FLARE Gale Acuff Paul David Adkins E. Louise Beach Chelsey Clammer Mark DeCarteret Stephanie Dickinson Brian Alan Ellis KJ Hannah Greenberg Matt Hemmerich Brad Johnson Laurence Klavan Dimitri McCloghry Kylynn Pelkey Daniel Ruefman Athena Sasso Kenneth Sloan L.E. Sullivan Christopher Tozier Barrett Warner Sarah Brown Weitzman Bill Wolak Kirby Wright
Cover Art “Artemis on the Hunt” by Brianna Angelakis
FLARE the flagler review
Volume 23 Issue 1
ÂŠ 2012, FLARE, The Flagler Review, a publication of Flagler College. Visit www.theflaglerreview.com for subscription information and submission guidelines.
volume 23, issue 1 spring 2012
Laura Lee Smith
Managing Editors Meghan Cannistra Lexi Evans Tiffany Grimes
Jamie Gardner Sydney Norwood
Haley Bach Emily Hoover Catherine Kaloger
Poetry Editors Janette Duval Elena Santos Veronica Spake
Pauline Thier Victoria Warton
Online Producer Sara Seaman
Lucas Garner Emma Pulley
Editors’ Note This year, the publication of The Flagler Review is a new adventure. With a long and vibrant legacy as our foundation, we’re now in the midst of redefining who we are as a journal and what appears on our pages. When we decided on “Artemis on the Hunt” for the cover art, we realized this is the image of our new journal, the image people will associate with The Flagler Review. Artemis stands alone in the woods, looking over her shoulder and recognizing where she has come from, but continuing forward. She is the embodiment of FLARE: The Flagler Review. We respect our roots, but it is time for us to venture into the unknown. It’s time for us to experiment with traditional and non-traditional works, to seek new and unique voices from across the world. To be the ones initiating this journey is daunting. There are days when we question every move we make, days when we doubt if we are guiding The Flagler Review in the right direction. But we must prevail, just like Artemis. In one of the stories, Artemis tells Zeus she wants to be the Phaesporia, the Light Bearer. In a sense, this new issue of The Flagler Review is our opportunity to make our journal a Light Bearer. The authors and artists we publish is the light we bring forth to readers. We are now FLARE: The Flagler Review, a new light in the literary world. We want our journal to engage the mind and be revisited over and over. This is our journal’s chance to shine, to catch our readers’ attention with creative and original works that kindle the imagination. FLARE: The Flagler Review is coming into its own, venturing into the unexplored and we want our readers to join us on the journey. Thanks from the Managing Editors, Meghan Cannistra, Lexi Evans, Tiffany Grimes
E. Louise Beach Christopher Tozier Gale Acuff Daniel Ruefman Sarah Brown Weitzman Mark DeCarteret Brad Johnson Kirby Wright Paul David Adkins Barrett Warner Dimitri McCloghry Bill Wolak Matt Hemmerich
Stephanie Dickinson L.E. Sullivan Athena Sasso Kenneth Sloan Brian Alan Ellis
In flagrante delicto Grey and Silver: The Life Boat, Whistler 1884 Lovesick Remit and Renewal A Telling Recognition In Rooms Redheads The Big Day II This Golden Morning Waikiki at Four in the Morning My Grandmother Watches the Soaps War Story #198: Asking My Family About the War Clapping Flamenco Incidium Tea Kissing The Turkish Kiss With Teeth
77 78 86 87 88
Hot Springs Early Departures The Account in Question Hot! Hot! Hot! Loco Mask II
8 27 34 68 80
NON-FICTION KJ Hannah Greenberg Kylynn Pelkey Chelsey Clammer
Writing as More than Bridges The Sheep’s Roar On Grief
SCREENPLAYS/PLAYS Laurence Klavan
FEATURED ARTIST Brianna Angelakis
The Faery’s Child Neurasthenia The Crow Catcher
7 23 24 32 33 44 45 50 51 65 66 67
30 46 56
53 54 55
In flagrante delicto
E. Louise Beach
Let us be caught, captured in the very act of producing acoustic vibrations, stellar evolution. Let us divert the flow of the Euphrates, enter the house of summum bonum, trouble the compelling bed. Let us ignore the umbrage of others, their chiseling disdain. I feel the rain drop kitten paws upon my head.
I will hurt the man, she thinks. If the killer comes for me I won’t hesitate. I’ll dance for him and wear the shortest dress. I will silver my skin with moth wings. I’ll smile like cream and honey and spit knives. Lick me and watch how I’ll turn to poison. Octavia knows they will kill her if they find her. But she is far enough away to almost believe she has escaped. In the middle row of the Greyhound she stares out into the night. Has anyone followed her? She’s stolen nothing but herself. But a girl who knows someone’s stories has to be shut up, especially a girl who leaves a big man and makes him look small. The bus carries her. She has cut her hair like a soldier. She went to a barber and told him to use electric clippers. She spoke to him in English and paid in pesos. Take care, he warned. The moon lights up shacks and fence posts. Gnarled trees roam yards and shade sunken chicken coops. Fly chimneys. I feel you about to crumble on the roofs. Here and there she sees the glow of a kerosene lantern. The houses look ramshackle. She didn’t believe there was poor anywhere this far north. Her sister Marisol had been two years old when her parents crossed over. Octavia is Texas-born of illegal parents who lived happily for thirteen years cleaning bathrooms and planting grass and laying pipe for sewer lines. In junior high she took gifted classes. Then Immigration swooped down and surrounded her father’s construction site. Her family was deported. Octavia, the lone U.S. citizen, could have stayed. But with who? Mama’s friend who they called aunt? They went back to the town near Matamoras where her father’s mother lived. The old woman hardly left the house. She fried gizzards in a black skillet of golden grease and ate with a hand over her toothless mouth. She nodded at Octavia and Marisol. “Wash your face with dirt and wear old clothes. Don’t let them notice you.” Soon the sisters learned who them were. Never use the letter “z.” Call them them. Marisol was too beautiful to hide. Octavia props her elbow against the window. A bruise on her arm shows off black and blue. Her sprained index finger she has wrapped with Band-Aids and a popsicle stick. Lightning makes the muggy sky shiver. The door to the aqua bathroom flaps open and a dark-haired boy in a red shirt passes by. She has already noticed ev-
eryone. Especially him. He gives off the smell of not belonging. The smell that draws the police and the nostrils. His coarse hair reminds her of sheep’s wool, the spiraling curls. Instead of jeans he wears loose green trousers and he carries his things in a paper sack. The bus hits a pothole and the boy-man grabs her seat, his knuckles brushing Octavia’s head. “Perdon,” the boy mumbles, moving on. “No problema,” she answers. The smell again of brown sack. She wonders what, if anything, is inside it. No smoke, no light, no noise. The trees here live in near dark. Her feet rest on her backpack. The boy passes by again to the bathroom. Breathing in, her nostrils fill with roll your own’s. He’s stealing a quick smoke. Her age or younger. Mexican too, but more Indian in his clay skin. Two days ago she turned nineteen. She has not slept much since. He gives off another odor too, something in the sack. Her head rests for a moment against the window as if the glass were soft feathers. Never let yourself be boxed in like Marisol herself had been with Adolfo. Under heavy lids Octavia pictures her sister. The wide-spaced eyes and full lips. Her chin drops to her chest before snapping back. She startles. Again she looks at each person on the bus: the red-haired woman and her red-haired daughter under cones of reading light, the young black woman who fills the aisle when she stands to stretch and her son bouncing up and down in his seat. Any of them could have been sent to hurt her. Yet she is far from the border, almost in Arkansas. Still she listens to how people breathe, how they turn their heads, who they look at. Since Dallas, the punk girl two rows ahead has gabbed on her cell phone. Now the transmitter towers fade into the distance and the girl runs nervous fingers through her spiky blond hair. She too is going to Hot Springs. Octavia has overheard her life story. The blonde figures everywhere you travel these days is the wetback express. She gets up and reaches into the overhead rack, directing her gaze at Octavia. Her jeans are low cut and her shirt doesn’t cover her waist. The tattoo around her upper left arm blurs like a blue asteroid belt. Double lightning bolts strike at the core of her spine. Octavia has no tattoos, but Marisol did. Her arms became trellises. When they kill you they cut tattoos into you. Some of them practice in the slaughterhouses of the north and when they return they know how to cut beings apart. She wonders what it would be like to talk to the blonde about Marisol, about how her sister ate chorizo sausage and eggs from the black skillet one morning and drank her coffee
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and was gone before breakfast on the next. How could she describe Marisol? The way she looked before? Hair to the small of her back that took the shape of rippling black water, past gardenia-scented earlobes. Brown eyes big as fists but tender. Or after? The lace dress that molded her shape turned to red clay. This place where she is going has hotels to hide in. Her sister hoped to travel to these Ozarks where you could pull the trees around you. Marisol showed Octavia pictures of the first bathhouses. Long ago women in white dresses balancing themselves on logs. In dog-trot cabins they changed into black frocks and then lowered themselves into the boiling mud. When they emerged every pore was scoured, cleansed. Octavia and Marisol would clean themselves. It was their secret. * * * * Julio feels wide awake peering out at darkened gas stations; the moon gives a slippery shine to the highway and jackrabbits seem to fly into the Greyhound’s headlights. They cross into Arkansas at Texarkana and now the hours are blue. Like arteries. When the bus stops in a flyspeck town the driver lifts the intercom to his mouth and for the third time Julio hears his instruction. “Do not smoke on this bus cigarettes, pipe, cigars, marijuana, crack. Do not drink alcoholic beverages on this bus. That includes wine coolers, gin in juice. No perfume. No hairspray. Ladies, you’re beautiful enough. If someone has an allergic reaction and goes to the hospital we all go to the hospital.” The door hisses open to let off passengers and they start again. He likes the bus in darkness. It suits him, making him wish it would never get light. She thinks she’s escaped the fate of her sister. The girl thinks she can cut her hair and slip the knot of Adolfo. Crossing the border was easy for him like it was for the girl. That’s why Adolfo picked him. At customs they wanted most to count the bottles of tourist Tequila traveling into Texas. The rattlesnake dance. Julio too was born in the U.S., then grew up in Mexico, five to a room. He too can use English. He is fifteen. Adolfo calls him El Sleeve. He wishes his brain had more books inside them. He listens to the air brakes grind. They are climbing Hwy. 67 and making all the stops: once he sees the sign for Crater of Diamond he knows it will be soon. The bus pulls into a gas station under a stand of black walnut trees. The sun is just coming up. He has never seen April look like this. Trees in bloom but not burning. Trees that need no thorns to scare off predators to keep its water for themselves. He is impressed by trees like these. Showing off their pink blossoms. He wishes he could understand the language of blossoms and trees, but he
will admit to no one that he talks to trees. To kangaroo rats and cockroaches. To mice. They don’t make fun of his looks. His face is bumpy and he hardly has a chin and what enforcer doesn’t boast a strong jaw. Old bite marks pimple his hands and arms. He opens the brown sack and peers down. Reymundo scratches inside his flat-bottomed Tupperware cake keeper where newspaper shreds and a grit of corn cobs make a bed. The lid is perforated with air holes, some large enough for Julio to see the white mouse with a black spot and pink tail. It soothes him to watch Reymundo shred Kleenex and wrestle with it. It sooths him when the mouse sharpens his teeth on a chunk of wood. Julio shivers in the air-conditioned bus but Reymundo prefers the cold. The mouse likes sunflower seeds and raisins, but his favorite foods are cornflakes and pizza crust. Soon the sun seeps through the deep greens and blues of spruce and cedar. The driver stands up and grunts, “Hot Springs.” He is pudgy and gray-haired and lights a cigarette as soon as he opens the door. Looking long and hard to the rear of the coach to where the girls sit, he mouths, “You can either wait for the shuttle bus or walk into town.” “How long is the walk?” the Octavia girl asks the driver. Her voice is nice like an open shirt, and then breeze. “Three quarters of a mile. Follow the path you can’t get lost.” The blonde stands up, shouldering her pack. “I’ll show you.” The three-quarter mile is where Adolfo would say it should happen. Julio always watches for signs. If the Octavia girl decides to wait for the shuttle that is a sign. The driver’s gaze sticks to the blonde’s midriff. The target has covered herself up in jeans and t-shirt and a too big windbreaker. The driver’s oily eyes flicker over her as she steps off the bus. Julio jumps off the bus, fits a roll your own in the corner of his mouth. A shred of moon is still in the sky like the place a water glass had been set. Like the water glass Adolfo kept beside the bed when Julio was there to wait on him. He liked water and Coke at room temperature. He ate his cereal in Coke. Lukewarm. Adolfo didn’t like cold or hot. He liked mild things. Low voices. The sun and moon in the same sky was a sign, protection given from the heavens. Julio lied, told Adolfo he has killed twice before. Adolfo liked El Sleeve and sent him to bring the sister of his girlfriend back, not all of her, just a part so that he would know she did not escape justice. Justice, you have to wonder about. Is there such a thing? Now Julio wonders if he can do it to a girl. This will be his first one alone. They tell him he will throw up. He can read and write but only a little so he remembers everything. His memory is filled with pictures. The
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street where he lived with his mother and five brothers. His father’s stiff mustache and the hairs in his nose as if he’d grown a mustache in each nostril. Apples boiling, a fever given him by measles, a dark red rash on his chest and face, blue applesauce. The girl with the black hair. Adolfo’s voice. The door to the guest room opening. “I want to talk to her.” Adolfo lying in the bed with the carved walnut bedboard. The dresser, the haunted house painting. Saint Death alive. * * * * The air smells of spring and she fills her body with it. Octavia and the blond girl start toward town along a steep road that narrows into a path. Her sister would love these trees. Marisol was better at biology than Octavia. They studied together. Desert animals. Cactus. Black haired and shapely, silver bells of laughter. Marisol’s gentleness drew the lords of shadow. They fought over her. Rocks, roots and moss struggle up the hillsides. The blonde turns to Octavia. “You don’t look like someone from around here.” “I’m not,” she answers, wondering if this girl could be the one sent. “Well, I’m Fredrika. Born and raised here.” The blonde hikes up the waist of her jeans that threatens to slide over her chicken bone hips. “Are you a tourist?” Trees give off a blackish undercast. The leaf pattern moves over Octavia’s arms. Ahead, a slat and rope bridge sags like a hammock across a creek. The creek runs the length of three tall men below. Can this be the place her sister said they must come to? The Ozarks. Like an ark that carries you. Should she answer the girl? “My cousin Christian lives here,” Octavia says. Not really her cousin but the son of their aunt. Her mother’s long ago friend. Marisol had Hotmailed him. Maybe he does live here or maybe he moved on yesterday. The slats’ unsteadiness frightens her. She steps farther out on the bridge, keeping her eyes on the opposite bank. Her legs still tremble. Like a man squeezing a girl’s neck. I don’t want to think that. I won’t. The bridge sways. If they come for me my fingers will tighten over their windpipe. My thumbs stop their air. I’ll call on the Virgin of the Guadalupe to offer them the roses of redemption that bloom in her chest. One foot then another until the swaying bridge is behind her. Fredrika unrolls Newports from her body belt and lights up. “Want one?” No, Octavia doesn’t want one, not after a swaying bridge, but she’s learned when someone offers they like you to accept. “Sure,” she says. Fredrika lights another Newport, handing it over.
The town snuggles in the valley between mountains. Like a girl lying back her stomach panting. A girl lying with her stomach opened with a knife and a cola can surrounded by entrails. Will her cousin even know her? Octavia only met him years ago when they were children. “Hey, this used to be Las Vegas,” Fredrika announces. “I’m not kidding. This is where the high rollers came to party.” The blonde inhales deeply like she wants to pull the smoke to her toes. “I kid you not. I used to be a tour guide. The railroad used to bring thousands of fun seekers to the Las Vegas of the Ozarks. Ten million gallons of water a day gurgled through the bathhouses. Now the Greyhound bus doesn’t make it all the way. Where did you say your cousin lives?” “I’m not sure,” Octavia answers, unsure what her cousin Christian truly looks like only that she and her sister found his profile on the Internet. She takes a puff of the Newport and tries not to cough. He’d been discharged from the Marines, was in a relationship and worked as a masseur at the Majestic Bathhouse. On the last day of her life Marisol emailed him from a library computer using her Hotmail account. “But I know he works at the Majestic Bathhouse. Have you heard of it?” “Sure, it used to be prime real estate. Now it’s shuttered. There’s still a Majestic Hotel. Lots of money was supposed to come into this town but it never got here. I’ll walk you there.” Why would this blond girl want to walk with her? She remembers her father riding her on his shoulders and the ceiling so high and the white curtain riding the breeze. High. Her parents taking her to the lawns where the flowers were planted, where all the grasses went into the ground. Never being afraid he would drop her or trip. * * * * Julio follows the target girl. No chance she’ll get away, still he’s shaking. Take your time, Adolfo told him, make things perfect. The roll your owns keep him going. He’s hungry. A tooth hurts, one of his upper back. He can reach its sharp edge with his tongue. When he bit apart a carrot to give to Reymundo, a piece of it stuck there. Even a toothpick would not loosen it. Julio is hungry like his mouse that always has room for another cornflake. There is no other way and he must do the best job. A thousand dollars. She’s not as pretty as her sister, although her face takes his heartbeat away when it turns towards him. Her high cheekbones and wide-spaced eyes. Is she judging him? Thinking how unattractive he is? He doesn’t feel anything about hurting older people. Their money he’s taken. He’s kidnapped and beat them. They had their chance. But maybe she hasn’t had her chance. She’s picking at her string necklace,
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like it could carry her across the swaying bridge. In his cake keeper Reymundo smells the fresh air, the dogwood blossoms throwing themselves from tree to tree. Julio feels his movement. Octavia still walks with the talker from the bus. A blonde marked up with tattoos and a mouth with more running water than the Rio Grande. He will follow her and know where she goes. Then he’ll eat. He enjoys eating. Houses cling ragtag to hillsides, porches held on by grape vines and lattice. One main street. Bathhouse Row turns into Central Avenue. What happens in the bathhouses? Most of them are boarded up. Castles abandoned. Like the horses abandoned in Texas. Skeletons the drought starved to yellow bone. Julio takes in the unboarded windows that the morning sun is glinting against. He is interested in them. The steep green zinc roofs softened by moss. He likes this place where everything is built on uneven ground. Bring a picture of her back too, Adolfo said, use your phone. He hears her talk to the blond girl saying she would like to find a cheap place to stay. Everyone in the world is trying for a cheap place to stay. He will go into a restaurant and sit at a table. He’ll make himself soft. He knows when to look tough and when to lower his eyes and smile a closed lip smile that shows his dimples. Julio spies a traffic light, giving off a steady red signal like a hunk of defrosting meat or a blood shot eye. He gazes up expecting to see turkey buzzards with their headdresses of black and white feathers circling above as he would if he were in desert country, but only sees the rusted Central Avenue street sign. Towns are like women. Everyone wants the prettier and younger ones. Julio feels a sense of wonder. How about one of those old bathhouses? He’ll have a look around. Here in the north it can’t be done in the open like in the south. Adolfo made it clear no girl walks out on the king of the plaza. Her family pays too. Julio saw how the sister looked before they took her to be beaten. He was told to watch and learn. Heard her steps tiptoe, then tick tock like she paced inside a clock. Marisol who’d been seen on the Internet talking to another guy. Sharp knives couldn’t get Marisol to speak. Even when they cut one of her fingers. She talked to the red air over their shoulders. The whole room was staring at the girl. Especially the mirror. “Everyone is beautiful in pictures,” she murmured to him. “Even you, ugly one. Your dimples make you pretty.” Her broken mouth could still talk as the blood ran from her, blood loosened and needing to find another body to live inside of. “I am inside a picture. And now the urchin will step inside the picture too.” * * * * Central Avenue. There are no cars on the street except a Hummer missing its rear tires. Octavia eyes a square of grass with a water foun-
tain. The boy from the bus kneels at the spigot splashing his face with water, drinking and cupping his hands for more. His paper sack on the ground beside him. She hears the backfire of a vehicle. A shuttle bus grinds up the hill. Grayline Tours. Only the driver and one passenger on board. When the bus disappears the Mexican boy has vanished too. In 10th and 11th grade Marisol had been taken for a girlfriend by Adolfo. There was a new word to learn. Feminicidio. Fredrika nudges her. “Who is the boy in green trousers? Do you know him?” “No. He’s just a boy that nobody sees. I think he’s lonesome.” Does the boy think she can help him? Is he running too? Ozarks. It is a place to hide, Marisol always said. The blonde stays by her side. “There’s lots of Mexicans here. You should see my kid’s class picture. He’s with his father right now. Half the kids are brown or speak Russian.” That’s what the town feels like—a gigantic coffin. A rehab center with blood smeared Nabisco cookies. She thinks of the faces of the whole town that left and had to walk back, their faces drawn, all the music drained out of them. They’d kidnapped a town. The streets are empty, too quiet for a resort. The few people they meet are old. One jogger trots by. The parking meters wear hoods. She can’t stop her fingers, untying one of them. It wants to breathe too. “Weird place,” Fredrika says. “Listen, you look like you could use a few tips. Do you need a place to stay until you find your cousin?” The boy who had disappeared again tags behind them. He wants to be her friend, his aloneness she can feel and that is why he follows after her. She smells his lip skin, his neck skin, his wrist skin. A chicken pox scar on his cheekbone. In her mouth is the taste of red sunken craters that had once held water and now dust. The Majestic Hotel’s vacancy sign is lit, but the “a” has burned out. The Majestic Bathhouse is boarded up. Two statues of mermen hold trident forks on either side of the doors. Pigeon droppings are crusted to their lips. She must have gotten mixed up. Why would her cousin lie on the Internet about the Majestic Bathhouse? “This is the Majestic,” Fredrika explains. “See for yourself, it’s nothing but a rundown hotel.” In Hot Springs what you glimpse is water worship, a paganism that goes deeper than those who’ve come and gone. Hillbilly courtesans, French towel girls. Malvern Street blacks in red velvet jackets carrying steaming glasses of carrot juice on silver trays. “Howdy, Crazy Dale,” she says. An old hippie with a white beard and hair past his shoulders leans over the desk and whistles when he sees the blonde. “Hey, stick
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around, Fredrika. I’m almost off work. I’ve got a couple of doobies. Want to smoke?” “I want to smoke but not with you,” Fredrika says, winking at Octavia. “Heartbreaker. You break my heart every time. What about you, little soldier? I have a bunch of cards with my number. Call anytime.” He hits the old-fashioned cash register sale button and the money drawer slides out. Wooden slots for the pennies, nickels, and dimes. He lifts the drawer and picks up a business card, flicking it across the desk. “I’m looking for my cousin Christian,” Octavia says softly, giving his last name. “Maybe you know him. I mixed things up. The Internet said he was a masseur at the Majestic Bathhouse.” “The Majestic Bathhouse is long closed. The only Majestic is this old hotel.” “Come on,” Fredrika tells her. “My grandma rents out cheap rooms and maybe she’ll do me a favor and give you a free night.” The hippie slaps the desk bell. “I’ll give her a free night here.” “Is there another bathhouse where he might be a masseur?” Octavia asks. “The Park Services. Give me the card. I’ll write down the number.” Fredrika tells her these old men waiting in the lobby for the finish are the hillbilly boys and farm boys who came here to live fast, to be the maitre’ d’s, the masseurs, the card sharks, the pimps, the shine boys. She points down a narrow hall. “Okay, bus buddy, I’ll leave you here. If you want someone to show you the sights call me.” Then she writes her number on Octavia’s wrist. Once this was luxury, Octavia thinks, locking the door to her room. A bed with a salmon-colored comforter emblazoned with a gold initial “M.” Overstuffed chairs and a round-mirrored vanity. A TV and a black rotary phone. A chameleon hunches on the receiver, turning white when Octavia approaches. I love you, she says as the chameleon flushes pink and disappears. She dials the number scrawled on the business card. Her finger feels funny dragging the numbers around in a circle. She is the thumb generation. The Park Services Bathhouse answers and she asks for Christian Durango. A pause. “Is there a Christian who works here?” “Sorry, miss, no Christian here.” Then the woman laughs. “But we got plenty of Baptists.” It figures. She takes off her clothes and lies in the deep tub, the water from the hot nozzle steams and smells of minerals. She unsplints her finger and lets it soak. Once she stretches out in the midmorning sun sleep comes into her like quicksand. She sees herself kneeling over
her sister, no more life in her than a chicken swinging in the butcher’s window. Four fingers missing on her right hand. The other hand perfectly manicured. A French manicure. Then Octavia is being carried by her father, high high into the white ceiling. * * * * Julio hears the scream of a police siren. He moves forward, unsteadily, suddenly unsure of which direction to take. The siren wails again. He hurries over the broken sidewalk. The girl has taken a room at the Majestic. Up the street Violetta’s Rooms for Rent is just a door and an old-fashioned bell. He rings it. Feet thud above. He hits the buzzer again. Footsteps thump down the stairs, each step hitting hard. He takes a deep breath when the old woman opens the door. The woman can’t be alive. Yet there she is swaying on the stairs. Blond hair swooped over the side of her face like hardened cake frosting. Her sharp eyes take him in. “A room for the night, senora,” he says. “Twenty-five for a single a night.” “Si,” he says. The woman wears a kimono, a bloodshot dragon breathing fire from its sleeves. Julio mounts the stairs behind her. At the top of the stairs the hallway opens into a long room with pulled shades. He is sure she is a ghost. He’s never seen anyone so old. The old woman says, “No drinking or smoking, understand? No drugs. No girls.” “Proprietress” is painted across a sign on her door. His nostrils sniff the tang of cat piss. “I make the rules here. I’m Violetta,” she says, nudging open the door. Julio peels a fifty from his roll. The woman snatches the bill. “And don’t be showing your money like that. Come on in here. I’ll get you a key and your change.” The daybed is heaped with afghans and magazines. A nightstand next to it is littered with peanuts and soda cans. There are cats everywhere, calicos and tabbies, orange-striped and marble cakes, short hairs and long hairs. A black cat lies in a bag of tortilla chips. The old woman paws open a drawer from the kitchenette counter—silverware, forks and knives cascading onto the floor. “Here’s your room,” she says, holding the key. “Lucky nine.” “Muchas gracias.” In the hallway photographs hang in heavy frames. Come see me, they seem to say. Julio stands face to face with a man lifting barbells, his chest, neck and thighs glistening as if they’d been rubbed in lard. The man’s black hair is parted in the middle and under his nose is a
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handlebar mustache. There are brown-colored women in dresses that look like dogwood petals. He stares for a long time at those men and women. Rich people of a long time ago. They are all ghosts. He wades through the room that is a kind of lobby. Rubber plants sprout from brass spittoons and a TV flickers on top of an old-time Coke machine. Ghostland. They don’t have wide screen TVs or video games. He picks up a newspaper from the lobby table. There are more cats under the paper. They look up, ears erect. A black one jumps from his perch. He finds his way to room nine, unlocks the paper-thin door, and pulls the chain behind him. A bed is the only thing in the room except for a mirror. In the next room someone turns the water on and off. Julio stuffs a pillow case under the door crack, looks for holes that Reymundo might run into. Carefully, he lifts the lid of the cake carrier and speaks in a low voice, almost a whisper. Like Adolfo his mouse does not like loud noises. I didn’t want to see the sister get hurt. Where did that thought come from. “You may come out for a little while.” Reymundo’s pink nose twitches as he emerges from his nest of Kleenex shreds. Julio brushes away the soiled parts of the nest. He doesn’t change the paper all at once. That upsets the mouse. “Are you hungry, Reymundo? I bet you are.” Propping the pillow behind his head he sprinkles sunflower seeds in his palm and then up his arm. Reymundo scampers into the cup of Julio’s hand. He nibbles the seeds, holds one in his claws like an apple. How clean the mouse is. Cleaner than people. Julio lifts his tee-shirt and Reymundo runs under. Why did Octavia’s sister ask him for mercy? Him? The nobody. He remembers hearing footsteps. “Who is the man you are seeing?” Adolfo demanded. “Tick tock,” she answered. “I’m inside a clock.” Reymundo nibbles more seeds and Julio laughs and pets the mouse’s face. “We trust each other, don’t we? We are friends.” * * * * She has slept the day away. The old hippie is no longer working when Octavia makes her way to the desk but a female who could be his sister. A turquoise tee-shirt and two gray braids, but a nice smile. Octavia passes the desk. I will look over the town, I will ask, perhaps someone will know Christian. Perhaps not everyone is Baptist. First I’ll find somewhere to eat. “Excuse me, can you tell me a good restaurant?” she asks the woman, who is filling out a puzzle, circling hidden words. “Sure, sweetheart, I’ve got menus right here. What kind of food?” Octavia shrugs. “Rice and beans.” On the wall there are old photographs of inside the bathhouses. Vaulted ceilings and marble floors, ostriches wandering between
Hot Springs wading pools. Children riding them like tiny ponies. An artist had painted their feathers yolk-yellow. Even birds leave shadows behind.
The good place is two blocks. La Hacienda. She sits in an orange room surrounded by red jalapeño pepper lights. The salsa is hot and sweet like cinnamon and she spoons it over her chimichanga. Her mouth takes pleasures in the black beans. She savors the warmth of food between her cheeks. The waiter comes with his silver pitcher and pours ice water into her glass. Maybe she can find work in this resort town that is so forgotten yet pretty. Like a song popular a century ago. Lingering music. When she goes to the ladies room she sees the boy eating his meal at a table near the bar. His fork nears his mouth but he’s already seen her. He’s watching. Her forehead goes hot. A chill races through her. Why? But she didn’t see him come in. That means he was here first, which means he might think she’s following him. They say hello. “Would you like to sit down?” he asks, looking shy. “Por favor.” “I am already served at another table,” she says. There is something familiar about him. A way of asking a question, and then looking away. Four months ago Octavia swore out a formal complaint against “them” in the disappearance of her sister. Her father and mother had already gone into hiding. Except for her grandmother, what did she have to lose? The police station had a desk, a computer, and plenty of Café Americano instant coffee, but no police chief. The last two disappeared. The mayor spent his days in the town and at night crossed the border to sleep with his family in Brownsville. She volunteered to become police chief. The mayor laughed. A policeman asked her how old she was, and then peered into the air when she answered. Adolfo and his men rode through the streets in a police car scribbled with names of the soon to be dead. O C T A V I A. Saint Death wanted her. Octavia thinks of the morning her grandmother shook her. “Everyone is leaving. They have shot the mayor and you’ll be next.” Everyone in the town was on their feet. Octavia and her grandmother walked too into the heat that only the kangaroo rats loved. A whole town carrying their lives on their backs, grandmothers and little children lurching through the rising temperature. Poor earth. She’d never seen it so dry and cracked. Your foot could stumble in and take the rest of your body with it. The town had been taken over. They begged at the border for refugee status. They asked to be let into Texas. The border patrol loaded them into buses and drove them home. She uses the bathroom and sees he’s finished eating and
The Flagler Review
cleared out. Something familiar in his voice had startled her. But he’s only the boy who’d been on the bus with that curly hair like a sheep’s, those swirling lamb curls, the boy who seems lost. * * * * Julio and the girl make their way to the end of the row. He had waited in the street for her, thinking about her gentle voice. She spoke in a low register the way Reymundo liked. He wondered if the girl would like his mouse. The full moon has a suffocated look in the sky, Blindfolds of clouds wisp across it. The Majestic Bathhouse is at the end of the street. Five stories high and half a block wide. A sign reads CLOSED FOR REPAIRS. Julio already knows that around back is a ladder. While the girl slept he roamed. Maybe Reymundo would like her better than him. Before he could walk he had befriended the mice who made their home in his room. His mother worked and tied him to the bed for his safekeeping. Later he tried many times to tame them and suffered bites. When a mouse died Julio would cry. Always he protected them from his brothers. He could take their fists and kicks. That is how he learned to fight. When she puts her weight on the first rung, her foot goes through it. He stays behind her. Keep going. She tries the second rung. It holds. Nothing will happen to her, he promises. Then why are you holding a knife? Why is its blade so long? He has bargained with her sister’s last hours. Does Octavia want to know the truth of those? And her grandmother, doesn’t she know the old woman is being visited? Adolfo wants his questions answered. But there are no questions. When she reaches the top, she pulls herself over the railing onto the sunroof. Her foot kicks, tries pushing the ladder from the side of the building. He’s too quick, already hoisting himself over. The moon must have slid out from the clouds. The sky is so much closer here. Dark as it is. “No, don’t run. Don’t be afraid of me. Por favor.” She keeps running. Why did he show the knife? Because he is ugly and she wouldn’t have come with him. He follows her across the sun porch and through a set of open double doors. They are in an old-time gymnasium. Rusted triangle pull-up bars and sawdust punching bags hang from the ceiling. High windows let in slices of moonlight. Julio’s heart is pounding. He tries to think where to put the knife into her and which finger he will bring home to Adolfo. His head beats with a thousand drums. Octavia runs from him colliding with a wood beam that catches her in the stomach. The locker room is straight ahead. She sprints toward the tin boxes that must have been changing stalls. His nostrils whiff tin and decayed shaving lather. The faucet makes a screeching sound when she turns it on. Like the curls of steam will protect her. She’s thinking he’s a creature from the movie Humanoid from the Deep. She slams a locker’s tin door in his face. He
hears the dripping, then through the water comes her low voice. “Why are you doing this? Are you the one who killed my sister?” “No.” His forehead creases. “I promise I won’t hurt you. I can’t hurt you. They sent me, but I can’t.” He feels the tears in him like the dripping water in the shower. When his appendix almost burst, he saw everything in color. Blue watermelon, pink brother, yellow mother, green impetigo on buttocks. Color like measles in the eyes. Five brothers and only Julio was born in the promised land and they hated him. Runt of the litter. Dolt. He sees in color now. If he fails to bring her back he will forever be shamed. He pulls on the tin door and it breaks from its hinge. She lunges past him. The North Star is money. Adolfo sent him on this mission. Entiendes lo que? Are you big enough to stand up on your hind legs, El Sleeve? This goes past the slugging point. Julio follows her into a larger room, marble floors with empty sunken pools. Was it here that ladies wore white dresses into the water? He tries to imagine the room in blossom. There are two leatherwrapped massage tables in the center. She hoists herself up on the nearest one. A skylight opens in the ceiling. The moon is a brittle, gray weed, color of the world. “Tell me then about my sister,” Octavia says. “Prove you’re not her killer. What did she do to any of you?” He tries to tell her he was the water boy, the errand runner who could use his fists, the go-for, the knife-sharpener. He kept knives up his sleeve, could stick guys twice as big, but never by himself, never a girl, never to end a life. I’m only the one who walks on Adolfo’s back. Julio reveals to her what he heard in the room with plastic unrolled over the floor. The big man Adolfo pacing, unsure. “Who is he? Who is this guy? A cousin? You think I believe that? Are you cheating on me with him?” The sister’s nose was bleeding from Adolfo’s own hand. “Remember the night we saw the heat lightning?” Marisol lifted her head with all that hair that had stopped shining and gone dull as if it knew its fate. “I try to black out that night,” Adolfo answered and knocked her onto the floor with his boot heel. The big man’s foot soldiers tied her wrists together and hung her from a hook in the ceiling that had always been there. That hook he’d never noticed, waiting there. They cut her clothes away. “But I can still make beautiful heat lighting,” she mouthed with lips like metalmark butterflies. But the beatings had begun. “I can’t see,” the sister whimpered. “Adolfo, are you there in the dark? There is no light inside you. I hope the dark swallows you.” The knives that would put her to sleep started their red screams. “This cousin thought stealing you would raise him a hundred
The Flagler Review notches and let Adolfo fall. Tell me who he really is!” She hung from the hook. His foot soldiers were black-eyed zealots. But Adolfo’s eyes had an odd yellowish light inside them. Like an animal you surprised. No shape, just vision. “I still see the heat lightning. I want to run outside and lick the lightning. Octavia. Octavia,” she cried at the end. They’d taken a finger. The heat rose in the lord’s mansion. Tasseled curtains stood still until Adolfo ordered fans. The sweet-smelling air moved, stirred by ceiling oars. “Maybe I’ll let you live without a finger,” Adolfo said from the balcony. “Once more. I want to know who this man is. Why were you preparing to leave?” The big man hated air conditioning. Julio cleaned up afterwards. He could feel heat lightning in the room. The sister’s voice. “Kill me or go away,” Octavia says between clenched teeth. She is crying softly. “Go away. Leave me alone! You are all dirt.”
Julio’s mouth is dry flour. He needs a Coke. Thirsty, he walks down the hotel hall to the soda machine. It is quiet in the lobby. He has learned to fear quiet. Like when the locusts go still and the sun passes under the clouds. The hour that belongs to the assassins. Julio plunks coins into the machine, hits the Coke button. Floorboards creak. Someone is coming. He edges himself between the soda machine and the wall. The black cat scurries past him with a mouse locked in its jaws. He hears the squeaking, sees the pink tail. A chill breaks through every pore in his body. He hurls himself after the cat. “Drop him! Drop him!” He calls on all the saints in heaven. The cat lets the mouse slip to the floor. It squeaks and runs but not fast enough. The black monster’s claw catches the mouse in its side, then bites its neck. A white mouse with a black spot. Reymundo. The old lady has entered the room with a dust pan. “Good mouser. Good boy!” No words. Julio remembers a melted red crayon he used to color with. He chewed it. He slept with it. He has failed to kill the girl and bring her finger home. He can hear the sister’s breathing close at hand. Her steps follow him. Little brother, ugly little brother. Little brother, the temples have been abandoned, but under them bubble the hot, sulfurous rocks.
Grey and Silver:
The Life Boat, Whistler 1884
One morning, the ocean pulled back the blankets from the gurney, a Civil War surgeon. What came next is known to us all, the living, the animal. The grieving widows are each explained by a gentle twist of light. The distant shore, a thumb drawn through the mud overhead. A lifeboat oars through the harbor carrying its payload of survivors though the watery reflection is vacant. The mark of the creator is a butterfly though there are no fields, no flowers.
I’ll see Miss Hooker again next Sunday like I did a week ago but today she was sick and we had a substitute teacher, Mrs. Crow, who’s not as pretty but who is? Miss Hooker has red hair and green eyes and three moles, like the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, and dimples in her jaws and chin, and about a jillion freckles on her face and neck and arms and legs and
maybe all over the parts I can’t see under her clothes. And pink toenails, last week anyway. She has a cold, poor baby. I’d like to help her out, bring her Mother’s chicken soup, and crackers and ginger ale and empty her trashcan of Kleenexes and fetch her the latest comic books and maybe read to her from the Bible, which might put her to sleep the way it does me, except for the good parts, Moses parting the Red Sea and David and Goliath and about those pigs running off a cliff and Joseph’s bad brothers and Pharoah’s dreams and the staff that turns into a snake and all those frogs and the river of blood and Jesus walking on the water, which is a neat trick, that must’ve been something else, and the Tower of Babel, all that yakking like my sister and her girlfriends, and what John saw, the end of the world and like that, and the Beast and 666 and Jesus waking Lazarus from the dead, which was a miracle if there ever was. Maybe she’d ask me to pray with her --I know all the words to the Lord’s Prayer
Lovesick so maybe I’d say that. Let’s bow our heads, I’d tell her, from my chair beside her bed, or maybe she’d let me sit right there on the edge or maybe at the foot of it like my dog does--actually, he lies down but I won’t do that, a gentleman is what I am, Mother says, even though I’m only 10 and Miss Hooker’s old, say 25, but still healthy and of course clean-looking--no, downright beautiful is what I mean--Let’s bow our heads, I’d say, and she would, and close her eyes without asking, but I’d take a peek, I know I would, and maybe that’s a sin, to watch a woman
a little anyway, which belongs to God, like tax. After we finish I’ll tuck Miss Hooker in and get my comic books and go into her living room and lie
lying in her bed with her eyes closed and head down and getting all ready to pray and me wondering what I’d do if I knew what to do and how to do it and a voice would tell me to wait a few years, I don’t know just why, and marry her first, so I’d shut my eyes again because she might open hers to see if I’m being honest, and that’s like not sinning simply because you’re afraid of getting caught and God’s too smart for that and won’t be mocked. So we’d say the Lord’s Prayer together, or maybe I just would and she’d listen or repeat it without her lips moving, listening, I mean, to herself, but when we get to the Amen at the end there we’d say it together, our voices one, kind of like sharing a milkshake but with two straws and if we ever married just one, and down at the bottom of the tumbler are the last few precious drops you’re sucking at but it’s okay to be selfish then because you’ll both be satisfied and lose
The Flagler Review down on the couch and read all my heroes and creep back occasionally into her bedroom to check if sheâ€™s alive and see what her freckles look like as she sleeps, if they glow in the dark or disappear or rise from her body and go out through the window to take their positions in the night sky. And twinkle, twinkle, twinkle.
L. E. Sullivan
They may start out as daddy’s girls, perhaps daddy’s secret girls, or have no father at all, only a donor. They may be the type of girls who sit in his lap until they are sixteen, or maybe sit in no one’s lap. Sometimes they are popular girls, tender, slim forms with the type of skin that looks good up close or maybe they are slightly overweight and bullied, collectors of rejection as real and palpable as dolls or stamps or the wings of dead butterflies. Maybe they spend too much time alone, starved of connection and ready to feast on another’s energy—no matter where it comes from. They may dress in designer clothes, the fruit of hard work or inheritance. They may shop on the weekends with their mothers, who are as thin as they are and competitive about it. Or maybe they have mothers who prefer to diminish in their aura, show them off as things of beauty in the way of a painter or a poet. But of course, they may also have bitter mothers. Women sucked dry by despair and disappointment, and they may not wear designer clothes. Perhaps they have a sister. Perhaps they have to find their own clothes and perhaps no one lets them forget it. They live in the suburbs in clean houses with clean pools and clean lawns. They live in smoke-filled, cramped apartments. They have a car at sixteen. They take the bus at sixteen. They walk at sixteen. They don’t go to school. On Saturday nights, they cheer at football games, and their bodies do back handspring before watchful eyes. Beautiful, curving backs that create arcs that are really doorways to pass through with promises beyond of youthful eroticism. Look what I can do. They play the clarinet in the marching band and are always in step or never in step. They sit in the stands with friends, or they sit alone. Sometimes, they sit at home. At prom, they have the best dresses. There is a favor called in and a designer dress is flown in from New York to give the other girls hell. After all, isn’t that what life is all about? They get their dresses from a personal tailor who did their mother’s wedding gown. They order their dress online and they order it through magazines. There are nice dresses at the mall, but sometimes, there are nice dresses at the Goodwill. They don’t get asked to prom, and they go. They do get asked to prom, and they go. Maybe it’s after that they’ll let him get past first base for the first time, or the tenth.
The Flagler Review
Upon graduation, the family will convene at the house with heavy enthusiasm, grandparents, aunts, uncles. Envelopes with money and well-wishing are given and they are beaming with pride and accomplishment. But sometimes, only mom can be there and only for twenty minutes—just to see her walk. They don’t graduate, not because they didn’t try, but because they did try. School isn’t for everyone. At college they are initially uncertain, but soon, others are drawn to their beauty and charm. The flexing of their tender, colorful wings is a beacon of perfection, and everyone wants to be part of something special. At college, they focus on their studies; find minds that think alike, brunette girls with glasses and names like Beth. Girls who are non-threatening, or perhaps girls who are. Girls who plan to lose weight with them, and eke their way through biology. They meet boys who are cool with being friends, and boys who have their own apartments, and senior boys who already have good jobs or good plans. Married men in high positions. They don’t go to college and they get a job. They meet boys who work in the stockroom, boys who are friends of a friend of a friend. They meet him unexpectedly at a coffee shop or while working community service. Sometimes they are observant and careful, especially in womanhood. They are reckless and confused, especially in womanhood. They hold an ache in their chest, and sometimes, they imagine they can see it. Occasionally, it is man-shaped and just as big, a heaviness that shows around the corners of their eyes. There is an insatiable hunger within their middle, and they think of chipped China plates, diamond earrings, or of bob-haired women staring across oceans amidst the flapping of high sails searching the horizon for the answers to great mysteries, or perhaps they are not that complex. They think of motherhood. They move to the city and challenge themselves to learn it, they never leave their hometown. In the morning, at first light, they run in the chill and the weight of the world lifts like an Eastern woman’s veil and they imagine they can peer behind it. They watch television between two jobs and dream of being kissed by James Dean and Rock Hudson, or Denzel Washington and George Clooney. They become attuned to spaces and people, wise and foolish, aware of things, but busy. They come home from work tired; they have too many drinks with girlfriends. They believe another’s lies and lower their walls because it’s all part of recovery. It makes no sense to live in fear. They finish up an important meeting too late at night, but decide to run anyway because if they’ll hold others to high standards, they must hold themselves first. They find enough flesh and pressure to fill the gaps in their chests, the images of completion that seem impos-
sible to achieve alone and they wonder when he will marry them. They take a trip somewhere far away, or close to home, and sometimes they go to the bistro across the street for a sandwich. Sometimes they have an affair. And it is here, in this slender, darkened space, where wings are torn, crumpled, fall upon wet pavement. They’ve known men and it makes no sense to judge a man watching them run, or sometimes they don’t see him, thoughts lost upon rivers of information, things to complete and discover, things to start and bring to an end. The sweat upon their lithe bodies is an invitation of everything and nothing, just enough to catch a wayward eye; fill it with an unjustified need for possession. Or they are at home, and they’ve had fights with him before, this is understood to be understood, but something changes, a life of normalcy or abnormalcy lurches forward into oblivion because they are to be owned—an ownership rooted in destruction, a way to take away and thus keep forever. On a nice beach, far from the troubles of home where they’ve vacationed before with friends, or they’ve never vacationed before as fresh and new to white sand as the gentle breeze upon new wings fresh from a cocoon, they lose themselves in exotic eyes or alcohol. They are briefly silly and that silliness draws in thirsty lips to drink upon the fountain of female tenderness spread open for the wrong one to find. Or maybe, they don’t lose themselves at all, they simply don’t notice for a sliver of a moment, and a moment is all it takes. For some of them, after years of monotony and distance, color reappears in the form of someone new. Perhaps he’s a man that reminds them of their father, or he reminds them of no one. He’s a man unexpected, completely expected, hoped for, accidental. They plan to tell their husbands, or never plan to leave them, but either way, a lifetime of memories can be rinsed away like the bodies of insects upon a well-kept porch. They may end up in remote, wooded areas. They are found buried in unexpected places, or familiar places. They are found in their living rooms. They are never found. On the news, they are smiling in photos, beaming with the startling glow of life and will, or they are merely names in a newspaper obituary and names in a police database. Over time, they are remembered for their loveliness and kindness, and they are entirely forgotten, bright wings peeking through the soil, speckled wings and blue wings, wings that shimmer upon a drop of sunlight that catches an eye for a single moment, or never catches any eye. Not for a moment.
Writing as More than Bridges
KJ Hannah Greenberg
Writing is more than a conduit to thoughts and dreams, shiny or otherwise. Although word play, in all truth, brings about the possibility of feeding large servings of ideas, classic, contemporary and indeterminate, to stray dolphins, to wandering gelatinous cacti and to random panhandlers, that same rhetorical, dipole spin can cause fusion physicists to sit up and take notice, can make grannies butter their scones with political ideas, can make young children jump Double Dutch with fiduciary queries, and can reframe equine matters of the alimentary canal as all pretty and glistening. Sure, soccer moms seek easy routes to cleanup in order to prevent themselves from suffering party planning frazzles, yet the veracity of literature’s dime store trinkets takes over before most middle agers can melt down. After a few decades of reading beach pulp fiction, of perusing laser printed periodicals’ pandering, and of classifying hip hop’s lyrics as cultural treasures, most adults have made themselves vulnerable to character assignation, to plot differentiations, and to occasional weird choices in diction. More specifically, if writers can’t or won’t sucker punch their audiences with oddly shaped protagonists, with conflicts that resolve in three assorted ways, simultaneously, and with abrasive words, it’s nearly certain that those authors will remain unable to stir the greater population to action, i.e. won’t stand a thermally insulated space explorer’s chance on Venus to move the sentiments of the people who borrow those writers’ books from lending libraries, of the people who steal those reads from trash cans, or of the peoples that skip those volumes into the compartments of their coats while attending tea at friends’ homes. Poets and rhetoricians, by dint of their comfort with language, are responsible for making clarion declamations on the behalf of the rest of us. Whether their forays into verse sucks at their readers’ heels or jumps directly for their readers’ jugulars is less important than whether or not their creative combinations of discourse rouse the critical thinking juices of this world’s denizens. When little girls bend, smell posies, or forget their stockings, when small chieftains declare war on neighborhood fortresses, and when slippery aqua park residents break through their glass containers, only the sorts of pairings that are made possible through the
Writing as More than Bridges
twiddling of verbal communication can save us. One of texts’ functions, after all, is to bridge unlikely cultural events with more familiar goings on. Through pages, kin and kith, equally, can discover how to evolve our culture, how to repair our relationships, and how to milk large cats. The conceptual borders of humanity are not hemmed in by geographic obstructions such as rivers or mountains, by economic hardships such as drought or famine, or even by the uneven distribution of educational opportunities. Rather, access to books, rights to use groups of cognitive designs spewed across screens, and the capacities for utilizing similar admittances, discern among would-haves, haves, and have-beens. Whereas few persons can claim to have climbed both our ivory towers and our pillars of industry, many, among our masses, can declare that they have had experience wrestling with broadcast manuscripts. Such practices leap media muddles, vault over crossed genres, and reveal words’ tendency to skip us past confusing, but well-articulated notions. Whether constructed of ropes, of cables, or of space-age fibers, the viaducts, which we refer to as “published ideas” possess the potential to bring life, to cause death, and to provide the means for second mortgages, for any willing comer. Even without espousing any keenness to dissect social or personal perceptions, readers necessarily plunder paragraphs and stanzas set before them. Hence, writing’s shaking of intellectual measuring cups, at the feet of our social order, is more than a collecting of civilization’s charity. Words’ impact on intentionality, prose and poetry’s power to boot up our feelings, nefarious and upright, alike, bear more collective coinage than found in the pockets of any military peacock, of any Wall Street leopard, or of any computer hack. As long as word players spill nutmeg into our figurative coffee, drizzle hot sauce on our alleged expositions, and dab our documents with an array of seasoning, we stand to kiss psyches, to plump egos, to make a difference in the way in which people execute their days and nights. Texts are more than a link to diversity or a validation of similarities. Simply, our writing profoundly shapes us.
Remit and Renewal
We change our skin completely every 28 days, a tight new suit to hold our everythings, generating and regeneratingâ€” cloning scars, sunspots, and moles; without it, unspeakable things would spill the ugly secrets of life, liver, stomach, kidneys, and bowels the cleansing parts that collect our dirt and flush it out; few will touch our coverings before theyâ€™re gone, replaced by a new shroud; briefly some may explore the crevices, pluck lint from bellybutton and toes, scrub away the daily salt, but by candlelight they will travel to places implausibly silken, each a virgin touch excited corpuscles collide, and just as our wrappings change so completely, we are reminded of what it means to be new.
A Telling Reconciliation
When a priest teases you in the confessional about “losing your cherry,” there is certain reflex that catches your gut and you ask yourself, why is he so flippant? It takes more than a Roman collar to gain enlightenment, but to sit in the dark corner, an old man leering at you as you recount the devilish details, leaning in as though he needed them, you may find a need to pause and fully consider the matter. Is he imagining you downing the amoretto till you are sprawled out on the stained, sweat-soaked carpet? Is he visualizing her, cleaving the clothes from your half-conscious body, squeezing you between her thighs? Is he thinking of his own urges, how these vague details from your drunken stupor might stoke the fire of his own midnight fantasy? What would you do when he bit his lip, and you were gripped by the desire to open your vein in front of him— the one you traced a thousand times as a child, the one that would make it so easy if you weren’t so chicken? The thought alone will cost you a Hail Mary, and the action a rosary—maybe two— but it is a small price, almost worth it, to remind him that, human as we are, it’s best not to take matters of the soul so lightly.
The Account in Question
I was born on a pool table at the Flora-Bama Lounge. Mother told me about it when I was nine years old. Imagine the harm. Her account featured a banging window shutter and her moaning, one leg hiked up on the Florida side and the other hiked up on the Alabama side. The summer I turned fifteen, Mike Harper gave me a Playboy magazine for my birthday and there was Miss July, laid out on a pool table with the cue ball balanced on her belly button. In a flash I knew Mother had confused the birth with the conception. That’s the kind of thing you have to come to terms with. When you spend your life sweeping up sprung DNA strands, all you want is a little certainty, believe me. You don’t want to be the guy who whispers ‘Figures’ in his last breath. It’s not a small point, and it bothers my concentration as I try not to notice Marcus Pistullo pass a note to Jessica Smith. I teach them geometry, but, no, Marcus cannot tell me the reference angle for theta, please, and neither can Jessica. Like the rest of the class, they ignore the significance of today’s lesson, any day’s lesson. I sit on my desk facing the board with my feet in my chair. A nervous whisper rolls across the room at my back. “This is the only certainty you will ever experience,” I say, pointing at my theorem chart. “Geometry is immutable. Susceptible of proof. Again and again. Come on, people, think about it.” I swing my legs around the corner of my desk and face them. “Geometry is truth.” They start to wiggle a sheen on the seats of their chairs and look around for the escape route. I tack hard, resorting to an object lesson. “Mr. Pistullo, tell me. What will you study at Alabama?” “Um, football.” Everyone laughs but me. He clears his throat. “And sociology.” I look in his eyes. He has no idea what sociology is. “Ms. Reeves. What about you?” She straightens and sticks her nose in the air. “Classical Literature.” “Okay.” I slide off my desk. Maybe I can work with this. “You could find some truth there. Just possible,” I say. She casts an arrogant glance at her classmates and I can see she will be swatted aside like a gnat in her first undergraduate lit-tra-tour class. I want to warn
The Account in Question
her. “In the end it will be your professor’s version of truth,” I say. “But you can adopt it for your own, no one will judge you.” I see I have managed to deepen their confusion. I try again. “Ms. Smith. You?” She speaks to the top of her desk. “Political science.” My God. Maybe someday I will have a worthy pupil, like the girl I saw in the grocery store. She wore a white blouse and a blue plaid skirt, white socks. I guessed eight. She stopped two shopping-cart lengths behind her sister and mother and stared at the floor, just stood there frozen. Her mother reached the end of the aisle and chided her to keep up, but she didn’t move, apparently didn’t hear, while she studied the design on the floor tiles. Her eyes darted in her stoic brown face as she intuited the formula in the pattern. I leaned heavy on my cart and had to lie down when I got home. * * * * Today I wish good riddance to a group of students on whose lives I have had the thinnest possible influence. I would feel horrible if I had any control over it. I spread shaving cream on my cheeks. In the middle of my third round of affirmations— really just counting backward from eighty-two— my mother bursts into my bathroom and announces my uncle has passed. Just like that. No warning. No you might want to move that razor away from your Adam’s apple. “He’s dead, honey. I found him this morning.” Her eyes look wild, not sad, but tears wash her cheeks and pool in the upturned space at the middle of her upper lip. “Your Uncle Bemis was on the front porch kinda slumped over in the swing. I called Skipper and he tried to lift him and stumbled all over the place before he got him down again. He pulled his back out.” She shakes her head. “Poor thing should have known better than to try and lift all that dead weight.” She reaches around me and unrolls a wad of toilet paper. I hold her shoulders and make her look at me. “Where is Uncle Bemis, Mother?” “Oh, sorry, honey. Laid out in the living room. I mean my living room. Oh, good Lord, good Lord. Skipper sent me right over here. He called Sheriff Tate, too.” She pulls a towel off the rod and buries her face in it. She rocks back and forth while the last of her breath wheezes out and then gulps and starts again. I lead her out of the bathroom and guide her to the chair next to the abacus. “Okay, just calm down and let me dress. We’ll go over there.” I wipe the rest of the shaving cream off my chin. “Why did Skipper call the sheriff?” “On account of the stick lodged in his chest.”
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The top of my head goes numb and floats to the far side of the room. Except for several attempts to pass on genetic material, Uncle Bemis never hurt a thing. I haven’t cried in three years and six days, but I feel it coming on. I drive to the shingled house where Uncle Bemis lives with Mother, two surviving siblings of five crazy people whom I’ve spent my life dodging, explaining and, only when cornered, embracing. God forgive me - four down, one to go. We drive my truck over there and I park in the shade on the root-diseased driveway. It appears the sheriff has not arrived. I don’t see Skipper’s motorcycle either. I tell Mother to stay in the truck and I go inside her house. The clock on the mantle chimes the half hour as I close the screen behind me. The couch is empty of dead body. There appear no thrown-off rubber gloves or pieces of furniture moved askance of the perfect grid Mother maintains as a matter of pride. The house smells like bacon. I walk the long hall to the kitchen and my shoes stick to the vinyl flooring. Clean dishes lean forward in the drain board. Beyond the open window, the wind rolls white sheets that hit something solid, and big, when they snap against the clothespins. Halfway across the yard, I realize the solid and big thing on the other side of the sheets is Uncle Bemis’s tractor, still running. He sits on the wide seat slumped over at the waist. There is no stick in his chest. I jump up beside him and kill the engine he had somehow managed to get out of gear. I slap Bemis’s cheek maybe a little harder than is necessary since he is dead dead dead. This is not the first time Mother has screwed up the facts, though this time she is right about one thing. I call Dr. White and he tells me he’ll be right over and to call Sheriff Tate, and he tells me he’ll be right over and to call the mortuary. I should go and check on Mother, but for some reason, I am not able to leave Uncle Bemis alone. Other than me, no one in my family is sane, or ever was to my knowledge. Just in case, I am determined not to sire children. Besides, my experience in the classroom has convinced me even sane children are disappointing, worse, uninteresting. I almost tell Uncle Bemis what I’m thinking, trying to keep myself together until the professionals arrive. I hope Mother will stay put until one of them gets here. The sun rises higher and I get hotter while Uncle Bemis cools. Mother’s cat darts around the end of the sheet and Sheriff Tate is on her heels. “Sheriff. Thank God. Did you see Mother out front?” “Doc’s with her. She’s fine.” Sheriff Tate steps up on one of the big tires and shimmies over on the other side of Uncle Bemis. He encircles the corpse under the
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armpits and drags it off sideways. I try to keep Uncle Bemis’s feet from hitting the ground hard. We carry him to the back porch and lay him out on the floor and Sheriff Tate sends me inside to find a blanket. The funeral director arrives at the house while I’m backing the tractor away from the clothesline and over the wire fence flattened by the first pass. The long hearse pulls away and I go in the house and sit down in the living room next to Mother and Dr. White. “You okay, Mother?” “Sure, honey.” She pats my knee. She asks Dr. White if he wants some coffee. He says yes and she rushes off murmuring, “Coffee, coffee, coffee.” “She’s not going to be able to live here alone, is she?” I ask him. “Maybe for awhile, but it’s a matter of time,” he says. “Have you thought about what you will do with her?” “Not really,” I lie. “I guess I could call Teague’s, where her brothers went.” “Well, it’s not a bad place. Of course, they don’t let the residents do much for themselves, which is unhealthy in my book.” “Well, I’ll think it over, Doc. Once I decide, I should call you?” “Sure, you can do that.” I hear Mother arranging spoons and cups on a tray. “Doc, what did Mother tell you about Uncle Bemis?” “She said she finally got the ornery goat to spread seed in the south field.” “Well, good.” * * * * I make the arrangements with the funeral director and remind Mother seven times why I’m doing it. When we arrive for the wake, the funeral director shakes our hands and then folds them over his fly. He escorts us into the parlor where Uncle Bemis is laid out with rouge on his cheeks, powder on his nose, and a monogrammed handkerchief in the pocket of a suit that, until yesterday, had hung in the dark corner of my closet. It is the first time I have seen a corpse with his coat unbuttoned, but it seems appropriate for Uncle Bemis, who had never worn a jacket in the first place. The room is painted white. The small lights strung along the baseboards cast a pink glow on everything, like the patina on an ancient postcard. With my arm around her shoulders, I lead Mother to the casket so she can see how nice Uncle Bemis looks and get the shock over with before they let non-family mourners into the parlor. She pokes her finger under his buttoned shirt and tries to pry it up. “It was a heart attack, Mother.”
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“Is that what Dr. White said?” “Yes, ma’am.” “Well, he wanted bacon every morning.” “Yes, ma’am.” “I killed him with the bacon.” “No, ma’am.” “I killed him with the stick?” “No, ma’am. You didn’t kill Uncle Bemis, it was just time.” “Time killed him.” “Yes, ma’am.” “You want some coffee?” “No. The guests will arrive soon.” “I’ll put on some coffee.” “That’s okay, Mother. Someone already made it.” The funeral director appears like an apparition and asks if we are ready for the guests. I look at Mother and she says yes. He moves one hand away from his fly and signals to the black-suited, gel-haired men standing by the doors, who twist the knobs with a flourish and walk backward until the parlor is open to the blood-red carpeted hallway. You get quite a crowd at these things down in this crook of Alabama. I am impressed by the number of people I don’t know. They must be people who hung around Uncle Bemis back when he threw crab boils, back before he and Mother surely started to suspect they only made sense to one another. I surreptitiously search for a man with a thirty-year-older face that resembles mine—my father, Dickey— who Mother always told me had drowned working on a rig in the Gulf before I was born. For all I know he could be running a fishing boat out of Coden. I stand next to Mother, who sits in a chair at the foot of the casket, and shake hands with a line of people who file past me and then pause to look at Uncle Bemis. The viewing, they call it. Once they have paid their respects, they gather in groups and talk loudly. I spot my student Jessica Smith in the corner wearing a stunningly inappropriate black dress and heels. She is flanked by Marcus Pistullo and Tonya Simmons and she looks interesting indeed. They stare at me and I avert my gaze. After the line has exhausted itself, I go to the lounge and get a cup of coffee and walk outside at the back of the building. It’s hot as hell out here, but I don’t have to smell make-up and after shave. The parking lot is full. It slopes down from where I stand and gives into a half acre of rolling lawn that backs up to a new housing development. Beyond the green expanse and a red brick wall, a party starts up, a
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celebration of the beginning of summer I suppose. A TR6 pulls up to the curb and I try to remember the last time I saw one. This one is painted green and there is nothing substantial about the sound of the door meeting the frame as a woman kicks it shut. She is close to me before I take my eyes off the car. I lose a little oxygen when I realize it’s Mary hyphen Margaret. The last time I saw her, she was naked and her hair smelled of cannabis. She was about to leave me for graduate school. “My dear girl,” I say and kiss her on the cheek. “What are you doing here?” “I heard this morning. I’m sorry.” “Thank you.” I put my empty cup down on the sidewalk. “God, you look the same.” She smiles quickly. “I was on my way to Atlanta to give a paper when Dad called me.” “On my way to Atlanta to give a paper,” I echo in a hoity-toity voice, and she punches me in the chest. “It’s what I do.” “That’s right, I heard about the fellowship in Paris.” “I may go back there. To live,” she says. “Je ne suis pas surpris.” I am not surprised. Her eyes brighten. I can barely restrain the urge to sniff her hair, red waves thick like a pillow. We only made love the once, just before she left. I believe I could have gotten over it if she had stayed. “When did you learn to speak―?” “It’s the only thing I ever learned,” I say. “You wouldn’t believe how often I get to say it.” “Really. Well, surely something surprises you.” I bow politely. We watch a cat run across the lawn, tacking back and forth in bursts. “How’s your mother holding up?” she says. “Okay. Mental. As ever.” “Hey, you know the rule: Never say anything bad about your kin.” By the time she has finished the sentence, we are sing-songing it together. “Well, your people are eccentric,” I say. “Mine are honest-toGod loony.” She laughs. But I know she understands, the way she holds my chin in her palm and brushes her thumb across my lips. One last pitying look, a tiny kiss, and she’s gone, without going in. * * * * Dr. White thinks it’s a good idea if Mother sleeps at my house tonight, but she doesn’t see the point in it and neither do I. We go to her house and I turn on the lights and look around and she takes off
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her shoes and heads for the kitchen. She offers me coffee and I tell her it’s too late. I look in all three bedrooms, even the closets. I eventually make my way to the kitchen and turn on the back porch light. “Look, I’ll pick you up at ten so we’ll be plenty early for the service. Okay?” She rubs the top of the old pine table in a circle, putting her upper body into it. “Okay. I’m sure going to miss Bemis, honey.” “I know, Mother. Me, too.” “Probably meant to be. He was getting dopy as a stone. I don’t know how much longer I could have watched after him on my own.” “You mean? Teague’s?” She shakes her head. “My poor brothers. It is such a blessing I have control of my faculties. I think it would kill me to have to live around all those depressing relics.” She is not too crazy to get the drop on me, apparently. “Well, you know, Mother, I’ll be taking a trip this summer, a long trip, and I think it would be good for you to have some help nearby in case you need anything.” “Where you going?” “Hiking. I told you.” “You just thought you did, honey. You do that a lot.” Oh, no you don’t. “Well, anyway, I am,” I say. “By yourself?” “Yes, ma’am.” Her mouth goes into one of those frowns you can’t control. “Hey. Come on. I won’t leave right away. I’ll make sure you’re all set and feeling better before I go, okay?” “I don’t know what the big deal is,” she says. * * * * The service is sparsely attended compared with the wake. None of my students come, but I see some of their parents. Mother sits between Dr. White and me and holds both our hands, while the tissue boxes installed on the back of each pew go untouched. The rental preacher isn’t bad. His spiel is formulaic, which is, in itself, a comfort. The funeral director determines we don’t need the trooper escort for three cars on the six-mile trip down Highway 98. I sink into maroon leather, ice cold from the air conditioner. Mother leans on Dr. White’s shoulder and he puts his arm around her. We float in the black Cadillac boat past gullies choked with kudzu. After a few minutes, I get a thump on the side of my head and Doc’s caught in a fit of tight-lipped panic. Mother has snaked her hand onto his thigh and she doesn’t appear to be stopping there. “I’m so glad you came, Dickey. It’s been such a long time.”
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Doc starts to speak and I shush him. “I wish Bemis could have seen you, too,” she says. “Y’all always made me laugh so hard.” “Well,” Doc says. “I told him you would come back someday.” She turns her face to me. “Didn’t I, Bemis?” That’s enough for both of us. The driver accelerates. When we arrive at the cemetery, Doc and I clamber out like there’s a roach loose in the back seat. The funeral director offers his hand to Mother and we signal him we’ll follow in a minute. She chats gaily as he leads her to the graveside pop-up tent. I ask Doc to meet me at Teague’s tomorrow and he says he’ll fax an order there and I can go sign the papers. He puts his hand on my shoulder. “I’ll call in a prescription that will calm her down and make things go a lot easier when you break the news.” “When I–” “–I’ll be there if you want me to.” * * * * An ultra-proficient woman bounces a sheaf of papers on top of her desk before she lays them flat. “Um, I’m here about my mother.” “Dr. White already called me.” “Oh.” “All I need from you,” she chirps and poises her pen, “are a few quick signatures.” She spins the papers around under her index finger and points to the ‘X.’ “Well, do you mind if I have a look around? I’d like to see where my mother will be living.” Her stare makes my skull ache. “If it’s not too much trouble,” I add. She opens a drawer, takes out a clipboard and shoves in the papers. The spring clamps down hard. “Follow me,” she says. I chase her down the hall as she holds the clipboard to her miniscule breasts and plows forward, twisting her upper body as if rowing across the shiny tile floor. By the time we’ve flown past the cafeteria, the activity room and two nurses’ stations, I feel apologetic over making her leave her mauve-flowered administrative space for the bowels of the business. It makes me hate her. She stops short at a hexagonconfigured desk where a woman in a uniform flecked with teddy bears acknowledges her with lazy eyes. Administrator lady cranes her neck to find the name tag as they flash false smiles. “Natisha? Mr. Hodges would like to see the suite where his mother will live. Will you kindly direct him and then bring him to my office when you’re done? You can show him the dining room and the
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community center on your way back.” “Yes, ma’um.” Now I follow Natisha down a long, sterile hallway and I downshift, feeling woozy from the change in pace. Her arms stick out past her round torso and wave like fish fins as she walks. She stops when she reaches the last room, next to the exit door with a thin window and a warning bar across it. Fire exit only. Alarm will sound. It takes six seconds for her to turn and get her feet underneath her before she sticks her hand toward my mother’s room. I walk in. Apparently “suite” means the commode itself is not in the bedroom. I keep an open mind. The bed is hospital chic with a control panel on the headboard, just out of reach. There is enough room along one wall for a dresser and along the other for a chair. A unit under the window kicks on and blows musty but freezing air under horrid rubber-backed curtains. I don’t go in the bathroom. “You could mount a TV right here.” She points to the wall at the foot of the bed, holding her arms in a right angle. “We got cable.” “Yes, I read that in the brochure.” I touch the pocket into which I had stuffed the folded papers. I turn in a circle. “I expected—” She shuts me up with her bland chocolate eyes. I back out of the room, not that many steps, and start down the long hallway toward Natisha’s desk. I can’t do it and I turn and bolt through the exit and set off the alarm, just like Mother would do. * * * * I hear a knock on the screen. It’s Marcus Pistullo and he’s backed up to the base of the steps by the time I get to the door. “Hi, Mr. Hodges,” he says. “What can I do for you, Marcus?” I walk down the steps and we stand shoulder to shoulder in the yellow dusk, facing the street where his Honda idles by the curb. Jessica Smith waves tentatively from the passenger seat. “I’m sorry about your uncle.” “Thank you, Marcus.” I mean it. Louie Louie rolls toward us from the car’s radio. After an awkward moment, I say, “So, you and Jessica are an item these days.” “I guess. Kinda. I leave for Bama tomorrow. Training camp.” I say, “By this time next week, I’ll be hiking the Appalachian Trail, well part of it. In North Carolina.” “Wow. Hmm.” I can feel him looking at me. “That’s pretty cool.” “Jessica will be joining you in September?” “End of August. If the coaches haven’t killed me dead by then.” I look at the sidewalk.
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“Oh―” Marcus says. “It’s okay.” “Well, I just wanted to say goodbye.” Marcus grinds the ball of his foot on the concrete, then says in a rush, “I would like to know the truth, Mr. Hodges, but I don’t understand math. At all.” I feel like an ant. “Don’t worry, Marcus. Have fun at Alabama. I hear football can be kind of like truth there.” He grins and sticks out his hand and I shake it. The radio gets louder when Jessica opens the car door and bounces up the sidewalk. She looks delighted. She hugs my neck and leaves her breathy thank you in my ear. Goodbye, good luck, we all say, and they pull away from me into the future. I am no longer responsible. I’ve lost track, I guess, of how long I’ve stood inhaling Jessica’s bright scent on my collar, because it’s dark when I walk around the house to the back porch. I lie in the hammock after the cicadas have quieted and decide maybe I’ll sleep out here tonight. I pull the joint out of my pocket. Don’t I deserve it. I hang my head off the hammock so I can see the Big Dipper past the lip of the eave. It’s about time for my neighbors Sam and Tracy to start up. They leave their bedroom window open. The lights go off on the baseball field and the rest of the stars blink on while Mother sleeps in the guest room, her room now. Tomorrow I’ll take her to the art show and buy her something new to put in there. The unbalanced fan wobbles above my head. The angles on the ceiling, where the boards join, are less distinct than they were a week ago. Sam growls like a black bear and Tracy giggles. I close my eyes. Mary hyphen Margaret fiddles with the buttons on my jeans. She smells like the Gulf. I wade in.
Sarah Brown Weitzman
“We have all been in rooms/ We cannot die in.” James Dickey In rooms we must not die in we defy death for a few hours though guilt at first makes me worthless to either of us. Here we are free to speak of feelings that don’t exist outside such rooms, to make promises
we cannot keep. Here love is multiplied by mirrors and brought to its knees on dingy sheets. Time is only the hour we cannot stay beyond. As though love left marks, I shower twice before I must return to rooms I may, yes, I may, I may, I may die in.
Sarah Brown Weitzman
Even as children that elemental primary red, that flamboyant flame of hair frames us like a crime we haven’t committed. We learn young we will be easy victims, “Hey, Red” a ready appellation from unwanted callers on the street. To them we are all the same, a lurid name that fits the myth and holds us by our hair despite the great range from the darkest Bernhardt, the Rita Hayworth of “Gilda,” strawberry blonds, Titian’s models, Henry VIII, Edna St. Vincent Millay, hoards of Vikings, Brenda Starr to Little Orphan Annie. Though we’ve known the envy as ancient as henna of other women, we grow up feeling different within schools of darks, even blonds and in being different there is pain and some doubt about the recessive genes that produced us. Odd though that we’re continually accused of unnatural hues: “Are those tresses truly red?” we’ve been asked all of our lives. “Yes,” we reply, “really red,” proud too of the private fire we can prove it by.
The Sheep’s Roar
The blame could be put partially upon the English professor for enlightening maybe defining though perhaps blame is not a word to correctly describe the process in which one is sheep it’s complicated complex in its simplicity and so very entertaining yet about as hard to understand as the essay which one is about to read. However, it will be enthralling is a good word and never before would one feel more engaged because is it not that good writing should speak directly to the reader? Maybe it is well and fine even very good to give out freedom in handfuls to be there and perhaps one will kculp it in all of its glorious opportunity but perhaps also they go hog wild and relentless but they won’t go hog wild because sheep are not hogs, no very much sheep they are. Indeed very sheep and its only sheep that would not mill in circles of freedom and sheep dare say feels? That this is the best feel to feel of absolute relentless freedom in which sheep can be so very exactly sheep because of the freedom. So the reader should perhaps know how sheep feels if they can feel what sheep feels because after all this could perhaps be the very thoughts of sheep in an identical replica of what sheep would dare say feel. So does the reader dare say feel what sheep dares to feel. Does the reader? Yes the reader. Does the reader know sheep after all this is exactly the course of sheep thought in all its simple complexity or complex simplicity it doesn’t matter because it’s known that perhaps it’s the very same. Of course not because there was once drops of red blood in a stream of white sugar and these are thoughts of sheep that were just shared with the reader and its only what’s given to the reader that the reader can take and like it and as long as there is blood in sugar sheep is distinct. The sheep or sheep it doesn’t matter because it’s the same even in a plural sense its still the same and for sake of lack of words in this nonsense essay, sheep will take the blame there it is again for that one because after all this is distinctly sheep, they will use a variety because it doesn’t really matter after all. By the way reader is about to read a thought passing through like a jackrabbit but not because it’s sheep not rabbit only the thought of sheep can be so like rabbit if so pleased, who yes who gives the right to define sheep as “ready” to enter the real world what a cliché right? Only after some sheep has a college education who would put that kind of pressure upon a college and why oh why would the authority come from the old. It’s so very ridiculous as is this essay on the fault
The Sheep’s Roar
which is due to the blame of the sheep that one would put so much respect and weight upon the old who maybe will perhaps crumple under the wait for so much more. Because there is much much more to come trust sheep sheep never lie due to complex simplicity and sometimes when inflicted with severe bouts of shock they die. That’s right die, how does the reader feel about that do they feel as though they are being spoken directly to however should not most definitely under any circumstances take a sheep’s sincerity honestly. After all it is how they die that they fall over sideways with stiff legs and just die and perhaps nothing could be more hilarious. In its twisted nature of sheep. Some African sheep don’t sleep for a variety of reasons that include the attacks of lions the gnawing hunger in their bellies due to their fears of attacking lions and sometimes they aren’t tired which is perhaps ok even when it is not supposed to be. So as was being said before the English teacher and it was kcul again perhaps that introduced Gerdy letting loose flows of loose realization and wouldn’t they love to call inspiration but perhaps the thought of kcud is just so similar to sheep that all in the same its music and art and all that it doesn’t really matter because how does one make a masterpiece is like how does one make something matter. But no, the sheep are a defensive breed and not kcud because they are sheep yes very distinctly sheep with all that cotton in their head no no it was meant upon their body they are so protected in the head where there is no cotton in all the simple complexity. Or was the complexity simple? Does the reader remember, has the reader made it matter? Does the reader have a masterpiece in them? Is that question fair to share? Isn’t it so that the kcub is made from cotton which comes from sheep no wait it comes from instead the plantations in which slaves used to work perhaps still do who would know but its pretty much the same as coming from sheep not far from the same anyway. And the old would be so proud that the colleges have effected significance into sheep and that sheep may have broken some rules that could perhaps significantly effect the outcome of what it shall be but it won’t because one knows as well as the next that sheep can do it all do it all well and given gall irreplaceably will break out of freedom circles in all their glory. Because a comma is a comma a period a period a noun noun paragraph indentation spacespacewhataretheybutawasteofspace andnecessitiesofcorrectartandwhatif-theyareallgonewhatthenandwhatifitisamasterpieceisitokthen? What else could possibly be said except perhaps what about the parents of sheep who are olds too by the way what about them and how just how would they feel. Perhaps it would matter but perhaps it is simply a mixture of permission and mishaps and that doesn’t leave one far from the beginning if there was more would it be dared to be
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presented and especially to the reader who wouldn’t know of the times when it could be said that it could be felt. So would this be a waste similar to the test scores that could have prevented it but perhaps something was learned by the daring leader from the sheep. Was it actually read not just read but really read not like the serial fox feeder. Would it be a waste to say it even though it is clearly necessary as the reader knows because sometimes it has to be said even in its useless ineffectiveness but is important and what would happen if sheep were to tell the reader to reread reread again over in every direction because there is beyond more than is necessary as is what happens when it is unwanted. Necessary unwants. And how would one know because one knows everyday about the necessary unwants and how it is important and they are and that is why perhaps that the circles of freedom were thrown out about and given to the sheep maybe in attempts to encourage the following of skcud or perhaps just to the eliminate the unwant of what is necessary which sheep would know is the later. What a laugh what a laugh it would be to laugh is a blessed thing if things could be blessed remains to be seen or felt or blessed whatever it is still the relevance that is found in the laugh itself not the root of the felt. That one right there was a masterpiece wasn’t it reader dare one say the result could be determined with ease and shall be for is one old and would one want to be old with all the wait it brings. Back to sheep though for that is perhaps the most important and significant part like red in a room remember that one? But this could go and go on until maybe it caused shock and dizziness which ends in a twisted shocking utterly hilarious result remember? Don’t they remember? Don’t suck, the marrow from the lamb for they aren’t the sheep and never will be but it was they that the sheep came from and will remember because sheep remember importance which is defined inside itself by sheep. Importance is defined by importance and so is anything that is something can only be defined by what it is or something else that is that. Do they hear the importance in the pleat bleat see the significance dare say potential in the sheep so close to kcud? Why ask because it’s important to ask says the olds is a gift that one is given. So was the individual mind says the sheep thank God but sheep won’t get into that again because it’s like chasing ghosts which is like another run around within the circle of freedom that was blessed upon the fellows beside the sheep and the thankful sheep. So now there is three measly hours left until waking or actually waking from a sleep that didn’t occur and maybe this is where the craziness as they call it comes from but plucking lucky ducks it feels so good. Wait. As the olds do and maybe even for what they are waiting for because one day, not today or the next and most certainly not for this craziness but one day sheep will be so
The Sheepâ€™s Roar much more than rectangular pupils and bloody sugar. Its sheep. Here sheep roar.
The Big Day II
You lead off again the only one with that hair and the unfamiliar flower in your lapel wolfing down a bagel and circling; rows of rehearsed smiles and worry even some who remain from the first go-the same priestâ€™s dour face, the same bells (ring-a-ling!)
but not the lame sparrow working a gum wrapper from a strip of ice or the limousineâ€™s glass where a million suns loom.
This Golden Morning
After the moon drops like a rock into the lake wind crosses the Pennsylvania line into Northeast Ohio giggling the old oak’s leaves as though shaking change from yesterday’s jeans. The last dragonfly of the season balances on a blade of backyard crabgrass as a great blue heron sticks its broom-length beak into the Five-lined skink carcass flattened in the cement driveway. Almost as unexpected as waking up to you in my bed this morning is discovering your outtie bellybutton crowning like a knuckle as the sun pencils thick bars across your stomach alighting the thin hairs rising as though magnetized to meet my hand. As the neighbor’s dog dances in the summer sprinklers the coffeemaker percolates on the kitchen counter waitressing in this golden morning as if it were a two egg breakfast with a side stack of blueberry pancakes.
Brianna Marie Angelakis (b. 1990) was born in Massachusetts and moved to New Hampshire during her early teen years. She moved to Florida at the end of her high school years, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. Her approach to artistic expression often emphasizes bright colors, texture, and fluidity. Finding straight lines and structure a confinement, she centralizes on the organic shapes of the natural world, animals, and figures. Her artistic inspiration stems from her love for literature and poetry, in addition to her own experiences as a young woman. She often depicts a narrative which centralizes around the female figure or child figure in nature. Her paintings evoke the strong emotions correlated with romanticism and childhood innocence, elevating the female and child into a sublime, natural world. By isolating her figures, she creates an emotional relationship between the figure and the observer. Angelakis’ color palette assists in creating a mood which reflects the expression of the figure and her organic environment. She paints with oils on the natural fibers of wood, accentuating the romantic and natural aspects of her paintings. The imperfections of the wood remind the observer of the beauty found in nature, assisting in the release of the observer and herself into a natural world of reflection through past memories and experiences. Website: http://briannaangelakis.daportfolio.com
The cover art is titled “Artemis on the Hunt.” It is a 24” x 24” painting with graphite and oil on wood. The full color version of these pieces are available on our website: www.theflaglerreview.com
“A Faery’s Child” 8 1/2” x 11” Colored Pencils on Smooth Bristol paper
“Neurasthenia” 24” x 24” Graphite and Oil on wood
“The Crow Catcher” 24” x 24” Graphite and Oil on wood
Stage 1: Denial
On Not Attending the Funeral I didn’t see how the rows of pews lined perfectly with each other, like an orchard spread out over a brown-leaf carpeted forest floor. Heads like apples bobbing to the swaying sounds of the world around them. My view was of the backs of the nodding heads of the elderly, of the men with their white and pale blue collars, and the women with their rocking prayers. They were here to pray for youth gone missing, here in disbelief that the young could leave before them, before their eyes. I didn’t see my dad there, as he was already dead. And I didn’t see her father there, at least I don’t think I did, as she died before I met him. He might have been the one standing near the door with glazed-over eyes. Avoidant eyes. I didn’t see her. It was a closed casket. I wondered if she was really there, if she could even be in there. I turned my head and saw lines of people milling about in the lobby. People I didn’t want to see. People who choked on memories of her as an alive her, who held knowledge of her life trapped against their sternums with open palms, as if it would float away, as if the feeling of the alive her would be gone, that the fact of death would be quickly forgotten. As if she wasn’t already weighing heavily on our chests. As if their holding down was necessary, necessary to keep the feeling of her absence trapped inside their ribs in case they forgot, perhaps pushed themselves to forget. As if this wouldn’t be the point of from now on, or after. The harsh feeling of remembering we all wanted to avoid, but tried to face. No, I didn’t want to see their hopelessly hopeful hands, hands that prayed for her to continue living in some ephemeral way. I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see my face flushed with its own recollections, my own mind keeping her alive, my eyes wet with the truth that I would no longer know understanding. I stayed seated, denying myself movement, guarding against the possibility of catching a glimpse of my contorted face in someone else’s eyes. I didn’t see when it began to snow, but only saw the white collected on our bodies, after. On Frozen He asked you a question with the voice you would soon never hear again. But you don’t know this yet, at the time. His voice, the recog-
On Filling Up The hollow of my stomach is hot. It is filled with what I have put in there, swallowed in order to turn inward on myself. It happened when I saw his bottle. I saw it through his car window as I paused in my slumbering walk from an outside cigarette back to my inside coffee. I saw his bottle lying limp on the back floor of the car. The car whose owner is now deceased. A recent event. The empty liter of vodka, red label, though not Smirnoff. It had a different name. More Russian, more obscure. I had never seen this vodka, which surprised me as I was acquainted with many kinds. There was nothing special about this
Stage Two: Anger
nizable sound of anger as you denied his offer, now screams down the hall. Now screams in your memories. The reverberations trapped in you ribs. His angry, irrational voice courses around the dark hallway and down to your stomach. Your stomach that no, dad, does not want any ice cream. And you feel like a kid again, only inverted. You the adult saying no to his request to share something sweet. There was never anything sweet between you. Your ears are now open, open to his dead silent whisper as he perhaps, after the fact of his death, realizes you would never say yes to him. Now your ears want to close. To close out the sound of his anger, his realization of what no meant. You are curious as to how your no ricocheted through his body. How the no was a no not to the sweet dessert, but to him. Because, yes you don’t like him. The ice cream you said no to will sit in the freezer, untouched by his angry hands, his shaking, still alive hands. His soon to be frozen hands. Of course this is something you could not possibly know then. And after his shouts you didn’t speak to him again. Your last words being no. Denial. And then he dies, finally. And then you feel guilty for being glad he has finally died. His anger has stopped. Two days after his death, you will want to say yes, you will go to the freezer to say yes. You will want to concede, you will want to think—no, you will think—that if you had first said yes, he would still be alive. You go to the freezer and you fill. You think a lifetime of yes’s could have gathered between the two of you. Instead, there was no. You grab the cold box from the shelf and you open, you fill. You freeze. You feel your unthawed body, your body glaciated from his dying, grasp the icy metal spoon in your fingers. You fill. You fill until there is nothing left that can be filled. You have let what is left of him enter you. You swore you would never do this. This yes-saying. After this moment, this temporary yes, you feel something will snap back to saying no, because that is what you know, will always know, even after that one yes. Yes. No.
The Flagler Review type, other than it was his preference. And now it would be mine. Now, I would chug down the liquor, the burning memories of him until my eyes turned red, until I was too blurred to see anything other than what was a part of him. Now, I would fill myself with it until I could feel something about him, about him dying. Now, by tearing away at a little bit of myself, I would be a little bit closer to him, filled with a little bit more of him. I get my own bottle, drink up my own bottle on my own. I drink my own bottle to feel closer to how his bottle must have felt inside him. My insides begin to rip, scream. And it feels good. The tear feels something like me.
On Toes She left without saying goodbye. She didn’t say she was leaving. She said space, so I gave her that. What she meant to say, what she couldn’t handle hearing herself say because she’s a coward, because she can’t be honest with me or worse yet herself, is separation. To have the together part of us no long be. What she hid behind her eyes was the truth. I was staring down at my toes when I refused to realize this, when her voice sounded something like snow, like silence holding back a storm. As I stared at my motionless toes, at the toes that wanted to travel the world with her but were now stuck in place on the dry cement under the bench in which we sat, I suddenly wanted to see her, to know what her eyes were saying. My toes told me to look up. When I looked up from my feet, from staring at my toes as she said words that didn’t sound like goodbye but that meant the goodbye, as I shifted my gaze from my thick toes and into her eyes, I was staring right at a lie: The lie of her face, her words with no meaning. The truth is something she can’t bear to face, because she’s scared to sit with it. Scared to actually do what it is she doesn’t tell me she’s doing. She’s leaving, and she won’t tell me she’s leaving. She will leave before I get a chance to say goodbye, before I get a chance to realize she has left. Because she said space and I thought that meant space, but really she meant gone. I thought there could have been a forever in us, but never did I think it would be a forever gone. She has left. I stare back down at my motionless toes. And I remain motionless, trapped in the heat of anger that swells and rises from my toes to my heart as I realize her meaning of space is infinite; a finite goodbye. Stage Three: Depression On Lying I hear the silence of my wrists. The usually loud, throbbing, puckering swish of blood is silent. The unavoidable lack of sound comes to me
On Grief from the drone of the subtle and unassuming bump of the wrist where bone connects to bone. The nub where joints intersect, the spot that juts out into the air around this connection, stares at me. They have always looked like cheekbones to me, the two nubs. I consider this. My brain slows down to process the image of bone. I slouch on my couch weighing my decision to either force myself to move or to surrender to the pressing need to stay still. I focus my eyes on my wrists, reminding myself it’s best to not move them when I feel like this. When I feel that knowing, that sense that says moving, would lead to something undesired, something bad. But it isn’t hard to stay still when I do, in fact, feel stuck. But guilt steers me to thinking I should move. I shouldn’t act like a sloth, but like a human. But I know to keep myself still in order to not cut the memory of her leaving, further into my skin.
My wrists stay motionless, staring at me with their silent shapes, their paused meanings, their potential of menacing movements gawking. My emotions hinge on this stillness, on stiff resistant wrists. They stare at me. I stare back. We wait. I don’t move. I sigh over my notlies, over my knowing it’s a lie to say she will come back. It’s a sigh that
So to avoid the injurious actions I start with the hardest thing to control: the hands. The always moving and ceaselessly thinking hands. My trick to keep them idle is to silence my wrists. They are wrists that constantly consider movement. They itch to move, to do something drastic, so I silence them. I shush them to lie. I hold them steady, let them lie. I know the importance of just letting them lie, of not moving the things that need to be stilled, of not slicing through the silence. I swallow the scream, hold it trapped in my ribs. My body, wanting to tremble at the truth of her absence, needs to be quiet. I have been instructed by my therapist to calm the body before it crashes. So I lie. I lie down and I do nothing but lie. I know the subsequent events of not lying. A different kind of lying. I would be lying if I said she would return. That would be a lie. This is not a lie: she will never come back. This not-lie shakes my body. So I lie. I lie on the couch, the couch on which I first learned how to not lie to myself. To swallow the knowledge that she is gone. I lay my quiet wrists in front of my eyes. I lie down the nubby bolts attached to anxious hands like panes of glass carefully put in place. There is a heaviness that has started to keep them in position. A heaviness that flows from knowing what is beyond the veins of my wrists, beyond what is felt beating back there, beyond what is tired of beating back there, but what must keep beating. The beating feels heavy, heaving. So I lie. There is nothing I can do about this but lie.
The Flagler Review lies down on my quiet wrists like a tired dog, the wrinkles of my wrists drooping with silence. We don’t move. We remain staring. I see the silence of my wrists. I lie with them.
On Rain It’s the morning of his funeral. The sky threatens to rip open right when nothing inside of you can. Hardened your emotions froze when he decided to give up. It was the last time he trusted life to protest his actions. It didn’t protest. You always thought this would happen, his dying. Now you wear a black shirt with a black skirt, because you think it’s what you are supposed to do. You are supposed to mourn. You can’t find it within you to know how to do this. You had to dig around for that black skirt. You weren’t even sure you owned it anymore. You weren’t quite sure what you were doing in the tangle of boxes and clothes ripped down from the top shelf of your closet. You remembered it, though, he skirt, it was the one you wore to your interview for college. The skirt in which you hoped to look serious. You found it tucked underneath the other clothes of which you have long out grown their uses, mostly used for grown-up situations such as interviews and family events. They are the clothes of a woman you would wear when you were in fact a child. And now you find this funny, this tangle of evidence that you only dress like a woman, a woman in a black shirt and black skirt, for life’s serious situations. No, at the funeral you see this is a gravely serious matter. You put the skirt on and the sky continued to threaten a relinquish of wetness. It’s a wetness you don’t feel well up inside of yourself. You wonder what’s the matter with you. Why all you can do is sit here, rock heavy in the pew, your hands placed patiently in the lap of the black skirt as you wait for the preacher who was hired just for this occasion to say memorable things about a man he never met. About a man you wish you wouldn’t remember. You sit, stone heavy. The crowd is small and mostly filled with people you’ve never met. Golf partners, business partners, people who were partners with him during his momentary bout of sobriety until he decided to give up on that, to turn on them. To turn away. You think of this, of how he turned away, how he turned away from you and the family, and your stomach begins to turn. You begin to feel how he will never again turn away, how, in fact, his body was turned and twisted in a final gray position. This thought makes you stir. The thought of his body makes you twist. And you begin to see how you are just playing at being angry, how somewhere inside of you there’s a feeling that really is serious, that is rightfully dressed in black. That the anger was there for a reason, and now it has melted in you. Something else now weighs heavily on your shoulders. And then you feel it: your eyes. Your eyes
On Grief sitting there with you as you sit there motionless, sit staring at your hands, waiting for what’s threatening to happen, happen. And it does. Your hardness turns soft. You turn away from anger. You let the skies finally break. You let it rain. Stage Four: Resignation
On Raising, Part I Her words hover above my soles raised up on the wall. A bird, my bird, my inked black outline of a phoenix rising from the ashes of my dry ankle. My bird of raised and raising hope, looks back at me. We’re listening. We’re listening to her words repeat themselves through my own whispering voice. Without this recreation, the silence was taking a sharp turn from contemplative to lonely. What saves me is speaking her sounds. It makes her voice still there, still hanging, now resting
On the Bed He is a stubborn old man, you say. He has all of his faculties, you say. He winks, you say. You tell these things either to yourself or to someone who might be listening. You tell these things to yourself. No one else can listen. He is lying there on the bed, lying there to be taken care of. He’s waiting for his time, a line you hate to hear. His time is here, you finally admit. It has been ninety years since he first laid eyes on the world, and sixty of those were on you. On your little girl body, the freckles spreading themselves out across the years. His features grow in your mind, turn from dad to old man. Wrinkles rising like a shifting earth, mountains creating valleys wet with rain, soft with the moist eyes of the elderly. You’re there to take care of him, though there is nothing you can do. You don’t have the mind to know what needs to be done. So you do what you can do. You adjust his mask, the face he constantly tries to free. You listen to his garble, his desires fallen numb on his motionless tongue. You watch his body rise and fall with the machines, and you see the body as its own machine. Outdated, needing repairs, the soft wear and tear on his mind. There are scrapes on his feet you can’t explain, lines on his back that are more like gouges, like hollow splinters. Your eyes swell, little lakes tucked in your own valleys of grown skin. You give him a pen and instruct him to write something, anything to help you understand. To help you know what it is he felt during those seventeen hours while he was by himself. Alone, on the floor, the phone ringing down the hall. He doesn’t write. His arm, like his eyes, like his tongue, have lost their touch. You touch his left hand, encourage the pen to hit the page. Instead he mumbles, saying something like coffee, and winks.
The Flagler Review in the crevices of my mouth, my tongue tasting remembered bits of laughter. The sound of her chortles nestles against the drums of my ears. I continue to speak, to recount what we found so funny. The conversations continue, taking on new forms with imagination. I speak out what I would say. In my head, she responds. The phoenix considers this. My supine position on the mattress softens the dream. The whispered wishes. The blood from my heart is staggered by gravity as it reaches upwards to my ankles, my heels resting up on the creamy walls. My toes, which have been causing the phoenix to flap with their wiggling, tingle, then turn numb. I halt the movement of my toes, and the phoenix pauses patiently, mid-soar. Time to move. To move on, so I can come and consider with even blood, a level head, a full body, the fact that she’s not here. But first, cuddled in the crook of one elbow, the other arm outstretched with fingers twirling my hair, I hold her voice one last time. Hear the echoes of her crackling smile. Then I swing my body over the edge of my bed, roll myself erect. Head light, feet heavy blocks, I stand. My ears ring. Her speaking halts. The feel of her voice remains. Stage Five: Acceptance
On Raising, Part II It’s morning. It’s time to rise differently. To meet the morning with eyes open instead of the heavy lids of late. Time to find the morning to be the time of breathing, again. Of finding the morning breath in a time when breathing has felt like death. Because night has felt like a swallowing of the day, an entrance into a slumber of uncertainty if morning will come with waking or dying. It’s morning. It’s time to rise differently. I swing my legs out of bed, meeting the body of my dog, the susurrus snoring of her half-awake breath, meeting her body with my unfurling toes. Her head rises as I graze her back with my heels, her eyes opening along with an old dog yawn. Her days could be drawing to a close, yet I couldn’t possibly know when. Perhaps her eyes will open and close for years more. Or perhaps for just another day. But her daily yawns and yoga stretches are not yet ready to circle around and down into her final resting spot. A resting spot next to my bed on which one morning my toes will unfurl onto her body without her head rising. Now, as I place my feet away from her body, giving my legs room to stand, she rolls on her back, expecting a tummy rub for old time’s sake. Her hips shift, a creaking of joints, grinding memories of leaps and sprints. I bend down, rub her outstretched abdomen differently, with hands of learn-
On Grief ing how a new morning sways, how the body grinds away from memories of mourning. It’s morning. It’s time to rise differently. I clomp across the room, my hips waking and adjusting to holding weight instead of weighing down the bed. I raise my fists to my eyes, and rub out the feeling of swollen eyes, of frog eyes, of eyes spent from their energy, spent from nights spent dreading morning. My index finger swipes away the remainders of sleep, of specks that accumulated and dried in the corners of lids trying to close out the sights, the sights of her body no longer here. I blink. Morning’s here, it’s time to relinquish the heaviness held in my chest, the rocks on my shoulders. My hair, a knotted mess sticks up with wonder. What to do in this new day? How to move differently in a new type of morning? A morning in which to move away from mourning.
We begin to mourn the living long before it’s needed. I wonder if every moment, every movement will be a moment remembered. If I’ll look back and think, I was doing yoga when I felt him leave. Or, I took a nap and saw a flash of white. I raise my head up
He’s dying. He has been dying for a while now, and I have vaguely thought about how one must realize a ninety-year-old man may kick it soon. He’s in good health, and for the most part doesn’t move about life how one would expect a ninety-year-old man to move.
On the Beginning You begin the preparations before you even know if there’s an end. Edit: there is an end, but you just don’t know when the end will do its end thing. The thing we’re all meant to do. To be no longer. Because when we began long ago we couldn’t help but begin our demise. This isn’t morbid, and mostly doesn’t need to be depressing. “You’ve been dying since the day you were born.”—Lisa Loeb. This fact, the fact of death, is perhaps the one thing in life we can count on to happen. Everything else is just luck or fate or burden or however you want to look at it, but those things happen in their own time, if they happen at all. Death is. Death is something of which we can be certain. And yet we call it the unknown. As if all of those other things, say what my next job will be, or who my next lover will be, are facts we can hold with certainty. But they aren’t. Death is the one thing that is for certain. Perhaps it is this certainty that scares the life out of us. So I prepare, prepare for his end.
The Flagler Review in cobra, stretch my sternum and feel my back gloriously bend. He’s lying in a hospital bed. My eyes are closed, looking in on their afternoon dreams when a streak of white enters the picture. He’s trying to speak with an oxygen mask affixed to his mouth. I’m finding it difficult to bend my leg forward, transitioning from downward dog to mountain pose, with the block of my cell phone digging into my thigh. My mother waits for news, her phone grasped in her fist at the ready for any updates. I blink my eyes open and see the lake, knowing this is the time to let nature wash over me. My phone doesn’t ring, yet. For the moment we are now continuing our shared sense of having a body, of being alive.
Waikiki at Four in the Morning
Here is the dead hour before the sun. Scent of plumeria, mesquite, menthol. The coral moon teases roosters to crow. Honolulu Harbor turns mercurial. Scent of plumeria, mesquite, menthol. Coconut palms become silhouettes. Honolulu Harbor turns mercurial. Thousands dream in hotels. Coconut palms become silhouettes. Walls of my studio are sex bamboo. Thousands dream in hotels. The umbrella tree shivers below me. I swing a leg over the railing. The coral moon teases roosters to crow. A delivery truck moans in loading. Here is the dead hour before the sun.
My Grandmother Watches the Soaps
Paul David Adkins
She should be running the vacuum but General Hospital’s getting good. The doctor, nurse turn to each other as the world turns with a slight tremble, a falling into forever. I, at five, sit silent on the couch. My grandmother knows the deal.
They’re gonna make love. I wonder how they do that now that there’s an ad. There’s no asking Grandma. She’s turned the vacuum on and it’s growling like a lion on a chain. Is making love like sliding biscuits in an oven? Or tiny fork tines stamping the unbaked face of a pie? Is it like the tea she brews these afternoons? The long spoon striking the sides of the pitcher as it stirs the sugar into a tiny white vortex which skips, and leaps, and whirls?
WAR STORY # 198:
Asking My Family About the War
Paul David Adkins
I implored our uncle – No. I asked my dad. Not now. “Where were you on Anzio?” “Weren’t you hunched in the Pusan Perimeter?” I could prod about my Christmas gifts, get a better answer than their sphinx-like faces hinted at those ancient riddles locked in limestone. It was John Wayne who taught me how to wear a helmet. Pine cone grenades left bloody marks. We brandished Poinciana branches, shot our playmates dead. They jumped up, yelled, sprinted home for dinner where their grandfathers slumped silent before the slaughter.
Hot! Hot! Hot!
The discordant sounds of an orchestra tuning up produce an odd, inharmonious melody that Alex had always found to be strangely soothing. The freeform, unconscious collaboration of each individual instrument holding its own notes and running through its own scales—completely irrespective of what the other instruments might be doing—had once brought a relaxed, calm feeling over him as he’d readied himself for his performances. Alex was a little surprised to discover that—over fifty-yearslater—it still had the same effect. He closed his eyes and let the notes ease him back into an earlier time. In those days he had been barely twenty-one-years old… “They’re ready for you now,” the stage manager said, jarring him from his reverie. Alex strode out to center stage, remembering the old, familiar feel of floor lights beating into his skin. He could feel the heat emanating from them. A man in a blue suit sat at a table just offstage. A bit of a scowl crossed his face as he regarded Alex. Alex didn’t care if the man scowled. He was tempted to scowl back, but thought better of it. He could not afford to anger the man. Not here. Not now. “Still not going to call him ‘sir’, though,” Alex told himself. Alex had decided a long time ago he would never again call another white man ‘sir.’ And especially not ‘suh.’ “It says here your name is Alexander Vermillion?” the bluesuited man said. He had a distinct British accent and pronounced the surname ‘Ver-million’. “It’s ‘Ver-mee-aw,’” Alex corrected him. “It’s French.” “French, then? From France are you?” “I grew up here. In New Orleans.” Next to the man sat a woman. A pretty young woman with a Creole look about her. Café au lait skin with green eyes. “What did you come here to do, Alexander?” she asked. “I come to see you, ma’am.” Alex heard laughter. He looked out into the audience but the harsh lights hid the faces from his sight. “Seriously, why are you here today, Mr. Vermillion?” the British man asked. “Just to see Paula? What are you going to sing for us tonight?” “Sing? No, I ain’t singing.” The laughter rose.
Hot! Hot! Hot!
“You’re not singing? Then what in the bloody world do you think—” The woman, Paula, placed her hand on his arm, cutting him off. “What do you want to do, Alexander?” “I want to dance.” * * * * Alex was eight-years-old when Uncle Lionel taught him and his two older brothers to dance. He gave them each a pair of shoes with Jax Beer bottle caps glued to the toes and heels. Then he showed them how to do a simple shuffle and made them learn a few lame jokes. The next morning he took them out to work the streets. The three boys would tap dance on the sidewalk, tell the jokes, cajole the crowds in the French Quarter and collect change in an old top hat set out before them. After a couple of weeks of this, Uncle Lionel taught Alex a new routine. In between dances, Alex was to run up to wealthiest looking person in the crowd. “I’ll bet you five dollars I can tell you where you got your shoes,” he would say. They were always taken aback at first, but then Alex would give them his big smile. Such a big smile on such a cute little boy, they would think and smile back. “You got them on your feet! On Bourbon Street!” he would shout. “Now give me my five dollars!” The rest of the crowd burst into laughter and the tourist would typically be too embarrassed to protest. If they did hesitate Uncle Lionel would come up and stand in front of them, arms folded and chest puffed out like the pigeons at Jackson Square. He never said a word, but the money was almost always handed over. The crowd was on Alex’s side. “Always get the crowd on your side,” Uncle Lionel had taught him. Sometimes they pulled the ‘Black Houdini.’ Uncle Lionel would sit in the middle of Bourbon Street, a pile of thick ropes and chains draped over his shoulders. Alex’s oldest brother, Raymond, would work the crowd—hawking and haranguing the passersby like a carnival barker. “Come on up and see Black Houdini, ladies and gentlemen. Black Houdini can’t be stopped. Can’t be tied up. Nothing can hold Black Houdini. He be out them ropes by the count of ten. Come on up and give Black Houdini your best shot. One dollar win you two. Two win you five.” As people began to gather, Alex’s other brother, Ritchie, would ease into the crowd. “This is a con,” he’d whisper all around. “I’ve seen this before. It’s a racket. He’s just going to throw all them ropes off because they way too thick and too short to tie good.”
The Flagler Review
After a bit of haranguing someone would finally pay the dollar just to play along and do his best to tie Uncle Lionel up. As Ritchie had warned, the ropes were old, short, frayed and wouldn’t hold a knot. Then Raymond would start the count. Uncle Lionel would pretend to struggle for a bit then, as the count hit “eight” he would stand up and shrug them all off. Everyone laughed. Even the tourist who had lost the dollar would be a good sport about it. Just a dollar and everyone had a good time. Everyone except one drunken white man who started yelling at them. “Black Houdini ain’t nothing! I’ll tie him up so he can’t ever get out!” “Hey man, don’t fall for it,” Ritchie said. “Shut up, boy.” “But Mister, it’s a racket—“ “Don’t sass me, boy.” He pulled a roll of bills out of his pocket, waving it at the crowd. “I’ll tie up Uncle Remus here like an Easter ham. Anybody man enough to put up a ten spot?” “I’ll take a piece of that action,” a voice in the crowd said. “Me too!” “Count me in!” “Put me down for twenty!” Soon every man in the crowd was waving tens and twenties in the air. “Who’ll hold the money?” someone asked. “How about this little picaninny?” the drunk said, pointing at Alex. “He looks harmless enough.” As bills were thrust into Alex’s hands, the man stumbled over to Uncle Lionel and began draping the cords over him. He tried to tie a knot but the stiff rope would not bind tight enough to hold. An angry glare crossed the drunken man’s face. “This is a con! I want my money back!” He started towards Alex but one of the men from the crowd pulled him back. “You made a bet, buddy,” he said. Always get the crowd on your side. The man from the crowd looked over at Raymond. “Start the count.” “One. Two.” Uncle Lionel began his struggle as the crowd joined in on the count. “Three! Four!” Uncle Lionel struggled harder. More laughing, jeering tourists added their voices to the countdown. “FIVE! SIX!” Uncle Lionel thrashed even more. “SEVEN! EIGHT!” The crowd surged forward, eager to see the drunkard’s face when Black Houdini stood up. But Uncle Lionel just sat on the ground, still pulling at the ropes and chains. They fell silent. Raymond finished the count alone. “Nine…and…ten.”
Hot! Hot! Hot!
Uncle Lionel looked at the crowd and shrugged. “Ropes too tight,” he said. “Man tied ‘em good.” “What’d I tell y’all?” the drunk yelled. “Black Houdini ain’t nothing. Give me that money, boy!” He snatched the bills from Alex’s hand and bolted down Bourbon Street. An angry buzz welled up from the stunned crowd. Ritchie grabbed Alex and they ran down St. Anne’s while Raymond pulled the ropes from Uncle Lionel and they took off in another direction. A couple of hours later they all met up at Roubichaux’s Pool Hall where Uncle Lionel and Buddy—the drunken white man—divvied up the take. Alex and his brothers got twenty bucks apiece for their roles in Black Houdini and another four dollars each from the spare change thrown during the dance routine. Uncle Lionel let them keep two dollars of that for themselves. The rest he would deposit in the bank on Pontalbas Street Monday morning. By the time summer was over, Alex had almost five hundred dollars in his account. That was a lot of money back in 1943. * * * * “How old are you?” the British man asked, his sharp voice cutting off the laughter. “I’ll be seventy-four-years-old next week.” “My goodness, you don’t look seventy-four,” the woman said. “No ma’am. But I don’t look thirteen either.” * * * * Something strange happened to Alex when he was thirteen. He stopped growing. Not only did he stop growing, he almost seemed to stop aging. Puberty did come along, but it spent precious little time with him and when it was finally over Alex had only a few, modest developments to show for it. On his twenty-first birthday he was still only four-feet six-inches tall and weighed just over one hundred pounds. He shaved, at most, every few months and even then only because Uncle Lionel ordered him to so that he could pass Alex off as a thirteenyear-old. Alex hated it, but he could make far more money if the tourists thought he was still a child. “We all have our crosses to bear,” Uncle Lionel would say before sending Alex back to the streets. But eventually Uncle Lionel was forced to admit that Alex, young though he might look, had moved beyond pre-pubescence and needed a real job. “It ain’t Commander’s Palace, but the Montpelier Club is still a nice restaurant, you understand me Alex?” “I understand.” “I had to call in some favors to get you in here. Just work hard,
The Flagler Review
keep your head down and don’t get mixed up in nothing. This ain’t the Quarter. These are respectable people. Just do what the other waiters do.” “Yessir.” “Look, I know you like dancing. You good at it, too. But it ain’t no way to make a living. Not for a grown man. Right?” “I know. Thank you, Uncle Lionel.” The first week was rough on Alex. He messed up orders. He was slow in getting food to the tables. His fifth night there he picked up a serving platter laden with eight bowls of seafood gumbo and headed towards the dining room. Without thinking he charged through the swinging doors determined to get the order to the table before it was cold for a change, and ran headlong into a busboy bringing in a basin full of dirty dishes. Years later, the kitchen staff still spoke reverentially of the resultant mess. It was like the debris field from a plane crash. Gumbo roux, sausage medallions, French bread slices all flew into the dining room, some of it landing on the patrons’ clothing and prompting irate demands for refunds and dry cleaning reimbursements. Bowl and plate shards were still being found under tables two weeks later. It was the third collision he’d caused that week. Alex didn’t get fired—Uncle Lionel had that much sway with the manager. But he was on his last chance. He came into work the next day wondering whether he should just save everyone a lot of trouble and quit now. He could keep working the street if he had to. As he crossed the alley towards the service entrance, he saw the other waiters standing by the dumpster smoking cigarettes. One of them called out. “Hey man. Come over here.” Alex hesitated, wondering if he was going to be beaten up. “I said come here, man. I want to talk to you.” “Yeah?” “Man, how old are you?” “Twenty-one.” “No way, man. You can’t weigh but a buck-oh-five.” “I’m twenty-one.” “Okay, Twenty-One, if that’s how you want it.” The man lit a Kool and blew out a smoke cloud worthy of a thunderstorm. “Look here, Twenty-One, you gots to start making some noise up in here. Can’t nobody see you. When you gots a tray full of food, you yell ‘hot.’ ‘Hot plate!’ Got that?” “Hot plate?” “And the rest of the time you sing. Or whistle. Or something. Just make some noise, Twenty-One. Let me know where you at. I can’t
Hot! Hot! Hot!
be looking out for your narrow behind every time I gots to make a service.” He held out the Kools, opened on the bottom end of the pack instead of the top. Alex took one. “Careful, Twenty-One. Might stunt your growth.” That night Alex yelled ‘hot’ or ‘hot plate’ every time he went through a door, or rounded a corner, or passed behind someone. No collisions all night. He kept it up the next night and the night after that. Then he started singing songs, telling jokes, shouting out silly little rhymes. He kept a non-stop patter going the entire night. The customers loved it. “Hot plate! Hot! Hot plate! Here they come! Look out, now! Hot tamale! Got a hot one here! Hot on the land, hot on the sea! Hot for you and hot for me! Let’s go now! Got to go! I got a girl with a yellow dress, she knows how to do it best! Hot toddy! Hot plate! Hot! Hot! Hot!” He hustled, too. Hustled hard. He ran to the tables, ran to the kitchen with his orders, ran back to the tables with the food—huge trays full of gumbo, red beans, ettoufee. Soon he was making more money in tips than any of the other waiters. Some customers would sit nowhere but his tables, waiting at the bar for an opening when they had to. He had the crowd on his side. * * * * “You do know, Mr. Vermillion, that this is a singing audition? We don’t do dance acts.” “I want to dance.” More laughter from the audience. Alex looked out at them, giving a big wink, then turned back to the judges’ table. He rolled his eyes and bobbled his head like a cartoon character in the British man’s direction. More laughter. “I want to dance.” “Gotta dance! Gotta dance!” someone in the audience yelled amid the laughter. Alex winked again and mugged at them some more. Then he gave the judges an imploring look. “I want to dance.” A few people began clapping their hands and chanting in unison. “LET HIM DANCE! LET HIM DANCE! LET HIM DANCE!” It had happened. He had the crowd on his side. Paula leaned over and whispered in the man’s ear. He sat back, arms folded, and sighed. “Fine. You win, Mr. Vermillion. Let’s see you dance.” * * * * One Sunday afternoon when they were still kids, Alex and Ritchie sat hunched down in a dark theatre. They had just finished
The Flagler Review
running Black Houdini and had all split up but there weren’t enough tourists to lose themselves in the crowd. As soon as they were out of sight Ritchie ran into a movie house, slapped a dollar down on the ticket counter and pushed Alex through the door. They could hide out there for a while then meet up with Uncle Lionel and the rest. Throughout the newsreel and the cartoons, Alex and Ritchie sat low in the seats, watching out for cops whenever the door opened and someone new entered. After an hour Ritchie thought the coast might be clear. He stood up to go, but Alex grabbed him and pulled him back down, pointing at the screen. “Ritchie, look.” Onscreen, three black men were tap dancing to a song called “Boogie Woogie Piggy.” They started off doing a toeheel shuffle just like Alex and his brothers did. But the similarities ended there. These men were good. Real good. Almost immediately the youngest of the three broke loose from the other two and began dancing solo. Alex knew the man was tap dancing—he could hear the clicks. But the moves were unlike anything he’d ever seen, or even imagined. The man almost seemed to ripple as though all his bones had been removed and he was floating above the floor while his legs waved back and forth. The staccato, rapid-fire, snapping clicks shot out from his tap shoes like a machine gun. Even his face was dancing. Eyes blinking, lips moving, head shaking like one of those crazy cartoon animals. “Why ain’t nobody throwing no money?” Ritchie asked. “Guess those white folks don’t like ‘em. They should tell some jokes. Or bet ‘em where they got their shoes. Sure can dance, though.” After the reel ended, as they got up to leave, Alex couldn’t stand it anymore. He burst into the routine—as much of it as he could remember anyway—right in the middle of the aisle. A few people in the audience started to cheer him on until an usher made him stop. The next morning Alex and Uncle Lionel went to the theatre. They stood outside from nine am until it opened at opened at ten. While waiting Uncle Lionel had Alex practice as many moves as he could remember from the movie. Some of them were hard and there were a couple of parts that required Alex to fall down onto the concrete sidewalk. That hurt. But when the theatre finally opened, he already had much of it down. They sat in the balcony for two full runs, ignoring the newsreel, cartoons and the feature film—some cowboy thing with John Wayne and a bunch of Quakers—and watched only when the dance routine came on. The rest of the time Uncle Lionel had Alex practice it in the dark aisle by the seats. Soon he not only had the entire thing down, but they had begun improvising and reworking it. Alex even
Hot! Hot! Hot!
invented a few new moves of his own. When the run began for the third time, the door to the projection room opened. A fat, white man stood in the doorway, silhouetted by the glare. “You. Come in here.” “What for?” Uncle Lionel said. “We ain’t causing no trouble.” “I wish talk to you. Hurry. Before cartoon is end.” The cartoon was just finishing as the man closed the door behind them. He hurried over to the projector and put on the first reel for the feature film. Once it had started he sat down at a small card table across from Uncle Lionel and Alex. A bottle of rye whiskey and an old glass sat between them, next to half of a muffaletta sandwich from Central Grocery, a few blocks away. The man put another glass in front of Uncle Lionel and poured two drinks. He picked up his glass, then looked over at Alex. He pulled a long pocketknife out of his pants, cut a chunk off the sandwich and pushed it across the table. “Thank you, sir,” Alex said. “How old are you?” he asked. “Five? Six?” He had a funny way of speaking, Alex thought. Not like any other white people he knew. Not even like the Cajuns. Something different…deep, like those Nazis Alex sometimes saw in movies. “I’m thirteen. Almost fourteen.” “But…so small. Never mind. Here,” the man said, cutting off another piece of the sandwich and holding it out. “You eat more. Grow big.” He turned back to Uncle Lionel. “Your son, he dance good. Dance very good.” “My nephew. His mama died a while back. She was my sister.” “I am sorry for loss. But, as like I say, he dance good.” “Yeah, he does. So what?” “So, he dance good. Is all.” “You brought me in here just to tell me that?” “I have friend. My friend own dance theatre. He hire dancers. For the show.” “You think he’d hire Alex?” “Maybe. He hire dancers. For the show. And this one—” he pointed as the last wad of bread, salami and olive mix disappeared into Alex’s mouth. “—this one dance very good. He will pay.” “How much?” Uncle Lionel asked. The fat man shrugged. “You talk to him.” He handed Uncle Lionel a scrap of paper with an address on it. “But you tell him I send you, yes? I send you. Yes?” “Yeah, sure. You send me. Thanks. Why don’t we have another drink to celebrate?” Uncle Lionel held out his glass.
The Flagler Review “Yes. We celebrate.” The fat man poured two more drinks, then picked up the rest of the sandwich and held it out towards Alex. “Here. Eat. You celebrate too.” <END OF EXCERPT>
Single, married, asleep, awake, turning, unturned, what else is there but to sail across cherub clouds west to the Bob Hope Airport? I find a room at the Holiday Inn where here is No Smoking for thirty miles in any direction. In the morning I go to the harbor where otters wrestle and tussle among small commercial squiders angling for my cousin Sotoâ€™s dock to vend their long-legged catch. There is a story some tell, if you follow the Los Angeles River it will take you to a Monterey cabaret whose guitarists strum on cat guts. If there were words written for this flamenco they would read: I donâ€™t mind my wife taking a lover, but why did he have to be so beautiful?
Sometimes we borrow things forgetting where we put them. You know this to be true. No longer the young man you once were, unable to ask another for help. No longer capable of wiping yourself clean. You prepare yourself for this. Our anguish is given, never borrowed. Where do we put it? The image briefly halos in your mind, savage in its darkness. And you borrow again— Like the pen your father gave you to complete your homework assignment on what you thought love really was. You remember your answer. You cherish the calmness in your script. But no matter how hard you train your mind to remember, you don’t remember the color of that pen. You hate not knowing, but sometimes, the most vivid colors one can know are the ones that remain nameless, the ones without verbal fingerprints to deter us from searching further. You think you understand this now. Children know this best. You look at your own. Daughter, soap in the hand, clothed light, it’s all the same to you. To the youngest, we are like gods, fully grown, fully human. The colder it gets, the less we see our shadows. The reminder—snow angels with her, and the one snowflake that landed in the middle of your head, where her warm lips kissed at the moment of its falling, the line of demarcation, the separation of all things good and evil in you.
Incidium You think back to what you wrote. Love is recognition. Recognition. Like the look your father gave you when you asked for that pen. Like the look your girlfriend gave right before you asked her to marry you, when you breathed frost in her ear, and said her name.
Loco Mask II
Brian Alan Ellis
My old-ass Chevy Cavalier began overheating as I pulled into the municipal fairgrounds. I knew it would. It was about as stoked to meet Mom’s current boyfriend, Jack, as I was. She hadn’t said much, and with her track record, that’s exactly what I expected: Not much. There was Bucky, who drunkenly drove Mom’s Pathfinder into a jewelry store window; Warren, I remember, ran off with a thirteen-year-old cousin of his; Charles died sitting up—he’d had a heart attack on Mom’s sofa while reading Soap Opera Digest; as for Dad, well, he was neglectful and has spent the last fifteen years or so in solitude, painting horses—he doesn’t care for much else. I sat and let the engine cool. I couldn’t decide, like the Clash song says, whether to stay or go, which is a very Shakespeare-like question to ponder; it made me existentially queasy, in fact. I sat awhile. * * * * Mom had on one of her silly straw hats. This meant she was happy. When she pulled me into her, I got a good whiff of the dollarstore perfume she nearly drowns herself with on special occasions. Then I kissed one of her jolly, beer-reddened cheeks, and suspected her of being reckless. She said, “Ronald, my boy,” stepping away to straighten the brim of her Happiness hat, “I can’t wait for you to meet Jack.” Crack. Smack. Lack. Whack. Nothing good to rhyme with. A bad omen. Jack-off. “Well, where is he?” I asked. I didn’t see him. “Over there,” she said, pointing to a crowd of screaming imbeciles. “He’s performing!” “Performing what,” I said, “magic?” A big son-of-a-bitch, announced as Loco Mask II, wearing a sequined blue hood with crazy yellow dragons stitched onto the sides, charged through the curtain and down the aisle towards a shoddily built ring. On his way there, an old woman in the crowd lobbed a plastic cup of beer at him. It exploded against his greasy pectorals. Mom said to me, “That’s Jack. He’s what you call a ‘heel’.” Jack, the heel, stopped to get in the old woman’s face. It
Loco Mask II
looked like he was about to clock her one. The crowd booed. Jack’s opponent, already in the ring, dressed in fatigues and waving an American flag above his head, was named Corporal Crusher. Mom said, “That’s Bruce, Jack’s best friend. He’s a ‘babyface’… a good-guy, G.I. Joe-type.” She was a sudden expert. The bell rang. Jack and his buddy Bruce tossed each other around awhile. Mom knew all the moves—everything from a “Cobra Clutch” to a “Flying Insiguri.” No holds were barred; even ordinary household items were used as weapons: folding chairs, ladders, and even a cheese-grater which Jack had introduced to the referee’s skull. Mom went bananas, loving every minute of the choreographed bloodshed that had the crowd of screaming imbeciles on their fat feet; only when Jack was slammed through a fiberboard table did she show any real concern. After the match, Loco Mask II stood proudly in the center of the ring, arms raised, as trash thrown by the rabid audience accumulated at his feet. He wasn’t the moral victor. Not by a long shot. He was Mom’s new man. * * * * One by one the cars drove off till only Jack’s rusted Ford pick-up remained. I knew it was his because Mom had pointed it out. Standing beside it was a guy who looked about my age, maybe a little older, but he was big, built like a stallion in one of Dad’s paintings. His ratty blonde hair was tied into a ponytail, and he wore a pink tank-top with baggy zebra-striped pants tucked into cowboy boots. His left arm was bandaged. A specimen of inbreeding? I wondered. I said to Mom, “Is that Jack’s son or something?” She laughed nervously. “No, no, no,” she said, “that’s… well… that’s Jack.” So I shook Jack’s hand. It sounded like a crap-ton of firecrackers had gone off; it was quite a grip. He said, “Please to meet you, Ronald,” before spitting tobacco juice at my feet. Instead of a championship belt, he wore a fanny-pack around his waist. I shook my head. Then I noticed blood starting to seep through the bandages wrapping his arm. “Dude, you’re… uh…” “Oh, it’s nothin’,” he said, dabbing it with an entire roll of paper towels. I tried being cordial. “Quite a show out there,” I said. “It looked like you were really about to hit that old woman.” “That was Miriam,” he said, grinning. “She was my kindergar-
The Flagler Review
ten teacher.” “Oh?” was all I had. “Listen,” Mom said to me, “we’re heading back to the house to get cleaned up. Then we’ll grab some food, maybe go bowling. How ’bout it?” I thought maybe I could take him. Without the hood-andcheese-grater gag, Jack wasn’t so threatening. Still. “Ronald?” “Oh. Sure, Mom. How ’bout it?” * * * * The Chevy gave me some trouble on the way, but not much. Having to stare at Jack’s license plate the whole time, that was the real trouble: LOCOMSK2. Christ. I considered running Jack off the road but knew Mom would’ve probably had a breakdown. Her and my car. Both. When we got to Mom’s, Duker came running up to greet me, stopped to leak, and continued on. I shook him behind the ears. Old boy. I snooped around while Jack showered and Mom got ready. Propped behind a folded-up ping-pong table was a family portrait Dad had done years ago—before going mad with horses. In it my hair is combed, and I’m half-smiling; Duker, only a puppy, is in my arms, and his tongue is out; Mom has on one of her hats; Dad looks stoic, distant, almost gone. I must have been eleven or twelve, then. Dad didn’t know about Jack or Bucky or Warren. He knew about Charles, though; no use keeping that one a secret. He said of Charles: “Serves him right. The same would have probably happened to me too, had I stuck around.” I saw Jack’s wrestling boots resting against the bathroom door. I picked one of them up, looked it over. Then I smelled it. It smelled as you would expect: not like roses. I put it back. Mom came out of her bedroom wearing a tan button-down western shirt and white denim jeans. Classy as always. “Well,” she said, brushing a towel through curly wet hair, “what do you think of Jack?” “Well, I’m afraid to ask how old he is,” I said. “Oh, Ronald, you know age doesn’t matter much. But if you must know,” she said, “he’s twenty-eight.” “Jesus,” I said. “He’s only got three years on me! That doesn’t bother you?” Mom thought about it. “No,” she said. “I’m past all that. I love
Loco Mask II
Jack.” “ Yeah, well, at least he has a really great job,” I said. “How much do those gorillas get paid, anyway?” “More than painting roomfuls of horses, that’s for damn sure…” Mom let the bitterness fade as quickly as it had surfaced. “Oh, Ronald, can’t you just give it a chance? I promise you, Jack’s really great.” “Well, I suppose,” I said. I lied. Mom got me in her arms and squeezed. “We’re all gonna have so much fun tonight, just you wait!” * * * * “So your mom tells me you’re in school?” “That’s right,” I said, picking senselessly at a basket of soggy fries. “Communications. Not as exciting as what you’re doing, I’m sure.” “Eh, probably hurts less,” said Jack. “But hey, if communicating doesn’t work out, and it’s okay with your mom, I can teach you to be a wrassler like me.” Mom said, “Oh, Jack, don’t…” “Why the hell not? I could always use a tag partner. The Loco Mask Connection. Nice ring to it, huh?” Jack nudged me while sipping his beer. “What happened to Loco Mask I?” I asked. “Retired.” From his pocket Jack pulled out the sequined blue hood. He was damn proud of it. He said, “It’s an honor to carry on the legacy,” and then paused to reminisce. “A big draw in the southeast territories, that Loco.” Then he turned to Mom, who was glowing, and winked. I pictured a seedy motel room. Shades down. Ratt playing in the background. Loco Mask II lowering his muscular frame upon my dear old mother, ready to put her in his infamous “Love Hold.” I gripped the table. I nearly fainted. Mom said, “Ronald, what’s wrong? You look like a ghost done gotcha.” She laughed. “I’m fine,” I told her, “just dehydrated.” Just mortified. * * * * Jack nailed his sixth strike of our last game. Another Turkey. He went up to Mom, gave her some tongue, and then slapped her on the ass. Balls. I started to grow balls. I said to him, “I see you’re as lousy a bowler as you are a wrestler.” Jack flashed his tobacco-speckled teeth. “Only one way to find out,” he said.
The Flagler Review
A challenge. Mom looked on, smiling. “Oh, you boys, I swear…” I didn’t respond. I drank my beer. I drank it like it tasted bad. While Mom was at the jukebox, no doubt searching Kenny Chesney, I asked Jack if he wanted to take a shot. A peace offering. He shrugged, nodded, and then followed me to the bar. I said to the old man behind the bar, “Two shots of Kentucky Gentlemen.” He poured them, and I raised my glass for a toast. “To mothers!” I said, smugly. Jack didn’t like it. He looked straight through me while downing his shot, and then calmly walked off without saying “Thanks” or “Go to Hell” or anything. It was like the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. I couldn’t get through. So I got drunk, gloriously drunk, and watched from the bar as Mom slow-danced with Jack to a Gretchen Wilson ballad. Mom was happy; she had the hat to prove it. Still, I knew in my heart that Jack was a brute. I could picture him getting belligerent and knocking Mom around the way he did his opponents. I didn’t like him. Clutching chairs and tables for balance, I tottered onto the dance floor. From there I got Jack in a rear chokehold, and brought him to the ground. His legs were kicking, and I could feel his head growing hot with anger as tobacco juice ran down my arm. Mom screamed for help, but no one did anything right away. I held on as Jack somehow got to his feet. People began to stir then, but before they could get to us, Jack had reached behind and flipped me onto a table which, unlike the one he’d gone through earlier, did not break. So I lay sprawled on top of it, watching the ceiling spin as pain shook my spine, thinking I would soon end up like Charles. Mom got me in her arms again. Her hat was off, and she was sobbing. “Ronald, my boy, what’s gotten into you? Jack’s sorry. I swear he is. He didn’t mean nothin’. Oh God!” I felt bad. I should have let the two of them alone. Mom was a grown-ass woman, and she could do whatever the hell she wanted, which she usually did. I was just her son, and I was smashed, and everyone in the bar watched as I carefully got up off the table and onto my feet. I bet they all thought I couldn’t do it. A few of them clapped. First thing I did was apologize to Jack. I said, “Sorry, dude. You won,” and I raised his arm. Then I turned and kissed Mom’s tearsoaked face. I said, “Put your damn hat back on.” She did. I staggered off. “Ronald, come back!”
Loco Mask II
For Austen Minor
I looked around the parking lot. I couldn’t remember driving there myself. Mom was shouting. “Ronald, honey, please come back!” It wouldn’t stop. Relieved, I got into my Cavalier and sped off, leaving smoke and rubber. Mom’s voice kept on. * * * * It didn’t take long for the engine to burn up, and when it did I pulled the car to the side of the road. I waited awhile. Then I tried starting it. When the damn thing wouldn’t turn over, I got out and walked. I walked a long time. I didn’t know where I was going, what direction. Cars whizzed by, blinding me. They didn’t stop. They had places to be. They didn’t overheat. Delirious, I imagined Dad coming to rescue me on one of those horses he’d spent so much time capturing on canvas. He’d say, “Hop on, son,” and I would. The horse would be a Tri-Star Pictures horse—a magical white thing sprouting wings—and it would kick its legs up and make horse sounds, and we’d be off. I saw a set of lights up ahead, brighter than any before it, and it was then that I decided I would quit school. To hell with communications, I thought. I would quit school to become a professional wrestler. I would train hard. And I would say my prayers. And I would eat my vitamins. And I would challenge Jack to a steel cage grudge match. I’d pile-drive him on his thick head. And I too would wear a hood. I’d be known as Loco Mask Assassin. I would be the first.
According to Uzbek tradition, the perfect cup of tea must be served by a young virgin girl who smiles as she pours the well-steeped infusion. The guest then takes the cup to an open window, kisses the steam rising from the brew, and throws the rest of the contents out the window. Once this formality has been accomplished, the host can fill up the empty cup with vodka.
The Turkish Kiss
When a Turk notices a ravishing woman, he kisses the back of his hand and touches the kiss to his forehead. The thrill of such a gesture causes some men to faint.
the wind sung a lullaby that echoed like a dirge through 15 rotted watts I gnawed redwoods to stumps for a clear view as the sun bled to bed
on a splintered throne peppered with moss, I gouged a boney scepter within my chest (a sunken flesh nest) to play with the night I spun stars like silk and bridged them down to earth I pierced the moon and held it as a big balloon I crushed a sparrowâ€™s icy shells and spat at heaven with teeth, Iâ€™m a great destroyer
Note: The performers should be adults playing children. A room in a suburban country club or restaurant. ANNABELLE, a child, is sitting alone in a party dress. She is blowing on an imaginary tea cup, to cool it down. AARON, also a child, enters. He is in a little suit, tie undone. ANNABELLE: Care to join me? AARON: Doing what? ANNABELLE: I’m having tea. [She pours herself an invisible cup. Then she hovers over him.] ANNABELLE: Be careful, it’s hot. How do you like it? AARON: What are you talking about? ANNABELLE: With one lump or two? AARON: A lump of what? ANNABELLE: Sugar. AARON: I don’t want any sugar—because there’s no cup! [She gives up.] ANNABELLE: I’m playing that I’m in a palace. AARON: That’s for girls and babies. ANNABELLE: Well, it’s better than being here. This party’s for grown ups, nothing’s for kids. AARON: (nods) I wanted to play Decapitator 3, but my Dad took it
The Flagler Review away in the church. ANNABELLE: What’s a—that word? AARON: It’s someone who cuts your head off. Well, he tries to cut your head off, and you have to stop him or else you just become a big floating head with a screaming face throwing up guts in another galaxy. It’s a great game. And a true story. ANNABELLE: It sounds awful. AARON: Well, it’s more fun than picking up a tea cup—that isn’t even there. Who would die from that? No one. ANNABELLE: Well, we could play that we’re drinking tea in outer space, how about that? AARON: (considers) Maybe.
ANNABELLE: I’ll play me. You play an alien. (picks up invisible teapot) How do you like your— AARON: I still don’t know about this. ANNABELLE: Wow, look, it’s floating, I can’t put the teapot down— whoa, there, I’ve got it. AARON: That’s still a little babyish. ANNABELLE: Don’t they drink tea on your planet? AARON: Yeah. But a special kind. Made of human blood. ANNABELLE: How come human? There are no humans here, only aliens. AARON: Alien blood. ANNABELLE: Do aliens have blood? AARON: We have metal blood. Because we’re cyborgs. ANNABELLE: But that’s not blood.
Play AARON: There’s no tea in space! Okay? We drink something else! ANNABELLE: Oh, no, look—your teacup is floating away. AARON: Would you shut up?! [Aaron looks out the door.] AARON: Look. My uncle’s making a toast. ANNABELLE: Making toast? What kind? Cinnamon, maybe? AARON: Not toast, moron. A toast. ANNABELLE: What’s that?
ANNABELLE: Is my Mommy there?
ANNABELLE: Oh. (beat) Let’s play how they met. I’ll play Mommy. The story starts. I’m crying. (rubs eyes with fist) Boo hoo hoo. AARON: Who do I play? ANNABELLE: You play Gumby. AARON: Gumby? ANNABELLE: That’s what I called my grandpa when I was young. I couldn’t say Grandpa. AARON: But you could say Gumby? ANNABELLE: I guess. AARON: I hate Gumby. The name Gumby is like my butt.
AARON: Of course she’s there. She’s the bride, isn’t she? He’s saying the nice stuff about her and my Dad.
AARON: It’s when someone gets drunk and says something nice about someone else for a really, really, really long time. And then they drink some more.
The Flagler Review ANNABELLE: Just lie down and be dead, okay? AARON: Oh, okay. That’s good. [He does, eyes closed.] ANNABELLE: The story starts. (crying, passes coffin) Boo hoo hoo. AARON: What do I do? ANNABELLE: Just lie down. You’re dead. It’s your funeral. And I play my Mommy. (passes coffin) Boo hoo hoo. My Daddy’s dead. (sees someone; flirtatious) Why, hello. AARON: (squints) Who’s that? I can’t see. ANNABELLE: I’m going to tell you in a minute. Why, hello. You must be…Aaron’s Daddy.
AARON: My Dad? ANNABELLE: Yes. You’re a very nice man. Let’s smooch. (imitates big kiss) Okay, now let’s get married. AARON: (sits up) Your Mom and my Dad met at your Gumby’s funeral? ANNABELLE: Weren’t you listening? AARON: How do you know that? ANNABELLE: I seen them. AARON: Smooching? ANNABELLE: No, but they must have, because now look at them, they just got married. AARON: How did my Dad know your Gumby? ANNABELLE: He worked for him. Where he worked. Like in a ice cream store or a gas station or a zoo. I don’t know where my Gumby
Play worked. But your Daddy and my Mommy both went to see him after he was dead. AARON: Was your Dad at the funeral? ANNABELLE: Yeah, but he was on the phone. He was always on the phone. That’s what my Mommy said. Not said, screamed. I’ll play Daddy now. Ring, ring! Hello? I can’t talk now, I’m at Gumby’s funeral. Oh, okay, well, just for a minute. Three hours later. Now I’ll play Mommy. Get off the phone! Or I’m going to meet, smooch, and marry Aaron’s Daddy! Daddy: Okay, I’m hanging up. Now you don’t have to. (beat) That part I made up. [He looks at her.] AARON: Let’s do my story instead.
[He rises slowly from the coffin, arms outstretched.]
ANNABELLE: Help! Help! Don’t eat my brains! AARON: (stops) I wasn’t really going to. I was only playing. ANNABELLE: Well, so was I. AARON: I thought you were really scared. ANNABELLE: That’s because I play well. Weller than you. AARON: Is that so? [He takes this in.] ANNABELLE: Let’s play when we first met. AARON: Okay. ANNABELLE: I’ll play me. You play you. The story starts. Hi, Aaron,
AARON: I am the great ghost Gumby! I am a zombie Gumby coming to eat your brains!
ANNABELLE: What’s your story?
The Flagler Review I’m Annabelle. I’m going to be your new strep-sister. AARON: Oh, yeah? I hate you! Having a strep-sister is like my butt! [He pantomimes punching her and throwing her to the floor.] ANNABELLE: What’d you do that for?! AARON: Because that’s what I did when we met. ANNABELLE: You were supposed to play that you were nice! AARON: I was? ANNABELLE: Yes. Now I’ll do this. [She mimes kicking him over and over in the shins. ] AARON: But that didn’t happen!
ANNABELLE: Well, it should have! Or what’s the point of playing? AARON: Oh…I get it now. [Annabelle looks out the door.] ANNABELLE: Hey. They already had wedding cake. AARON: We’re too late. ANNABELLE: Nobody told us. AARON: Let’s play we’re eating cake. ANNABELLE: Okay. What kind of cake do you want? We only have coconut. AARON: Coconut is for girls and it makes me puke. ANNABELLE: Well, we also have chocolate, raspberry swirl, and ham. AARON: (makes a face) I’ll take chocolate.
Play ANNABELLE: Coming right up. [He takes a piece of invisible cake onto an actual little plate, filled with remains of actual food. He pretends to eat. Then he clutches his throat.] ANNABELLE: What’s the matter? AARON: (gagging) Holy my butt! There are razor blades in my cake! [He collapses, covering his mouth. She looks at him.] ANNABELLE: I forgot to mention it was chocolate razor blade cake. You should have had the coconut. I’m sorry.
AARON: Look! ANNABELLE: What?
ANNABELLE: Oh, no!!! AARON: Looks real, right? Just like blood. (shows her his food plate) I hate beets, but they’re very red. ANNABELLE: (concedes) It’s true. It’s like makeup. AARON: I can’t see my mouth. I’m gonna go ask your Mom for a mirror. She’s always looking in hers. ANNABELLE: You’re gonna get in trouble! [He exits. We hear a woman’s scream, then yelling. Annabelle winces. Aaron returns.] ANNABELLE: I told you! AARON: It worked great!—What else can I—is that a hard-boiled egg? I can use it like my eye fell out, and—
[He bares his teeth: they’re all bloody.]
[He gets up.]
The Flagler Review [Suddenly, Annabelle gestures that someone’s at the door. They hit the lights, then freeze. Whoever it was goes away. They put the lights back on.] AARON: Wow. I was so scared, I peed in my pants. ANNABELLE: You did?! AARON: Yep. See? [He shows her a spreading spot at his crotch.] ANNABELLE: I can’t believe it! AARON: No—it’s juice. It’s just pretend. I poured it there! ANNABELLE: That’s gonna—like my Mommy always says—stain. AARON: So what?
ANNABELLE: So everybody’s gonna think you peed. AARON: That’s the idea! Admit it—I play gooder than you! ANNABELLE: No, you don’t. My Daddy just says you’ve got ABCD. AARON: What’s that? ANNABELLE: You can’t sit still enough to learn your letters. AARON: Why do I need to learn letters? When I can do this? (indicates his red teeth and stained pants) [She looks out the door.] ANNABELLE: My Mommy and your Daddy are dancing now. He’s holding her really hard. AARON: (shrugs) Dancing is like my farts. I’d only dance if I was a dancing crook who danced you to death with his musical feet made of guns.
Play ANNABELLE: So let’s escape. I’ll play Mrs. Amanda Dalrymple. I’m very rich. AARON: Who am I? ANNABELLE: My servant. AARON: I’m not gonna play that! ANNABELLE: My chauffeur then. You drive a big car. Your name is Rolf. AARON: (considers) Rolf. It sounds like a dog. [He expertly barks, then pants. She looks at him, a little unnerved.]
AARON: Or it could be a Nazi. Like on Bugs Bunny. [He has done a very good German accent. She stares again at him, impressed.]
[He makes convincing gunning-a-motor sounds. ] AARON: Let’s go! [She relaxes, as if into a backseat.] ANNABELLE: Get me out of this wedding, Rolf. And take the highway—it’s quicker! [He makes ever-quickening driving sounds.] ANNABELLE: Uh—won’t you please slow down? I’m getting a little nervous. AARON: (German accent) I’ll drive as fast as I want. And you better shut up. ANNABELLE: That’s no way to talk to me. You’re fired!
ANNABELLE: That’s even better than on Bugs.
ANNABELLE: It’s a man.
The Flagler Review AARON: Oh, yeah? See that gas truck? ANNABELLE: What? Why? What are you going to do? AARON: Here we go! (he floors it) ANNABELLE: Rolf! No! [He mimes a huge crash. Annabelle flies off from where she’s sitting, onto the floor. She looks up, surprised.] ANNABELLE: Wow. It was, like, so real, I fell right on the floor! AARON: I know! See? Now let’s escape like this! [He believably climbs up onto an imaginary window ledge. She stares at him.]
AARON: Come on! It’s a actual window! You got to think it is—or it won’t work! ANNABELLE: Okay… [Cautiously, she climbs up next to him. He opens the “window.” Air comes rushing onto their faces, actually moves their hair. They stand there. She looks down.] ANNABELLE: It’s so high, I can hardly see the valet parking guy. AARON: That’s the idea. We’ll climb down by the vines. Here we go. [He starts down.] ANNABELLE: I’m coming. [They both seem to descend.] AARON: You’re doing good. ANNABELLE: You sure that it’s safe? AARON: Unless you remember that it’s not.
Play ANNABELLE: (slips) Holy— AARON: I said not to! ANNABELLE: You reminded me by saying it! Hang onto me! (grips him) AARON: You’re too heavy! You’re like three smaller kids! ANNABELLE: Let’s go back inside! Please! [They climb back in, step down. He closes the window. The air stops. He looks at her, shakes his head.]
ANNABELLE: I’m going back to having tea. AARON: What? ANNABELLE: Hello. Would you like a cup of tea? How do you like your tea? AARON: With two lumps. ANNABELLE: Okay, here you go, two— [As she pours, he knocks the imaginary cup out of her hand. Then he breaks the rest of the set.]
AARON: You spoiled everything. We could have been long gone. We could have been gone so long that they got tired of looking for us and had two new kids. Or we could have gone to the future, where everybody here was old or dead. Or after a big bomb dropped. Or we all lived in ice water. Or our skin was covered in rotting boils, and we were put in plastic to keep the rats away. Or maybe it would all be great, and the subways would have swimming pools and the gutters would be gardens. Or we could have gone back before we were born. When we were nothing. When we were less than doody, because doody really exists. It would have been like being ghosts. And we wouldn’t be here, at this wedding. That’s the only way your Mom won’t marry my Dad. But forget it. You had your chance.
The Flagler Review AARON: There! I’m tired of your tea and I’m tired of you! [She looks at the imaginary carnage. Then she bursts into tears.] ANNABELLE: My tea cups. They’re all ruined. They’re in a million pieces. [He looks at her.] AARON: Hold on. [He goes out. He comes back.] AARON: Here. [He has brought her a real teacup.] AARON: Take it. It’s got real tea, too. Be careful, it’s hot. [She looks at it. He looks out, listens.]
100 AARON: They say it’s time to go. We didn’t show up in one, but we got to leave in the same car. [She doesn’t move.] AARON: Come on. We got to go home. Together. [She still doesn’t go. He shrugs, exits. She sits there a second. Then she slowly picks up the real tea cup. She drinks from it. It burns her mouth. Then…Annabelle starts to blow on it, to cool it down. She is still blowing on it, as…the lights fade.]
Contributors Gale Acuff has had poetry published in many journals and has authored three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the U.S., China, and Palestine. He currently teaches in Guza, Sichuan province, China. Paul David Adkins grew up in South Florida and lives in New York. Brianna Marie Angelakis currently attends Flagler College. She will graduate in the Spring of 2013 with a B.A. in the Visual Arts, a B.A. in English, and a minor in Illustration. Her artworks have been exhibited in various galleries located throughout north and central Florida. She currently lives and works in northern Florida. A lyric poet, critic and translator, E. Louise Beach also creates libretti. Recently, her song cycle Ophelia’s Flowers was presented at the Festival for Women in Music at the Eastman School of Music in collaboration with composer Jennifer Bellor. In addition, her Requiem~Elegy had its world premiere at Dickinson College last year in collaboration with composer Robert W. Pound.
Chelsey Clammer received her M.A. in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago. Her writing has appeared in a number print and online publications, including Windy City Times, Make/ shift, THIS, as well as upcoming nonfiction pieces in Sleet Magazine, Spittoon, and Stone Highway. She has an essay in the forthcoming Seal Press anthology, It’s All in Her Head, due out Spring 2013. A resident of Minneapolis, MN, Chelsey is currently working on a collection of creative nonfiction essays about finding the concept of home in the body. Mark DeCarteret’s work has appeared in the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press), Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader 1988-1998 (Black Sparrow Press) and Under the Legislature of Stars: 62 New Hampshire Poets (Oyster River Press) which he also co-edited. He was Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s seventh Poet Laureate from 2009-11. Stephanie Dickinson, raised on an Iowa farm, now lives in New York City. Her novel Half Girl (winner of the Hackney Award given by Birmingham-Southern) is published by Spuyten Duyvil. Corn Goddess (poems), Road of Five Churches (stories) and Straight Up and No Sky There (stories) are available from Rain Mountain Press. Her story “A Lynching in Stereoscope” was reprinted in Best Ameri-
Contributors can Nonrequired Reading and “Dalloway and Lucky Seven” and “Love City” in New Stories from the South, Best of 2008 and 2009. She is the winner of New Delta Review’s 2011 Matt Clark Fiction prize judged by Susan Straight. Brian Alan Ellis lives in Tallahassee, Florida. His fiction has appeared in Skive, Zygote in my Coffee, The Whistling Fire, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Monkey Bicycle, Corduroy Mtn., The Big Stupid Review, DOGZPLOT, The Splinter Generation, Flashquake, Epiphany, Underground Voices, Glossolalia, The Single Hound, Conte, The Fine Line, Fiction Fix, Covalence, Curbside Quotidian and NAP, as well as in the anthology The Incredible Shrinking Story (Fast Forward Press). His work has also been performed live as part of the “Stories on Stage” theater program in Denver, Colorado. And in addition to singing for the Ex-Boogeymen, he waits patiently for Better Off Dead to receive the Criterion treatment. KJ Hannah Greenberg is double trouble. She’s been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, helps out as an Associate Editor at Bound Off and at Bewildering Stories, and has two new books launching, A Bank Robber’s Bad Luck with His Ex-Girlfriend (Unbound CONTENT), and Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things (Bards & Sages Publishing). What’s more, she makes her hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs line up in pairs. Matt Esteves Hemmerich is a baker and a drummer. His work has appeared in Berkeley Poetry Review, Vanitas, Emerge Literary Journal, Apropos Literary Journal, and Atlas Poetica. Brad Johnson has two chapbooks Void Where Prohibited and The Happiness Theory available at puddinghouse.com. His third chapbook Gasoline Rainbow is available at finishinglinepress.com. Work of his has recently been accepted by Nimrod, Poet Lore, The South Carolina Review, The Southeast Review, Willow Springs and others. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. Laurence Klavan received two Drama Desk nominations for the book and lyrics to Bed and Sofa, the musical produced by the Vineyard Theater in New York and the Finborough Theatre in London in 2011. He co-wrote the musical, Embarrassments, produced by the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. His one-act, The Summer Sublet, produced in the Ensemble Studio Theatre Marathon in New York, is included in Best American Short Plays 2000-2001. His novels, The Cutting
Contributors Room and The Shooting Script, were published by Ballantine Books. He won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Mrs. White, written under a pseudonym. His graphic novels, City of Spies and Brain Camp, co-written with Susan Kim, were published in 2010 by First Second Books at Macmillan and their Young Adult series, Wasteland, has been sold to Harper Collins. His short story collection, ‘The Family Unit’ and Other Fantasies, is forthcoming from Chizine Publications. Dimitri McCloghry was born in Athens, Greece and currently resides in Sumter, South Carolina. His work has been published in The Chiaroscuro. He is studying English at Flagler College and will graduate in the fall of 2012.
Kylynn Pelkey is a senior at Flagler College and studies Communication with an emphasis in Journalism. Kylynn has been published in The Gargoyle, Coquina Magazine and FCTV Journal. She enjoys volunteering with animals and environmental non-profits in her free time. After graduation, Kylynn plans to pursue a career in documentary film production where she can expose and educate the public about current environmental problems. Daniel Ruefman is an emerging poet whose work has appeared in Fertile Source, Temnos, SLAB, Fried Chicken and Coffee, and Tonopah Review. He recently earned his Ph.D. in Composition and TESOL from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and currently teaches writing at the University of Wisconsin—Stout. Athena Sasso’s work has been published in Existere Journal of Arts and Literature and recognized by Glimmer Train. She received a Royal Palm Literary Award for short story and honorable mention for a novel in progress from the Eckerd College Writers’ Conference. Burl Kenneth Sloan is a freelance writer and novelist residing on a bayou on the Emerald Coast of north Florida, where he lives with three badly-behaved dogs and the love of his life, Lorraine. Sloan first began writing in the 1970s for a newspaper in Pago Pago, Samoa, and at various times has also done freelance writing work for magazines and newspapers along with technical writing for major corporations. He is currently revising a three-part series of novels, under the working title of Rewrites, which is now undergoing—of all things—rewrites, and composing short stories as they come to him.
Contributors L.E. Sullivan is a resident of Nacogdoches, Texas. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology: Louisiana, Sphere Literary Magazine, Northwind Magazine, and HUMID. Christopher Tozier happily lives deep in the sand pine scrub between Paisley and Cassia, Florida. He has been selected as a 2011 State of Florida Artist Fellowship recipient. His first book, Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus, is a middle-reader fantasy novel published by Pineapple Press. A poetry chapbook, A Little Book of Light History, is forthcoming from Yellowjacket Press and will include “The Life Boat.” His poems have appeared widely in journals such as Tampa Review, Post Road, Saw Palm, Washington Square, San Pedro River Review, The Literary Review, The Florida Review, and The Wisconsin Review. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Artist website www.christophertozier.com. His poem “The Life Boat” was written as a response to the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan, when he realized that Whistler’s painting conveys a muddy and stunned desolation that seemed so appropriate. Barrett Warner raises running and timber horses and persimmons at his farm in Maryland’s Gunpowder watershed. His poems have appeared in Gargoyle, California Quarterly, Roanoke Review, Natural Bridge and Comstock Review, among others. New poems will soon appear in Quarter After Eight, Freshwater, Pembroke Magazine and Snail Mail Review. His chapbook Til I’m Blue in the Face was published by Tropos Press. Sarah Brown Weitzman has had work published in numerous journals including The North American Review, American Writing, Potomac Review, and America. Her second chapbook, The Forbidden, was published by Pudding House. In 1984, Weitzman received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. Her latest book, Herman and the Ice Witch, a children’s novel, was published in 2011 by Pure Heart/Main Street Rag. A former New York academic, Weitzman is retired and lives in Florida. Bill Wolak recently published his third book of poetry entitled Archeology of Light. In 2011, he was selected as a featured reader at the Kritya International Poetry Festival in Nagpur, India. Kirby Wright was a Visiting Fellow at the 2009 International Writers Conference in Hong Kong, where he represented the Pacific Rim
Contributors region of Hawaii and lectured with poet Gary Snyder. He was also a Visiting Writer at the 2010 Marthaâ€™s Vineyard Residency in Edgartown, Mass., and the 2011 Artist in Residence at Milkwood International, Czech Republic. He is the author of the companion novels Punahou Blues and Molokaâ€™i Nui Ahina, both set in the islands.
To Our Supporters and Benefactors, This issue of FLARE: The Flagler Review would not have been possible without the generous support of the following Flagler College departments, organizations and individuals. Thanks for your ongoing assistance. President William T. Abare, Jr. Dean Alan Woolfolk Darien Andreu Lisa Baird Kim Bradley Judith Burdan Pam Leydon Liz Robbins Jay Szczepanski Brian Thompson Marc Williar Office of Public Information Office of Admissions Department of English Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society Ink Slingers Creative Writing Club A special thank-you to Jim Wilson, Carl Horner, and all those who have directed The Flagler Review in years past. With your spark we light the fire.