, Sara.” The speedometer was on 70. It was too late. She was Vesuvius and he was Pompeii, and she could no longer suppress the mushroom cloud of guilt she had
“The Old Man and the Sea” by Emily Quinn 68
been running from for so long. with a mess of tubes in his arms and nose. A mint-green hospital “No note. No explanations. No promises. And the whole time blanket was tucked under his elbows. A bruise showed huge and I was hiding in Paris, flushing money down the drain on French purple through his white hair and wrinkled cheek. His skin was lessons I will never use. I left Mallory and some strange nurse to pale and freckled beneath the wrinkles. Sara sat down on the edge watch Dad lose his mind, and I left you to – I don’t know, go to the of the bed, carefully avoiding the many wires. She set the green devil I guess. And you still pick me up at the airport?” fedora gently on his head and took one of his liver spotted hands Sara was crying now, filled with shame and confusion and in hers. something that felt almost like hope. If only Peter still wanted her. Dad’s eyes fluttered open. “Hello.” He was grinning. His eyes Could there be forgiveness after this anger? were bright and lucid. “What kind of wonderful idiot –” “Hi. Do you know me, Dad?” Sara “Shut up!” said Peter. The speedom- “‘Dying is forgetting everything, asked, eter was on 75. “I’d know my Sara anywhere. When not knowing who you are and not Sara hiccupped. “What?” recognizing anyone you love well did you cut your hair?” “I’m not an idiot, Sara. I’m a banker, a enough to trust what they tell you.’” She put her hand up to the short pretty damn good one.” brown curls to cover the tears that had “That’s not what I –” sprung into her eyes. “A few months ago. Do you like it?” “Dammit, Sara, shut up! I’m so furious with you, I could hit “You always look nice,” he told her, “but maybe I like it better you right now.” long.” The speedometer was on 85. The yellow grass along the road She laughed weakly, “I do too. It took a blink of an eye to cut swayed violently as they sped past. Sara felt herself pressing closer it off, but it takes a long time to grow back.” and closer to the door; she was clutching the handle in her right She stopped for a moment, rubbing his palm softly with her hand. thumb. When Peter spoke again some minutes later, his voice was “Dad listen –” controlled, non-threatening. “Do you know what I went through He gave her hand a weak squeeze, panting slightly with the when you left?” effort. “I –” “I know, Birdie, I know. Don’t waste time apologizing for spilt He swatted a hand at her for silence. Sara flinched and was milk. We’ve got all the time in the world now.” instantly ashamed of herself. Peter would never hit her, no matter “No,” she sniffed, “we don’t. They told me you’re–” she choked how upset he was. She forced herself to let go of the door handle on the word. “They told me you’re dying, Dad.” and turn towards Peter. “They talk too much. Dying is forgetting everything, not The speedometer was on 90. knowing who you are and not recognizing anyone you love well “ I love you,” He said. “We’ve been together for years. How enough to trust what they tell you. God is kind, Sara. He’s taking could you not trust me with all of this?” The rawness of his voice me before I get that bad.” hit Sara like a slap. Sara’s heartbreak took her breath away. She could only man“I didn’t want –” age to whisper, “Dad, I’ve been the most frightful person. I ran “How could you choose running away?” away from everything: from you, from Peter, even from Geoffrey’s The speedometer was on 95. The pine trees whipping past outmustache.” side the window were making Sara feel queasy. “I reckon it must have been hard to hear you were going to “I couldn’t – I can’t explain.” Sara stuttered. lose your old man. But you’ve come home to me now.” A green pickup truck passed them in the left lane. They sat in silence for a few minutes, broken only by the mur“I was wrong,” She whispered, “I’m so sorry.” She felt dizzy mur of Dad’s breath and the subdued chirp of the heart monitor. and leaned over, putting her head between her knees. “Please slow “Did you feel like you were losing her all over again too?” down.” Dad’s eyes fluttered weakly as he spoke, and his voice grew fainter and fainter. Sara’s heart dropped through her like an ice cube as she stood “I’m losing all of you, Daddy. I’m the last of the Starlings.” in front of the sterilized pine of the hospital door. Her hand flut“I guess that’s so. You’ll be all right. You’ll make things right. tered uncertainly at her side. I know my Sara.” “Peter,” she croaked, “would you come in with me?” “I love you, Daddy.” He looked at her like she was crazy. Her words were lost in the flatline scream of the heart moni“I’m scared I’ll run away again.” tor. Nurses poured into the room. Sara squeezed her eyes shut. He took her hand. There was no affectionate squeeze for reasShe was four years old, crouching in the pine straw behind the surance, no firm, protective hold. He clasped her hand loosely, as gardenia bushes. Any minute now, Dad would find her and lift her you might a distant cousin’s hand during Grace at Thanksgiving. out. She felt a tender hand on her shoulder and opened her eyes. Detached, obligatory, eager to let go. It was Peter. The first thing Sara noticed was Dad’s green fedora hanging “Come on,” he said gently. “He’s gone.” on the coat hook by the door. She took it down reverently and Sara took the green fedora from Hal’s head. Cradling it in her walked over to the bed. Peter stayed by the door. Dad lay there arms, she said, “No he’s not.”
I end every night with you. I watch you with your hair pulled back as you wash dishes used without care or thought by faceless customers. The restaurant is quiet except for splashes of water and the soft clattering of plates in the sink. You place the last dripping dish on the rack and focus your tired eyes on me, confident I am different than the careless customers who leave the plates they didn’t clean for you so grease can stick to your hands and harden under your fingernails. But I don’t feel clean or careful. You linger as your white, delicate fingers fidget with the ends of your t-shirt splotched and stained with orange and brown. You wait for me to tell you this last moment alone together is my favorite part of the day. I leave, And take out the trash on my way out.
Ethan Hightower poetry
“Adventure Near Victoria Falls” by Megan Silas 70
1. “Rainy Day” by Emily Quinn 2. “Travel Around the World” by Elizabeth Walker 3. “Earth Art: Yellowstone 3” by Sarah Wright 4. “Force of Nature” by Lydia Gudauskas
A cop, a god, what lies within, A secret agent, Ross’s friend; The bastard slaying Hitler’s men, While aging backwards ‘til the end. Forever looking past my gaze, A glassy screen holds us apart; Each movement sets my loins ablaze, Each sentence penetrates my heart. I know I have the right address, I watch him doing curls and dips; I guess my pictures don’t impress, If only I had bigger lips; But soon we’ll join by blade of knife Together in the afterlife.
Aaron Mattox poetry
1. “Swimming Hole” by Anna Claire Freeman 2. “Through the Gate” by Shelby Rice
If we are a box, darling, you were tape because what’s a box but a flat thing of cardboard, shapeless, sleepy, empty trap to trip on, or trash, all marked up and unsure if paperback books or dishes (fragile) or a jar of someone’s ash was crammed into the nooks of our shadowy, quiet house. Scribbles pool where the marker bled, a silent pile of Without —there is no language for the not-dead, the not-living, the gone of your going, the heave of a cardboard heart, ragged, slowing—
Kiersten Wones poetry
1. “A Long Drive” by Dana Stuckey 2. “Madame” by Christopher Cazalet
Eryn Patton Fashion
Sketch of “Pleated Origami” by Eryn Patton 74
Although she’s a senior majoring in apparel merchandising, Eryn Patton said she loves designing garments. She said those who aspire to design should begin without fear, even with no prior experience. Eryn believes beginning the creative process of gathering inspiration for a design, sketching it, then constructing the garment is all part of the learning process. Eryn personally begins her design process with choosing a theme, collecting pictures for extra inspiration, searching for the right fabrics and patterns, sketching, and finally sewing the garment. Pleated Origami was made for Auburn University’s Runway of the World in April 2012, and Eryn’s theme was the city of Tokyo. Eryn gathered Japanese paintings and illustrations while she was brainstorming ideas for her initial sketch, and she chose fabrics of vintage taffeta and various upholstery fabrics. Eryn’s favorite part of Pleated Origami is the pleating and the hand-tied lace underneath the garment. The skirt was handpinned and is over seven feet long, which added several hours to the 30 hours that went into making Pleated Origami. Eryn’s style icon is Alexa Chung, which translates to her casual, yet put-together personal style similar to J.Crew and Madewell.
“Pleated Origami” on Gina Grayson, photographyed by Missy Haze 75
Memoria Luxury Inspired by the vibrant and bold colors of the peacock, Laura Cobb said she wanted to reflect the many beautiful things in nature. Memoria Luxury is a piece from one of her collections made entirely from sustainable fabrics. Laura said she loves the effortless day-to-night wearability of Memoria Luxury, as well as the intricately made jeans. The jeans are made from used denim pieces. Laura is a senior in apparel design, and she is currently interning at Michael Kors in New York.
Laura Cobb Fashion
â€œMemoria Luxuryâ€? designed by Laura Cobb 76
Transcendent Eminence Transcendent Eminence, which is from the same collection as Memoria Luxury, is made from sustainable fabrics with inspiration gathered from the colored feathers of the peacock. Laura said her favorite part about this look is the detailed hand-beading on the top of the garment, as she purposely placed them to bring attention to the face. Lauraâ€™s two garments from her collection seem to emulate her own personal style, which she said is classic with modern edges, such as bold colors and necklines. Laura draws inspiration from her style icon Audrey Hepburn, and Michael Kors is one of her favorite designers because of his classic, yet modern designs.
Laura Cobb Fashion
â€œTranscendent Eminenceâ€? designed by Laura Cobb 77
A Night on Niles Road
I wait until the light from the last street light sweeps behind us in the rearview before I let Cheryl grab two beers from the cooler. She twists the caps off, careful not to chip her new nails, while I fish two coozies from the center console. The Dodge veers right and the headlights flash onto the mangroves just outside the road’s gravel shoulder. No matter, though, almost no one lives down here. No one to see us swerve. That’s half the reason I came down Niles Road to begin with. The other half is the fun part. “Look at all of them!” Cheryl said. I nod and take a sip of my beer. Whenever it rains down here, since all the islands are at sea level, the land crabs’ burrows get flooded and they take to the roads in droves. Hundreds of them, orange, purple, blue, some as big as dinner plates, scuttling along the pavement. Out on the highway they get smashed into crab salad by tourists blowing through. That’s our game tonight, making crab salad. I give Cheryl a sideways glance. She looks—in her orange skirt and with her fancy fake nails—like a girl trying to impersonate a woman. She looks like she’s trying to impress me. I smile and then push my toe down into the pedal. She points and shouts when she sees a big one and I crank the wheel around and try to run it down. The little buggers are fast, but when we do get one its shell makes a satisfying crunch between the pavement and the tires. We can hear it through the open windows—even over the rumble of the truck, the steady beat of the waves.
Kody Blackwell fiction
We play this game all down the road. Me swerving the truck after crabs, drinking and laughing. Cheryl shrieking and pointing and opening more beers, tossing the empties out the window and into the bed. At one point, I narrowly miss a mailbox shaped like a manatee. We erupt into a fit of laughter, and Cheryl spills her beer all over the truck seat and her skirt. She stops laughing and asks for napkins. I point to the glove box. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she says. “Forget about it,” I say. By now we’ve reached the road’s dead end. I swing the truck left so that we’re pointed out between a gap in the mangroves. We sit in silence, watching the headlights playing off the crests of the waves dancing this way and that in the bay. I finish my beer and grab a third, dropping the empty onto the floor of the cab. Cheryl tilts the center console back and scoots next to me, laying her head on my shoulder. “Thanks for inviting me,” she says. I put my arm around her and my other hand on her thigh. The spot where she spilled the beer is still cool. She reaches over and toys with the gold ring on my finger. Twisting it around and around and finally off. I pull her closer and press my lips against hers. She puts the ring in the ashtray and reaches up to run her fingers through my hair. We’re kissing when Cheryl makes a sort of humming noise and pulls away. “What’s the matter?” I ask. She looks out the back window. “No, nothing,” she says, “I
thought I saw a car coming is all.” Sure enough, around the bend down the road, a light is getting brighter. I turn the truck around and head back up the road just before the car comes around the corner. When it does, my headlights hit it broadside: a white car with a green stripe, gold star, and the words Sheriff –Monroe County emblazoned on the side. “Shit,” says Cheryl, “shit, shit, shit.” I drive on, hands at ten and two on the wheel. “It’s cool,” I say. “We’re fine.” Just then the lights on top of the car explode blue and red. No sirens. I ease the truck onto the gravel shoulder. “Try to hide the beer, okay?” I say. “Cheryl?” I look over to find her gasping for breath and freaking out, trying to open the passenger door. I push and hold the lock button on my door. “Cheryl, hey! It’s fine,” I say, reassuring her and myself. “No,” she says, talking fast, “it’s not fine. I lied to my parents and I’m not going to get back and I’m not old enough to be drinking and you’re driving and we’re about to be arrested and...” I suppress a laugh. She doesn’t even live here. Everybody in town come Monday will know I got picked up for a DUI. She lied to her parents? Does she think my wife knows where I am? The officer is at my window. “Sir,” he says, flashlight glinting off the brown bottle between Cheryl’s knees, “could you step out of the vehicle for me?”
“Drift” by Andrew Whited 79
1. “Where the Buffalo Roam” by Maggie Compton 2. “Fawn” by Anna Claire Freeman
How to Submit to the Auburn Circle
At the beginning of each semester, the Auburn Circle takes submissions for that semester’s publication. Submissions include art, interior design, graphic design, poetry, photography, fiction, non-fiction, fashion, architecture, and any other documentable literary or art form. In order to submit a work, interested artists should fill out a waiver. Waivers are available from our office in the Student Publications Suite or downloadable from www. auburn.edu/circle. Each submission must include a waiver Please visit our website www.auburn.edu/circle or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Follow us: facebook.com/theauburncircle twitter.com/AuburnCircle
“Tiger Eye” by Babs Benesh
â€œRead, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.â€? - Christopher Morley