Hair Trigger 2.0, English & Creative Writing Department, Columbia College Chicago, 600 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605-1996. Established in 2016, Hair Trigger 2.0 is an annually published literary magazine affiliated with the English & Creative Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago that welcomes a broad spectrum of fiction and nonfiction. Submissions
Hair Trigger 2.0 is currently accepting fiction, creative nonfiction and visual art submissions on a rolling basis for our second annual issue. We are specifically looking for stories with an engaging, nontraditional voice that goes beyond that of a blanket overall storyteller. Please visit our Submit page at: http://ht20.colum.edu/submit Acknowledgments Special thanks to Kenneth Daley, Chair of the English & Creative Writing Department; Steven Corey, Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Stanley Wearden, Provost; and Dr. Kwang Wu Kim, President of Columbia College Chicago. Cover Illustration: Abby Jo Turner. In a city so large. 2017 Cover & Layout Design: Jay Goebel
Copyright ÂŠ2018 by Columbia College Chicago.
Celeste Paed Editor-in-Chief Grace Smithwick Managing Editor Jeff Hoffmann Assistant Managing Editor Cora Jacobs Faculty Advisor
Fiction/Nonfiction/Creative Nonfiction Editors Courtney Gilmore Cali Lemus Zoe Raines Kristin Rawlings Reviews Editor Tom Ronningen Interviews Editor Ash Dietrich Social Media Manager Bec Ucich Special Features Editor Maria Mendoza Cervantes Typeset Celeste Paed
Eva Azenaro Acero Childhood
AĂŻcha Thiam Songs, Fitting and Inappropriate
Eva Azenaro Acero Thursday
AĂŻcha Thiam When Shirley Smiled
Eva Azenaro Acero I Remember
J. Ray Paradiso Like a Nutcracker
Chris Gavaler 1917: Van Doesburg & Modigliani 1918: Van Doesburg & Modigliani
Ashlee Bond-Richardson Death Wish
Silas Plum Cultural Commodity
Sherry Mayle The Ghost of P. Wanda
Sophia Okugawa Stoller Life on Mars
Abby Jo Turner In a City So Large
Jessica Powers Family Pets
Abby Jo Turner Late Night Treats
Brittney “Shay” Ellis The Tyger
LETTER OF INTRODUCTION As a fledgling magazine, we knew that change would be inevitable with growth. When the newest set of editors sat down in September of last year, we realized that it was up to us to create a magazine whose mission would hold true regardless of who ran it. Our parent anthology, Hair Trigger, was created to give voices to disenfranchised students who didn't necessarily feel like they were represented in popular literature. Now in it's 40th year, that mission still holds true. Like Hair Trigger, the publishing industry has stayed fairly consistent throughout the years, though most, myself included, wouldn't consider this a good thing. Yes, the technology has updated, stories reach their readers faster, and storytelling itself is more innovative and creative than ever. But the industry itself, both editors and publishers, are as traditional as ever. As an online multimedia magazine, Hair Trigger 2.0 challenges the status quo, producing engaging and unconventional stories that cater to everyone, regardless of genre, race, gender, or sexuality. The last line of our mission states, "To do so, it starts with content." In Volume 3 of Hair Trigger 2.0, you will find a wide array of prose, comics, and art. As Marcel Proust, a French novelist, once said, "My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing.â€? Hopefully, the stories in this issue will make the tiniest difference in how you view the world. A special thanks to all my editors, Courtney Gilmore, Cali Lemus, Zoe Raines, Kristin Rawlings, Tom Ronningen, Ash Dietrich, Maria Mendoza Cervantes; my managing editors Grace Smithwick and Jeff Hoffman; our faculty advisor, Cora Jacobs; and to you, dear reader, for taking a chance on something new.
â€” Celeste Paed, Editor-in-Chief
Life On Mars Sophia Okugawa-Stoller MY STRONGEST RECOLLECTION OF HIM IS SITTING BEHIND THE WHEEL OF THE old Volvo. The radio eternally tuned to some scratchy station that kicked through the
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speakers on the doors, vibrating my calf, but he never bothered turning the dial. He chainsmoked Lucky Strike, the cigarette without a filter and hung his elbow out the window. I can’t hear his voice. I don’t think he spoke much, but the stale cereal smell, the cigarettes, the leather from his briefcase in the backseat and the faint musk of sweat when he removed his hat is as clear as anything. This mixture is what paints the sharpest image of my father that I may ever have. At twelve, I was optimistic about life, but mostly for Mother’s sake. My father was one year into a twenty-year sentence for embezzlement at the time. The police had taken him from our house, early on a Tuesday morning. I had watched from the bay window as his silhouette was calmly escorted to the car. Mother stood on the stoop, shouting confused phrases like: “Why?” and “what is happening?” I was kept at an arm’s length from the trial itself, but I often wonder if witnessing a court of law point its bony finger at my father and yell “guilty” would have been less damaging than what I did see, which was Mother unravel like a spool of yarn, knotting and fraying at the edges. Appearance was the key to everything for Mother. She wouldn’t be caught dead with a run in her stocking or a wrinkle in her silk dress. She had grown accustom to the lavish life my father’s criminal endeavors had allowed. Expensive clutches and high heels on the shelves in her closet looked like artifacts in a museum. I can see Mother now spritzing herself with Chanel No. 5 and walking through the mist. When she past my bedroom door a faint whiff of cherries and fresh cut flowers hung in the air. I always knew when Mother had recently turned the pages in a book—the paper would blow a crisp decadent odor from its binding or when she wiped her face on a towel—it would soak up the orange rind freshness of her skin. “Just let me put my face on,” she used to say as she pulled her silver makeup bag out and stared one eye at a time into her compact. After my father was sentenced, she stopped bothering with things like makeup and roamed our apartment in her housecoat like a ghost. This frightened me much more than being fatherless. Her skin had aged overnight and her museum of high fashion collected dust. We were never low on vodka though, which she kept in the freezer, stacked on top of greying hamburger meat. Food became something of the past. She was weepy and sleepy
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most of the time. When she took her afternoon nap on the sofa, she became so still, so lifeless, that her chest ceased its repetition of ups and downs and I would shake her awake to check that she was still breathing. She would yell and snort, very much alive, but the panic would set in as soon as she drifted off again, becoming limp in that dead way that liquor made her sleep. After my father’s arrest, we talked about him as though he had just left the room and I imagined him as being one step ahead of us all the time. If I spilled paint on the carpet, mother might say, “Your father won’t like that,” as if he was just on his way home from work and could open the door at any moment. I could convince myself at times that my father was still sitting in the lazy boy in the living room. As long as I didn’t turn it around, it could be real. I pictured him reading the paper, resting a cold beer on his knee, letting it make a water ring on his beige slacks. I liked eating my bologna sandwich at the kitchen counter so that I could stare at that chair. I even thought I saw it move slightly at times or if I squinted in just the right way I could make out the top of his head, but when I went to the front door and looked back, it was always empty. The move to Maine was supposed to be our new start. Mother had applied for a secretarial job at a dental office, and I was to finish out sixth grade at a new school. We hadn’t said goodbye to anyone when mother decided to pack up and leave in the middle of the night. There were no farewells to the town or to the few friends I had made at school. I told myself that I would write them letters, but I never did. My first day of sixth grade started with watching throngs of children rush into the building like ants into a wall. Becoming queasy at the sight, I wanted to turn and run, but the thought of Mother’s disheartened face was worse than my sour stomach. “You are a man now; it’s just me and you kid, so you have to be a big boy,” she had said as she fixed my tie with a forceful grip that morning. I slunk into the line, picking up my pace. It seemed as if they were all rushing and I feared that someone might step on my heel if I took a moment to breathe. The halls were a light turquoise and the sound of lockers slamming made me jump. There was a loud squeak every so often from someone’s rubber sole twisting on the linoleum floor and the chorus of laughter and chatter made me feel as if they all had a purpose here, except for me. The wrinkled piece of paper in my hand with my classroom number on it was shaking when I heard my name. “You must be Thomas,” said a woman, who I gathered to be my teacher. I was unaware that I had been standing in the doorway of her classroom when she started yelling. “Everyone, everyone!” she said, but the class continued jabbering. “This is Thomas Finney, our newest student, I expect you will all welcome Thomas,” she said with a stern smile. “Hi Thomas!” the class sang in reluctant unison. I quickly took the only open seat I saw next to a boy, who was what mother would call “healthy,” and kept my head down. “Psst,” he said.
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I looked around. “Yes?” “Is it true that your dad’s in prison?” he asked with the emotionless effect that less brighter children often have. My heart skipped a beat and rose like a stone in my throat. I could feel ears perk up as the other children awaited my reply. The teacher was blindly going over the lesson plan for the day with white chalk on the green board. I was utterly unprepared for this and what happened next was like a reflex. The same as when the doctor had tapped my knee with that strange rubber triangle and my leg kicked him in the groin involuntarily, but instead it was words that flung out in front of me. “No, he’s an astronaut,” I said. I couldn’t believe my own gall. The boy looked at me confused and suspicious. “Oh really, ’cause I hear . . .” he began, but I cut him off. “You heard wrong! He is on a secret NASA mission. I’m not even supposed to say anything,” I said, digging into my spontaneous lie even further and yet again shocking myself. It was as if someone were pulling the strings above me, moving my mouth. I heard whispers, but kept my eyes forward, pretending not to notice. I stared at the teacher’s back and felt my face growing hot pink with embarrassment. The bell rang and I ran to the bathroom. I barely got the stall door closed before the waterworks began, uncontrollably like a sneeze. I heard the bathroom door open. “Hey new kid! You in here?” a voice said. I quickly wiped my face on my blazer sleeve and slowly opened the door to find a birdfaced boy with two other boys behind him standing by the sink. “So is that stuff true? What Rudy asked you in class? Is your dad really an astronaut?” he asked. “Yah,” I said a bit downtrodden, waiting for the axe to fall. I thought the boy might test me on my lie, ask me for proof and surely my life would be over before it had ever even begun, but he just nodded to his friends with his chin up and said. “Wow, that’s so cool,” Over the next few weeks my ingenious lie grew a little at a time and by the fall kids were crowding around me at lunch to hear the latest adventures of my dad, the astronaut. I came up with more and more detail to my story and tried to cover all my bases by telling them to keep it secret. I said the information was of the highest clearance and could put my father’s life in danger if any of it got out. My father, well the astronaut version of him, went from being on a secret mission to inventing a new form of space travel that could make a person invisible. He sometimes came to visit me, but only for an hour or so before he had to go back to save the earth from a meteor that was always headed straight for us. I even said that a rock from my driveway was a moonstone he had given me. I just kept answering the questions as fast as they came and was even starting to enjoy myself. I was pleased with my ability to captivate my audience, to widen their eyes. When I told them of how my father had clung to the side of the shuttle when a piece of debris had knocked into it, my classmates had gasped and I swelled with pride.
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By the time Christmas rolled around, it was common knowledge at my school that my father would be sending me proof of life on Mars, so while I opened a pair of wool socks Mother had given me I was busy thinking of what to come up with before the start of school again. I noticed a small package wrapped in brown paper under the tree. I tore it open and inside found a small stuffed animal that could neither be called a bunny nor a mouse, but something in-between. “Open the card,” my mother encouraged, seeing my expression at the out of date gift. I opened the manila envelope, a drawing of a generic Christmas tree on the front. Inside read: “Merry Christmas kid, love Dad,” I stared blankly at the words, wondering why he had given me a little kid’s toy when I am not a little kid anymore. I couldn’t picture the person who had written the note and for a moment, felt I might cry, but then it came to me, the most wonderful idea. “It’s perfect!” I said, and jumped up to hug Mother. “Well, I’m glad you like it sweetheart,” she said, almost spilling her vodka cranberry on the couch. That night I tiptoed into the kitchen and rummaged through the cabinets, not knowing exactly what I was looking for until I found a honey jar. I scrubbed the label off with soap and warm water in the bathroom sink. With markers I began scribbling on the stuffed animal in black, turning its innocent white fur into a greyish mess. I then pushed the tiny creature deep into the honey jar with my thumb, letting it slowly be engulfed by the thick bubbling gold like I imagined the dinosaurs in the tar pits, frozen in their last positions. I licked my fingers when I was done and placed it on my dresser to settle. Peering through the glass, I was satisfied that it passed for one of those anatomy jars that hold a floating body part that you might see in the background of a scary film. The honey had disguised the stuffed animals fluffy, cheap fur into something more sinister. It had transformed it into proof of life on Mars. I hid it under my bed the rest of Christmas break and shoved it inside my book bag the morning of the first day back to school. Walking through the halls that day, I was utterly pleased with myself. I had created something wonderful. I might even have believed that I was an astronaut’s son, that I did have proof of life on Mars nestled between my notebooks. When the time came for the big reveal, after the first bell, I reached into the recesses of my bag for the jar. I must have forgotten to tighten the lid; it must have turned upside down from the bumpy morning bus ride because when I pulled it out, there on the linoleum floor next to the lockers, in a circle of kids, a gooey, honey-soaked stuffed animal plopped out. “Oh my god!” one kid screamed, and for a moment everyone backed away as if it were alive, until on further inspection, someone yelled. “It’s just a stuffed animal, you guys!” and my heart sank into my shoes, sliding underneath my heels to hide. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t come back from this. My life was over. I tried to think of something to save myself, but before I could, a teacher walked over. “Thomas, is this yours?” she asked pointing with her long finger, but I could only look
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at her gold buckled loafers. The sticky piece of fluff was face up on the tile with its cute glass eyes staring at me, beaten and exposed, much like myself. “Yes ma’am” I said, with my head still down. “Come with me,” she said sympathetically, and the room erupted into laughter as she walked me away with a hand on my shoulder. After a talk about the consequences of lying, she called my mother. I believed I was being punished, but I think she was trying to spare me an afternoon of torment. I waited for Mother on a wooden bench outside the principal’s office. When she came, we sat in the car for a moment, me with my shoulders hunched over from shame. She started the engine and we drove in silence. At a stoplight her blinker clicked its monotonous note over and over. “Thomas, tell me more about your father?” she asked. “I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, thinking she was patronizing me. “No really, just tell me a nice story about your father . . . the astronaut,” she said tentatively. I could see that her eyes were clouded as she stared out the front windshield. So I told her. I told her what I had told all the kids at school. How brave and kind and thoughtful he was. How he was always thinking of us while he was busy saving the world from the next great disaster. She smiled, but never looked at me. “Your father is a good man Thomas,” she said. I didn’t know which father she was referring to. “Tell me more, will he explore wormholes next you think?” she said, in a desperately hopeful tone. I looked at Mother, at her quaffed hair and her painted nails. She was almost her old self again. Her eyes, outlined with thick black liner were filling with water and my heart raced. I wanted so badly to keep the tears from overflowing and ruining her makeup so I said, “Yah maybe he will.”
Songs, Fitting and Inappropriate Aïcha Thiam YANN WOKE UP IN THE UNFAMILIAR ROOM, WITH THE SONG STILL IN HIS HEAD.
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He had been humming it in his dream, which he was already starting to forget. Feist’s “Bittersweet Memories,” rather fittingly. In contrast, something loud and abrasive was presently blaring from the deck above him, but the partygoers were either too euphoric to care, or his mood had gone too sour to salvage. A few hours must have gone by; through the wide window on his left, the moon had since risen. The milky half-light, visible in slivers under the curtains, striped the room black and pastel-blue, dappled with soft red halos where string lanterns had been hung outside. He had told them all that he was seasick (he had, in fact, been sailing with his father every summer since he was six years old, but they couldn’t know that. She most certainly could not). It hadn’t been the first lie that day, and it would probably not be the last, if he intended to keep the peace. His brother James had given him a look, and Yann had stared back, hard, daring him to contradict him in front of everyone. Let me have this. The only reason I’m here, in the first place, is because of you. He needed, for the sake of his own sanity, to get as far as humanly possible from the deck where most of the raucous guests were gathered. Everyone was having such fun. It was unbearable. Ironically, once he had effectively shut himself away in the small, elegant cabin, silence enveloping him like a quilt, he had truly begun to feel ill. Presently, Yann felt worse still, and was starting to accept that it had nothing to do with the gentle sway-lurch of the cruise ship. In the right corner of the room, something—someone—shifted, and he recoiled slightly. She was sitting on the arm of the cream settee, eyeing him as if she simultaneously wanted and feared being there. She was bright-eyed, flushed, a would-be smile flitting on and off her lips. A thought trickled in and he tried to stem it, aware of the callousness of it. Then he remembered that he didn’t have to be nice to, or care about her. Has she been drinking? “I didn’t mean to wake you,” she breathed, eyes darting between him and the door. “I was wondering where you had disappeared to.” “Well. Here I am,” Yann said, looking her straight in the face. You have your mother’s bold, insolent look, his father would often tell him growing up, but never unkindly. The times had really changed; the woman before Yann looked anything but insolent, let alone bold. The silence stretched between them. Outside the cabin, the lights flickered as guests sashayed and staggered by, arms linked merrily, their voices distant, as if from another world. From inside the room however, silhouetted against the red glare of the lanterns, their shadows were stern, ghostly. Overhead, the first haunting bars of The Doors’ “People Are Strange” began, to drunken hoots from the partygoers; Yann pulled himself from his
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reverie. What an inappropriate song for the occasion. He studied her again. Half crouched, half-standing, she now seemed to be deeply regretting having come. Out of old habit, he glanced at her forearms; her veins were blue lightning bolts, flecked here and there with fading blemishes and discolorations. “Are you having fun?” she finally blurted, almost desperately. “I should be asking you that,” Yann shrugged. “It’s your wedding.” She saw an opening, and lunged for it, effusively. “Oh Yann, I know you’ve all just met, but you are going to love Samuel. Simply love him. He rides horses, just like you used to, I know you are going to get right along. Ah, and he treats me so well! I have never been so happy in my life, I finally feel like I matter, like I am valued— not that . . . not that your father wasn’t . . . not to say that. . . ." She faltered under his gaze, and when she spoke again, her voice was deliberate, contrite. “I would love for the four of us, you and James and Samuel and I, to spend some time together moving forward. I really would. I want to know about your life, what you’ve been up to, make up for lost years. . . .” Yann had felt a savage, cruel pleasure at her flustered ramblings, but it had all but evanesced. That which had been threatening to erupt inside of him all evening was coming to the surface in deep, roiling waves. “Wendy.” He made a point to call her by her name. “I think you misunderstand why I’m here. I am, believe it or not, genuinely happy you finally got your life together, and I actually have forgiven you. But I haven’t forgotten what James was too young to remember. I’m only here because of him, and because he wanted the both of us to be present for you on your special day, which is more than you have ever done for him—for us.” And then, like an afterthought, knowing full well how petty he would sound, he added: “And by the way, I haven’t been on a horse in almost twenty years, but you wouldn’t know that, of course.” She stood as if electrocuted, her eyes shinier still, the grin now rigid on her face. “Do feel better sweetheart. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” “No. Nothing whatsoever.” Yann turned his head toward the window until he heard the door close softly behind her. He clenched his jaw, and picked at a hangnail, the way he used to as a child, when pain helped him stay present. Somewhere above, he heard the unmistakable roar of his brother’s laugh. Sweet, charming, mild-mannered James. At least one of them was having fun. Leaning back into the pillows, Yann hum-whispered distractedly, people are strange when you’re a stranger, faces look ugly when you’re alone, women seem wicked when you’re unwanted. . . . There was no getting this one out of his head anytime soon.