Flare The Flagler Review Volume 27 Issue 1
Â© 2017, FLARE: The Flagler Review, a publication of Flagler College. Visit www.theflaglerreview.com for subscription information and submission guidelines.
Volume 27, Issue 1 Spring 2017
Staff Editors Rhiannon Alter Samantha Tetrault Managing Editor Arialexya PiJuan Advisor Brian Thompson
Fiction Editors Elizabeth Browning Tiffany Coelho Joseph Corry Taylor Diamond Kailee Schnabele Poetry Editors Natalie Agosto-Garcia Caitlin Costello Isabelle Rodriguez Non-Fiction Editor Gwendolyn Crowe
s a season of rebirth and rejuvenation, we felt an ambitious change was necessary both in print and online. When choosing pieces for this edition we kept in mind the duality of human nature and the natural world around us, both ever-changing. The writing and artwork showcase the rawness and complex beauty that is the human condition, as well as our relationship to our land and each other. These works focus on the challenges we face as we enter new worlds and leave behind old ones. They bring into light our deep-rooted need to reflect â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a nostalgia that connects us all. This publication highlights the interpersonal and the intrapersonal: the ways in which we impact those around us and the ways a growing world changes around, and within us. Our evolving domain attempts to pull us apart, but our abilities to experience and create keep us connected. It reflects our resiliency through trauma and the support we find within the art we produce and cherish. FLARE is an evolution of human-kind and creative innovation. Finally, we would like to thank the entire staff for their unyielding passion and commitment to creating a memorable issue. Rhiannon Alter & Samantha Tetrault Editors
Table of Contents
Fiction Home of the Free Yellow Roses
12 Susan Kennedy
Poetry But Not Forgotten 35 Brett Roth Missing Glove 36 Jonathan Jones The Bee Girl
A Collection of Womanly Thoughts 38 Sara Chamberlin Saint 40 Trisha Rezende You Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Have to Die Well for Me
Over River, Through Woods 42 Elisabeth Sharber
Non-Fiction The Test 44 Darryl Graff Caved In 48 Shannon Kernaghan
Art Respect for the Matriarch
Almost There 29 Sara Pedigo Beginning of Winter 30 Sara Pedigo Relearn Everything
31 Sara Pedigo
Instant Transfiguration 32 Sara Pedigo Chemotherapy 34 Annie Thompson Marking the Battle Grounds 34 Annie Thompson Plastic 43 Ana Jovanovska Found Objects 44 Jason Kerzinski
Respect for the Matriarch Sabrina Bellemsieh Photography vi
Home of the Free
he wind whistled across the grass, whispering its way through the shrubs. Palm trees rustled and swayed with the gust. Beams of light suddenly arched across the palms and burned through the thin fronds. The bright light swooped down from the palms to survey the land underneath them. Four figures dove forward and sprawled across the grass, each person pressing themselves into the earth, keeping their faces low. One of the men clutched a small girl to his chest, covering her mouth with his calloused hand. The light raked a few feet away from where they hid in the brush. Next to him, a slightly older girl traced the light with wide eyes. She pawed across the dirt, stretching out her tiny fingers. “Cálmate, mija,” the man said. He squeezed the girl’s hand. The other man inched closer to them. “Miguel, we must keep moving.” “Not with my daughters, David. We’ll wait.” The light burned close by, to the right of them. The men were silent until it drew away. In the distance, they heard disgruntled voices arguing. David slowly wiped the sweat from his brow. “I can take Lisa. You keep Isabel. We can meet in—” “No, David!” Miguel’s voice strained. He drew Lisa to him, holding her tight next to her little sister in his arms. “We’re turning around.” David swore, spitting as he did. His voice began in a harsh whisper, but was cut off by the guttural howls of dogs. Miguel felt Lisa tense in his arms, her hands gripping his shirt. A small whimper escaped her lips. In response, little Isabel began to fidget and wiggle her head. “Está bien, mijitas,” Miguel whispered desperately. His arms were shaking as he tried to hold the girls still. Barks tore across the grass, sounding much closer than the howls. Lisa felt her fa1
ther’s sweat drip on her forehead. She kept her eyes closed and tried to be brave for her sister. Miguel and David made eye contact as guns began to click in the distance. More lights crisscrossed over the grass in front of where they lay. Miguel moved as slowly as he could, untangling his daughters from his grasp. He rolled Isabel across the ground to David. When Miguel reached for Lisa, she struggled. “Papa, no!” she cried quietly. “Mija, por favor.” Miguel kissed her forehead before David pulled her away. “Ir con Tío David.” Lisa nodded, but hot tears burned in her eyes. She crawled across the dirt to David, who wrapped his arm around her. “What are you doing, Miguel?” David’s eyes searched his brother’s face, but he found no answer. Miguel planted two hands on the dirt as he began to push himself up. “Miguel. Miguel, no!” David lurched sideways to grab Miguel’s shirt, but it was too late. Miguel stood and walked forward quickly so the lights would miss his brother and daughters. He held up his hands, palms facing the lights now gunning toward him. He kept walking toward the lights. He stopped moving about fifteen yards away from where the girls and David hid. “Stop right where you are!” a voice called out. The dogs’ barks chorused in response, their snarls echoing across the flat land. “We will shoot!” “Please,” Miguel called out. “I’m surrendering. You may arrest me.” A few laughs accompanied the dogs’ growls. “Well, I’ll be damned,” the same voice said. “The ‘spic speaks English.” Boots crunched on the dry earth, and the lights pierced Miguel’s eyes. A round, burly shadow appeared in front of him. “Where’s the rest of ya?” “I’m the only one,” Miguel replied. “No, you ain’t.” “I am.” “Have it your way, amigo.” The shadow whistled once, and the dogs tore through the grass toward Miguel. David scrambled to cover the girls’ eyes, 2 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
but Lisa was still watching when one of the dogs sprang up to sink its teeth into her father’s neck. She watched him fall backwards into the dirt, and then the other dogs were on him. Finally, David’s hand pulled her face away from the mauling. Her quiet tears hit the grass, trickled onto the dirt, and watered the ground as she cried. Years later, a few miles north-west of the border at Reynosa, Mexico and the state of Texas, Lisa Flores sat in a dusty blue pickup truck. She pulled her thick, dark hair into a pony tail as she sang along with an old cumbia from her childhood. Using a twenty-ounce soda bottle as her microphone, she gave the desert around her a concert. The passenger door swung open and David pulled himself up into the truck. He was much older now, a belly spilling over his belt. Gray streaked through what remained of his black hair. He shook his head at Lisa, who was now singing to him. “Okay, rock star,” he said, laughing. “Hola, Tío.” Lisa turned the music down. “You have everything we need?” David scanned the open land around him. Then, he surveyed the backseat of the truck and nodded. “Good, good.” David looked at Lisa. “How did you get out of your date?” “I asked one of the nurses to change the on-call schedule so he would be on tonight.” “Lisa…You should have gone. He’s a nice man.” David tisked his tongue. “I want to help people,” Lisa said. “You know that.” David nodded. “Being a nurse isn’t enough, no?” Lisa smiled, shook her head, and slowly turned the music up again. She and her uncle sang together while they waited for the sun to set. When the sky burned blue and the clouds were smoky over the stars, Lisa and David stepped out of the truck. Lisa pulled her arms through her backpack and leaned down to tuck her knife into her boot. David grunted as he slung a backpack over one shoulder. He loaded a small pistol and secured it in a holster on his hip. Their boots crunched on the ground as 3
they started walking. Their eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, so they left their flashlights tucked away. After a few miles, they reached a large, broken palm tree. Half of the tree stood tall, while the other half wilted toward the earth. The fronds kissed the ground whenever the wind blew against them. Lisa grabbed a loose bunch of fronds and rustled them fast, three times. David’s eyes watched the land carefully, narrowing to take in the dark landscape. A moment passed, and then five shadows crept forward. David and Lisa introduced themselves. Lisa took five bottles of water out of her backpack and gave one to each person. They nodded gratefully. In the small group, there was a mother, father, and three sons. Two of the sons looked to be in their twenties, like Lisa, but the third was very young. The mother kept him close, pulling him back if he stumbled away. When they finished their water, they began walking, following Lisa and David. No one spoke while they walked. The wind’s whispers and their footsteps on the dirt were the only sounds in the desert. “Did Isabel get into that college?” David asked Lisa after almost two hours of walking. Lisa used a small towel to wipe sweat from her forehead. “Yeah, she did. She got her letter yesterday.” “Verdad? That’s good, Lisa!” David grinned at her. “How are you going to get around…?” He gestured with his hands, knowing she would understand. “She’s documented. Had to be for high school.” Lisa turned to check on the group behind her. The mother looked tired, but she was keeping up. Her little son still clasped her hand. An hour or so later, the group came to a sudden halt. Red and blue lights sparkled ahead in the distance. Lisa motioned for the group to get low. The family sank into the earth. Lisa and David crouched next to one another. Their eyes were locked on the lights. They heard voices, but they couldn’t make out any words. A second pair of lights sparked to the left of them, and Lisa gasped. “We’re not going to be able to get around them,” she said. “We’ll curve north, but we need to get to McAllen before 4 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
daybreak.” David looked back at the family. “They need to move a lot quicker if they want to make their drop-off.” Lisa took her eyes off the lights to look at her uncle. “Why are you taking them through McAllen?” “They can get through the ranchland, and then take a car through Edinburg.” David tore his eyes away from the lights to look at his niece. “There’s a checkpoint when you leave Edinburg, Tío. We can’t take them that way. They won’t make it.” Lisa looked back at the family. The father met her eyes. He was scared. Lisa smiled at him as reassuringly as she could before she turned back toward the lights. She and her uncle remained silent. They listened for the voices, hoping to catch some trace of words. They couldn’t wait much longer. Suddenly, a dog snarled to the right of them. Lisa’s whole body tensed, and she clamped a hand down on her uncle’s shoulder. David slowly reached for his gun. Lisa heard the family’s hushed whispers. She motioned for them to be quiet, her arm shaking as she did. Slowly, she gazed to her right to look for the dog, but she couldn’t see anything. Footsteps sounded from the same direction. Lisa recognized the sound of a gun scratching against Kevlar. She said a silent prayer and gently reached for her knife. “Find something, Walker?” The footsteps were growing louder. The dog whined in response, sounding much closer than before. David raised his gun in the direction of the voice. Lisa crouched next to him, her knife poised in front of her. She heard the dog scratching at the dirt, its nose sniffing wildly. Suddenly, light crossed over her hand and her knife. Slowly, she raised her eyes. A man in a dark green uniform and a black vest stared down at her. She heard his dog whining next to him. His gun was crossed over his flashlight, but it was pointed at the ground next to her. “Davis, you find somethin’?” a voice called out. The man stared at Lisa. His eyes moved behind her. He looked back at her, meeting her eyes, and deftly shook his head 5
at her. “No sir,” he called out, moving his light away from Lisa. He stepped away, whistling for the dog to follow. A gunshot ripped through the air behind Lisa. She fell toward the ground, instinctively taking cover. She heard angry footsteps pounding into the earth near her. She kept her face to the ground, not daring to look up. She glanced to the right again, expecting to see the snarling dog or the man with the gun. Instead, a pair of pink, fluffy house slippers marched right past her head. Lisa slowly craned her neck. Her eyes fell on the back of a woman in a black housecoat, wielding a shot gun. “Ma’am!” the voices called out. “Drop your weapon!” “Have you forgotten we’re in Texas?” she yelled. “I’ll drop my weapon when you get off my property. And take those damn dogs with you. Y’all woke up all my chickens, actin’ the fool out here.” There was a collective groan. “Ma’am, we are searching your property for—” someone began. “What do you think I have this shot gun for?” she snapped. “Now, unless someone can show me a warrant, get off my land before I shoot you for trespassin’. Nothin’ but Pain-In-My-AssPatrol.” The voices grumbled again, and more dogs started to whine, but eventually they faded away. The red and blue lights blinked out, and Lisa listened as wheels munched across the dirt and sand. She let out the breath she’d been holding and checked her uncle. His gun was shaking in his hand, but he was okay. She looked back at the family. They were frozen in fear. When Lisa looked up, a flashlight beamed right into her eyes. She shielded her face with her hand, and the light reflected off her knife. Slowly, she got to her feet and stood up. The light lowered to the ground, forming a puddle of white on the grass. Lisa dropped her hand and found the woman staring at her. The woman smiled at Lisa, at David still on the ground, and then she waved the flashlight toward the family. She looked back to Lisa. “Come on, y’all. Follow me.” No one moved. Lisa cleared her throat. “It would be better if we kept moving.” 6 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
“Those boys aren’t going away. They do this about once a week. All they did was surround my place with their damn dogs.” She smirked at Lisa. “They think I’m hiding something.” The woman tucked the flashlight under her arm. She extended a hand to Lisa. “I’m Carol. Let me help you. Y’all can eat, too.” Lisa looked at her uncle. He put his gun back in the holster and got to his feet. He spoke to the family in Spanish, telling them they could stand, too. They were shaken, but they stepped forward slowly. Lisa gazed at the woman, and then lifted her own hand. “I’m Lisa. My uncle David, and the Santos family.” Carol smiled at each of them. “Yeah. Y’all look hungry, alright.” She started walking toward the shadow of an old ranch house, an even larger barn looming behind it in the black night. “Are you alone, Carol?” Lisa stashed her knife back into her boot. “Yes, ma’am. I am. Been alone for a long time out here.” She looked back at Lisa as she walked. Lisa stepped forward to follow her, and the others fell in line behind her. When they arrived at the barn, Carol showed them around. She shoved a few hay bales away, revealing a small door. “Just in case,” she said. She replaced the bales over the door and brushed her hands on her housecoat. “I’ll be back with dinner for everyone.” David looked at Lisa. “Seguirla,” he said. Lisa nodded and followed Carol up to the ranch house. The inside was large and open, but it was dated. The floral wallpaper drooped from the walls, and the shaggy carpet peeled against the tile in the kitchen. Carol began piling beans and rice onto seven plates. Carol smiled at Lisa. “I eat this stuff anyway. Don’t think I’m profilin’ y’all.” Lisa smiled. She glanced around for pictures of a husband or children, but there were none. She jumped when she saw a large, black dog snoring under the kitchen table. “That’s Hercules,” Carol said. “He won’t bite.” Lisa backed away, leaning against the wall. “You scared of dogs?” Lisa nodded, staring at the slobbery, snoring Hercules. 7
“The cops out here are ass-backwards and crooked as hell. I’m an American, and I can’t trust ‘em. They’re the only people Hercules doesn’t like.” Carol shook her head as she handed two plates to Lisa. “I remember when I first moved out here, there was talk about their dogs maulin’ a man to death.” Lisa flinched. “Those plates too hot?” Carol asked. “They’re fine. Just left-over nerves.” Lisa managed a smile. Together, Carol and Lisa walked back to the barn, the rice and beans sizzling on the plates they carried. The Santos family ate silently, sitting close to one another. David and Carol swapped a few battle stories, laughing quietly. Lisa listened to them and smiled a few times, but she did not speak until Carol got up to leave. “Carol,” Lisa said, clutching the woman’s arm. “Thank you for this.” “Y’all are people, I’m people.” Carol shrugged. “Can I ask you something, Lisa?” Lisa nodded. “Why are you doing this? Your uncle said you’re a nurse, but why risk your own life for something like this?” Carol crossed her arms. “The money. I need it to pay my sister’s tuition for college.” Lisa sighed, her eyes glazing. “Plus, like you said. We’re people.” Carol smiled softly, reaching a hand out to pat Lisa’s shoulder. “You tell the Santos family I said ‘welcome home.’ Y’all have a good night.” Carol left, sliding the barn’s doors closed behind her. The landscape was quiet that night, except for the rustling grass outside the barn. Lisa rested her head against a small pile of hay. There was a small hole in the barn’s roof. She fell asleep gazing through it, up to the stars. The next morning, gunshots peppered through the otherwise peaceful air. Lisa bolted upright. She and David both lurched toward the hay bales, shoving them out of the way. Lisa heard Carol’s strong voice, yelling outside the barn. Lisa pulled the door up, and David ushered the family in. She guided David into the 8 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
space too, watching his shaking legs as he stepped down. She was about to step down herself when another shot rang out and Carol’s voice came to a halt. A heavy thud echoed in Lisa’s ears. Quickly, Lisa slammed the door down. She felt David and the family pushing against it, whispering fervently in Spanish. Lisa ignored them, holding the door down with her feet as she piled bales on top of it. She finished just as the barn doors swung open. Four men stared at her. In the dirt behind them, she saw the edges of a black housecoat and the puddle forming around it. Next to one of the men, a dog slobbered and whined. Its nose nudged something next to Carol…Hercules. Lisa forced herself to look away. She held her hands up, breathing calmly as the men entered the barn. “Where are the others?” one of them asked her. “I’m the only one,” Lisa said. The men groaned, two of them pinching their noses in annoyance. “Listen,” one said. “We know Carol wouldn’t put up a fight for just one of you.” “I already traded them off,” Lisa snapped. “You better tell us where the hell they’re headed.” “Look,” another man began. “Are you a citizen, ma’am?” Lisa slowly pulled a necklace from one of her pockets. On it was her ID card for the hospital she worked at. One of the men stepped forward to look at it. “Edinburg Regional, huh? A nurse,” he said. He spit in Lisa’s face. “So you’re out here moving ‘spics while our own people are dying.” “Ch**** tu madre,” Lisa hissed. “You think you’re better because you were born somewhere? Hijo de p***.” She spit back at him. It landed in a sticky blob on his nose. Astonished, he wiped the spit off his face. Then, he reeled back and smacked Lisa in the face with the butt of his gun. She stumbled, making sure not to land on the hay behind her. She moved sideways, clutching her nose in her hand. Blood splattered onto the planks of the barn’s floor. She blinked her eyes and tried to ignore the ringing in her ears. The man stepped forward, towering over Lisa. She couldn’t lift her head, but her eyes stayed 9
locked on his boots. Suddenly, the man with the dog at his side wielded a pistol. He aimed it at the other man’s back. “Get away from her, or I’ll shoot you.” Lisa looked at this man. Even though the night before was dark, she recognized him. He was the one who let them go. “What the hell did you say?” the other man asked. “I’ll shoot you. And turn you in for murdering that woman out there.” The man with the dog didn’t lower his gun from his partner as he moved toward Lisa. He stooped down so he could see her face. Gently, with his free hand, he moved hers away from her nose. She lifted her dark brown eyes to meet his. His face softened. “You’re Nurse Flores,” he said. He picked her ID card off the ground to confirm his claim. He nodded, smiling at her. “I’m Eric. Eric Davis.” He removed his ball cap, and she recognized him instantly. She could see him in the delivery room, hovering over his wife and baby. “You helped deliver my son a few weeks ago. He…He almost didn’t…” Eric looked down at the ground. The man who hit Lisa whistled, low, and backed away. The dog lowered itself onto the ground and inched toward Lisa. It licked her boots and whined. Lisa carefully picked up her foot and moved it away from the dog. Its ears flicked toward the hay behind her. It started to sniff the ground noisily. Eric holstered his gun and patted his dog’s side. “Be nice.” The dog stopped sniffing. He extended a hand to Lisa. “Let me help you up.” Lisa took his hand, and he carefully lifted her arm over his shoulder. She leaned against him and slowly staggered out of the barn and into the morning’s orange light. Unable to avoid it, Lisa looked at Carol’s body and Hercules’ beside it. The shotgun was still clutched in Carol’s hands, sloping across her chest. “I didn’t shoot her,” Eric said. “Trigger-happy bone heads.” Lisa turned to make sure no one stayed in the barn. When she saw they were sliding the doors closed, she let out a heavy, relieved breath. Eric opened a truck door and helped her up. He 10 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
began bandaging her nose. “This is temporary,” he said. “I’m going to call for someone to fly you in, okay?” He whistled once, and his dog jumped into the truck from the other side. The dog scooted toward Lisa slowly and placed its head across her lap. Lisa pushed back against the seat, her legs tensing under the dog’s head. Eric noticed and patted her arm. “This is Walker,” he said. “He’s a big baby. He’ll keep you safe while I make that call.” Lisa nodded gratefully. She stared down at the dog, who was licking her jeans. “Nurse Flores?” Lisa looked at Eric. “There’s no excuse for what they did to you, or what they did to that woman. You’re an American. You have rights.” Eric nodded at his own words. “And no one’s going to find out what you did. You’ll be free to leave once the hospital releases you.” He started to close the door. Lisa threw out her hand to catch it. “Eric, wait,” she said. She stared at him. When she spoke, her voice was low. “I’m not a citizen. I have a work visa.” Eric stared back at her. Then, he looked away, down at the dirt. When he looked at her again, he was smiling slightly. “Didn’t hear you, ma’am.” “Eric, I can’t let you—” “You sound a little delirious. Must be the trauma.” Eric reached forward to pat her shoulder. In a quieter voice, he said, “You’re a good nurse. We need you.” He smiled at her again and closed the door. Lisa let her head fall back against the headrest. Tears streamed down her cheeks as Walker nuzzled his face against her rigid hand.
dead Christmas tree had rolled into the street, blocking Phil and Maria’s lane of traffic. As the cars ahead of their sedan waited for a chance to swing into the other lane, Phil expected a comment from his wife, something impatient and instructive, but Maria was looking out the window. He glanced past her smooth dark hair. A small man stamped snow off his shoes on a front step. “That guy looks familiar,” Phil said as he twisted to watch the man enter his house. “Like your old friend from college. What was his name?” “A lot of men look like Carlos,” Maria said. “Have you heard from him lately?” She shrugged. “They moved so his wife could take a new job.” “The house is a fixer-upper, isn’t it? Needs some paint, and those overgrown bushes should be pruned.” “Not everyone has the money to hire a handyman.” Phil rubbed his stiff neck. “No, but how hard can it be to trim bushes?” “Harder than it looks,” Maria said. “Everything is harder than it looks.” Two days later, Phil dragged his briefcase from his car and plodded through his garage. He’d promised Maria he’d do something on the way home, but he couldn’t remember what. “That barber gave you a terrible haircut,” she said as soon as he stepped inside. That’s what it was. 12 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
“It’s windy.” Phil tried to smooth his hair and lamented that he was going bald at forty-one. “He missed a few spots,” she said and headed for the bathroom. “Come here. I don’t have time to send you back.” She pulled a pair of scissors from the medicine cabinet. He sat on the edge of the bathtub, and she snipped the long strands over his ears. “I’ve laid out your sport coat,” she said. “Why?” “For dinner tonight. It’s on the calendar.” The one she kept over the kitchen garbage. She saw it when she scraped their dishes after dinner, and he knocked it off the wall when he took out the trash. Phil closed his eyes in exhaustion and tried not to groan. “Where are we going?” The touch of Maria’s slender fingers as they ran through his hair was familiar, but it invoked neither the tender comfort nor passionate longing of years past. Those memories were dim and seemed distant. He barely noticed when her long brown skirt—which she wore to give her slim five-foot-three figure the illusion of being taller—brushed his knees as she stepped around him. “To dinner. At the Romeros’.” She patted his shoulder, and he turned so she could reach the back of his head. “Who?” “Friends. This was a terrible haircut. How much did they charge you?” “Tonight? Maria, I’m beat.” A little clump of hair fell in the bathtub. “Well, that’s the best I can do.” She put the scissors back in the cabinet. “Go change. Pam Romero is a CPA. You’ll have plenty to talk about.” 13
Maria drove. “This is where we saw your friend’s look-alike last week,” Phil said as they pulled into the Romeros’ driveway. He frowned at Maria. “Did you recognize that man?” She put the car in park and turned off the engine. “Was it Carlos?” She unbuckled her seatbelt and grabbed her leather purse. Phil tried a less suspicious tone. “Have I met these friends of yours before?” “A long time ago,” Maria said. “So she isn’t someone from your book group?” Maria yanked the keys out of the ignition. “Writers’ group.” “That’s what I meant. You know I can’t keep the two straight.” “A book group discusses books they’ve read. A writers’ group discusses things they’ve written.” “Both talk about books.” She climbed out of the car and slammed the door. He jammed his hands in his pockets as he followed her. The clicking of her high heels on the asphalt underscored her words. “I’ve explained this before.” The mystery doppelganger answered the door. “Maria! It’s so good to see you,” he said as he hugged her. She returned his greeting, even the kiss on the cheek. Phil stood at the bottom of the steps, feeling surprised, awkward, and forgotten. Maria gave Phil an annoyed look over her shoulder, like he was a slow old dog that wouldn’t come inside. “You remember Carlos,” she said. Phil raised his eyebrows, opened his mouth to speak, and started up the steps. His mouth snapped closed when 14 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
the man pulled Phil over the threshold with an abundance of enthusiasm. Maria shrugged off her coat. “So it was Carlos,” Phil said in her ear. “Why didn’t you say so, then or now?” She stared up at him. “I told you I need glasses.” “And I told you to make an appointment with the optha-” “Pam is in the kitchen,” Carlos said. “You’ve met her, right?” “Um, no-” “Of course,” Maria said. “She was in our college music class.” “Which one?” Phil asked, but Maria swept around the corner and Carlos disappeared with the coats. When Phil found his wife admiring a hideous abstract painting, he repeated his question. “Oh, Classical Themes, The Masters, something like that,” she said. Phil pressed his lips together as he studied Maria. Her emerald sweater highlighted her green eyes. How many years had it been since he’d seen them sparkle? “So you really couldn’t see that it was Carlos last week?” he asked. She didn’t look at him. “If I had, don’t you think I’d have said something?” The large dining room table could have seated ten, but tonight it was set for four. Pam, a platinum blonde, moved faster than anyone Phil had ever met. She sat nearest the kitchen and spent as much time out of her chair as in it, jumping up to fetch food and clear away dirty dishes. “Business must be picking up now that April is just around the corner,” Carlos said to Phil. Phil opened his mouth to answer. Maria rolled her eyes. “That firm eats him alive from now 15
until April fifteenth. Some days I don’t see him at all.” “It’s the nature of the job,” Pam said. “I’m actually glad to have this break while I look for work.” “I thought you moved because of your job,” Phil said, glancing at Maria. “No, because of Carlos’ job, but he does like to blame things on me.” Pam smiled at her husband. “He took a job teaching English at the academy.” “The private high school?” Phil asked. Carlos nodded. “That’s wonderful!” Maria said. “They must’ve been impressed by your publishing credits. Are you still working on your novel?” Pam collected the plates. The quiet clinking was a welcome distraction. “May I help?” Phil asked. “Oh no, you’re company,” she said, then they both looked at their spouses, whose heads were bent together as they discussed his novel-in-progress. Phil and Pam each held a side of the same plate. Pam met his eyes and let go. “Thanks.” Phil brought the serving dishes to the kitchen. “You’re not much of a reader?” Pam asked. “I read, just more newspapers than novels.” She ran some water in the sink. “What has Carlos published? Maria’s never said.” “A few essays,” Pam said, “mostly in academic journals.” She dunked a pan in the soapy water. “He also authored a three-part feature for a music magazine about ten years ago, not long after he finished graduate school. It was on Mozart.” “Nothing since?” “They asked him for another, but he never wrote it.” As Phil stacked the dishes by the sink, he glanced at Pam. 16 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
Tall and willowy, she probably towered over her husband when she wore high heels. In her gray eyes he noticed a quiet intelligence. She turned to look at him. He avoided her gaze. About fifteen minutes later, with dishes packed in the washer and leftovers tucked in the fridge, everyone retired to the living room. A baby grand piano was the room’s centerpiece. It sat at one end, away from the windows, and the chairs were angled to face it like they would a television. The two couples made small talk until Pam waved at the baby grand. “Why don’t you play for us, Carlos? Maybe the song you wrote for my birthday?” “You play?” Maria’s eyes grew wide and bright. “You finally learned, after talking about it for so long?” “A little,” he said. “But I couldn’t-” “Please,” Maria said. “I want to hear you.” He looked into her eyes a second too long, sending an uneasy chill through Phil. Carlos smiled. “Oh, all right. For my old friend.” He saw Phil frowning. “Friends.” Phil tried to relax his clenched jaw. “But not that one,” he said to Pam. “I have another piece I just finished.” As he dug through the pages inside the piano bench, her expression turned sad, but her downcast gaze suggested familiar resignation rather than unexpected disappointment. The song was pleasant, a gentle melody that meandered through the air like a slow brook through a wooded glen. Maria was enraptured, leaning forward with a look of total concentration. A smile flirted with her lips. The same notes seemed to repeat again and again, and after Carlos turned the page, Phil ceased to listen. Gentle, uncommitted, light and playful, the song had no depth of sound or emotion, and that seemed to suit Maria just fine. When the 17
last notes faded, she was the only one clapping. “Bravo,” she said. “That was beautiful!” Phil noticed Pam twist her elaborate-looking platinum wedding ring as Carlos took a mock bow. “A special piece, just for tonight.” Phil had never seen Maria acting so silly over a man’s accomplishment—yes he had, when they were first married twelve years ago. She’d applauded the growth of his firm, new clients, small pay raises. They’d gone out to dinner on each occasion, and as they had walked to the car afterwards, she had slipped her hand through his elbow, leaned her head on his arm, and sighed, happy and satisfied. Then he’d tried writing fiction, tried to please her by showing interest in her endeavors, and disappointed her with a lack of talent. She hadn’t said so, but he knew by her cold reception of his romantic short story, by the way she had brushed off his questions of what she thought. And by how he’d found it buried under some newspapers in the recycling bin a few days later. In Carlos’s living room, the host grinned and ducked his head, an exaggerated effort at being embarrassed when he really wasn’t, as Maria asked for another song. “Please,” she said. Pam’s smile was small and tight-lipped. “It’s late,” Phil said. “We should be going.” “It’s not-” Maria said. “Don’t you have a story you want to finish for your writers’ group meeting tomorrow?” Phil said. “Yes, but-” “Ah, inspiration doesn’t wait,” Carlos said. “You should go. We’ll do this again soon.” He closed the piano cover. Phil couldn’t help glaring at Carlos. Pam avoided 18 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
everyone’s gaze. Goodbyes were exchanged as Phil shook hands with their hosts and Maria gave hugs. Once in the car, Phil jammed his seatbelt buckle into the lock as Maria backed the car out of the driveway and flipped on the radio, something she never did. He took several slow, deep breaths. “That’s some violinist,” he finally said. His words were as out of place as a bad trumpet player in the back of a string quartet. “I didn’t know that violins could reach notes that low,” he said. “That’s a cello,” she said. They drove home in silence. Phil stopped in the middle of the community college hallway. He almost hadn’t come, almost hadn’t made the call to the music department that afternoon. But he had, and now he was there. Phil turned a corner at the end of the hall and tapped on an open classroom door. A man with more gray hair than blond stopped playing an old upright piano. “You must be Phil,” the man said as he extended his hand. “I’m Bob. Please come in.” Bob was the college’s assistant choral director, who also offered private music lessons during his free hours. He asked if Phil had ever played an instrument before. “A few years of piano when I was a kid.” “Remember anything?” Phil shrugged. “I know a violin and a cello aren’t the same thing.” Bob laughed. “That’s a good start.” Phil sat on the hard piano bench. Fading January sunlight cut a swath across the discolored keys. Bob pulled up a chair. “Do you know where middle C is?” 19
Phil tapped a white key. A quick, clear note filled the room. “Close.” Bob tapped the next key to the right. “Do you remember how to read music?” “Had to work late again?” Maria asked when Phil arrived home. “You’ve had to work later than usual every Tuesday for the last three weeks.” “It’s that time of year,” he said. “Dinner ready?” “Not yet.” He raised his eyebrows. “My writing group ran late.” He hung up his coat. “How did tutoring go this afternoon?” “I’m not tutoring anymore.” He swung around. “You’re not?” She shrugged. “They don’t need me.” He reached out as if to touch her shoulder, hesitated as he sensed the defiance coming from her, and grabbed up the day’s mail instead. “I’m sorry they let you go.” “They didn’t fire me. I quit.” Phil lifted his head. “Why?” She tasted something from a pot on the stove. “When?” “Two weeks ago,” she said. A spoon clattered in the metal sink. Phil knew his mouth was hanging open, yet he couldn’t seem to close it. “What have you been doing with your days?” he asked. “Writing.” “You’re back to writing advertising copy? I thought you hated that.” “A novel.” “A what? You mean you’re not working at all?” 20 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
“Writing is work,” she said. “No. It’s a hobby, until it pays.” “A career-” “Time wasted playing with words.” “Look,” she said. “Life is too short to do what I don’t enjoy, and besides, you’re making a good salary.” “When were you going to tell me?” Maria swung around to face him. “When are you going to tell me what you’re doing on Tuesday evenings?” “Work...” She stared at him for a long moment, then turned back to the stove. He slit open an envelope with an engraved letter opener, a wedding gift from Maria. “And why should I tell you things you don’t care about?” she said. “I care, I ask-” “And when was the last time you asked about tutoring?” Phil stepped back. “I don’t always remember. Work has been...” He knew the words sounded as weak to her as they did to him. She pulled a tray of fish from the oven and then shoved a plate in his hands. “Eat while it’s hot.” Phil twisted and slid sideways through the door of his office, giving the long box under his arm space to make the sharp turn. He crab-stepped around his oak desk and dropped his briefcase. The long box hit a stack of papers, sending them cascading to the floor. Ryan, one of his associates, poked his head in the office. “Need a hand?” Phil propped the box in the corner. “I’m okay. Tried to carry 21
too much.” “What’s with the,” Ryan said as he titled his head and read, “electric piano keyboard?” Phil glanced at it. “Thought I’d set it up in here.” “Whatever for?” “To play, what else?” “I didn’t know you played.” Phil reached around Ryan and closed the office door. “Client-accountant privilege?” “You’re investing in musical instruments? That’s a new one.” “No, in my wife.” Ryan raised his eyebrows above the rims of his glasses. “I want to surprise her. I want...” Phil bent to gather the papers on the floor. Ryan knelt to help. “She doesn’t sigh anymore,” Phil said. “Sigh?” “You’d have to know her.” Phil shuffled the papers into the right order. “So why the piano?” Ryan asked. “I can already type, so I figured I’d have an advantage.” “And do you?” “Sort of.” Ryan glanced at the box and shrugged. “Little kids learn to do it. How hard can it be?” “Harder than it looks,” Phil said. “Everything’s harder than it looks.” Furious tapping followed by long pauses came from the guest room. Phil stood in the doorway and watched Maria. Her new glasses were perched on her nose, and her head and shoulders were bent over a folding table on which a laptop computer was propped. The power cord stretched across the 22 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
room to an outlet like a snake, and a small table lamp cast the whole scene in a garish yellow. Her makeshift office in their small condo. Phil raised his hand to knock. “What, Phil?” He stopped, knuckles inches from the frame. “Have you seen this article?” “On the grant Carlos received to write his novel? I know about it.” Phil looked at the folded paper he held. He’d brought the newspaper home from work, and she hadn’t left the guest room since he’d arrived. “It’s all over school.” “What school?” “Where I tutor.” He straightened. “You got your old job back?” “No, a new one.” Phil smiled. “That’s great. Congratulations. Where is it?” “At the academy.” His smile vanished and his chest tightened. He gripped the door jam. She continued to type. “Is there anything else you need?” she said. “No.” He didn’t even read the rest of the newspaper; he just threw it in the recycle bin. Phil spent almost a full five minutes staring at the florist shop before stepping out of his car. Maria loved red roses. He had given her a dozen when he’d proposed, and she had carried another dozen on their wedding day. “I’m sorry, sir, but we’re all out of red roses,” the girl in the 23
shop said. “Red carnations?” he asked. At least they’d be the right color. The clerk led him to a tall refrigerated case. It hummed and the glass door was cold to the touch. A pail of water sat in the bottom. In it, four red carnations, their petals curled at the edges and stems bent under the weight of the blooms, struggled to stand. “What else do you have?” “Nothing red,” she said. Phil took a deep breath. “Any kind of roses?” “White, orange, yellow. They’re out back.” She brought him an armful. Their perfect petals were just beginning to unfold, as though the flowers were waking from a long nap. The yellow attracted his gaze. They were the color of his wedding band. She quoted the price for a dozen, and as she wrapped them up, he counted out dollar bills. “For a good friend?” the clerk asked. “My wife.” “You know yellow means friendship, right?” He swallowed. He hadn’t known, but he was certain Maria would. Too late now, though. “Well, isn’t happiness being married to your best friend?” he said and grabbed the bouquet. Phil let the flowers lay on the kitchen counter as long as he dared before unwrapping them and finding a vase. He was beyond hungry when Maria came through the door. “What happened? I was worried,” he said. She carried a bouquet of red roses, larger than the one he had bought. “My writers’ group ran late. Why are you home so early?” “Where did you get those?” he asked, his voice shaking. 24 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
“My writers’ group.” He frowned. “What?” “Find a vase, will you? They need water.” He opened a cupboard. “Who are these from?” she asked, studying the yellow roses. He smiled and brushed her hair away from her cheek. “What’s the occasion?” she said. “You never spend this kind of money without a reason.” His smile slipped for just a second. “Well, I did today.” His hands slid down her arms. “Guess I’m just in a romantic mood.” At her elbows, his hands left her arms and found her waist. “I was thinking a quiet dinner at that new restaurant might be nice-” She stepped out of his reach, back to the red roses. “I’ve eaten.” His arms fell to his sides. “At your writers’ group? When did they start serving dinner at the bookstore?” “One of the members hosted tonight.” She cut off the dry ends of the red rose stems. Phil clenched his jaw and struggled to put the right words together. She finally pointed at the yellow bouquet, her voice exasperated. “Are we soul mates or roommates?” “Both, I hope.” She jabbed the last red rose in the vase, and he cringed. “Don’t you want to be both?” he asked. She grabbed the vase and twisted away, knocking the florist cards to the floor. “What do you want from me?” he asked. The guest room door slammed. After staring at the door for several seconds, he picked up the cards, turned them over, and glanced at the 25
recommendations for light and water. A tiny gift card was buried in the mess. He crushed it in his fist and threw it down the trash compactor, but watching it turn to soggy mush couldn’t erase Carlos’ name in a bold black pen. Late April breezes swept through the open windows of the music classroom. Bob pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Your wife likes classical music, right?” Bob said as he handed Phil some sheet music. “How about this simple arrangement of Bach’s ‘Minuet in G Major’? It’s a step up from where you are now, but you’ve been picking up skills so fast that I think you’ll be able to memorize it by your anniversary.” “Sounds good. I want to watch Maria’s face and not a stack of paper.” Phil arrived home early on the last Friday in June with his keyboard. He warmed up his hands with scales before playing “Minuet in G Major” twice from memory. Four thirty. Maria should be home. He watched the rectangular clock over the television count off the minutes. Four forty five. Four fifty five. Five o’clock. Five-oh-one. Phil changed into jeans, the pair that fit him like they were tailor made, and practiced until his hands cramped, then he went to the kitchen and filled a drinking glass. He set it on the counter and almost spilled the water on her note. He didn’t touch it. He stared, read it, blinked, and read it again. He gripped the edge of the counter, head bowed. When no tears fell, he sighed. Orange light from the setting sun bathed the living room. Phil sat at the keyboard. It hummed with a steady pulse of life. 26 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
His music stand was empty, and his mind was blank. He pressed several keys at once; a harmony that reached both high and low filled the room. He released the keys and pressed others, some together in chords with his left hand, some in succession in a melody with his right. Music like a waterfall cascaded from the keyboard and flowed as if following a riverbed around furniture and dashing against the walls. High, light notes like sparkling spray were weighted by low, crashing notes that had the power to drown. The sound broke over him, consumed him, pulsed through him. It was new, not a song heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d ever heard or played, yet it was as familiar as Mariaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s voice.
Featured Artist Sara Pedigo
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Almost There Sara Pedigo Oil On Panel
Beginning of Winter Sara Pedigo Oil On Panel
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Relearn Everything Sara Pedigo Oil On Panel
Instant Transfiguration Sara Pedigo Oil On Canvas
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Where do you find inspiration for your artwork? A. I find inspiration in the everyday, ranging from observed phenomenon to recorded snapshots of casual photographs. My work records mundane experiences as means to investigate and celebrate the commonplace routines of life. My current work is deliberately engaged in the conscious act of paying attention to the inherent beauty of the world around me. Q. You often paint very small portraits. How difficult is it to incorporate your style and sense of emotion into them? A. Working small has always been appealing and deeply satisfying for me. The intimacy inherent in small-scale work is very enticing given the economy of mark-makingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a single brushstroke can be an entire arm or swath of land. I love the limited amount of information available. Vermeer is a legendary small-movemaker. His painting â&#x20AC;&#x153;Young Woman with a Water Pitcherâ&#x20AC;? at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of my favorites. In particular, the marks mimicking the metallic surface of the pitcher and its reflection of the table covering are deeply mesmerizing, and are also only several inches of pigmented choices. Q. What do you wish you knew before you started painting? A. That it would transform my life. Learning to truly see the observable world around me is the result of learning to perceptually paint and draw. The ability to translate the threedimensional world, through the act of drawing and painting, onto a flat surface is similar to learning another language. It is a learnable skill-set with its own grammar and syntax, though it takes considerable time and effort, and comes with a steep learning curve. However, the reward is that this newly acquired language reveals the inherent complexity of the world that we often take for granted. 33
Chemotherapy, Marking the Battle Grounds Annie Thompson Oil Pastel and Oil Pencils on Paper
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But Not Forgotten Brett Roth One more for dusty roads chasing a river into the clouds. Ned took the short route from his desk because it was more direct. Terry slept into the afterlife like a baby, Grandpa Harry took one step and died, and Pamela sunk into bed with a sigh. Suicides I won’t mention by their name because they cheated at life’s biggest game. Deteriorating old age shook Grandma Belle like a broken hip killed Dad’s father Leo. Cigarettes stole Phyllis and Uncle Phil, and mammograms couldn’t save Carol. Greg stroked on a treadmill at the doctor’s office, like a sketch on Saturday Night Live, tragedy is the cornerstone of comedy. Buck caught cancer fly-fishing, hooked by the sun and landed by water, fought, kicked and swore until he was no more. Car-wrecks demolished Paula and pretty girls I dated in high school. Dope deaths are as stupid as your last drunken mistake. Unlike an astronaut, when you step off the planet, you are never coming back, unless we tell your story, lie and laugh. Wearing the wool sweater or leather coat we could not donate to charity is like wrapping myself in a blanket. In the left behind landscapes she painted, the bold presence of my mother-in-law gossips like an insomiac on the wall. I think about my sister every time I meet a woman who wears her perfume. Certain songs remind me of funerals. The dead are with us never really gone. 35
Missing Glove Jonathan Jones One would think it was simple chronology. Hard sunlight, and a short cut through dispelling crowds. Walking out one morning hardly aware of the change the way your hand lets in the cold like an open door. You tell yourself what was lost can be easily recovered. A single glove discarded or dropped the way a face or name returns an old association.
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The Bee Girl A.J. Terlesky I watch the bloated honeybees as they violate innocent roses. Milking them for candied nectar. Weaving between petals like greedy, hungry men. I breeze past them, a summer ghost-girl. Lifting my dress. Inviting them in with white cotton-girl panties with red lady bugs scampering along daisy-chain seams. The bees billow under my dress like wind, until I am floating along the measure of summer and fall. Their barbed sounds music to my ears, muffled as they are under my airy frock. I am the bee girl. A child, soon to become a woman. Wire stings beneath the resplendent yellow of my dress. Bees dying, following subsequent stings to inner thighs. Their stingers, embedded within supple child-flesh, invite me. I will bleed now. As the bees drop from my ballooned skirts to hard-leafed ground below. I fall.
Soft nipples hardening against frail cotton fabric.
A Collection of Womanly Thoughts Sara Chamberlin I my parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; marriage started as a hill that ended as an eroded rock cliff palmed down by the gravitational excess of one track thoughts, variant as swing-carousel chairs. I stand at the edge and wait to fall off; the eye is the best view of the storm. II surety fell into winter and withered. past the salt is the red pepper and I never had a pallet for hot. I believed in touching tongues once. every time I pray to one it feels less like faith and more a confession. the cat cried, losing its fur fast as a time lapse. I tried to bite his neck because I like that but he knuckled my face before I made contact. I always lose my grip before my teeth can sink. back against the wall with his fingers in my bra I find it hard to remember integrity and what it takes to crack a walnut, crush the shell to shards I collect and organize by diminishing size. III I never knew dreams before I found myself in yours: wet, throbbing, purple-raw, drunk, smelling stale beer and lemon rind. you wanted me a kraken but I stayed sphinx. neither of us knew the riddle but it felt like waking up before you and waiting.
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there were mountains with glittering steel cats roaming under wired bridges of scrap paper. I clawed at the manly scrawl stretching over it, hurried breathy script telling of your knives held to her throat. with strings of peach between my teeth he’s still trying to get on top of me. the train is a dagger of bad timing and force. “all women have a price. for the right amount you can f**k whichever one you want.” he throws my worth down the steps, trailing breeze into the stagnant, waiting humidity. IV I haven’t washed my hair in three months, preferring sweat and salt to shampoo. this northern labyrinth has no sodium chloride to give me so I mine it in dreams. stones built of habit guide me to somewhere in flames. minerals compounded by slow pressure become gems. wood can become petrified and endure all kinds of weather. if I were anything eternal I’d like to be magma. I find myself transitionally fire and salt, blood and moon, hope, a dream catcher, child maker, pillar of smoky quartz, wind chimes and the catching breeze; I find myself a woman without hope in what made me and the spark to burn it down.
Saint Trisha Rezende you appear to me far from the peace of a conch shell closer to the peace of Tybalt how you hate the word as you hate hell and how stained glass fears scrape the flesh from around your fingernails i mean what i say when i say if Jesus was a moth he’d rush to burn up up up upon you but you’d still doubt his sincerity and sometimes you make me work too hard to prove that i am not my nature on your shell i cross my heart oh you saint of self loathing even prayers in your honor dishonor your name so well i think you penned them those animals that won’t be slaughtered or silenced haunt you as your mother’s tears haunt the dark marrow of your childhood home you wander like you have nothing to do and only no where to carry the monster of you i will make you a sun catcher crystallize your flesh and bone stain you like no one else will i will hang you like you never managed to hang yourself watch the light of you explode on the wall
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You Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Have To Die Well For Me Darren Demaree #74 Seventy-four minutes late & Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been rolling for over an hour now & my whole body has become water-snakes darting down the shallow water, never really eating, never really finding the weight of your nature. Snakes make their sounds for the rest of the world & right now I am doing the same. #75 Seventy-five minutes late & death has no feeling, but I can tell you the whole plan of my next ten years without you.
Over River, Through Woods Elisabeth Sharber Each velvety species of green carpet kissed the toes: bubbly emerald living room, flat peridot kitchen for sunlit grease, dark seaweed library, a reverberate clock pulse, glass children on the mantel, a hint of musk pressing into oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s breath. Grandchildren struggle crossing the bridge between knowing and feeling time. Father Walt taught us best we could one day we become the grass that kisses others. Sweeping out the house exposed the floorplan in worms of dust. The couch with pulled threads, the sweat-brown chair, wire stubble walls. I dream about the family that lives there now filling it with steel appliances and dogs. Sometimes we visit without asking. Sometimes it is still as green as the shadows of closed eyelids.
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Ana Jovanovska Graphic Design 43
Jason Kerzinski Photography 44 â&#x20AC;¢ FLARE: The Flagler Review
’m 54 years old, and up until six weeks ago I’d never operated a motor vehicle. I’m sitting in a black Honda Accord on Father Capodanno Boulevard on Staten Island. This is my third attempt at passing the New York State road test. Unfortunately for me, the new job I’m applying for requires a driver’s license. I failed the first road test because of my nerves. I was, in fact, so nervous that I ran a stop sign, which made the road test examiner start yelling at me, which made me more nervous, which then caused me not only to drive on the wrong side of the road, but also in the wrong direction. The road test examiner screamed at me. “Seriously? Seriously! Wrong side of the road–and wrong direction!” I failed the test on my second attempt, too. That time, when I pulled away from the curb, I failed to signal and I didn’t check my blind spot. So, for my third attempt at the road test I have a plan in place: Drive on the right side of the street. Drive in the right direction– and always use my blinker, and check my blind spot. To help, I’ve created a mantra of sorts: “Blinker, mirror, blind spot.” Over and over. “Blinker, mirror, blind spot.” I was looking in the rear-view mirror at the car in line behind me. The driver was a teenage girl, and she was gripping the steering wheel with both hands, taking deep breaths. Her lips were moving and I knew by looking at her that she had her own mantra. When I poured over the job posting, I noticed it didn’t say “High school diploma required.” But it didn’t say it wasn’t required, either. In fact, it wasn’t clear. I wasn’t going to take any chances, so I decided I would get my GED. I have never been a good test taker. Honestly, the only test I can remember taking and finally passing in the past thirty years was a nail gun licensing test for my construction job, which I ac45
tually failed the first time even though I’ve been shooting a nail gun most of my life. It’s been the same thing each time with any test I’ve taken. I start by getting nervous, then I get scared, then the panic kicks in and I start guessing, randomly checking off multiple choice questions. The librarian whom I spoke to over the phone said I would have to take a pre-test to determine if I would even qualify to take the GED test. Great. Just what I need—a test before a test. My wife was very supportive. “You can do it, Darryl,” she said. “You’re a very smart man. Don’t let a piece of paper win. Don’t let it hold you back.” I got off the No. 7 train in Long Island City and began looking for the Adult Educational Alliance Library. I went into a cell phone store and asked some people inside where the library was. No one seemed to know. Then, a man walked out of the back room, cell phone in one hand and a small screwdriver in the other. “At the stop light, make a left,” he said. “Then, two blocks, and then a right.” When I got to the library, I took an elevator to the second floor and walked into a small room. I was told to sit down at a wooden table with some other people my age. Test papers and No. 2 pencils were handed out. The first question was something about a guy named Devon who owned some kind of house cleaning company and he charged a base fee of $25 and an additional fee of $8 for each bathroom and $4 for each other room. So if p=price and b= bathroom and r=other rooms, which represents his price quote formula? There I was, eight years old all over again. I was scared, and then the panic attack started to kick in. I began guessing wildly, randomly checking the answer boxes. After the test I waited for what seemed like forever until, finally, the librarian approached my table. “You failed the pre-test exam,” she said. “You will be eligible to take the test again in six months.” As a union construction foreman I have run some of the biggest jobs in some of the most iconic buildings in New York, and I personally have figured out and built over the years five “groin” ceilings. (A groin ceiling is the intersection of two barrel vaults.) 46 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
The groin ceiling was first popular with the Romans, then fell out of style until Gothic architecture of the late Middle Ages, and later, the style worked its way into neo-American architecture. One of the reasons I’ve done so well in the construction business over the years is that I don’t have to prove myself to anyone before I build anything; there is no test, only end results. All I have to do is let the work speak for itself. I researched the position I was applying for, and I found that a high school diploma was, in fact, not required. The road test examiner got into the passenger seat, buckled his seat belt, placed his clipboard in his lap, then turned to me and said, “Start the vehicle.” The only thing standing between me and my new career is passing this road test. Blinker, mirror, blind spot. Blinker, mirror, blind spot.
e’s not waking. Should we get him to Emerg?” a nurse asked. “No, he hasn’t seized,” said another. “Give him a
minute.” Emerg? Seized? I tasted my morning coffee, now bitter. He suddenly opened his eyes and yawned once, twice. “I was dreaming.” “Welcome back, Mr.—” he was out again, unconscious. I took hold of his hand and they worked around my kneeling form. **** From the beginning of Paul’s dance with doctors, I’ve sat next to him and squeezed his hand through the pronouncement of hemochromatosis. The first doctor said his high iron level—if left untreated—will make him sicker than he already felt, and would possibly kill him. Her laundry list started with cirrhosis and diabetes, moved to cancer, and ended with heart failure. Heart failure like his mother at age 54? Bingo. Until recently, she explained, the test for serum ferritin, the protein that stores iron, wasn’t routinely done. Worse, the complaints of fatigue and joint pain were misdiagnosed. Listening became a struggle under her florescent office lights. I thought about how life can change in a blink. Our turn. “Is there any medication to get rid of the excess iron?” Paul asked. “No, only weekly bloodletting for the next six to nine months—” “Wait,” I interrupted, “bloodletting as in removing blood?” She nodded and explained the phlebotomy procedure. Visions of a medieval barber with a sharp knife and a collecting bowl were close to her description: take one 16-gauge needle, pierce into 48 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
crook of arm and withdraw 500-mls of crimson. Every week, a Sweeney Todd donation. When you give blood, you’re advised to wait a couple of months between donations, yet Paul would undergo two phlebotomies in six days. **** Because his iron levels were dangerously high, the doctor ordered another round of tests. We returned to the hospital where I sat in the lab’s waiting room. The murmur of Paul’s voice was replaced with a woman’s call for help. I jumped up and followed a second nurse through the lab door. Paul was propped on a chair, motionless, his eyelids shut and head tilted to the side. My only question: “Did he fall and hit his head?” “No,” the nurse said as she draped a wet cloth across his forehead and pressed another with ice cubes on the back of his neck. His usual ruddy skin was translucent. She pointed to perspiration that beaded his knuckles. I wiped them dry with my hoody sleeve. After several decades together, I’ve never seen him so vulnerable. **** When I guide myself onto the rink, hand-over-hand along the boards, I balance on razor blades, not ice skates. Paul sits behind Plexiglas and videos my inaugural skate. Skate to center ice, I see his mouth move as I totter past, my head fighting the urge to tip backwards. He waves his free hand, wanting me to give him something video-worthy. No way, I mouth back. Instead, I reach for a nearby skate aid that resembles a walker, a gizmo used by many of the children. Quickly, I soar between pockets of people, even if my “training wheels” are responsible for this renewed confidence. I’m careful to avoid small bodies that race past, practiced and fearless during Family Skate afternoon at our local arena. A toddler who grips his own skate aid slides near and extends his arm. Braden is stenciled in black across the front of his white helmet. He’s trying to help me. Then I sigh and accept his 49
mitten-covered hand. With locked hands, Braden and I make a slow loop around the rink, his father following behind. **** I rue the iron that overloads his system. The “Celtic Curse” genes bequeathed by ancestors on distant battlefields of lavender darkened by bloodshed, bodies hoarding iron to live another crusade. Today, Paul rides into battle with a Honda Civic, not a trusty steed. His arsenal consists of leathers and a welding stinger, not a shield and sword. He had to sign forms that allowed our health care providers to release test results and instructions to me. Otherwise, in this movement of perceived privacy, people on the other end of the phone won’t even let me set up his appointments. It’s not that he can’t take care of these details, but I want to be supportive. The seeds of my advocacy were planted through more bouts of unconsciousness and a weekly series of painful needles that poke and mine for iron-rich treasure. Needles that can’t always withdraw enough blood, but leave muddy bruises, painful for days. I have become lead researcher, studying labels to avoid buying iron-enriched products. No easy task as every staple I reach for is heavily fortified from cereal to bread and pasta. Sayonara to the red meat he loves, and ciao to shellfish. I read bulletin boards written by my new community of iron-overload victims. “How do you feel?” I ask after each hospital session. “My chest feels caved in and my back has a weird ache. It’s hard to explain.” He no longer works on phleb days. After the hospital, he eyes our couch like a welcoming pair of arms. **** In the dark of night I weep into my pillow, careful not to wake Paul. I worry about him, his future health and freedoms uncertain. Other nights I feel sorry for myself, forced to shelve our plans for a warm desert getaway. In place of travel, we brace ourselves for a grey-white winter of Alberta cold and snow. “Until we get this sorted out,” I say aloud, my mantra. After lowering 50 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
his serum ferritin level, Paul should need less frequent “maintenance” sessions and lab work. More selfish thoughts circle, buzzards: no more leisurely evenings dreaming together over a bottle of red wine as the disorder makes him susceptible to cirrhosis. Paul is more stoic. “Whadya gonna do?” he says with a shrug. “At least I won’t die like my mom.” **** Paul waves me over; we have to leave for the hospital before the lab closes. He needs blood work done again, something about a significant drop in his hemoglobin. “Dammit, I’m just starting to get the hang of this.” “So stay, have fun. I’ll pick you up later.” I face him through the glass. “Are you sure?” He nods. This will be the first time he’ll go on his own, whether for blood work, bloodletting or trips to specialists of hematology and gastroenterology. For ultrasounds and FibroScans. I’ve imagined him going solo, in the event of scheduling conflicts. Cool compresses and warm blankets will envelope his fears—of needles, blood, hospitals—and a familiar face will greet him, call out, “I’m ready for you, my blood brother.” Tall and strong, he’ll walk towards that voice, that needle presented in open palms, an offering. He leaves me on the ice, waving, and I feel unexpectedly happy, not only that I’m skating—sort of—but that he’s confident to go without me. I watch him walk through the arena door, sloughing off his own training wheels.
CONTRIBUTORS Sabrina Bellemsieh grew up in Revere, Massachusetts, home of America’s first public beach. She was raised by Moroccan immigrants and attended public schools in her hometown. Sabrina first knew she would make art when she discovered the works of Keith Herring in the fourth grade. The simplicity of his works made her realize art is unique to each individual. Laney Burrell is a senior at Flagler College studying English and creative writing. “Home of the Free” was inspired by a recent visit to Texas and what she saw there. Her other works have been published in Local Wolves, The Missing Slate, and Perversion Magazine. Sara Chamberlin is a caffeine addict who found her way to New York City. She spends most of her time with her cat and commuting. She has a bachelor’s in Creative Writing from Florida State University. Darren C. Demaree is the author of six poetry collections, most recently “Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly” (2016, 8th House Publishing). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and children. Darryl Graff is a New York City construction worker and writer. His stories have appeared in Akashic Books, Gravel, Empty Sink, Foliate Oak, Hippocampus, Bio Stories, and Heart and Mind Zine. Shannon Kernaghan is an author, columnist, and freelance writer. She has two published books and her stories appear in 52 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
anthologies, journals and magazines. For many years she wrote a weekly column for the Red Deer Advocate and currently contributes to Rethink Urban, an urban ideas blog. More of her work can be found at www.shannonkernaghan.com. Jason Kerzinski is a photographer and fiction writer living in New Orleans. His work can be viewed at Jasonkerzinski.com. You can also find his collection of short stories, Ruler of Hearts, on Amazon. Jonathan Jones is a freelance writer currently living and working in Rome. He qualified in 1999 with his MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University College and in 2004 with an MRes in Humanities from Keele University. He now teaches writing composition at John Cabot University in Rome. He has had several pieces of work published in The New Writer, Poetry Monthly, Iota, East Jasmine Review, The Dr T.J. Eckleburg Review, Negative Capability Press and Dream Catcher. Ana Jovanovska was born in Macedonia. She got her BA from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Skopje, in 2014. She got her MA from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Skopje, in 2016. She has taken part in the XI Biennial of Young, Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje (2015), Skopje Summer (2015), and promotes her non-commercial art book, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Collection of False Memoriesâ&#x20AC;? (2016). She has 6 solo exhibitions and more than 60 group shows. Susan E. Kennedy is a writer and freelance editor who holds a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction and Nonfiction from Southern New Hampshire University. Her writing was first published in an anthology when she was fifteen years old. Since then, her stories and essays have appeared online and in several print publications including Amoskeag, The View from Here, Romance Magazine, and Love Free or Die (an anthology). Her current work in progress is a novel set on the ruggedly beautiful New England seacoast. 53
Sara Pedigo grew up in the American South. She received her MFA in Painting from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2007. She is currently an Associate Professor at Flagler College located in St. Augustine, Florida, her undergraduate alma mater. Pedigo has exhibited nationally, with solo exhibitions at ArtSpace Gallery in Las Vegas, Nevada; Wynn Bone Gallery in Annapolis, Maryland; and Barton College, Wilson, North Carolina. Trisha Rezende hails from the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. She has been in love with New Orleans, “the northernmost city of the Caribbean,” since she moved there in 2003 to earn her MFA at the University of New Orleans. She has taught at Dillard University and at the University of New Orleans. She now teaches at Xavier University, an HBCU. Her poetry has been published in Poet Lore and Burlesque Press. Ms. Rezende loves to run and write with her one-eared chocolate labrador, Soda Pop. A native of tropical Montana, Brett Roth’s poems have appeared in Blast Furnace, Off the Coast, Tiger’s Eye, Raven Chronicles, and The Tunxis Review. His fiction has been featured in Glassworks, The Hawaii Pacific Review, RE:AL and The Iconoclast. Brett is a program coordinator in Fine Arts at a small college in New England. He enjoys loud music and quiet dogs. Elisabeth Sharber is a 12th grade English and Etymology teacher at Frankfort High School in Indiana. In her free time she writes and attends poetry readings. She has participated in a number of writing contests including Ploughshares, Booth, Sonora, Breakwater, and American Poetry Review, and was recently published in The American Aesthetic. A Canadian native, A.J. Terlesky moved to the United States from New Zealand where she currently resides in Georgia. She is working on a collaborative project which explores the merging of visual art and spoken poetry. Her work has appeared in 54 • FLARE: The Flagler Review
The Skinny Journal, Temenos, SPANK the CARP, and MockingHeart Review. She holds an MA in Creative Writing and Literature. The world of visual arts has offered Annie Thompson both comfort and challenge. In this world, she has been facinated with sequential art. Pulling from her personal experience of losing her mother’s parents from cancer, she has created her own story. Both of her images depict the physical journey of a young girl who is undergoing multiple cancer treatments. Her drawings titled ‘Chemotherapy’ and ‘Marking the Battle Grounds’ demonstrate the physical strain on the patient.
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 Judith Burdan Darien Andreu Lisa Baird Kim Bradley Liz Robbins Connie St. Clair-Andrews Jay Szczepanski Department of English Department of Art & Design Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society A special thank-you to Laura Smith, Jim Wilson, Carl Horner, and all those who have directed The Flagler Review in years past.
56 â&#x20AC;˘ FLARE: The Flagler Review
Sabrina Bellemsieh Laney Burrell Sara Chamberlin Darren Demaree Darryl Graff Jonathan Jones Ana Jovanovska Susan Kennedy Shannon Kernaghan Jason Kerzinski Sara Pedigo Trisha Rezende Brett Roth Elisabeth Sharber A.J. Terlesky Annie Thompson
Cover Art â&#x20AC;&#x153;Sojournsâ&#x20AC;? Sara Pedigo