The Eclectic Spring 2012 Issue 15
ec. lec .tic (adj) not following any one system, as of philosophy, .selecting . medicine, etc., but and using what are considered the best elements of all systems ~*~ The Eclectic magazine is published yearly. Submissions are always being accepted. Cover art by Chad Hasting and Kali Daniel Section dividers by Chad Hasting and Alexis Christakes http://bjhstheeclectic.com/
Copyright ÂŠ 2012 by The Eclectic
Spring 2012 Issue 15 Mission Statement Our mission is to reflect the creative efforts of approximately 2,300 students, specifically the hundreds of students in the creative writing, art, and theatre programs. In addition to ensuring quality of content, the staff strives to include student representatives across many demographic indicators.
General Submissions The Eclectic accepts general submissions in the categories of short story, creative nonfiction, poetry, theatre, art, comics, and multimedia. The general submission section showcases student writing on any subject or style.
Feature The Eclectic feature section requires students to explore a subject, theme, or element. This year the feature section is an exploration of the human mind and humanityâ€™s attempt to understand it. The staff investigated the science of perception, cognition, attention, emotion, phenomenology, motivation, brain functioning, personality, behavior, dream interpretation, and interpersonal relationships, and then analyzed those concepts in fairy tales, poetry, prose, advertising, art, and film.
Website The Eclectic also has a companion website that includes a free digital download of the magazine. The website also displays a sampling of student work not included in the printed version. Website exclusives include short film, commercials, spoken word poetry, hypertext fiction, and stopmotion animation.
Distribution The staff provides one free copy of the literary and arts magazine to students whose work is selected for publication. Anyone may purchase other copies.
Learn your theories well, but put them aside when you confront the mystery of the living soul.
- Carl Jung
Art & Photography
Two Minutes, If That Nick Mecikalski
Adam awoke, and his back hurt. That was all he knew. He was awake, and his back hurt. From the inside it hurt, not from the outside. Hurt like the spine within him was too long for his body, like it was compressed into a space far too small for comfort. Like at any moment it might spring out of its compression, release the tension inside of him but disfigure itself into some snakelike trail twisting beneath his skin. Snakelike. He blinked his eyes, and a vast blueness above him exploded into clarity. His eyes had already been openâ€”for how long he could not knowâ€”but not until now had they seen a thing. He blinked again, his entire face flinching with the movement, and within his field of vision he could now discern vague interruptions in the blueness above himâ€” puffy, amorphous masses of white encroaching on the purity of the sky. Sky. He blinked once more, and suddenly from an area of himself that he did not know he owned, there came a sensation of utmost discomfort. An alarming sensation, really, almost as though his very own body were rebelling against itself, as though it were sending a multitude of pinpricks from within to try to remove his own skin from his bones. He jolted his head up to look at the afflicted area, but saw only two calm figures staring back at him, two benign-looking stumps of his sitting at the ends of two benign-looking trunks that extended straight outward from where he sat. Five pudgy outgrowths balanced atop each stump, looking fundamentally unconcerned at the firestorm of pinpricks that now raged within them. Without even realizing his power to do so, he wiggled the five outgrowths against each other, attempting to dispel the burning sensation from his skin. But it did not work. In fact, the sensation only intensified, overflowing from the two stumps to begin creeping up the base of the trunks like some snake slithering through a cavern within his skin, its scales prickling the walls around it. Growing panicked, he began scratching these parts of his body against the coarse ground, the only solution he could conjure for such an utter discomfort. More and more he scraped the trunks and the stumps against the colony of green 10 |
Prose wisps that populated the ground around him, contorting his body wildly in order to scrape the sensation off his skin and onto the Earth. Earth. With audible relief he noticed that the invisible sensation was, in fact, disappearing from his skin with more and more scratching. Whatever had been inside those two stumps had been squeezed up from within and successfully disposed of, now only able to torment the green wisps that sat so innocently on the ground. For a moment he almost felt bad. But he squirmed away from the spot on the ground as fast as he could, escaping the invisible itching sensation before it could latch onto his feet and legs once again. Feet. Legs. Itch. It is a normal sensation. Your skin is new. It is not yet used to your shape. For the first time, Adam wondered where he was. He lifted his head to glance at what was around him, and at the sight his head nearly fell back onto the ground. He was surrounded by giants. Towering giants with bodies of angry, scarred brown skin, mutant magnifications of the innocent-looking green wisps that inhabited the ground. Their bodies extended huge heights toward the sky before branching into skinnier arms, and then into smaller fingers, which just barely fell short of grazing the puffy white masses hovering in the sky above. They groaned their massive hulks inward toward him, their gnarled fingers reaching, reaching, straining to grasp the helpless figure sitting on the ground in the middle of them all. He was sure they would eventually close in, targeting their spindly pointers to besiege their unwelcome and unwanted guest. But after witnessing attempt after attempt after attempt, he saw that they could most likely do no such thing; ultimately they were simply unable to touch him, their huge masses proving far too inflexible for such acrobatics. Or so they seemed. Trees. They are trees. They cannot harm you. He nodded, understanding, but still unnerved. They still worried him, such monstrous demonstrations of muscle and authority standing so near. He glanced upward one final time to be sure they would not hurt him. Their swaying only continued as it had, rhythmically, back and forth, nowhere close enough to truly imprison him. He decided to put them out of mind. Mind. That is where you exist. That is where you know. Mind. He nodded again. Without meaning to, he reached up to the top of his head and carefully felt the space that surrounded his mind. It was smooth and round, comforting to the touch, exactly the | 11
Prose right size. Hand. Look at your hand. He stopped touching his head and brought his hand down in front of his eyes. It was a strange little device, almost shocking at first. It was a stump, somewhat similar to the stumps of his feet, but it had five long, bony tendrils sprouting outward, disconcertingly alike to the fingers that sat at the very tops of the trees. He winced at first at their appearance, repulsed by their snakelike outlines, but he allowed himself to wiggle them back and forth as he had the outgrowths that stemmed from his feet. They moved easily at his command, flexible and manipulable and simple to direct. He thought they could be very useful. You learn quickly, Adam. You learn quickly. Let me see your face. He closed his hand and placed it down by his side, seeming to know in advance what would be there. He looked down into two black, pupilless eyes that stared back upward at him from the ground beside his leg. At first Adam did not even realize the body to which they were connected, as it camouflaged so well with the green wisps that surrounded it. But when he saw the figure, witnessed its full extent, he leapt backward, unable to peel his eyes from its grotesque length. The snake’s body had no apparent end. It wound backward from its head wildly, coiling through the greenness on the ground, twirling around the bases of the trees, twisting up their brown bodies and spinning around their arms, suspending from one tree to another, continuing on and on back into the mass of trees much farther than Adam could see. He managed to tear his eyes from the snake’s body to look back into its eyes, which seemed to enjoy the terror it saw in Adam’s. Its tongue darted out of its mouth and quickly disappeared, leaving on its face what Adam could only think to be a smile. Smile. You learn quickly, Adam. You learn quickly. Welcome. And with another dart of its tongue, the snake snapped away from him, flitting through the green wisps so quickly that Adam’s eyes could barely keep up, its body following the path that its head carved through the helpless ground. Dread. Adam could teach himself that one.
Page Meditation Zach Fitzgibbon
It was simple, really. It was only difficult because of a habit of his—which was more like a hobby—to overthink simplicity. He overthought everything, from the breaths he breathed, to the meticulous word choices he would use to talk to a girl whose intelligence sparked his attention, to . . . this. But this, this is nothing compared to that, he would think, nothing compared to talking to a girl. It was . . . utterly unfair. This, which would take a “normal” person the time it took a blink of a blink of a blink of an eye to decide, for him was not quite so simple. But Badger was not a “normal” boy by any means, and for him this was no “normal” task. He had to decide between reading another chapter of his book or going to sleep. Both posed various pros and cons. He knew this for a fact. He had even made a pie chart, a T-table, and bar graph on the subject. Sadly, none of the three had helped. He then progressed on to measuring the direness of each pro and con. Only in his logic was there a reasonable explanation for doing this. “Another chapter is thirty pages, at one minute per page—one minute and thirty seconds per page for some whose subject matter is more advanced than that of the others! That is at least thirty-seven and a half minutes!” The time it took him to perform the mathematical computations in his head was 3.3 seconds. The time it took him to say it all was 12.6 seconds, and you best be sure Badger took notice of it. “Or . . . or I could go to sleep now. Yes! I could just go to sleep now. . . . Wait. Badger, would that really matter?” A look passed over his thought-wrenched face, a face that his family called his “Oh great, Badger is thinking” face. It passed over fairly swiftly, like the shadow of a low-flying plane over a prairie. His eyes squinted upwards, his head cocked towards the west, and he pursed his lips as a stray thought intruded his head. Who invented the swimming pool? This thought was thought in a surprisingly stern tone. Or the couch? Or the table!? Does one invent necessities!? Are tables considered necessities!? BADGER! This all took one minute and thirteen seconds, and of course Badger took notice. “On average it takes me forty-two to fifty-four minutes to get to sleep, but sometimes more if it is windy, or less if it is raining.” Badger | 13
Prose sat up in bed and walked to his window with his book still in his hand. No wind and no rain. No rain no wind . . . no wind no rain. He was finally trailing off to sleep. Relief washed over his short body. “Sleep. I will just sleep.” “I was about to tell you to do the same thing, Badger.” Badger’s eyes popped open to see his mother leaning in the door frame. “That book cannot be that good,” she said. “Oh! But Maternal Unit, it is!” Badger liked to call his mother his “maternal unit” on occasion just for fun. His mother gave him a face. Yeah, right. Badger noticed her wide eyebrows arching over her wide, tired eyes, her straight, clenched lips, and the J motion her chin made when she was tired. If it were not for the pools of fatigue drowning her eyes, he might have protested with a long rant. But he decided against one. “Mom, the way the words are laid on the pages is like fresh light soil around a new willow sapling,” he sung as he looked up at his mother and then down at the delectable pages. “See the flow of the plot, like an ancient spring so intelligently slithering down an even more ancient mountain. And the realism of the characters! Maternal Unit, I like them more than most people. OH! And—” He looked up. His mother had disappeared from the doorway. This made him feel a bit sad, but not for too long. He heard a yell from downstairs. “That was lovely, Badger! Now go to sleep!” “You don’t even know what I—” “Willow saplings and ancient streams. I heard it all, son. Love you, good night, now sleep.” Sleep, Badger thought, sleeping now would be like holding a box full of treasure and simply not opening it . . . just because of some sleep. Badger flipped open the book to page 333 and began to read. “Twelve minutes and twelve seconds,” he whispered unknowingly to himself as he continued to read. His mother had fallen asleep downstairs, he was sure, and a moth hit his window. Can you be addicted to reading? he mused. Could reading be a gateway drug? What if this is the beginning? What if I am really just an addict? He stopped reading momentarily, shook this ridiculous thought to the back of his cluttered head, and continued to read, but like rain erodes dirt from the fossil of a long-dead prehistoric bear, his thought resurfaced. His head shot up from the pages. What if it really is a gateway drug? What if that is how it really does 14 |
Prose all start? What if three years from now instead of being nearly through with college I get hooked on some crazy drug from who knows where? His thoughts each time became more and more choppy and hectic, like a petrified girl swimming away from a shark. No, he told himself, it always starts off small. You don’t just get hooked on crazy drugs like that. This thought calmed him a bit. But he was suddenly struck by a different thought, one that was truly alarming: Reading is small. OH GOLLY! This is my gateway drug! I can’t believe this! How will I tell my mom? A mental movie played in his head. Greyness washed over a somber image of him and his mother seated on opposite sides of their kitchen table. I have to warn the schools! They teach reading! They teach how to use a gateway drug correctly! How has no one caught on to this!? He paused. Badger, what if it’s just you? he asked himself. Well, there have to be a few others like me, he answered. Another mental movie played in his head. A classroom full of children reading and reading and falling out of their seats and saying, “Hello, my name is Brandy, and I’ve been addicted to reading since third grade now.” She didn’t know that reading would only lead to far more disastrous drugs. Poor Brandy. No! No! He had to let someone know! The schools needed to know. They were teaching children to read! His eye glanced at his books, however, and like a moth to flame he was reading again. But just as quickly as he slid into it, he slid right back out of the realm of pages and again took one short, hard breath. “I am completely addicted!” He saw his life on the street, living in rags under a bridge, wrapped in paper towels. If I’m going be a drug addict, I might as well just shun myself from the functioning population. This seemed logical to Badger, and he always found comfort in logic. Being a drug addict did not really seem so grim, anyway, if it was only an addiction to reading. Fifteen minutes had passed during his musings. He added up all the time: twenty-eight minutes, twenty-five seconds, thirty milliseconds. How much reading could I have gotten done? At least twenty-four pages, maybe more . . . nearly a whole chapter, at least. Two chapters! How much sleep could I have gotten in? I could be halfway to sleep by now! Badger felt guilty. Very guilty, in fact, for the time wasted on | 15
Prose his wandering thoughts. Badger found comfort in logic; logic was his bar of chocolate or hug from a best friend on a hard day, the “gravity to my universe,” as he had once stated. But this wasting of time was neither logical nor comforting. But . . . . The very concept of time, he thought, is but a human concept. Perhaps, then, it might be considered a belief, and I would therefore not have to subscribe to it. He then continued on to think about the history of time. Animals don’t have to recognize time, he mused, they have no concept of it. But what about infinity? Does infinity recognize time if it is by nature timeless? This was his last thought before sleep took hold of him in a soft cotton embrace. He did not know it, but sleep took him six minutes exactly. A grand total of thirty-three minutes and fifty-three seconds.
Car Crash Kayla Daigle
Jade was struggling through her sizable pile of homework while waiting for her best friend Sascha to arrive. As she was finishing up her final algebra problem, Jade’s text tone split the silence with the miniature voice of Taylor Swift. She merrily hummed the rest of the cheesy love song in her head as she opened her inbox and received a text from Sascha. “When is th” Jade casually threw the phone aside, assuming her friend had sent only part of the text on accident, and waited to receive the second half.
Missing Rabbit Madison Yarbrough
Three children run through a meadow. Two boys and a girl. They find a small white garden shed. The girl walks in, but the boys stay outside. It is much larger inside than it looks. The walls are gold and shaped like honeycombs. In the center of the room is a small silver box. The girl opens the box, and dancing dolls pop out. Two boys and a rabbit. A paper well pops up, and the two boy dolls fall in the well. The girl drops the box. Then she runs out the door. And when she looks outside . . . the boys are gone.
Madelyn Wong “Why must you twiddle your thumbs?” groaned Elle one rainy afternoon. “Why mustn’t I?” Jonathon responded from his seat on the floor. “Because it is an annoying and bothersome trait, my son.” She frowned down at the boy. “Every time those fingers are twiddled, I have the sensation of monkeys trying to break coconuts open atop my head. I would like to keep primates away from my skull for a little while longer, thank you.” “But Mother, I am a twiddler; therefore, I must twiddle and twiddle and twiddle until my thumbs feel as though large pachyderms have fallen on them. And even then, I must continue to twiddle for many years after. “My twiddling will continue on and on throughout my life, and it is possible that I may learn to do things differently than you do because of my occupied thumbs. But that is okay. I am satisfied in knowing that I will keep twiddling until I die. For that is what twiddlers do.” “Well, stop it at once!” she sneered. “If not, I will force you to soak in a bath of vinegar after you tend to a furious demonic cat. I may be your mother, but I am no twiddler!” “Well, who said anything to suggest that?” Jonathon asked, head cocked to the side in curiosity. “Twiddling is passed down through families about as often as nose-picking is. I am well aware that you are no twiddler, Mother. Otherwise, I would have seen your thumbs itching to twiddle at some point in my fourteen years of being alive; I am rather perceptive. In fact, anyone with half a brain can see your glaringly obvious non-twiddlerness.” “So the rest of the town has less than half a brain, then?” Elle challenged. “Is that what you say? If so, they will descend—even more enraged than previous times. I implore you, my son, to drop this foolish action right this instant! If you continue, the Devil and all of his enraged ex-wives will be after you with papers for your condemnation.” “A tree does not try to fly,” said Jonathon, “so neither will I.”
The World is Falling Madison Yarbrough
“What is that, Mommy?” “Not right now, honey.” We were watching the news channel that evening. My motherstood in the middle of the living room, gawking at the TV, and I was lying down on the couch, watching her. I didn’t pay much attention to what the weatherman was saying. I was too intrigued by the moving colors on the screen. They reminded me of a lava lamp that my dad once owned, but with more colors. The greens would change into blues and the yellows would change into pinks, but reds didn’t change at all. They stayed there, growing bigger and bigger. “Mommy, what are all the red blotches? Did someone color on the weatherman’s paper?” “No, dear, it’s a map, now go play.” I looked at her with a frown on my face. How could a big screen with a bunch of colors be a map? And how could she ignore me over a stupid channel that looked like one of Zack’s paintings? He was TWO! My mother finally sat on the couch, her eyes still glued to the screen. I had already lost interest in both my mom and the TV, so I decided to go play outside, where maybe something interesting might happen. Mom wouldn’t notice. While her eyes were still fixated on the TV screen, I tiptoed my way to the front door and slipped softly out. The summer breeze was freezing. I shrugged my shoulders and crossed my arms. It felt more like a winter chill. It hadn’t been like this yesterday; it had been only 90 degrees! It can’t get cold now! But then I saw it. Over my right shoulder, I saw the sunset that was not like any other I had ever seen. What coated my eye was a bright orange sun beaming red rays into the hazy purple sky. Never in my entire life had I seen a more beautiful sight. I turned my head to face north, and just beyond the horizon, I could see a huge heap of black smuck. I couldn’t see where it was coming from, but it didn’t look like it came from a machine. The edges were long, lean, and flexible, like an octopus’s limbs. It slowly grew larger and larger. I was puzzled for a moment, but not because of the black smuck growing. What puzzled me were the geese flying backwards. Their long necks pointed north, and their webbed feet pointed south. I then 20 |
Prose turned to see my dad’s car squealing into the driveway. He flew out the door toward me. “Madison! What are you doing out here?” He grabbed me by one arm. “You shouldn’t be out here, you should be inside with your mother. Does she know you’re out here by yourself?” “No sir. I just wanted to play.” I was nervous; I had never seen my dad in such a frantic manner. He ran inside, then rushed back out when he remembered that my brother Zack was still in the car. Zack was laughing. We all went inside the house now; my mom got up to kiss my dad on the cheek, embracing him with a hug while he still held Zack by his side. We all sat down on the couch together, watching the man talk about the weather. He had lost his weatherman voice and spoke slowly and strangely for someone on TV. “People of America . . . the collisions are expected to be felt anywhere and everywhere around the globe. . . . We can track these things up to their point of impact . . . but I would advise you stop watching. Spend these last few minutes with your loved ones. . . . the world is, finally, falling apart.” We all sat there in quiet harmony. My dad spoke quietly. “Well.” Mom and Dad got up and took Zack and me to the front door. When we got outside, the smuck had taken over. The sky was so black, you couldn’t tell what was around you. The only thing that kept us from bumping into one another was the porch light, and that barely shone. We lay on the grass, all four of us, and stared into space. Suddenly, stars started to appear again. But it wasn’t going to be a long visit for the stars tonight. They began to blur, and then, like a glob of wet paint on a canvas, started to smear. They were so beautiful that my dad even started to cry. I was a little bit scared, but I liked watching the stars fall like raindrops. Seconds later, a huge wave of stars came crashing down onto the earth. At first, the ground shook only a little, but then the sounds became like fireworks and huge explosions of fairy dust. I was excited again! But then the stars came closer, and made big squeaky noises. “ Honey, look.” My mom pointed to the middle of the sky. There was a rainbow heading right for us. “It’s a star. Make a wish.” I closed my eyes and did just that. I wished for my family to always be this way, loving each other underneath a sky full of stars. | 21
The Life of a Scab Brittany Durham
It starts as an accident followed by a sting. If it was bad enough there might be a scream. Some blood might be dripping, but it’s eventually stopped, and you’re promised that it will all be better soon. You continue playing with a conditioned mindset, believing that it will get better. It honestly feels like it does get better. The pain fades, and you swing on the jungle gym and slide down the slides. You pick flowers and chase after girls covered in dirt. You forget all about the scratch and the red liquid flowing from it as your day winds away. The next day the Band-Aid has since worn off, leaving the scar vulnerable. The temptation to peel is difficult to resist, but you decide to color with blue instead. The pink hue traces the outlines; in a floating haze and with time it turns into a vibrant pink you never knew existed. It soon crumbles around you, the pink color. In dark pieces that just keep getting darker. Until it seems almost black. Until it is black. That is when you decide that the paper on which you are drawing needs to be ripped. It’s no use anymore. Just let it drip red, you say. A week later it has started to heal again, but with a shield of wavering insecurities. Your glasses can no longer peel back the blurred vision that lingered. It can’t even see the scar that still exists. Blind as love, as some might say. The only reminder of it is the soft little hand that holds yours. The one that gives you strength. Every now and again when your hand wraps around something so sweet, you think you can see it, but it is only a flicker, like the disappearing stars. A month has passed since the incident. The pain and the blood have long since gone away. The scar is invisible on the surface. Your forgetfulness leaves you empty. You stare at it every day. You know something was there . . . but what? It doesn’t seem to bother you too much, so you just leave it as another of life’s mysteries. All you can notice is the songbird outside, lightly perched on a branch. Its feathers are ruffled, and it twitches with agitation. “I wonder why that bird is bitter.”
Point A to Point B Mary Butgereit
The map was the first thing he had ever stolen. He laid the country across his desk and uncapped a red pen, stabbing his hometown and dyeing it scarlet. He used his math book as a straightedge and traced a line to the coast; hopping borders, cutting cities in half, remembering an old teacher telling him that the quickest way from Point A to Point B was a straight line. He could be gone by the next morning. He would sleep in cars and fish in polluted brooks, pretending that any creatures dragged from its acidic banks could be boiled clean. His shoes would wear to thin sheets of rubber, and eventually he would throw them over a telephone wire for people to wonder about. He would jump over fences and climb over buildings, and if anybody challenged him, he would pull out his dog-eared map and point to his scrawled straight line of personal property. He would meet pretty girls, girls who knew he’d just break their hearts but still thought that he could be boiled clean. Inevitably, he would steal things along the way: more maps and more food and more everything. Inevitably, he would drop things along the way: bits and fragments of a life he stained crimson and left behind. He might leave his name in Colorado and his voice in New Hampshire. He would forget the sound of his father’s snores in a diner in Seattle, and his brother’s laugh would be thrown out with a McDonald’s bag. He’d litter his footsteps with dreams and nightmares, memories and hopes. When he finally reached the sea, he’d take the last particle that held him together and toss it away: a tiny word, an insignificant word, a word he’d already lost forever and yet clung to like a child to a security blanket. He’d unravel it, letter by letter, pulling the final frayed string and sending that quiet syllable into the ocean, along with her smile and her hugs and her hand on his forehead on feverish nights. She would be buried in a new coffin of sand, and he would dissolve into sea foam. This was where the planning stopped; through blurred vision, he noticed that his tears had turned his straight line into hazy pink puddles. He couldn’t follow puddles. | 23
Tracy Hutchings The lump in my throat sprang up in the blink of an eye. The back of my eyelids burned, and I could feel the trickle of tears brimming, ready to overflow at any moment. Him. Pull yourself together, I scolded, begging myself to be okay. That was something I’d become good at, pretending. My little show of happiness. When I was surrounded by friends, acting like nothing phased me was surprisingly effortless. To the rest of the world, I was completely carefree. That’s how I wanted it to be. I’ve learned that at the end of the day, you really get to know yourself in complete silence . . . when the doors are locked and no one’s around, that’s when you really break. I snapped out of my trance, remembering where I was. The buzz of the school hallway swarmed around me, and I shuffled along with the flow of traffic. I stared at my feet, doing anything in my power to avoid looking ahead. My heart thumped sadly in my chest, echoing in my head. A pounding headache crept upon me, but I shook the thought. I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Please tell me you saw,” Mikaela asked dramatically. “Of course I did,” I sighed with unease. “Who does he think he is? Who does she think she is? Waltzing in here like they own the place. Who are they, king and queen of stupid?” “Honestly, I don’t—” “—And did you SEE what she was wearing? A polo dress? Seriously? I remember when I used to wear those. Then I turned six.” “I really don’t wanna ta—” “—And please tell me you saw the way she was hanging all over him. Can you say clingy? More like desperate. Sloppy is even better. Seems to me like someone’s a little overprotective. You’re so much better than she could ever be. No wonder she’s trying so hard. She’s scared,” Mikaela ranted on. I turned and locked eyes with her, silently pleading her to give me a break. I didn’t know how much more I could take. Her expression changed immediately, and grabbing my hand like a mother leading a child, she weaved me through the hallway. She dropped me off at Geometry protectively, giving me a tight hug before going on her way. I entered into my classroom hesitantly, keeping my eyes low to 24 |
Prose avoid anyone’s gaze. I chose a seat in the back of the room to isolate myself. I slid my backpack off my shoulder and slumped into the desk. Any minute now, I thought, bracing myself for what came next. Seeing him was like a punch in the throat. He pranced in happily, Ray-bans still perched atop his perfectly swooped blonde hair. He greeted several of his friends with a smile, effortlessly making my life a living hell. Why did we have to have a class together? His deep brown eyes swept across the room, briefing locking with mine. My throat caught, and I felt a tiny flutter of hope. Within the blink of an eye it was gone, as his eyes quickly darted away. I felt my eyes begin to burn again as I argued with myself. Why did I let him dictate my life? That I could never figure out. What was so special about him? What was it that always kept me coming back for more? I couldn’t count on my fingers the amount of times he’d made me cry, or the times he made me feel like the most worthless thing in the world. In many ways, he was the scum of the universe. So why did I keep doing it to myself? I pondered this quietly while biting my lip. I’d decided that I had two parts to my conscience. This was reality speaking. Reality and I didn’t always get along. Reality thought it was funny to slap me in the face from time to time, just to remind me that the majority of humanity sucks. She knew Patrick for exactly what he was. And then there was Hope. Hope was, well, a hopeless romantic. She saw the best in everyone, even when they couldn’t see it in themselves. You’d think this was a good thing; except in his case, it tended to get us hurt. Hope looked past all the hurt, tears, and nights I wondered why. Hope knew that somewhere beyond his armor, Patrick was just a scared little boy. The rest of the day was a surreal blur. I hovered from class to class, present but not really there. At lunch, it was clear to my friends that something was wrong. “Lauren? What’s wrong?” my friend prodded carefully while we were seated at our lunch table. I simply shook my head, refusing to speak. I was numb. I heard the hushed whispers of a few of our other close friends, undoubtedly spreading the word about what had happened. “Didn’t you hear?” a girl murmured. “Patrick’s back with Sylvia . . . .” another added. I tuned out | 25
Prose before I let myself hear the rest. Each word felt like a tiny needle. After the last bell rang, I was the first one out in the parking lot. I raced home in my beat-up Chevy Silverado, willing myself to make it back in one piece. I pulled into my driveway, hopped out of my car, and dragged my feet up the stairs. Once in my room, I breathed a sigh of relief. I slid under my covers, letting their warmth envelope me and protect me from all harm. I closed my eyes, letting my mind drift away to a far off place, a place where no one could hurt me . . . .
Writer’s Block Brittney Simonson
We aren’t bad people, or at least we never meant to be. We were just teenagers who thought we were in love, and maybe we still are, but it’s better for everyone that we never speak of that again. I wish I could say our “love story” had a typical happy ending, but that would be a lie. Because in a typical happy ending, the girl and boy who are best friends fall in love with each other, but not without the clichéd get-into-a-fight-and-resolve-it-with-an-epic-kiss, of course. No, I wasn’t lucky enough for that. This girl here got to watch her guy have his “Hollywood ending” with her other best friend instead. You must be thinking, “What awful friends you have! She stole the guy you loved!” But don’t jump to conclusions so quickly, because I can guarantee that you will think I am an awful person by the end of this pathetic story. Crap . . . I have no idea how to progress this story. My mind goes into overdrive trying to muster up any way these two characters could fall in love with a unique, depressing ending. Nothing. Any form of thought process that was just going on in my mind has completely shut down. Writer’s block; every creative writing student’s worst fear. The tragedy of writer’s block is equivalent to—WAIT! I know how I can move this story forward! I’m going to skip the obvious story of our friendship, because we all know how that goes . . . they never saw each other as anything more than friends, until blah blah blah. Excitement runs through my veins as I read over the brilliance I have just written. Uhhh . . . this sounded way better in my head. So much for the witty narrator approach. This is crap, complete and utter crap. My heart sinks as I imagine the disappointment on my teacher’s face when she reads my sad excuse for a short story. Think. Think. Think. Well, I could always go for the morbid and depressing approach. Those seem to be way too easy for teenagers to write. Must be all our raging hormones and teenage angst. I allow my fingers to flow over the keyboard, tuning into my inner morbid subconscious. | 27
Prose Only a couple pills and it will all go away . . . . The thought slowly slithering into my mind frightens me. Never before had this idea felt so real to me, but in this moment it sounds so tempting. My hand tightens around the little orange bottle like an anaconda suffocating its victim . . . . My hands freeze, and a line of distress creases into my forehead. Once again, my thought process has failed me. “Like an anaconda suffocating its victim”? This sounds ridiculous. Yeah, using vocabulary to make a snake symbolize the thought of death would be interesting, but I am definitely not the morbid type. Plus, that approach is way overused; I bet over half the stories being written at this moment are morbid and depressing. I push back my chair and begin to pace around the classroom, hoping to cure myself of this agonizing writer’s block. I catch sight of the teacher’s class pet waiting impatiently in the corner. Her foot taps on the floor in disappointment of every other average student still struggling to write his or her own short story. Adrenaline pumps through my fingertips, desperate to write something. Anything. Why can’t I be like her? She probably learned how to write a good story before she learned how to even talk or walk. So not fair. Jealousy begins to distract my scattered thoughts. “I really don’t like that girl,” a fellow average student whispers behind me, referring to the Teacher’s Pet. At least I’m not the only one completely failing at this assignment. Before my brain has a complete meltdown, I stand up, once again abandoning my computer. Maybe a walk around the school will help clear my mind. “May I use the restroom?” I anxiously ask my teacher. Once she waves me away, I make my way out the door and into the hallway, passing the bathroom. I search the walls for posters that may help inspire me. The typical “No Texting and Driving” and sports tryout propaganda posters line the depressing grey walls. Maybe I could write about a teenager dealing with the guilt of killing a family after crashing into their car while texting and driving? I quickly abandon the idea when my previous story of a car wreck pops into my head. Never mind, too similar to my last story. I approach the forensics classrooms. Posters hang from strings showing the history of fingerprints and different criminal cases. Different scenarios of murder stories circulate through my mind, but nothing prevails. There is no hope, I am such a sad excuse for a writer—I mean, I can barely even think of a simple idea for a story. Not to mention I’m the worst speller to ever roam the face of the earth. Defeat weighs down on my shoulders as I trudge back to the my classroom. 28 |
Prose Slowly, I enter the threshold of the classroom once again and catch sight of my dreadfully blank computer screen. Alright, maybe a ridiculously random story might do the trick. It will most likely be awful, but it’s better than a blank piece of stupid paper. A cool breeze brushes against my face as I step off the plane. My heart races as I breathe in the Tokyo air and embrace my surroundings. Finally, I am fulfilling my dream to catch the wild oriental tuna that swims beneath the Tokyo waters. I lay my head down in agony after I delete the sad attempt of a random short story. Did I really just try to write a story about a man named Wilfred traveling to Tokyo to catch an endangered tuna fish? A sound of surrender escapes my mouth. I would rather be mauled by a bear or eaten alive by a rabid herd of antelope than be writing this paper. Do antelope even eat meat? My mind wanders off into a list of horrible deaths that would be more enjoyable than writing a short story. Suddenly the shrill voice of the Teacher’s Pet pierces my eardrums. “Alright, it’s almost 9:30, you should be wrapping up your stories. Well, actually, you should have already finished, like I have.” Did she really just say that? My desperation and defeat is overcome by aggravation as the Teacher’s Pet continues to nag us. Yes, we already know. You’re better than the rest of us, and we are awful writers; please just stop talking so I can miserably fail at life in silence. “If you guys haven’t submitted your short stories online yet, do it now! Ms. Penelope said she wanted them in by today!” the Teacher’s Pet shrieks as she continues to stride around the room to remind her less creative fellow students to turn in their papers, which have yet to even be written. Luckily she doesn’t know that . . . or else she might have a stroke. I reach down beside me and fish out a pair of earphones, placing them into my ears to allow John Mayer’s voice to drown out my surroundings. That’s much better. Finally, my scattered thoughts have settled and are ready to cooperate. I take a moment and close my eyes, awaiting for the ideas to come flowing into my mind. RRRIIIIIIINNNNNGGGG! The sound of the bell seeps through John Mayer’s calming lyrics, releasing me from torture to proceed to my next class. I look over my pathetic blank screen of failure before shutting down my computer. You have got to be kidding me . . . . | 29
Alyx Chandler When she jumped in, everyone thought she had just slipped in for a minute, like a dive into a cool pool, just a little sink, an opportunity to let the sensation fully drench her—a few precious seconds of uninterrupted bliss. No big deal, a little night swim, nothing unusual. Except she didn’t come back up. At that point in time, there were three hours and twelve minutes until the sun would rise. Eight catfish were in a bucket waiting to be cleaned, and all six of us kids were quietly humming an unpopular ‘90s song. The railing from the pier separated us from the ocean, and no one seemed concerned about anything. No one even heard her go in, or noticed when she didn’t resurface to gasp for air. “Where’s Beth?” Silence. One of the girls, Martha Danright, glanced over to where Beth had been fishing a good ways behind them five minutes ago. Her fishing pole still stood cocked against the railing waiting for a bite, along with her Pepsi can, which slowly rolled to the edge then dropped off the side. We watched it float. “Hello?” The water was an almost maroon shade before black, and all we could see was the occasional ripple. No splash. The edge of the pier was a quarter mile away, and no one was in sight. “Beth?” Again, silence. A slight tide was coming in, and moonlight trickled on the pier to make it look like a haloed dock. Without the singing, we suddenly realized it was creepy. Too quiet. Eerie. Maybe she fell in? Or . . . jumped? Beth left without us knowing whether she fell or dove, or whether she sank with a purpose or without any more reason than the inability to save herself—or care to. It was like the ocean swallowed and digested her, then licked its lips in waves when we tried to look. She was eaten. Beth jumped in with a purpose—one that was sinking and swiveling and anchoring in the ocean. One that sank far too fast to save. 30 |
Prose It was a rusty forty-four-year-old ring that used to belong to Beth’s mom, a sunny-eyed, overly freckled woman who left Beth when she was six. We all agreed that six is a tender age to leave a kid. It’s right at the time where limbs are all growing disproportionally and wolf-mouthed monsters are crawling under beds and kids always need to be told multiple times to not believe half of what anyone says. Beth got help with none of this. She instead broke her left leg that year. When all the kids ran daily to the overgrown, not always snake-free grass to make doubledecker mud pies and elaborate flower crowns, she sat at home while her Dad worked late. Beth’s mom never called or wrote, and Beth’s sixyear-old self became convinced that it was generally just a melancholy summer haze of heat that separated them, and that her mom was just beyond the dirt roads and cotton fields, perhaps just literally peeking over the horizon, waiting for Beth to hop one-legged on over to where the grass was greener, where she waited to drive Beth off to a whimsical land of more sunny-eyed people. But months went by. Beth’s leg healed too slowly, and her mom’s image became faded . . . but golden at the same time, a sun-streaked memory. The distance became all too overwhelming to face. When Beth asked her dad about her mom, he told her that some people simply have to run away from their reality in order to handle it. Months later, Beth opened a tiny package that came in the mail and found a ring inside. It was addressed from her mom. She didn’t give it to her dad, didn’t even think about it. She kept it. Wore it every day. Beth had this strange habit as a child of looking for proof that everything in the world was connected, like everything had sticky, enormous cobwebs pulling on it, pulling old trees together, connecting them to the sky and to the ground and to the tangled, constantly growing mass of trees. So when she wore the ring, Beth began to swear she noticed a pattern: the ring would constrict for a moment on her finger, then suddenly release, in a barely sensible rhythm, a just-noticeable pattern, a pulsing—sometimes irregular, sometimes faint and sleepy, usually so steady, so recognizable . . . . Clearly a heartbeat. Beth became convinced that she wore the pulse of her mom’s heartbeat, constantly reminding her that she was alive, that her mother was alive! That by this oval of gold they were connected, definitely connected—the same heartbeat thump-thump-thumping all across | 31
Prose the states, past all the cockroach apartments and smoky cities and two million stop signs and strawberry fields and TV cables and cloudy days and bloody shins and medicine cabinets and all the nights and days and holidays and in-betweens where Beth wondered why her mom wasn’t here, right where she was, just here, even happy to be here sometimes, just sometimes. Why wasn’t she here? Why? But she had no choice but to stay content with wearing the ring. Feel its imaginary pulse. Grow up. Also grow fiercely protective of it. Get in approximately three fistfights over it, two with boys. Her mother never came back, but because Beth always wore the ring, she felt content that her mother was fine, just fine, sprinting and biking and racing in big expensive fancy cars and chugging trains away from her apparently terrible reality. She’d come back eventually, when she was ready. So when Beth dropped the ring that night, when she watched it arc in slow motion over her fishing pole and into the mouth of the ocean, there were two illogical, irrational, utterly fatal thoughts that crossed her mind: 1) that her mother’s heartbeat must have stopped, left her, and that it must be at that very second shrinking to a silent echo, dying, cold and dying, dying oh god dying, and 2) that Beth must save her. She must she must she must. Beth was never one to scream, or call attention to herself, even if attempting to save a life. She was saving a life, right? So she just slipped in, without saying anything to her friends, anything at all. They were busy fishing and being the hero in their own happy lives. So she sank suddenly and purposefully like an anchor. A pulsing, blood-bound anchor. To the ring! The water was a sudden ice storm, too rigid, too stuck together, too unmoving and anchor-like and cold. Her mom must have experienced this all the time since she must live up North, up North where all the important people live, stumbling along in their freezing and all-too-valued anonymity, wow it was getting a little too cold, like little fish swimming along the streets, all trying to ignore the ten-belowzero temperatures, trying to ignore their numb limbs, wait were my limbs numb?, all brave and hero-like and in love with her mom. Where was that ring? 32 |
Prose Beth realized she had yet to move her limbs. Did they move still? Her toes wiggled. A little. She sank farther. Her eyes? She still hadn’t opened them. Why hadn’t she opened them?! She opened them for an instant, then— Blackness. The depth is kind of poetic, isn’t it, she thought, the blackness churning and pulsing and pulling like blood vessels ringing in hearts. What if that’s all she was really sinking into, a heart, her mother’s heart, actually. Then would she even need to find that ring? That must be why her head was feeling heavy and like it was detaching, slowly, slowly, and carefully, like wisps of drifting clouds pulling apart from one another. Beth knew what she was doing, just drifting now, accepting. Her head felt so foggy. She didn’t have to find the ring anymore— she was in her mom’s heart! That’s what she always wanted, anyways; it was a relief, really. Beth had kept the ring for this mere purpose: to one day win her mom’s heart with it. Her thoughts were syrupy, they were hooked fish, they were swirling and living and dying and desperate and peaceful and pulsing. She felt one last pulse then she blacked out. And she sank. To the very bottom. She was a hero to her own story. Amazingly, eleven days later the Search and Rescue found the scratched ring caught on an outgrowth of exposed roots. The men talked to Beth’s friends about it, asked about its significance. “She must have dropped it,” we all said. “Must have gone into the water after it.” But we were all quiet for a minute, all thinking the same thing. Martha finally said it, with all of us shuffling, glancing at the ground. “She can’t swim, though. Like once she goes down, someone always has to go save her. She’s terrified of swimming ‘cause she can’t.” And we all wondered if she knew exactly what she was doing when she jumped. She must have. She couldn’t have. Would she do that? We couldn’t help but wonder.
Thomas Baldwin Froggenhall University: a college where the greatest of comedic geniuses were grown. At this institution, students learned timing techniques, practiced one-liners, and became acquainted with sophisticated humor devices such as seltzer bottles and anvils. On this lawn, no matter what color—yellow, hazelnut, cyan, or blue—all toons were equally funny . . . except for Zan. Zan had been a disgrace to Froggenhall ever since he had been born. The second he arose from his mother’s womb, he spotted a large wooden mallet. Entranced by its splintery glory, he grasped the handle, and with an adrenaline-pumped swing of his arm, he beat the doctor into the ground. Ever since that day, Zan had had an “unhealthy” obsession with beating people into the ground with large wooden mallets. Every class, every day since Kindergarten, Zan would beat someone with a mallet for absolutely no reason but to express himself, and every day, he would be sent to Principal McHogspigot to be paddled. McHogspigot would always tell him: “Not only is it un-funny and un-orthodox, but it is just not right. Zan, what you are doing is not just hurting your cartoony career, but also your classmates’ well-being. How would you enjoy it if I did such a thing to you?” After slamming a mallet into Zan’s cranium, he would continue. “Now listen, Zan. I can’t stop you. Only you can stop yourself. But seeing as you’re an incompetent imbecile with no hope of turning yourself around, I suppose I will have to try harder.” Zan would then return to his class and do the exact same thing all over again. The routine was driving Zan insane. Today, it was a little different. As Zan walked down to the office and sat on the hard wooden bench, he looked up and met the eyes of something very, very different. It was a girl. A girl with poofy white hair, dressed in a gray hoodie and sweatpants. She seemed very out of place among the other cartoons, and she sat down right next to him. The routine in which Zan had been trapped for years had just been interfered with by a foreign entity in the manifestation of a seemingly harmless girl. Zan couldn’t help but stare at this exotic creature that was sitting before him, and he jumped as soon as it turned its head and held out its hand. 34 |
Prose “Hi, I’m Zoe.” Zoe. The perfect name. So simple, yet so unique. What was this girl doing sitting outside the principal’s office? What had she done? When did she get here? What classes was she taking? Where did she come from? So many questions! Which was the first one to ask?! “I’m Zan.” Yeah, that worked. “So, Zoe,” Zan carefully continued, “what did you do?” “I lit a stick of dynamite in the middle of class and threw it at the teacher.” She shared his love for destruction. This was most unexpected. All of a sudden, a strange feeling erupted inside Zan. What was this odd sensation? It felt like a burst of water, warm but at the same time cool, swishing and swashing inside Zan’s chest. It slammed against his defenses, and Zan started blabbering out all his problems and likes and dislikes and childhood memories—and he couldn’t stop himself. Apparently the same feeling had overcome Zoe, because she started doing the same thing. During this venting, the two discovered that they seemed to have a lot in common. They really were enjoying themselves . . . until Principal McHogspigot had to break them up. “See ya,” said Zoe. The words echoed in Zan’s mind and blocked away McHogspigot’s lecture. After leaving the room, he saw Zoe walk in. Before she entered, Zan got up the courage to ask, “Do you want to spend some time together?” She turned around almost instantly and said, “Sure.” At five PM precisely, classes ended. Zan was scouring the campus in order to find Zoe. Although Zan couldn’t describe the feelings he felt, he knew that he wanted to feel them again. He searched for the entire rest of the day. “Stupid!” he said to himself. “I said I wanted to meet her, but I never said where or when! Ah, well,” he thought, “I’ll just see her tomorrow at the prinicipal’s office.” Sure enough, Zan went to his first class, slammed the teacher, and went off to the office. He sat down on the bench, and to his surprise, he was alone. Zan was quite confused. He heard McHogspigot call his name, and he cautiously entered the office. “Not only is this un-funny and un-orthodox, but it is just not right. Zan, what you’re doing is—” “Where is Zoe?” Zan interrupted. | 35
Prose McHogspigot was stunned. For years he had delivered this rant, and for once, Zan had interrupted him. They simply stared at each other for a total of eight minutes, not knowing what to say or do next. “Where is Zoe?” Zan asked again, this time a little more hostile. “Zoe,” McHogspigot began, “was picked up yesterday by a member of her family, I presume. They did not approve of her attending this facility, and they took her away. I asked them to reconsider, but they simply wouldn’t listen. Who am I to question their motives? If they disapprove of that girl attending Froggenhall, so be it. I shouldn’t complain, though; she was just like you. It is a relief to be back to just one Zan.” “Who were they? Where did they go?” “I cannot disclose that information, Zan. If you are thinking of chasing after her, forget it!” “Mr. McHogspigot, can you at least tell me—” “Be silent now, boy! I will hear no more of this. Now, where was I?” He thought for a moment. “Ah yes. Ahem. What you’re doing is not just hurting your cartoony career, but also your—” At this moment, Zan pounded McHogspigot into the floor. Zan stared at the pancake-like blob that had been his principal as it wriggled and squirmed to return to its previous state. After a few minutes, McHogspigot regained his stature and stared down at Zan. His eyes transformed into two gleaming balls of flame. He reached into his back pocket and slowly took out a shiny, black frying pan. Zan watched as McHogspigot lowered the frying pan. Then, the two locked eyes as McHogspigot said two simple words: “You’re expelled!” In a nanosecond, Zan was soaring through the sky above Froggenhall. Then he landed back-first onto hot asphalt. Zan lifted his body off the cracked street. He limped off and slowly regained his vision. As he hobbled around, he began thinking of Zoe again. Zoe didn’t seem like the type of person who would be very close to her family. She had to have been taken against her will! That meant that she was being held captive somewhere—and it was Zan’s job to save her! But . . . what if Zoe didn’t want to be saved? Maybe she liked being with her family? . . . No. The Zoe that Zan knew wasn’t like that. Then again, he had only known her for a couple minutes. They had been some of the best minutes of his life . . . but still. He followed the road until the day turned into night, hoping he could find some kind of civilization. He then came across a series of bright flashing lights. He approached them, entranced by the way they 36 |
Prose danced about in the air. Then he heard a loud pumping sound. It shook the ground beneath his feet, only exciting him more. The sounds of screaming children filled the air. The screams were not of terror, but of joy. Zan began running toward the lights and sounds. He didn’t know what to expect, but he didn’t care. He got closer, closer, closer, until he turned a corner and saw a large mansion with multicolored spotlights swaying about on the front lawn. Boomboxes were piled high among the spotlights, letting out intoxicating bursts of music. Zan read the sign on the house’s roof. “Siren House.” Through the windows, he could see other college students his age dancing about and destroying the inside of the house. Zan ran to the door. He didn’t know what troubles he could get himself into, but he didn’t care. The door swung open, and Zan was greeted by an immense roar from a crowd of intoxicated peers. “How’s ‘bout’cha gum on in’ere an’ smash zum stuff?!” said one of the students with a lampshade on his head. Zan didn’t hesitate for a second. He grabbed a nearby bedpost and slammed it through the wall. The crowd screamed “Huzzah!” as a pipe in the wall burst and released a jet of water all over the floor. The lampshade kid grabbed Zan by the hand and led him to a big bowl of green liquid. Zan felt the lampshade kid’s hand cling onto the hairs on the back of his head and plunge Zan’s face into the strange liquid. Zan struggled for a few seconds, but then gave in and began to drink up the substance. The lampshade kid pulled back on Zan’s hair, and Zan took a gulp of air. The lampshade kid let go of his hair, and Zan began stumbling about and destroying everything he could. Soon enough, people began coming up to him, asking him to smash things for them. Zan was in paradise. He soon began to feel that odd sensation he had felt the day before when he was with Zoe. He wouldn’t have minded if this night lasted forever. Then Zan seemed to notice a strange figure among the crowd. It was tall, was dressed in gray, and exhibited the form of a girl his age. He also noticed her white poofy hair. Zoe? Without thinking, Zan chased after her. But then he started to notice time slowing down, and he began slowing down with it. He kept chasing her, but all of a sudden he heard her scream, and he saw another strange figure rise from the crowd—a tall man in leather. The man began grabbing for Zoe. Zan tried to lunge for her, but the figure grabbed him by the neck and held him out in front of him. He delivered a devastating blow to Zan’s face, and Zan collapsed. Zan felt a sharp sting of wood in his back. He focused all his | 37
Prose strength to his legs and used them to propel his body forward. He was up on his feet again. He looked back down at the place on which he had been lying and found that his back had been lodged into a splintered table. Zan cringed and started walking about the room, but he halted in shock as soon as he witnessed the scene. All the other kids who had been partying just seconds before were now splayed on the floor, nearly dead. He saw the lampshade kid hanging from a balcony. Zan went up to wake him up, but he got no response. He removed the lampshade from his head to find a pale blank staring face. He placed the lampshade back on top of his head and left the mansion. What now? He had made no progress by entering the Siren House. Had that really been Zoe he had just seen? And who had been that man chasing her? While contemplating on these questions, Zan found a slip of paper on the ground. He was somehow attracted to this small slip and snatched it up from the grass. It read: 435 Pennypinch Ave., Smoke City—Zoe Zan studied the note for a second. He had to adjust his eyes for a minute. He couldn’t believe what he had picked up. Did Zoe really want him to find her? Zan couldn’t stop staring at the note. He would have stayed there staring at the note for hours if he didn’t hear the sound of police sirens blaring down the road. Crap! Zan noticed a car that had its door swung wide open and keys in the ignition. Zan couldn’t believe what he was about to do, but he had no choice. As the sirens got louder by the second, Zan leapt into the car, slammed the door shut, turned the keys, and sped off down the road. A few hours later, Zan had finally made his way out of the forest. He smelled the smog of Smoke City and felt right at home. He was on the right path to find Zoe. However, there was one major factor that he had not counted on: the car’s gas tank. The car sputtered and died as it soon ran out of gas, rolling to a stop. Zan stepped out of the car, fell on the sidewalk, screamed out to the heavens, got back up, kicked the car, screamed some more, banged his head on the windshield, jumped on the hood, and began eating the car’s headlights. After all that, Zan just lay down on the sidewalk for a couple of minutes, gazing up at the sky. A police officer arrived to find Zan weeping on the ground and asked, “Kid, what’s your problem? Get up, will you?” Zan struggled to get up. With tears in his eyes, he confronted the officer. “By God!” he exclaimed. 38 |
Prose “What?” asked the officer. He then stopped and looked into Zan’s eyes, speechless. These two had known each other. Way back when Zan was in diapers, he had had a friend named Cephus. The two would always play with each other in the sandbox at the local playground. Zan would always whack Cephus on the head with his wooden mallet until Cephus began to develop some kind of brain damage. The more Zan banged Cephus on the head, the more angry Cephus became, until one day he began banging Zan on the head. In a matter of weeks, the two little babies were beating the snot out of each other. Now they were staring at each other years later in Smoke City, one a cop and the other an expelled college student. “Zan!” yelled Cephus. He gave Zan a great big hug. “So,” Zan began, “you’re a police officer now, huh? I never saw that coming.” “Well,” said Cephus, “I kinda got in a bit of trouble with the fuzz, and now I sorta have to work with them for a few years. So, what’s new in your life?” “Um . . . I’m looking for a girl. Her name is Zoe.” “What’s her last name?” “I have no idea, but I do know her address. It’s 435 Pennypinch Avenue.” “I know where that is! Hey, since you seem to be without wheels for the moment, how about I give you a police escort? Just ‘cuz you’re my buddy.” “Sure, if that’s cool with the police.” Zan didn’t really know if he could trust his old friend. He knew from his past experience at the Siren House that he shouldn’t be so onboard with every opportunity that came his way. He got in the backseat of Cephus’s car, and they drove off down the street. Zan was quiet. After a while, Cephus stopped the car. “Cephus,” Zan asked, “what are you doing?” Cephus hushed him and pointed at an old man walking his poodle along the sidewalk. “That guy right there,” began Cephus, “is named Mr. Waterwoggle. He used to run a black market downtown. Let’s teach him a lesson.” Cephus got out of the car and blew his whistle at Waterwoggle. “Hands in the air, sir!” he commanded. Waterwoggle turned around. “Walkin’ yer dog, are you?” Cephus asked. “Um . . . yes. Is there a problem with that?” Waterwoggle asked | 39
Prose back. Cephus began staring him down. “You remember that black market you had a while back?” Waterwoggle hesitated. “I try to forget it.” Cephus stared him down a little while longer. “You’re scum, Woggle! You always have been. Ever since you entered this world, you’ve deserved nothing but ridicule.” Zan watched in horror as Cephus grabbed Waterwoggle’s poodle and began dangling it over his mouth. “I’m gonna eat your poodle!” he exclaimed. Zan opened the door and tackled Cephus. Waterwoggle grabbed his precious pooch and ran away screaming. “Hey, what’s wrong with you?!” screamed Zan. “Don’t question me! I’m an officer of the law! I’m allowed to do stuff like that,” retorted Cephus. “No, you are not! That man is innocent! And so was his poodle!” “How about all those people you’ve slammed into the ground, Zan, how innocent were they?” Zan froze. He had a good point. “N-no.” he stuttered. “I . . . I can’t help myself.” “Really?” asked Cephus. “Every day, you just can’t help yourself? Every day you bash peoples brains out because you just can’t help yourself, is that it?” Cephus stood up and grabbed his pepper spray. He sprayed Zan in the eyes, and Zan collapsed. Cephus drove off, and Zan wriggled on the ground, rubbing his eyes and panting. What Cephus said, was it true? Had Zan really been a villain this whole time? Again, Zan had to push these thoughts back. He would think about this another time. For now, he still had to find Zoe, and he was so close. He looked at the signs and saw that he was on Pennypinch Avenue. He just had to find 435. 433 . . . 434 . . . 435. Here it was. This is where Zoe was being held. It was time for Zan to claim his prize. It was time for him to save Zoe and ride off with her triumphantly into the sunset. It was time. Zan stood at the foot of the house, fists clenched, head up high. He strode up the steps and onto the patio, knocked at the door, and waited for someone to answer. “Hello?” a voice said. “Hello,” Zan began. “My name is Zan. Tell me where you are keeping Zoe!” “Father?” the voice said. “Um . . . what?” Zan asked. 40 |
Prose “It’s you again, father. You are trying to take her away from me again. I’m strong now, and you can’t get to her!!” Zan had had enough. He grabbed a nearby tree branch and broke the door down. Behind the splintery remains of the door stood a tall man dressed in leather. The man from the Siren House! He punched Zan in the face, and Zan was sent flying backwards into a tree. With his legs wobbling, Zan commanded the man to attack him again, proclaiming that he was ready for him this time. He was not. Once more, the man delivered a blow to Zan’s face that sent him flying up into the sky. The man grabbed Zan by his wrists and proceeded to swing him around, flinging him off into the house. Zan stood back up and ran up the stairs of the house and into a room. He shut the door behind him. He felt the man pounding on the door. “Zan!” a voice cried out. Zan looked around to see where it had come from. He looked to his left and saw her standing there, smirking. It was Zoe. “Finally . . . .” said Zan. He got away from the door to embrace her, but this only meant that the man was able to smash through the door easier. Zan and Zoe slammed into the wall on the other side of the room, and the man grunted and puffed. He stared at Zan. “This is for all the times I was never able to stop you from taking away Zoe!” “I AM NOT YOUR FATHER!!!” Zan replied, only to have a coffee table smashed against his face. The man lunged for Zan and reached for his throat. This was it. Zan was sure he’d finish him off right here, until— “Stop, Gary!” Zoe had stood up and was now standing in between the two of them. “Gary, what happened all those years ago is behind us! Stop dwelling on it! This guy is Zan. He doesn’t want to hurt me like our father does! Let him go, trust me!” Slowly, Gary loosened his grip and dropped Zan to the floor with a mighty thud. He then started backing up, tears forming in his eyes. “No, no . . . Father. He hurt you.” And he began to cry. Later, Zan and Zoe called a mental hospital and asked for Gary to be taken away. Zan told Zoe his whole story while they watched Gary leave. After a while, Zan built up the courage to ask Zoe something. “Zoe,” he began. “What did your father do?” “It honestly wasn’t a big deal,” she said. “He took me to a zoo, and I was attacked by an escaped flamingo.” After another awkward silence, Zoe inquired, “About your friend | 41
Prose Cephus . . . maybe we are doing the wrong thing. You whacking people on the head with mallets all the time and me throwing dynamite at people all the time. I know it’s our way of thinking, but . . . now I just don’t know.” Zan had gone on this trip to find Zoe, the girl who understood him and his thirst for destruction, and now she was becoming convinced that his thirst for destruction was not ethically sound at all. What now? After all this time, he had never thought of what he would do when he found Zoe. “That’s it!” said Zoe. “I’m going off to change my ways, Zan. I’m going off to become a pediatrician.” “WHAT?!” exclaimed Zan. “Yeah, smashing things is wrong. I’ve learned that, and now I’m devoting my life to the exciting world of children’s medicine.” “NO! I saved you so we could smash stuff together!” So Zoe went off to become a pediatrician while Zan just stood with his mouth hanging open. Then a feeling overcame him. What was this odd feeling? It felt like a burst of nails, fiery but also freezing, swishing and swashing inside Zan’s chest. Regret.
The Fence Olivia Horan
Some backyards are small, square in shape with yellowing grass and an abandoned tire swing. Perhaps they sport a rusted trampoline with a growing hole in the center. Or maybe a sandbox that has gone from a magic sandcastle kingdom to a convenient litter box. Some backyards are rather large, surounded by a tall white fence that shuts out wandering eyes and seals in the beauty of the landscape. Perhaps these backyards have impeccable lawns and greener than green grass measuring a precise two and three-quarter inches tall. A clean slate patio with a table and chairs and a shiny grill that seems more like a page from a sales catalog than something that a family uses. Jeannie’s backyard was a combination of the two. She would rest in the lush grass after school and stare up at the sky. Venturing from the sandbox to the trampoline, she would entertain herself for hours. She didn’t have any siblings with whom to share this wonderland—only her little old self. And Thomas, of course. Beyond the sky-high fence that separated Jeannie from the rest of the world was another backyard. Maybe it even had a swimming pool. Jeannie didn’t know. Nor did she care. She knew that Thomas lived on the other side of the fence, and Thomas was a nice boy. Every day after school Thomas and Jeannie would toss an old baseball back and forth over the fence. It started one day when it accidentally flew into Jeannie’s sanctuary, and it somehow soon progressed to a daily occurrence. Then one day, they started tossing small, random objects in the place of the baseball. Jeannie folded her math test into a paper airplane and sailed it over to Thomas’s waiting hands. Jeannie had worked hard on the test and had received an A. In return, Thomas tossed over a baseball cap of his. Then Jeannie threw a candy bar and he a lollipop. Today, she sat waiting. She picked at the grass. She chewed her nails. The sun beat down on her shoulders, and she sighed. Just as she released her breath, a little piece of plastic landed nearby. She scrambled to the object and stared quizzically at it. It was a wristband. Jeannie ran inside and scribbled a question mark on it, then tossed it over the fence. Soon enough a small ball of paper landed at her feet. She carefully opened it. In its core, one word: Cancer. Cancer? What on earth was cancer? Jeannie shrugged. | 43
Prose It rained the next day. And the next. She sat on her couch, staring outside. The rain tapped on the tables and bounced off the slate patio. When the sun shone again, she ventured out to the fence. She threw a rock. And another. The fence stood there. As always. She waited. All day long. She did this again the next day. And the next. No Thomas.
Father is a Doctor Tori Weldon
Father wants to talk about our day over spaghetti and meatballs. We sit. We pray. I tell Father I wrote a story in school today. He nods and tells me about the patient whose life he saved today. His day was more productive. Mother doesn’t speak to us. She screams at someone who is not there and flings her fork. I clean meat sauce off of my sweater. Father goes to his den. Mother speaks to someone who is not there. I wait. At ten Father leads Mother to bed. He speaks to her softly, whispering he loves her. She mumbles to someone who is not there. I wait. Their door clicks shut. I hear the lock slide into its place and watch the light under the door go out. They are asleep. I go to Father’s den and into the drawer where he put the note. I then go to the cabinet where he kept the bottle of pills. I open the note. I have read this note before and have even written a reply of my own. Today in class I wrote a story. In this story there was a Healer who was very sad and wanted to use a potion that would help him sleep forever. He said so in a letter. In this story was a Hero who found a letter about a Healer who wanted to use a potion that would help him sleep forever. A Hero could not allow a Healer to sleep forever. So the Hero waited. At ten the Healer led a woman who speaks to no one to bed. He whispered sweet nothings to her as the door closed. Once he was sure they were in slumber, the Hero made his move. He took the potion in place of the Healer and quietly drifted off into sleep forever. A Hero could not allow a Healer to sleep forever. Father is a healer. Mother is a woman who speaks to no one. I am a hero who sleeps forever. To hear Tori Weldon read “Father is a Doctor,” visit http://soundcloud.com/bpanagos/father-is-a-doctor-by-tori
Pennsylvania Alexis Christakes
Pennsylvania is hills upon hills of nowhere. That’s all it can be to me because I’m not looking for anything here. I’m not looking for a home like my parents are. I’m not looking for an attraction or source of entertainment. I’m not looking for beauty even when I usually do everywhere. I just see gray, even though it’s ridiculously green and lush with little breaths of lavender and white weeds, dandelions and ladybugs and copperheads. Giant leaves litter the softest grass I’ve ever walked across, and boulders burst out of the mountainous front yards of these people who have something here. But I don’t. I don’t understand anything we pass by. There is a distinct lack of familiarity. I look towards my mother in the front seat. She makes small talk with the realtor as he drives us from home to home to home, and my aunt sits next to me, occasionally reaching over to pinch my leg and smile at me. I fake a smile every time—I am not particularly unhappy, but I’m not ecstatic and playful, and why is she always pretending to be? I hate bullshit. I want to sit next to my mother, the shining beacon of logic and intelligence and problem-solving in this ridiculous family of ridiculous people. I want to look at her, and she will look at me like she does, knowing what I’m thinking and thinking the same thing. Where are we? Where am I? I’ve woken up in a place not remembering every day for the week I’ve been here for my visit. But the front seat is far away from the back seat, especially if you’re in the back seat. Where are we? I will ask her, and she will smile at the silliness we’ve delved into these past months. And her smile will have the power to erase time. She never quit her job because those silly women never made up rumors in a sad struggle for power. She never searched for months with no luck for a position close to home so that she wouldn’t have to cause this uproar of uprooting. She never applied in Pittsburgh, and they never looked at her and said, “Oh, we know who you are.” They didn’t take her in a heartbeat. She hasn’t been living in a temporary apartment with my oldest brother waiting for the rest of her family. I never packed all my things, my most precious origami flowers and glass figurines and pretty pieces of clothing, to take to my grandparents’ to live there so that I can finish 48 |
Creative Nonfiction high school in one place. My father never got around to putting in those new hardwood floors or granite counters or pristine white carpets. He didn’t paint all the walls a bland, neutral, likable color. And he never tore open the floor of the kitchen to replace the dirty tile. He never created that fog of dust throughout the house or that god-awful noise like a monster clawing away the innards of my home and sitting down to shatter a thousand mirrors one by one with a sledge-hammer, which is what it sounds like to take up all the tile in a kitchen if you ever were wondering. Where are we? I will ask her. Let’s go home. And she and I will turn around and suddenly be where we’re supposed to be, where we have made a home. Because comfort is the only way to make my ears stop ringing and my nausea dissipate. I’m tired. So tired lately. My mother will give me vitamins and advice and chocolate. She won’t live fifteen hours away from me because there’s actually no one I need more than her. And I know I’m selfish because everyone needs my mom. She solves problems at work and knows what my sister will and won’t eat for dinner and what to say to my brother so that he keeps going. Really, she is just the most likable person by far in this family. I’ve been convinced this whole time that she has a secret pocket resting in her hands that holds all the answers to every day. It’s probably sparkly and full of light and root beer and flowers and nectar and how to make honey. And she is so private and secret, but if I were to ask, she would tell me everything she was thinking. She would tell me things she would never dare tell anyone else—we know, we always know each other. I would know her anywhere. We laugh at the way I look just like her and everyone thinks I’m her when I answer the phone. We laugh because people always say, sometimes bitingly, You are just like your mother. We would welcome change, even my father has said, if we hadn’t found our niche. We always welcomed it before. Let’s go home, let’s go home.
To Be Blunt Zach Fitzgibbon
Confidence. Never give up. Confidence? Never give up? I have always considered myself to be a glass-half-full kind of guy, or realistic in a positive mindset; seeing the silver lining around the lightning cloud (the one that electrocuted my grandmother). No problem. Her cooking was awful and she ate extremely loud. Ding. Bright side. As a child, T-ball was about as easy for me as the color blue trying not to be the color blue. I remember after one game I said, “I suck.” “No, you don't. Have confidence,” my mother replied. It was a simple observation, that I sucked at T-ball. Even a young realist thinking with a positive mindset could notice that. But I was also an obedient child, so the next game I rolled up to the field with beaming confidence. But after striking out . . . a lot . . . I decided that beaming confidence was not enough. So I upped the ante. “Left field, Zach,” my coach grunted. “How far?” I asked. He made a Really, kid? face and said, “Very.” I thought this meant there was a really hard hitter about to be up to bat. There wasn't. Instead, this player hit the ball off the T to second base. So to second base I ran. The ball was nearing the end of its flight, and with confidence I pushed down my teammate on second base, and I caught the ball. Well . . . eye caught the ball. The ball hit me in the face. We lost. Confidence. You see, despite my sunny outlook on life, confidence is . . . well, false and wasteful. If you are ugly (to say it bluntly), I will not lie to you and say you are not ugly simply in order to boost your confidence in the appearance department. “Am I ugly?” “Yes, yes you are,” I will say. If I don’t tell you the truth, you’ll start hitting on people way out of your league, and you’ll get rejected, and your confidence and pride will be greatly damaged. False confidence is just as dangerous as low or no confidence. That night my mother said, “Zach, it’s okay. Never give up.” Well, I never did. For five more years I “played” T-ball, which led to playing baseball (which was even worse). I learned many valuable lesson those years, the most helpful being that teammates do not like other teammates who suck—teammates being the rest of my team. Regardless, I never gave up . . . so I never had friends. 50 |
That One Lady Jake Sims
I stand coyly by the fruit section of the local supermarket, watching and waiting. I myself could be considered strange for seemingly glaring at the spread of apples, oranges, pears and other various fruits, but no. Today I’m watching for her, that delightfully wonderful soul whose hobbies, among other things I'm sure, include sniffing fruit. It's a seemingly unnoticeable act for passersby. Just a casual reach for an apple, a glance to check for damage, and ever so slowly, as if afraid to get caught, a lift of the nose, a deep inhalation, a collection of the scent of orchard or perhaps of pesticides, and a satisfied grin. She looks around again, making sure she hasn't been caught in the act. I pretend to observe a spread in front of me, a grin on my face. Next come the oranges. Again a casual reach, a thorough check for damage, but this time an overzealous squeeze. She returns it to the crate and chooses another. It must not have fit the criteria of her strange practice. Another frisking and this one begins its travel to her nose. Again the slow, deep inhalation followed by a face that can only be described as pure bliss. Oh, what is this? Her face contorts in joy at the sight of a new addition to her fragrant friends. It appears to be a peach, but my view is obstructed. I slowly stroll to the next row of fruit, my eyes locked on her. She turns toward me and I narrowly avoid her suspicious glance; however, I confirm it is a peach, its pale orange and yellow skin covered with velvety hairs. I resume my stealthy position and wait. Again she checks the piece of fruit over; however, things between her and her new fuzzy friend become somewhat heated. She runs her finger up and down its flesh, the tiny hairs rushing beneath her fingers. The ascent begins to what will certainly be her nostrils, but then it strays off course as she rubs it gently against her cheek, purring in delight. A smile creeps its way onto my face, and laughter builds inside me. I try to hold it in, but it continues to grow. My face contorts into something between bliss and horror, the cap on my laughter straining as a few giggles escape. Finally, I give in, and the hysteric laughter bursts forth, calling her attention to me. She drops the peach in terror. She’s been caught. Her pale cheeks flush with rouge, and tears build behind her eyes. “You freak!” she yells as she storms off to the checkout. | 51
Tragically Hip Sascha Kirkham
In the past few weeks I have stumbled upon a new annoyance. Being an extremely critical person full of judgments, annoyances come often. Lately, my rage-filled tinge results from Facebook. I'm sure a sigh just escaped your mouth at the sound of “Facebook,” but I assure you this is not a story revolving around a picture of someone's wiener dog dressed as Santa or a “cute li’l” inspirational quote someone put as their status. I am addressing the slaughter of the English language, as well as the possible reason SAT scores are low. I have got to say, I think I struck gold. In this case, gold has come in the form of the girls chucking up peace signs and pouting their lips, resembling a feeble-minded duck. These girls are your typical “it” girls, skin glowing orange and hair fried straight. They're the girls with three-thousand Facebook besties and three hundred pics of themselves with the ever-present “hand on hip” pose. (The “hand on hip” pose is definitely justified, though. How else can you convey a sprightly attitude?) As you can see, I have studied these girls very closely, mostly due to jealousy . . . I mean . . . awe. Their behavior is quite intriguing. I marvel at one’s ability to obliterate any type of individualism by following any trend deemed as “hip” or “in.” Their current trend, visible to any regular Facebook user, is the shortening of words. This new art of shortening words isn't just simple abbreviation. Oh no, this is much more intricate. Words go from totally to “totes” and from awkward to “awk”. From inappropriate to “inapprope,” and from definitely to “deff.” Do you see what they did there? Not only did they shorten “definitely,” they also went out of their way to misspell it! These are visionaries, man. They're saving us time and energy. It's smart. It's conservative. It's a step towards going green—we're conserving brain power, right? No? Oh . . . . Don't think these shortened words are used as stand-alone slang. Nonsensical sentences are formed as well. For example, if there's a picture of two people kissing, that girl comments and says, “Totes deff inapprope. Lol so awk.” I promise this is legit. I've seen it, it's real, it exists. It needs to cease . . . or else it will spread. The spreading of grammatically incorrect, misspelled words does not need to be visible among the youth. The “I scored a twelve on my ACT” population should 52 |
Creative Nonfiction not be allowed to infect everyone else with their inability to distinguish any more variations of the English language. Put in the simplest terms possible, this trend needs to stop. It's not harmless and easily ignorable like most trends. It's obnoxious and potentially harmful to the fragile eggshell that is the adolescent mind. Maybe I'm just bitter because I never got an invite to the pagan circle of popularity. Or maybe I'm just simply aware, a trait that is not treasured among my peers. In the end I'm left thinking, How could “those” girls shorten soldmysoultothedevilforpopularityinhighschool? No doubt, they will try, being the persistent creatures that they are.
Connor Sawyer Eighth grade was probably the strangest school year I've had to date, from homework, to school lunches, to the insane Social Studies teacher who stood outside her room between bells informing passing students of everything from George Washington to the upcoming 2012 apocalypse. Many things were also against me, especially when I was on the wrong side of the hallway during what could be called the offspring of the New York City rush hour. The teachers were all, in a way, different and unique, if you could call it that. My algebra teacher, Mr. Kruger, was one of those “special” people. And by special, I mean hilariously sarcastic as well as legally insane. When I first heard his name, I associated him with Bruegger's Bagels because of how similar his name sounded. However, Mr. Kruger was nothing like a bagel, mostly because he tasted disgusting. One of the many things on which Mr. Kruger lectured us that stuck throughout the year was a repeated reminder of the supposedly difficult chapter toward the end of the book infamously dubbed “the crying chapter.” Many warnings were dotted throughout the book as we progressed closer and closer. Notes like “Turn back!” and “Save yourself!” increased to the point that students were actually squinting to see past the meaningless scribbles to read the homework problems. People were getting more and more anxious, and some, God have mercy on their souls, tried to complete the chapter early. But true to its reputation, the chapter only resulted in the students returning to school the next day with puffy eyes, runny noses, and some random story about George Washington in the New York City rush hour. I was never the superstitious type but sometimes an ongoing streak of bad luck just naturally happens. In my Chinese class, we had a speaking test on members of the family. I had seen a black cat that morning, and sure enough, my teacher scolded me for accidentally calling my mother a horse. Later I walked under a ladder next door. I spent that afternoon with the Orchestra teacher tuning cellos to strange instruments I had never thought existed—the Ocarina, the Dulcimer, and, of course, the African Rock Drums. The chapter started on page 666, and it turned out to be one of the only ones I passed in algebra that year. I guess Satan failed math as well, considering he took a third of the angels instead of a majority. 54 |
Dreams Come True Nick Sieja
Albert Whitney, 88, wanted nothing more than to build things. He drew his first building at the age of ten and immediately fell in love with the idea. “I was amazed at the architectural ideas I could come up with at such a young age. All of my teachers called me a prodigy.” Whitney took numerous classes in high school pertaining to structural and architectural engineering. “My grades were outstanding [and] I received three scholarships for a full college ride.” Sadly, everything changed for Whitney when he was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1942. The reason: World War II. “My mom cried for hours after I got the letter. I remember crying a little, too.” Whitney, his dreams out the window, was sent off to a training camp in northern Pennsylvania. He arrived less than a month after he received the note in the mail. “I was literally handed a gun and told to go practice my shot. I had never shot a gun before in my life!” Whitney spent three months in recruit camp, sending letters to his parents about once a week. “I tried to keep in touch as much as possible, but it wasn't easy. The Drill Instructor kept all of us busy. If he saw us sitting down or taking a break, the rest of our day was brutal.” After his three months were up, Whitney was stationed at a location called the “boot” in Easton, Maryland. “The boot was basically where they kept all the trained recruits that were ready for battle.” Knowing that any of them could be sent to battle at any given moment kept all the recruits in the boot on their toes. Finally, after one month of constant attention to detail and teamwork exercises, Whitney was sent, along with two hundred others, to Normandy, France. There, he was taught how to use a tank destroyer. “I trained in an M10,” says Whitney. The M10 destroyer was designed in 1942 by General Motors and Ford. After training in the tank for only four days, Albert was sent into his first battle. “Most people say this jokingly, but I almost wet myself. I honestly thought I was going to. I had a numb sensation driving that M10 to battle, and the only thought that I could manage was 'I'm going to die.'” However, Whitney lived through the two-hour battle, taking down two tanks and countless French soldiers. “The rest of the time af| 55
Creative Nonfiction ter that kind of went by in a blur,â€? says Whitney when asked about the other battles. â€œThe next thing I knew, I was being sent home. The war wasn't over yet, but my time was up.â€? The Army had drafted Whitney for eight years of service. When he returned home, he remained enlisted for another seven years, but he never had to fight or even participate in active duty for the rest of his life. When his time was truly up, Albert Whitney jumped back to his studies in architecture. He attended Drexel University in Philadelphia and attained a Master's degree in Architecture. He has since assisted in the planning of eight suburban-sized homes and the building of three hotels. He moved to Huntsville, Alabama, at the age of forty-nine, and he remains there today. He lives a happy life in a sturdy building with his dog, Chance.
The DeeP Comic Shop Nick Altstatt
The DeeP is Huntsville’s leading comic shop and gaming store. They sell all kinds of games, from Yu-Gi-Oh to War-hammer 40,000. The more popular games are Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering, which attract twenty to thirty people every Saturday and Sunday, not including the events the store hosts occasionally. But the hundreds of comics they sell reel in up to seventy people per day. Overall, The DeeP rakes in anywhere from 150 to 300 customers per week. It is located at 2312 South Memorial Parkway in Huntsville, AL, open from Wednesday to Sunday. On Saturday, it is open until 10 PM, and on Sunday until 6 PM. The DeeP focuses on a different game every day. On Wednesday, they focus on new comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, and any board games they can provide or that customers can bring. Games include Munchkin, Order of the Stick, and Risk. Thursday, they play the console game for fun, each to their own heart’s content, or at least until they close. They play familiar titles like Halo, Modern Warfare, Battlefield 3, and Call of Duty. Friday is “Friday Night Magic,” a night lasting until practically midnight playing Magic: The Gathering in all sorts of formats. One of them is called Commander. In the Commander format, you build a hundred card deck. One of these cards will be your “Commander.” It must be a legendary creature. Your deck can only have the same color(s) as your Commander. For the rest of the deck, you can only have two cards with the same name on it. Saturday, they reminisce about Friday night and play a bit more Magic, accompanied by Pokemon enthusiasts. Sunday is all about the Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments and trade. They get an enjoyable two-day break before they start the craziness again. These tournaments usually last from 1 PM to closing time. They consist of five rounds, the last round being only for the top four contestants. In the time between rounds, people find time to trade cards with each other and buy cards from the DeeP in hopes of getting a specific one. The DeeP is there for all the gaming geeks and nutty comic nerds to get together and respectively geek and nerd over their chosen topics. In this neutral ground, there aren’t (usually) any conflicts between anyone who would normally be at each other’s throats over whether or not DC is better than Marvel. (Marvel is better.) | 57
Raisins and Rainbows Victoria Hollingsworth
When I was younger, I was different from other children my age. Well, I was really just weird, but I tell myself that I was different. For example, I used to love raisins. Raisins were my passion, and I ate them everyday. I remember when I was little, I used to take grapes from the fridge and hide them away so that they would become raisins. My secret hiding place was behind our television. I would place a few grapes on a plate and set it behind the TV in the dark. If I had been smart, I would have covered the grapes with a paper towelâ€”televisions have the amazing ability to collect all the dust from a single room; the dust just settles in the darkness behind it. But after a few weeks, I would crawl behind the TV and devour the dusty, dried fruit. I really loved raisins. I also liked dryer lint. When I would hear the dryer stop after an hour of spinning, I would sneak into the laundry room and scrape the lint off the metal screen where it was trapped. I would then retreat to my room with the warm, fuzzy ball cradled in my palms as if it were the most valuable possession in the world. Then I would shove the lint into my piggy bank with the rest of my stash. I owned a tiny metal piggy bank that was only meant to hold about five one-dollar bills, but by some miracle I compacted all of the lint into that tiny space. Once again, if I had been smart, I would have just used a bigger piggy bank. After years of gathering the different colors of fuzz, I eventually collected a mass that was the size of a softball. I would pull the giant wad of lint out of my piggy bank and play with it sometimes. I named it Rainbow. Although I ate dust-covered raisins and played with lint balls when I was younger, I still tell myself that I was only a little bit different from everyone else my age. But deep down, I know that I was really just weird. Thank God I grew out of it.
Always Wear Your Floaties Alexandrea Friar
I took refuge in the water on a hot July day, but the spiteful pool turned on me in an instant. Standing at a proud four-feet-four-and-ahalf inches on my tiptoes, I hardly reached the bottom of the shallow end of our crowded neighborhood pool, but that couldn’t stop me from straying down the slope, closer and closer to the Deep End. “Mommy! Mommy!” I giggled when my mother gave me her attention. “Mommy, look at me!” With tiny, measured footsteps, I edged toward the middle of the pool. With each stride, I glanced back at my mother for confirmation that I was safe. “Wow, Alexandrea!” My mother’s face lit up with amazement at my heroic march through the cool water. Her words could only mean encouragement. So I took another step into the dead center of the swimming pool. “Careful, now; if you go past the middle, you won’t be able to touch the bottom anymore,” my mother warned. Her smile returned, but she gestured to her dress and said, “And I’m not in a bathing suit, so I can’t be with you in the Deep End this time.” I just giggled harder. The Deep End? I could take it on. My mother’s protection? I didn’t need it. I was finally over four feet tall and needed a whole hand to count how old I was; I laughed in the face of danger. And in my fit of fatuous laughter, I didn’t feel myself drifting. I didn’t hear my mother’s final caution: “Don’t go too far!” I never realized exactly how deep five feet was until even the tip of my big toes couldn’t reach the bottom and my mouth filled up with chlorine-treated pool water. I spluttered, splashed, and screamed. I begged for help, for anyone to save me from a watery grave. “Mommy! Mommy, please! I can’t reach!” But my mother only danced in dilemma at the edge of the pool, not wanting to ruin such a nice dress. “Just drift to the edge!” my mother mindlessly called out. However, help came in the form of a gallant fourth-grader. He dragged me from death to the shallow end, and my mom grabbed me. Tears stinging my eyes, I coughed up more water before demanding answers for my mother’s selfish behavior, “Mommy why didn’t you jump in to rescue me? I was drowning!” My mother bent down to my eye level. “Alexandrea,” My mother pointed to the upper half of my arms. “Nothing can happen to you when you’re wearing your floaties.” | 59
Silly Bands: What in the World Emily Bohatch
About two years ago, I found myself engulfed in the useless fad of Silly Bands. If you've never seen Silly Bands—or never had the misfortune of spending your hard-earned money on some—they are these stupid rubber bands shaped like animals. At first, I saw through their ruse and realized the truth: Silly Bands are trying to take over the world, one wrist at a time. Within the first month that they were released, you couldn’t walk down the hall without seeing the colorful rubber bands around somebody's wrist—students and teachers alike. Soon I found that I was pretty much the only person that didn't have Silly Bands. "Hey, Emily! Oh my gosh, you'll never guess . . ." eyes would flit momentarily to my wrist. "Oh, you don't have Silly Bands." Just like that, they would forget what they were about to say. If the world had been about to come to an end, we would all be doomed because I hadn’t been wearing Silly Bands. "Emily, Emily! Oh my goodness, the wo— . . . you don't have Silly Bands . . . ." And just like that. Doomed. Eventually, I found myself sitting in a Books-a-Million staring at what must have been the last pack of Silly Bands in all of Alabama. Giving in to the fad, I finally pulled out two dollars and purchased a "farm animal" pack of Silly Bands. When I walked into school the next day, Silly Bands proudly displayed on my arms, I was surrounded by a mob of Silly Band-clad crazies, practically foaming at the mouth, all because I was wearing Silly Bands. "I'll trade you a penguin for a pig!" "I'll give you a chinchilla for a bunny!" "A dinosaur! I'll give you a dinosaur for the duck!" By the end of the day, I went from twenty animal farm Silly Bands to a duck. Frantically, I tried to trade it, desperate to regain some of my rubber band splendor. "I'll trade you a duck for a penguin!" "Oh, I can't give you my penguin. My boyfriend gave it to me." Good for you. Your boyfriend spent ten cents and got you a cheap rubber band shaped like a penguin. You should cherish it forever; maybe even frame it. 60 |
Creative Nonfiction See, that's the thing about bartering. You can never beat the crazed crowd if they are absolutely obsessed with what you have. Never. So don't even try. To this day, I don't know what possessed us all to simultaneously go out and buy pointless rubber bands, or what convinced us that they were cool. Some bum somewhere was probably sitting on his couch one day, watching Swamp Men—as most rednecks do—and playing with a giant rubber band. Sipping his last gulp of beer, he probably threw the rubber band carelessly onto the table and lumbered, scratching his tremendous belly, all the way to the kitchen to get a new bottle—and a bag of Cracklins while he was at it. Upon arriving back to his beloved couch, he probably noticed the rubber band looked vaguely like a duck. "By golly! That there rubber band looks like a duck, or I is a monkey's uncle, which I ain't. Lookee here, y'all!" Said hillbilly is probably sitting poolside at his king-sized mansion, rolling in the money from these ridiculous rubber bands. Seriously, who else would come up with these things? He was probably shocked when his personal butler told him that today's youth were actually catching on. Today, all of my Silly Bands find themselves sitting in my closet, collecting dust. Every time I look at that box, I remember that I will never get those two dollars back.
Jackson Browne: A Documentary Today, we’ll be looking for a rare breed of Cynicalus adolecentus, or, as it’s referred to in some parts, the Jackson Browne. Chances are slim, but we’ll know one if we see one. The Jackson Browne has a number of distinguishing features: blue-green eyes, dark brown hair swept to the side, a stout build, and a well-grown beard. His natural habitat is a small room in a little suburban house with thin walls. He lurks about that room until he wants food, at which point he will generally wander out into the kitchen. There’s a small house now. Let’s go take a look. . . . We’re in the living room, approaching the room that may contain our prey. I’m opening the door slowly . . . ah. There he is. He’s lying in his nest on a grey mattress with blue sheets. The Jackson Browne is a very intelligent animal, and he makes good use of tools. He’s using two of them now: an HP laptop and an Apple iPhone. He often uses them to satisfy social needs, such as “texting” and “Skyping.” Also, he is listening to “Human After All” by Daft Punk; the Jackson Browne is quite a musically inclined creature. But I won’t bog you down with jargon—let me tell you a little bit about this beast. Unlike some other creatures of his genus, he is not a Christian, nor is he willing to accept ideas on faith alone. He will not be herded like a sheep by others in his group. This species only mates with females, and often has little trouble finding them. He experiences a significant amount of weight; however, he is not morbidly obese. If you find a creature with that attribute, it’s likely of another type. The Jackson Browne, like a cat, often tortures its prey, which include insects and graham cracker bears. This shows that the creature is not an environmentalist. Activities in which this creature can be seen taking part are playing video games, engaging in theological and political research, and hanging around with his peers. You may also find him role-playing, studying history, or even watching cartoons. He is a fairly stagnant animal, and he doesn’t move from his nest very often; however, if he does venture from his room, he does so only ever to find food. There are a number of things you should refrain from doing in order to avoid aggravating the Jackson Browne. Being arrogant or ignorant are two such things, as well as citing for him baseless “facts,” presenting him with vegetables, lecturing him, and being a religious zealot. While the Jackson Browne enjoys video games, do not give him 62 |
Creative Nonfiction poorly made video games, or he will retaliate with groans and a rolling of the eyes. He is very temperamental, and setting him off will only result in a barrage of sarcastic, cutting remarks. Most of all, do not enter his lair without knocking, under any circumstances. Plenty of sightings have been reported of Jackson Browne. Many years ago, a cashier at a Wal-Mart witnessed a youngling Jackson Browne attempting to steal a pack of Oreos, after which he issued a shrill cry. A second sighting occurred when a woman who was visiting Disneyland spotted the Jackson Browne on a pole and watched as he suddenly fell over and injured his cranium. The woman, although quite frazzled by the event, did escape. Wait. He’s seen us . . . we’re backing up. He’s getting up. Wait, no—!!
Abduction Worse than Actually Being Abducted Alexandrea Friar
“I can guarantee this: if you don’t surrender that list, I will kill every friend you have, Zake, Keelie, neighbors, even your boring teachers,” threatens the evil antagonist Kozlow (Michael Nyqvist), “and when I’m finished, you will be responsible for the death of every friend you have on Facebook.” Laughable lines of dialogue such as this Facebook threat make Abduction hilarious. If only it were intended to be a comedy. However, the bad writing and bad acting are not enough to keep the fans away. Twilight fans, that is, in the hopes of seeing the protagonist played by ex-werewolf Taylor Lautner take off his shirt a few more times. The film begins with a typical high school party and continues to target its teenage audience with more easily relatable high school circumstances. Nathan (Taylor Lautner) is conveniently partnered with his crush, Karen (Lily Collins), for a project, which leads to the discovery of a missing child website with a picture of three-year-old Nathan. This discovery spirals out of control and becomes more and more dramatic as Nathan learns his parents are fakes and then is chased by the CIA and some Russians. The unremarkable Nathan and Karen run away, and they inexplicably continue to evade trained operatives. The details of why or how do not matter—it seems unlikely that even the writers would be able to logically explain the movie’s events. Other movies in Abduction’s action genre such as The Dark Knight and Inception prove that it is possible to produce a quality movie in which the story and characters do not get lost in action and plot twists. While Lautner and his partner lack any spark throughout their entire performances, which consist of emotionless acting and inflectionless delivery of atrocious lines, the movie has had some success. Clearly, Taylor Lautner’s abs are to receive partial blame for its success, but his Twilight fan base cannot be the only reason. The reason can be found by reexamining the plot; an insignificant teenager suddenly becomes the most important person in the U.S. This is why so many people have actually watched this film, because with such bland actors and lack of characterization, anyone can put themselves into the place of the protagonist. At its core, Abduction’s profit was generated by exploiting a major flaw in our selfish society: we want to be considered more important than anyone else. 64 |
Remember Outer Space? Ben Nelson
From our East African and possibly Eurasian origins, the human race has unfolded to just about every corner of the earth. There has yet to be a barrier capable of stifling our growth. Expansion is in our genes, and thereâ€™s no stopping it. Spread, overpopulate our established habitat, and spread again. Unlike our fellow life-forms here on earth, we are not content with a gluttony- and starvation-based equilibrium. We are survivors, and when we can no longer flourish, we simply push our frontiers. These frontiers are essential to our development as a sentient race. Without them, we are only animals, to one degree or another. We humans have both biologically and technologically adapted to nearly every climate on our planet, but as is becoming apparent, this will most likely not be enough. There has always been a frontier. And whether it was the New World of the Americas or the Western lands of the United States, frontiers have always been instigators of technological advancementâ€”the compass, advanced maps, railroads, and, presently, spacecraft. Stimulated by the competitive frontier that is world influence, our nation pooled its knowledge and managed to break through the most daunting barrier to date: the sky. But with our foot in the door of space exploration, what do we do? We choose to place a wall between us and the fruits of our labor. To prevent any one country from claiming too much of our Solar System pie, we bar everybody from enjoying any of it. Laws regulating the exploration of outer space have placed vast restrictions on who may use it, effectively leaving this expansive resource needlessly untouched. But by reworking the laws governing outer space expansion and acknowledging and preparing for the upcoming necessary shift of this opportunity to the private sector, we can open the way for engineers and other innovators to truly contribute to the welfare of our nation and eventually the entire world. Thousands of minds, entire lifetimes of study, and the hardened will and support of our nationâ€™s common people pushed us beyond the stars. Yet, for fear of losing the race, it seems we simply called it off halfway through. Not all ideals of our space treaties are entirely misguided. Many of the regulations involve the prevention of nuclear weapon installations. Such peace-keeping policies must be retained. | 65
Creative Nonfiction However, as stated by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, “[t]he exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries.” No nation or organization of any kind smaller than the entire human race can legally venture past our outer atmosphere for anything but the advance of scientific knowledge. We’ve expressly forbidden the claiming or using of any celestial resource by a single country through occupation or any other means. Therefore, without the explicit permission and participation of all acknowledged sovereign states of the world, any attempt at terraforming possibly inhabitable planets or interstellar colonization is placed out of the question. Unfortunately, these problems, while inhibiting, are just the logs composing the dam that seals away our true potential. While scientific advancement purely for the cause of science itself is well and good, it pales in comparison to revolutionary leaps brought on by competition. Not so surprisingly, a system where all accomplishments must be distributed to everyone does not foster competition exceedingly well. According to Jonathon Amos of BBC News, NASA was forced to abandon their Constellation program that planned to construct a launch base on the moon and eventually begin manned missions to Mars. Not only that, their funding was literally cut in half. Nearly all of the human race’s progress pushing the space frontier was a direct result of the competition for space supremacy between the United States and the USSR. Of course, the fear and bad blood of that era can never be allowed to resurface. With our current doctrine, there is no mystery about why our space program has all but withered away. By maintaining regulations on weapons and establishing a sanction policy to deter widespread conflict in space, the doors to a competitive expansion of the human race among the stars can be safely opened. All frontiers inevitably have two defining phases. The first phase is one of exploration. The new environment that we open for ourselves is untouched, usually uninhabitable, and, of course, uncharted. We must explore it. We must tame it. The explorers within this phase must have a driving force behind them, separate from capitalism. While for the most part, a competitive market is the most efficient system providing the most refined results, it is, by nature, a bit shortsighted. Individuals and even corporations can only risk so much. Profitability must be available within a few short years. When a definite monetary profit could be as much as a century away, the government has the right and obligation to enable the necessary exploration. The royal endorsements of Europe’s New World explorers and the govern66 |
Creative Nonfiction ment subsidies provided to the railroad builders attempting to populate the West provide prime examples of the importance of collective support of the exploration phase. It is our government’s responsibility to provide our explorers, both mental and physical, with the means to bring this new frontier to fertility as quickly and effectively as possible. What follows is the phase of exploitation. If it is not already upon us, it will be within the century. As our impetuous and beautifully greedy entrepreneurs begin to notice the approaching possibility of viable investments, it is imperative we make the appropriate shift. Once the requirements of exploration have been fulfilled to the point that private industry can enter the scene, the government must be prepared to leave. It is imperative that the government can quickly and benevolently step off the stage. Government resources used during the exploration phase that can’t be fairly integrated into the private sector cannot be simply handed out to the highest bidder, lest a new generation of Rail Barons emerge. With this relatively even starting line the private sector will be able to cultivate outer space. If the United States’ outer space interests can be effectively handed over to the private sector, capitalism and private interest will be given room to propel our knowledge and technology to even greater heights, while allowing the federal government to focus on its proper tasks of protection and the governing of its new domain. We are an organism. We are young. We’ve vaulted a few hurdles, but this is the one that really matters. Space, the last and infinite frontier, is what lies before us. With the effort that we are undoubtedly capable of putting forth, our nation can change the international restrictions holding us back and apply practical internal policies to upcoming exploitation of space. And when we do, we will grow out into this new frontier, this new habitat for the human race, and once and for all prove that our potential, too, is infinite.
Solar Epiphanies Alyx Chandler
“We don’t have much time, do we?” He spoke softly, staring enraptured at the inky constellations. The stars were never quite as clear as they were that last fateful night; Orion’s belt outlined itself perfectly in specks of radiating plasma, forming that heroic shield—I could practically feel the stardust from trillions of years stirring in my body. My brother and I lay wrapped in blankets on the grass, roof tiles scattered by our feet. The night was wholly black, the deep, lost kind, without a streetlamp or stoplight or a single window lit up. Thousands of stars shone, hundreds visible for the first time. My mind swam in the beauty. Somewhere far and distinct, I felt sure God watched us knowingly, all littered in disaster and shivers of hope. My mind reverted back to that morning a week ago. I could still see the inverted purple sky looming outside my window; I could still hear the sirens ringing. I remember exactly how it felt when that single remote thought occurred to me—death is as likely as anything. At that moment, the tornado ripped overhead. The revolving sky plunged onto my street, yellowed and filled with flying debris. An enclosing wind breath sucked the thin air from a few hundred feet of our house, encompassing us into what looked like an inescapable fate. I squeezed my eyes shut and clung tight to my family. Seconds passed in a slowed realm. My house shook like it was weeping, glass shattered on the tile floors. We could hear the strong pull and snap of tree trunks slam against our porch. And just as it came, it simply went. Life held a precious quality when it quieted. An eerie calmness crept over the house—the tornado had passed. We stood outside, caught in a sticky held-breath sort of silence. Trees were slapped against the asphalt, power lines were twisted over debris. Just miles down the road, whole neighborhoods stood with only frames left, jagged like broken teeth. I’d never felt so thankful. The week went by without power in most surrounding towns. People became like birds, migrating to where they could find electricity. But I was among the ones that stayed for most of the days. I stood with ragged individuals to face the damage. My hands dug through wormy rubble, unearthed family picture albums and frayed 68 |
Creative Nonfiction Bibles, wet diaries and scratched pearls passed down for generations. I wiped the faces of sobbing mothers as they surveyed the damage, as the hospitals rushed to accommodate everyone they could. My shoulders lugged debris, and we rode our bikes around town, clearing the damage out. I fell asleep in the shaky arms of my friends under the distant hopeful stars and held the hands of quiet children who had lost everything. I made peanut butter sandwiches for workers and poured lemonade and wrote in the candlelit nights about all the disaster I couldn’t fix. Our cell phones didn’t work that week. We walked for miles when we wanted to see each other, we cherished the sun, we held each other in the dark. We washed in cold showers and began to rebuild houses. The nights we missed city curfew, we lay curled up in strangers’ homes, resting assured that they’d protect us. It took a week for the power lines to be fixed. A week that bent me out of shape and rewired my limbs. A week that made the nights a deeper black and the days a more believable indigo. That last night without power made my fingers tremble in the solar sparks of epiphanies. We all have those moments in our lives where our pupils contract and neurons connect and we realize something that ignites a steady, streaming circuit in our hearts. That night was mine. I lay in one quiet, dark spot on the Earth and became acutely aware of the actuality of death. It stole the lives of people I knew. It opened my eyes to how entire towns can come together and build foundations back up until they stand on their own again. A week without electricity or cell phone service taught me more of what mattered than entire years of my life did. “I think we’re given the precise amount of time needed to make a difference,” I remember answering my brother that night. I’ll always believe this much.
Men in Styx Kali Daniel
Just a general overview: I contract with any funeral home there is, locally, out of state, wherever. I can go to the airport and pick up big, cardboard boxes with bodies in them, so that, if they’re cremated, they can just slide into the ovens. I take bodies to crematories. I transport ashes of the cremated. I transport caskets. I pick up at morgues and hospitals and private residences, all often freshly dead. Most people, if they touch a corpse, it’s cold, and that freaks them out. (laughs) If I touch a body and it’s still warm, it freaks me out. It’s just like, “Ew, they’re fresh!” It’s a little weird. I am a driver for a mortuary transport company. Do you say anything to the families? I do. If I’m at a private residence, or anywhere that a family is present, I do meet with the family and talk to them. I have to get them to sign a permission releasing the body to me as well as a Personal Effects Inventory—if the deceased is wearing rings, or if they’re fully clothed. Dentures and glasses and whatnot. Then I’ll sit down and ask the family if they’re going to have a traditional service, and, if they are, I explain to them that they will probably want to do the embalming. How do you react when they are extremely emotional? I tell them, “You take as much time as you need—I’m here when you’re ready.” [I clarify] that we do need to get them to the funeral home, the sooner the better, and I explain they will have time to be with the family at the funeral home with all the arrangements. Of course, there will be visitation. I just let them mourn, but [I] let them know that [I’m] there and that it is time to go. Do you drive a hearse? No. I drive a 2006 Dodge Caravan. I’m just like every soccer mom in America. Having an average car, do you have tinted windows? Or are people ever looking inside? The windows I have now are tinted, but not quite as dark as [my past] vans’. I recently had to drive a person [who] was a veteran, so it was a flag-draped casket. As I’m driving down the road there are people, 70 |
Creative Nonfiction truckers especially because they’re up high and they can see down into the van, who would just honk their horns and make [respectful] hand gestures out the window along with salutes. You could tell that they were kind of freaking out, because, you know, they’re seeing a casket drive down the road. But there was also a lot of respect that came with it. Veterans are really cool, [though]. Most places—nursing homes and hospitals, in particular—want you to go as far away from the public eye as you can; you park in the back and sneak through the halls so no one can see you. At this particular veteran home, you walk through the front door. You walk through the hallways, go to the room, get the guy on the cot, put the cover over the body. Then they take a flag and drape it over the cot. Instead of going out a back door and shutting all the doors so people can’t see, the staff and the residents will line the walls and salute as I’m walking down the hallway pushing the body out. There’s all these old veterans in their wheelchairs saluting, and all the staff have their hands over their heart. You’re just like, “This is awesome!” These people are being paraded out. Their final moments are a parade. I’ve taken many veterans to services and if the flag is draped over it when I get there, I make sure it stays on the whole way to the destination. I had one that I took the body in the casket to a national cemetery. I had a full motorcycle escort of veterans who would escort their heroes. [They] drove through two states and stayed for the service. Which pickups are the hardest do deal with? Children. Oh, children. I’m not exactly positive but I’m thinking three months, maybe [was my youngest]. They’re kids. (grows quiet) Children shouldn’t die. It’s not fair. It brings in the question of . . . what kind of god would let a child die? You start questioning your faith and the legitimacy of everything. What do you do to cope with that emotionally? I mean, obviously it’s not normal for people to have to deal with that kind of thing. Drink. (laughs) I—I don’t know. I don’t know how I deal with it. That’s a hard thing to answer. As with any pick up, you know, you’re driving down the road with a body in the back. You’re the only one in the car besides the body. You get a lot of time to think about death. You get a lot of time to contemplate everything about death—afterlife, dying, the whole thing. And yes, it is more difficult when you’re dealing with | 71
Creative Nonfiction children, but I guess the whole thing is that because you have so much time to process after hours and hours and hours of driving and just processing the information. I think that helps a little bit. Seems a little ironic that you say you start to question your faith when one would think of faith as a means of coping. Yeah, and that’s why I have such a hard time with children, why it’s so difficult to process. I’ve transported children before and it not bothered me as bad. One day I transported two children—one three months and one nine months—at the same time, both in the back of my van. That was heartbreaking, but I think what really, really bothers me is when you pick up a child, and . . . . I went to a personal residence, and this child had a disease. He was diagnosed about five or six years ago, and the doctors said he probably wouldn’t live two years. So he lived much longer than was expected, but there was no indication of when he was going to die. He just died in his sleep. I get there, and . . . (struggles to find words) I take my cot in, and they’re not ready for me to leave. That’s totally fine, I’ll stay there as long as they need me to. But the dad is a big ol’ country boy. You know, a fishing, hunting, truck-driving kind of guy. His eyes are bloodshot red from crying. The mom was so distraught that she couldn’t even look at me and she wouldn’t look at the boy. She was walking around with an unlit cigarette held up to her mouth and a lighter in her other hand the whole time. She acted like she was going to light it, but she couldn’t process that she actually had to light it in order to smoke it. I waited until they said they were ready, then took the cot in and went to the bed to move the boy. The dad just grabbed the boy and cradled him, walked over to the cot and laid him on the cot. It was very moving. At this point, I’m gritting my teeth because this is just heartbreaking. I have to cover the body to take it out the door. So I’m buckling the seatbelts to make sure the body doesn’t fall off, and while I’m doing it I can hear the mom starting to sob. And . . . when you hear a mother sobbing at the loss of a child . . . there is nothing in the world as horrifying as that sound. When I covered that little boy’s head, it started, and it . . . it just comes straight from Hell. It is the most sorrowful, pitiful, horrifying sound you will ever hear in your life. And if you never hear it, feel blessed. You never want to hear it. I’ve heard wives and husbands crying for their spouse—adults crying for other adults—but the sound of a mother crying over her child is just . . . . I 72 |
Creative Nonfiction really think that’s why it hurts so much. I don’t cry when I do this job. I’ve only cried twice—both times after a mother cried. I got in that van and put the cot in the van, and I did not talk to anybody. The whole time I was walking out, I was gritting my teeth, holding tears back. As soon as I got to the stop sign at the end of the street, I bawled. I couldn’t even make it the twenty miles to the funeral home. It was hard. I’ve had about eleven children, but only twice I heard the mother’s cry. His wife, sitting in adds: It’s a little different, too, because you don’t always use the cots. Yes, the infants I carry out in my arms. There was one time I went to a morgue, and at this particular morgue they had those glass dividers so that you can identify the body without having to be in the room. I went in and sign[ed] the paperwork like it’s just another transaction, and the mother was there just crying. The [tech] said the mother hadn’t left her child’s side since it died. I picked up the baby and started walking out the door, and that was the very first time I heard that wail. Then (presses hand to forehead) Oh GOD I forgot about this . . . totally repressed it. (Deep sigh) Don’t feel like you’re forced to disclose it. Just hearing that wail, then driving to the destination—a funeral home in a tiny town . . . . This particular funeral home will not show up for after-hours calls. They will give you the key to the door and the combination to tell you how to get in, so I took this baby into the funeral home at about two-thirty in the morning. I lay the baby on the table, close the door, and walk away. (long silence) It’s truly the loneliest thing you’ll ever see in your life. I just had to the lay the paperwork under her. [You] just pray that you’re not judged by this—pray you’ll be redeemed of it. When people die you get a phone call: “Hey, Aunt Betty’s dead.” “Oh, okay. When’s the funeral?” “It’s next Wednesday . . . .” You get to the funeral home next Wednesday, and there’s flowers and she’s in a casket and the lighting is just right with the makeup and her Sunday dress—she just looks so good. Everyone is cordial, formal, and put-together. That’s what death is to 98% of America. To the other 2% of us, we see what really happens from the time you die until you’re in the casket with the lighting parlor | 73
Creative Nonfiction tricks. We see that enigmatic seventy-two hours, and it ain’t pretty. To be able to see it, it’s a humbling, horrific hilarity. When you walk into a room and see a body laid out on a table and it’s completely naked with about three or four other bodies across the room all in different stages—some cleaned, dressed, and made up—it’s this weird assembly line of bodies. I remember you saying to me that there are just carts lining the walls and that seventy-two hours is just a very lonely time for the dead—you’re a body with an ankle tag. Exactly. You’re just waiting. This corporate funeral home had thirteen funeral homes, but you come to a central location for the preparation. There’s constantly a minimum of thirteen bodies (each home doing a minimum of one a day). They’re lining walls and tables just in their final stages of preparation. This is the place where they don’t come in at night, so when you go in and you just see all of those bodies lying there, you’re thinking it just doesn’t feel right. Very, very lonely. You really can’t even picture it. I’m just envisioning plump baby dolls. Yeah, no, you can’t. And when you first see it, you don’t know what to think. The time that I finally realized I wouldn’t be bothered by it anymore, I was in a forensics lab. I’m picking up the people in body bags, but there are people being worked on right next to the body I’m picking up. I have to go to the forensics lab quite a bit, so the workers and I are familiar with each other and we chitchat. We were talking about an Alabama football game, and we’re all standing around this table with a body on it. It just hit me all of a sudden that the person laying on the table was completely cut open, ribcage pulled apart, all their internal organs sitting on a nearby tray, and the guy standing at the head of the table had just cut this guy’s scalp open and was holding his brain. And we’re talking about an Alabama football game. You look down and it’s just like NCIS when Ducky’s got somebody cut open and Gibbs is standing there – that’s exactly what you see. That’s when I realized I was used to it. When you get the call to pick somebody up, you obviously get their name. Do you ever make up stories to go along with the person? What their life was like, who they were, etc.? No, no. I don’t make up stories. I hear their name, but I don’t try to 74 |
Creative Nonfiction project a certain kind of life onto them. The first few pickups that I had, I made the mistake of. . . . Let me give you an example to explain. I picked up a young lady in her twenties. (long pause) And when I picked her up, she had already been embalmed. She was a young woman—like I said, early twenties. When I got there, I was looking at her and she was . . . she was just eaten up with cancer. You could see it all over; her whole body was just ravished almost to the point that she didn’t really look human. She looked strange. Well, I had her name, and like every twenty-something year old girl in America, she had one thing: a Facebook page. I had her name, though. So I looked her up . . . she was a very attractive young lady who, not four months before, had been making posts talking about how she did have cancer, but the prognosis was looking good and that she was going to recover. Just . . . seeing pictures of this vibrant young woman with friends and out partying and just being your standard person on Facebook . . . . I learned quickly that I did not want to know the life of the people I was transporting. That just really bothered me. I did it a couple more times, not to that nature, but I did it the first couple months on the job. But no, I don’t do that anymore. I mean, there are times that I see someone and I’ll be like, “Whoa, what happened to this poor guy?” If they’re all messed up, you know. But I don’t try to get their life stories. (Long pause.) That story seems to have bothered you. Yeah, that’s a little creepy. I just can’t get over the fact that you don’t have a way to cope with this. These things that you deal with are pretty traumatic—they’re not normal. Everyday people don’t have to deal with that, whereas you have to deal with that three to four times a week, often more. I just can’t grasp how you separate work life from home life. He was messed up for a while after that incident, specifically. There are times that my family notices mood changes. Sometimes I’m really quiet and withdrawn. Sometimes it comes off as anger. Because I don’t necessarily go home and say, “Hey, guess what I did today? I had to deal with this.” It’s because I—(lost for words) what a screwed up job I have! Who do you talk to? I mean, I just told you a really quick story, and I can tell that it’s still bothering you. I don’t want to bring that feeling home to my family every day. Who am I supposed to talk to? I just have to kind of do my own thing. I have to deal with it my own way. I can drink a lot, but I don’t like to drink. I could be across the | 75
Creative Nonfiction street with [my neighbor] drinking every night, but what good would that do? Faith has a lot to do with it. Knowing that this job that I have, as screwed up as it is, not everyone could do this job—very few of us can handle it. There’s just an eternal reward, an honor and a privilege of being able to help take somebody, to be a part of somebody’s final time on Earth. They’re already passed, already dead, but I’m their last taxi driver. I transfer them over the River Styx. That’s me. I’m the ferryman. I tell my family that all the time. Put a coin on your tongue—that’s from me. It’s God’s work, in a way. It’s a calling. Some people are called to the military, to the law enforcement, to the ministry. When you start doing it, you realize somebody’s got to do it. We can’t just leave our dead lying around. And there’s a respect for [the job]. There’s again a humbling, horrific hilarity. Humbling, because they’re dead—you have to have respect for them. Horrifying, because of the things you see, you smell, you hear. Funny, because some of things you get into are just . . . (laughs) On a lighter note, what’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced? I was in a morgue to pick up a body, and i have to check the ankle tags to verify the body. Well, I was looking at this guy trying to find his ankle tag. Now this guy was under a sheet, but I could tell by the shape of the sheet that this guy was 5’2”, 5’3”. 110 pounds soaking wet—he was an itty-bitty little guy. So there was me and this female lab tech in the morgue, and the guy’s lying on the cot. I lift up the sheet to look for his tag. It wasn’t there. I was going to look on his wrists, so I lift the sheet up a little more. I get the sheet up about to the knee when, oh my word, this guy, all of 5’2” 110 pounds . . . quite honestly, fifty of it must have been peckerwood. This guy had a tree trunk hanging between his legs. I lifted the sheet and just let out a little gasp, and the female tech was like, “Ooooh!!!” I look at her, and she’s just staring at it! I’m looking at her and looking at it, just saying, “God!” I swear she had a tear in her eye—she was crying for womankind because it was gone. It was just uncomfortable with her staring at this . . . this log, and I just stepped back saluting. Oh, and for the record, the tag was on his wrist. I think it probably would have fit more securely elsewhere, but . . . . Another more appropriate story would be that I went to pick up a body in a mortuary. Mortuaries are a little different than funeral homes. Funeral homes have the chapel and the viewings and the ser76 |
Creative Nonfiction vice. Mortuaries don’t do services, they just offer embalming, cremation, and transport. So I went to pick up a body, and this place was just ratty. It was in a big warehouse, and I backed in. There’s this little man that kind of reminded me of the movie Men in Black. Before they go down the elevator to all the offices, there’s an old black man whose job was just to sit there and say hello. And that was this guy’s job. He was just sitting there in his old brown suit. He points over to this SUV that’s behind me and says “that guy’s got your lady!” So I just say okay and get my cot. As soon as I open up my van and turn around, the guy comes from walking around the SUV and he’s wearing a full-body biohazard suit, the gas mask and everything. And I just stare, like, “Oh my God . . .” I just looked at him and asked, “Is she stinky?!” (laughs) The guy says, “Yeah, she’s been lying there for two weeks.” I’m listening to this, and I’m five hours from my destination—a good four hundred miles. So I’ve got a long drive ahead of me. Then the old black man eases my mind and says, “No, no, no, yours is around the corner.” I was thinking I was going to need a biohazard suit, and here I am, I don’t even have a mask! All I carry is gloves and Vicks. Have you ever carried anything particularly stinky? . . . Well, bodies. One of the places I pick up at is a forensics lab, and, just like NCIS and CSI, they have the lab where they cut the body open and take out all of the parts to figure out what killed them. So a lot of the bodies that go in and out of there are bodies that have been in the woods, or they’re floaters that have been in the water a few days. So there’s an odor in that room, but they’re in body bags now—they’re zipped up, but that don’t stop the odor. There have been many times that I’ve picked up one that’s been sitting for a few days, and . . . yeah. It can be stinky. I think the worst one was when I had to do a good three hundred miles with a woman that just . . . she done turned. (laughs) And she was a floater. Floaters are not good. What do your kids think of your job? That’s a good question. I don’t think my child fully understands what I do. I think [if she reads this she’ll be] getting a pretty clear picture of what I do. I come home, and I try not to talk about the details of the job. I get in the car, I drive five or six hours, I come home. And to her, that’s my job. There’s a weirdness, but there’s also a “cool” factor. She | 77
Creative Nonfiction and my wife like to tell their friends what I do, and they enjoy the stories as long as they’re not too detailed—which, even while I’m telling these stories to you, I’m not telling the full story. I’m not going to give you the full, graphic scene, because even when I close my eyes at night, what I see is not what I want [anyone else] to see. When you close your eyes at night, I don’t what you to see what I see. I want you to see the funny or the PG version. Because if you had to close your eyes every night and see that . . . when you have to close your eyes and see those images in your head and at the same time listen for that phone to ring so you can go see those images again . . . it makes sleep difficult. It makes stress high. I get frustrated easily. When it is kids, does it make you nervous for your own? (nervous laugh) It makes me appreciate my kid a little bit more and happy to see that they’re home. It makes me worry about them a whole lot. It makes me very, very nervous when they’re out and about and I can’t know that they’re safe. And I’ll bet my daughter doesn’t understand sometimes that when I act the way I act, there’s a reason, because I’ve seen things that . . . . Hopefully she’ll understand it [more]. I’m sure I seem overbearing and mean at times, but there’s actually a reason for it. I know she and her friends have asked me to lie on the cot for, like, Halloween pranks. All I can say about that is that when I’m standing next to that cot and I look down and there’s a body on that cot, they’re dead. They’re not getting up off that cot. They’re dead. If I were to look down at that cot and see my child’s face, I wouldn’t make it through the day. I’d collapse; that would be the most horrifying sight. Looking down knowing it’s a death bed. Does anybody ever say anything about your “death bed”? The neighbors think it’s a little weird. Yeah, they do. I do have to change the sheets on the cot and disinfect it regularly—which is why there’s no funny smell. Like tonight, I had a bleeder that just bled all over the place, but when I got to the funeral home I changed the sheets and cleaned out the van so it really just smells like Clorox. There are days when you take the cot out of the van and the garage door is up and it attracts attention. Cops will drive by very slow. One day I was out changing the sheets, and I was either taking the cot 78 |
Creative Nonfiction out or putting it back in, and the town cop drove by. He just kind of crawled around the corner staring at me. But I know that our county coroner has informed our town police of what I do and that I can be called upon if needed. They never talk to me, but I’m sure they know exactly which house to go to if they needed me. When do you get calls? Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I’m always on duty. Is it freakier to do it at night versus during the day? It can be, because at night you have less traffic and there’s nothing to look at while you’re driving down the road, so your thoughts are more prone to wander. In the day you can see the scenery and think about living on that farm or owning that car. Everything is a daydream. Everything triggers your thoughts. At night, all you can see is what is directly in front of you, and if you look in the mirror, you see the cot. Most of the time you don’t even think about it. The only time I think about what’s in the car is when I put the cot in the van and when I take it back out. So at night, yes, it tends to feel a little creepier, but I just let it be. You really try not to let your thoughts go there. That’s why I don’t like to watch horror movies, though. Nothing scary or paranormal, because you drive down the road thinking of everything, and movies can pop into your head. I don’t necessarily want to think about zombie movies. (sad laugh) I read this horrible article today about a mortuary baby. The three-month-old baby was put in a mortuary cooler because it was premature and it was dead. They put it in a casket in a cooler, and the family came to say their goodbyes in the mortuary, and they see that it’s shivering. (hard sigh) That’s the kind of article you just don’t want to read. You don’t want to be driving down the road thinking you need to check over your shoulder, “Are they alive?” Which, I know they’re not. They’re long dead by the time I get them. (Nervously) But he talks to them. I went on a trip with him out of state, and after we get to the funeral home he says, “You ready, Mrs. So-and-So?” And, thinking it was a nickname, I said yes. Then he said, “I’m not talking to you,” very matter-of-factly. I will ask sometimes, “Are you ready to go?” or I’ll go over a bump and say, “Are you alright back there?” It just kind of lightens the mood and | 79
Creative Nonfiction breaks it up. They’re not going to answer me. What would happen if you were to have problems with the van? This has happened before. I was on a dark, two lane, country road in Georgia at night. I got a flat tire, and I pulled over. I hear a noise, and I turn around. There’s a pack of dogs coming down the street. I thought, “Good Lord, it’s not me they want, it’s the flesh and bone in the backseat that smells good, like dinner.” I just shut the doors and hopped in the van. They come up and sniff around the van for a couple of minutes, then wander off. I ended up calling my boss, and he called a tow truck. I just sat there for a while. Nothing else you really can do. I hit a deer one night driving down, again, a dark, two lane, country road out in the middle of nowhere with a body in the back. Deer jumped out, I pulled over to assess the damage, but there was nothing I could do. So I just drove off. How do you interact with law enforcement with the whole mortuary transport situation? Well, let me illustrate with a story. It was one of the first pickups I had. The van had a headlight out, and I was on my way home at about three o’clock in the morning. I get pulled over, and (laughs) of course I have the cot in the back. I already made my drop-off, so there was nobody on the cot, but it has a cover on it. Underneath is a pillow and headblock, so it has the shape of a body. The cop is walking up to the van, and I roll down my window. I can hear him walking on the gravel, and it’s just this chh, chh, chh. I’m watching in my mirror as he shines his light into the van, and as soon as it hits the cot you hear his feet just chhhhhh and skid to a complete stop on the gravel. As soon as he sees it, he puts his hand on his piece, and I just jerk my paperwork out the window and say, “I work for a mortuary company!” He got so squirrely. He gets up to the car, and this kid is like twenty-three years old —I don’t even know if he can legally carry a gun. He’s fresh out of the academy. He was just so squirrely [the rest of the time]. One time, I get pulled over for going eighty in a fifty—supposedly—and the cop comes up to the window. I had just gotten a new van and didn’t have the tags on it. So the cop asks me if I know why he pulled me over, and in all actuality, I had no idea why at the time. I told him I worked for a mortuary transport company and that was why I didn’t have tags. So he shines his light in the van and onto the cot, and . . . I’m not sure if he was trying to be hip or cool or what, trying to 80 |
Creative Nonfiction use the right terminology, but he looks from the cot to me (laughs) and asks, “You got a stiffy, sir?” So here I am on a dark, two lane, country road, and some guy is asking me if I have a stiffy. I just said, “Sir?” And he said, “You’ve got a stiffy in the back!” I just asked him if he meant a body and explained that I already dropped it off. But I did correct him and tell him it was a stiff, not a stiffy. He just laughed and said, “Yeah, a stiff, alright have a good night.” (laughs) I’m afraid to know what would have happened if I had said, Yes, I do have a stiffy. Do you think you’ll ever become wholly okay with your occupation? Well, that [eerie] feeling is still very much there. I know there are interesting aspects. I walked in one time, and there was what I like to call Crispy Critters. This person was burned stiff while driving, and they would touch her, and she’d just crumble. They were working on her, and they got all excited suddenly. They found a bullet hole and were all excited because they discovered it was a homicide . . . . Alright. I think I’m ready to go to bed.
To hear Alexandrea Friar’s memoir “Always Wear Your Floaties” as read by the author, visit http://soundcloud.com/bpanagos/floaties-by-alexandrea-friar
Practice Makes Sarah Hartung
At state I was the girl prodigy, A Johann Bach in the making. First place at nine years old. What people didn’t know, What they refused to see, The music no longer had any meaning. Not for me. Every day after school From dawn to dusk I practiced. When I tried to stop— Take a break, Massage my aching hands, She hissed, “Practice makes . . . ?” Perfect. The answer was always there, whispered to appease her. My mother, who meant well, So proud, But she didn’t understand. Practice wasn’t going to make me the next Bach. But she didn’t see, just like all the others. I’m sure the pieces were beautiful, in the beginning. I remember enjoying them, a long time ago. Before I started practicing. At first they were lovely, The sounds dancing before me, The patterns just how I wanted them to be. Wondrous colors swirling Perfect. But judges don’t want my renditions. They want Bach. 84 |
Poetry So I practiced. I practiced until I got it right. Then I practiced until I couldn’t get it wrong. I practiced until the notes were just dots on a page And the song was just, “Oh, remember to use that fingering,” and, “Be louder here.” I practiced until the judges smiled every time I sat down to play. But they never saw, never heard the truth. I’d practiced the music right out of it.
Traveling Travelours Kyle Winn
The ehring wind of grumble gam Both chilled and grilled my tiny hands And yours I noticed, hardened too, We must seek homeses, one for two. If find we there roofering fit for men Another day, we shall surely live again, But now we crumple in this wither. We must go on, further and thither. I think now of our hapful lives Back on the ranch with both our wives. What e’er shall become of us, Lost in this white wall of tribulotruss? You’ve fallen downward, can’t get up. It’s been two weeks since we have supp’d. We have both pressed onward, passed every test, But I am tired . . . I must rest . . . .
For Lack of Better Words Bridges Justin Penn
For lack of better words, I’m chasing something I didn’t deserve; for better or worse, my heart’s on the sleeve of my shirt. I thought I’d be able to say everything I rehearsed, but would it be worth it if I had just written it first? And where’s the sentence when everything is chorus and verse; the paper’s like my mind: blank with nothing of worth. Trying to write, but my pen is like my words: empty with not a thing going on the page, the birth of my cerebral fetus delayed—or will it be stillborn— flatlining from the craze the radio plays; I’m torn— how can I look for the words that I’ll never say or look for feeling that I never felt; I dearly mourn the death of the creativity of my rhymes; I married this state of mind only to watch it dying— starved, ‘cause all this food of thought wasn’t enough to dine. I’m staring into the casket, wondering when’s my time.
Lullaby Ben Ewing Now, my child, be you wary; you have much to fear. There is pain, there is despair. You are not welcome here. They will beat you. You will cry. There’s nothing for you there. There will be hope always false— they never really care. To be truly safe, my darling child, take my advice: the only way you might survive— do not open your eyes.
The Crest of Time Sydney Delgadillo
Sitting on a surfboard, feet dangling in the dark abyss, while watching. Watching for a hint or a sudden pull. Waiting. Waiting for the silence, the rush of a forming wave. Being totally helpless, totally helpless, alone in the open, all you can do is wait. Watch. For a split second, time stands still. The wave is ready.
True Hell Josiah Ernst
When I died, I had several friends. I hugged them goodbye and walked off with Death. But I wasnâ€™t the best man, And so I found myself in Hell. But at the gate I promised my best friend that I would never forget. I was stared down by seven stricken with sin, but I knew it wasnâ€™t that bad because I would never forget their shining faces, glowing eyes, never judging, no lies. But wait, as I stepped through the gate, my punishment began! Their faces, their names All vanished from my head! So as I cried in a corner, loathing and full of wrath, all I can remember is that I promised not to forget.
I Dance in Blue Tjahane Holmes
I was dancing blue in life Never smiling Not wanting to My tango With no sass Body lingo With no specified class Mind free From what I thought would last My heart In this full body cast Lost because I am constantly pondering On my past. I dance blue in life Because all through my life Iâ€™ve been moving too fast. My pulse riveted on the mindset Of my present task Feeling my heart break Only to let my heart break Instead of putting them on blast Letting my tears fall Little flasks On my pillow Not wanting to admit that because I canâ€™t have you I am in a constant limbo And even though no one will ever know That I am in a low wallow I will still dance blue in life Because blue represents my sorrow.
Equal Worlds Kali Daniel
You wonder what it could all be for. The trials and tests we face; We find ourselves in constant war. When the cold rains continually pour We seemingly lose our place— You wonder what it could all be for. Our trials become more and more As we carry on in our ways. We find ourselves in constant war. It’s distant, like the wealthy’s poor Or a wild animal’s grace. You wonder what it could all be for. You cannot fathom the outcome nor Comprehend another’s specific case. We find ourselves in constant war. In each of us, a mighty lion’s roar Emanates through the violent haze. You wonder what it could all be for. We find ourselves in constant war.
Internal Politics Storm Taylor
Loneliness went quietly to his windowless cell He used his one phone call To contact Anxiety Who in turn pestered the Head of State For years. But paperwork processes slowly For the higher-ups, And Loneliness’s sentence continued to have an undetermined expira- tion date. Meanwhile, Loneliness’s illegitimate children Conspired to become terrorists Bent on overthrowing the Head and Finally freeing their father From his increasingly higher security prisons. Anxiety attempted to assassinate the Head But failed And slipped back into the shadows, a wanted criminal, Eventually becoming the insurgent leader of Loneliness’s Misbegotten kids and other parties who disapproved of the Head. During that war, the people and landscape of Mind were ravaged, Thousands of innocents were slaughtered in the crossfire Gunfire and bombings became part of a routine that no one got used to. Nowadays, the war is quieter, The insurgents become restless now and then But usually retreat when they run out of ammunition Loneliness has become thin and weak in his cell. The Head bides her time, hoping he’ll die in there So she can concentrate on other things, like wiping out the insurgents And rebuilding Mind.
When No One is Looking Marissa Kennard
Have you ever thought about what love does when no one is looking? She throws one leg over the railing and slides down the banister. She opens drawers with her feet, climbs on counters, and drinks milk out of the carton. She double-dips her french fries in the ketchup, And she runs up the stairs, two at a time. Behind your back, love will make faces. Stick her tongue out and cross her eyes. Love is as nasty as a five-year-old When no one is looking.
Fold, Part Two Alexis Christakes
Fold, fold. Holding creaking paper strips, silly with dedication. Are you cotton or are you temporary. Are you losing water, Are you culminating in conglomerations of pulp and wet or drip-drying strips with or without words— You eroded, and I stare at you on the ground, all I have are strips of paper of you. I can’t take from that today. Fold. Everyone is dreaming that someone will fold. They just want to see it happen. They just want to be snowy with paper pulp, sticky with vindication. Well, I don’t know, I just see you as a puddle. I didn’t take any pulp, dig through it hungrily, or viciously search for something that will startle me, even though it is so hard to be surprised.
Khadijah Thompson Paths Crossing back and forth, Up then down, Then and now, theyâ€™ve changed. They always do. Two endsâ€” Where does it start? With us, the exposition Wandering through chapters Until we somehow permeate Through meaningless events, Preludes and prologues To the climax. The day when we both find The plot line That brings us together. Each step foreshadows The resolution. Together, we will conjure A pen, a pencil, a crayon, Whatever it takes, And write our own epilogue. We started this story apart, But we will end, so help me, Together.
Possession of Objects Heather Zuo
Sometimes, In the dead of night, when I missed him, I would sneak into his closet and Try to find his favorite tie, Or watch. I could never find it, It was so out of reach, His hiding places were too good . . . Other times, I would tiptoe to his bookshelf, Sliding around on the frozen tile in my fuzzy socks, And slide my fingers over every spine of every book In his massive bookshelves. I would look through every title, Guessing which one he had last read, Or was reading. But I could never find it . . . They were all the same to me, Uninviting And cold.
The Day and Night Connor Sawyer
When the sun rises low, Inching up safe and slow, The eastern sky lights up so bright, Celebrating dawn’s first light. The robins twitter with cheery ease, The morning wind passes through the leaves, The morning breeze hovers through the air, And I just sit there without a single care. I watch as things around me awaken, The light takes back what darkness has taken, And soon the sun has risen enough, Where the darkness is scraped and scuffed. The darkness then retreats from the sun, Flying back to the shadows whence it had come. The darkness then begins to stall, Waiting for the sun to fall, The darkness gradually wanders away From the shadows where it was meant to stay. The sun is now too weak to fight, So then it falls and now it’s night. The darkness then screams victory, The screams inspire fear you see. The darkness celebrates a long war’s end, But then the sun rises and starts it again.
Lakeitra Boykin I want a karaoke machine I want it loud and strong I want the sound to be overwhelming I want everyone to listenâ€”my friends, my father . . . my mother I want them to listen to the words belting out of the machine I want the whole world to sway to the sound of my karaoke machine I want them to hear my soft voice blazing through it.
Solid State Drive Ikenna Ugwuegbulam
LIFE.exe 0 Conceptualizing… Gathering required information… Building framework… Storing data in A:\ … Data storage…100% Building A:\ … Building Randomizer.exe…100% Writing Randomizer.txt…100% Running Randomizer.exe… Reading Randomizer.txt… “Products range from –∞ to +∞.” Building A:\ … 100% Building Framework… 100% Gathering required information… 100% Conceptualizing……Complete. Building Driver… Building folder C:\Intuition… Copying “Reaction Time.dll” to C:\Intuition………100% Copying “Intuition Flaws (Errata).dll” to C:\Intuition………100% Copying “Uniqueness.dll” to C:\Intuition………100% Copying “Awesomeness.dll” to C:\Intuition………100% Copying “Genuinity.dll” to C:\Intuition………100% Copying “Intuition.exe” to C:\Intuition………100% Running “Intuition.exe”…… Building folder C:\Intuition……Complete. Building folder C:\Psyche… Copying “Id.dll” to C:\Psyche………100% Copying “Ego.dll” to C:\Psyche………100% Copying “Super Ego.dll” to C:\Psyche………100% Copying “Pneuma.dll” to C:\Psyche………100% Copying “Anima.dll” to C:\Psyche………100% Copying “Argument.dll” to C:\Psyche………100% Copying “Psyche Flaws (Errata).dll” to C:\Psyche……100% 100 |
Poetry Copying “Time-Space Perception.dll” to C:\Psyche………100% Copying “Autonomous Motion.dll” to C:\Psyche………100% Copying “Psyche.exe” to C:\Psyche………100% Running “Psyche.exe”…… Building folder C:\Psyche……Complete. Building folder C:\Personality… Copying “Horoscope_random.dll” to C:\Personality………100% Copying “Emotion.dll” to C:\Personality………100% Copying “Personality Flaws (Errata).dll” to C:\Personality……100% Copying “Volition.dll” to C:\Personality………100% Copying “Personality.exe” to C:\Personality………100% Running “Personality.exe”…… Building folder C:\Personality……Complete. Building folder C:\Creativity… Copying “Imagination.dll” to C:\Creativity………100% Copying “Knowledge.dll” to C:\Creativity………100% Copying “Imagination Flaws (Errata).dll” to C:\Creativity…....100% Copying “Knowledge Flaws (Errata).dll” to C:\Creativity………100% Copying “Creativity.exe” to C:\Creativity………100% Running “Creativity.exe”…… Building folder C:\Creativity……Complete. Building Driver……Complete. Integrating data… Linking files… Compiling all data… Data compilation……100% File linking……100% Data integration……100% Finalizing……… Ready. 1 “Hello World!” “I AM” “I exist as me.” ………… ………… ………… Terminating “LIFE.exe”…… “LIFE.exe” terminated.
Writerâ€™s Block Summer Dawkins
The words flow on and off a page Scribbling, scratching, erasing the evidence Water washing them off the shore The literary dog chasing its tail Scribbling, scratching, erasing the evidence Always getting better, always getting worse The literary dog chasing its tail Never quite catching the point Always getting better, always getting worse We circle the answers Never quite catching the point Driving in circles within our minds We circle the answers, the never ending answers Thoughts and ideas swirling in the air Driving in circles within our minds Trying to catch the meaning we want Thoughts and ideas swirling in the air Eventually coming full circle Trying to catch the meaning we want But a circle has no beginning and thus has no end Eventually coming full circle Never being completely satisfied But a circle has no beginning and thus has no end And the words flow on and off a page
No Sleep Since 1903
I sat in four cities with yellowing yellows and reddening reds and purpling purples falling off the trees and back on again and the skies losing color each year. I witnessed the contrail with reddening blues and whitening blacks and violeting whites— the first plane ever flown above masses, the last peck on their cobblestone cheeks. I watched cities cheering with gladdening faces and proudening smiles and clappening hands: their glorious, triumphant pollutant; pilots grin at the scar on the globe. I lay back beneath clouds with saddening postures and loosening minds and wispening beards; they’ve been here even longer than I have, and they cry acid tears just to speak. I sat in four fences from darkening stars and deafening masses and blackening brains, worshipping scars but forgetting their names, and my eyesight gets weaker each year. I hid under ceilings in dampening rooms and shadowing corners and buckling walls, from roars in the cities, dust in the skies; sewage runs from my baths and my sinks. I listened to newscasts from wrinkling sounds and deadening voices and rustening words, their contrail has brainwashed the skyline— they haven’t kissed asphalt in years.
Poetry I scorned from my hilltop with threatening fists and bloodening curses and silencing cries; they hear only the sound of their engines, they glance not at the man dying alone. I sat in one building with shakening hands and loudening dirges and rottening minds, the trees have been withered for decades; cities swim in their own wasted thoughts. I know these four cities their dustening streets and downwarding gazes and trappening walls their sleepening planes and fadening contrails and greyening skies. They clap just to hear themselves clapping; I clap and hear nothing at all.
A Lonely Heart’s Desire
I want a brand-new address book. Actually, I want five. No, ten. Twenty. And a shiny new ink pen that I can use to fill up all the blank contact sheets in all my address books. I want the names of people I know. Thousands and thousands of names until I run out of room and have to buy more. I want to have so many books filled with so many names that strangers will ask me, “How do you know so many people?” And then I can add their names, too.
Three Young Girls Whitney Westrope
Three young girls, three white dresses, one small town, second most dangerous. One sick man, one long rope, two cold hands, first on the wanted list. Two young girls, two white dresses, one small town, second most dangerous. Twenty-five cars, one main road, one speeding car, over the speed limit. One young girl, one red dress, still one small town, second most dangerous. Three dark paths, zero are innocent. One dead girl, lying in the turning lane. Three dead girls, three in dresses, one ghost town, second most haunted.
Never On Purpose Leah Plume
Some people are in the right place at the right time, Organized. Everything thought out. Scripted, almost. As if every day of their lives they practice in a mirror, Speech. Movements. Thoughts. So fluid, so choreographed . . . They forget who they are. But they never forget their cues Now and then, I might have forgotten who I am, But never on purpose.
Bystanding Mary Butgereit
I see your galaxy spinning out— Dizzy from the whirl, Long clawmarks on the craters Where you cling— Wide eyes melting to white streaks in the black abyss— dark plains you never imagined crossing My world is near enough To feel the change in gravity As you begin to fall away (Feet slightly hovering, now unsteady) Your supernova sparks in my skies And all I can do is watch I see your galaxy spinning out— Dizzy from the whirl, Long clawmarks on the craters Where you cling— Wide eyes melting to white streaks in the black abyss— dark plains you never imagined crossing My world is near enough To feel the change in gravity As you begin to fall away (Feet slightly hovering, now unsteady) Your supernova sparks in my skies And all I can do is watch 108 |
For multimedia poetry from Ben Nelson, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpP0V4KoK-w
For spoken word poetry from multiple student authors, visit us at http://soundcloud.com/bpanagos/sets/listen-up-2012/
Theatre | 111
If You Really Knew Me Amanda Penney
What is wrong with you? Why do you feel like you have to humilate me in front of my friends? Or is it just the fact that I actually have friends who aren’t bought? You think you know everything about me. You think I live in some crappy apartment with my mom. Well, you’re right. I do. But I wouldn’t trade that crappy apartment for the biggest house on the hill. Because that apartment is filled with more love and hope than you could ever imagine. And it’s endured more pain than you could ever know. I bet you never had to wake up in the middle of the night to three police officers banging on your door to tell you that your dad is never coming back. Ever. I spent months and months sitting up at night listening to my mom screaming and crying for her husband to come back. No, I bet you’ve never endured a loss that great. Just because I don’t have expensive things like you do doesn’t make me any less of a person. In fact, I think it makes me stronger.
Bird Brain Zach Koenig
(BIRD MAN is an old, timid bird in prehistoric times. He thinks he is a superhero. Here, he attempts to scare off a caveman who wan- ders into his nest.)
BIRD MAN Eeep! Who's there? I mean . . . (clears throat) PUNY HUMAN! HOW DARE YOU TRESPASS ON THE DOMAIN OF THE BIRD MAN! Yeah, you better cower behind that rock! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?! (beat; losing gusto) Really? You seriously haven't heard of me? (beat) I see. Well, let me tell you something, Mr. Neanderthal. I am the great Bird Man! Defender of truth and justice throughout the Jurassic ages! (beat) Still nothing? Wow . . . I knew cavemen were dumb, but this is too much. I'm a superhero! I was the one who stopped that volcano eruption yesterday, remember? (beat) Oh . . . that's still going on? . . . Destroyed your village? . . . Oh. Well, sorry. But I still have powers! All superheroes have weaknesses, ya know. Mine just happens to be lava . . . and dinosaurs . . . and allergies. (beat; confiding) Look, I'm sorry. This . . . this may surprise you, but I'm not actually a superhero. I made the whole thing up so people wouldn't bother me. The truth is . . . I'm afraid of most everything. I just make up a story every now and then, send it in to the cave press with a cave painting, and they publish it. (growing more comfortable) I gotta tell you, it feels really good to get all of this off my chest. You're a real pal for listening! But, hey, what's up with that spear . . . ?
To hear Zach Koenig read â€œBird Brain,â€? visit http://soundcloud.com/bpanagos/bird-brain-by-zach-koenig
Alaina Boukedes STEPHANIE No. The answer is no. You’ve asked me countless times. Are you expecting me to change my answer? Well, I won’t. You obviously don’t understand. I was sixteen when I carelessly fell asleep at the wheel. I only realized our car was going under when I felt the water and heard Cal screaming in the backseat. I pulled him out, but that wasn’t enough. The CPR wasn’t enough. Nothing I did or have ever done is enough. Because he is the one in the coma. And now you ask me this? I come here day in and day out waiting for a miracle. I don’t care what the ratio is, Doctor Howard. I need to know that he might be able to feel my hand when I hold him, or that he might be able to hear my voice when I tell him that it will be okay. And when I tell him that I’m sorry. And now you ask this of me? (Beat) My parents? They’re at home, drinking. Drowning their sorrows in the fact that their daughter drove off the edge of a bridge with their son in the backseat. I know they can’t stand the sight of me. My parents gave up on him, on both of us. Until you can replace him and put me in that hospital bed, your answer will be no.
Children, ERs, and Did I Mention the Zombie Apocalypse? Madelyn Wong
Yes, who’s this? Oh, hi, Mom. Sorry I didn’t answer right away, I left my phone in my backpack. So, what’s up? What, Alex is in the emergency room again? Oh, Lord, don’t tell me he had another epic battle with the ceiling fan. That boy will never learn, I swear. Oh, so an incident with the fence? I see, he was chased up there by a . . . gotcha. Those things are vicious—they came back from the dead, after all. Maybe you guys need to start setting out acid-tipped traps. How many stitches this time? Oh, geez. And a cast? Well, hopefully it’ll at least stop him from climbing on everything—pfft, who am I kidding, the kid’s part spider-monkey. I told you, you should’ve given him a different animal’s body parts for the surgery, but too late now. Hmm? Help you with what? Ha, you guys got kicked out of the ER again? That’s the third time this year, and it’s only May! At this rate, they’ll just lock the doors when they see him coming. After all, they’ve got enough to deal with, with the zombie casualties and all. Preschool adrenaline junkies aren’t exactly their main priority. Oh, the insurance company jacked your rates up? It’s no wonder. Just imagine how high it’ll be when Alex actually starts kindergarten. They say that exact year is when the number of undead will reach its peak; that in addition to the spider-monkey midget being introduced to a public school means disaster. Oh, yes, yes, right. Picking you guys up. That’s what I’m doing. Crap, it’s kill hour, isn’t it? Ugh, traffic’s gonna be terrible. Alright, just let me grab my keys and my bazooka, I should be there in an hour. Or not, depending on whether or not my brains get eaten, but you know. Oh, Mom, I gotta go, there’s a hoard of ‘em lurching towards me. Yeah, uh-huh, love you too, bye.
Bradley Spengler Everyone has dreams and aspirations of what they want to do when they grow up. It’s a part of life. Me, I wanted to be a doctor. Or maybe an artist. Or . . . an astronomer. Or something like that. Wouldn’t that have been cool? (beat) You can plan and plan all you want for the future, but let me tell you something: you don’t see everything coming your way. (beat) I had it all planned out. Well, most of it. The day I graduated, I was gonna be off to college. I was gonna go somewhere really nice, and I was gonna work my butt off and graduate near the top of my class. Then I was gonna go out into the world and work my butt off some more, making good money and just living life, feeling invincible. (beat) But no. All it took was one small incident on the road. (beat) I don’t want to know the meaning of life, or whose life I’ve changed. I want you to tell me one thing. Why is it that a drunk man can stumble into a car, drive off, and hit an innocent person like myself? Why is it that an innocent bystander gets sent straight up here, while back at the accident, the drunk man steps out of his car and looks around, not even able to care about what he just did, and walks away scott-free? Why don’t you try explaining that to me? Tell me why that’s the least bit fair (beat) to me, mystery man, because that’s about the only question I have right now.
With and Without Matthew Eady
(DR. GRAHAM enters his office and crashes into his oversized chair with a heavy effort. The night is young, but he is utterly exhausted from his lectures. The lights in his office are dimmed as he stares blankly at the naked white walls.)
GRAHAM For ten long years, I was a lonely old man devoid of anyone to spend the rest of my life with. (Sigh) I felt depressed, forgotten, even abandoned. The only reason I was able to keep going to class every day was because of the students, their faces filled with eagerness to learn. But something was missing. The night Anita died, I was angry with You. I had lost my faith in You. The things that used to matter to me seemed useless. The constant delivery of cards and flowers to my home only made matters worse. As I tried to drink the pain away, it became difficult to differentiate which was worse, the pain or the constant hangover. I wasn't the only one who felt alone, though. At the time, my two sons, although they were grown, felt as if they had lost a father. As children, I understood that they looked up to me to be an example, and to see me at my lost point must have been difficult for them too. Yes, I can say that I considered ending it all, but You intervened with an angel who turned my whole life around: Lauren. We haven't been together for too long, but every moment we spend together I cherish more than anything. She is the speck of light in my life full of darkness. Suddenly, I don't feel so alone. As if everyone passing through is in character acting out a movie role. She makes me feel alive again. She makes me feel like I matter. So, I guess I'm really just here to thank You. We really haven't been that close over the years, but You've been looking out for me anyways. I appreciate it.
The Fighter Kali Daniel
(Enter MATTHIAS. His hands are in his pockets. Something is obviously bothering him. He is spotlighted. He is dressed in khakis and a polo— his school uniform.)
MATTHIAS Everyone thinks we’re so-called “fabulous,” yet when asked if they would adhere to our lifestyle, they say, “Of course not!” with a sneer. I’ve had it. It’s like I’m some object used to help someone when convenient. I’m just a tool lying in the garage of opportunity. I don’t want to be your best friend or talk about cute guys or go shopping. I’m a person, not a puppy—you can’t tote me around on your arm, showing me off. Don’t say, “Quick, pretend you’re my boyfriend.” No. I hope he walks up and asks you out. (Beat) I may be gay, but I’m still a guy. I still like video games and punk rock and football. To be honest, I’m probably wasting my breath. You don’t understand. When you’ve met the love of your life, you’ll be able to marry them. I won’t. If your husband ends up in the hospital, you’ll be able to see him. I won’t. When you’re out celebrating your fiftieth anniversary, remember me—I will never be married. And it’s sad, really. If half of the people who “loved” us stood up for us, I wouldn’t be talking. This wouldn’t be an issue. But here I am, a person, not a tool, still here. Still fighting.
A Fine Clock
Shafer Williams, Kimberly Taylor-Duncan, Jackson Browne, and Madison Yarbrough
(A grandfather CLOCK standing alone in the hall. A man and his wife walk in to the room and look at the CLOCK, played by an actor.)
HUSBAND My dear, this is indeed a fine clock. Yes, I do agree. A fine clock! It is rather old and dusty.
WIFE I believe there are rats in the walls. HUSBAND Simply astounding! Do you think they have rabies? WIFE It's truly a horrid clock. It's broken and doesn't match the drapes. HUSBAND I shan't call a repairman. We'll simply throw it out!
(A REPAIRMAN enters.)
REPAIRMAN Yes, hello, you called about the clock? HUSBAND Yes sir, I did. Do you think you can fix it? It was my grandmother's, you know. REPAIRMAN I do know, she was my grandmother too. What's the matter with it? WIFE The poor thing's gears are confuzzled. REPAIRMAN A tragic case, completely beyond repair. Now, let me take a look. (In| 119
Theatre spects the clock.) Ah, yes, its metronome is utterly butterly futtly. (He punches the clock.)
(The CLOCK falls on the floor, writhing in pain. A long silence falls.)
HUSBAND By Jove, it's working just as it used to! I always loved its chiming!
REPAIRMAN Have you watered the plants? WIFE I was afraid we would have to throw the old thing away. REPAIRMAN Have you watered the plants? HUSBAND I shan't have you talking to my wife like that in my house! WIFE Such a kind soul, killing those rats. REPAIRMAN Well, I must be off. I'm a busy doctor, and I must make another house call. (REPAIRMAN exits.) The flu is going around. What is the time? Look at the clock! It is a fine clock. Do you think it's broken?
(End of scene.)
HUSBAND WIFE HUSBAND WIFE HUSBAND
The Grant Proposal (Abridged)
Nick Mecikalski CHARACTERS HECTOR WARNER
A middle-aged family man
The seven-year-old daugter of Hector and Harriet
Hector’s aging father
SETTING Vernon’s home—a cluttered, messy living room TIME Near future
Theatre (An overhead light illuminates a moderately-sized living room. It is in a state of disrepair, a house that is rarely visited by anyone but the resident and therefore is rarely presentable to visitors. The entire room, especially the coffee table in the middle, is cluttered with those trinkets of everyday life that can always be taken care of later: Kleenex boxes, open books, several coffee mugs, a calculator, scattered pens and pencils. Mostly, though, books of all shapes and sizes fill the room, cluttering the floor and the coffee table, strewn on the chairs, and filled with various bookmarks. There are two old, stained armchairs, one on each side of the room. HECTOR WARNER is obsessively cleaning the SL armchair and the area around it, gradually creating an oasis of cleanliness amidst a room of disorder. HECTOR is obviously nervous. His wife, HARRIET WARNER, sits in the armchair on the SR side of the room, bouncing her leg, similarly anxious but controlling her emotions. Their daughter, ALICE WARNER, is sitting on the floor by her mother, playing with a pair of oldfashioned EYEGLASSES, not disturbed in the least.) HECTOR Jesus, where is he? What’s it been, an hour and a half? HARRIET It’s only been forty-five minutes, Hector. He’s just picking up a couple things— HECTOR Sure, a couple things. He left an hour before we got here! What, did he get lost in the frozen food aisle?! (Notices what ALICE is doing.) Put those down, Alice. Sorry. 122 |
(ALICE puts the eyeglasses back on the coffee table.)
HECTOR The longest forty-five minutes of my life and he’s getting food. (His thoughts are coming at him faster than he can keep up; he contin- ues to clean, occasionally repositioning the chair obsessively.) And now he’s gonna have all these groceries—and he’ll insist on eating ‘em all right there—and now it’s all gonna be rushed—and he will have spent all that money, and— (Pause, as an afterthought.) —Oh, geez, I’m such an awful son! (Steps on a book cluttering the ground.) Ow! Jesus, this place is a dump, how does he live here?! (Under his breath.) All these books, Christ . . . . (Kicks it aside.)
(During this, ALICE has picked up an old BOOK off the coffee table and started playing with it.)
HARRIET You’re not an awful son, Hector. So he’s a little late, it’s nothing you can control. (With a faint stab at humor.) Look at it optimistically: maybe he collapsed in the middle of the street. Massive coronary. That’s not funny.
HARRIET No, it’s not. I’m sorry. But you’re going to have to pull yourself together. You’re scaring Alice! ALICE (Completely engrossed in her book, she is not even fully listening to what is happening around her; she didn’t even hear her mother.) What, Mom? HECTOR Oh, man, and she’s gonna be in the middle of it, isn’t that just great— | 123
Theatre Put that down, Alice. ALICE
Sorry. (She puts the book back on the coffee table.) HARRIET Hector, sit down. It’s not doing anybody any good to watch you obsess over that chair. HECTOR It’s common courtesy! Would you rather him get the news while he’s drowning in this dump?!
(ALICE picks up a FOUNTAIN PEN; starts playing with it.)
HARRIET (Rolls her eyes; strides to HECTOR and grabs him, stopping him in his tracks.) Hector. It’s his dump. I’m sure he knows how dumpy it is, he’s lived in it for thirty years. Now stop cleaning. (She matches her gaze with HECTOR’s for a second.) HECTOR
(After a second.) I just . . . want it organized. That such a sin? Organization? HARRIET
(Her answer.) Let’s at least try and be a little rational here, shall we? (Beat.) You and your dad have always been on good terms. Am I wrong? There is no way he could blame you for something like this, something you have no control over. Oh, I don’t know—
HARRIET No. He won’t blame you. He will forgive you. I know it’s been a long time, and I know it’s not exactly the best reunion gift, but he’s your 124 |
Theatre dad. He’ll understand. You can’t ask for anything more, Hector. HECTOR Oh, but you know him . . . he gets these ideas about him, you know— you’ve seen him like that. You think I wanna be the bad guy? You think I have time to be the bad guy? HARRIET Hector, stop. You’re just spouting fears. (Beat.) Now, if it will make you feel better, why don’t you outline what you are going to say to your dad, alright? Will that make you feel better? HECTOR
(Beat; thinking it over.) Yeah . . . yeah, sure, that’ll help. (Clears throat nervously.) Well, when he gets here, I’ll . . . um, well I’ll sit him down right where I am—make him feel comfortable, of course—and I’ll . . . I’ll look him straight in the eye, and I’ll say something like, ‘Dad, I know it’s been a long time since we’ve visited, but you know that you and I have always been very close throughout our lives, and . . . and . . .’—Put that down, Alice! ALICE
Sorry. (ALICE puts the FOUNTAIN PEN back on the table.) HECTOR . . . and I’ll say, um, I’ll say, ‘Dad, the government has done something, something big, and . . . and they need me to tell you that you’re . . . the government is going to . . .’
(At this moment the SL door opens, and VERNON WARNER, a slumped- over old man, enters quietly, carrying two paper grocery bags and wearing a light jacket. Nobody yet notices his entrance. He catches the tail end of the conversation but has no idea that it is about him.)
HECTOR (continued) (Not noticing VERNON.) ‘. . . the government is—’ | 125
Theatre VERNON (Jovially, joking; unsuspecting.) Already starting in on politics, huh? Just like the Hector I remember. HECTOR
(Surprised; forced joy.) Dad! Good to see you, good to see you! Here, lemme help you with those— (He goes to help VERNON with his bags.) VERNON Oh, don’t bother yourself . . . I walked all the way from the market with ‘em, I’m sure I can carry ‘em another couple of feet. You sure? I can take ‘em . . . .
VERNON Yes, yes, it’s fine, they’re not that heavy— (Sets bags down, looks up at HECTOR. He takes a good look at HECTOR, then moves to HECTOR and gives him a warm, sincere hug. He then pulls back, gripping HECTOR’s shoulders but still looking into HECTOR’s eyes.) Been quite a while, hasn’t it? (Grins; he takes off his jacket, tosses it over the back of the SL chair.) We definitely must catch up! I’ve brought some things for our little gettogether . . . . (Removes a couple boxes of crackers from his bag; notices HARRIET.) Oh, why, Harriet! You look lovely, my dear, you really do. After all these years, you haven’t aged a day! (Walks to HARRIET; hugs her.) Oh, now—
VERNON And Alice! You’re so much older—you’re nearly as big as your mother! (Bends down to ALICE; embraces her as well.) I swear, either she’s shrunk or you’ve sprouted like a beanstalk! 126 |
(Delighted, she giggles.) Hi, Grandpa! We were waiting for a long time! VERNON Yes, I know, and I’m sorry! I got a little sidetracked, that’s all. (To HARRIET) I hope I didn’t trouble you too much . . . . HARRIET Oh, no, no trouble at all! We were just— HECTOR (Cutting HARRIET off; he peers into the bags. He resonates a nervous- ness that translates into a conversational awkwardness.) What’d you get, Dad? VERNON Ah, the normal spread of food to entertain—cookies, crackers, what have you. And those bagels, of course—
(ALICE starts playing with a pair of BINOCULARS on the table.)
HECTOR You still getting the raspberry ones? Every week!
HECTOR (To HARRIET, joking with VERNON; still awkward, just trying to post- pone the inevitable.) I swear, this man hasn’t gone without a raspberry bagel a single day of his life! Ever since I was a little kid, he’s treated them like another whole food group! VERNON It’s true! I have an entire section of my stomach devoted to that daily bagel. I’m beginning to think I’m addicted!
(VERNON and HECTOR laugh; HARRIET smiles briefly.) | 127
Theatre VERNON (continued)
(Playfully.) So tell me, Hector, what in God’s name have you been up to recently? (Slowly.) Well, I— Hector, we really need to—
HECTOR (Firmly; coldly. He will now have to face the inevitable.) Yes. I know. (Beat; takes VERNON’s arm, leads him to the SL armchair.) Listen, I . . . I hate to cut off the conversation, Dad, but I, uh, I have something to tell you. VERNON (He briefly looks surprised as he notices the bizarre cleanliness around his chair as he sits.) What’s that? HECTOR Well, um . . . have you been watching the news recently? Or read the paper . . . or anything? VERNON No, no, I swore off all that propaganda years ago. They’re all just carnivores, you know, gobbling up any story they can find! I stay away from all of it. ALICE (Looking at HECTOR through the binoculars.) Daddy, you’re really close! Alice, please?
VERNON No, no, let her have her fun. Play with whatever you want, Alice. 128 |
Theatre HECTOR Yeah, yeah, Dad, listen, have . . . have you seen anything, maybe at the grocery store, about something called the Grant Proposal? VERNON Grant Proposal . . . no, no, I don’t believe I have. (Takes a box of crackers, opens it, starts munching on one.) Want one? No, Dad. You sure? Yes, Dad. Just one cracker? No!
HECTOR VERNON HECTOR VERNON HECTOR
VERNON (Somewhat surprised at HECTOR’s tone but not hurt.) Well, alright, then— HECTOR The . . . the government has done something, Dad. It was something signed into law about a month ago. Very controversial, you know, something that was on the news all the time and everything, and it, uh, it had to do with . . . with overpopulation, you see, and— ALICE (Holding the binoculars backwards.) Mom, you’re itty-bitty! HECTOR Alice! Be quiet! VERNON Goodness, don’t yell at her! She’s just a kid! | 129
Theatre HECTOR (Looks at his dad for a few seconds then tears his gaze away.) It has to do with overpopulation. (Tries to spill it all now; it is mentally scripted, but the words are very hard for him to say, and he cannot make eye contact with VERNON.) It focuses on . . . removing those members of society that . . . that the government deems are no longer contributing to the general welfare. (Finally looks at VERNON; the room is silent; even ALICE has stopped playing.) HECTOR (continued) I, uh . . . I have something I have to read to you, Dad. By law, I have to. (Removes a piece of paper from his pocket, unfolds it, pauses before speaking; the words are heavy.) ‘By order of the President of the United States of America, Mr. Vernon Douglas Warner is to—’ (Momentarily chokes up; clears his throat.) ‘—is to be terminated on this the Twenty-Fourth of March, TwoThousand Twenty-Six. His overall contributions to society have been thoroughly reviewed against his annual consumption of resources, and it has been determined that Mr. Warner is no longer a profitable or beneficial citizen of the United States.’ (Pause.) ‘Mr. Warner will be retrieved from his place of residence at five-thirteen P.M. on the Twenty-Fourth of March, Two-Thousand Twenty-Six. The President sends his condolences.’ (Pause; looks at VERNON.) If you, uh, wanna look at it. (He numbly extends the paper to VERNON.) I am so sorry. VERNON (Grins it away for a second; doesn’t believe. He doesn’t take the paper from HECTOR.) What? This . . . this isn’t very funny. It’s not supposed to be. 130 |
Theatre VERNON I mean, I can always take a joke, but— It’s not a joke, Dad.
VERNON (Long pause; when he speaks, he is quiet.) It . . . it doesn’t make any sense. Why would . . . ? (Pause.) You’re serious? HECTOR
Yes. I’m . . . I’m perfectly healthy. Yes, I know you are.
VERNON I’ve cut down on my sweets . . . I . . . just me and my . . . my books. I don’t consume. . . . I know, Dad.
VERNON I’m not doing anyone any harm, why would—? (Beat.) Let me see that.
(HECTOR hands the paper to VERNON, who reads it, his face falling.)
VERNON (continued) (Reading; to himself.) . . . contributions to society? . . . profitable citizen . . . ? (Looks up at HECTOR.) I’m not useful anymore? What is this? HECTOR I told you, it’s the Grant Proposal, it was—
No, what is this? (Shaking his head; indicating the paper.) This . . . no. I can’t . . . they . . . my God, they write novels about this kind of nonsense . . . . I know, it’s—
No! (Stands.) This is . . . this is not real! You’ve been scammed, for God’s sake, why the hell would you believe something like this? What—?
VERNON (Backs HECTOR up with his words.) Coming all this way to tell your own father that he’s . . . he’s useless? Without questioning the thing? What? Dad, just—
(Coldly.) I’ve lived in this country for eighty-seven years, Hector, and I know that the government is full of halfwits, believe me. But this . . . they’re people too, you know, and killing people because they’re . . . they’re useless? It’s a trick, a transparent trick, and I can’t believe that you would be convinced by something like this! For God’s sake, tell me this is a trick . . . . HARRIET It’s not a trick! We went to the Governor’s office and everything— VERNON (Strides to HARRIET; not yelling.) And you too, Harriet? You believe this? And you brought Alice? Why in 132 |
Theatre the world would you subject her to this charade? HARRIET We thought she might like to see you— VERNON —Before I died? I can’t believe you. Either of you! If it had been my dad, I would have denied this scam with every ounce of my being, not—! HECTOR But we can’t—it’s . . . it’s the law! VERNON
(Goes to HECTOR.) Can’t?! Coward! Gullible coward! What are you trying to say, bringing me this junk?! That you don’t find me useful anymore? No! I never said that!
VERNON Then right now, in front of God and everybody, tell me this is a trick. Admit it! HECTOR (After a substantial pause.) . . . It’s the law, Dad. . . . VERNON (Nods. He speaks slowly at first.) I understand. I understand. I see now why you would latch on to something this ridiculous. Because somewhere deep down in the recesses of your head, (He taps HECTOR’s head hard with his finger.) you really do believe this nonsense, am I right?! HECTOR Christ, Dad, no, you’re getting—! VERNON The old man’s just a burden now, I get it. The annual Christmas card is just too much to keep up with, the impending threat of actually having to visit your own father is just too dreadful. . . . | 133
Theatre HECTOR No, geez, you’re getting ideas—! (Looks to HARRIET as if to say, “See?”) VERNON . . . so when this junk comes in the mail, you’ve found your solution, haven’t you?! This isn’t a scam to you, it’s a solution! Your excuse for finally putting Old Vernon out of your mind forever? You don’t have to talk to me anymore if you convince yourself I’m dead! HECTOR Dad, stop!! Stop! You’re just getting ideas, you know me! It’s been rough recently, we would have visited if we could, but—you know me—! VERNON I knew you. I knew you! But you disappear out of my life and return with this—? What else am I supposed to believe? HECTOR It’s prison if I don’t tell you, Dad—! —It’s just your solution—!
HECTOR You’re getting ideas, for crying out loud! You haven’t seen the news—! VERNON News! Those propaganda-loving halfwits have no idea what they’re talking about! They’re all just carnivores, you know, gobbling up any sliver of a story they can find and spraying it out all over gullible cowards like you!
(ALICE starts crying amid all the yelling. HARRIET bends down to pick her up.)
VERNON (continued) No! Don’t touch her! She should be crying at a scene like this! Don’t you touch her! Come here, Alice. 134 |
(ALICE’s cries taper off as she becomes confused. She looks from VER- NON to HARRIET, unsure of what she should do.)
Theatre VERNON (continued)
(Firmly but gently.) Alice. Come here. (ALICE very slowly moves to VERNON’s feet, where she sits uncomfort- ably, staring up at her parents. The room hangs in pin-drop silence— save for ALICE’s occasional sniffles—for a painfully long time, VERNON staring at HECTOR and HARRIET. Finally, VERNON speaks, much quieter this time.) VERNON (continued) So that’s it? You stand by this lie? (HECTOR and HARRIET cannot respond. Long silence. ALICE slowly picks up the paper that HECTOR brought that is now on the ground—a nervous habit.) VERNON (continued) (Quietly, without even looking at her.) Put that down, Alice.
(ALICE puts the paper back on the ground.)
VERNON (continued) (Pause, then quietly to ALICE. He speaks with contempt, still staring at HECTOR and HARRIET.) These are your parents. Cowards. (Forcefully.) Get out. HECTOR I—I need to you understand, Dad— VERNON I said get out. You barge into my life, mess up my house, (he indicates the area of cleanliness around the SL armchair) and feed me this poison . . . . (again indicates the paper) No, I will not understand. Now leave. Vernon, just— (Points violently at the door.) GO!
HARRIET VERNON | 135
(After a moment of sweltering silence, HECTOR and HARRIET walk to the door, very slow and somber. VERNON doesn’t look at them.)
HECTOR (Quietly.) They’ll be here for you any minute. I had no choice, Dad. (Pause.) Come on, Alice. Alice!
(ALICE does not move, unsure of what to do.) HECTOR (continued) (ALICE finally moves to HECTOR and HARRIET. HECTOR looks for a second at VERNON, who doesn’t move or look him back in the eye. Finally, HECTOR, HARRIET, and ALICE all exit out the SL door. The scene lingers on VERNON, who after a pause bends down and picks up the paper. Uncrumpling it, he begins reading it again, his face stoic and unreadable. He walks slowly to the SL armchair, still reading. He sits in the chair, and once he finishes reading, he stares into the distance for a couple of seconds, lost in his thoughts. The stage goes dark. End of play.)
To see photography from some of this yearâ€™s drama productions courtesy of the Bob Jones theatre department and student photographer Shana Smith, visit us at http://animoto.com/play/ZaBSbdlssH0qtSmBtqbnJA
Doodaddery | 139
doodaddery [doo. da . der .ree] n: a spontaneous sympton of a common brain disease in which all tissue becomes lava; the skull must be cracked open in order to allow extra ashes to spill out into quickwrites so as to prevent sleeping disorders and nonsensical obsessions with quantum physics
Connor Sawyer I lie in the bed still, waiting patiently as the sun rises and that day begins. Life starts out the same, a graph of exponential wonders and ordinary plights, calm and serene, transformed into terrible chaos. People awaken and scream to the world that the day has begun, ripping their sheets off their temporary tomb, scrubbing their teeth with unsanitary bristles, and everyone is shouting to each other as the past that was but minutes ago becomes the distant memory of birth. They go to places they donâ€™t want to taste, but to hell with that! Just stop! And think for once about how the place is. How the doing is. How the seeing is. How the tasting is. How the living is. People live. People have minds. People have souls. People are born. People grow old. People die, for the love of bees, but no one cares, their apathy spreading throughout their cold, simplistic, robotic hearts as they begin each day the same! Schedule this! Schedule that! Everything is dictated by the malevolent being of father time, laughing at our lateness to a meeting, or to dinner, or to bed. Our pleasure has been affected by his wrinkled hands as well, as sports and walks, parties, lifeâ€”everything is put under his kingdom, and everything is under his control. We are but puppets! Puppets! Puppets in the eyes of God as he shakes his head with sad eyes, wasting our lives away on petty normalcy! Why stay ordinary!? Why not experience insanity!? Why not fall into the depths of despair!? Expand horizons! Break the chain! Invent! Discover! Live. Society has fallen to the hand of calendar and clock, and the wondrous miracle of living has become the irritating, disturbing, monotone chime of tick. Tock. Tick. Ding. Dong. Tick. Tock. Shut up! Be quiet! We are not noticing the invasion! Our lives are not toys in the continuum of time! Living with it is painful and torturous! More torturous than death! Dying! Over! And Over! Over! And Over! Again, and again, and again! Break the chain! Gray! Destruction! Disease! All caused by the course of time that | 141
Doodaddery we put in place! Over and over! The same exact thing! What makes us special!? What is our purpose!? What is life? What is life, but a chain-binding prison that one has to live for all eternity, regret piling upon regret? “I should have, I could have, I would have.” You could, you would, you should. But did you do it? No! You refused! You were dictated by the synchrony of that confounded, damnable device on the wall, on the ceiling, on the floor! Why not? Why not? Why not! I’m ashamed of you. God is ashamed of you. But He and I are also ashamed about something else. Me. How I ramble on about changing when I myself refuse to change. How I demand progress when I myself show no progress. How the whole world is doing the same as I. And I refuse to change. And suddenly, the world is quiet, and the clock. Slows. To. A. Stop.
A Shade of Purple Maria Bailey
There is something growing beside my driveway. Just to the side, not a foot from where I park. It’s something lilac, thistle, lavender, fuchsia. It’s a grape, a royal robe, eggplant. “Why hello there, Purple-Mountain-Majesty,” I would gently reply, to match the tired tone. If I were to stay and watch the rainbow-being and observe it a little longer, I bet that I would see its wings slowly and in a fatigued manner creep back into its side, protecting the delicate flesh of its body from the piercing rays of the sun. Once a holder of such a prestigious status, a shade of the rainbow, the now bruise-shaded pariah is no longer privileged to soar majestically through the air for all to see, but is cursed to wade at our feet. Hoping to reach greater heights. Dying through the process of living. I leave from my house every day just in time to see its wings at full span. Wait too long and the smothered grape would have only moaned softly in reply, “Mmmm . . . .” It was already exhausted from the day ahead. Come out too early and bear witness to the sobs of a doomed and tragic existence. It reeked of depression, pestilent to any who dared trod too close. I once had a conversation with this creature, a conversation pertaining to how it would define itself. “Purple!” it told me, “I am purple!” I recall how I tilted my head and bent a little closer. “No, you are not,” I puzzled. “There is but one shade of purple, and it is in the sky. At least, when the sun comes out and the rain is fresh.” The little cursed being sighed heavily. . . . I believe I could hear the “whoooosshhhhhh . . . .” For maybe three straight days afterward all I could hear from the petite direction was, “Purple . . . purple purple, purple . . . purple, purple purple . . . .” So on the fourth day I said to the pitiful being, “You are PurpleMountain-Majesty is what you are. It is so much greater than the silly rainbow anyway. Besides, it doesn't really matter what you were, does it? It's only what you were. Now what you are is Purple-Mountain| 143
Doodaddery Majesty. Mountains are far greater than silly rainbows anyway. They are undoubtedly more majestic and unyielding to time, they need no such requirement as sunlight and rain, and they are never restricted from their magnitude and awesomeness by dark. You don't need to be 'purple' to be great!â€? The little purple-mountain-majesty pondered for a bit. And pondered. And pondered . . . . Since that day it has been silent, but no longer do I walk by and hear a whooshing sigh, faint or heavy.
That Beeping Noise: A Meet Cute Jon Harper
Jenny Walters is a single businesswoman living in New York. She's so busy with her career that she doesn't have time for a relationship. Tim Burrows is a widowed father of two, a doctor, and a skydiving instructor. Ever since his wife died, he hasn't been looking for a relationship. One day, Jenny's friend signs her up for a skydiving class. She meets Tim, but she acts very shy and awkward around him. Eventually she can't take the embarrassment any longer, and she hurls herself out of the plane. Unfortunately, she forgets the parachute. Tim jumps out to try and save her, but just as he comes within reach she slips away. He has no choice but to pull his chute. She is rushed to the hospital immediately, but all the doctors are asleep, so Tim has to perform the surgery himself. Tim operates on Jenny, but she has a natural resistance to anesthesia, so she wakes up halfway through. She looks up at her open chest and sees Doctor Tim holding her heart. JENNY I always knew you'd steal my heart. She then falls down to the table, lifeless. Tim screams into the air, refusing to let her go. He pounds on her chest, and she springs back to life. Tim grabs her. TIM Do I take your breath away? JENNY Youâ€™re crushing my kidneys. TIM Don't worry; I'm a doctor. Tim realizes he is leaning on her open chest, slowly killing her. There is nothing left for him to do. She is going to die, and he can't stop it. The only thing he can do is get down on one knee and propose. | 145
Doodaddery TIM Jenny, before you die, will you marry me? Jenny (weakly) Yes. Luckily, the patient next to them is a priest. Jenny lies there with her chest wide open, dying, as the priest reads their vows. Just as Tim leans to kiss her, the machine surrenders to a flatline. He yells in the air and falls to the ground, crying. A nearby nurse tries to comfort the now twice widowed doctor, but then he notices her Spider-Man watch. TIM That's so weird! I have a watch just like that at home. NURSE I love Spider-Man. TIM Me too. Their eyes meet, and in that moment, Tim knows that this is the girl for him.
Doodaddery Dear Nicholas Monroe, I enjoy spending time with you in Mrs. Panagos's first block Creative Writing class. Although we were not friends with each other at the beginning of the school year, we have definitely grown closer. We share lots of jokes, including knocks on Chris Brown songs and bad music in general. Not only have you shared your humor with me, you have also shared CDs with me. You generously gave me the entire discography of Streetlight Manifesto! You are indubitably a very nice guy, and I am very thankful I met you. I could go on and on about your kindness, but this letter was not meant to focus on just that. This letter was meant to address your surprisingly unfriendly actions towards me during third block. We are not in the same third block class, but we do share the same lunch. Granted, for the first couple of weeks of school, I didn't even notice you were in my lunch! Eventually, though, I caught on and began to direct smiles and waves toward you. You would aptly accept, like a true friend, but after every smile and wave there was something missing. A missing invitation . . . an invitation to join you at your lunch table. Everyday in anguish I watch you and a couple of your artsy, â€œaccidentally hipâ€? friends and girlfriend. You all look so jubilant! Most of the time at lunch, I sit with people I can barely classify as acquaintances. My lunchroom conversations consist of sheer awkwardness and verbal vomit. I know, for a fact, if I were invited to your lunch table, our conversations would be vivacious and simply intellectual! But alas, you have never invited me to partake in your lunchroom excitement. I suppose I'm making quite a big deal about this whole thing because I'm offended. I believed we were good friends! Amigos, one could say. We share CDs, YouTube videos, music, jokes, philosophies, and so much more. But I guess lunchtime chat is just one of those things we won't be sharing. I guess our first block conversations aren't exactly enough to carry on to third block. I guess I'm just not good enough for you and the art kid clan with which you sit at lunch. It seems as if this letter went from having a casual tone to a violent one. Oh well. It seems as if feelings are disregarded in this comradeship anyways. Yours in a shoddy friendship, Sascha Kirkham | 147
Doodaddery Dear Sascha Kirkham, I have to inform you that I am utterly regretful of not acknowledging your presence in the lunchroom. I am currently preoccupied at that time of day with my acquaintances Ramsey and Riley. I would more than likely sit with you, but unfortunately I cannot. I do not wish for you to resent my absence at your table. We will always have our time in Creative Writing. Just remember that and our fun times of witty banter, constantly quoting lame Chris Brown songs. Though the semester is coming to a close, these memories will linger in my conscience for as long as I walk on Mother Earth. I still hope you understand that this is a thorough apology. If there is ever a form of absence or something of the sort, I will surely venture to your table to sit with you and your friends. I also have other things to tell you! Lately I’ve been pondering something about the spelling and pronunciation of your God-given name. I do not understand how Sascha is pronounced as “sash-uh.” Should it not be “sash-chuh” or something like that? I feel as though it would be in everyone’s best interest if you changed your name, for the good of humanity. Then there would no longer be any confusion on how to say or spell your name. I vote that you go to court and change your name to Frank. I feel that it is common, easy to pronounce, and suits you much more. Well, this is my farewell. I hope I didn’t come off as too much of a jerk.
Sincerely, Nicholas Monroe
Caesar Heart Ben Nelson
Please donâ€™t follow your heart. For the time being, I beg you. You are too ionized for it to point north. When the tectonic magnets beneath you cease their tumult and you untangle yourself from the spool of charged wire with which you tried to wrap your naked, fragile body, it can again be a pure and noble guide. But for now be wary; it is not what it seems. The unconscious voice, the heavenly tug, the nostalgic ghost of the brain that manages, beyond reason, to connect the dots faster than any logical system of firing synapses is not the heart you are following. It is a glorified concoction of whim, indulgence, and desperation. It is a tyrant drunk on his power. And it will lead you to the slaughter. With no warning, you were set on by nearly every plague of the world, and to bypass the ensuing panic and system breakdown, you divorced your heart and mind. You turned over complete control to the part of you that could feel without consequence. From its humble symbiotic existence the blood pumper arose; it took command and with steel determination brought a victory of sorts, but it was no Cincinnatus. No, the swelling mass enjoyed the taste too much to give it up. And with each indulgence, with every kowtow before it, you feed it. And it grows fat and fickle and belligerent and it bulges in its throne. Its once pure physique becomes indiscernible, and its once crystal intentions become a bog. It may soon be wedged, immovable, in the seat of dominance. Reinstate the senate and let your heart live within it where it belongs. Let it slide back into balance so it can point anew to your true loves and passions. Open your eyes to the bloody empire it invades, and for its sake and yours, donâ€™t follow your heart.
Alexis Christakes Everything would be left in the dark. The spectrum would only go so far, and then it would just stop. Filaments would be an accident. If it weren’t for you. I would flounder around as I’ve been doing all this time before now. I would waste my time in varied ways and places, static to anything electric, falling flat in time. You are light, and I’m the darkness. You find assurance in me, and I can’t sit still longer than a bird can. I’m a flailing child, and you promise to hold on until you break, put yourself back together, and grab hold again. You stand out. If no one appreciates it, I do. Sometimes I cringe when you speak, because I’m so anxious of disturbing the surface. Because I always settle, and you never do. You can’t. If I have a question, suddenly you’re asking it. I rarely speak up, but you have the most voice with the least amount of random spouted bullshit. We live on the same wavelength, all the time. I think it, you say it. But you challenge me more—without the pressure, only the pure drive to reach for more out of life. You hunger for knowledge while I’m afraid of what I want. It scares me until I shut down that you’re the best thing I’ve ever had. I’ve always been a mess. In everything I do or make or say, from my room to my stutter, from my medicine to my hair. I break every other day; I’m just a million pieces being held together by blood and static electricity. But somehow, you’ve got me beat. Usually, you’re just a pile of yourself. You fall and spill and barely hang on. You leave pieces of yourself behind you as you walk. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll see you when I look in the mirror. You’re always apologizing, but if it’s not you messing up, it’s surely my turn. We exist best in the clouds or in a fog where it’s distorted to everyone but us. You illuminate the mist, and it hurts my eyes. You’re golden every time of day, sitting there among the others. And they don’t seem to notice in the same way I didn’t notice before. Firefly floating in the background, and you waited your turn. In the background, at the root of everything I did. You stare at me, and my skin pricks me. I’ve never been able to handle people staring at me, and no one is as adamant as you. It’s in the film of your eyes or some window between your eyelashes’ cling— no one sees me the way you do. The only thing I would believe in is 150 |
Doodaddery your delusion or the notion that everyone is perfect and only waiting for the right pair of eyes to notice. Now the time will come, like it always does. It’s in my very veins to run, run, run. I was on a pattern where I would stay less and less, and less and less time would I give. Now I’m stuck in what could be a moment that could last any amount of time. Life used to be a web, and everything interconnected and pulled on something else; everyday was something’s gotta give. Now it’s all on strings, hanging beautifully. Everything’s in pieces, everything circles around us powered by static electricity. Or electricity without the static, the temporary, the excessive. Pieces caught up in a field of perpetual sparks, burning, blinding, harshly illuminating the corners. Crudely saying but honestly, but honestly.
Untitled Lynn Cole
. The black dot represents one’s perception of what matters—the insignificant struggles of stark, everyday routines in comparison to the significance of the universe as a whole. For example, a problem such as an absence from school due to sickness that leads to a poor grade on a test may seem significant. You should stop and think: What does this mean to a child in Uganda? More than likely, the child in Uganda doesn’t even know you didn’t do well. The problem of not being at school and doing poorly on a test is represented by the single black dot. I find this appropriate because the dot indeed is important on a small scale. Such a dot is important as a period in a sentence is important. Does that one single period affect the true meaning of the book? I think not. The white space on the other hand symbolizes the universe as a whole, or in this case, a small child in Uganda. The black dot isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things. This MNMLST poem exemplifies one’s significance—or insignificance—on a grand scale.
Bulwer-Lytton Sentence Zach Koenig
A blustery wind blew back and forth across the town, feeling abandoned, for no one was at the saloon, or at the church, or at the town hall, or at the jail, for it was only eleven a.m., not high noon, and the current sheriff, Sheriff Angus P. Westerner, was preparing for his dadgum hoedown of doom to the death with the sinisterly evil bad guy, Sea Biscuit (so named because his great-grandmother had his grandfather, and his grandfather married his grandmother, and his grandmother had his father, and his father married his stepmother and then divorced her for his mother, and his mother had Sea Biscuit, and Sea Biscuit had fallen into the sea while eating a biscuit), but that was still an hour away (well, now it was only fifty-nine minutes away), and Angus had much to do, so he set out on his horse to ride into the distance, leaving a trail of dust and doom behind on his quest for independence from the men who had tormented him and the townspeople for years, and as he rode on his steed, Thunder (so named because the horse had been born on a dark, stormy evening), he wondered how he hoped to defeat such a foe as Sea Biscuit, and he rode on toward his destiny, be that victory or death.
Bulwer-Lytton Sentence Mary Butgereit
Once upon a time, or really not that long ago, or perhaps even now, since this story can take place whenever—unless, of course, you’re from the future and there’s been some huge apocalyptic nuclear war that destroyed almost everything and everyone you know in a giant radioactive inferno of death and despair, in which case, yes, once upon a time for you, because this story is about a rabbit, and it would be helpful if it weren’t dead or dying.
Doodaddery Thomas Baldwin “6 Ways”
Rashaan Denton Character Sketch
Ryan Plume Character Sketch | 155
Caleb Besaw “The Googler” http://prezi.com/ecavvkflu-37/the-googler/
Tori Weldon and Whitney Westrope “What Cats Do When You’re Not Home” http://prezi.com/2lpw3e3e28ec/what-cats-do-when-youre-not-home/
Josh Norris “Do My Homework?!” http://prezi.com/c_pksy47p12x/do-my-homework/
Tracy Hutchings and Courtney Firth “Rocky the Wonder Dog” http://prezi.com/fjxzda36v6l3/rocky-the-wonder-dog/
Ben Nelson “Handouts” http://prezi.com/5amxqpz0e-ja/handouts/
Kenny Helms and Laura Short “The Bird” http://prezi.com/lgbczyzc1ok0/friendship-from-death/
Art & Photography | 191
Art Adrienne Dauma “Two”
Annie Jordan “Dress Construction”
Art Allie Flint “Matthew Gray Gubler”
Julie Bartlow “Something Quiet”
Alli Sloan “Time to Pretend”
Allie Flint “Squirrel” 194 |
Madison Spurgeon “Grace Mohawk”
Lela Kropp “Reflections”
Art Paige Denton “Emily”
Bridget O’Hara “Callie”
Meredith O’Malley “Visible Soul”
Tanisha Goodlow Untitled
Shana Smith “Pinup”
Nick Monroe Untitled
Peyton Ellis “Colors of the Wind”
Lauren Handley “In the Deep”
Madison Spurgeon “Grace the Crucifixion”
Brent Wilhide “Divorce”
“Lost and Found” 202 |
“The Big Idea”
Keith Dunlap “Green” Jessica Gallagher “Mill’s Dawn”
Keith Dunlap Untitled Ryan Lopez “Aggregated Inequality”
Jessica Gallagher Untitled Lisa Selfridge Untitled
Feature Dear Reader, In the span of only about 50,000 years, human beings have accomplished more on planet Earth than any other known species. We have risen from nomadic hunter-gatherers clustered in the Cradle of Civilization to space travelers that occupy and shape the entire globe. We have erected skyscrapers that reach over half a mile into the atmosphere, constructed airplanes that can break the speed of sound, observed the inner workings of the most basic building blocks of our universe, and traced our origins back nearly 14 billion years. Yet one of the greatest mysteries of human existence is, ironically, the very tool that has delivered us to this point: the mind. Lying somewhere within the three pounds of grey matter in between our ears is something yet unexplainable. Neuroscientists can map out the neurons responsible for our everyday actions, psychologists can analyze our instincts and motives in order to walk us through the complicated webs of our emotions, psychiatrists can harness the powers of medicine to treat our most intangible diseases, and philosophers can contemplate the most fundamental questions of our consciousness altogether. But remaining a mystery to us is the human factor. Somewhere amid those trillions of connections buzzing endlessly in our brains lies some indescribable entity, some mysterious awareness that truly allows us the capacity to question the universe and our place inside it, some unique presence that ultimately makes us . . . us. Some may call it the spirit, some may call it the soul, some may call it the personality, or the imagination, or even just the self. Whatever the label, the question remains as to how best to trace this existential enigma, how best to define and, possibly, understand the very core of our consciousness. Perhaps the answer does not have to lie deep within the arcane terminology of neuroscience and psychiatry, or within the abstract folds of philosophy and psychology. Perhaps the answer lies far closer to home, in the simplest and truest manifestation of human thought: the honest, uncensored written word. In the pieces that follow, we explore the tangled web of the human mind.
- The Eclectic Staff
How I Grew to Be a Chinese Evergreen Alyx Chandler
When I moved to the grease apartment on 8th Street I wrapped arrowhead vines round my banister and they grew into little snake heads twisting down the stairs round the kitchen out my door scarinâ€™ my neighbors away before they could so much as say my name. I lived among exactly fifty-two peace lilies and spider plants, bamboo palms and china dolls, and vines and vines and vines all wrapped up bushy green and buzzing. I felt ripe all year in serpentine hallways where I watered the floor and the walls and the ceiling and the plants all at once with spray sinks and lonely Thursday wine glasses filled with water. I stepped on flower buds and busted dirt clods and bought vases at thrift stores because there were stem children in my room without a home. There were dangling roots and baby seeds all on my floor under clothes in between pillows beneath peanut butter jars and scrapbooks and job offers and unfinished novels. They cried everywhere. I saved plants like missionaries save people. It was a dry year. I used up all my water | 213
Feature and couldnâ€™t pay my rent. So I held veiny leaves like hands as they turned yellow and my apartment grew too quiet. We both thrived then withered, stems and limbs alike. I grew into a Chinese Evergreen that year and when they took away my lease I failed to notice.
Math was the worst. The numbers whirled around me, leaving me dizzy. And when letters and numbers were on the same page, it might as well have been alphabet soup. I ran my fingers through my hair. One particularly thick strand gave me pause. The voices of my family and friends echoed in my head. “Don’t pull that one.” “Think of something else.” “Just take a deep breath . . . .” I stopped where I was, searching my entire body and soul for a drop of self-control. I have to have some left, right? I knew if I started pulling again, I’d go back to wearing my hair up to prevent people from seeing the thinning patches. I would pretend to accessorize with headbands simply to hide my shame and embarrassment. People would pretend not to notice, but I knew they did. And who could blame them? My inner demons peeped through what remained of my hair. Public humiliation filled my ears with white noise. “Trichotillomania is hair loss from repeated urges to pull or twist the hair until it breaks off. Patients are unable to stop this behavior, even as their hair becomes thinner. Symptoms usually begin before age seventeen . . . .” Robby Robinson’s voice trailed off in my head. Why did I go looking for an answer when I knew perfectly well I didn’t want one? I didn’t need a therapist. I wasn’t crazy, just anxious. “Symptoms usually begin before age seventeen . . . .” Of course, they did. I had started at fourteen. He was right, wasn’t he? I was wrong, I was always wrong . . . . I had to make myself concentrate on the assignment. I had to finish; I was so close to failing. The more I concentrated, the more I pulled. It was a sick cycle. My hands were in my hair again, and I didn’t even notice. My fingers twirled a strand of three or four. I inched my way down the strands and slowly felt my way to the root. But it was my weakness. I was shaking. My feet were tapping, my hands were trembling . . . my mouth was a desert. My heart raced. I pulled. Relief, clarity, shame. | 215
The Gypsy and the Town Summer Dawkins
“But neither can be answered . . . madness . . . .” Adam whispered, darkness clouding his eyes and judgment. Without hesitation, he stepped off the edge of the cliff. His body lay still at the bottom, his blood staining the grass around him. He had been a wealthy man with a respected family in town, but he was neither the first to kill himself nor the first to try and solve the gypsy woman’s riddle. Three days hence, the town doctor, who was as rich in knowledge as he was in money, had also attempted to solve the puzzle to no avail. The tax-collector had yet to be seen or heard from. Beforehand, all had boasted of how easily they would answer the riddle and win the reward promised by the gypsy. However, the mystery remained as such, and the gypsy who had arrived by night seemed to be taking great pleasure in the confusion and death which had fallen upon the greedy, malevolent town. Women and children alike hid within their homes, while renowned scholars and teachers and doctors and priests came from all around to try their hand at the riddle. Some wasted away at the library, while others would go off into a blank stare occasionally mumbling to themselves, while still others shouted for all to hear that it was impossible, “A trick question!” they would say. All the while, the quiet gypsy woman would say not a thing besides the riddle, grinning at their frustrations and insanity. In the dead of night, when all else was still, upon the wind her riddle would echo: The answer not maybe But not possibly yes A being, a figment A man to be guessed; Then you have another Starting like before It will cost you everything An object, but no more; Two parts to my riddle Have you henceforth been given 216 |
Feature But neither can be answered And to madness will you be driven. Also within this town was a boy, outcast among the other children. All he had to wear were rags, and he had no home to which to turn. In the streets they would stone him until he ran away, and at night the men with the cars would speed past, offering neither food nor a single dime. The laughter and mocking the boy received was worst when he went to the gypsy lady and asked to answer the riddle. His skin was pale, face drawn—just flesh and bones. Despite the town’s ridicule, the gypsy lady recited her riddle once more, and from the boy’s mouth came an unexpected reply: “The answer to the f-first is nobody, like myself. The solution to the second is nothing, which is what I have. If I am wrong, let my heart tear in half.” The town had been outdone by the poor, orphan boy, the gypsy outsmarted, and all the children shown how a nobody with nothing had bested the older and richer. Before this boy could collect his reward, and before he could even discover his success in solving the riddle, a disease that had been inflicted upon him from starvation and chill killed him at the feet of the gypsy woman.
Winter Wonderland Kristen Hop
I wiggled through the crowd of people, finally finding an open seat on the busy subway. I muttered my “sorry”s and “excuse me”s as I parted the sea of people. I collapsed in the cold metal seat and sighed; it had been one of those mornings. Hit the dismiss button when I meant to hit snooze, no warm water in the shower, no coffee in the pot, nothing in the closet. And now to drag myself to work with a boss whom I would much rather lead into a dark alley than fetch one more low-fat, white chocolate mocha, hold the whipped cream. Next to me sat an older man with a warm smile, grey hair, and a big belly. I returned his smile out of courtesy. “G’morning,” he said with a nod. I replied with the typical, “Morning,” and we both returned to our silence. More people rushed in as the doors threatened to shut. The wave flooded the car, forcing people to stand throughout the aisle. I pulled my purse into my lap to make room for a mother and her young girl who could be no older than eight. “Mom,” she whispered, “look at that lady! She—” “It’s not polite to stare, Elizabeth,” the woman said curtly. “I’m not staring,” she insisted. “I was just going to say she has the same purse as you. See?” I looked up to find two sets of eyes on me. The mother and I smiled at each other. “Well, we do, don’t we?” I said, letting my gaze drift towards the child. My grin melted off my face, and my eyes were glued on her. She had a shy smile, not revealing any of her missing baby teeth. Her long brown hair was wrapped up in two braids that swung lazily on her back, and a pink and white flowered hat fell down over her forehead. Those eyes, that smile . . . . It was the first snow of the year. School, to the delight of children all across the county, had been closed. Even so, I awoke early that morning, crawling under the covers of the bed of my younger sister, Heidi. “Wake up,” I whispered, shaking her shoulder. “No.” I shook harder. “See? You’re already awake. Just get up.” Heidi rolled 218|
Feature over and looked at me through sleepy eyes. “No.” She turned back over. I lay there in her bed, letting an hour, maybe more, come and go, until the smell of hot pancakes wafted through the door. “Today is going to be the best snow day ever,” I told her, then darted downstairs. “Ma’am, ma’am,” the old man had grabbed my arm. “Are you alright?” I ignored his words of concern, unable to look away from that little girl. “Elizabeth, come on sweetie. Let’s move over here,” her mother said. “There’s more room over here.” The pair began sifting through the swarm of people. “No!” I shouted, the words leaving my mouth before they left my mind. I grabbed the child’s hand before she made it too far. “Don’t leave.” “Look, lady,” her mom said, pulling her daughter away from me, “you’re freaking everyone out. Leave my daughter alone.” I stared at her, begging in my mind. “Now.” My boots sunk deep in the snow, leaving tracks of my every move. Simply walking was a challenge to my short legs. “Where are we going, Sissy?” Heidi asked as we abandoned the snowcovered park and weaved through the shallows of the woods. “A Winter Wonderland,” I said as I grasped her hand, and together we stared ahead at our kingdom of fine powder and frozen trees. “A wonderland?” she said softly. “Can I be a princess?” “We can both be princesses today.” And so we were. The day went by without a moment of rest from our imaginations. Every tree was a tower, and each crack of a branch was an approaching invader with a hidden agenda. We ran and fell and laughed until our fingers were numb and our cheeks were red with frost. With the sun dropped the temperature, and as the end of our adventure grew threateningly close, we drank in each remaining second. “Sissy, I’m tired,” Heidi said at last. “I want to go home.” “Home? But we haven’t even got to the best part!” I insisted. “We can’t leave now.” And before she could manage another word, I dragged her deeper in the woods. “Where are we going?” she asked. “You’ll see, you’ll see!” | 219
Feature At last we stood upon the frozen shore of nature’s own ice rink. “Isn’t it beautiful?” I said. Heidi nodded silently, placing one delicate foot on the surface, and then the other. She took a few more tentative steps forward and looked back at me. “Go on,” I mouthed at her, waving her forward. I shook my head no, refusing to release the grip on the little girl’s hand. “I can’t lose her again,” I said quietly. Or maybe I merely thought it. “I said now.” She was ripped away from me. “Elizabeth, come here. Come with me.” Elizabeth obeyed but never looked away from me. “Please no, please don’t go.” I rose from my seat, pushing through the crowd to follow them. “Stay away from us.” Hands were holding me back, but they were gentle. The man I had sat next to. “Let’s sit back down now,” he said soothingly. “I can’t.” “Look Sissy, now I’m not just a princess, I’m an ice princess,” said Heidi from the center of the frozen pond. We had both held our breath as she had crept over the ice like an angel, not touching but hovering just over the surface, but now as she stood at the middle, she jumped and danced and sang. Once she slipped and fell, and there was a painful moment of silence, but she stood right back up like it never happened. “Come on!” I grinned—not just at my sister, but at the moment, at everything. At the perfection and the beauty and the warmth that ran through me even despite the cold. I marched forward to join Heidi in the perfection, but perfection didn’t want me to. I was no angel like my sister; all it took was a single step from myself to shatter perfection. Waves of crackling ice rippled through the water, waves that moved faster than my own young mind. “Heidi!” I shouted, and it looked as if she tried to run, but the surface was already disappearing, and a second later she sank into the water. The subway car was silent, and all eyes were on me. I was on the ground, but I couldn’t remember falling. Now there was not one pair of hands around me but three, and Elizabeth and her mother were being sheltered behind a wall of others. I was screaming now. “Let me go, let me go!” But no one listened. “Heidi! She needs me! Let me see her!” “Her name is Elizabeth!” the mother shouted back. “What is 220 |
Feature wrong with this woman? Can’t someone stop the train?” “Heidi! Heidi!” “Heidi!” I shouted, but there was no one to answer. Pink little hands shot up out of the water but disappeared right after. I took one last look at the shattered surface and took off running back through the woods. “Help me! Help, my sister! Someone!” “Who’s Heidi?” people whispered. They thought I couldn’t hear them. We had finally stopped moving. I was still on the floor, and she stood in front of me, but no one would let me close to her. “But she’s my sister.” She was crying, and she needed me. Why couldn’t they see that, why couldn’t they see? The sun was setting faster than ever, and no matter how fast I ran, it wouldn’t be fast enough. And no matter how loud I screamed, no one would hear me.
“Save her, save her!”
But it was too late.
Butterfly Kali Daniel
Akinetopsia: A neuropsychological disorder in which a person cannot perceive motion in their visual field. The red truck with rusty splotches seems far in the distance. I stare at it as it appears to jump feet before me, though there is no indication of how it got there. It is but an ancient star; an inscription of history into the sky, long before coherent memory. The truck stops before me. A man’s voice says: “Morning, Abigail!” I never see his lips move. They are frozen—the image of their plump, chapped rosiness like a caterpillar’s cocoon, ready to burst forth the new creation. I never see his truck leave my side. It is suddenly at the end of the road. I walk to the mailbox, following my feet. I see only one foot—my right. I feel the air around me push me forward, and I know that I am moving. I cannot see my environment change. I am trapped in the cave of my mind, unrecognizing of the outside world. I feel the envelope in my hand before I see it. The black letters seem to appear sporadically, as though they were invited last minute to the envelope’s cover.
To Miss Abigail Laurie From Social Security Administration Department of Disability
I laugh at the irony. They send me a letter that I cannot read. My eyes absorb one word at a time, like observing one particle of a cloud. To analyze and interpret the letter would take a lifetime. I hand the letter to my husband as I return to the indoor parlor. He says the insurance from last year’s discovery has run its course; the retired racehorse hands its saddle to the SSA’s authority. I look at my husband’s face as I watch him stare at me in a freeze-frame. I jump as I feel him touch my skin, a ghost I was unprepared for. Then I see his shoulder in my vision. I am safe in my cocoon.
Enough Is Never Enough Kyle Winn
Banana peel. Going to need that. I place it in my backpack, then I feel the backpack because I like how it feels. It feels like leather. Then I’m reminded of just how much I like leather. There’s a man sitting on one of the benches next to the fountain. He is wearing a leather jacket. I need to get the jacket, but I’m not sure how I can. “Excuse me,” I say to the man. “Can I have your jacket?” “What? No. Why?” he says. “I like the way leather feels. It feels nice. I’d like to put it with my others at home.” “Your others?” “Jackets, pants, backpacks, and all kinds of leather things.” “No. This is my jacket. Please go away.” So the man walks off, and I’m not really sure what to do next. Then I see it. A beautiful dead robin, sitting next to a tree. It has been awhile since I added to my bird box, and in an instant I remember how much I love bringing them home. I walk over to the robin, but it’s more decayed than I realized, and one of the eyes is not in its socket. This distresses me. The item feels incomplete if it’s missing something like an eye. I clip the wings off with my scissors. I do not need the wings. I feel like I have accumulated enough trinkets and treasures for one day, so I begin to walk home. I’m holding the bird out in my hands, and I find myself wondering how it died. There’s a lady who’s watching me from a café. Looks pretty scared. I wonder what that’s about. I think that somebody with a knife might be standing behind me, so I turn around and see no one. Some people are just weird I guess. I’m back at my house now. I check my phone because I can feel it vibrating in my pocket. It’s a message from Jerry asking if I’m still good for dinner with our friends tonight. I reply, “Of course!” Then I put the phone away. I fumble in my pocket for my keys, and once I’ve finally found them, I unlock my front door. Something is blocking my way through. I think to myself that it’s probably the couches I had to move last night. One of them probably ended up in front of the doorway. I poke my head through the crack, and sure enough, that’s what happened. Frustrated, I storm over to my kitchen window which I leave slightly cracked in case of emergencies. I get a good grip on the window ledge and pull myself through. My foot lands in the kitchen sink where some mice are nibbling on a cheese-stained sock. Stupid mice. I step onto the kitchen floor and wade through garbage bags and broken dishes and smells that would curl your nose hair. But to me this is | 223
Feature home. I am used to these smells. I find the couch blocking the doorway, and then I see that I must have moved my fridge into the living room as well. This is unfortunate because now I can’t reach my fireplace, which is where I keep my bird box. I decide it will drive me crazy if I don’t put my new bird in my bird box, so I try to move the fridge. After half an hour I’ve managed to do nothing more than tip the fridge over, but I can climb over to it and reach the bird box. This will simply have to do for now. I look around at the house, and I decide I am happy with how it looks today. I then hear a knock on the door and go to answer. It’s Jerry and he’s ready to go to dinner. And he’s wearing a leather jacket.
Keegan Haanschoten I stand at the edge of reality. Space and time vary infinitely. The light flickers on to reveal the vibrating membrane. It pulsates softly, tempting me to gorge myself upon its fountain. I oblige. I stand at the place where seas part, barbarians rage, and cyclopes are fooled. I bask in the wisdom of the Eastern prophet, the glory of the Kingâ€™s court, and the whimsy of the two brotherâ€™s imagination. Ninety-six times I witness revolution. Once with the assistance of common sense. I feel pride as the cabin crushes the prejudice. Christmas comes and goes, floating down the river with the whale. I am here in the place where I may ask for more, and I receive. I peer through the lookingglass and see the treasure of time itself. Here in this place, the wizards are wonderful and the winds are wispy. The people are like wild animals, begging for another riot. The witch condemns, and if I look west I find myself in that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back. The wardrobe and the owls call for me, but perhaps it is the ring who speaks loudest. The stained kite flies high with the inky dragon. And when I finally think I have had my fill, I find myself hungry once again. I stand at the edge.
Kali Daniel “The Fregoli delusion describes an individual’s mistaken belief that different people are, in fact, the same person in disguise who is able to change their appearance….” - Frontier Psychiatrist “Intermittent Explosive Disorder… is characterized by failure to resist aggressive impulses, resulting in serious assaults or property destruction.” - Psychology Today One, two, three. He twists the knob back and forth three times, thinking of his day forthcoming. He runs his hands along the counters, opening cabinets as he goes. He drags the milk off of the top shelf of the fridge—the shelf reserved for dairy products. As he exits the kitchen, he closes the cabinets, tracing the counter with his fingers. He sits down on the far left end of the white sofa, rubbing his finger around the brim of his cup three times before sipping. He smiles at his living room situated in apartment 3C. Hardwood floors, all-white appliances, none turned cream with age. White walls, white ceilings, smoothed. One picture frame on the mantle has been turned two degrees to the left. He approaches the frame, turning it around three times before putting it in its correct position. He relaxes back on the couch, satisfied, tracing the brim of his cup. He turns on the TV, noticing the anchor woman. Her blonde hair and blue eyes look so familiar. The man sets his cup down, not before grabbing a coaster, and pulls a scrapbook off of the nearby bookshelf. He flips past hair samples and pictures of frail white women, all identical; blonde hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones. He glances back at the television. He is convinced it is her, yet again. Angered at her defiance, he bursts into a fit of rage, slamming the scrapbook on the coffee table, which cracks. For the fifth time this year, the man expertly grabs his suitcase and walks out the door. Four hours later, the man returns home appearing crisp, clean, and ever-so-relaxed. He adds the anchor woman to his collection. The cold, pale body appears relaxed, with no sign of physical trauma. Her blonde hair shapes her lifeless face, which is now framed in his scrap226 |
Feature book. The man puts the scrapbook away—he will forget the incident in due time, just like all the times before. He glances at a piece of paper that falls out of his scrapbook: Appointment for June 16 with Dr. Fisher. He obviously would not be making that appointment today. He was not concerned—he didn’t need the medication they would prescribe. He knew the diagnosis was malarkey, a form of the government attempting to brainwash. He laughs to himself as he runs his finger around the rim of his glass three times and takes a sip.
I Hate Physics Breeann Roberts
Sometimes at night, when I am supposed to be asleep in bed, I climb onto the roof of my house to look at the stars. They shimmer through the cold nothingness of space, so that even when clouds roll in, they shine as bright as the moon. I used to think that if I jumped high enough, I could be a part of their starry alliance, but I was never able to reach such heights. Despite the odds, I build rockets in hopes of at least breaching the atmosphere. But gravity always keeps meâ€”and my attempts of achievementâ€”down. In this world I live in, no one is ever able to jump higher than gravity allows them. Nothing could ever break the law of gravity, so what comes up always comes down. But there are those who have managed to bend the rules. I spent years wondering why those scientists were able to get to the moon while my rockets never got past the first cloud layer. I then figured it out: they had fuel. Their fuel is what got them past gravity and into the reaches of space and her many stars. I had always been a little bit low on fuel. But without any propulsion, I could never get any further than my momentum would carry me. So those brilliant stars always lie above me, and my vision of a place among them is now only something of a dream that has been destroyed by gravity.
Two Different Worlds Bobbie Hoskins
The day was beautiful, just like the forecaster said. I watched the sun rise up from my bedroom window. She was in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, like always. I looked at the plans she already set up: scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits, sausage. I came up behind her and put my arms around her waist. “Good morning, honey” “Good morning to you too. You seem awfully happy,” she said, her attention on the dishes. “I am. I think you and Sam and I should do something today.” “Like what?” “Let’s go to the lake house.” I could see the excitement on her face, the smile dancing on her lips. “Get Sam to agree, and I’m yours for the day,” she said. I raced up the stairs and went straight to his room. To my surprise, he was already awake and showered. I felt all my hope slip away. He never gets up before ten unless I wake him. “Sam, do you have plans today or something?” He thought it over a little, then shook his head and said, “No. I don’t think so. Why?” “Me and your mom were thinking we could all go to the lake house for the day. Sound fun?” “Sounds perfect.” A few hours later, my wife was packing a cooler. It only took us an hour before we were able to set off. The whole way down, we sang songs and chatted. I never wanted this day to end. I woke up, tired and miserable, even though it was beautiful outside. The sun was smiling down on me, but it didn’t raise my spirits. I stared out at the beautiful day, seeing little kids run around. It made me want to cry. I left the TV on last night, and now the news was playing, but I didn’t want to listen to today’s problems. I had enough of my own. Instead, I left to refill my fridge. It took me forever to get to the grocery store. When I finally got there, I only grabbed a couple of things but still had to wait an hour to get out. At least it gave me some| 229
Feature thing to do. The guy in front of me looked extremely happy. He had picnic items in his basket. I couldn’t control my mind. I was calling this guy every bad word I could think of. “Isn’t it a beautiful day?” he asked me, smiling that stupid, misplaced smile. “I love this weather. My son, my wife, and I are going out to Lake Harris. Do you have any kids?” “I did . . . He died.” “I’m so sorry,” he said. I wiped that stupid smile off his face at least. “Why? Did you kill him?” He didn’t look any happier, just more miserable than ever. “You’re up.” I pointed at the cashier waiting to ring up his items. I raced home after that, trying to dodge any more happy human beings. The day only got better. After we unpacked, we went straight for the lake. Sam rode the tube on the back on the boat for a while. My wife water-skied for a bit. I just steered the boat, becoming high off the day. After that, it was lunch on the pier and our own little beach. I was having the time of my life. When lunch was over, we went hiking. It was hard for me to go to sleep. I closed my eyes and tried to picture this day any better, but nothing came. I finally got home and flopped onto the couch and tried to take a nap, but I had left the TV on again. My cable bill was going to be sky high. The news was still on; one headline caught my attention. It read out “Anniversary of Mother and Son murders.” Don’t show this again. “Today, sadly, strikes the anniversary of The Mother and Son killings, two of which were residents of Florida. The day was March 8, 2004 . . . .” They went on to explain the catastrophe that hit Florida and killed my wife and son. I didn’t want to listen, so I turned it off and dreamed. The day was beautiful, just like the forecaster said. I watched the sun rise up from my bedroom window. 230 |
Amy Stewart A lonely ghost of a wind combs through her dark hair as she walks. Eyes closed, she weaves through the golden field, the sun beating down on her back. Her bare feet are razor blades that have etched scars into the earth. Every step is a mile, every breath a tornado, every swing of the arm a pendulum, so it takes her an eternity to reach the end of the world. Then she kneels and slowly lowers herself, eyes still shut tightly, until she hangs off the edge, her chin resting on the paper thin earth, her back facing the blackness, tempting fate. All too soon it’s time for her to get back up. She struggles back up and starts on her long journey home. This is her punishment. Every day she does this. From dawn to dusk, she walks to the abyss and back. It is her only respite from sleep, that period of nightmarish reality. When she drifts off into her dreams it’s always the same. The picture of him. His smile. The way his fingers danced over the piano keys. But. The smell of antiseptic, bright lights, his withering, crumbling soul, a smile shadowed with pain, the phone call. Worst of all, silence. It is thus she wakes up to face the new day. The years pass, and the girl still treads down the same path. Today is different, though. Under the constant blue sky, she walks, placing each foot in its allotted spot. Her path is permanently carved into the earth from twenty years of suffering; the top of her head barely rises above the grass. A forlorn, tattered figure eroding the soil for the last time. The sky is aflame, angry streaks of dark purple and pink bleeding through orange. The girl glides toward the edge of the worlds and stops, her toes curling over the edge. She tilts her head back, letting her tears waterfall down her cheeks, remembering those awful words: gone forever. Her focus snaps back immediately. Distantly, a piano chord echoes in her mind. No, not in her mind. She can feel a melody rippling across her skin, reverberating from the void before her. She drops to her knees, peers over the rim of the world. This song was her first memory of him; actually, it was her first memory ever. Raking up, down, across through the darkness with her eyes, she sees nothing. There’s one place she’s never looked before, though: under. She leans out even farther, fingers grasping the edge until her head disappears over the precipice and she can see the underside of the pulsing, musi| 231
Feature cal, razor-thin earth. She stares in disbelief. And suddenly, the world flips. Now she’s hanging from the edge, but her eyes have never left their target. The music stops. She effortlessly climbs onto solid ground and stands motionless. With her eyes still locked on him, she whispers, “Daddy?” His eyes sparkle. His arms are wide open. She runs.
Alexis Christakes The girl threw down her crown and spit a string of lead poisoning at it. She strung the poison to the precious gems and regal gold. She labeled it nothingness and walked out the door. From the moat, she fetched seven deadly crocodiles and named them after her sins. And the forest five miles away welcomed and swallowed her as she rode between trees atop Greed, stringing her other pets behind her. “Princess?” a lovely slave-boy called. “What are you doing here?” He shook his black curly hair until she told him her secrets. When he heard she was running away from home and her duties, he twinkled his acorn eyes until she agreed to stay with him. He fed her warm soup and frozen chocolate and made her bed on the couch. The next night, he begged her to take his own bed while he slept on the couch. The next night, she insisted they share the bed. The next night, they shared the couch while her crocodiles filled the bed. “Why do you stay?” he asked her one day. “I want everything from life,” she answered. “That includes a love that would do anything for me.” He nodded and said, “I would.” The next day, she changed her mind and left. Her crocodiles trailed behind. “Princess, you’ve been missing all week!” the prince announced upon finding her sleeping next to the Salt and Shell Creek. He was lined in gold and azure and silk. His platinum hair burned a little ruby in the sun’s milk. “I’m hiding,” she said, so he invited her to his kingdom. “Remember when we were betrothed?” he mused as, on the backs of crocodiles, they entered the second kingdom. “Yes,” she said stonily. “Why did you leave?” “I didn’t trust you.” “I can change that, my sweet.” They walked up cold stairs to his sitting room and drank tomato juice. For a month, she stayed in his kingdom with him, sneaking out every night to hunt rabbits and make couscous. | 233
Feature “You’re an angel,” he told her. “You’re gentle and kind.” She smiled and left to crack deer necks under the pines. One day, she returned to a room full of red flowers. “Marry me,” the prince said, “for I am no coward.” They were engaged for thirty days. She left because she liked the forest more than the prince. She moved to the forest in the middle of the night and started building a fort. “What are you doing?!” screamed a tall Irish man from behind the trees. He ran towards her. “This is my garden!” “Oh,” she mumbled, noticing miniscule sprigs and overturned seeds. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see it.” “That’s why you don’t build at night!” he yelled. “I just need a place to stay,” she whimpered. “You have to learn to take care of yourself!” “I’m trying.” “Not at nighttime!” he grumbled. “Sorry,” she spit. He groaned. “You can stay with me for the night.” “Fine.” She made breakfast in the morning and left before noon. After her fort was built beautifully from oak and silver, the Irish man returned. “I miss you terribly,” he confessed. She lived with him for four years until the day a horrible wolf knocked on the door. She stabbed the beast in the shoulder with a knife out of fear. In three years’ time, she had dreamt of him every night and so left to find him. She followed a trail of invisible blood. Deep in the forest, a smell of perfume and pine musk thickened the air. She stopped in the center of a meadow in the shadows of early morning. She suddenly feared she was searching for nothing. An illusion of dead leaves and rotting soil. Then she heard a snarl. “Where have you been?” She turned around and saw a slave-boy who faded into a prince who melted into an Irish man before dissipating into a seven foot wolf. She shrugged. Wordlessly, he led her to a cave full of feathers. A century or two later, she had swallowed enough to solidify her spit and blood. She lived there until the wolf’s immortality smelted into her and he blew away. She lived there until she learned to be empty alone. She lived there until she began to miss the Irish man and then the prince and 234 |
Feature then the slave-boy and then finally her parents whom she had mostly forgotten. Lastly, she missed the wolf after thousands of years when she finally felt him slip away. She lay down in feathers and overturned seeds, azure and crocodile teeth, fort splinters and lead poisoning. Away she blew, smiling.
The Chewer Kristen Hop
All my life I’ve chewed my tongue. It comes as naturally as breathing, blinking, and sleeping. I have no knowledge of when it started, or, really, why it started. When I was little, people would tell my mom it was a sign of mental giftedness, that it meant one day I’d become a genius. She disagreed. Every time I opened a book, drew a picture, or did homework, she’d walk up behind me and pop me on the cheek. “Uh-uh,” she’d say, “Watch your tongue.” But why? “Because it might bother some people. They might like you, but that chewing drives them crazy, so they won’t play with you.” And when I got older it was, “Because—what if you get a job where you work with people, and no one will work with you because it’s so annoying?” she would explain. “Plus, it makes you look retarded.” My mom was the only one that ever had a problem with it. And even though I never understood, I always imagined her watching me, my jaw never ceasing and my tongue bulging against my cheek, cringing on the inside like it was an act against nature. It was a bug she had to kill, an imperfection she had to terminate. What pain it must have brought her to watch her own offspring with an utmost disgust—a feeling she could never get rid of, a habit she could never break. We tried everything. Chewing gum. Braces. Mouth guards. Nothing worked. It was too deeply imbedded within my brain. To get rid of it was to get rid of a piece of me. I chewed until my tongue bled and my jaw deteriorated. And I still couldn’t stop. It was a day where everything had gone wrong. The rain poured with disappointment, hard and heavy raindrops smashing against rooftops, windows, and car windshields. Its sister clouds hung low and threateningly, turning day into night. Every road in town was congested with drowsy commuters, their headlights illuminating the dark, black roads. Drive two feet, stop. Drive again, slam the brakes. And so went the final stretch of the long and strenuous journey we complete on a daily basis. My brain had been exhausted to its mental and emotional extent. When all I wanted to do was implant myself into a blanketed womb, I had to carry on. I had to keep my eyes open and my heart beating. I only closed my eyes for a moment. It was as if I went to blink but couldn’t open them fast enough. Disaster. Doom. There was broken glass and shouting and sirens and rain, so much rain. So much rain 236 |
Feature and so much time and so much, so much . . . . And the day still wasn’t over. Home haunted me as much as the wild streets. Night came, but I was shielded from it. The hours ran together until today was tomorrow and tomorrow was yesterday. My solitude amplified the slur of emotions strung through my heart. However, there was still work to be done, still manuscripts to be read from hopeful star gazers. I wound away the hours with the company of but unfamiliar words, perched at a desk into which I had grown my roots. I looked up for God but instead found my own reflection. I should have expected it; I should have known I’d find it so. Jaw ceaseless. Tongue bulging. And I hated the sight of it. And I hated the sight of myself. Ugly. Unnatural. Outlandish. Never gifted, never even bright. And I knew, no matter what I did, I could never make it stop. But I had to. So I did. I didn’t feel the pain. It was too invigorating, finally ridding the part of myself I hated. I never had to worry about catching myself in the act. Because it was gone. It was all gone. Being condemned to silence, to my only speech being that which is on a page is only a small price to pay, because my tongue was a piece of me I neither liked nor needed.
Until Next Time Anna Keidel
Why do I always do this? I thought nervously, watching the clock hands move around from number to number. Each haunting tick rewired my brain from the brink of insanity. I looked around at all the students surrounding me finishing their work. It was almost 3:27. I just had to make it to that time, then I could escape to my quiet place. I wiped my sweating palms on my jeans and nervously bit my thumbnail. Crap. I cringed at my thumb, looking at the now inflamed skin peaking out from the edge of my nail that was beginning to burn. Ding Ding Ding! I scraped my seat back vigorously and slung my backpack around me, same routine as always. Looked at no one. I counted my steps with each bound. One step closer to my car, one step closer to my escape. I hurriedly climbed into my car and whipped it into drive. I had to hurry home. My parents would be there around 6:30, meaning I had a few hours of immense silence before the daily questioning began. My driveway felt so close, my heart leapt out of my chest. Adrenaline pumped through my veins. I’d been waiting for this moment since I had left for school that morning. I mashed the garage door button and eased myself into my normal parking spot. I had to remain calm. I didn’t want anyone being suspicious. I padded up my stairs hurriedly and shut my bedroom door. Finally. I breathed, slipping into a huge t-shirt and comfortable shorts. My heart had settled to a steady beat, and my thoughts were finally at peace. Exactly where I wanted them to be, still and quiet. This was how they had to stay for now before I stealthily jerked them from the hinds of my brain to life. These thoughts I’d kept hidden, they had to be forcefully awakened. I approached my mirror, the enemy. The reflection staring back at me was a face not of my own. I was unrecognizable. Purple bags had been permanently stitched under my eyes, and a thin sheet of glass had glazed over both my eyeballs. I could feel the tears beginning to brim beneath my eyelids. But I had to hold them in. The key to sustaining my adrenaline was to become entirely numb until the very last second. A chilling smirk formed onto my face; it was almost haunting. A ghost of 238 |
Feature a girl had made me succumb to sheer numbness. I knew the time had finally come at last. I climbed onto my bed and lay flat on my back, staring at the ceiling. The room was silent, just as my mind should have been. Clenching my hands into fists, I grabbed handfuls of my comforter and shut my eyes. Inhale. Exhale. I could feel the memories pushing against the rear walls of my brain. Here goes. I breathed, my eyes snapping open. The memories were flooding, and flooding, and flooding. Tears sprung from my eye. The ache in my heart was so immense that I could feel its sorrow pounding against its walls. But I had to lay still. The sheer fear that if I moved I would shatter completely welled within me. My heart and brain had switched roles; I could hear my pounding heart in my head and my exhausted brain getting lost within the depths of my frozen body. Memories of him, of me, of us. They rattled against my skull. I could hear the earsplintering screams. My brain had developed a personality of its own and was begging me to stop this sick game. How neatly my brain had tucked away those memories. Every nook and cranny neatly stuffed away. How angry with me he must have been, my brain. Angry for knocking over my fragile shelves of life. But I didn’t care, not right then. A stranger had overtaken my body. My habit, it had become my disease. My drug was to rip nostalgia from its tender threads and awaken it to life. Some may have called it torture, but it was my own unsubscribed therapy. The mask-revealing ending to my make-believe happiness. Beeeeep. My scattered thoughts screeched to a halt. I slowly averted my eyes from my bedroom door, ears alert. It was the garage door; today’s session had begun to come to a close. The numbness was fading, and sharp pains were screaming from my palms. I released my comforter to realize my fingernails had imbedded themselves into the base of my palm. I hadn’t even felt a thing until now. My own personal morphine, nostalgia was. I slid my feet onto the carpet and approached my mirror once more. The final act before the curtain fell on my show. Puffy, swollen eyes stare back at me. They had become dark, empty holes in my | 239
Feature head. The color of my face had faded, and I was a transparent blur. Black lines had painted themselves down my jawline, onto my neck. My precise makeup routine was now a sick game of tag cascading down my face. The hollow smirk was returning, the same haunting smile that controlled my habit. My addiction. A shrill voice pierced my thoughts. “Honey, how are you doing?” The dainty voice of my mother floated up the stairwell and sank into the cracks beneath my doorway. Awful. Terrible. In complete and utter agony. My brain teetered, desperate to be heard. “Fantastic, as always!”
Twitch Once for Yes Zachary Perry
Sometimes, I have strange thoughts. In rare moments, I believe that everyone can read each other’s minds . . . except for me. As if right now, my thoughts are open to all and they just won’t let me in on it. For example, I sit beside a man in the park. He behaves suspiciously and then I have that impulse, Can you read my thoughts? It’s a plausible question. You would think that everyone’s eyes would bug out and begin shouting to one another, “He’s found out!” But no one moves. They’ve had sixteen years to practice for this. Maybe I am famous and known the world-over for being the only child who cannot read thoughts. So obviously everyone already knows my face and recognizes me enough to not freak out when I don’t talk back to them with my thoughts. Maybe everyone else in the world doesn’t even use their voices to communicate; maybe just famous people use their voices on TV because telepathy doesn’t travel like that. Sometimes I try to goad them into telling me; I suggest to them to twitch their heads once to the right if they can read my thoughts. I mean, I wouldn’t tell them that I would pay them five dollars because if they could read my thoughts, they would know that I don’t even have five dollars on me. So they do not twitch their heads, and they do not turn to tell me a secret—this secret that has been kept from me for my whole life. Maybe one day. So, tell me, Can you read my thoughts?
Mind’s Eye: Activate! Sydney Phillip
The inner machinations of my mind are an enigma. – Patrick Star Despite the fact that it is from a cartoon character, this quote could not be more correct. If one could use a team of highly trained squirrel ninjas to slip past my cerebrum to record my inner thought process, they would most likely be surprised at how organized it is. Although the cleanliness may seem ostensible, it is far from the truth. My thought process is something unique to me. Everything is organized, but not in the conventional ways you’d expect. All information that is inputted is categorized to my exact specifications. I tend to view things as a whole, grouping all of the relevant information together rather than what would actually make sense. For example, I would likely remember that I left my notebook in English if the teacher had mentioned something about an egg salad sandwich that day. In my mind it would make sense, because perhaps I had been doodling during class when the teacher’s egg salad sandwich had gone flying through the air and landed on my notebook, making it smell like egg yolks and spicy mayonnaise. Egg salad and notebooks may not go together in reality, but the relevance relates to my own experiences. If you delve deeper into my mind (that is, if you can stand a constant stream of unrelated anagrams that whiz through my subconscious throughout the day), you will eventually stumble into my imaginary world. It’s more of a galaxy, really; I have more than one universe to which I can retreat at any time of the day. Each universe accurately corresponds to however bored or distracted I am. If I’m only slightly daydreaming, I can withdraw to a realistic grassy moorland in the countryside of England. The scent of sweet vernal grass wafts up to my nose and I can feel the ceaseless wisps of wind tugging through my hair. The prairie fox yaps happily, running through my legs and scampering ahead of me, teasing me to give chase. The sky stretches boundlessly above me, swallowing my in its cerulean depths, and the jade highland ripples in anticipation that I might run through it. The sun never sets on this place, and time seems more or less relative. I have all the time in the world to do whatever I please. But that’s just one example. 242 |
Feature The farther you travel, the more lost and confused you become. Each new level of lucidity may bring unexpected challenges as well. Sometimes I would find myself having to disarm a bomb or pull an Indiana Jones and run for my life from a boulder down a narrow corridor. Going further, I can travel instantaneously to anywhere in the universe—that includes other time periods as well. I can converse with Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801. It all depends on the situation I’m in or the amount of time I have to indulge in my own world. My mind has a strange way of making me antsy when I am attempting to relax. However, if I become too tired, I begin to incorporate my dream worlds into my real life. In one instance, I hadn’t slept for two days straight, and I had begun to see flashes of color and wispy figures of elves following me around, planting mushrooms outside of my window. I hadn’t connected my fatigue to what I was seeing, so when I attempted to show my sister, she couldn’t see what I was seeing. My mind is not something easily changed; it is not something easily tempted. It is always moving in all different directions and is able to circumvent dogmatic ideals to arrive at some surprisingly remarkable conclusions. If you can crawl into my mind and see my world, in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Oh the places you’ll go.”
Dream Scape: A Commercial Treatment Katelyn Nelson
The commercial begins with the opening of a book. Inside the book is a tablet, and it lifts up like a pop-up picture. Someone walks up to it, and a stylus rolls out to her feet. She picks it up and walks over to the tablet. She taps the tablet and some ephemeral music begins to play as a paintbrush comes out of the screen and paints the white walls surrounding the person. The room is transformed into a forest, and she is able to walk through and explore, drawing, painting, and writing anything as she goes along. Another person is drawn to join in on the adventure. The two run into a raging rapid and paint a boat to cross it. As it starts to rain, they draw a house and fire to keep them sheltered. The dream-music continues playing, and just before the screen fades and one of the people takes the stylus, which turns into a pen, she writes out the company name ad tag line on the black screen. It says â€œDream Scape, Inc. Create your world.â€?
Dream Sequence Alexis Christakes
In a field, there is a lime tree and the sound of gnashing teeth. A girl sits in the branch and takes a lime. Shes pushes her finger through the skin, and her finger comes out covered in glue. The leaves of the tree turn into tissue paper, and the wind blows them all over the girl, covered in glue and colorful tissue. The tree melts into a boy with a bleeding forehead. The girl apologizes and tries to cover him in tissue paper, but she realizes she won’t have enough for herself. Then she pulls him to his feet and slaps him. He says, “You’re right,” and begins to paint his body with blood.
Dream Sequence Alyx Chandler
Trees grow backwards with spiraling claw-like roots shooting into an orange, sinking sky. There’s a forest of these trees, and she perches on a growing root with her feet swinging into a backwards sunset, her head stuck in a black fog. The sun is unnaturally close to her feet, and she vaguely becomes aware that she’s reaching for it as the roots stretch higher, pulling her with them. She is pulled closer to what smells like dirt, and the sun shrinks like an egg on a frying pan, the planet and stars at such a distance that her arm drops. She glances up, fear crowding her, and dirt cakes her body. She’s buried in the sky, in the black mud of a backwards night.
Dream Sequence Kyle Winn
Sprinting away from the grizzly bear who had just mauled his best toothbrush, he suddenly trips over a bag of chicken feed. The bag tears open and reveals its contents. Wristwatches. He gasps in horror and tries to run away once more, but suddenly his legs have stopped functioning. The wrench in his coat pocket begins to glow orange. The bear is approaching. He scrambles to find the removable piece of his scalp. Running away will require functioning legs. Functioning legs will require the manual reprogramming of his brain. Once a portion of his scalp has been peeled off, he takes the glowing wrench, now a teal color, and begins restoration. Then the bear eats him. | 245
Kayla Wilson I hate it when they yell. It just rings in my head. I’m sure that other people feel the same way. I have to move. No, don’t move. Kayla, you can do this. Just. Don’t. Move. Maybe if I don’t move, she won’t be able to see me. Oh god, my leg is tapping. She saw that. Wait, did she? Oh god, she did. She’s coming closer. STOP TWITCHING, LEG. No. Stupid leg gave me away. Crap... “Kayla, are you listening to me? [Insert nagging here.]” Sigh… I just can’t win. I have to move again. I have to do something, or I’m going to explode in a million pieces. Right. Freaking. Now. My guts are going to go everywhere. All over her face. That’ll show her. I need something to focus on. Can I grab that pen? Will she notice? Something in my hands. Thank God. Something to do because I am bored-bored-bored and feeling the stress-stress-stress. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Every noise this object makes is music. Like tiny little knives stabbing the air with a rebellious spirit. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. I wish I knew Morse Code. I could tell her just what I think. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. I’m here, but I’m not here. Click. Click. Cli—Weeew. Oh. She took the pen. She threw it. It one deft motion; she continued right where she left off. I assume it’s where she left off. “Kayla, your ability to focus is limited. Pay attention, or you’re going to fail! [Insert more nagging here.]” Square One. I feel squished again. Claustrophobic in a place with plenty of room. Bite my nails? It’s gross. I could get a disease like malaria. Wait, isn’t malaria caused by mosquitoes? Bite. Bite. Bite. Bite. Bite. I don’t feel heavy anymore. She can’t take my fingernails from me. I hope not anyway. That would hurt. Bite. Bite. Bite. Bite. Bite. Why is she so veiny? She’s a buff elderly lady. I didn’t know that was possible. Bite. Bite. Bite. Bite. Bite. Is that blood? Crap. 246 |
Thought Experiment Nick Mecikalski
MARK (Talks just a little too quickly.) I’ll tell ya, I’m less afraid than you. I know I am. You say I’m afraid, but I’m less afraid than you are. I know it. You can write that down. But now you’re gonna ask, “Less afraid of what? Less afraid of what, Mark? What? What? What?” Well I’ll tell ya less afraid of what. Everything. I’m less afraid than you are . . . of everything. (beat) No, no, that’s wrong. Erase that. Not everything. Some things still scare me, sure. Just as much as anyone else. Spiders. Snakes. Heights. The Exorcist. That stuff still scares me, sure. That stuff still scares me. I mean, hell, whatever the crap that painting on the wall over there is supposed to be scares me. (beat) A Picasso? Well, Picasso musta been one disturbed bastard. Can’t take my eyes off the damn thing it scares me so much. Isn’t this place supposed to be calming? Tranquil, isolated, quiet, right? Of all the places I should be able to fall asleep, it should be here, right? Well how in the world do you expect me to do something like that with Picasso’s tormented soul staring at me from the wall? He died, what, twenty-five years ago, or something? What makes him so special that we all have to wallow in his misery a quarter century after his death? Why couldn’t his misery die along with him like everyone else’s does? Like we don’t have enough of that already. I’ll tell ya. Well, sure, I’m probably more afraid of that painting than you are. Considering it’s on your wall and on display and all. But that’s not the point, no, no, that’s not the point . . . I’m sorry, I get off track. But I’m sure you know that. I’m sure that’s some . . . some symptom you’ve studied at some point or another. Took an exam on it or something I bet. Probably aced it. But that’s not the point either . . . the point is . . . see, that painting . . . it’s not what I’m talking about. It’s not my point. But you’ve probably written it all down anyways, all my meaningless rantings. Of course. See, I’m not less afraid of everything than you are. That’s too broad. Just the big thing. See, see, that’s my point. The big thing. The thing you can’t take off the wall when you realize just how disturbing it really is: Me. That’s the big thing. I’m less afraid of me than you are. No, no, I’m less afraid of me than you are of you. That’s it. That’s my point. Write that down, circle it, put stars around it. That’s my thesis. | 247
Feature See, I get quite a lot of time to think. A lot of hypotheses. And I do those . . . what are they called? Thought experiments? Something like that? Didn’t Einstein have a name for those or something? Something German? I don’t know. But . . . but see, I have this . . . postulation. And you probably have all your scientific evidence to prove me wrong, but that’s . . . that’s okay. You also think that painting back there behind you is calming. So you’re not always right. But . . . my postulation. Right. See . . . see, I’ve realized why people get tired. Not physically tired, that’s obvious. Mentally tired. But physical and mental . . . same principle. You get physically tired from performing the same action over and over and over again, right? A hundred sit-ups, a thousand push-ups, whatever. Your muscles get sick of it. They get tired. Why? As a safety. A safeguard. Your muscles know that at some point they’ll just burst, just tear themselves right off the bone if you don’t stop pushing yourself up off the floor over and over and over again. And they fear this. Your muscles fear this fate, so they get tired and tell you to quit, so you do. And in your brain, it’s not much different. It sits there with you all day, every day, dragging you off the floor every day, getting to listen to you every day, over and over and over again. And it knows what will happen if it all just continues. You’ll talk away all the pretense, all the small talk, the entire gelatinous membrane separating you from it, and it’ll discover something about you that it never wanted to know. I don’t know what that might be, for you or for anybody. But it’s there. Lurking there. For each of us. We’re really ugly beings when you get down to it all, you know. Just look on the wall behind you. You don’t think your brain has considered just how ugly you really are? It’s considered it, I’ll tell ya. And it fears this. It’s afraid of you. It wants to go about its daily life without having to consider exactly who it’s rooming with. So it gets tired. And the closer you get to revealing it all, the more tired you get, and eventually you sleep, and your brain breathes a sigh of relief. Crisis avoided. But see, someone like me doesn’t have that safeguard. Not anymore. Someone like me doesn’t get that convenience. The pretense, the gelatinous membrane, may as well have never existed. I’ll do push-ups and push-ups and push-ups and nothing will ever tell me to stop anymore. You take for granted your own exhaustion, I bet, and how it has an end. How it saves your brain from your ugliness without you ever knowing it. You wouldn’t know what in the hell to do if you didn’t have that safeguard. But, see, that’s why I’m less afraid than you. Because between the hours of one and six in the morning, every morn248|
Feature ing, my brain faces that person. Dead in the eye. No choice. That’s what insomnia is. It’s staring at yourself for hours on end without a choice to turn your head. Without a choice to close your eyes or bury yourself beneath your blankets or cover your ears and sing a song to drown out the noise. But you better believe that after awhile, your brain knows that person pretty well. He’s ugly, and he’s ugly, and he’s ugly. Of course he is. He’s no different than anyone else. But it knows him pretty well, and I’ll tell ya, he ceases to be scary after awhile. That’s why that painting exists, you know. Not so that you could plaster it up on your wall for a soothing effect on your patients. But so that Old Pablo over there could get a good look at himself from a safe distance. Bypass his own safeguard . . . safely. Because when you cease to scare yourself, well . . . . You’ve ripped the muscles off the bone, but I’ll tell ya, it’ll never happen again. (pause) And that’s my conclusion. My thought experiment. Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong. I knew you would. It’s just a postulation, after all. But it won’t change the fact that I’m less afraid than you, whether or not your science backs it up. (beat) You been writing this down?
To hear more of Nick Mecikalski’s work as read by the author, visit http://soundcloud.com/bpanagos/litmagstory2
A Look in the Mirror (An Excerpt) Holly Morgan CHARACTERS ALICE- A teenage girl who suffers from various mental problems. NURSE- Alice’s nurse. SKITZ- Short for Schizophrenia. Played by a female. A physical representation of Alice’s schizophrenia. One of the “Diseases” that tries to keep Alice from leaving the mental institution. FEAR- Can be played by either a male or a female. A physical representation of Alice’s fear. One of the “Diseases” that tries to keep Alice from leaving the mental institution. DELUSIONS 1- Can be played by either a male or a female. A physical representation of Alice’s delusions. One of the “Diseases” that tries to keep Alice from leaving the mental institution. DELUSIONS 2- Can either be played by a male or female depending on the gender of Delusions 1. A copy of Delusions 1 that is meant to confuse Alice. DEPRA- Short for Depression. Played by a female. A physical representation of Alice’s depression. One of the “Diseases” that tries to keep Alice from leaving the mental institution. NICKI- Alice’s sister. NOBODY- Played by a female. An antithesis of Alice that tries to convince her that she doesn’t matter. (Authors Note: The entire A Look in the Mirror play is about a teenage girl who tries to over come her mental diseases, her fears, and, most importantly, herself.) 250 |
Feature (The scene opens to reveal a basic hospital room. The stage should contain at least a chair, a bed, a side dresser, and a picture frame, all SL. A few flats painted to create the illusion of a wall should be set US. There should also be two flats set up on both CSR and CSL that do not connect to the back flat. The one at CSR should have a door, and the one CSL should have a window. All normal lights should be on to illuminate the entire stage. ALICE sits in a chair SL staring out the window.) (Ent. Nurse USR carrying a bundle of folded sheets.) NURSE Really. (Begins to change the sheets on the bed CSL.) Not calling in advance. Three days. Three days! That’s the minimum. And she calls today and says she’ll be here in an hour! This is a mental asylum, of course, but does that mean that there can’t be order? Honestly, no respect for structure. Am I wrong to be angry? Hmm?
NURSE Of course I’m not. Rules aren’t made to be broken, after all. They are set in place for a reason. Well, I suppose there’s nothing to be done about it now. Oh, Alice, dear, don’t look so dejected. Someone would think you’re being abused (Laughs nervously.) ALICE (Finally, notices NURSE.) Sorry, what? NURSE Oh . . . never mind. You know, it might pay off to actually listen to people when they talk. Sorry, I’ll try to do better.
NURSE Yes, yes. Of course. (Begins to have trouble with the bed sheets.) Could you come help me with this, dear? (ALICE crosses to the bed and begins to help the NURSE.) There we go. Now Alice, you’ll need to brush your hair and wash your face before three o’ clock. You also might want to put something nicer on. (Aside.) Lord knows you’ll need all the help you can get. Now you won’t forget to do that, will you? (Begins to go around the room, straightening things up.) | 251
Feature No. What’s all this for anyway?
(The NURSE stares at ALICE, dumbstruck.) You mean they didn’t tell you? Tell me what?
NURSE (Beginning to panic.) Oh, for the love of Mary! How could they not tell you? It’s their job, for Pete’s sake, to— TELL ME WHAT?
NURSE (Calming down.) Your sister’s coming for a visit today. Oh . . . that’s . . . . That’s great.
NURSE (The NURSE crosses to ALICE.) Now, dear, don’t forget to do everything I told you. With any luck, this could be your last week here. (The NURSE gives the room one last look.) That should do it. (To ALICE.) Stand up straight, and don’t slouch, wipe your nose, and for Heaven’s sake dear, smile! You look so depressed! (Ext. NURSE though the door.) ALICE (After the NURSE is gone.) Of course! How silly of me. What do I have to be depressed about? I’m only stuck in a loony bin full of annoying nurses, but other than that, I’m fine. Ugh! Why can’t they just leave me alone? They drive me crazy! (Heard from offstage.) Er . . . .
ALICE Speaking of crazy, I can just imagine how this visit with my sister is gonna go. (Picks up the picture of her sister on the dresser SL.) “Hello, Alice, how’ve you been?” Oh, pretty good. I’m finally out of the straitjacket. Isn’t that great? How’re Mom and Dad? “Oh, they’re still wallowing in 252 |
Feature the shame of having a crazy in the family. Mom cries, Dad is in a bad mood all the time. You know, the usual.” How lovely. They didn’t come with you this time? “Of course not. They don’t have time for loonies, even if you are their daughter.” Oh, silly me, what was I thinking. (Beat.) I have really got to stop talking to myself. SKITZ (Heard offstage again.) Answering yourself isn’t a good sign either. (ALICE takes a surprised look at the picture, sets it down rather carefully.) ALICE Ok. No more negativity. Think positively. I’m still breathing. That’s one. Two: no matter how old I get, I will never be as fat as that nurse on the third floor. And three: if everything goes smoothly today, I might be able to go home. (Realizing what she has just said.) I might be able to go home. (Puts her hands together in a praying gesture.) Oh, God, if you’re out there, please let me be able to go home. I’ll go to church every Sunday! I’ll read the Bible fifty times! Heck, I’ll memorize it! Just please let me get out of here! SKITZ (Offstage again.) Shooting a bit high, aren’t you? (ALICE jumps and looks around the room.) ALICE Hello? (Ent. SKITZ USR through the gap between the flats.) Hi. Who are you?
SKITZ I’m you . . . sort of. But you can just call me Skitz. What? It’s complicated. How did you get in here?
ALICE SKITZ ALICE | 253
Feature SKITZ I’ve always been here. Right up there, (Points to her head.) in your head. Excuse me? Like I said, it’s complicated.
ALICE Alright, which room did you come out of? You think I’m lying?
ALICE No, I just think you’re crazy. Now you stay there, and I’ll go get the nurse. Sound like a plan? SKITZ Oh, aren’t you a Good Samaritan. “Hello, my name is Alice, and I’m a perfect little princess because I always do what’s right and kind.” What are you—?
SKITZ But that’s not true, is it? You’ve got a violent streak. (Takes a seat on the dresser.) ALICE Ok, now I know you’re crazy. (She starts toward the door CSR.) SKITZ Have you already forgotten sixth grade Alice, dear? (ALICE stops in her tracks.) Oh, so you do remember. (ALICE turns back to SKITZ.) How did you know about that?
SKITZ Who could forget? That was the day you beat up Kenny Johnson. Let’s see. He was calling you names, you told him to stop, he wouldn’t . . . . Stop. 254 |
Feature SKITZ And what did you do? Oh yeah, you practically murdered him! You hit him until he went unconscious. And even then, you still kept throwing punches. You were such an animal. But you don’t remember that part, do you? All you remember is the teachers pulling you off little Kenny. How about the blood? Do you remember that? I said stop!
SKITZ Who knew someone so small could do something like that! It was gruesome. Little Alice only got off with expulsion, but poor Kenny just wasn’t that lucky, was he? Do you know where he is now? SHUT UP!
SKITZ (Obviously enjoying this.) He’s a vegetable. Condemned to a hospital bed for the rest of his life. Who knew that the sweet little princess was such a wicked witch on the inside?! ALICE My family moved to a different state after that. How do you know about it? I told you, I’m you.
ALICE Stop screwing around. I want to know the truth! (SKITZ suddenly jumps off the dresser and advances on ALICE. ALICE backs away.) SKITZ Oh, the truth? Really? You want the truth? The truth is you beat up that kid because I told you to. I was there every second, forcing you to keep hitting him. Making you throw one punch after another. The truth is, you attacked Kenny Johnson because I made you do it. That wasn’t the first time I made you do what I wanted either. All those fights with your mother, all that screaming at your sister. That was all me too. | 255
Feature How? That’s impossible.
SKITZ I told you, I’m in here. (Points to her head.) Come on, Alice, use what little brain you have left and think. Why are you in this crazy house in the first place? ALICE Wait, you did this? You’re the reason I’m stuck here? Well, it wasn’t all my fault.
(Ent. FEAR between the gap in the flats USR.) FEAR Nice of you to share the credit, Skitz. SKITZ This, Alice dear, is another reason why you’re here. Who are you? I’m you . . . sort of.
SKITZ Meet Fear. I’d introduce you, but I think you already know each other pretty well. Too true. I’ve never met you in my life.
FEAR Oh, Alice! I’m hurt. How could you not remember me? (FEAR crosses to ALICE, pulls out a fake spider.) Don’t you remember all those dreams I gave you? ALICE (Looking apprehensively toward the spider.) What dreams? 256 |
Feature FEAR All those dreams where you woke up screaming in the middle of the night. Do you remember the one about the car crash? The one were everyone in your family dies except for you? And don’t forget the one about the spiders. That was a classic! (FEAR flings the spider on ALICE. ALICE screams and throws the spider on the ground. SKITZ laughs.) In fact, you’re my best work, my crowning achievement. You’re my masterpiece, Alice. Doesn’t that make you feel special? No! (FEAR and SKITZ both laugh.)
FEAR Aw, Alice, don’t be like that. Dreams weren’t the only things I gave you, you know. There was also paranoia, stress, anxiety attacks, you name it. (FEAR tries to reach out and touch ALICE’S shoulder, but ALICE pulls away.) Oh, Are you still mad at me for that car crash dream? What can I do to make it up to you? You can get out!
FEAR Aw, she is mad at me. It wasn’t all my fault, you know. I had help. (Ent. DELUSIONS 1 through gap in the flats USL, crosses to stand beside FEAR.) ‘Sup.
FEAR Introducing Delusions, my partner in crime. There are more of you?
DELUSIONS 1 Technically there are more of you. (Gestures to ALICE.) After all, we are all you . . . sort of. ALICE Do any of you ever give straight answers? DELUSIONS 1 Where’s the fun in that? It’s far more interesting to keep you guessing. | 257
Feature ALICE Well here’s an idea. Why don’t you keep somebody else guessing, and get out of my life! (Ent. DELUSIONS 2 between the gap in the flats USR.) DELUSIONS 2 Ouch, that hurt. (ALICE turns to him.) How did you—?
DELUSIONS 1 Do that? I’m Delusions, Alice. It’s my job. DELUSIONS 2 And apparently I’m pretty good at it. I mean look at this place: (Looks around.) whitewash walls, alarm system, the works. No bars, though. That was kind of a let down. Ah well, you win some, you lose some. You said it. Stop doing that! Doing what? That! Why should I?
DELUSIONS 1 ALICE DELUSIONS 1 & 2 ALICE DELUSIONS 2
(ALICE begins to advance on DELUSIONS 2.) ALICE Because if you don’t, I’m gonna kick your—(The lights on DELUSIONS 2 USR suddenly go down. Ext. DELUSIONS 2 USR. When he exits, the lights on USR come back up.) Where did he go? Who? Your double. 258 |
DELUSIONS 1 ALICE
Feature DELUSIONS 1 I have no idea what you’re talking about. ALICE But . . . he was just— (SKITZ, FEAR, and DELUSIONS begin to laugh.) That’s it! (ALICE walks towards the door CSR.) SKITZ But you can’t leave yet. You still haven’t met our other friend. (Ent. DEPRA between the gap in the flats USL.) Hi, guys.
SKITZ Meet Depression, or Depra for short. I’m— Let me guess. You’re me. Sort of.
DEPRA ALICE DEPRA
ALICE Why do you all keep saying that? It’s sort of a mind game, I guess.
ALICE Well, I’m sick of playing your stupid game. Skitz was right. You are no fun.
ALICE (ALICE advances on DEPRA.) Fun? You think this is fun? Sure, don’t you?
ALICE No, I don’t think it’s fun! I think it’s awful, and cruel, and so are you! | 259
Feature DELUSIONS 1 Wow, you know us better than I thought. ALICE What’s the point of doing this? What do you get out of making me crazy? What you’re doing is wrong, and if you had any inkling of selfdecency, you’d— (There is a knock at the door. The NURSE opens the door and peaks her head in CSR.) Alice, dear, are you alright? Oh . . . . Oh, yeah. Fine.
NURSE Oh. I thought I heard yelling. Must have been my imagination. No one’s in here, are they? ALICE No? (Everyone except ALICE and the NURSE move USL.) SKITZ She can’t see us, Alice. We’re only in your head. (Lights out. End of Excerpt.)
Paloma the Perfectionist Kristen Hop
Paloma the perfectionist Was perfect in ev’ry way, From the bows on her laces To the games she did play. She walked in perfect stride And talked in perfect words, And when others fell two steps back, She leapt four steps forward. There was never a hair out of place On her perfect little head. Her clothes were always ironed flat With not a crease in sight, And the bed was always made just-so Before she went to sleep each night. And after the coffee brewed, It was three lumps of sugar—not two— To start each day anew. She only colored in the lines And painted with pastels. Canary yellow, cotton candy, Pink flamingo, plum. Perfect pictures, perfect paintings— Perfect little girl. Paloma the perfectionist Was . . . ever so precise. “When there’s a certain way for everything, Everything is right.” And so . . . Good riddance! if you dare forget To turn out all the lights. Don’t fold the page. Don’t lock the door. Don’t move her favorite lamp. Don’t mop the floor without permission To do her favorite chore. Don’t fluff her pillows | 261
Feature Or set the clocks (She has a specific rhythm). Tick-tock, tick-tock— And cursed you will become If you mistake A period for a comma. Tick-tock, tick-tock— Need a pattern, need a flow; Sometimes it’s best To leave Paloma alone (Tick-tock, tick-tock—) And let her live in her perfect world Where everything is perfect— —But the girl.
Awaiting Nostalgia Katherine Tidwell
Somewhere lost behind A series of tag-teeming nose-goesing run of princesses and fairies or pirates and princes and far behind the melted sun spot -sticky stained blue lips mud pie worm soup innocent-eyed cootie-infested there is a grownup. As you’d like to imagine a neck-tie kind of brief-case-haulin’ sort of make-no-doubt-about-it grownup digging his not quite there coordination into his unrealistic, who needs it passion a back-flippin’ pro a bug-slinging master double-dog daredevil triple-dog death wish As you’d like to imagine, he’ll be there eventually by nap-time or when the dog is stuffed of broccoli surprise that scraped up kid will be Mr. or Mrs. when the dodge ball “legend” ain’t picked for the team all the toy-box parties | 263
Feature all the broad-day adventures all the mindless wandering replaced with purpose—or so call it “can’t wait” “Ain’t a kid” “I can do it” . . . all by myself as you’d imagine. Behind every love-you-mom smile the sandbox boys, and swing set girls inventors of the ALL NEW, ALL POWERFUL bog of rocks and bug guts the masters of pretend, the artists of spit and wallpaper, lovers of old and broken, breakers of new and lovely, the fixers of rainy-day-dumpies a grownup not so much anything ‘cept a grownup.
Cleaning Freak Jessica Gallagher
It reeked of bleach. Her only worry was those floors, those sinks. She crawled on the floor and sat in the middle, back against the wall. She started to laugh, Laugh as loud as she could. “I got away,” she yelled. She poured the bleach on her hands, “I got away . . . ” she whispered. She got herself together and started towards the bathroom, Filled the tub with bleach. She stuck her feet in and sat down, She started to swallow down a big glass. She was clean From the inside out.
Until Softly She Beckoned Kenny Helms
1 Digging amongst the hoards of memories, An ice cold memento burns within. I can feel her grip, Her contorted cadaver whispers. It is a blood-curdling noise. I cannot make out the words, Until softly she beckons, Jump. 2 She burns in my head. If I could only save her, If I could only hear her. Her blood-curdling whisper Resonates within me, But I cannot make out the words, Until softly she beckons, Jump. 3 Memories lurk, her scream resonates, The contorted cadaver haunts me. It burns, oh it burns, And I cannot make out the words, Until softly she beckons, Jump. 4 Her whispers pull me closer, The contorted cadaver calls. If only I could save her, It drives me mad. I cannot make out her words, Until softly she beckons, Jump. 266 |
This Jacket Sarah Hartung
This jacket—it’s mine, you hear? Don’t try to take it from me. It’s all I have left. All the people, Places, Faces I loved. All gone, and not because of this jacket. The frozen world, Pristine in its stark hypocrisy, It holds me As a crib encages a child. Now I weep, as they did. Gone, and not because of these walls. A woman, Eyes white in her head, Mouth slackened in—no! What has happened? This jacket, it keeps me warm, Sheltered against the endless white. Safe. Children scream. Just a baby, really, Shrieking her impossible soprano. And the woman, pleading. I yell at her senselessly, Screaming like my little girl. Bottles clink like keys To an unknown gate, An escape from a life without meaning. Her nose wrinkles at the beer Pungent on my breath. I am angry. Angry at the fussing child | 267
Feature And the woman who will do nothing. Angry at myself. A curious red swims before my vision. My mind goes black. Something else takes over. And I stand afterward. In one hand is the phone, Bringing them to take me away. My other cradles the knife now stained forever With blood, death. The faces I loved Gone. And now this jacket Keeping me safe from the beer, the knives, the screams. But not the faces. I sit in this white room My arms latched to my sides Itâ€™s my jacket, mine. Keeping me safe from myself.
Mirror, Mirror Mary Leaphart
I see myselfâ€” The image thrown back at me I see my past My world, my life All in front of me I look back and remember When I was only three I fell Hit my head Thatâ€™s all I see And my eyes A mess of grey Glare back at me I turn my back On thoughts On memory On the girl with my face Because she knows Everything about me
Verisimilitude Nick Mecikalski
A man once sat at his kitchen table for his entire life rolling a single die over and over again, recording each number in a notebook that eventually became four times the size of himself. It always landed on 5. He explained to me once that there really was no such thing as chance, that chance was only the name we give to our ignorance and inability. If we could know the exact measurements of the roll of the die, he told me, The angle off the fingertips, the speed onto the table, the number of times it would bounce, its final resting place, then we could know, with total certainty, which number would emerge victorious. He showed me his notebook, armies of 5s invading the pages like ants conquering a skyscraper, each one a little prouder than the last. He showed me his notebook, and he told me he was God. And I believed him. He told me he had been rolling the universe onto the table his entire life and that we were the numbers, that our decisions were simply the inevitable results of every angle and speed and bounce and final resting place That had come before. He rolled the die to prove that our decisions were decided, our problems were solved, our lives were lived. He took me under his arm and placed the die in my hand, told me to roll it. He smiled and galaxies crinkled at the corners of his mouth. 270 |
Feature The die had become a sphere by now, and the dots had faded into shad- ows on the surface. He showed me how exactly to roll it, how exactly to bank it off the fingertip, where exactly to have it land on the tabletop, how exactly to expect it to bounce after impact. I rolled it off my hand just as instructed, and I watched it land on the table and bounce with perfectly predicted precision, and I watched it continue on its path for years. It rolled off the table, and it fell into the cosmos. It rolled for lightyears, lightyears of inevitability, it rolled unsurprised and unimpressed, watching its brother and sister superclusters pass it by without even grunting in acknowledgement. It did not care to give a second look to the quasars or to the nebulae, or to the black holes or to the white dwarves, or to the supergiants or to the supernovae. It had been rolled for the manâ€™s entire lifetime, and it knew his universe by heart. It reentered the atmosphere with a bored indifference, and without much of a noise it landed on the old manâ€™s kitchen floor. The man winked at me and ambled over to the die, stooping down to inspect it. He told me it was a 5. And I believed him.
Metamorphosis II Katherine Tidwell
Watch them. Those are our thoughts, darling, Our dreams. In that basket, Our things. And we send them away, because Perhaps if they stayed with us, If they remained Anchored to our minds, Ever fickle, ever changing, Why, they would never go anywhere. They would surely disappear, And I can only imagine, darling, Our dreams In that basket Are far happier, Far happier, Far away.
Spoonfuls of Sugar Sydney Phillip
Midnight. With insomnia, nothing is real. It’s been at least five days since I last slept. That’s a new record. If I take any more medication, I would kill myself. I know the routine come 6 AM: a shot of five-hour energy, three cups of coffee with six tablespoons of sugar, and a smile for my mother to prove that my brain and body are fully functioning. My breaths are uneven, and I’ve been counting them for the past hour and a half. 300 . . . 301 . . . 303? I . . . I think that’s right. If I could just sleep for ten minutes. Just ten, and I would be fine for the next two days. I try to haggle with my brain for a time, but like an Asian woman at a flea market, it’s stubborn. It isn’t like I expect anything different. 1:37 AM. The stars are so bright. Still counting my breaths. I’ve reached 351. It’s always around now that I start to hum. It could be anything. Tonight it’s the Happy Days theme song hummed to discordant melodies that I hear in my head. I want to sleep. I want to sleep. I want to sleep, want to sleep, sleepsleepsleeeeeeep. “Maybe if I do some pushups, it’ll help.” I don’t even hear my voice anymore. I get out of bed and fall to the ground. It’s a wonder no one comes up to check on me. Oh, right. Everyone is sleeping. Get up. You can’t lie on the ground all night. What else am I going to do? I’ve finished my homework for the next three days. I’m hungry, but I don’t want to eat. Food has already lost its flavor. Is it hot in here? Because I’m freezing. I need a blanket before I get heatstroke or something. Why do birrrrrds sing every time you are near . . . . 3 AM. Isn’t it beautiful? I know why a raven is like a writing desk. What does that mean? The higher the fewer of course! My brain is rapidly turning gumbo; the dream world is becoming more and more tangible. In this limbo, I can talk to my cat or step outside of my body and go somewhere else. My skin feels alive with parasites, they’re crawling all over me!! Scratch, scratch scratch scratchscratchSCRAT— the skin breaks, but I don’t feel it. Life drips down my shoulder. I touch it. It’s cold and stains my hands green. Is it green or black? What is | 273
Feature green? It is something that is not red. Then what is red . . . ? The moonlight does little to alleviate my nerves, warping the color. My vision has gone rainbow, reds are now blue, and whites are now a burnt orange. Bursts of light pulsate right behind my eyeballs, brilliant colors and shapes blurring my vision. I can no longer add one plus one and get two; the answer is now a strawberry shortcake. 4 AM. Hurrrrrrrradfsgdhjgda . . . . . . . . . ! 6 AM. “Sydney, are you awake yet?” “. . . Yes, Mom, and I’ll be down in a few minutes.” Yet another sleepless night. I change my clothes and make my bed, routinely tidying up my room. I trudge to the bathroom, sniffling. My immune system is weak. I flick the lights on and look into the mirror, inevitably cringing at the reflection. Unresponsive, dead eyes with dark shadows underneath that linger like an obstinate cold. My once chocolate-hued skin is now sallow and washed out, almost gray. I can’t feel, can’t think, I don’t want to. It all takes too much energy, but I do it. I cover the dark circles and force my eyes to brighten even though it hurts. Every day. 8:05 AM. I sip at my sugar-laden coffee thermos, just hating. Hating everything and everyone, without reason or discretion. You, with the calculus book, yeah, I hate you. You with the neon colored shoes, I hate you too. Oh and you, you with that stupid grin on your face like you’re just so happy about everything all the time, I loathe you. The sugar aids in my attempt to stay conscious during the school day, but it only takes the edge off. Hate hate hate hatehatehate— “Oh hey, Sydney, how was your night?” I stop. This question is something that always . . . . It’s been at least five days since I last slept. That’s a new record. I set down my thermos, silently wishing that the person inquiring would spontaneously burst into flames. Nevertheless, I smile. “Fantastic.”
The King Nick Akins
No one has seen this Itâ€™s mine, not theirs. No one can see this, The accumulated wealth of all my years: Bells, sprockets, empty lockets, Broken chains and razor blades, Banana peels, Hot Wheels, Dry cleaner receipts, Discarded pudding pops, and rolling paper leafs. There was a woman, once . . . She always changed the sheets. She wiped the counters and mopped the floor, No one does that anymore. You see, my wife, she was bedridden once, All the cleaning stopped for eight straight months. I saw my kingdom pile up around me. Broken dolls and flat beach balls, Peach pits and baseball mitts, My treasures piled down the hall, Undrained coffee grounds stained the carpets and the wall Until my hoard met her door And she couldnâ€™t get out anymore. She screamed and cried and bashed the door, But, you see, it was her cleaning, not her, That I abhor. I knew that her habits would follow her out of that room, And as for my Kingdom, it would spell certain doom. Although it was hard to ignore her cries and begs, I knew that to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.
Hunter Vroonland “Life and Death”
Hunter Vroonland “Summer Sights”
Julie Bartlow “Will Rain”
The Eclectic Staff List Nick Akins
Laura Jean Short
Nick Mecikalski Nick Mecikalski was created nearly 14 billion years ago with the rest of the known universe as a gravitational singularity. After several thousand years, the energy that would one day be his consciousness cooled to a sufficient temperature for his atomic and subatomic particles to form. These particles then spent the vast majority of the next 13.7 billion years rearranging themselves into his conscious being, which came into existence on November 28, 1993, in the northern hemisphere of the planet Earth. Like most third-dimensional creatures, Nick lived his life moving forward in time without the ability to change direction, and, as a result, aged. He continued aging for well over a century, at which point the process ceased and the consciousness perished. His atomic particles soon decomposed and became embedded in the planet Earth, where after several years they scattered and became enmeshed within the surrounding planetary mass. In this way they orbited star mass SOL-4136 for well over a billion years before they were engulfed by its energy and became an indistinguishable part of it for the remainder of the known universe. At this point they collapsed back into a gravitational singularity and remained that way for eternity.
Kali Daniel Kendrew Aaron was born into the grunge-ridden world of the 1990â€™s college student, reeking of teen spirit. The childâ€™s mother was alarmed to find that her baby was not a boy as planned, but a girl. Kendrew Aaron thus became Kali Beau, and was left in a swaddling cloth upon her motherâ€™s leave of the hospital. The light baby went unnoticed as she, along with the swaddling clothes, were tossed into the garbage. She was thrown into a compost heap, which was carried on a trash barge across the ocean, landing in South Korea. The baby was discovered by a fisherman couple and was raised with a love for Kimchee and rice. At the age of fifteen, Kali was identified by the South Korean government as an illegal immigrant and was returned to her mother in the United States. Kali currently resides on the outskirts of a small horse farm, painting her walls and wondering why the name Kendrew seems so relevant.
Editors Alyx Chandler Alyx Chandler ate words for breakfast, stale syllables from open boxes and burnt stories shooting from the toaster. She drank creamy language. Ate microwaved poems. Chewed indigestible memories and spit them out as something comprehensive. A hot air balloon flew her into a plum purple sky where wing flutters echoed and she could taste misty memoirs. All the swimming solar systems became strewn out like little bubbles she could pop. Then there were nights she dove into burning light and came out glowing. Days went by hiding in sticky clouds, and sometimes, just sometimes, the Earth spun out like a feather twisting to the ground, swaying, its axis tilted and turning the whole world into hearty sustenance. Those were the times Alyx ate sun-warmed sentences and floated back down slowly, daydreaming, at last becoming readable. Then she reached up shaky fingers into the blinking dusk and bright-eyed dawn and swallowed all of the grape-flavored universe, all of its flavors in one bite, one second. It tasted exactly how she imagined.
Once upon a time, a leaf fell from a tree and transformed into Alexis. She had tree sap hair and twig limbs, and her skin was as thin as the leafâ€™s skin. She started to stumble through the forest, but all the time she would trip and spill across paper and pages. When she reached the edge of the woods, she was just a ghost. She spent her days manipulating people into thinking she was real, but she grew unsatisfied being so weightless. She threw a piece of amber on the ground, and it spontaneously grew into a copper horse. She rode through a desert and collected guns and arrows. She shot down annoying humans from the hills where she could see all their flaws. One day, she chased her runaway horse to her forest. The horse melted into mist, and she collected all the paper that held her body and brain matter. People saw her and followed her. They bound themselves to her with spider webs, and every time she fidgeted, she only stuck. Some promised her the Earth, and some promised her the sky. Terra, caelum, silva. So she built a rocket and disappeared into a cloud of purple light years. 282 |
Editors Summer Dawkins Born not of nobility, yet with a simple peasant home in Camelot, Summer Dawkins was raised ignorant of the magic that surrounded and was within her. At the age of eight, she and her family were exiled from this place of love, peace, and security, into the forests where they were soon taken in by the Druids. These Druids were foreign speaking, and knew different things than Summer had ever come to know in Camelot. The following years brought Summer the knowledge of magic, which she came to hone in on and master. She went on quests, fighting knights, facing mystical creatures, and forging new trails within the wild parts of Albion. She discovered new languages and befriended other less fortunate peasants, who had also been wronged by the king. Then came the day where Summer was presented the immensely challenging quest to leave Albion and start a new realm to be named Alabama. Summer ventured out to complete her task, leaving nothing of hers behind but a reputation. The legend of Summer still exists within the minds of young Druids and feared by the children of knights who once knew of the powerful sorceress. It is believed she currently resides in a kingdom called Madison, where subjects are equal and magic thrives.
Kristen Hop Kristen was not born, but built, piece by piece. She was assembled by a mechanic with steady hands and a determined heart. A bolt here, a screw there. Welding, waxing. Hours of adjusting meticulous details. Years it took the mechanic, wielding away in his garage as Kristen waited, only half understanding what exactly she was waiting for. She would go weeks, months without any assembly sometimes, the mechanic unable to acquire the right parts. So she waited. And waited. Sometimes she would look around at the other machines in the garage, They all had that same exasperated look as her, dying to sense that feeling of completion. Yet Kristen sensed she was different. Finally one day in mid-February, the mechanic wired one last piece and closed her shut. A wave of radiance ran through her body. She could feel her engine roar and gears turn. All of her joints moved perfectly, and she looked up at her creator. The man looked down at her and said quietly, â€œHello, Daughter.â€? | 283
Editors Katelyn Nelson Born in 1993 in the countryside of Italy, Katelynâ€™s first memory is of riding down through the vineyards and discovering new places to explore. She soon got into the habit of writing down all of her experiences so that they would never be forgotten. Thus, her writing destiny began. She soon explored all there was within the borders of the Italian landscape and went off to find new places to go. She soon met a man with a time machine who told her he could help her discover all she had been wishing for. She did not waste time deciding whether or not to go, and soon they were off exploring all of time and space. She took the advantage to meet people such as Rod Serling, who developed the first mysteries of time and space she had ever come into contact with through the creation of The Twilight Zone. She has since recorded all of her journey in the form of fiction stories and is one of the most widely celebrated novelists of her time. She keeps the identity of the mysterious traveling companion a well-kept secret throughout all interviews and never mentions him within her novels because she knows it would be a great danger for him to be discovered by the people of Earth. After all, who knows what kind of danger people of Earth could be put in if they were given the knowledge she now possesses?
Contributors Nick Akins Nick Altstatt Maria Bailey Thomas Baldwin Julie Bartlow Caleb Besaw Emily Bohatch Alaina Boukedes Lakeitra Boykin Jackson Browne Mary Butgereit Alyx Chandler Alexis Christakes Lynn Cole Kayla Daigle Kali Daniel Adrienne Dauma Summer Dawkins Sydney Delgadillo Paige Denton Rashaan Denton Keith Dunlap Brittany Durham Matthew Eady Peyton Ellis Josiah Ernst Ben Ewing Courtney Firth Zachary Fitzgibbon Allie Flint Hanna Forrest
Alexandrea Friar Jessica Gallagher Tanisha Goodlow Keegan Haanschoten Lauren Handley Jon Harper Sarah Hartung Chad Hasting Kenny Helms Victoria Hollingsworth Tjahane Holmes Kristen Hop Olivia Horan Bobbie Hoskins Tracy Hutchings Annie Jordan Anna Keidel Marissa Kennard Sascha Kirkham Zach Koenig Sandhya Krishna Lela Kropp Mary Leaphart Ryan Lopez Nick Mecikalski Nick Monroe Holly Morgan Ben Nelson Katelyn Nelson Josh Norris Bridget Oâ€™Hara
Meredith Oâ€™Malley Bridges Penn Amanda Penney Zachary Perry Sydney Phillip Breeann Roberts Connor Sawyer Lisa Selfridge Laura Short Nick Sieja Brittney Simonson Jake Sims Alli Sloan Shana Smith Bradley Spengler Madison Spurgeon Amy Stewart Storm Taylor Kimberly Taylor-Duncan Khadijah Thompson Katherine Tidwell Ikenna Ugwuegbulam Hunter Vroonland Tori Weldon Brent Wilhide Shafer Williams Kayla Wilson Kyle Winn Madelyn Wong Madison Yarbrough Heather Zuo
Acknowledgements Madison City Schools For not pulling the plug on the life of our terminally ill child, our literary magazine. Madison City Schools Technology For providing us with just enough technology to be dangerous. We are now prepared to function in a third-world country . . . or time-travel back to 2003. Mr. Parker For telling us about the snake, the grandmother, what it’s like to be a baby, and reminding us to never, ever pull on Superman’s cape . . . . Mrs. Panagos For not rubbing it in our faces that she goes to the best concerts ever . . . Wait . . . For serving as our quirky muse and our financier. The Art Department For deciphering the lost language of each autograph, identifying the individuality of each contour, and above all, nurturing an amazing group of artists. Chad Hasting For not only revolutionizing 3-D cardboard art but also for creating all section dividers, cover art, and feature art and for being ochado and never xmatthewx’s little brother. Storm Taylor For animating the mother of all creative writing commercials using freeware. The English Department For encouraging creativity and ironing out dangling modifiers and comma splices in the writing of the masses. The Student Body For walking slowly in the hallways, blocking the corridors, and screaming loudly—all of your obnoxious tendencies influence writers. To Creative Minds Everywhere For providing inspiration to everyone who crosses your path. This literary and arts magazine is a testimony of your hard work and effort. Continue your artistic journey, and remember that the truth lies somewhere between the heart and the mind.
Please visit the companion website to enjoy other student works: Oral Storytelling Spoken Word Poetry Short Film Public Service Announcement Stop Motion Animation Commercial Web Comics Hypertext Fiction Multimedia Poetry