Table of Contents Dr. George Stanley Memorial “George Edward Stanley” Tara M. DeLonais
In last year’s issue, we misspelled Tara M. DeLonais’s name. Therefore, in this issue, we have reprinted her poem dedicated to our wonderful colleague and friend Dr. George Stanley.
Fiction “Devil’s Pass” Leah Chaffins 2012 Matt P. Haag Winner "Boxes" Luke Myers "Colors" David Finney "Leonard's Words" David Finney "A Letter" Tyler Boydston "Spring Breaks" Gil Nunez "Green Ink" Devon Shannon "Rosemary" Amanda Bell "Love, Lust, and Like" Sarah Brewer “Derailed” Sarah Brewer “Ctrl + Alt+ Del” Gary Reddin
6 10 19 20 21 22 23 25 28 30 32
Non- Fiction “22 Seconds” Aubrey Vandall 2012 Leigh Holmes Winner “Dirt Nap Bedfellows: A Few Thoughts on Death” Seth Copeland “Instructions in Writing” Jennifer McCain
2012 Leigh Holmes Winner
41 48 51
Poetry “an un-fair savior” Luke Myers 2012 John G Morris Winner "Burford Lake” Seth Copeland "Sonnet" Seth Copeland “Leather Fortune- Teller" Leah Chaffins "Glass Pipes and Souvenirs" Leah Chaffins "Purple Haze and Gunpowder” Leah Chaffins “Schizoid Man” Jacob Jardel “Monday Morning, 8 am” Jacob Jardel “Conduction Class” Jacob Jardel “A Mind in Jeopardy” Jacob Jardel “Flatline” Andrea Gift “A Splinter of Myself” Christopher Ray Brantley “Trusting, Tracing” Christopher Ray Brantley "Other Fish in the Sea” Alexander Rosa Figueroa "The Synesthetic R4PTUR3 of a Blind Troll" Alexander Rosa Figueroa
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Dr. George Stanley Memorial
George Edward Stanley
Brilliant and Vibrant Admiration Without Words An Inspiration By Tara M. DeLonais 2
Wall Still Life
Matthew Hughes 5
Devil’s Pass Leah Chaffins The first time I saw the Devil, I was six years old and sitting on the front steps when I noticed someone walking up the packed dirt of my grandparent’s driveway. She made a mighty dust trail and was carrying a suitcase. The dust was thick enough to distort my vision until she got right in front of me, standing with one hand on the hip of her blue jeans as her red paisley shirt rustled in the breeze. “Damn, you’re getting big,” she said as she crushed the butt of her cigarette with the toe of her sandal. She squatted down in front of me, grabbing my face in her hands. She was looking real hard at me, turning my head this way and that. “Gramma!” I called as best I could with my jaw trapped in the stranger’s grip. “You look like your daddy.” “He’s dead.” I told her, just in case she was looking for him. “What?” she asked laughing. “Yep. Dropped dead when my momma ran off with the Devil.” “Your daddy ain’t dead. He’s doin’ time in Huntsville.” She let go of my face and stared right in my eyes, shaking her head yes at my obvious look of disbelief. “Oh, and I’m your momma, and I wouldn’t run off with the Devil. I am the Devil. Just ask your gramma.” She flicked my nose playfully and stood up, stretching her back. “Gramma!” I called louder. The screen door opened behind me, and gramma walked out, wiping her hands on a dishrag. “Well, look what the cat drug home.” She wasn’t smiling. “Get inside Daphne,” she said to me, nodding her head once towards the door. “Yes, ma’am.” I said as I got up and went in. I crouched down just inside the door, hiding behind the wall, listening to what they said. “What do you want?” “I need a place to stay…only for a day or two. I know you’re probably still mad, but I am just looking for a little Christian charity.” “Lord have mercy!” Gramma said as she clutched at her chest. “You will have to ask your father. I ain’t makin’ this decision.” They walked in past where I hunkered next to the wall. “Where’s daddy?” “Where else,” mumbled gramma as she headed back for the kitchen. My momma walked into the den, where I could hear the TV. I moved over and peeked around the corner, and then crawled behind the couch to get a better view. My grandpa sat behind his newspaper. My momma stood with her suitcase hanging from her clasped hands in front of her. She spoke timidly, “Hi, daddy.” Grandpa didn’t move, not even the paper. I thought maybe he hadn’t heard her.
She waited several seconds and said, “I need a place to stay for a few days. Please, Daddy, Christ was merciful. Show me mercy, just once Daddy.” My grandpa lowered his paper just a little and stared at her real mean-like and disbelieving all at the same time. He didn’t say a word. She just stood there, and he eventually raised his paper back up while turning the page. My momma stood there for several minutes waiting for a response. Finally she walked out of the room calling out, “I am putting my bag in my room. He didn’t say no.” “Ain’t your room no more. It’s Daphne’s.” Gramma called back. My momma headed down the hall toward my room, and I crept at a distance behind her. My heart was racing as I thought in wonderment that my mother had come back. I had never seen her before--not even a picture. She was beautiful like the women I saw on TV doing commercials. She tossed her bag on one of the two small beds that my gramma called the twins. I remember thinking she called them twins cause they were small and just alike. It was the bed I normally slept in, but it didn’t matter. I was going to be sleeping in the same room as this strange woman who was my momma. She sat on the bed, and I sat on the bed opposite of her. We faced each other and just stared for a long time, not smiling, or anything else, just looking. Dinner that night was long. All of us sat around the table, nobody saying anything except grandpa when he did the blessing. We all bowed our heads, but only grandpa closed his eyes. I looked between momma and gramma and waited for lightning to strike us all back with the remains of a burning table between us. For the rest of the meal, momma stared at me and gramma, grandpa, and I stared at her. All rules of politeness were forgotten. Instead of asking for the potatoes to be passed, pointing at the bowl and grunting was perfectly acceptable. When I kissed my grandparents goodnight, grandpa held me in a big hug and then gripped my chin in his hand, just as my momma had done earlier on the porch. “The Devil comes in many disguises spewing evil wrapped in pretty packages. The secret is discernment, girl. Use discernment.” “Yes, sir.” I said. I laid under the covers of the blankets, staring at my mother in the darkness. She woke sometime during the night long after I had heard my grandparents go to bed. She lay there staring at me once again. Finally she sat up, and putting her finger over her mouth, she signaled me to be quiet. She got up and put her blanket along the bottom of the door, and turned on the light. “Let’s paint our nails.” She said. She went to her suitcase and fished out a smaller black bag with a red oriental flower in the middle. She came and sat next to me on the bed. When she unzipped the bag, I noticed it was full of all kinds of stuff for nails. She took my hand in hers and used lotion and little scissors on my cuticles before filing them. The polish she picked was black with tiny sparkles. Not a word was spoken as she worked. When she was done, she held one of my hands up in front of her hand, looking at the difference in size. I smiled at her, and she smiled back, but her eyes looked sad, and filled with water. For a second, I was sure she was going to cry, but then, her face changed; it hardened and the water in her eyes went away. “I am really sorry. I will never be the mommy you need. Never.” She started looking real sad again. I wanted to ask her why, but she looked so sad that I just kept quiet. I reached out and took her hand. I rubbed in the lotion and did all the things to her hand that she had done to mine. The wary silence
that had been between us had changed into a silence of regret, of something not reachable, something unchangeable. I stayed in bed late the next morning, and only woke when the front door shut behind my grandpa as he left for his morning meeting at the coffee house with friends. As I sat up in the bed, I heard gramma, “What the hell are you thinking? You come waltzing in here, and that little girl back there can’t take this. She doesn’t deserve this. I hear from others you’re selling your body, doin’ drugs, and you have the nerve to come back here and disrupt the life of a child you left behind. We didn’t raise you this way. God knows it.” “Momma, how could it be any different? I can’t look at her, and I can’t look away. I didn’t want this. How could you and daddy do this to me?” “We did what was right,” gramma said sternly. “I was raped momma. I needed you. I was raped, damn you.” “You mean you flaunted your body, and when some fool took the bait, you screamed rape? Isn’t that what you mean? Then when you found yourself pregnant, you thought you could run off to some doctor’s office and erase your sins? It doesn’t work that way. She is a beautiful child,” gramma yelled. “A beautiful child who looks just like the man who put me in the hospital, same man who ripped me open. It took surgery to put me back together. My God, I was a virgin, momma.” “You’ve said all this before. You dressed like a whore, you acted like a whore, and God gave you just punishment. Hell, you’re still whoring, aren’t you?” “No, I am a dancer. What did you want me to be? Not a lot of jobs out there for sixteen year old drop outs. How could I come back here where she was? How could I look at that face every day for the rest of my life? Why did you force me to carry her? Why momma?” I heard her sniffle and knew she was crying. I sat on my bed and thought about where I had come from. Sometimes personal awareness comes in a single moment. A person may not see it at the time, but it still comes at them irrevocably and changes how they see themselves forever. “Get your stuff and get out. Don’t come back. Do not ever come back here,” I heard gramma hiss. Momma came rushing into the bedroom where I sat on the bed, still under the covers. She started throwing her stuff in her suitcase. She handed me the black nail polish. “I really am sorry.” With that, she left.
I saw my momma twice more. When I was twelve, I saw her standing at the corner of my school. She watched me as I got on the bus. She made no move towards me. She just stood there staring at me. Her hair dyed red flew around her head like flames. When I looked at her she held up one hand, and I held mine up to her. I measured the difference in size, and from where I sat on the bus, my hand could cover her completely as if she didn’t exist at all. When I graduated from high school and was walking across the stage to receive my diploma, I saw her sitting in the audience. As I left with friends of mine to go to a party after all the formalities were over, I saw she was sitting on a bench outside the auditorium. Again, she held up her hand, and again I held up mine, making her disappear. When I lowered my hand, she really was gone.
I stood, looking down at the placard the city bought as her head stone. There were no etched words like “Beloved Mother” or “Beloved Daughter.” There was only her name and the date of her birth and death. As I looked at the date of her death, I thought it was all wrong. She died the day I was born. I was really sorry, too. I cried wishing things could have been different. I was glad I had been born, but a part of me realized the sacrifice my mother made to give me life. What plagued me most was the question of how I could love the person who deviled my desires. She was the Devil who could never be my mother. She was the Devil who left me. She was the Devil who could only apologize. And, I was the Devil who had taken her life. I was the Devil who stole her family. I was the Devil. I dropped the white rose I had brought with me on top of her marker. I walked to the edge of the graveyard and turned, holding up my hand, covering her marker, covering the emptiness.
Boxes Luke Myers It's got to be around here somewhere. You know you packed it in an unmarked box, but the basement is completely full of boxes, and almost all of them are unmarked. It wasn't until Nelly died that you even remembered it was down here. Now it's the only thing you can think about. Jesus! So many things accumulated over the course of a lifetime. Tom thinks it's all junk. But he doesn't understand that this is useful, practical stuff. Waste not, want not. Like this small crystal vase from your Grandmother that reminds you of her house and how you used to spend the night there when you were a little girl. Her face was warm and caring. Her entire house smelled of cinnamon. Soft towels. Fresh bed sheets. In the mornings she'd make breakfast—usually pancakes and milk, but sometimes coffee, cake, and tea—and have geraniums in the vase, sitting on her patio table where you'd eat together in the warm morning sun. You’d planned on gluing the broken pieces of the vase back together, but someone must have misplaced them in this box. Here’s the box with your wedding pictures. It was early spring. Your face was so skinny and Tom still had hair. Even then, Nelly couldn't hide her disappointment that her perfect son was marrying such a slutty girl.
“Tom, it’s not too late. You don’t have to go through with this just because she made you sleep with her,” Nelly told Tom after the rehearsal dinner, unaware you were listening from around the corner. “Mom, stop. Please. She didn’t make me do anything. I love her. I want to marry her,” he said. You smiled at his words and felt a chill as they resonated deep within you. “And you’re sure it’s yours? I mean, you don’t think she’s just using this to trap you? She does have a reputation, you know...” Nelly said. “Mom. Enough. She wouldn’t do that. Besides, I know it’s mine,” Tom said, sounding slightly annoyed. “I’m just saying, it might not hurt to wait until after the baby is born to get married. That way you can know for sure. You can never be too careful,” Nelly said. “Enough! I’m not going to have this conversation with you. I love her. This is my child. I’m marrying her tomorrow and she is going to be a part of our family whether you like it or not.” “Your father...” Nelly started to say, but Tom interrupted her. “Dad loves her,” he said. You walked around the corner and whatever Nelly was about to say died on her lips. You went right up to Tom and slid your arms around his waist. He pulled you in close and kissed you on the mouth. Nelly looked away, shifting her weight to her back foot, crossing her arms. Any lingering fears, any doubts that might have haunted you about marrying Tom had vanished. He loved you and wanted to be with you. He was willing to stick up for you, even to his own mother. What more could you ask for from a man?
Here’s the boxes of candles you used to sell. You were pregnant with Julie. Jessica was nearly four. Tom had lost his job because of his DWI and you sold candles from home while he looked for work. Remember how he cried when you paid the mortgage with the money you’d earned? Remember how he said you were the most beautiful woman in the world? Here’s the box of crocheted mittens and hats and scarves and pot holders Nelly made when she practically lived with you during the first three years of your marriage. Here’s the box of seasonal decorations she insisted on filling your house with, though you remember specifically asking her not to. Here’s the gaudy nativity scene she just "couldn’t envision your house without." Here are the boxes of cookbooks she bought you at every gift giving occasion. "Great. Another cookbook," you said sarcastically. "Well, don’t get your panties in a bunch. I just thought you could use them," Nelly said. Then, quietly, as if to herself, "Because god knows the other ones didn’t help." "What do you have against me?" you snapped back. "Nothing. Nothing. You’re always so defensive," she said, "I just don’t like watching my boy shrivel up to skin and bones. I want my grandkids to grow up to be healthy and strong." "How is that supposed to make me feel?" "I’m just teasing you. Calm down. You take everything so seriously." Tom walked across the room and put his hands on your shoulders. His touch sent a chill down your spine. You had never felt so small in your entire life as he laughed with his mother and told you not to take it so personally. That she was only joking. That she didn’t mean what she had said. That you were a good cook. You were a good wife. A good mother. Then he bent down and kissed you on the head.
Here's all the family photos. Here’s some pictures of Jessica as a baby. And here’s a few of Julie. And one of Tommy Junior. Here's some pictures from the family vacation in France with Nelly. And the camping trip in Colorado with Nelly. And the trip to New England with Nelly. Here’s the box of empty scrapbooks and scrapbooking materials. Too many things in life are left undone. Here’s the rod and reel you bought Tom for your twelfth anniversary. The price tag is still on it. That was the year you both agreed not to buy presents. Money was tight. Jessica and Julie were going to the private school that year and Tom hurt his knee playing softball and had to have surgery.
“I thought we agreed to not do presents this year,” Tom said, cooly. “We did. But I just couldn’t resist,” you said, playfully leaning into him with your shoulder. “You can never resist,” you thought you heard him say under his breath, then louder, “Remember how you swore that you weren’t going to buy me anything?” “I thought you’d like it,” you said, feeling hurt.
“Well, take it back,” he said, “We can’t afford this. How did you pay for this, anyway?” “Store credit,” you answered sheepishly, “But don’t worry, we’ll pay it off next month. It’ll work out.” “It will work out, because you’re going to take this back.” “You’re so ungrateful,” you said, starting to cry from frustration. Tom stood by silently, watching the tears roll down your cheeks. After a minute he softened and put his arms around you, and tried to console you. “Shh,” he said, “Don’t cry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take it out on you. I’m just worried, is all. I love it. Honestly. Thank you.” “Really? Do you mean that?” you asked, blowing your nose in a kleenex he offered you. “Of course I do,” he said, reassuringly, “We’ll make it work. Don’t cry. Happy Anniversary, baby.” “Happy Anniversary, Tom.”
Here's the boxes with all the baby clothes. And the ones with the baby books. The baby toys. Here's a box full of art projects, all done by the children over the years. All their coloring pages and popsicle stick houses. Here's a box with all their homework assignments; you never got a chance to look over them. Here's a box full of their treasures: rocks, sticks, buttons, rusty nails, fishing line. Here's the infamous birthday card from Nelly to Tommy Junior for his tenth birthday: the one that was never delivered. What a crappy year. That was the year Tom’s father died. You’ll never forget Tommy’s disappointed face when the promised card never arrived. Or the argument when Tom found the card in your sock drawer.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Tom was shaking with rage, like it was everything he could do to keep from coming apart. You could tell he wanted to rip your head off, but you wanted him to make love to you. You wanted him to tell you again that you were the most beautiful woman in the world. "I swear, I have no idea how that got in there," you calmly tried to explain. "How could you do this to him?" "Maybe your mother put it in there..." your words trailed off, sounding hollow and insincere. "Do you really expect me to believe that?" "You never believe me!" you said, "You don't love me! All you care about is your stupid bitch of a mother," your words rang out like shotgun blasts.
Tom raised his hand, like a conductor conducting his rage to a crescendo. But it died before the final cymbal crashed. Horror washed over his face, realizing what he was just about to do. The silence was palpable as you stood together in your room. Neither of you knew how to start. Neither knew how to stop. The ride was getting out of control and there was no way off. "It’s true, though. You don’t ever believe what I say. You know that, right?" you said. "You never let me forget."
Here’s Tommy Junior’s letters of recruitment. Twelve colleges wanted him to play basketball for them. Here are the instruction books from when Julie was learning how to play the piano. And here are the videos of her recitals! How long has it been since you’ve seen these? Here are the boxes with your textbooks from college. And the ones with some of your clothes from high school. Here’s the one with your pom-poms and your old cheerleading uniform. Here are the brochures you started collecting when you were working as a travel agent the summer after you graduated college. These are all the places you wanted to visit. Panama. Japan. South Africa. New Zealand. That was right before you met Tom.
"I love this time of year," Tom said, standing, looking out the front window, watching the snow pile up. Tommy Junior had just gone back to college in California. Jessica and Julie were living together in an apartment downtown. "Yeah. I love this time of year, too," you said, staring directly at Tom from across the room, wearing the new shirt you’d bought at the mall the day before. Recently, Tom had mentioned that his mother was thinking about moving to Florida. Apparently, the winters were getting too harsh for her. Apparently she hated snow. Tom took a sip of coffee, then sat on the sofa and opened up the morning paper. You walked across the room and sat down in the middle of the couch. Right next to him. Close enough that he wouldn’t be able to miss the perfume you were wearing: the perfume he’d given you for your twenty-sixth anniversary the previous fall. Close enough that he wouldn’t be able to miss that you weren’t wearing a bra and that the top three buttons of your shirt were undone. "Would you mind scooting down a bit? I'm all scrunched in here," Tom said, not looking up from the paper. "Oh. Sure. Sorry," you said, feeling hurt and slightly annoyed. The furnace kicked on. The roof creaked under the weight of the freshly fallen snow. You picked at your teeth with your fingernails, staring out the front window. "Did you see the Bears finally won a game?" you said, trying to spark a conversation. "Mmm-Hmm." Tom said, still not looking up from his paper. A salt truck drove down the street. The neighbor opened her front door, letting her young son out into the cold, winter morning.
"Hey, Tom," you said, leaning forward, folding your arms in your lap. Tom looked up and you gave him an earnest look, trying to plant a secret message somewhere deep inside him. "What’s up?" was all he said, taking another sip of coffee. You sat back and resumed looking out the window, mumbling something about forgetting what you were going to say. You wiped away the condensation gathering on the window with the sleeve of your new shirt, and then let your arm rest on the back of the couch. A neighborhood girl made her way down the slippery sidewalk to where the neighbor boy was playing. They started building a snowman together. Every once in a while, they stopped to catch falling snowflakes on their tongues. "I’m going to have to shovel today," Tom said, finishing the last sip of coffee in his cup. "I love shoveling," You said, again looking directly at Tom, allowing a finger to slip down the front of your shirt, "I could help you if you wanted." "Since when do you love shoveling?" Tom asked. He folded the newspaper and pat you softly on the head with it, then said, "Don’t be silly," as he got up from the couch and walked into the kitchen. You listened as he refilled his cup with coffee. He walked back into the living room, rubbing the back of his neck the way he always does in the morning. He stood staring out the front window, watching the snow continue to fall. "Oh. I remember what I was going to say before," you said, leaning forward again, "Maybe this weekend we could go to that little bed and breakfast we’ve been talking about going to for years. What do you think, Tom? Just you and me in a cozy little cottage. Watching the snow fall. Snuggling next to a fire. You could tell me how beautiful I am, and act like we’re on our honeymoon..." "I don’t know," Tom said, hesitantly, "I promised Mom I’d help her clean out her garage this weekend. And I’m sure I’m going to have to help her shovel at some point." "Oh," was all you could manage, as Tom sat back down on the opposite end of the couch, unfolding the paper again. You buttoned your shirt all the way up to your neck, clutched a pillow in your arms, and watched as the children made snow angels in the yard.
Here's the box of Nelly's things. Here’s her gold watch. The watch that led to the fight -- the fight that everyone blames you for starting -- the fight that led to her death. Here's her earring. Here’s her comb. Her lotion. Her nail clippers.
"Well, my watch has got to be around here somewhere," Nelly said, obviously annoyed. "And you’re sure you were wearing it when you came over?" you asked. "I took it off in the bathroom when I was washing my hands. I forgot to put it back on, and now it’s not there anymore. Do you have any idea where it might have gone?"
"Are you suggesting I took it?" You thought you heard Nelly mumble, "It wouldn't be the first time." "I saw you wearing it when you came over, Mom," Tom added. "Oh. Great. So you think I took it, too?" You said, feeling cornered. "No. I didn't say that. I just said I saw her wearing her watch. Why are you being so defensive?" "I’m not being defensive. I just... never mind." "No. Not never mind," Tom said, "Say it. You just..." "I just think it’s a little unusual for a grown man—a grown, married man, that is—to still call his mother every night before bed. And have her over for dinner five nights a week. And have her over for every holiday! And invite her along on every family vacation! And to always take her side in every argument!" Nelly looked at Tom and rolled her eyes, then said, "Well, I can see where I’m not wanted," then sniffed with dignity, as she picked up her purse and made her way to the door. "No. Apparently you can’t," you said, spitefully. "Mom, don’t go," Tom said. "Are you kidding me?" You said. "Now you listen to me," Nelly started to say as she turned around to face you. "No! You listen to me," You interrupted. "I don’t want to see your face in this house ever again! Is that clear?" "This is my home," said Tom, "And I will make that decision." You stomped out of the room, throwing your hands into the air, feeling numb replaying an all too familiar scene. But you stopped around the corner to try and listen to what Tom and Nelly would say. "Mom, you know you’re welcome here anytime." "I told you you shouldn’t have married that woman! But did you listen? No! Not Tom who knows everything. Well. See if I ever come over here again." You thought you heard Tom say, "Maybe you were right..." as they walked out onto the front porch. The front door opened and closed. Nelly’s car started and she backed out of the driveway for the last time. You walked back into the living room, bracing yourself for the storm. But when Tom came back around the corner, the fire in his eyes was gone. “I can’t live like this anymore,” he said quietly, almost too himself.
“Like what?” “Like this. With you. It’s always something,” he said, looking down into his hands. “Tom,” you started to say, but he interrupted you. “Maybe I should look into getting my own place for a bit.” “Tom,” you tried again, but he ignored you. He walked right past you and you listened as he went into the bedroom and shut the door softly.
Oh my god! Here it is! After all these years! Your father gave you this when you went off to college in the city. "Just in case..." he said, with a wink. And it still has all six rounds! The cocking sound always reminds you of the time you thought someone was breaking into your dorm room on ninety-fifth street. You were home alone and heard a loud crash in the kitchen. You peeked around the corner and saw a man opening the cupboards. You told him you were going to kill him if he moved an inch. But it turned out to be your boyfriend Will. He didn't think you were home, and was going to surprise you by making dinner. You ended up giving him the biggest surprise of his life, instead. After the initial shock wore off, you both laughed until your stomachs hurt. You gave him your virginity that night. He was the first man to ever tell you you were beautiful. It’s heavier than you remember. But a bottle of pills or a razor would feel equally heavy, you imagine. The barrel is cold against your temple. You try to envision yourself as being tragically alone, but can’t get past feeling just alone. It sounded so noble, so poetic before, but now you see the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. You feel the cold draft on your toes. You remember the dirty dishes still sitting on the table from breakfast. The sound of Tom’s car coming up the drive way startles you back into the moment. You take the revolver down from your head and conceal it behind your back. You hear him park in front of the garage and shut off the engine. Two minutes go by with only the sound of your heart beating in your ears. The car door dings as it opens, then closes. You hear his feet crunching through the snow. Tom jiggles his key into the backdoor lock. The door struggles open with its usual creaking. His footsteps sound heavy as he walks into the kitchen. You follow along as he slowly goes from room to room. Not finding you, he calls out, "Hello?" "Hi. I’m down here," You yell back, out of view from the top of the stairs. You listen as Tom makes his way through the house. He stops at the top of the stairs, and says, "What are you doing down there?" "Just looking through some old boxes. How was the funeral? Are you okay?" "I’m fine," Tom responds, with a lifeless voice. "Listen, we need to talk." "About what?" Your hands start shaking and you bring the gun back around in front of you. You think you can hear him sniffing, but it’s impossible to say without seeing his face.
"I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since..." he finally manages, but his voice trails off without finishing. You’re sure you hear him sobbing now. You can feel the bullets in the revolver staring out at you. Tom blows his nose. You hear him take a deep breath and collect himself. "I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since the accident," he says again, "and I am going to get my own place for a bit. I need some time: Time to collect my thoughts and sort things out." "Can we at least talk about this?" you ask, finding your finger touching the trigger. "Come on, baby. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be. We’ve talked about this already. We both know this isn’t working," Tom says, still planted on the top of the stairs. You can’t remember if the safety is on, so you look down. It’s on. You slide it off. The distraction made you momentarily forget that your husband of thirty-five years is standing at the top of the stairs informing you that he’s leaving you. Everything is crystal clear now. You raise the gun up to the side of your head. You put your finger on the trigger. You close your eyes and hold your breath. "I moved her watch from the bathroom the day she died," you blurt out, in a go-for-broke attempt at honesty, not exactly sure what you’re trying to accomplish. "Excuse me?" "I took it from the bathroom the day she died. I took a lot of her other stuff, too. It’s all down here in one of my boxes. All the stuff she accused me of stealing, it’s all down here. I stole it all." Tom doesn’t make a sound. You hold your breath and try to find hope in the silence. When you can't stand it anymore you say, "I'm sorry, Tom. I just wanted you to love me. I just wanted you to find me beautiful again." Tom starts down the stairs and you panic. You can feel the pulse in your temple thumping against the cold steel of the revolver. Your mind flashes with thought as you see his feet come into sight: What are you doing? How did you get here? What will Tom do when he sees you with a gun? What will he say? This will make him love you. He’ll stop you. He won’t stop you. He’ll forgive you. Everything is going to be okay. Pull the trigger. That will show him. Nelly is dead because of you. She hated you. She deserved to die in that accident. Hopefully she suffered. You shouldn’t have married Tom. He said marrying you was a mistake. Is this how it all ends? What happens next? What will the kids say? What if he doesn’t stop you? What if he loves you? Pull the trigger. Your thoughts come screeching to a halt when Tom stops on the stairs, only visible to you from the waist down. You find yourself panting, relieved and ashamed and confused as to why he stopped, hurt and hopeless. You realize that Tom has been talking now for several seconds, or maybe even several minutes, but you can’t understand any of the words he’s saying. Maybe he’s speaking in the language he spoke to his mother. The one you weren’t hearing all along. The one you never understood. And now he’s silent again. You remain silent too, still holding the gun to your head, not knowing what to do or say. After a moment, Tom slowly turns and starts heading back up the stairs. "Fine. Leave, then," you scream after him, as tears stream down your face from emptiness, "It’s not like I’m holding a gun to your head."
His feet stop on the last visible step. You intensely search his heels for a sign of hope as he idles, suspended on the stairway. The moment passes. He continues up the stairs and outside.
The door closes with a bang.
Colors David Finney According to my mother, a young child went to the circuit assembly with his parents. The child brought a little stuffed toy to play with while the adults were busy worshipping. This was not just any cute and cuddly stuffed toy; it was one of those little blue demons. A Smurf. A quarter of the way through the service, the stuffed Smurf got up and walked out shouting, “I can’t take this shit!” Another story my mother told was of her own encounter with the Smurfs as a child. One of the Aunts had given my mother a set of Smurf curtains for her bedroom. (Why my Grandparents had let her keep them, I do not know. Possibly this was before people knew the truth behind what the Smurfs were.) The first night the evil Smurfs were there, my mother had awoke to find they had jumped off the curtains and had begun dancing around her room, laughing demonically. I remember the first time I saw a Smurf; it was on television. I was at Tommy Don’s house. He wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness, so he had a TV. (I normally watched television at a friend’s house because we were not allowed one.) I couldn’t believe it! There it was, a Smurf on Cartoon Network. I tried not to look at Satan’s little blue minions. It was such a test of faith because I knew that the Smurfs were evil. I made the mistake of telling my Mother what I had seen. It became impossible to play with non-believers. Mother was afraid I might watch television and be influenced by Satan’s evil Smurfs. The truth became plain to me. I had to prove to my mother that Smurfs on TV were not dangerous. Between my mother’s stories and what I had read on the internet, I had deduced that these little blue devils could only possess inanimate objects. Not one of the internet postings had mentioned televised Smurfs running amuck. Not one of my mother’s stories, and there were more than just two, had mentioned televised Smurfs being able to influence humans, much less interact with them. Proving to my mother that televised Smurfs were not dangerous was the only way I would be able to watch TV again. Tommy Don and I devised a scheme to get my Mother over to Tommy’s house at precisely the same time that the Smurfs were on TV. This was fairly easy. All I had to do was tell my mother that Tommy’s mother wanted a Watch Tower pamphlet and my Mother would go at the appointed time. The hard part was getting my mother in the same room as a television set. Tommy had the perfect solution. His father had an old portable TV in the garage. Tommy would put it on the front porch turned on with the sound turned down. He would disguise it with a blanket and when my mother got on the porch and rang the doorbell, Tommy would pull off the blanket and my mother would see that TV Smurfs were harmless. We both agreed it was a brilliant plan so it was put in motion. On the appointed day at the appointed time, I and my mother went to Tommy’s house to deliver the Watch Tower pamphlet to Tommy’s mother. My mother stepped foot on the front porch. Tommy whipped off the blanket and there they were, Smurfs on TV. I looked at my mother and said, “See, harmless.” My mother took one look at the Smurfs and said, “But they are not blue.” Tommy had brought out a black and white television from the garage. My quest for television ended abruptly.
Leonard’s Words David Finney An obscure tune played in the back of Leonard’s head. Faintly at first, and only the melody. Leonard could almost give a name to the melody. Had he heard the tune before? Perhaps. The melody became slightly louder and words appeared, random and barely discernible. As the song built in volume and intensity, the words drowned out all of Leonard’s thoughts. Biafra. Thompson. Gun. Roland. Headless. These became Leonard’s thoughts. The song sounded like it was playing on an old AM radio, but the car’s radio wasn’t picking up anything but static. Leonard remembered his mother’s insistent nagging. “Mother always nagging, Mother always nagging,” Leonard said out loud as he swiped at his ears. Leonard’s mother insistently warned him. Warned him constantly about the consequences of allowing the phantom songs in his head to take over. Leonard reached down to fiddle with the car’s radio, trying to distract himself enough to break the song’s hold on him. Nothing but static accosted his ears. “Mustn’t. Mustn’t,” Leonard said as he swiped at the dashboard. Leonard heard his mother’s voice. “Don’t listen,” she said. Leonard’s mother was right and Leonard knew it. He was once led astray by a Refreshments’ song. “Well give your ID card to the border guard Yeah, your alias says you're Captain Jean-Luc Picard Of the United Federation of Planets 'Cause he won't speak English anyway” Leonard knows that this doesn’t work from experience. It is true that the guards don’t speak English, but they know who Captain Jean-Luc Picard is. Leonard was not going to be dissuaded by his mother’s insistence that he disregard the songs. He just had to be smarter. He now had a mission, a quest. Leonard had questions that only the song could answer. Who is Roland? Where is his head? Where is Biafra? These were the questions that the song demanded be answered. Leonard reached over and turned off the car’s radio, giving into his desire to pay full attention to the song. Almost as an afterthought, he reached over to pull the knob off and it dropped on the floor, rolling under his feet. Leonard thought better of removing the knob and he furtively reached down and felt around the floorboards for it while trying not to take his eyes off the road. Ultimately Leonard gave up trying to just feel for the knob and he looked at the floor. It was between the moment that Leonard looked up and the moment that he realized he wasn’t going to find the knob that he saw the checkpoint. With tires screeching, the old white Chevy came to a sudden halt. Leonard showed his papers and his ID to the guard. The guards weren’t impressed that his ID said Leonard, son of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the United Federation of Planets, and roughly dragged Leonard out of his vehicle.
A Letter Tyler Boydston Your face plays through my mind. Our times together play time and time again like a broken record. The smiles, the fun times, and even the bad.... It seems so vivid to me that it's hard to believe that these memories are years old. Was that truly the last time I was happy? I won't choose to believe that. I've spent time with friends, learned to love others the way I loved you, but for some reason, none of it truly matters or carries the same importance. The day you died was the day a part of me died as well. A darkness swelled up within me, took hold of me, seeped through every orifice of my body and changed me from the outside in. A friend of mine told me once that I wasn't the same shining smile I used to be when I was younger. At the age of ten, I didn't know what the world had in store for me. I was naive to the world and its many surprises. All I could ever know were my friends, family, and the stories I read about full of fantastic adventures and heroic figures. I wanted to be one of those. Those stories kept me going, and I thought no, I knew - that I would be a hero to many, just like them. At the age of 13, I met you. You seemed so different. A friend at first, something else developed over the years. By the time we were 18, we were in love. Every waking moment I had, you were somehow involved. If we weren't together, I was thinking about the next thing we would do together. At 25, we married. Our first and only son was born into the world a year later. It was difficult to keep up with him as time went on. He was more of a nuisance than I thought any child could ever be, but he was a silver lining in life while you began to go through your darker times. We heard the dreadful news when he was only five years old. You didn't have much longer to go. When I was 32 years old, I lost you. You passed calmly in the night while lying in a hospital bed with our son and myself standing nearby, a doctor confirming the time of death as 12:45 a.m. in a subtle tone. He didn't seem to bothered by your passing, as he had obviously dealt with death before. I have only witnessed it once before, and even then it was hard to take in. Now it is even worse. Our son watches as his father deteriorates over the years. He grows up over time, and eventually graduates high school and leaves his father behind. I would hear from him every few months, or in those times when he would need help from his dear old dad, but we were never close. Many women wove in and out of my life after you left. It took years for me to even attempt at dating again. Our son was 14 by the time I tried again. He was 28 before I married again. Even as a married man, your face still floats in and out of my mind. Not a day goes by when I don't think of my first true love, the woman that was taken from me. My new wife is a lovely woman who tries to keep me in touch with our son and wants the best for me. She's trying to kick me into shape, but at this point in my life, I'm not entirely sure what it will take to bring me back. I've been gone for over twenty years at this point, and at times, I want to blame you for that. I want to blame you for making me love you. I hate what you've done... but I will always love you. That is why our love is so vivid. You changed me forever, and I will always appreciate that. I love you.
Spring Breaks Gil Nunez It was the last week before spring break. The fine weather played its part on my students in each of those classes I taught by tickling their anticipation and lulling their minds to something between comatose and pre-seizure. Assignments were turned in with ridiculously correctible errors out of haste. Attention was on cell phone text messages, in-folder plane tickets and doodles of beaches and island gateways. Reading assignments were clearly not done with any measures of closeness, if they were done at all. Any fascinations expected out of the students were instead numbed platitudes typical of reading the manual included with a riding lawnmower. Even the brightest and most enthusiastic of my students had glazed looks of dreariness that speaking volumes to me likened to, “Oh god! Please let this week end so that I can go with mom and dad to Florida! Please don’t tell us you’re making us read anything else Dr. N!” It was in one of these moments, feeling as if I was droning on about things that would never be retained, that I noticed him. In the back of my class, on the peripheral of where my focus usually gravitated was a young man whose presence occupied even the empty desks around him. He wore black clothing so solid in color and so deep in pitch that he seemed to end the air at each point that his garments touched, remaining in this stale bubble of himself. His hair was a stygian carpet of beauty, also long and straight and kept back out of his eyes in some fashion that eluded me. The parting in the middle at the top of his head could have been cut with a razor in precision. Most disturbingly of all, he had silver eyes that measured me as if he could pluck the life out of my body with a thought, but instead he smiled slightly in amusement. I knew him, but could not remember his name. This troubled me greatly because I prized my own ability to know the names and faces of all my students. This young man’s name eluded me, and the thought that he carried a burden of some type of malice haunted me. I lost my train of thought and the inattention of the students frustrated me, so I dismissed the class early. I had intended to stop the ghostly student for a word before I left to my office, but he was already gone before I could catch him. I never saw him leave. He just disappeared. As I walked towards my office on the north end of the building, a commotion had begun on the south end. Students and faculty were gathering around something and watching it in eerie fascination. I tried to gather tidbits of information from those that sped past me to sate their curiosity, but I was either completely ignored or whatever fascinated them had taken a backseat to the inquiries of short, middleaged English professor. Looking up, I saw the young man in black again. He was standing at my office door. He stared patiently with no small measure of curiosity, causing me to quiver a moment in my shoes. This lasted only a moment before any trepidation I had was replaced with familiarity. “I know you.” I breathed quietly. It was as if I was standing on a precipice and the words I spoke could unbalance me. “Yes.” He replied simply. “I’m very busy here and have so much I have to do. My students need me.” “Your students love you. This is true. But, ‘need?’” He asked this as if expecting an answer but knew I could never provide one. “It’s time for you to rest. Spring break has come, my friend. Even for you.” “Yes. Spring break.” I smiled as I reached for his outstretched hand. Spring break had begun for me too. On the south end of the building, the weeping of students and faculty could be heard as paramedics made futile attempts to revive the tired body that I had left behind. If they knew that I had started my spring break early, maybe they would have stopped trying.
Green Ink Devon Shannon Nuzzle your nose against my neck and tell me how those soft notes trailing down to what is soft makes you feel the most masculine...and when I feel you...I cannot deny all the femininity in me begins to glow, requesting discovery. Manhandle me. I said a man’s forearm is sexy. I love when you show your forearm. Really, he asked? Yeah, I said, glancing at him over my shoulder with a slow spreading smile. I wanted to tell him I loved his hands, really, it’s your fingers and the pad of your palm, separately, and your ability to manhandle me without producing those seen and unseen scarring pains. This pain you give only produces delicate sighs as you handle me so tenderly. I love when you are kissing the small of my back and ever so often you graze my skin with the prickly parts of your cheek--your cheek. This morning I watched you shaving, going down...then up...and then down, again. Woman wearing fitted jeans and an off-the-shoulder top is approaching the door of a coffee shop. Man wearing sleeveless shirt and cut-off black denim shorts proves that chivalry is not dead. They make eyecontact just as she is about to walk through the door. I love that band, she says, stopping, and looking at his t-shirt. They played at Vinnie’s last Friday. Looking down at his ratty attire he tells her, I was there. I play the drums. I sing, she says. Really? We’re looking for a new lead singer, he says. You should stop by... (The commotion of coffee patrons entering and exiting pushes these two to the outside of the brick building and their voices are now but faint chatter on the streets of the mating frontier, and in some distant time marked by seconds, a band is forming with men musicians and in front she stands and she sings. Sultry huskiness mixed with edginess creates sensation.) *Warning: Do not desire to write romance. Serious writers do not write romance. Items to consider: pencil and pencil sharpener; plug and outlet; key and ignition; your finger with barbecue sauce and my mouth, callowness in the heart of every youth rounding first base for the first time, and this germ pressed into soil. Everything about me should highlight everything about you. From the strands sprouting from my scalp to my toenails, it should all highlight you, and in turn what makes you incredibly woman should put my manhood on display. We were only playing around when we should have been studying. My laughter and your high pitch squeals coming together. I was pretending your taps hurt. Ouch. To be so little, you’ve got jabs. And me touching your tickle spots. No. No. Stop. Stop. You were getting away...until I caught the heel of your foot and pulled you across the bed to me. And in that moment the atmosphere shifted. And you shifted. And I shifted. And we shifted. And I cannot recall who was handling whom within those shifts. *Warning: Romance novels produce fantasies and dirty images. Question: Can you imagine using two outlets to achieve lighting a lamp? How could that possibly work? Seriously. Or using two plugs. I’m not saying you can’t do it. Have at it, but you cannot create light this way with a lamp. At some point you will have to get creative and do something like flick on the overhead light, or open the blinds; however, nothing can replace that soft glow from a lamp, or the desire for it. Confession: I want my words to turn on your lamp. I’m no longer in the room. It is just him and her and her laughter, and we all four are aware of this truth. It was like the sound of soft waves reaching the shore of his dried ear drums and the papers in his hands, once important, became nebulous as her laughter rolled from her shapely lips. He looked up at her and
she at him--and it, which was handling us, remained felt but unseen. This untamed, been here since a single rib was shaped, formed into what he needed at that moment and I’m no longer in the room. There is no denying its power, and not offended, I stood, mesmerized. She spreads herself wide above him and beneath her is his ruggedness, somewhat red, somewhat brown, somewhat tan and somewhat green. This powder blue lady dusted with bits of whimsical fluff provides his contrast; providing a visual for which artists grapple with in words and brush strokes. A synthesis of pigments that produce worthy art. Confession: I want my words, letters I join together, to create art. It is the very act of this joining, the energy of the in and the out, the need to have it, the need driving the unhinged desire for it--it activates man and beast and sends the ocean’s waves crashing. *Warning: There exist trash romance. It is but porn formed by letters. These books should be sealed in plastic. He thought he could manhandle her. He started off so tough. Fuchsia lipstick and a low cut top have power which can weaken even the strongest of men. He pulled her over because she had made an illegal u-turn. He asked for her license and registration and both were expired, along with her tag. She smiled, she shrugged her shoulders and she laughed at his joke. Then she continued down Estella Avenue with her warning folded and tucked inside her sun visor. (This story will be retold and retold until Glory is reached because on that day he crashed and she handled and both walked away mesmerized.) I was told you could put a male skunk on one end of Texas and a female skunk on the other, and the two would not stop until they found one another or until death claimed them. Confession: I believe this kind of stuff. But why does he want her if he’s already had her? This question etched in green ink on one of my stories gave me thought. It was a comedy about a bunch of people having a bunch of sex. In my haste to write, I abandoned my mother’s teachings about the workings of the opposite sex. It’s about the chase for them, my mom told me. Once the fox gets the rabbit, the chase is over. I wrote a scene where a man and woman get it on, and days later he still wants her. This green ink reminded me that the chase is real. It does exist. To this male professor, this scene was fallacious, and for me I was writing what every woman is made to believe, thanks to twenty-first century romantic comedies. This green ink serves as a reminder to write what is real between man and woman because what stands between man and woman is real. It is why Jacob saw Rachel and lifted up his eyes to the heavens and wept and worked a total of fourteen years for her hand in a marriage. It is why Popeye and Bluto forever stand toe to toe in battle over Olive Oyl. It is why Romeo and Juliet still live. Confession: I want to write romance novels. I love the language of love. I could walk all day inside of it. It warms me. It captivates me. It motivates me. I cannot get enough of the man and woman dynamic. It is electric and cashmere all at once. I believe that it, this dynamic unnamable force, is the life preserver for mankind.
Rosemary Amanda Bell Rosemary Brackett hurried back into the farmhouse, nearly dropping all the fresh eggs she’d just gathered from the chicken coop. A storm was coming in, and her husband was coming home in less than an hour. There was so much to do: peel the potatoes, check on the roast, feed the dog, iron the tablecloth, bake two dozen cookies for the children to take to school the next day; it was exhausting just to think about. Then again, she told herself as she scurried into the kitchen, it was nothing more than any other wife had to do for her family. And what would she be without Thomas and the children? She shuddered to think of the possibilities. After all, Thomas loved her. Certainly he was a bit…rough, at times. Of course he was rather crude, and she didn’t appreciate the long glances she sometimes caught him giving the serving girls when the family ate out at restaurants, but that was all just the nature of a hardworking man. Wasn’t it? Yes, she decided, as she began to peel the potatoes that Thomas would surely be expecting for dinner (it was Tuesday night, after all, and in the Brackett household, that meant roast and potatoes. No exceptions to the rule, or Thomas would be very cross with her.) And if she hesitated just a little longer between each pass of the peeler, if she gazed towards the door with a little more trepidation in her gaze than normal, it must have only been her allergies acting up. It had been a very windy day, after all. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The hour passed quickly, with minimal damage to any of her cooking, although the roast was slightly burnt around the edges. Thomas was certain to notice, and Rosemary made a mental note to take the burnt portions for her own plate. Just as she had finished setting the table and was pouring her husband’s customary after-work whiskey, the door slammed open. Thomas was home. With trembling hands, she set down the glass and shuffled to the living room, eyes downcast. “Welcome home, Thomas darling.” A scoff was the only reply she received, and Thomas turned away to hang up his hat. Rosemary, figuring that she’d been dismissed, took a few steps backwards before turning, intending to return to the kitchen and get out the milk for the children, but a heavy hand on her shoulder stopped her cold in her tracks. “Where do you think you’re going, girl?” Her stomach fell. “I was just going into the kitchen to fix the girls their drinks, dear,” she said with a slight stutter. “They’ll be home from music lessons any minute now.” Thomas merely growled, never having been fond of the music lessons Rosemary had enrolled the girls in. Then again, Rosemary thought, Thomas had never been that fond of the girls, either. He had always wanted sons - big strong, macho boys that could help him around the farm. After fifteen years of marriage, Rosemary had produced three daughters, and two gravestones behind the shed, consequences of her “clumsy nature.” That’s what Thomas had told her concerned friends, at least. Rosemary herself considered it a consequence of ‘tough love’ given at the end of a belt. But surely Thomas knew best. Because he loved her… right? She was brought back from her reverie by a sharp sting across her cheek, Thomas having grown frustrated by her inattention. He was a man of very few words, Rosemary reminded herself. That would likely be her only warning. Ignoring the lump that rose in her throat, she hurried into the kitchen and shakily poured the milk, miraculously managing not to spill any. This earned her nothing more than an irritated ‘humph’ from her husband. “Better than a slap, at least,” she murmured under her breath. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Dinner was almost successful – Thomas had noticed the burned roast, and pulled her aside after dinner to give her “a piece of his mind.” The girls hurried up the stairs, knowing that “a piece of my mind” meant something much more dangerous than words to Thomas Brackett. When it was over, Rosemary
sat in a daze upon the couch, staring at the mirror across from her seat, and gingerly touching the swollen areas of her face and inventorying the hurt, piece by piece. A swollen cheek here, a split lip there, a bruised eye already beginning to turn purple – Rosemary stared in horror for a few more moments, rehashing the argument. “Why had he been so angry?” she wondered. Oh… oh yes, the roast. Surely there had been more than that! She wracked her brain trying to find anything else she could have possibly done wrong, but came up with nothing. Nothing…except, of course, the fact that she had fought back. She had never fought back before. She couldn’t even remember why. Yes, he had been screaming, but he always was. True, he had struck her several times, but no surprise there, either. There were the usual accusations of infidelity of course, but those had never had any basis in reality…not that Thomas cared much for reality on most days. Rosemary continued to trace back over the argument again and again until she finally landed on the spark she had been looking for - he had threatened the girls. Rosemary’s eyes narrowed as she remembered. He had threatened her girls! She stood suddenly and knelt, reaching under the couch to retrieve the cheerfully marked cardboard box full of first aid supplies and thick makeup, ordered in the most efficient way possible and tested by fifteen years of bruises. The children called it her Brackett Household Survival Kit. The children… Her attention was called back to the box as she realized that the ribbon holding it shut was gone. Well, not gone, exactly. The shredded pieces were still there in her clenched palm. She quickly selected what she needed for this round of injuries, hurriedly applying the bandages and makeup. Then she sat in the rocking chair in the corner of the parlor, and waited. As she rocked back and forth, she noticed her daughters standing nervously at the top of the stairs. Beckoning them down, she held them close, one by one, remembering when they were just infants in her arms. Now they were old enough for school lessons. It was a sobering thought. Didn’t they deserve better? Yes, she decided as she pressed a kiss to her younger daughter’s forehead. They deserved everything. And she would make sure they received it. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The next day saw Rosemary back at the mirror, fussing with the arrangement of her bangs, trying to hide as many of the cuts on her forehead as she could. Thomas had neglected to take off his school ring this time around. But no matter…this time, Rosemary was going to take a different strategy. Anyone looking into the Brackett household at that moment would have found nothing out of the ordinary for Rosemary, except for the queerest expression on her face. It certainly looked like a smile, but an overly cheerful one. It was almost chilling. But Rosemary kept smiling, and she gave one last glance to the mirror before gathering her purse and strutting from the house. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Ten minutes later, Rosemary was determinedly walking down Main Street towards Mr. Thompson’s general store. He had always been a good friend of hers, and didn’t ask too many questions about the amount of first aid supplies she ordered. Rosemary appreciated that in a man. But today she needed something a little more potent, and she could only hope that he wouldn’t give her any trouble. She doubted he would – Frank Thompson was a very genial, trusting man. She smiled again, speeding up her walk. Things to do, and all that. Mr. Thompson didn’t look surprised when Rosemary walked into his shop. He saw her at least twice a week. When Rosemary looked up at him, she noticed that he had already started to move towards the back of the store, probably ready to fetch a bulk purchase of gauze. She cleared her throat to
catch his attention. Gauze was not on her shopping list today. He paused and turned around. “What can I do for you today, Mrs. Brackett?” She smiled, and gave him a short list – just three items long. Sugar, flour, and arsenic. He did a double take. Surely that didn’t say…. It did. “Arsenic?” he murmured aloud, scarcely believing what he was reading. “For rats,” Rosemary helpfully supplied, with what she hoped was a charming smile. Apparently it worked, because after Mr. Thompson had bagged up her sugar and flour, he handed her a small black box and urged her to be careful about washing her hands after laying out the poison. Money exchanged hands, and Rosemary was out the door, whistling a cheery tune back down Main Street. It was surprisingly cheerful – not the kind of thing the townspeople normally heard from Mrs. Brackett. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Rosemary walked through her front door with a smile, and entered the kitchen, looking up her mother’s recipe for chocolate cake. As she began to measure out the ingredients, she thought back over her fifteen years of marriage. She remembered meeting Thomas, and how sweet and kind he had been, walking her home from school every day and taking her out on dates. She remembered how he had finally convinced her to marry him, claiming he couldn’t live without her. She remembered the birth of their first two daughters, and Thomas’s growing resentment of their femininity. She remembered everything. The first time she lost a child. She remembered the hope that filled her when the old wives of the town had told her that the next child would be a boy. How wrong she had been, and the second impromptu grave dug in the backyard. Finally, the last daughter and Thomas’s ultimatum: no more girls. No more children at all. The trials and tribulations of the last few years of their marriage… it all added up to this, her chance to change things. Rosemary looked down at the finished batter and hesitated before looking over at the small black box on the counter, her secret ingredient. She glanced around before slowly withdrawing a teaspoon from her pocket and measuring out a portion from the box, dropping it into the mixture. She stirred it carefully before pouring it into a pan and placing it ever-so-gently onto the center rack. Only time would tell how it would turn out. So, for the second time that day, she returned to the parlor and sat down in her rocking chair, and waited. Ten minutes passed, then twenty, then thirty. Her children came downstairs to kiss her goodnight, and the cake came out of the oven. She returned to the chair, and continued to wait. Rosemary had rocked for an hour by the time the cake had cooled, and she was just putting the finishing touches on the frosting when footsteps echoed down the hall. Thomas must have smelled the chocolate, she thought with a small smile. Things were working exactly as she wanted. Rosemary stepped back and looked at her creation – it was perfect. Thomas stepped into the kitchen, eyeing the cake hungrily. “Well, what’s this?” Rosemary didn’t reply, carefully washing out the icing bowl. He glared at her. “I said what is it?” She dried the bowl, still silent. He had just stepped forward, hand raised, when she turned around suddenly. “I’m sorry dear, I didn’t notice you there. Would you like a piece of cake? It’s my mother’s recipe…Death by Chocolate.” Thomas didn’t notice the tightlipped smile she gave as he devoured two slices. It tasted odd, but that didn’t stop him. He’d always had a weakness for cake, after all.
Love, Lust, and Like Sarah Brewer Lust sauntered in the room with her lips lacquered and her blonde hair big and bouffant. “Like, I’m going out tonight,” she said, then rushed back to her room. I followed. Her voice sounded like a whisper and a gasp, a sign of provocation to come, and a warning I had failed to interpret. “Do you need a ride?” Lust had wrecked her car during move-in week, and had since relied on her feminine charm and killer figure for her late-night rendezvous when she should have been here in our dorm room studying. Love always reminded me to ask our sister if she needed a lift before she vanished, but Lust had always declined the offer. “Thanks, but he’ll be here any minute. We’re going out tonight,” she said as she adjusted the straps to her black bustier dress. She would be going to downtown club, one of her many haunts, where everybody had a nice body, where the Belvedere and Jäger were always overflowing, and the booming bass was the only rule of law. Lust had used many absolutes when persuading me to tag along, but I was not enthused. “Is this guy somebody special?” “Maybe. We’ll see…” she answered, tossing me a wink in the reflection of her boudoir mirror. Lust tried on men like she tried on shoes: frequently, and sometimes several within the same evening. “Oh. Somebody I know?” “Actually… yeah. You know the guy you introduced to me yesterday?” Right. Yesterday, when Lust deigned to attend class for the first time in weeks instead of staying in bed and recovering from another night of frat-house revelry, she had exchanged numbers with the guy I had been crushing on and gushing about all semester right in front of me. “Have fun,” I managed, as I watched her slink out the door, shocked by her electric presence and obvious disregard for my heart. *** “Keep driving,” Love urged, her gaze fixed on the streets ahead. “We’re almost there. Ohmygod. I hope she’s okay.” "We both know she’s not okay,” I said, and she looked away. I could never look her in the eye for too long. She always believed, always persevered, but relating to this indestructible woman was impossible. An hour ago, Lust called. We asked her what was wrong, what had happened, where she was, if she was hurt, if she was alone, and she answered in the affirmative. She said she had gone too far and had lost control. We tried keeping her on the line as we ran red lights, but our phone lost the signal and dropped the call. The click that ended it was quieter than gunshot, louder than a heartbeat, but the sight of her sitting on the curb was a reprieve.
Lust had lost her luster. Broken stilettos dangled from her toes and molten mascara darkened her face. Her eyes glistened like shattered diamonds under the neon signs. “It’s alright,” Love said. Her tone turned from tender to fierce while she held our sister, and I could swear that she was ready to kill whoever had left her for dead like this. “Who did this to you?” “When I tell you, you won’t like me anymore,” Lust replied. Love and I let Lust lean on us as we paced back to the car. We drove in silence for an hour before we asked her to tell us who had hurt her. Her lips parted, but my eyes closes as each aching syllable escaped from her mouth. “Regret,” she said.
Derailed Sarah Brewer “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” --Reinhold Niebuhr
Sometime after 7:00 am, the mournful bellows of distant freight trains urged me to open my eyes. Trains speak to me. These vehicles will eventually arrive at their destination as scheduled, and it drives me to do the same. These vehicles move with purpose, with precision. Prison is not the destination I would have chosen, and my stay here has been hell. The accommodations here have been far from my liking, but today I refuse to accept less than what I deserve. I want to talk. There is so much to say, so much to confess, but I am leaving this place in just a few minutes. I beg the guards who are stationed at the door to consult my lawyer, and they remind me that they have been ordered to escort me from my room for the last time. Time is the final luxury I have been given, so I better make it quick. My lawyer, man with hair the shade of smoke, hands me his phone. While praying for the same discretion my mother once showed me, I dial a number I have committed to memory. The voice that answers sounds sweet, like salvation. “Grace,” I begin, voice rocking against rails. “I did something I regret, something terrible. I am sorry.” “You’re my mother,” my little girl replies. But now, my little girl is not so little. She is a strong, rational woman, and I am in awe of her. Where she got her goodness, I’ll never know—I have been behind bars, in purgatory, for years. There were few letters and phone calls, and even fewer visits, but I cherished whatever correspondence I shared with her. If she has become the woman I should have been, perhaps I have done some good in this life. She adds, “I forgive you. I love you.” Love. I want to believe that I am worthy of such a thing. But, the concept of a gift given freely and without condition is almost beyond my comprehension. Almost beyond my heart. If I had a heart. According to the media and the masses, it had vanished long before my incarceration, when motherhood had halted my life. Supposedly, I was a soulless bitch. My lawyer, the man whose phone remained in my hand, had fought on my behalf, but there were moments when even I had witnessed doubt flicker behind his bifocals, and there was nothing left to fuel any hope for an acquittal. I could not be saved. “No,” I plead. “No Gracie. Don’t say things just to make me feel better.” “But you didn’t mean to do it. It just happened,” she continues, nearly repeating my scripted testimony verbatim. It was a crime of passion, then and now. “I love you.” She pauses, allowing me to speak, but I cannot answer her with the same three words. Hers is a love that was not meant for me to accept. And… I refuse to taint the last memory she will have of me with a pitiful cry for attention. I have taken too much from her already, and a real mother gives. I have deprived my daughter of a life with a parent whose purpose is her child. I was derailed.
But now I am prepared to move on. Bound in handcuffs, I face the path before me. Conviction To Charlie repairs my parts and pieces, makes me whole, and puts me on the right track.
Ctrl+Alt+Del Gary Reddin The first thing Gavin Locke did when he woke up on any given morning was turn on his computers, all five of them. He would then slip on the same pair of pants he had worn the day before, grab the nearest bowl from his desk, and walk slowly to the kitchen. There he would pour a bowl of stale cereal and promise himself he would buy a new box before this one ran out. After smelling the milk and assuming it was still good (he could never actually tell the difference), he would meander back to his room and close the door. There, in the darkness of his dungeon, he would set to work. Gavin was an entrepreneur. He spent thirteen hours a day digging up gold in the online game Wizards of Warfare, gold he would then sell for real world currency. He did this on all five of his computers and at the end of this daily thirteen-hour ritual Gavin would earn roughly $398. Not a bad haul for someone wearing yesterdays pants. After "work," Gavin would typically spend the rest of the day on his many different social networking profiles. He would chat with friends he had never met, upload pictures of himself in various poses in front of his bathroom mirror, or follow the comments being made about videos he posted of various action figures put into compromising positions. On this particular morning, he was awakened several hours earlier than he would normally have liked by his alarm clock. But today was a special day; the online game he made his living on was launching a new expansion today. He pulled himself up and rubbed his eyes until he saw spots.
Rolling out of bed, he felt around for his leftover pants. When he finally found them, he pulled one foot in. As he was preparing the other, he felt something move up his leg. He dropped the pants. They fell to the ground and stirred slightly. He kicked them gently and they stirred again. He kicked them harder and this time a rat crawled out. The rat looked up at Gavin with a scowl of indignation and then scurried off under his bed. Gavin shrugged and fished a new pair out of his dresser. He walked over to his desk where his computers waited. "Hello girls, today's a big day. I hope youâ€™re ready." He flipped the power switch and heard the silent hum of electricity as the five screens sprang to life. A smile of satisfaction spread across his face, he grabbed the bowl he had used for ramen three days earlier and set off for the kitchen. There he picked up the nearest box of cereal and poured out a few dry marshmallows and some chocolate dust. He stared into the empty box with a heavy heart. Tossing the box aside, he picked up the next and shook it vigorously; it was empty as well, as were all four of his other boxes. After emptying a few loose peanut-butter balls from the last box into his bowl, he decided it would have to do. "At least I still have milk," he shrugged, opening the fridge. But alas, that too, was empty. Confusion, disillusionmentâ€Śnever in his life had Gavin ran out of cereal and milk at the same time, and of all the days. He stared at the empty milk carton for several minutes before he tossed it in the direction of the garbage can, but the garbage had been overflowing for days so all it accomplished was a dull bounce off the rim before cascading across the tile floor. Gavin was at a loss. He hated dry cereal, yet he had no time to go to the store, the new
expansion launched in less than thirty minutes. So, he did the only rational thing he could think of: he took his bowl over to the sink and filled it with water. As he sat the cereal aberration down beside him at his desk, Gavin noticed the first signs of something amiss. His user name was "IpwnU43." His user name for years, it was his calling card; everyone knew him by that name. But somehow, his name had been changed. It now read “G.S.1915.” "What the hell…G.S.1915!" Gavin shouted. "Can this day get any better? First rats, then no milk, and now some newbs tried to hack me! I do not have time for this today," he moaned. Closing his network, he decided against his better judgment to run one computer for the launch of the expansion and worry about the hack later. He navigated his way to the game’s start menu and logged in, or at least he went through his usual motions of logging in. He typed in his user name, his password, and clicked login. But the message he received was not a welcome one. "'Account does not exist!’" Gavin wrenched as he absorbed the blood red words that were burning into his screen. He tried again, fearing a typo had occurred due to his outrage over the hack. No luck. The screen displayed only its denial of his existence. He tried everything he knew to log into his account but with no success. After two and a half hours of relentless troubleshooting, he finally gave up and called the video game company's help-hotline. [click] "Hello, thanks for calling the Wizards of Warfare hotline. How may I help you?" "I've got a serious fucking problem over here!" "Sir, please calm down. The expansion has a couple bugs, but it should be running smoothly in a few hours." "Oh, this is much, much bigger than a couple shading bugs lady!" "Okay sir, what seems to be the problem?" "My account isn't registering is the fucking problem!" "Sir, have you tried account recovery?" "Lady, do I sound like a newb to you! I have three level 80 warlocks and a level 80 warrior who wields the sword of Kara’sou’l!” “Sir, I'm going to need you to stop yelling at me." “Just fix it!” "Okay, what is your name sir?" "IpwnU43!"
"No sir, your name." "I just told you, IpwnU43, I-p-w-n-U-4-3!" "No sir, your real world, big person name." "It's, uh, hold on... it's Gavin Locke." "Okay Mr. Locke, one moment. Okay Mr. Locke, we are showing no account registered under that name." "Try searching IpwnU43!" "No, you don't seem to understand. We have no documentation of your name or your gamertag ever having existed on our servers." "Well check again bitch, 'cause I am not hanging up until you restart my account." "Listen to me asshole, I get enough shit from guys like you in my real life. I don't need it at work. Why don't you go to the park, or read a book or something? For Christ's sake, it's not the end of the world!" [click]
But it was. Gavin Locke's world had come to a sudden end in the course of one phone call. He sat in his custom import gaming chair staring at his one lonely computer screen that was still displaying only its denial of his existence. He grabbed his mouse and clicked the login button frantically, still nothing changed. He fell back in his chair and let himself slide to the floor where he laid his head in his hands and stared at a cockroach that was making its way across some old pizza boxes. There he lay for hours, watching endless parades of roaches scurry about in pursuit of their daily activities. He envied them, having no worries, knowing that they must be completely content in their existence, as he had been the night before. He finally pushed himself up off the ground and back into his chair. â€œThe hack," he breathed heavily. He delved into his memories trying to think of someone who would have wanted him gone from Wizards of Warfare. He had made plenty of enemies, but none of them would have had the intelligence to do something this grandiose. Wanting to take his mind off the increasing weight of current events, Gavin went online to check his Facebook account. There he could lament to his thousands of online friends about his current sorrows. "Account deleted!" Gavin nearly threw his mouse through the screen this time as he read the words emblazoned on what would have been his homepage. "Who the hell is doing this to me!â€? His Twitter account revealed more evidence of his virtual assassination. His Flickr, along with its 13,066 pictures had been erased. His Youtube account along with all 14,008 videos had vanished, and
none of his seventy-two e-mail accounts registered. Gavin Locke's entire digital existence- and by extension his life- had been deleted. The realization that oneâ€™s entire life is gone usually comes on the deathbed. For Gavin Locke, it came while he was sitting in his custom designed high-back imported gaming chair. His eyes were hollow, his throat was dry, and his mind was a complete blank. He could not think anymore and he didn't want to. He flipped the little red switch that powered his surge protector to off and his computer shut down. He crawled slowly towards the head of his bed and curled into a ball on top of the pillows. His eyes slowly came to rest on a small lump beneath one of his socks on the nightstand. He moved the sock and found a small, neatly wrapped package. It was a long forgotten birthday present, sent to him from one of his faceless online fiends. He had put it there months ago and forgotten it. The box was so light that, in his hands, it felt empty. A similarity he and the box now shared. He gently removed the lid and dumped the contents onto his bed. Out tumbled a small plastic baggy with a shred of paper taped to it. The paper read: "From F.K." Inside the bag was another piece of paper, along with a dried up, green beetle. The note inside the bag read: "This is an African changeling beetle, it is said that shamans would consume this beetle just before their deaths to ensure that they returned in a more powerful form in their next life." Gavin pinched the wing of the beetle between two fingers and lifted it delicately into the air. Knowing that it may not have been what F.K. (whoever that was) had intended when he sent him the beetle, Gavin did the only thing he could think of with the bug; he ate it. To his surprise it provided him with some comfort. At least now I will be more powerful in my next life, he thought as he curled back up. As he laid there, his mind being assaulted by thoughts of the day's events, he began to slip into a feverish sleep. Gavin found himself standing at the base of an enormous computer. His legs were being held in place with screws, his head was tied to a board, and his eyelids were being forced open by green beetles that had the letters F.K. branded on their backs. The computer whirred loudly; he could feel heat emanating from its fast moving processor as it calculated whether or not Gavin's life was worthy of saving. It gave one loud resonating beep and then went silent. The screen flicked on and Gavin saw the dark red words 'Account deleted.' Then the beetles started burrowing into his eyes. Soon they were inside his head, digging into his brain. He kept asking them what they were doing but they did not respond. Then he was free. The computer was gone and his head was empty. He ran but there was nowhere to go. He was standing next to a table where a phone was ringing; he picked it up. The woman on the other end was asking for his name but he couldn't remember. In fact, he couldn't remember anythingâ€Ś He woke burning with fever. He rolled out of bed and stumbled towards the bathroom spending the rest of the night emptying what few contents there were in his stomach into the toilet. At some point, he must have fallen asleep, because when he woke up again, he was sprawled out on the bathroom floor,
his face caked in dry vomit. He managed to crawl to the kitchen; the clock on his microwave told him it was twelve. He couldn't remember if the microwave clock had ever been right. He looked around for another time source but to no avail. His head was pounding. He opened the refrigerator and looked around for something to eat, but nothing looked appeasing. He opened the cabinet but still nothing. He knew he wanted food, but everything in his kitchen turned him off; in fact, it repulsed him. He went over to the sink and washed his face off, thinking if he removed the smell of dry vomit he might feel better. "You're hungry Gavin, you really need to eat." Gavin looked around the kitchen. "That African bug really did a number on me." He laughed, "I'm hearing voices now!" "It's not nice to deny someone's existence Gavin. Haven't you learned that yet?" This time Gavin jumped out of his seat. He was hearing voices! "Whoâ€™s there?!" He shouted, spinning in circles looking for the intruder, but he was alone, and the spinning started to make him sick again. He braced himself against the counter and closed his eyes.
When he opened his eyes he saw a cockroach leaning against a moldy apple. "Hello Gavin, feeling better?" The roach asked him. "Not really, I think I need to see a doctor," he replied. "And why's that?" "Well, for one thing, I'm talking to an anthropomorphic cockroach thatâ€™s casually leaning against an apple and smoking a pipe." "Ah, that sounds serious," the roach agreed. Gavin closed his eyes and reopened them, but the roach was still there puffing gently on his pipe. "Go away!" Gavin spat. "Why?" The roach asked whimsically. "Because you're not real!" "And you are?" The roach retorted with a raised eyebrow. Gavin ran into his bedroom. His computers sat quietly on his desk. He flipped on the power. Like clockwork, the computers sprang to life. He allowed himself a faint sliver of hope. But this tiny fractal of faith disappeared at the login screen where he saw that dreaded moniker from the day before 'G.S.1915'.
Suddenly, and quite violently, he was filled with a great disgust. But it was not at the thought of losing all the things he had once thought vital to his existence, as it had been the day before. This was something deeper, something he had never felt before; this was completely vile. He loathed these machines, cold, insipid, soul draining artifices. He retched and pushed himself away from the screens as quickly as he could. "What's wrong with me?!" He gasped, attempting to hold back another bout of vomiting. "You're just experiencing the side effects of a violent hallucinogen-induced metamorphosis." The cockroach was back, this time he was sitting cross-legged on Gavin's knee. He was wearing a top hat and vest and twirling a cane in his left hand while his right hand stroked his newly grown mustache. "You like it?" The roach whispered inquisitively. "I thought it would make me look a little more...distinguished." Gavin stared down at the well-dressed vermin on his knee until his eyes started to water. "No need for tears Gavin my boy, this is a glorious day!" The roach jumped up and tapped him on the knee with his cane. "You have been give a second chance, a new leash on life. Hell, pick your own corny metaphor after all, it's all yours!" "What's wrong with me?" Gavin cried again. â€œThat's hunger, my boy, the first time you've felt real hunger in years." Gavin nodded slowly in silent agreement. Near the head of his bed he kept a replica of the most powerful sword ever forged in Wizards of Warfare. The thought of what he was about to do frightened him, but he knew it was his only choice. He picked the sword up; it was heavy. He didn't remember it being so heavy. Gavin lifted the sword above his head. It was game over, he knew it, the roach knew it, and soon everyone would know it. With all the strength his out of shape arms could call forth he swung the sword down and smashed it into his computer monitors. Glass and plastic scattered across the room. He gave another swing and several of them split in half. With a final grunt of strength he lifted the blade and thrust it into the modem. He let go of the sword and gazed at the smoking wreck. A sweeping finality overcame him, and for the first time in years he felt genuinely, harmoniously, happy. "What... do I do now?â€? He whispered. Gavin looked down, but the roach was gone. Gavin Locke stood beneath a leafless tree in a park he had never visited before. It was beautiful, the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, he thought. He stared up at the pale sky and smiled a true and tranquil smile. He had bought a pretzel from a lone vendor, who he had tipped generously, and was now savoring every bite. Across the park, Gavin saw a man sitting at a bench typing vigorously on his laptop. He grinned, then he set off to find a phone. He knew a certain game help-line operator that deserved an apology.
Revealed Self Portrait
Matthew Hughes 39
22 Seconds Aubrey Vandall Appendix A: Glossary of Terms
22 Seconds: The amount of time it takes for a man to enter a coffee shop(see Coffee Shop), steal money, and get into a getaway car(see Car). It’s interesting to think about the time relationship each person experienced during the Event(see Time).
Alexander: Alexander Maverick Hawk Fox. Alexander is one of my employees at the coffee shop and has been a good friend of mine since we attended high school together. His mind doesn’t work the way most people’s minds do. He has this innate ability to see the good in almost anything while simultaneously seeing the very worst in it and completely appreciating both sides. He boils everything down to an indescribable reactive idea, its essence that he can then imagine in different situations. When he meets people, he understands their nature, how they work and act, and tries to guess how they would act in different circumstances. All with surprising accuracy. This gives him a unique perspective on things and enables him to analyze and see things the way a good therapist might. His advice and consultation would become helpful in therapy(see Therapy). His greatest flaw is in that if he can’t understand something, if he can’t give it meaning, it troubles him to the end of his wits. It envelopes him, and he can’t get past the problem. When this happens, it can take days for him to recover. Luckily, the Event was not one of those times. Alexander will always come across as warm and one of the nicest people you’ve ever met. He gives off the sense that he genuinely cares about everyone, and it’s because he does. He has this way about him that even when he is being a pervert, which is always, he does it in a way that makes you feel like he is being completely innocent.
Car: Vehicle that takes someone from the scene of a crime. The car pulled into a parking spot just outside the shop’s west entrance. A man stepped out, leaving his door open and ran into the shop(see Entrance). The diver then pulled out a ways so when the robber(see Clown) exited, they could get out quickly. The car was a silver four door Honda, or a Grand Am, depending on who you asked(see Perception). The car would actually become critical in the police investigation and in part, the ease of mind of the people involved in the Event. It simply felt good knowing the police were working hard to help us. From the moment cops had the car’s description, they began pulling over every silver four door car they saw on the streets. Within half an hour, they had already snagged four cars which was, to me, a pretty impressive number for the size of my town at 11 at night(see Lawton). The car looked like a piece of crap.
Clown: A ridiculous man in a ridiculous outfit. This specific clown knew he was going to rob us and decided rather than invest in a mask or gloves, he was going to make those things himself. Very Macgyver. Using two t-shirts, he covered his face, save for his eyes, which, on a side note, were rather unremarkable. I got a good look at him at the register(see Register) and even though they were all I could see of his actual person, I can’t recall anything about those eyes.
He wore a red jacket and two more shirts wrapped around his hands. His jeans were ripped and dirty, and not in a 200 dollar pair of jeans kind of way. They were cheap jeans that he ripped and soiled himself. Again, very Macgyver. And to top it off, none of the garments were of the same color, so he was very colorful. The yellows and oranges on his hands with the red of his jacket and the blue and purple and black on his head instilled in my mind the image of a peacock. Not a particularly attractive peacock, but not all of them can be. Coffee Shop: The place I work as a manager. I think, for legal reasons, I’m not allowed to mention its name, but we are very popular. You’ve heard of us. Alexander, Jacob, and Molly are among my employees.
Delay: The amount of time it took for me to recognize the Event had started. My back was to the door, and I was in the lobby when the clown entered. I heard him yelling and just assumed it was rowdy kids having a good time. It took more than a second to understand what was occurring, and it wasn’t until I saw Alexander’s face that I grokked it. The wide eyed surprise look he was giving me was enough. He was looking at me for support or guidance. By the time my head turned to see the clown, my legs were already moving me toward the register.
Drawer: We never got our drawer back.
Entrance: The entrance took all of two seconds. He entered the shop with all the grace and tact of Sam Kinison and kept repeating the same thing over and over(see Phrase 1). It was a very strong start to a very effective robbery. He just had a little bad luck(see Luck).
Event, The: No Description Available. Gun: The thing pointed at my face at the counter during the Event. It might have been a gun. I don’t think it was a gun. I would have bet, underneath his shirt-wrapped hands, there was no gun. Now, I wouldn’t have bet my life on it or anything… but there was no gun. The entry redefined after considering other crimes(see Other Crimes). There might have been a gun. I would have lost that bet.
Idiots: Perez(see Perez) and his two daughters under the age of 10, Karen and Jimmy. Tina, Jacob(see Jacob), and Sarah. Each of these people gave information to the police that was false. They said with absolute certainty and conviction thinking like, “the clown wore yellow rubber gloves,” that he “had a Puerto Rican accent,” or that “he drove west.” All of these things were wrong. The others admitted when they didn’t know a piece of information, or were unsure, but the idiots had no doubt that they were right. Idiots.
Jacob: The idiot I work with, who, when he saw the clown, ducked behind a wall and remained out of sight the entire time, yet still had a great deal of information to give the police.
Lawton: The town I live in. It’s a small town of about 100,000 people and it’s attached to a rather large military base. Being a military town means that drugs and alcohol are very profitable businesses to be involved in. As a result, the gang rate is rather high for such a small town, and with the gangs come the violence and crimes. It’s hard to see on the surface. Most of the townsfolk are polite, friendly, and simple if you aren’t involved in the drug circles. It’s easy to not see the dirty underground. Or maybe it’s just easy to pretend it’s not there.
Little L.A.: What some cops call our town because, supposedly, our crime statistics are similar to that of Los Angeles.
Luck: It was on our side. Normally, due to our high level of business, my store has at least 200 dollars in our registers. For some reason, Alexander neglected to tell me he had run out of five dollar bills, and that he only had three one dollar bills left in his drawer. I would have refilled his drawer had I known this information. Now, this small amount of money meant that, if we had another customer that night, we would have been in a bit of trouble and not been able to give them any change back, but if we had been robbed, the robber would only get away with about 10 dollars, counting the change plus whatever the drawer was worth(see Drawer). I told myself many times that the small amount of money would deter future clowns from coming in. The thought was more therapeutic than therapy(see Therapy). It was a roll of the dice on Alexander’s part. Meaning: I guess it’s human nature to want to try to find meaning when our lives are put in danger. It’s easy to search and analyze the events of our lives, but hard to make them mean more than what they were. Sometimes life just happens, and it doesn’t have meaning. These events don’t define us, so why do we define these events? Maybe we need meaning to have closure, or maybe we need it so that if we died, it had a purpose. Either way, I know we define things in our lives because we simply have to. We ask ourselves why(see Why) over and over again. It’s the absurd question that we are trying to find the answer, but we try to ignore the fact that there might not be an answer. We keep looking.
Molly: She was a transfer employee from a store in Boston. She was only at my store for the summer before school started again, and she only had a week before she transferred back home when the Event took place. She was the most shaken up by the Event. It troubled her to a degree I don’t know, and I’m positive the therapy helped her more than it did anyone else. Still, I extended my help to her and she took it, calling me at two in the morning once trying to cope with what had happened. How heavy it weighed on her really showed me how lightly it weighed on me. She was afraid she was taking it too hard, and as I talked to her that night, I became increasingly concerned that I wasn’t taking it hard enough, like my brain was just not allowing me to process how major the situation had been. Still, to this day, I haven’t been very shaken by the Event, and maybe I never will be. This isn’t to say that I’m just unfazed by the Event(see Scapegoat). Molly eventually found peace with it, though. So at least there is that.
Other Crimes: The clown and his partner committed more crimes. Specifically, they tried to rob a gas station a few hours after the Event. The clerk resisted them and was beaten badly with a gun by the clown. More than likely, they needed to rob another place because they got unlucky with us. But it turned out to be a poor decision because they left that gas station in the back of a cop car. Some people would see some parallels between the Event and other crimes. What most will realize is that the clown was
willing and capable of being violent, and thus, was willing and capable of being violent during the Event. He wasn’t violent during the Event, though. It makes no difference whether or not he could have been or would have been. The violence during other crimes was not applicable to the Event because they didn’t happen during the Event. So it isn’t worth dwelling on even if someone thinks it is.
Perception: This is simply how we take in information. Most likely, we do this to use our surroundings to create and apply meaning to the events around us. We perceive and then define. This process is flawed, as perception implies that we take in information in a limited amount. We can’t perceive everything. We perceive that which is around us and we often do that wrong, too. There were 12 people in the shop when the Event occurred, and each person perceived the Event differently. Though our perceptions are always our own, much like opinions, that doesn’t mean they are right for us. Some perceptions are just wrong. I grouped the people at the Event into two groups: the Witnesses(see Witnesses), and the Idiots(see Idiots). The two groups are not based on what they saw, but rather, what they claimed to have seen. So if we use our flawed perceptions to help define a situation, does that make our definition inaccurate? And if we have inaccurate definitions, how can we obtain true meaning of things? If we continue to build on our false perceptions, our definitions of the world and the truth of the world will drift further apart until to some, the two won’t be recognizable as the same reality. It sounds discomforting to think of our perceived reality and true reality to be different things, but somehow, I think it’s easier to live in the world we make. The real world is hard and filled with pain, clowns, and ugly truths that are depressing when dwelled upon. It’s often safer to ignore the truths when it helps us to cope and find meaning to the world. We don’t always need to deal with the problems of others even though they are out there for us to see. But sometimes, you’re forced to see the problems of others when they point a gun at you. At that time, the clown’s problems are not just his own; they belong to the person at the other end of the gun.
Perez: The idiot who had two daughters with him and wanted to act a hero during the retreat. He supplied most of the false information to the police and was very belligerent and angry at me for allowing the Event to happen, as if I had orchestrated it. Phrase 1: “Get on the fucking ground.” It was short, simple, and to the point. He didn’t leave a lot of ambiguity as to what he wanted us to do and for that, I guess, I was pretty thankful. I realized it would be very annoying to be robbed by a thief with an accent because of that language barrier. As far as things to say in a robbery, it was really by the book and ultimately, effective. I’d give him 8 out of 10 for word choice. Though, I’d have given him the full 10 if he’d just gone the extra mile and used “mother fucking” instead of just “fucking.” It just has more umph to it. Phrase 2: “Open the fucking box.”
Police: Cops have a love for free coffee, which we always give to them in return for showing up fast every time we are robbed, which was just that once. But they were also quick to come when we tripped our silent alarm by accident(see Silent Alarm Misfire).
Q: Q was standing by the condiment bar, putting sugar in his coffee when the clown came in. The clown entered at the west entrance, and Q stood by the north entrance. As soon as the clown yelled, Q was out the door looking through the windowed walls, on his cell phone with the police. This also enabled him to have the best view of the car when it pulled around the building.
Register: This is where money is exchanged. After reaching the register, the clown demanded the money(see Phrase 2). My key worked on the first try, which it has the habit of not doing on occasion. I looked up to see his gun hand pointing at me and the other hand holding open a white plastic bag. The bag was in horrible shape; it was ripped, wrinkled, and disgusting, even by plastic bag standards. My gaze shot up and I looked him in the eyes. I was faced with two options: put all those coins in the bag, or simply give him the entire drawer from inside the register. We made a trade, then. I gave him the drawer, and he left his bag(see Trade). He then turned and exited(see Retreat).
Retreat: He turned from the register and resumed his demands for us to be on the ground. Unlike before, I decided to listen, and I started to crouch as he left. As he ran out, he bumped into a cabinet and dropped three pennies and a dime, insignificant until you consider it a noticeable percentage of his take. When he got into the car, Perez got up and started running after him. I quickly yelled for him to get down, which he did. I had no idea what his intentions were, but I didnâ€™t need Perez playing hero. Jacob immediately dialed the police, which were already on their way thanks to Q(see Q), while Molly called my boss. I tended to the idiots, and before I could lock all the doors, the cops were there(see Police).
Silent Alarm Misfire: It happens very rarely, but on occasion we trip our silent alarm. Usually, we get a call, and they make sure we are safe and that everything is fine. Coincidentally, earlier in the day, I had tripped the silent alarm and not heard the phone. The police were called, and I was embarrassed. The only time that had ever happened to me was during hours preceding the Event. My mind quickly processed the information and made a connection between the two unrelated incidents. Was it coincidence? Or did it mean something(see Meaning)?
Therapy: A waste of time. The company I work for gave all the employees at the store a mandatory group therapy session with the option of three individual sessions if we chose to do so. I opted out of the individual, partly because of the group session. During the group session, the therapist spoke primarily of herself and the problems in her life. Molly reached out for help during the session and asked some very serious questions. She wanted to know how to deal with her fear and the weight the Event was putting on her shoulders. Molly needed real help. She needed real answers, and the therapist gave her some very ambiguous responses. On the subject of how to cope with the stress she was feeling, the therapist gave Molly this answer: â€œGoogle it.â€?
The therapist my company hired to help deal with the Event told us to “Google” the answers. Had we known this, it might have been a better investment to donate money to Google rather than pay the woman. Thankfully, Alexander was there. He sat in the circle of chairs and explained very clearly and sincerely that bad things happen. His 10 minute monologue covered the crime rate in Lawton(see Little L.A.), the circumstances, and mindset of the clown and his friend, and how we should feel about it. He showed an enormously amount of empathy not only for his fellow coworkers, but even for the clown that pointed a gun at him(see Gun). He wanted us to feel bad for the clown for having to resort to such acts, and that we shouldn’t feel better than him, but just understand that the world isn’t just tough on us; it’s tough on everyone. Molly soaked it all in, and I think Alex really helped her to at least redirect some of her feelings toward a healthier place. Maybe some of her fear turned to empathy, maybe her pain turned to pity, or maybe her confusion was replaced by clarity after Alexander spoke. This entry redefined after further thought on its effect on Molly; it wasn’t a waste of time. Time: Variable. I’ve heard that, in these weird kinds of crises, people comment on how fast it all transpired for them. “It all happened so fast,” I believe is the usual way of saying it. But for me, it happened exactly the opposite. Once I was aware of the situation(see Delay), time slowed down. It’s more accurate to say that my perception of time slowed down, but when you’re in the moment, perception is reality, and definitions are meaningless. They only matter afterward. In an almost stereotypical way, my senses sharpened. Eye of the tiger and all that. Before he came in, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you how many people were in the store, but when my instincts kicked in, I not only knew how many people were around, but also where they were and what they were doing. For the most part, it was everyone laying on the ground. My trip around the counter took days. My hand couldn’t reach for my keys fast enough. I didn’t stumble or even falter with my keys. When it takes you an hour to get to the lock, it turns out you’ll have the right key in hand when you get there. It’s hard to say how I felt at the time. Relaxed and vigilante, perhaps. Those words alone don’t explain what it was, but the entire time, I was aware. Later, when asked how long the Event lasted, I told the police two or three minutes. The video of the Event would show otherwise(see Video). Trade: Weighted in the clown’s favor.
Video: The cameras saw everything. Their perception was absolute. It was fact. It caught everything that happened, including Alexander’s and my own simultaneous ducking motion that I recognized after reviewing the tape as what any character does on a video game when the player accidentally presses the crouch/sneak button for just an instant. Our arms spread, knees bent, and heads ducked down, but only for half a second before returning to normal. Maybe it happened when he said to get down, but we realized he was leaving, and so we didn’t have to obey him anymore, or maybe not. The video recorded all 22 seconds of the Event from multiple angles and showed us the truth. For 22 seconds, the world wasn’t divided between perception and reality. It was all there on tape. It was all
reality, and I could watch it, did watch it many times to soak in the reality of the Event. I did this and I made meaning from that reality.
Witnesses: Myself, Alexander (see Alexander), Molly, and Q. The people who saw the most and had the most relevant information. All the witnesses, save for Q, were within three feet of the clown at some point during the Event. Also, the witnesses interacted the most with the clown, again, save for Q. Why: Why? Why me? Why that night? Why my store? Why not? Why wasn’t I shot? Why did it happen? Why Molly? Why is it that I can just move on from this? Why aren’t I deathly afraid it is going to happen again? Why would it happen again? Why do I not shake when I think about how my life was on the line for just a few dollars? Why do I even think my life was on the line? Why was my life on the line? Why would he think killing a man was an equal trade for money? Why do I believe otherwise? Why do I need to know? Shouldn’t I just move on and forget it happened? It was an anomaly. A fluke. This is why I don’t worry. Nothing really happened in the end. I’m the same man I was before the Event. If it happens again, maybe it will happen just the same, or maybe it will go worse. There isn’t anything I can do about that, so I don’t worry. Why should I?
Dirt Nap Bedfellows: A Few Thoughts on Death Seth Copeland “i was thinking about death again…” -nila northSun I don’t remember when I first became aware of the concept of death. I’ve never really become aware of it, just the implications of the concept. “Dead” isn’t really a state being, at least not in any usual sense of the word. A living person can’t experience death; they simply stop experiencing when death comes. The world is left with the remains, literal and metaphorical. I’ve encountered death in most of the same ways the rest of us have. I have heard stories. I have seen pictures. I have never come visibly close to it, I don’t think, but I have experienced the strange sensation we often associate with death: pain. I have even been the cause of death in small ways, if there is ever really any small kind of death. The number of insects to die by my hands is, no doubt, a large one. I don’t know if insects have anything close to what we call grief. In the end, we may be the only ones who care to discuss whether or not a smashed ant is on par with a beloved aunt. The modern funeral system in America has its roots in the long state funeral given to Abraham Lincoln, the first president to be assassinated. Embalming had recently come into popular use as a way to give soldiers a dignified farewell. Rather than a mangled, musket-riddled heap, dead men could go out with dignity, albeit bathed, perfumed and chemically hardened by strangers. It has remained much the same since. Funerals are usually subtitled “celebrations of the life.” Yet tears at a funeral are never tears of joy. Everyone dresses in black and tries to sing happy religious songs. This may bring peace or it may bring further tears. Earlier this year I read an article called “The Death Delusion” by Bard Channing. In the article, Channing posits that human consciousness does not disappear when a physical body dies, but merely becomes disorganized, rejoining a collective “God consciousness.” Beyond being sentient beings, we as humans are matter, which is itself energy. When we die, this energy remains in “the system,” and can never be destroyed once and for all. When a German U-Boat sank the British liner Lusitania in 1916, photography was used to aid in identifying the numerous victims. These photographs have remained in the archives of the former Cunard Line nearly a hundred years. There has never been a documentary on the sinking that has not included a gruesome montage of these yellowed photographs, many of them depicting child victims. The reason for this has never been altogether clear to me, and almost seems like a cheap trick to add shock value to an already harrowing story. In comparison, only three photographs exist of unidentified Titanic victims. These are not locked away in company records. They can be viewed at the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri, I killed a frog at Vacation Bible School when I was four. We had been following the animal around the churchyard, when suddenly, I decided it needed to be stepped on. Why I did it, I don’t remember. Another boy chased me in tears because of it. I attended the Bible School regularly for years, and every year somebody brought up that terrible frog murder. The first funeral I attended was my great-grandfather’s. I was seven. Before the service, my grandmother and his daughter took me and a younger cousin up to the closed casket. “See? It’s okay,” she said to the nervous little girl next to me, just before I curiously knocked on the casket and forever ruined the moment. The lid echoed a lot louder than I expected, and for a fraction of a second I thought he had knocked back. The casket was a lively sky blue color. “Like granddad’s eyes” my grandmother said.
At the end of the service, my mother escorted my brother and me out of the sanctuary. We didn’t want to stay for the viewing. Matthew Brady’s photographs of Union and Confederate dead are the oldest photographic images of war in the United States. In contrast to the stiff, expressionless faces of live subjects of the time, a dead soldier lying on a battlefield is very much alive. His arms are raised as if in surrender or desperate flailing. His face is contorted, mouth open as if roaring at the fury that has swept away his future. Yet he is still and cooperative. He does not mind the long exposure needed to get a good picture th in the mid-19 Century. The details of these men’s lives are forgotten and there is little evidence of the respectful sendoffs they likely received from their grieving families. They exist now only in these stark images, wearing their last faces forever. When I started Second Grade, I found out that a student had died over the summer. He was a sickly boy a grade below me. His hair and skin were white and he wore large glasses. His voice was raspy, a sign he had severe breathing problems. We, the survivors, stood around the slide and talked about it, an elementary equivalent to water cooler conversation. Except we were baffled that someone our age could die. Children could die. We were not exempt for the rules of life, or lack thereof. At funerals, older women file past the deceased and often whisper “oh, he/she looks good!” or “it’s like they’re sleeping.” The skin is pale and has little color. The lips are tightened by the stitching that holds them shut. Yet they look asleep to those who were used to more primitive forms of embalming in their youth. In Kindergarten, my budding interest in ancient Egypt prompted the teacher to check out a book for me from the school library. Mummies and the Mysteries, by Charlotte Wilcox. Only just grasping reading, I spent most of the time flipping through the pictures with my classmates at Table 2 going “ewww.” When I came to a picture of an Inuit child found in Greenland, I slammed the book shut and didn’t open it for a week. I found the pronounced lack of eyes unsettling. A few months after my great-grandfather’s death, my Great-Aunt Wanda came to visit my grandmother and the acoustic and drywall business she and my grandfather owned. Towards the end of the visit, my aunt produced a photograph of my great-grandfather lying in his casket. I immediately turned away, but one glance was enough. I had taken measures to avoid my final memory of my granddad being a husk in a box, but there it was. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarian philosophy, advocated using human bodies in productive ways following death, or at least revering them in a respectable way that didn’t involve shovels and dirt. Practicing what he preached, his will dictated that his body be dissected in an anatomy lecture; afterwards, his skeleton was dressed in his clothes and put on display. His wish was granted. Popular, but exaggerated urban legend has it that Bentham’s “auto-icon” attends the University of London council meetings, listed as “present, but not voting.” Every year, another kid dies an unnatural death in Cache, Oklahoma, the closest town to my little native Indiahoma where nobody dies (with exception of that kid in elementary school). The first big death I remember was a girl who was killed in a car accident at a low water crossing. A lavish cross was set up on the site and candlelight memorials were held annually at night by her friends, which were apparently many. A few years later, a friend shared a story with me about a local cowboy who stopped at the cross one night with his friends and, in a drunken gesture, pissed on it. He asked those with him if they thought he was going to hell for it, but didn’t seem particularly concerned with an answer.
When I was eighteen, a friend of mine called me around 11pm crying. Having confessed his infidelity to a girl he claimed “was my heart” (when that heart wasn’t getting some elsewhere), he was left uncertain if they were going to stay together. Through the garbled tear language he shared with me that he had just spent the last few minutes with a shot gun in his mouth. I don’t remember what I said to him, but I did my best to comfort and talk him down. He was subdued but still in tears when I got off the phone. He did not kill himself that night. This is the first and so far only time I have ever been contacted by someone who was contemplating or claimed to be contemplating suicide. Real or not, it is a heavy burden to lay on a friend and I am still a little mad at him for doing it to me. In 1981, the body of alleged Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was exhumed to quell longstanding rumors that the man who was arrested for the murder of the president and subsequently shot by Jack Ruby was actually a Soviet double named Alek. The corpse’s teeth matched Oswald’s dental records, but conspiracy theorists continued to believe the body was not that of the disgruntled little communist who had lived in Russia during the early 1960s. It seems, even with a corpus delicti, there just isn’t enough delicti. In Second Grade, a friend checked out that dreaded mummy book from Kindergarten. Reviewing the book and its Inuit child, I no longer found him scary, only very sad. My classmates and I traced the image multiple times, practically adopting it as a mascot. I look back on this realizing that this might not be considered entirely ordinary, but at least I wasn’t alone in my championing of a dead child who will never know who I am. With respect for the dead, patrons are not allowed to talk in the Royal Mummy Room at the Cairo Museum in Egypt. They are, however, free to gawk at the desiccated kings, queens and nobles that repose around them as much as they like. My earliest memory of Memorial Day is a visit to the small Scofield Cemetery out in the country somewhere in the same area my grandmother lived. I was maybe four or five. While there, my mother put flowers on the graves of her great-great grandparents, Germans who had come to America from Neubauer, Russia in 1907. “I’m glad they did that,” she said, grandly setting the plastic flowers into the vase. For whatever reason, this is the only thing I remember about that particular Memorial Day. Following his interment in Springfield, Illinois, May 4, 1865, Abraham Lincoln’s body was moved seventeen times before finally being placed in a ten-foot concrete-filled vault in 1901. Prior to the final burial, workmen decided to open the coffin and make sure the body inside was in fact Lincoln’s. Nearly fifty years after his death, Lincoln’s face had darkened to a bronze but was instantly recognizable as that of the sixteenth American president. The many applications of chemicals during the long trip from Washington, D C. to Springfield had permanently preserved the body. Lincoln could have served as his own statue, his own memorial. The atoms in a human body are constantly shifting. The atoms making up your entire body are replaced entirely in a period of about seven years. The next breath you take may contain multiple atoms from the finals breaths of the famous, infamous, or those you loved. We’re all connected, it seems. My parents are divided on their hereafters. One wants to be cremated, the other wants a natural burial. Neither can agree on a cemetery. I’m still trying to figure out what I will do with them when they get old, let alone when they die. At 21 years old, I myself have no fixed plans for a sendoff of my own, though in high school I expressed interest in having a Viking funeral at Lake Lawtonka in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. I haven’t ruled it out entirely, yet. One day, maybe years, maybe days from now, a lone boat may drift out from the lake’s shore. My friends will shoot their flaming arrows and send it to the bottom, with the mountains in the background, stretching out another billion lives beyond my own.
Instructions in Writing Jennifer McCain You realize that it’s no longer a hobby, something that you do in your spare time. It’s a compulsion. The thing that keeps you sane. The thing you pin all your hopes and dreams on. The thing that makes you, but will eventually break you. (You know this fact, but at the moment you don’t seem to care.) You spill your heart out in the chicken scratch that is only readable to you; then you hope against hope it makes an impact on more than just you. You didn’t ask for this, but you’ll take it, gladly. It gives you a chance to look at your life and realize that it’s not just a series of fucked up jokes played on unsuspecting you. It gives you a reason, a purpose, a legacy… something that will remain when you no longer do. It’s your art, your passion, and even though you sometimes give it up, you can’t remember a time when it wasn’t part of your life; you can’t fathom a time when it won’t be. Putting pen to paper gives you a lifeline, a reason to dream, a way to express who you are and who you could be. So, scribble it down, make sure it comes from the heart; forget about how you think the process needs to happen. Art is art and is usually for its own sake. The written word is art and catharsis: written because you have a story to tell. Fear and rejection are your worst enemies; inspiration and drive can be your best friends. Share your voice, uncensored, in all its glory. Forget the critics… the naysayers, because you know this is what’s meant to be. And in the end, that’s all that matters. Right?
Poetry Madagascar Indigenous Creatures
Beth Ann Dennis 52
Catherine Royal 53
an un-fair savior Luke Myers the un-god. the un-man. un-recognizable savior. beaten. scourged. made to carry a cross -one he didn't deserve -- stained with my blood. my shame. carried up the black hill of my death. suspended with a criminal on both sides. one of them to enter paradise, but not because he deserved paradise, but because the god-man is an un-fair savior: robbing punishment not his own. like a criminal, he takes what isn't his. he's not afraid to cross over into death because death is powerless. the hill is powerless. nothing contains him. his blood is the only thing that has real power. life blood: refined by death: the admission into paradise. so there he hangs: on a tree planted on a hill. the soldiers spit. mock. call out, hey savior, who’s going to save you? get off that cross. come on down here. but he stays put. one criminal rebukes the other for laughing. he ain't a criminal. he ain’t a thief. he ain't a killer. our blood flows from our crimes, but his blood and his cross are un-deserved. remember me in paradise lord. agonizing angels hold their breathe as the savior flickers out. an eyelash, a finger wiggle, and the hill would be overrun with all the hosts of heaven. the hill would be wiped from the earth. but he is a criminal, the religious cry out. stole honor from god. savior my ass. can’t even save himself. bitter blood flows from his wounds. forsaken. alone. paradise lost? no abba father? no friends? is it a cross holding up the weight of the world? or just a cross holding up a dead man, on a back-alley hill, in a middle nowhere place of the world? paradise was the stakes, but was he just a mongrel? a criminal? is the hope that flowed in his veins just blood on the ground? was he really the savior? the back-door into paradise has been pried wide open. just cross over the mangled savior’s body lying in the doorway. from there the hill is manageable. even a criminal can do it with just a little bit of spilt blood.
Burford Lake Seth Copeland treewind pronounces in an open place, scarce heat rise dissipates to the heavy swaybacked wind, a lake repetitions on its sloshing moss bubbled shores clouds part their pubic wisps, cast dull light on the tarnished skin of a pull-tab distant giant hills sleep like fertile restless mothers who will never give birth, wet begins with mist from above, blown sideways, foretelling the storm with swiftly carved wrinkles in the back leather surface of the supine striating waters
Sonnet Seth Copeland Yours is the face of the mountains at dusk shadowcast in muted, cooled granite tones vaporing into the air the pricked musk of mesquite and oak, swathing the grim bones of yesterdayâ€™s genocides and red wars into cradles of burnt past, smoked vague and harsh in our mindsâ€™ congealed reservoirs. I am waters broken, truth to renege, the blunt cleavage of boulders broken over the bleeding weeds of dried prairie. In shades you stir, just barely awoken, before sage balm mutes you to reverie. And as the amber disc dĂŠtentes for dawn, I pool on your rock in fitful bullaun.
Leather Fortune-Teller Leah Chaffins My purse is empty. I looked inside for something to believe in But my photos were stained and worn. I found the key chain my daughter had given me years ago. I looked inside for hope. Crumpled bills made my wallet hard to find. When I found it, there was nothing Except for a couple of pennies and a nickel. I looked for something of significance And found mascara that clumps, A maxed out credit card, An ID with a blank next to “emergency contact.” I looked for something that said how I had lived. Along the leather bottom there Was dust from the red clay and wadded tissues-The only thing that said I had been here at all. I’ve been told a person can tell everything They need to know about a woman From the contents of her purse. Someday I will look again and see who I am.
Glass Pipes and Souvenirs Leah Chaffins I saw it in your eyes. Sad eyes Looking back on a past Best forgotten. Willing another chance For today. In your methed-out stupor Crackhead dreams, Fuck reality in a futile haze. Empty orbs Exposing the self-abuse. Empty fists Grasping for smoke-laden Salvation. Good luck, my friend; The future burns in your glass pipe until tomorrow when it becomes yesterday.
Purple Haze and Gunpowder Leah Chaffins Purple haze and gun powder, What a joke. Take a toke Down the Rocky River Expressway. See the colors? Pulsing prism, Like a rainbow From a shower burst In the middle Of August At high noon “Draw!” But I was blinded --thought you wouldn’t Shoot Me dead.
Schizoid Man Jacob Jardel This. My Help. Is. Brain. Me. Natural. Fried. I Don’t. My. Am. Worry. Mind. Losing. It. Altered, Sanity. Will. What’s. I’m. All. Wrong. Going. Be. With. Crazy. Fine. Me. Now.
Lost. Cause. No. Hope. Just. Leave. Me. I’m. Finally. Finished.
Monday Morning Jacob Jardel An elegic processional, Staggered people in staggered formation Walking the nave to their pews, Bibles and hymnals in hand, Waiting for the preacher to Proceed to the pulpit. He gives the call to congregation And opens the Bible to the Book, Chapter, Verse of the day. He delivers the sermon, The call to the choir Of parishioners, To their monotonous, unison response Of hums, drums, and doldrums. The service seems to saunter Like an imagined idle idol When the preacher makes The call to communion, The pseudo-saving solace From the pontification. After an eternity of minutes, The preacher makes The call to close; And the parishioners Amble their way Back down the nave, Staggered people in staggered formation On their way To the next service.
Conducting Class Jacob Jardel The inharmonious harmony Of a staggered verse: A collaboration of The solo singer, Well versed in his craft, Well tuned in his music, And the disbanded band Of cacophonous coordination, The (lack of) response To the soloist’s call— All contributing the Refrain of refrain. The soloist sings his song, A (toneless) tune That trudges to the melody of Redundant chance music From an ambient, ambivalent band. The session saunters slowly— The singer sounding off While the band makes (Not a) sound— Until the recording is done: An (empty) track That tracks the track Of the album, To be continued Next (empty) session.
A Mind in Jeopardy Jacob Jardel “I’m curious about everything. Even subjects that Don’t interest me.” —Alex Trebek I am the Master of the Mundane, Mediator of Minutiae, Major General of Mind Games. I go to war Armed with a buzzer And the lateral thinking To make a straightforward answer. My fleets are my facts, My tactics, my tact; My war-cry, my wordplay— All answers in The form of a question. I capture clues as my casualties— Their worth, my bounty— Until the platoons of categories Are gone, and war has culminated To a final battle— A Russian roulette To see who comes out Victorious. Our wages are waged Like the war just fought, We pull the trigger One last time, One by one, To see who comes out Victorious. But, win or lose, We share the bond Of putting our lives In Jeopardy.
Flatline Andrea Gift it's just a line, just a stupid, flat line. nothing amazing about it. it is simple and straight, with the general nature of a line. a bare moment past, it was moving up and down. now it's still. shouldn't break my heart to see it because it's just a line, just a stupid, flat line.
A Splinter of Myself Christopher Ray Brantley A splinter of myself Fitting snug beneath your skin. The only place I know That I've been dying to get in. A quiet fear, an honest hope, The courage to be true To carry on without the fear Of not knowing what to do. Without the bars, without a key, I'm locked up in your eyes. Free from hurt, complacency, And the fear that I despise. A distant thought that eats away Like worms within the grave To rise above through the grace of love, And be someone you could save.
Trusting, Tracing Christopher Ray Brantley You lay before me in tender trust, Your head upon my lap. A feeling more than just mere lust, To trace you like a map. My fingers long to know your skin, To meet your every curve, To speak in volumes instantly Without a single word. My soul is bare before your eyes. With one look back at mine, You know me as I wish I could The things I've yet to find. And as our lips lean in to meet, My heart could nearly miss Each and every single beat Replaced with just your kiss.
Other Fish in the Sea Alex Rosa-Figueroa You aren’t that great, you great stretchy forest, With your oak as solid as your sensibilities And flower’d foliage steep’d in “beauty.” Your lofty peaks aren’t even all that impressive. (I’ve seen bigger.) I don’t see why everyone worships you so much. Books upon books upon books, Thousands of meter’d gospels in testament to your glory, Pews of doting lovers. Like you even cared, you’re just a forest. I, for one, refuse to be another spurned disciple. You can have the rest, o stretchy one. Your followers buy you better things, anyway. Maybe this time your branches will suspend suitors. Or something. “I might perchance have yet been thine,” As they say. Maybe in some lifetime. Or not.
The Synesthetic R4PTUR3 of a Blind Troll Alex Rosa-Figueroa Spilled candy on the notebook technicolored Her thought and then sugared her speech. A buffet of redolence filled and swilled her nose As the recipe for delight danced sumptuously before her. Candy-red vowels and yucky-mustard consonants, Frosted metaphors spreading over her senses like creamy similes, The fruit-flavored adjectives were her favorite though (Their cherry fillings made it all the more tantalizing). The intoxicating aroma was simply too much. Deeply inhaling the written word, She gave the poem a sloppy pass of the tongue, Smearing colors of flavor across the page.
Artist Statements Painting Becomes Her
Robbi Pratt 71
Amanda Wheeler The media used in this piece is digital and was created in the online drawing blog Tegaki E. I used a photo reference for my face, but the elaborate markings are from my mind. The theme is a little something like "You're beautiful because you're ugly.”
Beth Ann Dennis I have always been intrigued by nature and its inherent beauty. I am captivated by the diverse indigenous wildlife of the world and the different environments that they have adapted to. Growing up in the country of Southeastern Oklahoma, I spent most of my childhood days in the forest. I was always very observant and questioning the “how” and “why” of my environment, so biology was a big interest for me and has been the underlying theme in my thought process upon observing my surroundings, and in turn, has had a great impact on my art. I tend to look at nature very closely, and when I render my surroundings, the subject is very detailed. I have worked with diverse media, including oil paint, gouache, dry point printmaking, color pencil, and pastels. Most of my art is a mixture between naturalistic and realistic renderings of different aspects of nature. The experience that I would like for my audience to have is to perceive the wonder and beauty of nature as I see it. I hope that it is a calming and soothing experience for them, and that they leave seeing my art as a passion of mine that would inspire others to appreciate nature as I do.
Catherine Royal The media used on this piece was charcoal and pastel. It was drawn on 22 x 30 paper.
Jennifer McCain Most of my art comes from my own life, my own experiences. I've been drawing ever since I can remember (as every child does); however, it's only been recently that I've discovered a passion for it. It's within that passion that I'm able to embrace the things that happen to me, or even to understand human experience. Most of my work is done in charcoal on canvas. I like the texture that it creates. Sometimes I do try to include other mediums. I also try to stay as true to the subject as possible and capture the little moments.
Matthew D Hughes Growing up in the American heartland, I was raised with a certain set of values. Paramount among these values is honesty. It is honesty that I endeavor to portray in my art. For this reason, the style of my work is most often realistic. Through realism, I take on the task of revealing the hidden narrative that is an intrinsic component of my subject. I believe that this integrity creates an accessibility to my work which is supremely important to me. If art is inaccessible, there is no point in creating it.
Robbi Lynn Pratt My art is about self-discovery, self-expression, and finding happiness. My art consists mostly of oil paintings and some oil pastel. I enjoy working with oil paint because of its purity of color and saturation, the textures that you can achieve, and its workability. I have spent the last two years exploring this medium and developing my personal style. One series I have completed is “The Band.” It is composed of the paintings “King,” “Dynasty,” and “Blessing.” This series is homage to my love for music and education. The two helped me find love and acceptance at some very pivotal times in my life. Another series entitled “Express Yourself” consists of twelve paintings grouped together in three sets of four entitled “Rheub,” “Sici,” and “Tator.” I painted this because of my love for the subjects, photography, and most importantly, that instant inside the photo booth when you feel beautiful and at peace, just letting it all hang out. The painting entitled “Painting Becomes Her” is an impasto style painting executed entirely with palette knives. It was made to show my love for painting, which is so great that it is takes over my being. I’m stubborn and start every good thing with resistance. My painting process is no exception. I worry my way through. My favorite thing about painting is seeing my hand on the canvas. I leave obvious brushstrokes so you know I was there. I like to over-saturate most elements in my paintings. A common thread in my artwork is creating a very stylized background while letting the figures take center stage and painting them in a more realistic manner. I have a lot of talented people in my family who never had the opportunity to develop their artistic abilities, so I wanted to foster my skills to create art for my family. I always looked up to my grandfather, aunt, cousin, and brother as a child. I pushed myself artistically so I could be like them, and hopefully make them proud.
Editorial Staff 2012 Gold Mine Staff Editors-in-Chief: Jennifer McCain and Sarah Brewer Managing Editor: Seth Copeland Cover Artist: Brianne Hamm Copy Editor: Rose Calloway Layout and Art Director: Rose Calloway Staff: Devon Shannon, Shelby Stancil Faculty Advisers: Dr. Hardy Jones and Dr. Bayard Godsave
Acknowledgments Special thanks to all of the editors and readers who selected from an overwhelming amount of wonderful works as well to all who submitted such strong work. We wish to extend an especially grateful thanks to the Dean Jennifer Holland and the SAFAC committee members for their help in making The Gold Mine possible. We would also like to thank Susan Hill, the English and Foreign Languages Department Secretary, for her help with promoting the journal.