CANDID PARIS PHOTOGRAPH
Letter from the Editor Dear Readers, Anaïs Nin once said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in the retrospect.” Though Nin wrote fiction and was a master of journal writing, her insight applies to art, photography, and poetry. The drive of creative expression is to assimilate our external and internal environments and experiences. The master artists aim to reconstruct realities in order to share stories and ideas that change how readers view and interact with their worlds. It’s with this filter in mind that the selections of this year’s magazine emerged from the many wonderful submissions. The Fall Line Review values intellectual and artistic exchange. From personal experience, I can say that the editors, review board members, and advisors thrive on watching the growth of student writers and artists as they sharpen their craft. As creative undergraduates, we’ve been learning to reconstruct our experiences and histories to make new connections within ourselves, all while conveying these stories in a universal light. I enjoyed seeing this applied in this year’s contributions. I’d like to say thank you to The Fall Line Review advisors, Dr. Kelly Whiddon and Dr. Heather Braun for their guidance in preparing me with all I needed to lead as a productive content editor. I’d also like to thank Lily Billingsley, the layout editor, who I’ve worked very closely with these past two years. Lily’s eye for design and technical
knowledge has been an intricate part in the publication’s success. In addition, I’m thankful for my passionate group of review board members, Elizabeth Worthy, Danielle Quesenberry, and Rachel Marsh for their hard work and good eye for quality creative content. Finally, I want to offer my congratulations and express my gratitude to all the talented writers and artists that made this publication possible. I enjoyed reviewing every piece, and the decision process was difficult. I’ve gained valuable experience by serving the magazine these past three years—first, as a review board member and, now, as an editor. It’s with some sadness that I leave the magazine upon graduation to a new staff that will lead The Fall Line Review into its next chapter. Next year’s publication will be a collaborative effort, with all five campuses at Middle Georgia State College participating. I look forward to following the progress of the magazine for years to come. I hope you enjoy perusing The Fall Line Review 2013.
Shanna Conway Dixon Content Editor
The Fall Line Review of Middle Georgia State College is published in print format annually. The online edition is ongoing. The publication is funded through student activity fees and is free to all members of Middle Georgia State College’s campus community. All literary, artwork and digital work are self-expressions of those who created them and are not intended to represent the ideas or views of The Fall Line Review staff or its advisors. This work does not reflect the views of Middle Georgia State College’s faculty, staff, administration, student body, or the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Artwork contained in the journal or on the website is not intended to specifically illustrate any literary work or vice versa, but may have been placed according to content. The Fall Line Review is a literary journal featuring the creative and collective consciousness of Middle Georgia State College’s students. Please direct all inquires to: The Fall Line Review Middle Georgia State College c/o English and Media Culture & the Arts 100 College Station Drive Macon, GA 31206 Office: 478-471-5735 Fax:478-757-3624 E-mail: email@example.com Volume XVI ISSN:1930-1383 Assigned by the Library of Congress, February 21, 2006 © 2013 The Fall Line Review All copyrights revert back to the authors after first issue. Cover art Typhoon by Chanda Roderick
Editorial Staff & Advisors Content Editor Design & Layout Editor
Shanna Conway Dixon Lily Billingsley
Danielle Quesenberry Elizabeth Worthy Rachel Marsh
Dr. Heather Braun Dr. Kelly Whiddon
Table of Contents TITLE OF WORK
Shanna Conway Dixon
Sweet Relief at the Sugar Shack
St. Simonsâ€™ Marshes
Between You and Me
Black and White Flower
More than Food
The Woman in the Attic
Ace Hotel Seattle
The Misty Pier
Table of Contents TITLE OF WORK
Under the Yellow Sign
Poem to my Father at Lake Sinclair
I Want to Be
The Sound of Roaches
Baby on Spider
Seed of Age
The Secret Garden
Just Wait in the Car
Swimmin’ wit’ the Fishes
I Guess I’m like This Mailbox
Changing of the Guard
Grass Widow Ghazal
Shanna Conway Dixon
The Search The slight woman in a safari vest stood at the mouth of the used bookstore on Mulberry Street, the one with smudged windows, the one that smells like mothballs. She wedged the talon hook on the left door and rappelled past the nonfiction, zinged away from the reference section, swept toward poetry before flinging herself toward fiction. The rope bounced and zipped still. Her fingers clung to a crevice between Tennyson and Hardy. Her stale teacher told her that reading was an adventure, but this girl liked the search, fingers slinking over burgundy and blue bindings. Her forefinger would find the treasure. Sheâ€™d take it home and mount it on the bookshelf.
SHANNA CONWAY DIXON
Lagniappe I collected spare change from jars and buckets in case I chose to rid myself of you. I was afraid that you’d fall from my secrets. I played with the crushed dust of opiates on the tub’s edge—three weeks late, and no one knew. I counted on spare change from jars and buckets. I named you Deluge. Other sons were just droplets. I nursed you in New Orleans—my breasts milk-heavy in the bayou. I sang of how you fell from my secrets. We’d share a bowl of crawfish and play zydeco on cassettes. The thin sheets on windows spotted with mildew were bought with the spare change from jars and buckets. You turned four while I worked. I came home, and we wept over hair clippings you tried to re-attach with glue. You begged me not to let it fall from our secrets. In the chicory of night, we walked to a supermarket. I lugged a heavy purse. We whispered of curfews. I gave you the spare change from jars and buckets. You bought a red hat. Lagniappe—you fell from my secrets.
Sweet Relief at the Sugar Shack Soon as Saturday night hit, I run into the bathroom, remove my curlers, and exhale. Full off: ham bone cracklin’ cornbread collard greens and peach cobbler I enter the darkened lane— my musical sanctuary. Life disappears down at the shack. Negro no more, just pure, I am. Brut and Charlie stain the air. Heads whippin’ as if possessed. Feet chumpin’ the floor like frightened horses. Light fixtures tremble. Glasses shatter. Saxophone whining the sweet tune of unity. Hands clappin’ like a black man won the election. That’s Michael, with his hands raised to the ceiling. He screams, “Umma tare this mutha down!” The hustle. The bump. The funky chicken. Our souls soak the dance floor. Slow sips of moonshine— I tilt my head and raise my skirt real high. We swallow the rhythm of the guitar way into the infancy of morning. No gun shots, just us sea swimming.
St. Simons’ Marshes
My daddy always told me the marshes of St. Simons held
more stories than folks could imagine, some he swore wouldn’t never be uttered by a human mouth. Daddy said if a person was to listen real hard at the right time, like when the air carried the salt off the ocean and through the trees, that the moss would talk and tell folks’ secrets. There’s places still on this little island where the trees seem to be growing faces, like the souls that got took are trying to come back to life through the bark, places where ropes still swing from trees and remind folks of the strange fruit that the trees used to grow. Then there are the marshes, places where the grass grows wild and unbothered. It’s all kinds of people who was done wrong and scream they stories through the tall grass of the marsh, where the land seems to hide all of its secrets inside the ocean, and lost souls roll out with the tide. I hope my daddy wrong. I hope some things stay a secret, especially the secrets of the marsh.
My daddy was a shrimper on one of the boats before the
Depression, but when times got hard, the black folks was the first ones to get let go. Daddy had to start crabbing and shrimping on his own to make ends meet. He’d get up early in the morning, before the sun even came up sometimes, and go out to the edge of the marsh. He’d sit on the bank all day and sometimes most of the night just to get enough meat to sell to the fish houses. He never got home ‘til after dark,
and me and Mama was usually left to take care of everything ‘til he got home. My mama was a seamstress. She charged fifty cents to hem and stitch folks’ clothes. A dress made by Mama’s hands was only three dollars. It wasn’t a piece of what Mama’s work was worth, though. I can still see her nails, red underneath from the blood that would roll out of the stabs of the pins in her fingers. I can still see Mama’s hands and her brown wrinkles rolling across them like the dark waves from the ocean. Her back was always arched over cause she spent so much time struggling to see the thread as she wove it like moss through them clothes. Mama could have made more money cleaning white folks’ houses on the island, but she always said she would rather die than to set foot in another white person’s house again. I didn’t understand why ‘til the day I met her old boss man, Mr. Thomas.
I was the oldest of nine children, seven of which was still alive.
Mama’s first baby had died right after childbirth. They say he buried right out beside the marsh where Daddy go shrimping. My baby sister died when she was one from the influenza. Because I was the oldest, I had to work, too. I made a few dollars a week washing clothes and pressing them for people. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it helped some. I had just got done dropping off and picking up a load from Mrs. Forrester’s house. It was starting to get dark, and I knew that being out in the dark wasn’t no good idea. I was walking back—my arms full of dirty clothes, my feet tired and covered in ashy black sand—when a feeling hit me. It was like my soul was trying to seep out of my skin. I looked up
ELIZABETH WORTHY and that was the first time I saw Mr. Thomas. He was an old white man that looked like one of them soldiers for the Confederates I always used to see in white folks house or in they books. He was medium height and had a fat stomach—like he was pregnant, with a beard that looked like the foam off the ocean—real white and dark grey. He had hair on his head that looked like rain storm clouds. I seen him looking at me, but I just kept walking. It wasn’t no good idea for a black girl to look at a white man in the face ‘round here; it would get you in a lot of trouble. I thought maybe he wasn’t gone bother me ‘til I heard Mr. Thomas’ horse’s hoofs up behind me.
“Hey there, dumpling,” he said. “That basket look heavy
“No, sir,” I said, keeping my head down.
“Oh, you’re a big girl now, huh?” he asked.
“No, sir,” I said. “I ain’t but 13.”
“Oh hell, that’s grown,” he laughed. I could tell he was drunk
‘cause of the way he was wobbling on top of his horse. “Say, you Clementine and Jeremiah’s child, ain’t you?”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“I knew it. Just as sure as the sun rise in the morning. What’s
your name, girl?”
“Rose,” I whispered, hoping it and him would get carried
away in the breeze.
“I swear girl you just as pretty as your Mama at your age. She
ELIZABETH WORTHY used to work for me when she was your age, you know?”
I walked silent. The darkness was starting to creep in. The birds
was going back to their nests. They were flying in groups that looked like freckles against the red and orange sky. I put my head down and tried to walk faster, wishing I could float away with the dust kicked up in the sand.
“Your Mama always was a real good worker for me, Rose. She
did any and everything Mr. Thomas ask her to,” he said real smug-like. I looked up at him quickly and saw him lick out his fat, dirty, salmoncolored tongue and rub it across his lips. “Yep, anything I wanted. Only reason I let her go was ‘cause she up and got pregnant. You understand, don’t you, Rose? I couldn’t have no unmarried nigger girl working ‘round my house pregnant. People ain’t stupid you know. St. Simons is a small island. Folks stay talking. I wanted you to work for me, too, Rose, but your daddy told me I couldn’t have you.”
I felt like I had swallowed a mouth full of salt water and beach
sand. My throat dried up and burned. My muscles started wiggling and tingling on my bones. I knew I was ‘bout to be in trouble.
“Yep,” he said. “I’ve always been a odd kind of man though,
Rose. You know how?” he asked.
“No, sir,” I said readying myself. I was almost home. Just
through the tall weeds and oak trees, I could see the tin rooftop of my house.
“I’ve always been the kind of man that love himself some
ELIZABETH WORTHY flowers, specially roses.” He snatched the reins on the horse and waved it in front of me. He looked down at me from up on that big grey horse. I swear if it’s a devil in hell he look just like that old Mr. Thomas looked right then and there. He jumped down off of the horse and walked ‘round it ‘til he got so close to me I could see myself in his empty eyes. He looked real big up top of the horse, but standing in front of me, he still looked tall as any oak. “I sure wouldn’t mind smelling a sweet rose right about now,” he said.
A bead of sweat rolled down my back, and the heat
pressed against my back like Jesus had come off the cross and was pushing me and telling me to take off running. I dropped the basket and all the clothes and high-tailed it towards my house. Mr. Thomas, too drunk to think, struggled something bad getting back up on his horse, but it was just long enough to give me a head start. I could hear the horse’s hoofs getting closer, but I wasn’t gone let him catch me. I screamed for Mama, praying she could hear me.
My feet hit the wooden porch hard, and I struggled to pull
the door open. All of a sudden, something hit me in the face so hard I fell over. My head felt like it had been hit with a oak branch. I inhaled hard and sucked a bunch of blood up in my nose. My Mama had slung the door open so hard and fast she had hit me in the nose with it. I had just enough time to roll out of the way as Mr. Thomas and his horse came on the porch. I’ll probably be a hundred years old before I forget that horse’s eyes—like brown glass. Glossy. Shiny.
ELIZABETH WORTHY Dark. They didn’t have no whites to them at all. I thought I was dead ‘cause I saw myself standing up reflected in the horse eyes. Then I saw the shotgun and realized it was Mama. She held the gun pointed straight at Mr. Thomas’ head, and for a minute the whole island seem like it could of been standing still. Mr. Thomas’ face changed real slow. He ain’t look like Satan himself no more. He went from all red and swollen looking to a pale moss-colored grey, and his mouth untwisted and fell wide open.
I looked up at him and could see the fear of a man who
knew he was ‘bout to die. I turned my head and looked at Mama. Her face was real mad, like she was ‘bout to go to battle with a monster and was bound and determined to win. Her chest was puffed out and still like she was holding her breath so she could keep her aim. She looked at me without moving the gun. It wasn’t ‘til just then that I noticed the pain and tiredness my mama held in her eyes. They yelled out her secrets to me as I sat there nearly laid out on that old wooden front porch. They scared me.
I know my mama knew what she was about to do was
wrong, just like I knew a colored woman who killed a white man was bound to get a whole lot worse than just a fancy rope necktie ‘round her neck. They’d beat my Mama like she a common dog first and probably do even worse to her children just ‘cause they can. But what Mr. Thomas had done to my mama and was trying to do to me wouldn’t even be considered a crime on the island. He’d get in more
trouble walking ‘round drunk than laying one God-given finger on me or Mama.
A tear fell into the crease of Mama’s nose, and she looked
back at Mr. Thomas and pulled the trigger. The shot took Mama back near through the whole front of the house. It scared the horse so bad he jumped up and landed hard on the wood, clipping my arm. I screamed out in pain, and the horse ran up off the porch. Mr. Thomas, what was left of him anyway, got throwed out into the sand in the yard. I grabbed my arm and was trying to sit up. Mama dropped the gun and rushed to me, holding me close to her as her own chest. She was crying and shaking so hard I thought she was gone pass out. “Why, Mama?” I asked. She didn’t answer me, just held me closer and kept on crying. I twisted my face ‘round best I could and that’s when I saw the full effect of what mama had done done to Mr. Thomas. I tried to scream, but when I open my mouth it was full of sick. I couldn’t even make myself look away, but sweet Jesus it was awful. Mama covered my eyes, and the world went all black.
I must have fainted, ‘cause the next thing I remember is
waking up in my bed with Mama standing over me and stroking my head. My arm was all wrapped up, and Daddy was sitting in a chair beside my bed looking real tired and worried. “Alright, sugar. It’s alright there now,” she whispered. “You just done went into shock, that’s all. You’ll be alright now.”
It took me a little while to remember what had done
happened, but when it came back to me, I sat up quick. They’d be after Mama soon and then what? I’d have to watch my own Mama hanging from a tree like a limb. “Mama!” I screamed. “Mama, what they gone…”
“Hush now, child,” Mama said, still calm. “Me and your daddy
done took care of it all now. All you got to do is just stay real quiet ‘bout it now, you hear me? Your daddy gone get up real early and take some things down there to the marsh, and me and you gone act like we always done.” It wasn’t ‘til then that I saw the blood under Mama’s nails. It looked different then somehow, and I knew some kinda way it wasn’t none of hers. It looked dirty, tainted.
“But, Mama,” I whispered. “What about Mr. Thomas? What
you gone do Mama?” Mama looked out the window, and I could see her breathe a sigh. She looked at me, and I could tell that through all this mess Mama looked different somehow. Her eyes wasn’t as tired no more or full of all that pain like before.
“Your daddy need crab and shrimp bait, baby,” she said, not
one time letting her voice shake. It was steady as the ocean breeze on full tide. I didn’t ask no more questions. Early that morning, when I woke up to help mama fix breakfast, I saw that my daddy had taken all of his crab baskets and bait buckets. He usually only took a few, but that day he had took them all. And when he got home that night they was all empty. The rest will always stay a secret for the marsh.
Seeking Souvenirs Meandering through vendors, stalls, the crowd, my friend and I begin to feel like sheep. The search continues for an ideal gift, a keepsake like none I’ve bought before. No postcards, scarves, or tiny Tour Eiffels, nor tables full of lock-less, rusted keys persuade me of their worth. I turn and see old pins in rows, resembling swarms of bees, their stingers couched in faded red velour. The vintage clothes provide us some relief, our eyes exhausted by the old antiques, but when I found worn silverware, all bundled— knives, forks, and spoons that glinted in the sun— I knew I’d found the greatest gift, bar none.
Between You and Me Letâ€™s not speak of love this time around. Letâ€™s talk about the space between that beige wall and that bookshelf, a useless gap that harbors dust, shelves that bulge with crusted books, a stern vase of limp carnations, smiling names caged in wooden frames, and a stolen sand dollar from St. Simons. But, the gap is the beach where the tide brings in fallen figurines of pirouetting ballerinas, neon post-it notes, bent bobby pins, and earring backs. One newborn morning, when cherry blossoms flit past your window, when you scrape your spoon across the bottom of the glass sugar jar, you will shift that bookshelf and find what I cannot say.
Flowerbed I don’t understand what they expected to grow when they planted my body in this plot, especially since they’ve already stuck some false flowers in a plastic vase and left.
More than Food
Food unites people of different races and cultures. It is no
surprise that certain food can trigger a wide range of memories, bad or good. When I smell the aroma of fried chicken or collard greens, I am instantly taken back to times at Grandma’s house, how the rusty table sang as we sat down because Grandma never had the money to get another one. “We making it,” my grandma reminded me always after I complained. Times were hard; bills were piling up like a blue wave that was ready to strike at any time. We carried the fear of the wave all into Sunday, our family dinner. We never spoke of bills or any other problems. We used that time for family and to celebrate what we did have, each other. I loved to go in the kitchen; I would watch my grandmother cook. It was magical. It always calmed me down. It was like the sun setting over the horizon.
My grandmother was a large woman standing around 5’10”
and weighing around 200 pounds. Her skin was like warm caramel with just the hint of chocolate around her cheeks. She had long, thick, curly hair, a gift from her Indian ancestors. Her eyes, the color of cinnamon, could make any man fall victim to her charm. She was a beautiful woman.
I loved to watch her prepare the collard greens. She would cut
the greens with so much precision it was like I was watching an artist at work. My grandmother put a lot of time and effort into making sure everything was up to her standards. She loved food; it was her escape from problems. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized why she liked to cook. When she cooked, it brought the family together with hope, love, and, most of all, prayer. Sunday became our haven from all our problems.
Sometimes I would creep in the kitchen like a thief in a house
and peek in the pot of greens. I would stir it around and pretend that I was causing a hurricane. Every time she caught me, she would tell me,
“Girl, if you don’t leave them greens alone the only battering you will see is my hand on your behind.” My grandma knew I loved to watch her batter the chicken, so anything bad I would do, that would be her threat. First, she used her old hands to wash the chicken with so much care. It was like watching a mother give her child a bath. She would gently lift the chicken and wash it, then drop it very softly back in the water. After the wash, she would roll the chicken in flour like a child in the snow. Next came the dance. The chicken would twirl and twist around in the pot full of oil. The dance was over when they floated to the top—the grand finale. The chicken was a beautiful golden color; it looked like it was handpicked by the sun to mock its yellow appearance.
When the food was done, we would all sit down. We talked,
laughed, argued, and sometimes cried. Then the food came, and all the noise was replaced with sounds of appreciation and pure joy. The greens were tender, crying with juices and seasoned like a runner after a marathon. The chicken was golden, with specks of pepper playing a game of hide-and-seek. The smell was intense, it flirted with us, teasing us like a woman to her suitors. The smell of garlic from the chicken kicked me in the face then turned around and kissed the same spot. There was the hint of spices so subtle it made you smack, lick, and slow down to guess what it was. The chicken was so crispy that it sounded similar to eating a bag of chips. It was a very good meal.
Smiles were pasted on all of our faces from being crippled
by a guy named Pleasure. When everything was done, we would sit there too full to move. It was bittersweet to have the food gone and the leftovers put up. We knew we had to go back to reality. The good thing was that no matter how big and scary the world seemed, we would always have a place to escape. I miss our Sunday dinners and what they taught me. There was nothing in the world like my family around that rusty table for Sunday dinner.
The Woman in the Attic There is a woman living in my attic. I hear her nails scratching as she crawls above my ceiling. She moans, almost in tune with my singing, as I clean the house. Her dragging footsteps follow my pace up and down the hall. I dream about her slithering up the rafters and hanging bat-like from them. Perhaps she couldnâ€™t find any other place to stay, or maybe she came because she was bored. Either way, I wouldnâ€™t mind her so much if she would help pay the rent.
ACE HOTEL, SEATTLE
20 JENNIFER FORDHAM
22 MATTHEW POLEY
THE MISTY PIER
DIVISION OF BLUE
24 KRISTIN HANLIN
GOODNIGHT MOON ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR
THE REACH PAINTING
Light The first-born offspring of Heaven was light. Monetâ€™s paintings are his impressions of light. The thing we call darkness does not exist; it is only a word for the absence of light. A loverâ€™s naked skin reflects the glow through the blinds, the amber of a street light. Wood sizzles from the touch and lick of flames that are the release of imprisoned light. A glass prism divides the sun into ribbons, dancing lines of ethereal color from light. The energy of the sun is captured by plants and passed down as food until we are light. When asked the origin of Lux, I say the name is German, but the word is Latin, for light.
Under the Yellow Sign
“Hey, darlin’. What can I get for ya tonight?” Dee Dee smiles
down on the elderly gentleman who seemed to be staring in confusion at the hash brown section of the menu.
“I want them with cheese,” the man says.
Dee Dee, who has been standing patiently waiting for his order,
replies,“Covered it is!”
It has been a long, ten-hour shift. Her feet are tired, her brain
is tired, and even her cheeks are tired from the incessant smiling. She’s been working at this same Waffle House for over four years. There are others she works with who’ve been there for seven, or even twelve years, but for Dee Dee, four years of ten-hour shifts, six days a week seems like an eternity.
Nevertheless, everyone gets a smile. All the customers that
walk under the yellow sign into her waffle home are immediately family. Dee Dee greets them all like long lost relatives returning home for the holidays. Crazy Earl, who comes in drunk every night at 4 a.m. to sober up—family. Wanda, the corporate attorney who stops by on her way to the office at 8 a.m.—family. Sean and Jared, the two trumpet players in the high school band that come in every Friday night at 11—family. But not just the regulars, even the one time customers who stop by on their way out of town are family. That’s why on Friday, November 30th, when the little bell above the door starts to jingle, Dee Dee begins to call out her usual friendly greeting. But when her eyes come up from the counter, and she sees the person entering, she stops, frozen. This person
really is family, but at the same time, she is the farthest thing from what Dee Dee would consider family. It’s her sister, Lena.
“Hey, Deed,” Lena says. Dee Dee just stands there, marveling
at how Lena has become even more beautiful than she remembers. It takes everything in her power to keep herself from running around the counter and bear-hugging her sister. Doing that would be inappropriate, though. Lena is a school teacher now. She is professional and mature. She grew up. She did what she was supposed to do.
“If you came here to try and get me to come home, you
might as well leave,” Dee Dee says. Her words come out as cold and detached as she hoped they would. She silently prays that Lena can’t tell how excited she is to see her. “I don’t want you here, so you should just go back to your perfect life and your perfect husband,” Dee Dee lies. She thinks to herself how perfect Lena is, always the nice one, always the obedient one. That’s why their parents always worshipped her. But then, the words coming out of Lena’s mouth reminded her that Lena’s temper makes her far from perfect.
“Fine. If you’re going to act like a grumpy brat, then I will go.
Serves me right for coming here in the first place, I guess,” Lena says. Dee Dee chokes down a giggle. Lena always talked like a kindergarten teacher, even before she was one. It’s hard to feel insulted by the word “brat,” but Dee Dee knows that, from Lena, that was an insult.
The two sisters had grown up together in an average looking,
cookie-cutter house in the suburbs of Jackson, Mississippi. Lena, the younger of the two, had always been driven, motivated, and ambitious. Whatever she set her mind to, she accomplished. She had
a sassy, back-talking mouth and elegant, Rapunzel-like, blonde hair that generally worked together to get her whatever she wanted. This, alone, made it downright shocking that she ended up as a kindergarten teacher, as that kind of profession generally calls for gentle words. Dee Dee is three years older than Lena, and half a foot taller with short dark hair. Growing up, she was always the quiet one, the nice one, people would say. She was always the one who did the listening and generally let Lena have her way. Fighting was too much of a hassle.
Maybe it doesn’t seem like a good reason or even a reason
at all, but at some point, Dee Dee just gave up. Lena was well on her way to ruling the world, and more and more Dee Dee felt herself sliding behind the curve. She just stopped doing anything. Grades fell to the wayside, commitments were broken, and nothing seemed to matter anymore. Too late, Dee Dee found that she couldn’t move even if she tried. Seeing her younger sister succeeding at life, making a name for herself, and starting a family simultaneously made her incredibly jealous and overwhelmingly proud.
No one’s opinion or judgments of Dee Dee ever matter
much to her, but one person’s opinion matters so much it hurts— Lena’s. That’s why she hasn’t spoken to her in so long. Dee Dee simply can’t look her sister in the eye when she’s fallen so low. It’s easy to ignore how much of a disappointment she’s become when the sound of the griddle drowns out any self-deprecating inner monologues. But she can’t hide that from Lena.
When they were younger, the two of them were inseparable.
Now, that couldn’t be further from the truth. She had survived the past four years by telling herself that the pain of losing her sister is more bearable than the pain of seeing her sister’s disappointment. But now, seeing her sister leaning against the counter in her Waffle House, she knew it to be true. Lena, even in her nice sister kindness, couldn’t mask the pity she felt for her sister.
“I didn’t come here to get you to come back,” Lena said,
stopping at the door and turning around, “I came here to tell you a story.”
“A story? Do I look like one of your students? Listen, I don’t
know what you’re doing, but you know I don’t want you here. I don’t like you, we don’t have anything in common anymore and—”
“Oh, would you just shut up for ten seconds! You never could
let anyone else get in a word. You just have to have the last word and shut everyone else down before they have a chance to tell you anything at all. And as much as I would love to throw this coffee in your face and leave, I can’t. I promised myself I wouldn’t leave until I told you this story.”
“Shhh, I’m talking.” Lena says, holding up her index finger
like a true teacher. She plops herself down on the stool at the bar and wipes down the bar with a napkin. “Okay, so you know I teach kindergarten, right? Never mind, that doesn’t matter. Anyway, one of my students’ mother is very young, probably only 19 or 20. Well, her daughter, Casey, almost gave me a heart attack one morning during share time. We were all going around the circle telling the class what
happened over the weekend, and Casey just comes out and says, My mommy almost died last night. Not wanting to disturb the class, I waited until the end of the day and took Casey aside and asked her what she meant. Casey, being all of six-years-old, just kept repeating My mommy almost died last night. So, I waited until her mommy came to pick her up, and asked to speak with her in private. (You see, I just can’t have one of my students saying stuff like that.) Casey’s mom looked fine to me, but I asked anyway. I told her that Casey seemed upset, and I wanted to know if there was anything I could do.
Surprisingly, her mother laughed and said, Today is a good
day. I waited for a minute, hoping she would go on, and thankfully she did.
Ms. Anderson, I’m glad you asked, because I just have to tell
someone what happened. I’ve been struggling with depression ever since I had Casey. Before she was born, I was going places; I had a plan. I was going to college; I was going to get married and have a career. But then in one night, my world was changed, and I went from being the girl with potential, to the family slut. Don’t get me wrong, Casey is my world, but last night even she didn’t seem like a good enough reason to live. While I was at work, I came up with this plan. I planned on going home, taking my daughter to my mother’s house, and then finding a way to kill myself.
When I got off, I was really tired. Since not killing myself
because I fell asleep sounded like the most pathetic way not to die, I went by Waffle House to get a cup of coffee. That stuff could grow
hair on a bald cat. Anyway, as I was sitting there under that yellow sign drinking my coffee, this waitress started talking to me. I don’t know what it was about her, but she made me feel like family. She didn’t talk about anything important, just about the weather, or the high school football game, but the way she talked to me made me feel like she cared. I can’t remember the last time someone made me feel like that. Even talking to my own mother makes me feel like I’ve fallen so far from grace that I should just make a life down here at rock bottom.
So I told her my plan. After hearing my plan, this waitress,
whose name I still don’t know, put her hands on top of her head and screamed at me.
‘NO YOU WILL NOT,’ she said to me. Then, she did the oddest
thing; she walked around the counter and wrapped her arms around me. She held on to me for a solid minute and then all of a sudden let go and grabbed both of my hands. ‘Look at me,’ she said. ‘Look at me and tell me that you won’t do it tonight. Then, come back tomorrow night and tell me the same thing. Just make it through tonight, and tell me that it’s a good night. Think of some reason, any reason, why tonight could be a good night to be alive.’
Now, I know what she said doesn’t sound all that impressive,
but she had been so kind to me that night, that I felt that I at least owed it to her to stick out one more night. That night I came home with a smile on my face because someone cared enough to treat me that way, and she didn’t even know how much it meant to me. And for some reason, when I woke up this morning, I felt like I could
make it through the day again, at least so that Casey would know what it feels like to have family that cares about her the way that waitress treated me. For some reason, I thought it was a good idea to tell Casey what happened when she woke up this morning, even though she’s only five. Sorry about that.
“Casey’s mom was crying a little bit when she left my
classroom that day, but I think she’s going to be okay.” Lena finishes her story, and putting her arms gently on the counter, looks her sister right in the eye. “That was you, Dee Dee, wasn’t it? You’re that waitress, aren’t you?”
Dee Dee, who has been standing frozen for the past five
minutes, gives the slightest nod. “So what if it was?” she says, barely louder than a whisper.
“So, I came here to tell you that I’m proud of you. I came
here to tell you that I wish I was more like you. Maybe I could have held that poor girl and told her not to do it, but I could never have made her feel as loved as you did in only a few minutes,” Lena says, now looking at her hands on the counter.
Lena quietly gets up and walks out of the restaurant. Dee
Dee watches Lena drive past the yellow sign out of the parking lot and brushes a tear off her cheek. After a moment, she realizes that she’s just been standing there, and she should probably get back to her tables. As she continues to work, she smiles to herself and whispers, “Tonight is a good night to be alive.”
WHO’S NEXT ILLUSTRATION
Poem to my Father at Lake Sinclair I am your daughter. Tell me why you left these malt liquor bottles on the counter. Come. Answer me now. Not even death can remove the memory of my motherâ€™s bruised face. Tell me of her concussions. You did say till death. Tell me how you planned to shoot us, under the pear tree, shotgun placed to her soft chest. Answer. Be a man.
Nothing but your ash falls. The last motion
we shared as I gathered you into my hands to cast you into the lake. You appeared as a cloud hiding catfish. Suspension. I am your daughter. Come. Tell me how can I find you? When will my boiling blood clear?
Remember I spent a lot of time with my father, helping him in our garage-turned-workshop. The sparks that fell down his shirt did not stop him from welding the tree stands together. His strength left me humbled as he carried bags of cement mix that I could not move. All complications he faced were withstood, and work never seemed to leave him wearied. But then I left, spending three months away before returning. And when I saw him that day, his shoulders had begun to stoop, his beard was graying, and his hair was thin. The weight of life bent his frame, made it slim, getting him ready for deathâ€™s looming coup.
It was August 15, 1989 when she walked in with one suitcase, a
tattered umbrella, and a folder full of an extensive medical history. Her words are scarce; anything over three is a milestone. She’s seen people come and go, whether it be visitors, workers, or residents. The night the man across the hall died during his sleep she told the front desk worker, “He’s lucky.” The only time Elaine has remotely shown happiness was the Christmas of last year when a group of children from a local church came to sing. One little girl, wearing an old stained dress, handed Elaine a misshaped Christmas tree sugar cookie and a smiled peaked upon her face, only for a second though.
As the orderly, I know Elaine fairly well. I’ve washed her clothes
and dusted the excessive skin off her vanity. I’ve cooked her meals, washed the dishes after her, and walked her to her room when she felt too tired. Not only do I know her like the back of my hand, I know the back of her hand. Her skin’s thin, and the veins protrude around her knuckles. Her fingers lean slightly to the left, and her thumbs will not straighten. She keeps her nails fairly short, and I’ve never seen a ring. I don’t ask Elaine questions because she simply told me not to talk to her. I like Elaine though. She stares out the window for hours seeing the world in a way I never will. I look out for five minutes, see a bird crap on my car. I’m about done embracing nature. But today I want to ask Elaine where her family is. It’s her 87th birthday, and she deserves a visitor. While walking in her room I shout out, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY.” Not moving from the twin sized-bed covered by an oversized quilt, I realize my mistake. Elaine would rather be alone. Perhaps this is all she
ever wanted. In this silent moment, I take a second to look around her room. Usually I’m anxious to finish cleaning to break for lunch. I barely pay attention to detail, but right now, my eyes slowly scan Elaine’s sanctuary. The walls are bare, just our terrible beige paint surrounding her. No photos. No posters. Nothing but beige. On her vanity sits a pink comb that we supplied her months ago, and it’s full of her white, frail hair. Other than that and her bed, the room is empty. Removing myself from the silence, I turn around to make a double-take at the tattered umbrella sitting in the corner. It suits her.
While setting the dinner table for the residents, I decide to make
a final effort by placing a single cupcake next to Elaine’s plate. When all the residents finally get situated into their designated chairs, I realize Elaine has given her cupcake to Mr. Charles, the blind man from Idaho. Biting onto my thumb nail to keep my mouth shut, I wait for the table to clear. Elaine, however, doesn’t budge. Too upset to speak, I treat Elaine the way I usually do, with silence. Picking up the plates around her and cleaning the table, I pretend she’s not even there. With fifteen minutes left in my shift, I finally gesture at Elaine to see if she needs help into her room. With the simple shake of her head left and right, I take off my apron and grab my car keys. On my way out the door, Elaine says a complete sentence that I will never forget.
“It’s people like you that I moved in here for, so I wouldn’t have
to be alone.”
I couldn’t wait to visit Elaine tomorrow.
Oh no. God no. They said leave. They said turn away and
come here no more. But I came, and I know what it is they have done. Become as the air that you breathe in and out, and so I have. I have kept my secret. I have lain down and am asleep.
My hands and feet were once unbruised in the awakening of
the world. My head, unbowed before they came. And my darkness, my darkness—the light of the world has gone out, and that which is left is no more real than the vanished phantoms of my mind. I’m struck by what has been and what I have known, but then it is gone like dreams when I awake.
At nightfall I heard them. The muffled cries of the children and
the hushed whispers. Cold in their down-frayed blankets and starving. “Please,” they say. “Please. Don’t kill us.”
“I am not going to kill you.” They stare with eyes of sadness and
fear, like the condemned going to their doom. Are we all alike, then? Each one in his own nightmare? Christ.
“Where have you come from?”
“Down there.” She points south. “There was a village hidden
in the woods. We’ve been there since the tanks came and destroyed the towns. A band of men found us. They took some to work for them and the rest of us hid while they were in the streets. We saved what we could. We walked until we found this wood two nights ago.”
A child looks up, too spent to hold the world in his gaze much
more. I want to smile at him, to give him a look that will tell him that he is safe and to not be afraid, but I, too, am afraid, and he knows. He sees.
“They say the roads are watched. We found the place in the
hills where our people once lived. My niece was one of them. But the
WIL FISHER buildings were all burnt and there was no one there.”
Does the sun look down and see what we have become? Is
that why it hides its face? As would I in this darkening of the world—the last sigh of our ancient strength. “It was raided a year ago. Who was your niece?”
Torment me, if you will. I care no more. Let me ask, though: Are
my pains not enough? Has your anger not been satisfied? I looked to you, and you gave me cold in return. You are silent and your presence here is nothing to me. Call forth your fire and wind. Open your mouth in olden parable, and it will be enough, if you can.
“I knew her.” It is all I can say. Could you find words when none
are given? You think and you say that you know, but you are lost and the tunnel is closing fast. Speak if you will. Call out. And what will you say, I wonder, in the face of that horror?
The woman sighed. Well she should. Befitting indeed in this hour
of tokens. “She is dead, then.”
“Dead? Yes, that is what she is.” . . . . . . . . . .
It has been three cold years since the Nazis came. Lithuania
was taken, and Belarus was not spared. Many of us lived in the Minsk ghetto before escaping to join the partisans. I have gone back often and led others out. Once I let my friend Elie lead a separate party in an attempt to free thirty more. I had led my people to the edge of the fence when the gunfire started. He and all those he was trying to save were butchered.
I had known of the outpost in the woods that the new group
spoke of. Rachel and I had visited it often in the early days, when it was
still safe to travel. Her mother was there, and her brother. It seemed almost an adventure, like the stories of old, surviving in the desolate land. The heart of a country now bereft of any token system. Leaderless and barren. We had each other. She was my all. I held her in my arms. I felt the warmth of her skin, and I knew that I had been spared.
There was no reformed earth. The ground I have walked
upon turned against me, and I was swallowed up. A lie, all of it. No ancient story of courage and strong exploits such as a father tells his son. The dust of which I am. No more than the falling of the sky, such a little thing. A song sung in a minor key.
So she passed. Do not ask me. I will not tell. She took even
that when she left. “What remains?” the elven folk ask. I hear the wind, that is all. Inquire of it. . . . . . . . . . . . .
I feel it in my soul, as deeply as I know that I will die and
not see any new world. As real as the dying trees and the words that haunt me. It is always near, impressed upon myself with the permanence of eternity. If eternity it is. Such is my soul. Leave me alone. I will go my way embraced by solitude and be damned if you know.
They say that the heart of Isis was touched with pity, and she
caused the poor woman’s child to return to life. I have known such pity looking into the eyes of the dying. The acolytes of death gripped with despair—they call to me with words unspoken and I tremble to hear their voice. What would you have of me? I, too, am a stranger in these lands. Turn away, seek another. I have not the salve you seek; it has been turned to bitterness and there is no virtue in it.
What is left when all is settled? Dare I ask the question?
Utter half-formed words to the mist that obscures the sky. Hide in the misjudged thoughts of a well-timed stupor. I would, I would. Do not tell me. I have heard the rumor. I know what you would say.
We took the company deeper into the woods. We have
a camp in the brush far from the roads. The children are resting now, each nestled into the withered grass and blanketed. The last remnants of a civilized place now shelter in the wild. The young ones pretend that they are wolves in their dens. They wrap themselves in blankets and howl to one another in wolf-speak. Who will invent the new words in which to speak their secrets? Who will be the leader of the pack? As it should be, though this night be the last and the cold overtake us in the dark.
Is this the moment when you drop out of the mindâ€™s sphere? A
loverâ€™s tears cease to fall, and I have seen with what it is replaced.
Let it flicker for a while. Let it burn and then go out.
I cannot tell the story as it ought to be told. My soul is dust
within me, and there are no words to say. She was young and her arms were bare. We walked slowly through the night where the trees parted and the grass still covered the earth. She walked over my heart, and took my air with her so that I could not breathe in the place where the woods still whispered of her passing. Alone in the darkness, her dress glistened in the light of the moon and the stars that gasped to see her form.
This, too, was a sign but I know now that it was not. In
the place where we hoped for good, terror has come instead. A prophecy, indeed. Speak the words. Pronounce the oracle. Bring forth the day that it might be terrified by its own blackness. We waited for
your rescue, but none has come. I have watched them perish, each one alone, and there was no deliverance when they took her and led her to the place.
“Enlighten my eyes,” you say? “Become strength in the
place when terror comes?“ You have abandoned me and I care not for your words. Go to another. I am weary of your ways. Ensnare another in your webs.
If I could say the words, recite the litany and draw forth her
form, bring up her spirit from the habitations of the dead, but she is gone, and her scent has faded from my soul.
They came. I was out ahead when I heard the screams. I
ran back, but I found only the bodies upon the ground. I saw it like a ghost walking the earth, and I watched the omen pass without a word.
I have hidden long in the woods, but I will hide no more.
Those that survived were taken to a camp five miles from the house. I stumbled upon it in the dark, and the families were chained and guarded in the yard. One of the men heard me days ago, but they will not pursue me in the darkness. My people bound in fetters told me to turn away, but I cannot. They will die, and I will die, too. Let it be. For long I have walked dead upon the earth. As she went before, so I will go now. She was taken and her throat was slashed, but it was my blood that flowed down her neck and soaked the ground. The knife descended, and I cannot see. Tell the tale. Summon the forgotten form and cradle it in your arms. Amen.
I Want to Be My friend turned to me and said,
“Girl, do you want to be black?”
I simply replied, “No.” I want to be brown like the leaves that fall from the pecan trees and crunch under the feet of the children playing football with a pinecone. I want to be tan I like the box that holds the care package sent with love from a girl at home to her man in Afghanistan. I want to be dark I like the coffee that wakes up the doctor in the morning, so he can go out and save somebody’s me-ma. I want to be cream— not quite gravy brown, but not quite vanilla— but somewhere in between.
The Sound of Roaches i can hear the roaches scurrying across the house, rustling the papers strewn about the living room floor by the baby boy whose excited little hands rip the pages from every elaborately illustrated book. the roaches find their way into all the nooks and crannies of every empty space, every crack in the wall and break in the ceiling, every unfinished inch of this cold place. i can hear them in the kitchen clinking against glasses, sounding as big as mice. i hear their infested little legs and feel a sweltering wave of rage, the urge to crush their obnoxious exoskeletons, each one. i hear the roaches, and my mind begins to curse the filth of a man who left me in this shagged house, left me to clean up his mess, left me to Fight Fight Fight the fucking roaches.
BABY ON SPIDER
As the spotlight danced and wove over the crowd, his eyes
hadn’t quite adjusted, yet. The Avalon was still a sea of wriggling, writhing blackness. He felt the temperature rise as they made their way to the bar. He held up two fingers and pointed at a vague shape he believed was a beer bottle. He paid the young man behind the bar, casually letting their hands linger as the bottles and cash changed hands. They held eye-contact for a few seconds. Roman felt himself grow warm and turned. What was he doing? He shifted away from the bar and back to his companion. His eyes swept over the room. The dance floor was thick with people, everyone pulsing and grinding with the song. His companion tugged at his arm, and they made their way to the center. They pressed themselves together and moved, worming their way into the center of the dance floor. The music changed and became slower and darker, matching the atmosphere of the club. As they danced, they continued to press towards the front of the stage.
The men on the platforms moved in time with the music, their
sculpted and oiled bodies caught the shifting colors of light. A man in a sequined and bedazzled plum waistcoat waddled onto the stage. He looked like a barker calling in the crowds to a brothel. His blush and makeup were done to the extreme; Timothy was all performance, all the time. He reached into his cummerbund and clicked on his lapel mic as the music died.
“Gentlemen and, well, Gentlemen!” he crooned into the
microphone: “Welcome to another fabulous evening here at The Avalon. Is everyone enjoying the show so far?” Applause erupted as he beamed on stage, “I have a special treat for you all, my darlings. Please, everyone, welcome back to the Avalon, after far too long
an absence, the lovely, the vivacious, the ultra-doable, Miss Sherbet Hemsely!” Applause thundered again, the crowd clearly knowing just who that was. Roman joined in, clapping and adding a wolf whistle for good measure. “You’ll love her!” Michael called in his ear. Roman and Michael exchanged passionate, fleeting kisses. He’d never be so brave in the daylight or the living room, but the dark club provided him such a feeling of security, he could really let his hair down.
The little carnival barker had been replaced by the tallest
person Roman had ever seen. Her skin was the color of warm chocolate. Her hair was down to the small of her back, a violent shade of apricot. Her dress was an electric blue, the slit up to her hips. She looked like a confectionary call girl.
She smiled and beamed at the crowd of fans who had begun
to scream and shout in excitement. Roman again joined in with Michael. They stood and watched as Madonna began to play through the speakers. Sherbet lip synced and danced, putting on a stellar performance. She gyrated and thrusted to the words of “Like a Virgin.” The crowd cheered and laughed at the antics of Sherbet. She was giving the Material Girl a run for her money.
As the song ended, Michael placed his mouth next to Roman’s
ear, and slurred something about heading back stage. Roman nodded his consent. They snaked their way through the crowd. The doorman at the back accosted them, but waved them through when he recognized Michael. Michael pushed the door opened and led Roman down a long hall. Doors opened in every direction, with men in various stages of undress. A small, hairless German man walked briskly passed them holding a pair of black leather chaps and a tiny black cowboy hat. Roman noticed a bathroom and headed in. He walked up to a
urinal and unzipped himself. As he stared at the profanity—phone numbers, and personal tirades written on the walls—Marilyn Monroe came into the bathroom. The momentary shock of seeing a dead sex symbol walking into a men’s room soon passed as she walked in and took the next available urinal. They stood there, both of them not saying a word. She had a bit more stubble than Roman remembered seeing in photographs. Her eyes were never quite this bloodshot and glassy either. She finished, and gave him a dreamy and lopsided smile. She flushed, and smacked Roman on the ass as she left.
Roman walked out of the bathroom and continued down
the hall. He could hear Michael’s voice laughing further down and followed until he found him. Michael slouched against the wall and lit a Camel, talking animatedly with Sherbet Hemsely as she took off the apricot wig. She tossed it casually onto an awaiting mannequin head, lighting a cigarette of her own. “So—”
Sherbet turned to Roman with purpose and surveyed the
man before her. “Michael tells me this is your first time to Avalon? Are you enjoying everything?” she asked coolly. She blew a ring of smoke out and looked at him. Roman smiled, “Yeah, first time. I’m not from around here, and he suggested it earlier this week. I really enjoyed the show.”
“Well, thank you,” Sherbet said. ”I always aim to please new
guests.” She finished the smoke and began unzipping her dress. She pulled on some slacks as they continued with some small talk. Roman told her of his recent position at a local firm and of meeting Michael out on the town one night. “So, how long is this position going to
last?” Sherbet asked after a few more minutes. “Oh, I’ll be here as long as I’m needed. It was a bit of an open-ended assignment.” He tried to play coy and cool, not wanting to talk himself into a corner. With all the lies, it was hard to keep things straight sometimes.
The pair left as Sherbet was preparing to head home for the
night. Roman checked his phone, seeing he had a few messages. The phone read two thirty, and he knew he had to be returning home soon. He bid Michael goodbye, and after a few sweltering exchanges they parted. Roman saw Michael to his car and watched as he drove away.
All around him, men were filing out of dark, hidden spots
all along the street. Bars were letting out for the evening, emptying the drunken, amorous individuals out into the unsuspecting night. Further up the alleyway, Roman caught a glance of a very large man wearing a familiar pair of chaps. The cowboy hat was balanced on the head of a very drunk man of indeterminate age. They talked closely, nestled together against the cold brick of the building.
Roman found his Dodge in the alley and watched as the
people milled about. He checked his phone again and pulled out his second phone, when he began to hear a low, dull, buzzing emanating from somewhere further up along the street. It sounded like an electric razor in a piece of luggage or a vibrator left on at the bottom of a sock drawer. He turned to investigate, unsure of where the sound was coming from. It didn’t sound threatening, so he turned his attention back to the text message he was composing. As he continued to his wife on his personal cell, the noise increased. He finished the text quickly and pulled out the second phone. He dialed the only number programmed and waited. His superior officer
answered. “No, sir,” Roman replied. “I haven’t made contact with that individual yet. I’ve made a few contacts, and I think they can lead me to him.” He pulled a Camel out of his pack and placed it between his lips. The noise was growing louder, Roman turned to find it. “Hold on, Chief,” he said quickly. He bent his neck to light the smoke, looking up. Silhouetted against the neon and moonlight, a very large man was crossing the alley.
He sat in a motorized scooter, the kind you see the
enfeebled and lazy using in grocery stores, dressed in the purple and off-white toga of Caligula. The old gray queen was being led by a train of three small Pomeranians. His golden laurel wreath caught and reflected the neon signs up and down the street. He crossed slowly, the Pomeranians yapping loudly as they led the way home. As Caligula passed under streetlight, Roman noticed the stratified, mewing mass of cats in the basket. They lounged and cuddled, a dozen or more, in a singular, writhing pile. “Hey Chief, I’m back,” he said into the receiver. He blinked and blinked again. “Yes, sir. I’ve met some people, and I definitely think I’ve seen some promising things.” The tired voice of his superior officer came through the line, “Good. Hopefully we can move this investigation along quickly.” Roman finished the call and placed the phone back in his pocket. Somewhere deep inside him, Roman hoped the investigation would last a considerable time longer.
SEED OF AGE PHOTOGRAPH
THE SECRET GARDEN ILLUSTRATION
“There are reports by the residents that drug distribution in the neighborhood goes nearly unabated by the Macon Police Department. This and other matters add to the perception that Pleasant Hill is overall an unsafe place to live or visit.” - The Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Plan
In the neighborhood where Little Richard was born, Miss Carol says, Leave the lights on all night, to the new girl in the neighborhood. Daydreaming, she admires Robert’s dahlias across the street. Miss Carol says, Leave the lights on all night. Robert sits in a plastic chair on his stoop. A girl drops a glass. The shards blood-fleck her legs. Robert hacks his smoker’s cough, haw haw haw. Robert sits in a plastic chair on his stoop. The girl studies her mess. The wind slaps leaves against her. Robert hacks his smoker’s cough, haw haw haw. A car slows down. The driver honks to Robert. The girl studies her mess. The wind slaps leaves against her. A child dances across the street. She is blowing bubbles. A car slows down. The driver honks to Robert. The child shrieks as the wind scatters the bubbles. A child dances across the street. She is blowing bubbles. Robert brings bread outside. The child shrieks as the wind scatters the bubbles. He presses it on the glass, Easiest way to clean it up. Robert brings bread outside, to the new girl in the neighborhood. Daydreaming the houses back to 1972 in the neighborhood where Little Richard was born.
Just Wait in the Car
Jerome glanced at the dashboard clock. 3:54 read the digital
display. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, no rhythm involved, just something to occupy his body while he sat in the car and his mind churned.
Ronnie told him this job would be a piece of cake. Jerome
didn’t even have to go inside the convenience store. Sit in the car and be ready to drive when Ronnie and Jess came out, that was his job. And he’d make a third of the total take. Ronnie promised.
The money would solve a lot of Jerome’s problems. It might not
be much, but as long as he could get a ring, it would be worth it. He didn’t need to think of Darla right now, but that didn’t stop him from drifting into his thoughts. Darla was beautiful, the most beautiful girl Jerome had ever seen. She’d kicked him to the curb a week ago, laid down the ultimatum that without a ring they weren’t shit. Some guys would be pissed, tell her to fuck herself, find another girl, but Jerome liked her attitude. Actually, truth be told, Jerome wanted a girl to tell him what do. The less he had to think and make his own decisions, the better.
His eyes darted back to the dashboard clock. 3:57. There
weren’t a lot of cars in the parking lot, but Jerome parked at the curb, so he could pull right into traffic. No music, no distractions, he couldn’t afford that. The only noise was the incessant, mindless drumming of his fingers. A dark blue sedan passed by him, and a large scratch from the front wheel well to the rear door caught Jerome’s eye. It looks like that guy can’t drive very well, he thought.
A jangling noise broke through his reverie, and he twisted his
head to the side. It was just a woman in the parking lot who dropped her keys. He watched her bend over and retrieve them, then Jerome realized he was holding his breath. His fingers had slowed their tapping.
He shook himself and took a deep breath. Ronnie and Jess
would be out soon. Jerome trusted Ronnie. Otherwise he wouldn’t have taken this job. Ronnie had never been really wrong before. Even when he’d been caught, nothing stuck. Ronnie always had an alibi, always had someone he was with at the time. And he never took risks that were out of his league. Jerome, on the other hand, was terrible at this sort of thing. With his record, straight and narrow was the main thing on Jerome’s mind. But it had been hard to make ends meet that way. His taxi job didn’t pay well, Darla wanted a ring, and Ronnie had his head screwed on right. After weighing the options, Jerome felt that one chance wouldn’t sink him.
4:01. The display burned into his retinas. He stared until it
changed to 4:02, and a car pulled slowly past him. It was the blue sedan again; he recognized the scratch. Had it circled the block? Jerome wondered what sort of purpose that would serve. He tried to watch it leave, craning awkwardly while staying out of view as best he could, but he couldn’t catch the plate, and the windows were tinted almost black. That kind of tint was illegal, he knew.
It wasn’t very hot in the car, but Jerome was sweating. He
reached into his pocket and snaked out the remains of a handkerchief. Once it was red, but it had been stained over the years of use, and the edges were frayed and ripped. It still served its purpose. He wiped the swatch across his forehead. The phrase sweating bullets jumped into his
brain, and he tried to shove it aside. Ronnie and Jess had guns, but they weren’t going to fire them, Ronnie said. Just scare the guy at the counter, that’s all. He put the handkerchief back in his pocket.
Jerome’s neck muscles clenched involuntarily as brakes
squealed right beside his car. He focused on the clock briefly. 4:06. It seemed like time dragged on for no reason. A sudden tapping on his window shocked Jerome so badly that he slammed his shoulder into the car jerking away. When he looked, the blue sedan was idling beside him and a man tapped the window again. Jerome slowly lowered it a crack with the button.
“Yeah?” Jerome was terse.
The man hesitated before speaking.
“Uh. No offense meant, but I noticed you been here a bit.
You planning on leaving soon?”
“What’s it to you?” Jerome gritted his teeth as soon as the
words escaped. This couldn’t be happening, not right now. What if Ronnie and Jess came out? This asshole was blocking him in AND he’d witness the whole thing. Worst of all, it occurred to Jerome, now someone could identify his face. Shit.
“Oh. I live across the street and a curb parking spot would
be really awesome, that’s all. I saw you sitting and wondered if you were waiting on friends or anything.”
“Yeah.” Jerome wanted to end this conversation as quickly
as possible. His knuckles were turning white from gripping the steering wheel, and the sweat he’d just wiped away was rapidly reaccumulating.
“Well… then…” The man looked around, trying to find
something to focus on that wasn’t this guy in his car.
Jerome pressed the button and rolled the window back
up. The man opened his mouth but couldn’t find any words so he returned to his sedan.
4:08. Jerome’s breathing was erratic and heavy. He went for
his handkerchief again, and the edge ripped off as he pulled it out.
“Shit. Shit.” Jerome snatched the fragment and the rest out of
his pocket and tossed the smaller piece aside. The blue sedan slowly drove away again, but now Jerome knew he would be circling again. It was just a matter of time.
Time. 4:09. Too much time. He couldn’t handle it. Ronnie
could. Jerome turned the keys in the ignition, his hand shaking a bit. Ronnie was cut out for this. He glanced behind him, barely taking the time to see if he could back up and angle for his exit. His bumper tapped the car behind him, setting off a car alarm. Ronnie would hear that. He’d assume something was wrong and abandon the plan. Jerome shifted into drive and took off into traffic. An oncoming car honked angrily at his abrupt exit, but he didn’t care. At that moment, Jerome didn’t care about anything but escaping the pressure cooker that was that car, that parking space, and that situation.
Ronnie would understand. And if he didn’t, fuck him. He
should have known me better, Jerome thought.
SWIMMIN’ WIT’ THE FISHES ILLUSTRATION
I Guess I’m like this Mailbox I guess I’m like this mailbox, Grandma says, staring at my phone, distracting device, battery blinking red. The mailbox leans to the right, black paint chipping, kudzu suffocates, rust seals. The red flag stands tall.
Changing the Guard After Peter Meinke’s “Atomic Pantoum” Men rule the world with eyes like sin sword slashes flesh from the first begat this is why the world shall end With eyes like sin gouged out with finger bombs this is why the world shall end again earth’s womb soon begets. Women rule the world with eyes like does the mighty pen clutched within soft hands metamorphic world learns to transcend With eyes like does bold like lambs the mighty pen clutched within soft hands the meek inherit the earth in the end
Fever Fiery kisses engulf my mouth. I stare at youâ€”your spicy demeanor mesmerizing, so small with red and orange hues curled together, so rough outwardly, buttery soft on the inside. Hands red with passion, I fold to the daunting taste of your love. You are no good for my figure, and our internal debates give me heartburn. You do not understand the mechanism of me. I am complicated and needy. I am vain and restricted.
SHANNA CONWAY DIXON
Grass Widow Ghazal Flashes of my husband invade as the world assigns— embraces sweated with metal and dust as the world assigns. I put on lotion each day and night and walk my son through sight words and penmanship as the world assigns. I burn our old mattress and replace it with our photos— matching fuchsia hands and hair—us, not as the world assigns. On Tuesday, my sons laugh that I missed trash day. I roll the can across a divided highway in a satin robe like the world assigns. My twelve-year-old gripes that he doesn’t know how to sweep. I smile and tell him that by repetition he will learn as my world assigns. I don’t check his bank account to see where he’s been, and never again will I straighten my hair as his world assigns. My boys are down to two un-holey pairs of jeans apiece. To clean them, I grate a bar of Ivory soap as the world assigns. I pick up bits of raw ramen noodles each night, so they don’t prick my feet, as I do lunges as the world assigns. On Wednesday, we get home late. The refrigerator door is open. I fill my son’s plates with creamed tuna, no toast, as the world assigns. At night, I hold my arms out wide to tell my son I love him this much. I plug his nightlight in and kiss his forehead as the world assigns. My sister visits and says, Shanna, you are allowed to want a man. She dances through my house with smoking sage as the world assigns.
The fall line is a geographical boundary about twenty miles wide that runs across Georgia northeastward from Columbus to Augusta. As the Mesozoic shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean, it separates Upper Coastal Plain sedimentary rocks to the south from Piedmont crystalline rocks to the north. The fall line is notable not only for the geological relationship but also for the impact that the geology had on early transportation and consequently on commerce and society. Rivers of the Coastal Plain were a major means of commercial transportation during the 1700s and early 1800s. The cities of Columbus, Macon, Milledgeville, and Augusta were located at the fall lines of the Chattahoochee, Ocmulgee, Oconee, and Savannah rivers respectively. The differences in geology to the north and south of the fall line give rise to differences in soil types, hydrology, and even stream morphology. A consequence of these differences is that the fall line separates significantly different plant and animal communities. Diversity lives on the fall line and provides the perfect name for our journal. The Fall Line Review is a compilation of the creative conscience of Middle Georgia State College. Just as cities evolved along the fall line: thought, poetry, art, and creativity find a place to burgeon, inspire, and prevail. Edited and designed by a student editorial board annually, The Fall Line Review represents the best art, poetry, fiction, and diversity in the Middle Georgia area.
The Fall Line Review is a literary journal featuring the creative and collective consciousness of Middle Georgia State College's students.