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STYLUS Fall 2012


STYLUS Volume 128, Number 1, Fall 2012. Founded in 1882. Undergraduate members of the University are invited to submit original works of poetry, prose, and art. Direct correspondence to: Stylus, Room 129, McElroy Commons, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467 or bcstylus@gmail.com. Works under review remain anonymous. Copyright YEAR Stylus Editorial Board, YEAR-YEAR. All rights reserved.


Bostonese Praise Cheesus! Election’s Over Despite the bad Eek!-onomy, Mittens—once the star of beloved Disney film Aristocats— was unable to squeak out a win over our current Commanderin-Cheese. Both cats promised Stylus to cut taxes, legalize medical catnip, and capture or kill the remaining Al-Queso leadership which had taken up residence in the Stylus office. Following his victory speech, the President was whiskered away by the Secret Service. stylus stickers!!! i was reallyreally good this year in class and my arts and crafts teacher gave me 500 stickers and they are bright blue and say stylus on them and i gave one to my mommy and one to my daddy and i

put one on my fridgerator but mommy said stickers can’t go on the fridgerator Stylus Editor Wins Gold in London Gary Newcomer, Swedish liaison to Stylus, takes gold in archery. After winning, he denounced the wearing of mullets by the 1980s Glamrockers of Canada, adding, “There. I said it.” Newcomer beat out the veterans Legolas of Middle Earth and Katniss Everdeen of the Post-Apocalyptic United States of America. Sadly, due to the passing of Dear Leader, the archery team of the glorious DPRK was unable to medal and has not been seen since.

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STYLUS Volume CXXVIII Bostonese

Fall, 2012

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Number 1 Staff

Verse The Horses Oh Joyce: He is Trying Too Hard, And Besides, He is Quite Pretnetious Package Deal A Quartet Written Upon Reading Eliot’s Four Quartets We: Folk Medicine The Summer Recluse Fishing Out to Pasture Finding an empty shotgun shell in the snow, I remember myself at age 9 I was in America Mr. Smith and I The General Let Me Be Revolutionary Quartet While I Was Away Creation The Calm Before the Storm Night Fall Leaves Phone all behind Allston’s Western Union

10 12

Helen Spica Jordan Dorney

23 24

Erin Hall Paul Boboc

29 31 37 39 40 51

Patrick Reynolds Bailey Spencer Chris Criswell Townshend Peters Caroline O’Connor Helen Spica

52 56 57 62 65 78 79 80

Patrick Reynolds Jordan Dorney Jeremy Fisher Chris Criswell Michael Kadow Marie McGrath Bailey Spencer Jae Won Shin

90 92 94

Caroline O’Connor Matthew Mazzari Patrick Reynolds


Monday Morning The Blind A wicker basket of apples in Moscow Untitled Night Dances Since I Can’t Be Socrates

96 105 106

Townshend Peters Helen Spica Katie Fuccillo

107 109 110

Christine Zhao Bailey Spencer Jordan Dorney

Prose The Middle of Here The Brief Case of a Muskrat John, King of the World The White Space Purple Moon Red Creek: Part I Gretchen Ladybug

16 32

Sophia Gorgens Kylie Rolincik

42 58 70

David Kunkel Corinne Sullivan Lauren Audi

83 97

Michael Natalie Sophia Gorgens


Art Smile Untitled The Romantic Egotist Concentration Crane 3 Dispatch, Call It In Paramour Rigid Anglerfish The Garden Plaster 4 Untitled Lady of the Elements Untitled Above all, don’t lie to yourself Sleepless Concentration Ax 2 Inside a Chaotic Mind Harsh Lessons Monet Pain and Lonliness in Abuse Facing Children Summer’s End

Cover 11 15 20 26 30 34 38 45 50 55 60 64 69

Helen Zhang Jing Zhang Patty Owens Sarah Webber Richard Seitz Robin Kim Serena Entzary Christine Boss Brooke Von Der Ahe Sarah Ahe Bud O’Hara Leslie Snapper Jing Zhang Christine Boss

74 77 82 87 93 99

Christine Boss Sarah Webber Adrian Tatro Richard Seitz Emily Gilligan Leslie Snapper

104 108

Robin Kim Robin Kim


The Horses They came to us as thunder and the mist of hot breath against morning in a northern fall, as we knelt in the pasture, digging for worms. They came to us as titans rising, the arms of an earthquake, when our palms were full of the earth and worms for our fishing hooks, feet bare against the last September warmth. There was nothing to do but let them come, as the fire of forsythia bursting against the pasture fence, and that lonesome trill of the loon, looking for something he has lost in the far shine and hard black of the water. We were rocks with moss on our backs and dirt on our bellies, fading gold from summer, our milky browns turning dry. Children hoping for pumpkin seeds and panfish, crouching between the good legs of horses, knotted knees and stringy sassafras skin muscle running for the cover of wood, where the pages of sycamore leaf have rolled themselves into scrolls. Helen Spica

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Jing Zhang

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Oh Joyce: He is Trying Too Hard, And Besides, He is Quite Pretentious I love you, Nora Barnacle: can I tell you that? Though I’ve only been to Galway once and besides, your house was boarded up and besides, you were… Well, I haven’t gotten quite so far in your history, in his, so you might be anything at all. I love you because you asked him— of all men you asked him— Is this your ibsen in the paper. You might have asked a wayward priest, if he wasn’t such a thing already, Is this your hairy jaysus in the window of the church here or up upon the stage in the little tin can you might as well have asked. Nora, do you know, my tide-rose, my sea-bloom, I once thought— though it is far too soon for ‘once thought’ and ‘now think’— I shall have a companion Eve to my Adam or I shall love altogether above my rank the red Madame de Pompadour or I shall be ironic husband to chamber pot Xanthippe. Let wife-dreams pickle and turn.

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I imagine that I may not find such an auburn head as yours empty seeming as the wide vinegar sea and as ready for the harvest and as worthy of a song. My streets are not your streets nor my ways your ways. I couldn’t call to you as you clung to dear dirty dublin or write you if you fail to show at our appointed time but I would Tremble as the night is passing by and wonder where you wander to and whisper lusting curses in the general direction of your hotel. I would know you are too simple for such things, my sweet, artless Nora, and fear and hope with infant hope I am as well. And so I love you, Nora Barnacle, or I would if I could win you out. But I shall be no gilded gelder, he no simpleminded Jim. And besides, I am too young for you now. I’m older than he was, I know, don’t I know it, but it’s so much longer now from lack of use than that old three score and ten: I’ve had but one house two parents breathing and kind four friends and an artless, well, and unhungry life.

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A friend of mine, oh secret, with nearly auburn hair, she has just asked me Who is homer. Rejoice, oh Nora Joyce, rejoice rejoice rejoice. Jordan Dorney

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The Romantic Egotist

Patty Owens

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The Middle of Here Sophia Gorgens

I can hear the ticking, persistent and sharp as the crack of a gun in the silent street. But the weird thing is—the street is silent. Absolutely still, deserted but for the eyes. Watching, watching eyes. There’s no ticking, and I know that, but cartoons and movies and comics have taught me that a bomb ticks. So this one is silently ticking away, but I can hear it all the same, and that’s what counts. I’m not a crazy person. I just—I feel the tug of the tide, you know? That thing that drags everyone down. And people pretend it doesn’t. Smile, wave, melt into oblivion. They just all have their American Dreams slipped snugly in their pockets, don’t they? Right alongside the pills, round blues and tablet greens, that they swallow daily with a dose of dissemblance. So I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t care much for the way people overplay everything. I don’t care much for this culture where everything always has to be so damn wonderful and everything everyone ever does has to be so damn great and medals are given to every damn participant in soccer tournaments so some ten year old kid doesn’t go home and blow his own brains out. Imagine, then, standing in front of a bomb in goddamn Afghanistan wondering where the hell my goddamn medal for this is and hearing that infamous voice telling Al Pacino “Tic-tock Doc, tic-tock.” Al Pacino. What a guy. Except—he was acting. And—I guess I’m in Iraq now, not Afghanistan, but my mind’s not really made heads or tails of all that yet seeing as I fell asleep in Afghanistan but woke up early enough to catch the flight to the friendly neighborhood just to the west where breakfast is the same as it had been every day over a thousand miles back that way. But I’m not supposed to think of that too much. Thinking’s not good for the constitution. That’s what my old Sergeant used to say. Only, he’s dead now, so I guess he wasn’t much for following his own advice. It’s my third rotation out, which Jim would say means I’m taking the old Sergeant’s advice a bit too much to heart. Jim’s a high school buddy of mine—known him for about as long as I can remember. Not a bad guy, but he always was a damn pussy when it came to just about anything. Dropped out after the first rotation. Said 16


he’d done his duty to Uncle Sam, had a kid on the way, a beautiful girlfriend, and a hometown that was real proud of him, real proud. They said, come home Jim. They said, war veteran. They said, hero. No one ever said that to me. That never really got to me, though, even if we were from the same hometown. But I didn’t speak to him after that. Not because I hate or envy him, because I don’t. Just—he’s not here anymore. He’s not in Afghanistan. He’s not in Iraq. He’s home, probably married by now with two or three kids. That’s all. Bombs require a lot of patience. I guess they’re like little kids in that way, like Jim’s little kids, probably. Sweet and beautiful to look at, but they’re just waiting, aren’t they? The tantrum is bubbling somewhere inside, waiting to explode at just the right moment. Catch you at your most vulnerable, right when your hands are full and comforting a screaming, kicking child is utterly impossible. Right when people throng the street and cars move along sedately in the afternoon traffic. And then the pieces are suddenly everywhere, painting such a goddamn bloody picture that the fragments of memory cling to your dreams, dig themselves in with sharp barbs, piercing their way into nightmares and sudden onslaughts of posttraumatic stress disorder that the good doctors back in the States can’t understand and don’t care to treat until they’ve seen their paycheck and even then only with a falsely patient smile weighed down by the overstated weariness of their own lives. But that’s not me. At least, not yet. I just know that bombs require patience, and I give it to them. It doesn’t always work— sometimes my children become a little cranky anyway. Shrapnel in my leg, but that didn’t put me out for long. Concussion, once or twice. Two broken fingers just three months ago, but it was the small fingers and on my left hand anyway. I begin to untangle the two wires connected to the explosive. One should lead me to the receiver, if I’m lucky. The other one’s probably connected to a second explosive. Maybe a third or fourth. Beautiful daisy chain. I got a letter from my mother today. It was postmarked some three weeks earlier. A mixture of middle-of-nowhere Alabama combined with middle-of-nowhere Afghanistan and then forwarded to my new address in middle-of-nowhere Iraq. Funny how quickly it 17


found me in Iraq, though. Haven’t even been here a full day. Guess everyone in HQ except for me heard about my change of address. Dear Thomas, the letter read. Greetings from Alabama! Dear Thomas, the letter read. We miss you. And—Your dad’s got the flu, but Mrs. Huess from two doors down made us a wonderful apple cobbler, you know the one she brings over every Fourth of July. The letters on the page were scratchy and faded. Mom was probably using that old pen of hers, the one she’d gotten for free at a church event once and which said “Praise be to Jesus” on the side. I’d told her to throw it away ages ago—frankly, I was surprised it hadn’t run out of ink before this. And—Speaking of which, you never did tell me when your rotation will be over. I hope you’ll make it home in time for the summer. Mr. Callaway is in charge of the fireworks display this year and he was going around from door to door just last week taking up a collection. I’m sure it’ll be spectacular. She used to ask about how things were over here. If I’d met any nice girls, how my Afghanish was going, how the boys in my troop were. The girls were all very nice, I assured her. I’d only had to shoot one so far, because she was holding what looked like a detonator but turned out to be a fig. Afghanish wasn’t a real language, I wrote, and neither was Dari or Pashto, come to that, but people were pretty good about picking up English here. Especially soap bar words, as my mom liked to call them, seeing as she always made me rinse my mouth when she caught me saying them. I even included one or two in my letter, just so she knew what I meant. And my troop was better than Boy Scouts, I told her. A triggerhappy lot, me included, and we all loved the guns and bombs and Humvees, but we sure did miss selling popcorn from door to door. After that, she stopped asking. At home, too, whenever I did visit. Said my letters were too sarcastic. My stories were too gruesome. Gritty, bloody, dark. I’ve never really noticed. Dad just always scowled. By now, I’ve got the wires straightened out. I’ve even cleared the rubble from around the first three flowers in my daisy chain. Heavy shit, too, judging from their gallon-sized containers. Could 18


blow half this street to kingdom come, but I doubt anyone would even notice the difference. These damn people would probably just shrug and assume it’s a new pothole. At least I’ve come to the end of the chain on one side. So now it’s time to follow wire number two, since this is a radio-controlled IED. Means I have to find the receiver, which is probably hooked up to a few more homemade and lovingly packed explosives. Like my mom used to pack my lunch. Sandwich, apple, bag of chips, and a nice mixture of explosives from anti-tank mines, all cozied up in a tin box with a picture of Superman on it. Sweat’s trickling down my chin, running right down the middle because I have a cleft chin, a neat little slash that dad’s always been real proud of. It’s like a rain gutter for all my sweat, sweeping the salty grime away to fall onto the collar of my shirt. I still feel like I’m suffocating in the bomb suit though. One of those heavily padded suits that weighs about a ton and can’t stop an explosion, no way. I’d be dead, sure as anything, if this thing went off. Little bits of Thomas, scattered in the Afghan sky—lovely, almost. Only, I’m in Iraq now. But to me, the sky looks the same even in Alabama. My senior year of high school, I was with a girl. Her name was LeeAnne, and she had a dimple smile and mop of curly blonde hair. Good at school, too, I guess. Better than me, anyway. We went on a few dates together, and she always used to hold my hand when we walked somewhere. Rested her head on my shoulder, told me I had sky-blue eyes and bashful lips. After we graduated, she wanted to run away with me. To California, or maybe New York. Somehow, though, I just never got around to it. She even stayed with me when I went on my first rotation to Afghanistan, but I didn’t stay with her. Broke up with her in a letter that was three lines long. I wasn’t being a coward, though that’s what she thought. I just didn’t want to talk to her. Or be with her, I guess. I don’t know. I wasn’t in the mood. Jim wasn’t very supportive. Maybe that’s what helped him decide to stay home finally. Fear of—me. Becoming me, at least. But he says he’s no coward, either. It’s what everyone says, and not even I can tell if they’re telling the truth. If he is. If I am. The wire clippers are in my right hand, and I’ve found the little bugger. All I have to do now is clip the wires. I know exactly which 19


Concentration Crane 3

Sarah Webber

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ones. That’s what I’ve been trained for, after all. The receiver is staring up at me soulfully from the pale palm of my left hand. The sinister hand, if I learned anything from four years of Latin class. Which I didn’t. Not really, anyway. It would be so easy, wouldn’t it? To call the all-clear and wait as over three hundred soldiers slowly trickled back into the street. I could set it off—even without the remote trigger in hand, I know how. But maybe I wouldn’t have to. Maybe someone was still watching, waiting for the right moment to set it off himself. Waiting for me to make a mistake. Some goddamn sand monkey. Maybe I’d kill him, too, if I detonated. It would be spectacular, just like Mr. Callaway’s fireworks. Thigh-slapping, roar-ripping fun for the whole family. Bright lights and sounds that go bang. Screams echoing down the torn up streets like the laughter of kids back home as they ran squealing and giggling along the stands selling cotton candy, glow sticks, giant Scooby Doo balloons, and cheap little American flags stuck on popsicle sticks. And I’d be gone, too, but I never saw that as a real loss. Apart from Mom and Dad and maybe some residual, lukewarm muffled sobs from LeeAnne or Jim, no one would mind. And at least all the neighbors would come over to comfort them, Alabama being what it is. An apple cobbler from Mrs. Huess. A casserole from the pastor. Green beans and chicken from Mr. and Mrs. Besk. And such. I wonder how Timothy McVeigh felt just before the Oklahoma City bombing. My hands hover over the charges, left so trustingly in my care. Or not. They’re all just afraid, didn’t want to do it themselves. Didn’t want to crouch next to a bomb which could be set off by just about anyone, from the woman with the fig to the boy playing around too vigorously with his remote-control toy car. Two reasons I won’t make it to heaven, anyway. But—I have no great desire to die today. At least, not really. The clippers cut deftly under my direction. They slice the wires without fraying them. Clean, beautiful. The inaudible ticking has finally stopped, and the silence is complete. I let out my breath—slowly, evenly. Once I’m sure that the bomb is disarmed, I call in the all-clear, wondering how I’d say that in Afganish. Only, I guess it’s Iraqish now. I toy with the receiver for a moment. So small and yet so powerful. But not anymore. I toss it aside and slowly straighten up. 21


Maybe another day I will. Or I won’t, and the fig will. The toy car, the tea vendor, the pile of rubble, the hidden wires, the dust in my eyes, the lunch box with Superman on it, the suicide bomber, the can of beans, the daisy chain. And such.

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Package Deal Her mind is now empty wooden shelves forced against white-washed walls— but yesterday, a molding tomb housed memories of a black man in an army tank, buzz cut, and firing arms. Dead men’s bones within her skin, a scent she cannot wash out or disengage from because love was made beneath the barracks on a soldier’s irresistible cot. But one man’s brute strength does not guarantee comfort: not a package deal, no two for the price of one. His penis was gone before she knew that Beirut would not be bombed, and that the package deal would be her life and not the lives of children sleeping beside her ravaged body. Now, a coat of grainy dust has fallen, and her mind’s wooden shelves reason that death is nothing but an entrance to colored legends, of Promised Land milk and honey; where Israel’s children have finally traded stale manna for phallic figs. Erin Hall

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A Quartet Written Upon Reading Eliot’s Four Quartets “This soup tastes like windows” ― Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera 1. Infernal Preparation I am afraid, I said. I doubt. Time present and time future Are both perhaps time past, And maybe tomorrow’s penitential fast Was last Wednesday’s flavorful repast, That wounded strawberry jam that did taste of bloody saliva, And for dessert that sweet and fat godiva That nearly made seventeen of my teeth fall out. Time future and time present, Extending like a gardenia in spherical cones Within and without, redeems nothing, pities no soul, For the awful commiseration of the Universal engine Prides itself on non-commitment to moribund woes. Such were my words last night, when in a moment Of infinite despair, beneath a willow tree— Whose roots fed on the bones of the flesh Of the dead of heavy days long since betid On breathing lung and conjuntified eyelid— Full fathom five thy father lies, Of his bones are we all made— I wept against the bark, My heart beating thirty-three miles a plank constant, The tachychardia of anxious resistance against inexorable annihilation Beneath the parabola of the willow tree’s sere-drained leaves Bereft of life and half-bedrenched by cancerous jaundice, Which I became. 2. Song of the Ice Maiden. We shall try, and we shall try, 24


We shall strive to run the race, We’ll get by, yes, we’ll get by, Each at a personal pace. Breath nor bone cannot depose The tributary of the Rose. It came to you eating a wing, Drunk with a lotus from the Pierian Spring. God is Merciful: ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim. Let go, let go, let stillness reign In your soul’s domain; No thought, no sense, no feeling, none; Commune with things, and count them one; Knowing nor this nor that. Take off your dirty hat. Breath nor bone cannot depose The tributary of the Rose. Breath and fire cannot abjure The void of stillness, and its cure Will find you out, shall pierce your heart And rearrange your fever-chart. Anathematized dim abyss! Rivers of ice on rivers of fire! Iago shall become your squire: I’ll tame him with the melody of a sacred lyre, And Desdemona will owe you a kiss. 3. War. I invoke the spirit of Stratfordian Shakspeere, son of a glover, father of a dead son, To circumvent the sacred laws And induct me into the podium of those whose clause 25


Dispatch, Call It In

Richard Seitz 26


Can name the nature of things, like doves from daws. Blessed the one who can name the name of things With beauty, sans cruel spite, from the vantage point of the high arch Discerning elements and similitudes, How the oak and the almond are one, how camphor makes smells sweet, How oregano and vegeta make food good, Cowslips and camellias and carnations lovely where the countryside cries, cries, cries in the solitude of forgetfulness, denied by men, forgotten, despised; How light matter and dark matter are twined like petals on a stalk, How a laudatory remark at four makes one a saint. Cursed the one who reaps division in unison, Cursed the one whose long words sound worse than German philosophical terms, Like Wille Zur Macht and other ideologies of similarly in auspicious lineage Birthed by the same whore, Madame N, mistress of the shades of Darkness. Cursed the one who thinks he’s Kant but is really the off spring of Caiaphas. Cursed, cursed they, cursed they, strutting like cocks with roguish smirks In a mushroom field more hazy than London in April, Messaging the guy across with an old Android 4 G. Cursed be he. 4. Epilogue. The voice said God hears all things, and the Self endures. So she said. I walked across the edge of doom, and the stillness wept. The stillness said, now, now, the time is now, The time is now. There is no tomorrow. Every tomorrow is now. Now is eternal, 27


Now is then, now is evermore. Go now, go, Go down the sacred path, the beckoning bridge. She said to you, Don’t read. Plato and Shakespeare were wise, But they erred. They were men. Go now. Where? Within. How? You’ll know. No. You will. How? Listen. How? How? Peace. With? All. How? Well? Dissolve the self. How? How? How? There are many nice people in the world, with angel wings, And purple shining crown auras enrobing them. The angel will guide you. Hasten. No. Hamlet is my guide: the readiness is all. But how shall the readiness be known Before the sepulcher of stone and bone? Paul Boboc

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We: Wander lustful kids around the city, down the river, onward, onward, and our feet peel and ache, so we sway, sway— a sway that runs lazy through bloody meat muscles— when we talk our game and ellipsis into Indonesian, Persian, Parisian hearts. We sway; we, lustful kids wander. Patrick Reynolds

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Paramour

Robin Kim

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Folk Medicine Maybe there’s a backyard cure, or so you say while I cry over a shoebox full of orange bottles Saturday night. Next morning, the kitchen table is forest floor: jimson weed and black morels, berry caviar, and you’re frying bluegill in bacon grease. If you really want something to happen, Grandma used to say, write it on birch bark with ash from the fire, put it in your underwear drawer, and forget about it. I think it’s too late. I think I don’t believe in north-woods witchcraft. You brew shaman tea I can’t turn down, we pack our cheeks with smoked venison like tobacco, and wait for the healing to start. Bailey Spencer

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The Brief Case of a Muskrat Kylie Rolincik

The muskrat sold cologne from door to door. He had a vague sense of hope for the day his black briefcase full of bottles would cease to rattle and leak. He walked from hole to hole, tree to tree, swamp to swamp, home to home. The skunk flicked him a pity scent. The chipmunk despised “such worldly vanities.” One whiff—the ancient frog croaked on the spot. The dog ACHOOed his bone. The cat preferred purrfume. The muskrat was hard-pressed to move his pungent inventory. He felt helpless and lonely, he felt frivolous. Not to mention, he could never rid himself of the musk—an invisible, clinging reminder of his inadequacy. He did manage to sell a few bottles—two to a deaf snake who mistook the ovular amber bottles for eggs, and one to a ferret, god only knows why. How else could the muskrat have afforded that fedora of his? True, his deceased father had left him a little bit of money, but that had been years ago. He had been young and reckless with everything including money. He had thought so little of adulthood—little in terms of both value and degree of contemplation. With the trickles of money the muskrat had collected from confused snakes and shifty ferrets, he barely had enough to eat, yet, strange as it is, purchased a magenta fedora. Imported from Europe and “particularly vogue,” as the badger running the boutique put it. The muskrat had watched that hat religiously, as it perched on a twig in the window of a shop named “Baby’s Breath,” at a jaunty angle, almost bowing “hello.” Every day but Sunday he would scurry out to sell smells, to promise individuals a rare, exotic satisfaction, explaining quality and beauty. Few were convinced, the muskrat included, and even fewer listened. But that hat in the spotless square window always dipped slightly, “hello;” it was neither ecstatic nor reluctant, just a “hello.” For the number of conversations the muskrat met with each day— if you can call a falsely eager spokesman frequently slapped with disdain ranging from silent to physical a conversation—he rarely experienced a “hello.” He couldn’t remember the last time someone approached him, 32


greeted him, and wanted him and his attention. His heart was a steely watch without springs—he read it for emotion as frequently as he read it for time. And who reads a broken watch for time? He had stopped looking at himself at all. If the strangers he met every day didn’t want to look him in the eyes, why should he want to look himself in the eyes? “Hello,” he had gingerly begun to reply when passing the visually dynamic arrangement of dresses and jewelry and that bright, pleasant fedora. He scraped together enough money to merit an in-store greeting and a breathless caress. When was the last time he involuntarily held his breath? The muskrat gave the slightest smile. True, he smiled all day long with potential customers, but that smile was like smudged carnival face paint. It was full of an alienating effort that meant nothing to anyone. This hat had come to define the inside of the muskrat’s head, and his thoughts flared into a psychedelic worship. The magenta color was like a stunning commitment to excess, and the hollow space, a blockade that cradled falling cannons above stoic blades of grass. The rim blossomed like a single pedal whose fortune was guaranteed—“She loves me.” Courted by the wit of dreams, the muskrat forgave the brashness of his infatuation and married it to his existence. His future wore precisely such a hat as this. He exited the shop, and scurried down the street. He scurried up the street. “Hello.” He entered the shop. “How much is this hat?” The badger working in the boutique looked up with a plaster grin, and ran her heavily made-up eyes over the disheveled rodent, “Just one moment, please. I’ll be right with you!” She was doing paperwork. The muskrat strangled his briefcase handle, massaging sweat into the cheap, black plastic. He stared at a framed certificate on the wall, seeing only the gold medallion in the lower right corner. It looked like foil—pliable, tear able. He turned to the mirror-faced display counters dripping crystal bangles, broaches that wore gems like smaller broaches and soft pink chokers studded with diamonds. Spilled across the icy surface, these items bred twin treasures, and it looked like twice the opulence of truth. “What can I help you with?” said the badger, fluffing the fur at the base of her ears. “Oh, well, I was interested in this hat.” 33


Rigid

Serena Entezary

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“A very nice hat. Imported from Europe!” “Ah, yes.” The muskrat coughed into his sleeve and looked at the glittering sea of jewelry. “This hat,” exclaimed the badger, “is particularly vogue!” She bustled over to the window display and lifted the hat by the rim as though it were a glass-boned baby. “Here we are. Truly a magnificent piece!” The muskrat had never seen the hat disengaged, floating, waiting; always there had been the twig and the jaunty angle. “I just adore this one!” encouraged the badger, beaming to near hilarity like a toddler birthday girl with a glowing, pink cake at hand. The muskrat imagined the badger smashing her face into a fabulously ornate baked good. He smiled and offered, “Yes, it’s very nice.” “Would you like to try it?” The muskrat unclenched his right paw to counter the tense vibrations of his heart. “Could I?” The badger jubilantly shrieked, “Of course!” and wobbled further into the shimmering shop. “Just follow me to the back!” The muskrat followed with little brisk steps, smothered by the badger’s invisible exhaust of floral fragrance. “And you can go ahead and use this mirror to see how you like it!” she burst, both hands still cradling the hat; she tilted her head towards the oblong full-length glass framing the muskrat but too narrow for the width of his briefcase. He placed the leaky suitcase off to his right, though the mirror took it for left. Bracelets tinkled on the badger’s wrist in motion as she placed the magenta fedora on the muskrat’s skull. “There we are!” she declared. The muskrat smiled because a portion of his head was foreign to himself. “I’ll buy it.” =Every day but Sunday, the muskrat scurries out to sell smells. “Baby’s Breath” booms with business, and its spotless square window displays a spread of objects that speak the languages of drape and gleam—a stuffy, closed society of gems with their chins up. Waiting in lines to ride the neighing, plaster merry-go-rounds of a neck or waist, they are pretty and dumb and selfish and droll. There are no more hats. The muskrat hasn’t received a “hello” since his skull first slept in the shadows of that friendly fabric. The magenta fedora is a visual 35


trigger of imaginative processes, true, but it never promised to be anything of an osmotic conversationalist. So it seems, everything can cease to be as it is. This means the Muskrat might still prevail. Give it time. But, for now, that magenta fedora at least squashes his ears, which muffles the smelly rattle of days.

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The Summer Recluse Everything in this room is blue. Clean-shaven wake-up, unravel blinds and shotgun wedding bells of a brunt sky—the joy, the hushed gestures, of waspy summer days calls and is gone, and the ocean of sweaty philosophizing, when irises dive and sink in the cranky patio mist, and the gazes therein table-tennis with the sultry cubes of ice and fall down your lashes into your stuttering drink, moans. The garbled blanket paints pictures over straw iris walls between us as we sit, a date only half blind, and over my shaking legs it sweeps up that ocean horizon of photogenic ash, caught up in its own ancient longing. I stand to the floor and weep and scratch out the dream. There will be no winter to me, and my sunburned mind will take care of the rest, those rested days piled into my lawn-chair hair, the blueness of a room that is a photogenic life. Chris Chriswell

37


Anglerfish

Christine Boss

38


Fishing Day-blink and I’m dead in the water. Trammel nets spill ferric mica and sun-flecks of pink and green in a grey flood, so I suppose not tonight. Later, throw one in a black pan with a stick of butter and call it dinner. Keep the heat high to burn off the silver jacket, otherwise it will taste like tin foil and tobacco. Either way, just ask Jack for some of that old burn and it’ll near taste the same. Tomorrow will rise with coal wind and red ox-eyes so be sure to keep hand over fist and nose to north. If the water’s too cold for cooking, use some iron as flint and fishhooks to catch the flame. Two flashes of red and I’m hauling wind back. Townshend Peters

39


Out to Pasture Stop strangling me with the flower stems! How does the grass stay so green when all the meaning’s been wrung out of it? I expect it to crunch as I step from the lawn into the pen where you heavily guide my hand to the cow’s fur and drag it up and down and tell me that’s how I’ll learn life, the whole thing. And don’t hold me to the ground, so I’ll sniff the fresh picked apple because it smells like nothing! When you put the sun in front of the magnifying glass all it does is burn, and there’s no air in this place! And all the while you’re prodding me towards the flowerbeds as if they still have something to tell. Roses are red violets are blue. And then you haul me inside the house to the dining room where you bind me with cords to the straight backed chair in the center and push me back, a forced fall into the words of the Greeks, the Russians, the Chinese, the Americans, the whole food court. And I’m drowning in the pit, snatching at familiar names and faces and phrases Hemingwhere, Stoytol, sound it out, recall, reckon but I get nothing, what had I been doing in class?

There I am, extending a leg at the hip to reach the pen I’ve dropped and with the edge of my shoe I roll it back over the rubber tiling before sinking to meet it at the metal chair leg. I’m thinking about lunch.

40


That’s enough. I wrench out of the chair slam the screen door behind me and take off through the still-life grasses and over the white picket fence that you put up to contain me and run for the city, the more grey-steamy the better. If I could climb down the potholes I would— I bet even the rats could tell me more than the cow— but instead I’ll march onto a city bus and huddle innocuously by the window as the smoke spit sweat diet cola cans and dirty backpacks engulf me and I breathe it in indiscriminately.   Caroline O’Connor

41


John, King of the World Daviid Kunkel

The way John tells it, she was the one waiting for him. Both of them knew full well that the rest of us hadn’t even woken up by then, but he’d beaten the sunrise, she’d felt him coming, and then she’d sat by her window, staring east as she brushed her hair and pined. It was all very romantic. When they found each other equally prepared, both feigned surprise, she said goodbye to her parents, and they lowered into his car without so much as a stutter. “We’re going to be early,” she must’ve said as they drove, and he must’ve said something like, “The earlier the better.” For the remainder of the ride, I imagine they were silent as they second-guessed their foray into the A.M., wondering if their respective libidos would even function before they ate their pop-tarts or drank their coffee. Luckily, the South in the morning fills any gaps without the least bit of trouble. On weekends like this, our city’s completely quiet, as if defying any disturbance, and the new sunlight seems different, softer but also glimmering. The streets all slope down to the river in the middle. The wavy sidewalks are like dunes, and it’s hard not to drive with a measure of deliriousness. Maybe it’s the calm inherent to the morning that does it. Maybe something really is different then, and maybe that’s what we’d all been missing for the past eighteen years. Either way, John and Ellen probably found their eyes working more than the rest of their organs, and who could blame them? The parking lot they chose was far from ideal. Anywhere in the morning lacks the shade for what John (and Ellen, I suppose) was hoping for, but this could hardly have served them worse. John parked under the train tracks, hoping for a measure of discretion, but before long they noticed that almost everyone wanted to park in the shade of the overhang and the spaces were crammed close together. Runners started to return from sunrise jogs. Families showed up with children in floaties. Campers arrived. John, though, decided not to let any of that stop him. He leaned straight over and kissed her, and after that he grabbed her shirt and felt her breasts and pulled down her shorts. He loved that feeling of the inside of cloth and almost even got her shirt off before she stopped him, but just when he thought he might end up so relaxed he wouldn’t even be able to go swimming, she moved his hands away and made him put his pants back on before they’d ever come off. 42


“Oh, come on,” he said (probably). “You come on. There’s little kids everywhere.” “This might be our last day together,” he said, and tried again. She must’ve been pretty adamant. “If we’re going to break up, we might as well just break up,” she said, and that was that. But that wasn’t that, not entirely, because one way or another, John managed to get something out of her, because he told me when we all got there that later if I looked around and he and Ellen were gone, I could look in the bushes and I’d be sure to find her with her lips around him. The last day thing, he said, it works like a charm. I’d never tried it, I told him, but at least I’d woken up at noon. At that point, I still had a week left. Addington started way after all the local colleges, and the year before, that last week had stretched on so long that I’d wondered if I should’ve gone to State. If I hadn’t filed my work leave already, I could’ve gone to the theater and seen whatever I wanted for free, cycling in and out until I’d sat in all the shows for at least an hour, getting free popcorn from Michael since he was the only one who didn’t care if he got fired. But of course I hadn’t thought that far ahead, which meant after today I was looking at seven solid days of video games and masturbation. Kidding. But you never know. The river had been John’s idea. John tended to have the ideas, and even though none of us had seen much of each other this summer, whenever we did get together, his picture would be the one popping up on my phone, his the voice saying, “You know what I heard, Pete? That you’re home right now, bored as shit, and that I’m at a crazy party and can’t snort all this coke without you.” John and I had the same sense of humor. Our whole group had managed to stay out of the “fucked-up by college” clique, which was nice, because it seemed much less exclusive now that I’d actually met a few members myself. We probably would’ve seen each other all the time if I didn’t live so far away. Our whole group: me, John G, Ellen, Andy, Paul, Henry, and Irene. Some days, John A, Ferrell, Harriet and Anna. It varied, but that was the general makeup, although none of us bothered much with each other when we weren’t at home. But the river. John had called the night before, asking me to come down that morning and meet him for one last hurrah before we all returned to real fake life. I couldn’t turn him down. Lots of people were going, and the day was supposed to be beautiful. He knew I 43


wasn’t very outdoorsy. I could make an exception. Pulling into the parking lot at one, I drove in circles looking for a spot until John ran into the side of the car and startled me. I stopped and he opened the door, sitting in the passenger’s seat, streaked with sweat. “Morning,” I said. “Do I know you?” he said. I continued to drive in circles. “Have you been running?” I said. “How do I look?” “Not great.” “Hey, it’s hot outside.” “There’s a river right there.” “You don’t say?” He thumped the dash and directed me out of the lot. Our high school pulling me from the suburbs was the closest I’d come to living in the city, so he parallel parked for me. I stood outside to spot him. It took a couple minutes, and in the heat it felt disgusting to stand and wait. Tossing me the keys, he led the way out to the island in the middle of the river without a word. Along the road, vendors had set up booths that smelled like grease, and cyclists weaved past. I wondered if they ever hit anyone. People were crammed along the banks, dropping food onto patchy spots of grass, cursing and laughing and kissing in between holding inappropriately earnest conversations. At the bridge, I paused, but John came back and grabbed my arm, pulling me onward, so onward I went. The footbridge itself was narrow. Theoretically, two pedestrians and a biker could pass each other at once, but that was theoretically. It wasn’t very crowded today. John said it never was, which seemed surprising, but he said most people were afraid of bridges, islands, and isolation. On the other side, he continued to lead me down a path, and eventually we turned into a clearing. “Peter!” said Ellen. Not very many of us were there, just Ellen, Andy, Paul, and Anna, and they all looked up with goofy smiles until they could forget the greetings and go back to sunbathing. “Hi,” I said. I went down the line and hugged everyone because that was what we’d started doing in college and it was a little awkward because everybody was only in swimwear and Anna’s bikini felt particularly nonexistent. Our spot itself was great: this little clearing, dirt leading out to the river but then a slow current and flat tan stones sticking out just above the water level. “How’d you find this?” I asked. John just shrugged. 44


The Garden

Brooke Von Der Ahe

45


Ellen looked at John when he shrugged. She looked at him with this smile, this crazy, wild smile, and it was as if he had shrugged just for her and I noticed that my pant leg was dangling in the water. Out on the rocks, we lazed away the day, sometimes jumping in and throwing water at each other. I sat on this one rock and spent a couple hours telling bad stories and making bad wordplay with Andy and Paul. Anna came over and listened. She usually found this sort of thing unentertaining, but now she giggled every once in a while. It was a good thing she sat across from me. Her bikini was blue, her favorite color. I tried not to stare, but I never couldn’t when she was around, and it was pretty fucking obvious. A few hours in, Andy and Paul ran off to try and drown each other in the river, and John had disappeared again. Ellen, Anna, and I all sat in a circle. “I’m surprised you came,” I said to Anna. “Why?” said Ellen. “I don’t know.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” said Anna. “It’s just a comment.” “Tell me about life,” Ellen told me. “Pass.” “You’re literally the least fun.” “What about you?” I asked Anna, and Ellen laughed. I shot her a look. Anna smiled weirdly. “Oh, I don’t know. It’s fine. I worked at the movies this summer. Did I tell you that? That I worked at the movies?” “I worked at the movies.” “No, no, I worked at the movies.” She laughed. We’d had this exact conversation last month. “I’m great, thanks,” Ellen said, and she and Anna laughed even though it wasn’t that funny. When Anna laughed, her ribs showed and she looked like a Holocaust victim, which made me want to shoot myself for thinking it. That was Anna, always reminding me of cancer patients and Holocaust victims. John showed up on the bank and yelled over at us, so we all went over. I wanted him to stop leaving all the time. When we reached the bank, he held up a cigarette and lit it smoothly, before Ellen could steal it from him. John was the reason people got addicted to cigarettes. He looks like a movie star no matter what he does, especially when he pulls out cigarettes and lights 46


them in his girlfriend’s face. “Where’d you get that?” she said, grabbing it and tossing it into the river. John held up a worn pack. “Found ‘em.” “Found ‘em?” “Yeah. Found ‘em.” “Where’d you find a full pack of cigarettes?” I asked. He grinned. “You found them?” asked Ellen. “Jesus, John, you probably just gave yourself herpes.” “Want some?” He pointed the box at us. “Herpes?” said Anna. “If you’re offering,” I said, and John, John laughed, John who just kept leaving. “I don’t smoke,” said Ellen, “and neither should you.” Anna nodded. “No, thanks,” I said. For a while, we stood around, until John lit another and this time Ellen didn’t bother trying to stop him. Andy and Paul came around again, always attached at the hip, and they both took one. Ellen and Anna went back to the rocks. “You sure you don’t want one?” John said. “We can go out by the bridge.” “What are you talking about?” I said. He looked at me. “Weird, huh?” Paul said, looking out to the rocks, and Andy laughed. “What?” “It’s just, her cat didn’t die this time.” Andy laughed some more. “What?” I said again. “Last time we all tried to hang out, at the movies, remember how none of the girls came?” “They never do,” I said. John shook his head. Andy said, “Well, we invited them regardless, and Anna said she couldn’t come because her cat died.” “Oh.” Paul said, “She also said her cat died the last time we were at Henry’s.” Andy said, “Anna doesn’t even have a cat.” 47


“What?” I said. “I know, right?” said John. “Why are we friends with these people?” He stamped out his cigarette and went back to the rocks. Paul and Andy left not long after that. No one ever stayed until everyone left, and it must’ve been five or six by then anyway. We said the strangest goodbye, the kind you never get used to where you know you won’t see someone again for a long time but don’t want to admit it. They crossed the bridge side by side, probably to trip bicyclists, and I went back to the clearing. I sat on the rock and watched the river in the yellowing light. Anna lay next to me, her back bare to the sun. John came over and said, “Despite what I said earlier, it’s probably best not to come looking for us.” Then he and Ellen disappeared to taste each other’s privates in as public a place as they could get away with. I sat and watched the water. There on the rock, I could see straight through to the pebbles at the bottom, not far away, and in the distance the sun was low in the sky and it was everyone’s last day here but mine. “You’re probably not getting any tan out of that so late,” I said. Anna looked at me. “Probably not.” She clasped the back of her bikini and sat up. She splayed her hands out behind her and stared with me toward the sun, which felt like it should’ve been in the direction of the ocean. “When do you go back?” she said, in that way that sounds like despair, that sounds like routine, that sounds like we always sounded when I would come up to her and ask if she wanted anything to drink, and when I’d find her out on the deck so alone and mysterious and when I’d ask her to dances and when she’d refuse to let me pay the one time I’d gotten her to go to dinner with me, and when she’d say exactly everything I’d been expecting and I’d entertain the whole room so John would be rolling on the ground with tears in his eyes and everyone would look at me with reverence because I’d made John, fucking John, MOTHERFUCKING JOHN the FUCKING KING OF THE WORLD laugh and he’d be literally crying and would she laugh, would she even chuckle at anything I’d said, but no she’d just sit there and she’d do nothing at all and when I’d be at Henry’s and just stare and her friends would come over and say you know, you’re really great, we’re going to want to marry the shit out of you someday because you know you are absolutely the greatest and they pat me on the back and say let’s go outside, let’s go talk, 48


let’s just go and I go off alone because I want someone to pity me and I know who that someone is but she sure as fucking hell doesn’t and then I feel like such a goddamn child because this was exactly what everyone would say all the time and this was exactly nothing new at all. “Not for a week,” I said. But then, then I said, “I know you don’t have a cat.” Anna looked at me. She seemed like she might do something, but then she said, “I know you smoke.” “Caught me.” “Pete. Peter,” she said. I stared down the sunset and hoped it might make me blind so I could be something, and then when it didn’t I stood up and without waiting for John and Ellen, I left. At sunset, the city’s almost as stunning as in the morning. Almost.

49


Plaster 4

Sarah Webber

50


Finding a Shotgun Shell in the Woods, I Remeber Myself at Age Nine The shells we gathered at the shooting range we kept in our pockets like quarters for gumball machines and the hissing metal of railroad tracks. Our mother could not scrub the smell of fire, the smoke of the barrel, from between our fingers, the dinners of brown beans and bread and blood of a quail’s chest across my father’s sleeve, as we held out to him the bones of our northern winters. Helen Spica

51


I was in America Confused, I did a half-jog waddle stop to the garbage cans next door Yesterday. Two days? Yesterday. And wiggled, shook my Nose into a slice juicy, though dry, Fragrant, fragrant slices of pizza. Love, peace, happiness on Earth and stretched Eyelids— red veins spilling through my little yellow Eyes. Freedom, America! I did a glee yelp. The neighbors put their necks out the door, to catch a glance of night, and watched from dark ate the dark were the dark— they. I ate the wild, petting my Stomach hell a goodnight “It’s time to rest,” I said. “Wow, you’re a good boy for waiting so long,” 52


I said. Belly stopped the wail, and then I saw it, a spec of doubt some green with the beautiful cheese some meat some four squares of meat, so I ripped my Teeth in, then into the rock crust Like a bulldozer, building, building, friend. Hungrily, steadily, ferocious— Freedom! And the neighbors’ heads slank back into the dark no word, peace happiness— but then I woke up the next day. Belly screaming light like a saxophone on Main Then screeched deep into the metal, went where brass is bent. Belly was a marching band solo. The rock crust ground into my intestines. My head did a turn— “Where am I?” Head waddled, flopped, Jaw did a squeeze, and my Fingers tried to flex then melted in my hot body. Fingers melted 53


in the cave with Satan. Embers below my Bottom, hot hot, can’t move dear heaven, can’t move, freedom. My head did a turn. “Where am I?” Patrick Reynolds

54


Budd O’Hara

55


Mr. Smith and I We go searching in the forest, where mud-buried our souls are hid. A light cripples our smooth arms and tender feet; a voice arrests. Fraud and cheat and poly-heart they shall call us, but not yet. From bend of neck to break of day you work wicked works, and the light of the sun shall shine over all your evil deeds they shall say. But we go searching in the forest, where naked our words shall be restored, restoration of old, forgotten testaments. A comfort in the sweet desert and long repose in latter days they shall be, but not yet. He has some angel warrior to guide him and a pair of rocks, urim and thummim, but I only the shade of an oak after rain, the deep-diving creatures of late autumn And they will laugh at us, him and me, for taking up a certain sacred name, for mountain-men for sea-splitters for raisers-from-the-dead, but only I shall be wonderful and ridiculous as long as there is a forest to wander through. And the end of that shall come, but not yet. Jordan Dorney

56


The General Rush grass, fingers whispering with tepid tapping against my calves, paints the meadow a mottled green like camouflaged burets. My father’s sheep shuffle in the gloom of a woolen sky. They herd themselves in tight-knit spaces, mud-spattered limbs, black-booted hooves. Charlie snaps at lingering lambs, his silent bark, whipping tail, and Mona Lisa teeth nothing like I knew in days when his paws were still too big and his tongue lolled in the sun. Am I a good shepherd? Was I? I sit and watch the red veins and fire bursts of the morning sky, My father’s sheep below, such civilized pillars of salt, and Charlie’s weary grin, all lost but to my eyes among grenade-green grass blades. Jeremy Fisher

57


The White Spaces Corinne Sullivan

She can’t say for certain, as love is not an exact science, but when Kipp Remington raises his hand in their Contemporary Short Stories class on Wednesday and says that George Saunders’ use of narrative discourse demonstrates the inevitable limitations of language, Jean thinks that this is the moment she knows she is in love with him. It is only their second class, but even during their first class on Monday Jean had her suspicions that she might love him, as he had been wearing wingtip oxfords and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. But now, now that Kipp Remington has raised his hand and offered to the class his insight on George Saunders’ use of narrative discourse, revealing a clear engagement with an assigned text and an ability to articulate complex literary devices, Jean knows for sure that she is in love. After class, Jean meets up with Skylar for lunch. “I am in love,” she announces as they sit down at their table. “Again?” “I was never in love with Harrison Kunkleman per se,” Jean says. “I just find the idea of a guy playing the piccolo strangely endearing.” Skylar takes a bite of her sandwich. “Who’s the lucky guy?” she asks as she chews. “Kipp Remington.” “The kid with the weird glasses?” “He’s alternative,” Jean explains. “They’re the kind of glasses you wear when you spend your time sitting in coffee shops composing angst-filled poetry in loose-leaf notebooks.” “What kind of poetry?” “Angst-filled. Filled with angst.” “He does that?” “I don’t know. But it seems like something he would do.” Skylar raises an eyebrow. “Do you even know him?” she asks. “No.” Jean takes a sip of her Diet Coke. “But I plan to.” This is what was going to happen: Jean would be passing through dining hall one day, and she would spot Kipp Remington sitting in a booth in the back, reading The Fountainhead. (Jean only imagines him reading this because she had read The Fountainhead for AP Lit in high school, and she was always looking for opportu58


nities to bring attention to the fact that she had read it.) She would approach him, and ask if it was okay if she joined him, and he would nod. She would be quiet a moment, as he continued reading, and then she would ask, ever so casually, if he would rather struggle in obscurity or compromise his personal vision for monetary success. His bespeckled eyes would peek over the novel. Excuse me? If you were Howard Roark, she would explain, would you give up your artistic integrity to succeed? He’d put the book down. If you give up your integrity, he’d say, his voice thoughtful, there’s no way you can succeed. They’d stare at one another. I’m Jean, she’d say finally, and I find you intensely interesting. He’d smile. I’m Kipp, and I find you refreshingly bold. “Hello? Jean? Did you hear me?” Jean looks up from her soda at Skylar. “Sorry, what?” “I said, what’s so special about this guy anyway?” “He’s just different,” Jean says. “I mean, he cares about literature. And he has style. I feel like he would be full of all these crazy ideas. Like, we’d go to art museums and stuff. Listen to underground bands play. Go around Boston searching for the restaurant that served the best gyros.” “Gyros? What the hell are those?” “I don’t know. They’re Greek. Like lamb kebabs, I think.” “Since when do you eat lamb kebabs?” “That’s not the point!” “Whatever.” Skylar wipes a bit of mayonnaise off the corner of her mouth and then balls her napkin up in her hand. “I just think you might want to actually talk to this Kipp Remington guy before you start planning the wedding.” Jean decides she must take action. She doesn’t want this to end up like it did with Harrison Kunkleman, when she’d imagined for weeks running into him at the vintage record store down the street— as his participation in the school band led her to believe he shared her profound appreciation for classic music—and had spun a fantasy where they’d both go to reach for the same copy of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album and she’d say, I’ll let you have the album if you can tell me who the best Beatle was and he’d say, Paul McCartney of course and she’d snatch up the album and say, McCartney’s a sellout! Everyone knows Lennon was the real poet. I’m afraid I cannot trust you with this album and must take it into my own hands, and he’d shake his head and grin and say, well, if I can’t 59


Lady of the Elements

Leslie Snapper 60


have the album, can I at least have your name? And then it never happened. Friday, Jean decides, she will sit next to Kipp Remington in their Contemporary Short Stories class, instead of two seats behind and one seat to the left of him as she has for the past two classes. She will sit next to him, and she will introduce herself, and ask him what he thought of “Jon,” and after he provides his undoubtedly astute opinion, she will offer him some new, provocative outlook, arguing perhaps that George Saunders’ use of narrative discourse does not demonstrate language’s ineffectuality, because even when the characters cannot completely articulate their thoughts, the reader can still grasp what they desperately wish to say to one another, the things that are left unsaid that exist only in the white spaces, and he will find her refreshingly bold instead of meek and timid, and maddeningly passive, as she has felt her whole life. Friday arrives. Jean sits next to Kipp Remington. She turns to him. He smiles, gives her a nod of acknowledgement. “Hi,” she says. He gives another nod. “Hello.” She nods back, smiles, turns forward again. The professor enters the room. Class begins.

61


Let Me Be will you be one left to make alone like a teenage night-are you drunk on a tequila again, Friday nights of what never happened, gasping for your eyes beneath a stuttering tranquility of asphalt paradise, suburban cynical twitches while lying in the grass will you be will you be alone with me? a oneness unbreakable in its florid shots of engraved televisual illusions, so real to your concrete LCD mind stretching to the neighbors’ cool pools where we go naked, where we swing over fences, where we lie under the stars where I drown you drown you oh please forget me because I’m not what it means to be alive Saturday will return us and oh its filthy cartoons will wake us up, amidst the symphony of cereal crunching hours of younger brothers who mean nothing 62


I was no one I was no one left to make the night alone Chris Criswell

63


Jing Zhang

64


Revolutionary Quartet I. Volkisch Movement Bloody lozenges march out of your mouth sticking to the roof of your bitter September tongue. You speak of wanting things like Lebensraum, living space, even though the other side of your bed stands empty. “Using Jewish goods is treason,” you spout, each day as you spit outside Goldman’s neighborhood store. You collect your rations dutifully further down the street before burning your ersatz state sanctioned brew and reading Der Stürmer over my shattered coffee mug. Wives hide their tears behind swastika stricken smiles, trains shuttling their soldiers east, precious cargo, voluntary sacrifices. “Goodbye to the Fatherland,” they sing and shout and step! Our eyes never meet as you laugh amongst your comrades. Your hands seek to salute some petty demigod, rather than hold mine. II. Poblacht na hÉireann The cobblestones reek of 1916, proclamations holding up the tricolor— But even you are not Fionn mac Cumhaill, who legend says knew everything when he burned his thumb cooking the salmon of knowledge. Fiddlers bend their bridges trying to judge the gap between revenge and lamentation. And you scream and curse and cry, swelling with Croke’s emerald crowd, 65


while visions of your blood spilling— not a victim of the Black and Tans, but martyred, martyred for your oaths— absolves the knife wounds creeping down my back. Whiskey soaked wood supports your pint glass— “I am through with the drink,” you claimed, hours before the lads douse you in spirits of goddamned brotherhood! English vultures circle overhead, before diving, falling, joining the carrion they seek to devour— all the while, we go through the same motions, but you actually believe, support, obey, promote the party line. III. Declarations of Independence Emaciated water snakes freeze to death at the bottom of the Potomac, as I snap off my frostbitten toes. And you feast with generals around fires roasting pheasant and hare. How can you sit there charming serpents while I peel leather from the soles of my shoes, swallowing the scraps whole? “Out of the boat!” you command. Prophetic bayonets point ahead, like compass hands dragging their masters forward. Hessians hiss and hurl themselves 66


into horse barns. Pull my blade forward into a Continental uniform. Red handprints down your back. Watch as snow buries you in coal. IV. Reign of Terror Sun caked plebian hands hide beneath white gloves, and ordain dismissive guilty verdicts— No trials in the Conciergerie for Prisoner 280— Just protect me from my scarlet fingers. Dewdrops of metal splatter above my eyes, sounding with the procession of passing carts carrying corpses and condemnations. Hear them move on, like you did, into new arms, so many arms, now well-worn, drowsy graves. Woman in white kneels alone as surging waves swamp the Place de la Révolution, shearing her head of its hair, her powdered crown. Your absence accuses, callous buzzards blame me— if they look at me at all. 67


My repenting hands, retreating sparrows, seek you, reach up and embrace the falling blade as it sails down trying to suppress my final words. “Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it.�

Michael Kadow

68


Above all, don’t lie to yourself

Christine Boss

69


Purple Moon Red Creek: Part 1 Lauren Audi

Mama, Papa and I down by the creek. The golden sun drenched sky, the butterflies suspended fossil-like in the air. The yellow and blue striped blanket laid out on the grass with a big basket of food. PBJ sandwiches, home-made pudding, peaches. Mama is dancing, her pale lavender dress swirling around her, reciting poetry in her loud, dramatic voice. Up and down it goes. Up and down. Up and down. I am floating up and down. Papa lounges on the blanket, smiling. Mama freezes, her whole body tense, eyes wide and fearful. She reaches one hand out. Her voice is shattering. For a moment there is quiet. I hear the crickets and the bullfrogs. Then she laughs and falls down on her knees, arms thrown up, and face tilted to the sky. Her face is the sun. She drenches the sky. She is rolling in the grass. Papa is laughing. Marvelous, marvelous, marvelous, he is saying. Up and down I go. Mama pulls Papa and me to our feet. She kisses Papa and he spins her. They are swirling and then we are all swirling. Peach, lavender, gold, green. Mama in bloom. Mama floating on a lily in the creek. Mama as a dream. That’s how I try to remember her, all of us together, like we were a family. That was before I got Saturn, who is soft with wavy fur like a field of goldenrod. His eyes have eggshell saucers around them and his pink tongue hangs out like a door mat. He and I play outside all day long down by the creek, running through the forest, chasing birds, swimming. We found him as a pup. He looked so sad like he needed a home. I put up flyers around town, but no one claimed him. Finally Grandpa convinced Papa to let me keep the puppy. I knew right away that I’d name him Saturn. Papa had pointed the planet out, big and bright, through the telescope. I could see the rings circling the planet. I told Papa that I wanted to live there. He said I couldn’t because it was gaseous. Some days Mama’s calm like soft cotton. She’ll pull me up to into bed with her and wrap me in it. She likes to read me Wordsworth. She used to tell me I was going to be her prodigy. She says, like her, I understand words because I don’t speak them, I feel them. They are textured, she says. I say, slippery, rough, spiky, buttery, crunchy. Mama will get out of bed and stand looking out at the creek 70


from the big window. She doesn’t go down to the creek anymore. Her face is still and pale, her red frizzy hair like vines behind her. There’s almost a smile on her face. Grandpa once called it a distant smile. I asked him what that meant and he said her mind was in another time, remembering things. I remember things too when I see Mama like that. Like the glass jars we used to fill with pickled peaches. At the end of summer, we’d set them on the windowsill in the kitchen. The sunlight would catch in the murky water and the little fleshy slices would turn slowly in circles like they were in another universe. When Mama is in a good one, the whole house feels like a peach jar on the windowsill swirling slowly, slowly, slowly. But that’s rare, maybe as often as a full moon. Mostly Mama is like a rabid coyote. We get them a lot out here in the backcountry. Papa calls it “Coyote Country.” When I hear Mama growling and tearing into Papa from the other room, I imagine beads of spit foaming from her red lips. Papa tries to hold her down with all his strength. One time, when I was little, I peeked through the slot in the door and watched. Mama was an angry blur and Papa was crying silently as he tried to stop her from thrashing around. Sometimes, I think the strength just goes out of him. That’s when I hear him slink away to his study and shut the door while Mama starts throwing things and screaming through the walls, “You’ve ruined me” and “My magic, you’ve stolen my magic” and “I never loved you.” Grandpa takes me down to the cellar during these times and shows me all of Papa’s old astronomy instruments. Things are quiet in the cellar, the empty jars on the shelves. Sometimes, in the evening, I take them down and go outside to catch fireflies. I tell Grandpa I’ve caught a planet. I like to write poems and stories down in the cellar about magic peach trees, and nebulas and I’ve got a book called “The Adventures of Saturn.” Grandpa tells me the stories are very good and that I should show them to my parents. Papa doesn’t have time though, and I’m too afraid to show Mama. What if I’m not a prodigy? When I was six we took a family vacation to the beach. It was the only vacation we ever went on. Mama looked alive for the first time in a long time. She kept saying how the water was her blood and she was angry at Papa for taking her away from the ocean. She said it was her one and only true love. She said she’d never return to that place in the middle of the godforsaken land. Montana 71


was drying her up. She had been shriveling. She told us to leave her alone. I looked at Papa. He was so sad. I didn’t know what to do so I took Saturn and went walking down the shore. He was just a puppy then, his egg shells too big for his face. We saw a dead jellyfish on the shore. It was caught in the tide coming in and out, in and out. Its see-through body looked alien and sad, like all the magical stuff had been drained from it. Sometimes, at night, when Papa isn’t too busy or sulky, I sit on his lap as he tells me stories about the stars. He points them out. Big Dipper, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Cassiopeia, Cetus, Andromeda, Pegasus. I listen to the stories about Sea Monsters and Gods and Princesses. Papa loves to tell the myth of Andromeda. She was the beautiful daughter of Cassiopeia who had been so vain to say she was more beautiful than the rest of the goddesses. To punish Cassiopeia, Poseidon chained her daughter to a rock in the sea. Andromeda was supposed to be eaten by the sea monster, Cetus, but some other guy saved her first. Papa says he called Mama his Andromeda back when he first scooped her up. He tells me my Grandmother Mae and my Mama were no good together and he was like the hero saving her from a monster. Then he gets sad and says, “I was Poseidon and didn’t even know it.” I write down all the stories Papa tells me. His are always very intellectual so I like to make them more exciting. If it’s a night when Mama has been in a bad one, Papa talks about how they fell in love like he’s trying to convince himself of something. He says she was always beautiful, bursting with creative energies she didn’t know what to do with. The first time he saw her was at a gallery show of night sky paintings. She was wearing a peach dress, studying a painting. It has all these ghosts swirling up and joining with the stars. Now, it’s hanging in Mama’s room. Papa says when she looked up at him, he felt like he’d reached the end of his life and just burst into flames, kind of like a star. He’d never even imagined feeling anything like that before. Papa says he gave up everything for her, by choice; studying at the university didn’t seem important anymore. He doesn’t regret it though, he could never imagine loving anyone more. Now he works at the local newspaper, writing and editing articles. He’s always there. And when he’s not, he’s locked up in his study. Sometimes he writes for science journals, but I think he mostly just sits in there looking out the window at the creek, worrying. Things went really bad somewhere, but no one ever talks about that. All I know is Papa decided to come back home to live with 72


Grandpa. He never mentions what made Mama go crazy, but it seems like it was around the time I was born. Papa mentioned once I was born out on an island in Hawaii, but that we moved back here when I was too young to remember. Tonight, Papa holds me in his arms and we rock softly back and forth. Swish, Swish, Swish. We sound like the wind in the creaking branches. I curl my finger around a thick hair in his soft, dark beard. I love when Papa puts me in his lap, even though I’m ten because it’s the only time we get to spend together, just the two of us. I hardly see him. Usually it’s just Grandpa, me, and Saturn. It’s a very quiet night and Mama had been pretty good today. We see bits of the Northern Lights coming down from Canada. I tell Papa that the stars are leaking. The big full moon looks purple and the creek red like its running clay. Papa laughs softly and rubs the back of his head. “You, Stella-Bella, got your mother’s vision for this world. Colors and no lines. She tells me I’ve only got lines. ” I hug him close, grabbing his shirt around the elbows. I like when Papa tells me I remind him of Mama because he loves her so much. I smell him; he’s like pine and the purple moon is flashing above. I don’t have Mama’s craziness though. Sometimes I’m afraid he’s going to forget me because of it. And sometimes I’m afraid I might have it too, lurking inside of me and it will come out when I least expect. Sometimes I’m afraid he won’t hold me in his lap at night rocking me to the wind songs. I watch the moon drift in and out of color and, suddenly, I feel brave. I hear the coyotes in the distance and their wildness floats through the wind and enters in my ears. “Papa, was Grandma Mae crazy like Mama too?” Papa is silent for a bit and we rock. “Your Mama wasn’t always like this. I want you to know that. And please don’t say crazy, Stella. That’s not the right word. Mama’s sick.” “Okay, was Grandma Mae sick too?” “Mama didn’t get along very well with her. Your grandmother was unpredictable. One minute she’d be fine and the next she would snap. Your mother had to take care of her through all her tantrums. She wasn’t sick then, just stifled, having so much to give and claiming the world wouldn’t let her.” I snuggle up closer into him and rub Saturn’s moist nose peeking through the arm of the chair. 73


Sleepless

Christine Boss 74


Papa takes a breath and rubs my back. “Stella, I tell you stories about Mama when she was younger because I want you to know who she really is and that she loves you very much.” I turn my face into Papa’s chest and rub my cold nose against his warm shirt. I feel icky all of the sudden. Like there’s a spider crawling inside of me. Sometimes I don’t know if I love Mama. “Grandpa tells me you’ve been writing stories. Can I read them?” I turn my face up. “You’d like to read them?” He nods. “Well, I dunno if they’re good or nothing” “I don’t know if they are any good.” Papa mouths the words slowly so I hear them right. I giggle. “You know how to speak, Stella! I know you’re the smartest ten year old in all of Montana. I don’t know how you couldn’t be with the reading you do. Why do you insist on talking like you live with coyotes?” I howl and Papa tickles me till I can’t breathe. “You’re a wild child, aren’t you?” He stops and I catch my breath. I tip my head backwards over the arm of the chair with my mouth hanging open, watching the moon. I say, “Papa, do you ever think I’ll get sick like Mama?” “No, Stella. Why would you ever say anything like that?” Papa sounds bothered all of sudden. He runs his hands over his face, rubbing the wrinkles in his forehead. Then he stands up, grabbing me under the armpits and setting me back in the chair. I say I’m sorry for asking. He rubs my head, but it’s mostly just a gesture. “Be careful out here, okay? Don’t go wandering around in the woods by yourself with Saturn. I saw Marty today and he said the Ranger’s been trying to track down a rabid coyote that’s been hanging around town. Don’t stay out too late. Grandpa’s already asleep.” I nod, it’s not that surprising of news, but I always get sort of excited when something like this happen. Papa walks inside, but I stay out on the porch to watch the sky weave itself over the creek. I slide off the chair and curl myself around Saturn’s neck. Saturn’s the only one who will never forget me. I know Grandpa doesn’t mean to, but he’s getting too old. When I nuzzle my nose into his fur, Saturn lifts his head and licks the closest part of my arm. Off in the distance we can hear the coyotes howling. Saturn looks up, his ears pull back. I ruffle his head, telling him to hush. He goes back to licking my arm. I flip 75


around onto my back and look up at the sky again and the full moon drifting in and out of purple. I close one of my eyes and pinch my thumb and pointer till I’ve got the moon between them. It looks like a perfectly round grape. I take it out of the sky and put it in my mouth and swallow. I can feel it going down my throat all slip-slidey and gooey. I rub my belly feeling it glowing inside. “Look Saturn!” I say, pointing to my bare belly. “The Moon was a grape and I ate it whole.” Saturn gets up, knocking my head to the floor, and starts sniffing my stomach, his whiskers tickling me and I laugh the rest of the night away. Just Saturn and me on the porch. Saturn and me and great big universe.

76


Concentration Ax 2

Sarah Webber

77


While I Was Away While I was away the cat grew slow and old. Three lightbulbs burned out in my bedroom and the yard is greener, thicker with fronds and wet leaves. There are new mugs for the coffee, clear glass so you can see the clouds of milk fall and swell, and a new machine only my mother knows how to use. The mirror that hung in my bathroom is gone and the wall yawns wide and white and indifferent when I glance back to check my makeup. But the half-drunk bottle of sparkling water is on the counter by the sink just where I left it months ago and everything looks the same in the yard once it gets dark. Marie McGrath

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Creation Childhood starts to fade when you learn to not skip stones. When your uncle takes you to find Petoskeys and you barely admire their honeycomb hides before whipping them toward the dune where the big bear still sleeps, miles away. You want to pierce her with your stone sun-rays, wake her to ask why she forgot her cubs. Your uncle won’t join. He watches, sad for rocks whose thousands of years of travel you now reverse with a flick of the wrist. The drowned bears became islands, so you aren’t sure what’s so bad about sinking back into the lake. You start to wonder what it’d be like to roll some of the stones into the lining of your dress and walk off the pier. From rocks to rocks you’d go, and maybe you’d become land too. Bailey Spencer

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The Calm Before the Storm The round green hula-hoop rests, lightly sitting on the tattered couch, in the dimly lit living room, covered with a bamboo rug. It jumps onto the greased chandeliers, three feet over, swinging gently to get a better view of the other residents, waving soft ‘hello’ to the rabbit ears sitting on top of the boxy black television, and the antennae, it waves back with a shy whisper. In a dizzying motion, the hula-hoop conquered ALL, turning the mere child, round and round collapsing in a cradle of laughter, in a free fall Standing Up together, they had fun. My bald and liver-spotted grandfather turns the black remote control with its seven red buttons to channel six. He casually takes a swig of Merlot after each click. The screen flickers Black and White Black and WHITE, buzzing with annoyance at being woken up from a deep slumber. The rabbit ears wriggle back and forth in a frenzied motion, 80


panicked.

The TV settles down, blinking clear with colorful brightness. The three-year-old toddler and her swigging grandfather sit Complacently, crunching into Kentucky Fried Chicken simultaneously licking the grease off their fingertips. The green hula-hoop, swinging from the dirty chandeliers, hangs lightly, waiting patiently, as if to be noticed. Jae Won Shin

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Inside a Chaotic Mind

Adrian Tatro

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Gretchen

Michael Natalie Gretchen opened her eyes to darkness. For half a second, she’d thought she was still asleep. She tried, just for a moment, to tell herself that she was going to wake up again; that she’d just stirred from a dream within a dream, and that this new, fresh terror of darkness would go away if she’d just open her eyes. But her eyes were already open. And crying. No, not crying. Just leaking. She couldn’t afford to cry here. Crying was for babies and Hans. She sat up on the bed, then stood and walked she-didn’tknow-where. She just knew they were right in the middle of the story, and that they needed to keep flipping the pages to go home. “Hans?” she whispered. She heard a faint whimper in the distance. “Hans?” “Make it stop…” said a low, whiny voice. “Hans, come on. We need to get out of here, now.” “Where’s here?” “I don’t know, Hans. Probably the witch’s basement.” Silence from Hans. Gretchen really didn’t know where they were. But she’d find out. Provided the witch hadn’t moved them from her home—which she shouldn’t have, that’s not how the story goes—Gretchen was absolutely certain they’d be able to find their way back. But to do that, they’d first need to get out of the witch’s basement, if that was in fact where they were. Gretchen listened. Something about being unable to see increased the sensitivity of Gretchen’s other senses. She heard the dull throb of city life outside: cars passing by, honking, people shuffling past each other out on the sidewalk in the cold weather, deliberately unspeaking, unless they were trying to sell something. It was so alive yet all the life seemed to run together, like how mixing colors always gives you gray. It was boring. And frustrating. They were hidden in plain sight. The old woman’s brightly colored house seemed raised from the street like a wart on skin. And this was among rows and rows of apartment buildings. People were there—right out there—and no one, not a one, would do anything. Gretchen wondered if they could even see the house; after all, in the story no one comes to help. 83


The city was no forest, but it may as well have been in this case. Gretchen had accepted her story was not exactly like Gretel’s. But the important parts were there. Her biggest disappointment was Hans. Hansel and Gretel fought together, side by side, for their happily-ever-after. Gretchen realized early on she’d have to do all the fighting. Hans was all kinds of useless. “Hans,” she said, “we need to get out.” “Then what? It’s not like we can go home…” “Hans, she’s going to eat us.” “That’s stupid.” “You’re stupid!” Gretchen turned away from where she thought Hans was—of course, she couldn’t be sure—and struck out at nowhere in particular with her fist. To her not-so-great surprise, she hit the wall. She felt a warm trickle of blood down her knuckle, but didn’t really care. She licked it and realized she was thirsty. She drank deeply from the warm milk the witch had given them when they first arrived. She knew what was going to happen, but she had to stay on the script in order to get to the happily-ever-after. She was scared, if not surprised, when the milk had made her drowsy and then it all went dark. The milk had at least quenched her thirst, though. Now she was thirsty again, so they’d been down there a while. Yet still not eaten. She quickly pinched herself to make sure she hadn’t gotten fatter. She hadn’t. It didn’t make her feel any better. Gretchen turned her back to the wall she’d just struck and slumped down. In her anger she remembered her. She was much younger than Hans and Gretchen’s first mother. A mop of straw-blond hair set above a vaguely pretty face, a broad forehead and eyes that seemed to stare vaguely in different directions. She wore orange lipstick that gave her lips the impression of hot coals and wore way too much makeup. All in all, she looked like a life size, walking version of the dolls Gretchen stopped playing with years ago. If their stepmother had been small and inanimate she would have been passing cute, but she was neither of those things. The overall effect was uncanny. And then there was the fact that she made Dad stop loving them. Just like in the book. 84


Gretchen thought of the book not only as her story, but also as her only real friend besides Hans. The Grubachs were a poor family and didn’t have many things and most of the things they had were old. While Hans played with dolls—action figures, he insisted— Gretchen read and read a lot, mostly the books Dad brought with him from “the old country.” It was all the same stuff. But of course, the book in particular stood out to her. Dad had said Mom named them after it, and he’d only altered their names slightly so they wouldn’t be made fun of at school. I should have known then we were from the book, Gretchen thought. It seemed so obvious now. Being characters from a book had its advantages. Gretchen knew exactly what they needed to do to get Dad back. She knew if they ran away it’d all work out eventually. She knew that if she just left crumbs on the sidewalk they’d be able to find their way back home. She knew the old lady in the candy house had to be the witch and that she’d try to eat them and that they’d have to escape, among other things Gretchen didn’t really want to think about, and then everything would go back to normal. But she hadn’t read anything about a dark room. She hated dark rooms. She strained her ears to hear the witch’s voice. It was thin and quavering. She seemed to be on the phone. “Yes, I gave them some milk. They went to sleep right away, the dears. It was only two o’clock in the afternoon, too, and they fell right asleep. I do hope they’re awake for dinner. They’ve been through a lot…” Something dark and hateful sank to the pit of Gretchen’s stomach. The witch was making sure help didn’t come. Gretchen already knew help wasn’t coming, but still felt overwhelming frustration. Everyone was useless in these sorts of stories. Especially Hans. “Hans,” Gretchen said again, “let’s go.” “Okay,” he said, but not without his voice cracking. From the creaks on the floorboards Gretchen knew Hans had gotten up and was walking somewhere. The creaks got louder, so Gretchen knew he was moving towards her. “How can you see in here?” “I’ve been awake a while. Your eyes adjust. Come on,” Hans said. He took Gretchen by the arm and lifted her up. Gretchen pictured his face. He was still crying. But it was okay. It’d be over soon. She’d take care of the messy part. 85


The witch could still be heard from upstairs. “Yes. Good. They should be awake soon. We’re the only house on the block, and the young man who promised to take down my Christmas lights hasn’t come yet, oh, but I’m not mad at him, something good came from it, now you can’t mistake my house for another. Oh, I’ll be sorry to see them go; I haven’t had children under my roof for years…” Gretchen felt her foot against something hard and knew they’d come to some stairs. They started to climb, and creak, creak, creak went the stairs, like a chorus of toads. The witch would have to be pretty deaf not to hear it. Well, she’d have to be pretty deaf if Gretchen was going to sneak up behind her and push her in the oven. A dim outline of light traced out a door at the top of the stairs. It wasn’t locked, to Gretchen’s surprise. Hans pushed it right open. It hit the opposite wall with a dull thunk. Gretchen “shhh!”d loudly. Hans, whom Gretchen could now confirm had been crying, looked confused. “Why?” he squeaked. The tears had stopped but his voice hadn’t settled back to normal. “Just because it’s already been written doesn’t mean we can do it wrong. We need to keep going until the end of the story.” “Huh?” “She’s not supposed to know until it’s too late.” “Know what?” But Gretchen ignored him. The inside of the candy house wasn’t at all like she’d imagined. It honestly looked like every other apartment in the city, except smaller. She looked quickly back down the stairs. Now a dull light filled the room at the bottom and she saw what looked like a bedroom that hadn’t been used in a while. Old toys and everything, the same type of stupid crap Gretchen had back home. Gretchen realized then that she’d been waiting for them; that she had someplace to keep them, someplace for children, so someone stupid like Hans wouldn’t think to run away. This proved it. The living room, the kitchen, and the witch’s bedroom may as well have been one room. Apparently the witch had decided Gretchen and Hans should get the big room downstairs. Probably so they’d feel safe. She probably didn’t know the light was out. A dull haze filled the room. It was a hot summer day and indeed, the wizened old witch was cooking. The heat from the oven 86


Harsh Lessons

Richard Seitz

87


filled the room. Hans squeaked again as if about to cry out. Gretchen clapped a hand over his mouth, and Hans looked back at her, confused. Gretchen pointed at the witch, flabbergasted that Hans couldn’t see her right there. Her back was to the children, but that was just as well. She was an ugly little thing, and stooped to about Gretchen’s size. Smaller, even. Small enough to fit. Her skin hung like wax from her bare arms as though melting in the shimmering heat from the oven, which hung wide open. The witch hummed softly, a haunting sort of melody that made Gretchen shiver. Gretchen looked quickly at Hans and knew, like she’d known all along, that it would have to be her. She pointed to Hans and then to the ground, indicating that Hans should stay put. Hans looked indignant, the tears had stopped and his face had flushed, she’d known she just pricked his pride, but also knew Hans knew better than to ignore her. The last time he’d tried was when he didn’t want to run away, and Gretchen, well, Gretchen knew how the story went. She got her way eventually. Gretchen stood up on her toe-tips and took long, slow strides over from the basement door to the kitchen. She slunk around a wooden table on which a tray of unbaked cookies sat. She was behind the witch, arms outstretched and— The screaming was more and louder than Gretchen had imagined when she read the book. She didn’t fit all the way in, either, but that was okay. The witch’s waxy, papery skin still seemed to melt. Steam billowed about the room and the witch’s legs jerked helplessly; Gretchen was stronger. Something heavy tackled Gretchen to the floor. The smoke made it to the ceiling. An alarm sounded. Gretchen stared up at Hans, who wouldn’t get off her. He was screaming at her, confused, angry, wanting to go home—and now they could, so why should he be angry? There were sputters and gasps from somewhere above, and soot, soot raining from the ceiling where the smoke had been a minute ago. There was movement upstairs; more importantly, there was an upstairs. But the little candy house didn’t have an upstairs. The front door suddenly swung open and the room filled with 88


burly men in uniforms. Gretchen knew they were the police, under any other circumstances she wouldn’t have been surprised to see them; they weren’t in the story. Did this mean the story was over? That their lives would now go on from the book; that they’d reached happily-ever-after? An officer lifted Hans, still kicking and screaming, from Gretchen, who stood up. Gretchen looked at the witch. Her burns burnt into Gretchen’s memory, but she was happy about that. She knew she’d won. The witch swayed and fell and Gretchen knew she wouldn’t be getting back up. The officer was still trying to console Hans, who just barely managed to sputter out what had happened. The other cops had crowded around the witch, no doubt to make sure she was really dead. Gretchen ran over to Hans, pulled him from the officer and threw her arms around his neck. “We can go home now! Isn’t it wonderful? Isn’t it…” But he wouldn’t stop crying. The officer separated them again. Another officer took Gretchen by the arm. The house was bathed in an unearthly blue light. Gretchen looked up at the officer. He looked to be in pain somehow. “I’m surprised you could see the candy house,” said Gretchen. He didn’t say anything. But Gretchen could tell he understood. “Are we going home?”

89


Night Fall Dead saints watch the living bows stab through the solemn air of the cathedral, awakening long-left corners and swelling the hush. For those beyond, the orchestra is an organic body, breathing the same breaths and exhaling the same throaty notes. The light surrounds and bathes them, a holy glow of human design. The bells call, their chimes supporting the melody with a touch at the waist, rather than tripping it. It’s time! The snake outside bridles, the tail flicking faster through the illuminated streets, The rattle bites. A girl screams, Oh! and then all at once the moon is dead ahead, the stone pressing against her hips. Dazed, she blinks, at the shadow statues that loom above her, the baby-cry of the sirens ringing in her ears. A quick snap and a spill into the street. Midnight, and the cellist silences his strings as the thirsting crowd 90


fills the cavern in hope of a sacrifice. Caroline O’Connor

91


Leaves “Caught up in the silverfish bike spokes With the crumbs of your backs coming off Is our favorite place to be undone Provided the pavement is soft.” They’d narrowly trespassed the autumn, Partitioned by brick-corner days. Typhoid Mary was making her round-out Cross the shimmering lines of the bay. And an oak tree responded despondent, Some remark about “Oncoming storms”; Which was nonsense, of course, but un-muttered It bore poise enough to be forlorn. Veiney and green in their springtime Treble newspaper sheets in fall “We wait for the summertime bike spokes To come carry our bodies along.” Trusting no one apart from their character (Who was nothing apart from the oak); Deciding in spite of their acquiesce That they’d be an anonymous folk. “Take us onward to spinning infinity! Hallejulah! A motion so true As the pinwheels, the spinning of bike spokes, If existent, I sure never knew.” Matthew Mazzari

92


Monet

Emily Gilligan

93


Phone call behind Allston’s Western Union Mama I’m broke again Could you send me a buck or two? How about 50? Yeah? Okay, send it along. Yes ma, I know I know you’ve told me That your fingers are crackling At school And your third job is laying off. Mama, You there? Stop crying. I gotta live, I’ve got a girlfriend now, Some dreams, A job I hate. I hate it so much It makes my liver burn every night. Don’t worry, I don’t mind the burn, ma. Mama, You there? Why don’t you return my calls more often? I felt a breeze the other day And I just knew I had to leave Had to glide on it. I’ve got to cut through mom, To foreign lands. Don’t you realize? Stop crying. I got a good deal on a cargo ship, My friends are all in Berlin, I gotta go. Why are you whispering? 94


What’s that sound? Your boss should let you speak; I’m your son. I’m a man. You’re a woman, mama. Mama, They treat you like cake, And treat you to cake sometimes, So they can treat you like cake always Eating you up. I know, I know, You hate to hear that talk. You should meet my girl, mama. She doesn’t like the burn, But I give it to her, And it slides down her throat, And sometimes when the fire is lit she wants to glide too. Didn’t you glide once? Mama? Stop crying. Mama, I read once, “Let’s go, come on let’s go, Empty our pockets and disappear, Missing all our appointments And turning up unshaven years later.” Did you read that too? Are you there? Have you dissolved? Stop crying, Come on let’s go, Ma. I need cash tonight. Patrick Reynolds

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Monday Morning May or March, it’s cold enough for coffee. Alum lips hum ma berceuse amère, but mercury mouth murmurs maigre and I taste jaundice bruises in the melanite. Black water was sweeter before, a velvet hymn with more metal in the mélodie, back when cradlesong meant a swig of white-coal honey or two packs of smokes. Sounds all hammered mute these days, and moment matchsticks strike cold anyway. Besides, I gave up drinking years ago: take a toke three days dry, my morning lullaby; memory ma mère mumbles under her breath and I’m ten again— There’s my sun-stained room, where dad and I play trains before bed, but I can only remember his hands while my mother drags on from the door. And ash fumes drift up from my mug. I pour out the rest and hope there’s still some warmth left in the pot.

Townshend Peters

96


Ladybug

Sophia Gorgens It was one of those strange days when no one knows quite what to do with themselves. Amy was one of those people, but she was loath to admit it. She had always prided herself with never being idle or out-of-sorts. No, she was a scurrying workaholic by day and a peppy party blonde by night. Yet today was one of those strange days where even Amy was quite at a loss on what to do. At thirty-six, Amy was rather terrified to confess that she had already found that single dreaded hair of gray. How premature! It couldn’t be natural, she knew, but she couldn’t ask anyone to confirm without making it known that the grayness had already begun to creep up on her. And there was absolutely no way that she was going to ask Franco, her dark-eyed and excellent (although quite pricey, as John was always sure to remind her) hair stylist. Franco was a darling, but he couldn’t keep a secret, especially when someone’s hair was concerned. Amy shook her head slightly in admiration at the thought of Franco and began winding a thick strand of her hair through her bony, sculptured fingers. What it came down to in the end was that she had to rely on the internet, which always made her rather uneasy as that whole business was much too new. Especially considering that she’d grown up on a farm in Iowa and had missed the development phase. Then suddenly she went to college, and there it was, a fully developed embryo that Amy didn’t understand, even if she eventually learned to use it. And Amy hated that lack of comprehension. But the point was that she had to rely on the words of unknown hands tapping advice onto the internet on a QWERTY keyboard (another thing she despised about computers). Then it was a quick, furtive trip to buy the hair dye (what if the neighbors ever saw her?) and, putting on the brave do-it-yourself face, a good thirty to forty minutes of being locked securely in the bathroom. As far as she knew, John hadn’t caught on yet. Nor had the neighbors, making Amy all the more grateful for the flock of fully-fledged hedges that hemmed in the house. “Let’s go to the beach,” John suggested from his lounging chair on the deck, startling Amy out of her reverie. With her limbs similarly splayed out in all directions and spilling over the side of a second lounge so that her fingertips just brushed the freshly painted 97


white deck, Amy scrunched her nose in contemplation. Her fingers unwound themselves from the wavy blond mass crowning her head, satisfied that her hair had not yet started to thin, the next sure sign of premature aging. She’d have to examine her scalp later on though —the gray always fought back most viciously at the roots. What a nuisance. But yes, on a hot summer day like this, the beach would certainly be something. No doubt they’d see some people they knew there, and everyone could admire her crisp suntan and make cooing wonders at the healthy bronze sheen to her skin while they pretended not to notice the way her body curved absolutely perfectly. Amy poked at a thin flab of fat on her exposed stomach, just beneath her bikini top. But no one would see that if she was standing, would they? She jabbed at it again in discontent but then remembered that her hair was that jealous shade of blonde that no natural hue could ever rival and her cheekbones had that haughty angle and her cellulite had been starved off years ago. No one would see that tiny, cellulite-free flab if she sat just so. Yes, the beach would really be something. “No, not today, darling,” Amy drawled at last, having finally managed to part her lips and encourage her tongue to form the words that now dripped out slowly like heavy molasses. The beach certainly would be nice, but Amy was in no mood to get up and drive a whole hour and a half to the beach. Such a long drive, but beachfront property wasn’t chic anymore. No their house was the prime example of a proud little catch—suburban America! The East Coast! Sometimes she missed Iowa. John’s head turned slowly in her direction for the first time in hours, looking rather annoyed at being disturbed from its comatose state for such a dreadfully mundane conversation. “Well, what then?” Leaving her single encircling ring of fat alone for the moment, Amy ran an appraising eye over John’s body as he lay there ever so patiently, waiting for the sun’s rays to penetrate the thin covering of skin that hugged his bones tightly, giving way only occasionally to make room for bulging muscles laid out carefully in the perfect design of the gym-inspired man. No, there wasn’t a single cell on him that stored fat as far as Amy could see, and that was just like him, wasn’t it? His hair didn’t turn prematurely gray, and even if it did, undoubtedly those girls would still – Better not to let thoughts linger in those crumbling crevices. He said it wouldn’t happen again. 98


Pain and Loneliness in Abuse

Leslie Snapper

99


“Hmm,” Amy hummed to herself, forcing her attention back to John’s question. “Hmm” and nothing more, for she was rather hoping that he might suggest something himself. Just last summer, he would have asked the same question and then followed it up with three or four proposals. Remembering the night he’d roped her into making popcorn necklaces while watching childhood cartoons, Amy could feel the beginnings of a soft smile forming on her lips and quickly had to feign a yawn. Maybe he’d said it wouldn’t happen again, but suddenly it seemed like a lot of things would never happen again. The silence began to stretch out, becoming translucently thin until Amy thought she could hear her own heart keeping rhythm with John’s. And John was looking at her in that way that made her catch her breath, and she recalled that the last time she’d done anything with baited breath had been a good year ago. Before she’d found out about them. Not just her, but them—but no, that all didn’t matter anymore because he’d said, promised even, that—but ever since then, this silence—publicly, he kept a politely respectful hand entwined with hers but—she hated it, hated him and—and yet this mutual, dreadful silence had never been so thin before, so close to shattering and becoming the past, what they once were—it was a crushing sort of feeling that kept building—pressing behind her eyes as she watched the silence become threadbare and— John turned his head away from her again so that his face could catch the full strength of the sun. With a slight jolt, Amy realized that he hadn’t even lowered his Ray Ban sunglasses to look at her, and now those empty sockets were staring up into the sky and one corner of John’s mouth was twitching in that bored fashion of his. As she watched, the silence thickened, coalescing slowly back into the unbreakable. “Don’t you have any other suggestions?” she finally prodded, unable to stand the sound of wind on grass for another moment. It had such an unnatural, suburban tone to it. “Somewhere that doesn’t involve the outdoors, maybe? I can’t stand that sound.” Amy’s perfectly bronze torso squirmed and her back arched as she tried to make herself more comfortable on the lounge chair. The sun really was rather bright today. “What sound? Why do I always have to come up with the suggestions?” John grouched, his head not even deigning to tilt towards her this time. “It’s a beautiful day. If you really want to go inside, why don’t you?” Amy suddenly felt a strange tingling on her forearm, brushing 100


against her skin. Her other hand shot forward to sweep the insect away – she hated insects and couldn’t bear the thought of those unwashed, miniscule feet tramping up and down the length of her texture-smooth flawlessness. And then— Her hand paused, mid-sweep, bamboo fingers already growing delicately inward in the universal gesture of insect-shooing. The fingers hovered, unsure, before making a slow retreat, shrinking away and wilting in the sun’s balmy heat and the radiance of – A ladybug. When had she last seen one? Amy felt a slight frown inch up her forehead towards its usual nestling place. A sure harbinger of wrinkles—she’d have to be careful. But a ladybug. That was no true insect. It was—lovely, a piece of good luck. How could she ever bring the wrath of her bamboo-fingered whip on such a helpless creature of beauty? Count the dots! She thought she heard her older sister whispering in her ear as the two little girls stood in the midst of a cornfield and marveled at the small speck of red in farmed rows of golden green. Then the ladybug was launching itself into the air again, and the image shuddered and shivered for a moment before dissipating with the heat. Amy clucked her tongue in disapproval, but not at the ladybug. Iowa—she’d been happy there, hadn’t she? And John, now – “It’s been a year, John,” she finally blurted out, the words squeezing past her clamped teeth like the last dregs of unwanted tea before she could reign them back in. “A year since what?” John didn’t move. He was the captivated audience of the sun, not her. “Since, you know—” Amy was trying to beat a tactical retreat. She hadn’t meant to say it. They’d agreed not to. But the silence! It had just been building up inside her all this time, gathering darkly under the banner of Iowa until—she’d eaten corn just last week, and not even that—gone for a picnic in the countryside with a friend, and not even that—why had she seen the ladybug? But it was too late for tactical retreats. It had finally percolated into John’s sun-bleached husk what she was referring to. He turned to her, Ray Bans blazing at her in manufacture-gilded anger. “We’ve been over this. I said it wouldn’t happen again, and it hasn’t.” His tone had that nauseating lilt of superiority, as if he already 101


knew exactly how this conversation would end. At that, Amy felt a blaze of her own anger—a starched-corn anger ground in with courage, courage so young and unused that Amy suddenly wondered where it had been for all these years. It was such a strange feeling she almost shrank from it but instead— “You think that makes everything better again, do you?” “No, of course not, but I made one honest mistake and—” “One honest mistake?” Amy heard herself giving a shriek of laughter, but she felt disconnected from the scene. It had been too long, and she wasn’t sure anymore whether the Amy suddenly revealing herself—in strapped boots of worn, worked leather and a pitchfork and flaming torch—could even be real. “I’d say it was more than just one mistake, sweetie,” leatherpitchfork- flaming torch Amy raged. John opened his mouth to respond, but the starched-corn anger fueled Amy on. “When was the last time you looked at me, really looked at me? Not the way you look at them either—that’s just lust, you testosterone-driven man, and we both know it. But ever since lust, you’ve lost sight of love, haven’t you? Why can’t they be one, as they used to be, with me? Is it age? You think you’ve weathered the storm any better?” (Though she had to admit he had, floating Amy thought, but pitchfork Amy only snarled.) “You think that you can do better than me?” she snapped. “Of course you can’t, and you know so, too. That’s why you stayed with me, isn’t it? All this time, all this pretending. Keeping face with the all your friends.” The speech was building to a crescendo, drowning out the maddening whisper of wind on suburbanized grass and then—John’s hand brushed against his forearm. Amy tried not to notice, concentrating instead on her words, words that were a roar, a wind, a healthy gust sweeping through— What? It was still suburban America, after all. The East Coast. The houses that encircled and crowned the city and were themselves the modern grace of society. Iowa was a long way gone. The internet was something quite real and quite substantial, an embryo no more. John was… the only thing she knew, really. The sun could never be the light by which all truth is seen—it tanned and did no more. And corn—corn was a starch, a food all diets hissed maliciously 102


to stay away from. Suddenly exhausted from her tirade, Amy sank back in her lounge. She hadn’t even noticed herself rising from it with the fury of her words, but now she felt quite ashamed that she had. This was all too much, really, for a day on which supposedly no one knows what to do with themselves. John was still staring at her in half astonishment, half Ray Ban, manufacture-gilded anger. He opened his mouth as if to respond but then resolutely pulled his mandibles together again with what he perceived as a herculean and rather heroic effort. On the deck, there twitched a small body. Amy knew where it was, but her eyes refused to linger there. She’d seen it once, when John’s hand had carelessly swatted it through the sun-drenched air, and that had been enough, hadn’t it? Pitchfork Amy was no more. After a few minutes, Amy finally mustered up enough energy to drag herself out of the chair. The wooden planks of the deck burned under her uncalloused feet as she tiptoed towards the sanctuary of the indoors. She knew that once she reached the cool, air conditioned interior, she’d forget all about… well, everything. Her instincts would kick right back in, she was sure. After all, she did have rather a whole lot of work to get done, and then there was Kelly’s party tonight to think about and— Her toe brushed against the fallen ladybug as she slid open the back door and slipped inside. The creature stirred briefly, still alive in that pathetic sort of way any half-crushed bug is. But Amy quite purposely didn’t notice, and John didn’t care, and only the black spots scattered on a field of red could attest to the fact that this bug was ever anything more than ugly.

103


Facing Children

Robin Kim 104


The Blind (for Shimshon in the lap of Delilah) When you woke, bound with bow strings, why did you return, Shimshon? The mark of new rope on your wrists, how loud that howling song of her hips, the spring rising from the empty basins of her back. What strength could hold you from the curling tongue of Delilah, when she waded into the waters of your chest wondering at your weakness, begging to know the gentle bones of your heel? What could keep you— in the valleys of her lap, alive with the opening lips of crocus flower— from sleep? In her hands, your eyes like tangerines and the wet skins of salmon eggs, food for the dogs baying below prison windows for bones. Helen Spica

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A wicker basket of apples in Moscow They sit brown-red, and rotten in the wicker basket, wilted yellow like dead Grass. Fields and fields of unexplored grass For the harvest. There is no way to feed the hunger, the insatiable hunger. Cold red sky stretches over unchartered sea steaming, bubbling with Russian tea. Each nation springs forth like the next Russian doll, as small mimics of the mother. She scoops her young and protects them from white summer snow, fiery blue stars, and the rocket’s red glare. She draws an iron curtain around her land and peers over the other side. She rations spoiled food, polluted water, and waits. Tension sparks on expectations of violence and fuels on cold, deafening silence. Katie Fuccillo

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My sister was eleven when she forced her palm through the pretty glass panels we used to peer into, searching for creeping shadows of pretend bogeymen and bugaboos. But where there used to be monsters was just her hand— suspended for a moment before she pulled back and screamed. It took two dish towels to stem the bleeding, and another before the paramedics arrived, and I held her good hand to reassure her she would not die. They plucked the shards from her wrists, pulling the skin closed as a nurse stroked her hair and we waited for our nervous mother to rush through the curtains for her baby girl. We never talked about it after, and it moved to the place where families keep their bad memories: next to the time I scratched her face and the time my father put a hole in the wall. We shift our eyes away from the panel, which was never replaced, the temporary block of wood still there to this day. Once, at a birthday party we were too old for, I asked her why, and she opened her palm, tracing the scar that my mother keeps telling her to hide, silently running a finger from the bottom of her wrist to the middle of her forearm. Christine Zhao

107


Summer’s End

Robin Kim 108


Night Dances for Peyton We reach through the holes in the window screen and scoop ladlefuls of sky for our mixing bowls. Add color from backyard raspberries and crushed sea glass, watch clouds turn sherbet through the panes. In the attic we dance tarantella, drawing slivers into our heels from dusty floor on each downbeat. Wood’s more dangerous than metal, mom will say when she scrapes skin in the morning, but we secretly enjoy the winks of pain. Same way we like the mosquitoes, who won’t let us forget the flesh between our toes and under our thighs. Until one day, we find the screen patched: mesh and rubber lattice of night sky pie. Now our skin’s clean and stone smooth, and the clouds have gone gray. Bailey Spencer

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Since I Can’t Be Socrates We must be together. Merely to be my shirt, I mean, to keep me hid— or better yet, to be my tie, to hang around my neck and make me look fine in our panoptic party world. You are uneven, though, and don’t quite know what straight is without a mirror. Merely my shoes, then, though I’d walk in snowdrifts barefoot if I could. Like the old man I saw who forgot it was December. Consider us together: I’d be shod and tied and you and I, imagine, a right proper man and wife. Then laws, whose and which we know, will nod or bow their heads. No shell-clatter court will hear my apology or bid me drink, since I’d need a camel-laden desert to leave my winter boots at home and a hermitage to keep away from parties. An old saint can indulge himself ironically, but weaker men wear ties. Jordan Dorney

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Stylus Staff David Kunkel Brian Park Katie Fuccillo Helen Spica Gary Newcomer Bailey Spencer Caitlin Axtmayer Zamin Husain Adrian Tatro Sophia Gorgens Emily Simon Michael Kadow Jennifer Heine Helen Zhang Chrstine Degenaars Jaimie Carvalho Jackie Delgado Jordan Dorney Dom Tomanelli Amelie Lyons Patty Owens Monique Dabdoub Victor Casta単eda Titi Oluwo Ryan Towey Rea Rogers Joseph Baron Stephen Coscia

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Fall 2012 Issue