L A R T N E C 1
F F S TA The Central Review Fall 2012
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Leigh Jajuga ASSOCIATE EDITORS Lauren Kellogg Kylee Tolliver ASSISTANT EDITORS Courtney Kalmbach Hailee Sattavara DESIGNERS David Birkam Mariah Prowoznik ADVISERS Neil Hopp Kathy Simon The Central Review is a literary journal publishing prose, poetry, and visual art by Central Michigan University undergraduate and graduate students. It is edited and produced once per academic semester under the auspices of the Student Publications Board of Directors. All submissions are automatically considered in our student writing contest. One piece from each genre of poetry, prose, and visual art is awarded top honor upon each publication. The Central Review editing staff made all final decisions. Send correspondence to: The Central Review, Editor, Student Publications, Moore Hall 436, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858 or firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2012 by Student Publications. First publication rights reserved. Rights revert to author upon publication. Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, Michigan
ediT n OT e O r ’ S Sometimes you find yourself drooling when your jaw drops. Sometimes you need a napkin, and that time is now. Consider the work in this Fall 2012 edition of The Central Review to be your pool of awe. With the wildly talented writers of CMU multiplying at an unprecedented amount, this edition quickly became one of the hardest for which to choose submissions. Several extra large pizzas later, we have developed the very magazine that you are holding in your very hands, sure to salivate over, and we couldn’t be prouder. Thank-you for supporting the writers of CMU, and a huge thank-you to all those that submitted; we love getting to know your work and encourage everyone’s submissions in the future. Endless appreciation for Neil Hopp and Kathy Simon, our beloved advisers who were patient and always accessible if we needed a hand. We also couldn’t be more grateful to the Clarke Memorial Library for allowing us to include their images in this edition. Last, but never least, thank-you for honoring the hard work of the immensely devoted staff of The Central Review.
winner of the poetry prize for “Still”
Without further ado, turn the page and try not to dribble on the person sitting next to you.
Love, your biggest fan,
winner of the photo prize for “Infinite Bloom”
winner of the prose prize for “Geoﬀ Smyth”
Leigh Jajuga Editor-in-Chief 3
T A F LO The river became the sky and I dove in head first. I broke my neck on a cloud, and drowned with the birds who flew up to heaven, but never put me down.
Andrew Price Andrew was born and raised right here in the Great Lake State. He is notorious for starting fist-fights with girls twice his size and giving perfect hugs.
S t i ll (For the Honored Guest Who Will Never Arrive) You were more than not a heartbeat. You were our finest moment, our zenith, all our potential repressed, three weeks of good health, white knuckles and hope. You were every child crying, wishing it was never born, every dirty sock or doll abandoned in the rain. You were every swollen belly at the store, deflated like balloons the morning after, everything we might have been, but now we never will, our rope ladder, our PFD, our wings. But then, I guess you never were. We came home that day, unchanged, except the lifeless lump inside her gut was knotted nerves and not the fragile heart that might have been.
matt moffett Matthew J. Moffett is an echo chamber decorated as a father, tuned to output inappropriate emotion in ink. He wishes you the best. Cheers.
y a d a
p p sa i d of
d e t oin
s n Pla
The hulking yellow death-machine that’s hauling fallen branches outside my window has a whine to its engine that sounds like the ambient score to some science fiction film or the mammoth metal bell that someday will ring for us all. Really, it’s not the trees that I cry for, though more have gone missing in the months since we’ve moved here; in other cities, it’s corpses that drop like falling rain or mangled branches in the wind. No, what gets me is the human need to change that which doesn’t need to be changed or what’s changing too slowly for unstable minds to accept as anything less than a mark on paradise, drunk as we are on idealism, chasing a dream that pops like bubbles each and every time we get so close as to reach out and grab it. It’s a need that manifests itself in me as manic poems, spendthrift sprees, and frenzied fits of sex; or, like today, in the bursting desire to leave but without a destination in mind, and any place I could go is a wasteland, unfit for travel or stay, not to mention the metal monster that maroons me in this house like a schizophrenic in his mind. It’s a problem that worsens itself and so, it can have no solution. When the workers come, someday, to replace the woodchipped stumps, the saplings will rot in the sun, and none will step forward to share either water or blame.
jeffrey oâ€™connell My name is Jeff Oâ€™Connell and I am a senior. I really like that part in Uncle Buck where he goes to meet his nieceâ€™s principal.
und wat e r er They were skinny dipping. Above them the moon stared on with a crowd of gawking stars in the summer night. Below them their feet tread water, churning together something eager and nervous. The first time she went underwater he told her he loved her. It was at this moment he made a decision to only be honest when she was underwater. About seven years later, he accidentally drowned her in the bathtub trying to explain how he had lost his job.
joanna white Joanna White spends most of her time as a performing flutist and music professor but she caught the poetry bug.
Red bricks fade to slate gray, jutting like crooked teeth until the patio has two levels. When did this happen? No matter. My parents pick up the phone and bulldozers appear to tug out the bricks. Ruddy men tamp the dirt, pouring concrete, smooth as silk pie. My friends wonder what it was like to think that walls might let go, buckling like knees. I donâ€™t know, I say, crinkling my forehead. We never spoke of frightening things. In the pantry, one squat jug of water waited, our sole provision should the house crack and lurch down the hill towards the bay. No map scribbled our rendezvous in red; no bedtime stories told of midnight escapes
n a n o p lt u u g fa n i e w k o a gr rthqu ea
from rubble. The poems we wrote had roses and robins and treetops flickery with butterflies, but not ever a mention of the roiling earth below.
The city is full of dead cats just as I thought. Caught in torn wire fences, on the sidewalk, somehow I always knew they were there. People tramp on wiry leathered tails, hit them in cabs, skidmarked and kicked off the curb into puddles of brown rainwater. They pile up in the gutters, hang swollen from wires like overripe fruit nobody picked. There is a furniture store on your block I pass each day. You said the living room set arranged in the window is like a painting. Only it’s full of dead cats I said, can’t you see, sprawled over the sofa and bloated on the end tables. The next morning I cleaned up the street around your apartment, hauled away all the dead cats in black trash bags. The last thing I want is for you to wake up and see such a mess.
ST I L L LIFE
John Priest likes pizza, dirty grunge bands, and Downton Abbey. His tattoo reads, “please support your local public radio station.”
to n a n o totor i ro
Darnell gardner Darnell Gardner Jr. is a senior majoring in Political Science and Journalism at CMU. He traveled to China this past summer to intern at the China Daily, a Beijing newspaper. Black-and-white photography is high on his list of favorite things.
E S L PU
After Sean Thomas Dougherty A spinet thrums chords from an open window next door, rolling percussion in the traffic, and summer strings wind through bottles in the gutter to create bass lines. A chord on every corner pulls men home, from taverns, slowly. Wine braids with breeze, making their bodies sway like the vines of willow trees that conduct the city to crescendos. Nighthawks gather on the sidewalks laughing in tenor and soprano voices. High-heels snap off the concrete, like fingers after a song, as they dance the avenue. Threads of moon hang off the sky painting it Jazz. Tonight the streets are full of pulse. It throbs in streetlights, scrawling lyrics
in cursive with sewer steam, humming in the vibrato of a tattooed man’s throat while he waits for the bus,
Bryan knows that Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothin’ to fuck with.
and floating from overpasses like a horn player sighing before filling the valves with music.
After Robert Fanning Like salt on your café counters, I’m veiled by cloths of light, but never whisked away. Concealed by lamps, what does your glow entail? Other than to abrade and leave me frayed.
I reach for your expanse of high-rises, where people have gathered under your beams to fill your streets and catch their irises, but static’s thrown on sky like window steam.
Did I not sketch dippers on dark and ask that souls use eyes to drink? But instead drown me out. Soaking in pools of streetlight bath, baptize my body in your neon gown.
Or do they pretend city pulse is mine? Skyscraper fingers hoping for smother but cast back in your glaring my design. All lovers are blueprints of another.
A S O NG S TA R F R O S TO M T HE T HE C ITY 13
g n i r e b n m u e r m d re it an ah Summer sticks to the sidewalk like a t-shirt. It makes the block shudder, scared of its own energy of lager sweat, cigarette steam. Careening down throats in reverse screams, taking gunpowder from words of bullet-tongued men. They sit pigeon perched on stoops cooing at a strange Caprice that parts the concrete stream with windows down, almost cooling the city sizzle with a wave of Stevie Wonder as it passes. A fat steak swelters on a grill in a driveway nearby. Stewing in the hazy air with a nose full of red meat, a blue haired Pit licks his chops. The stake he’s tied to trembles in its socket of dirt, before being yanked. Next door, three boys squeezing the last sunrays—hoping a handful of golden minutes will feel like a year—wail like backup singers. The dog’s tags bob to Stevie’s piano as he drives one boy to the arms of a tree, another, to a circle of gossiping moms. The last boy trips into the street where the Caprice on cruise doesn’t screech until the music skips over fallen child. Above the scene, power line cicadas shriek so sharp it picks bones clean. Before cop lights pinwheel the block the living kids are stashed away from death. In a backyard, they carry sparklers like candles of mourning while sirens try to sing them toward the street before mothers can shepherd them home.
p h y ll mo r n i s , t i n g afth e er
“I write messages on my pillow.” I looked at her. “What?” I said.
“In the middle of the night,” she started, “I wake up with a thought, and I write it on my pillow. I don’t want you to think I’m weird.” I tried to make my eyes kind, but I made a mental note to never invite her over my place. “I don’t think you are weird, “I said.
Andrew fitzgerald Drew Fitzgerald wants to write comic books, and he wants you to read them. That is all.
“Well what do you think I am, then? I don’t want you thinking I’m normal either. I mean—“ “Hey,” I cut her off, “I don’t like The Beatles.” I guess that was enough to keep her content. A polite conversation can go strangely awry just uttering the sentence, “I don’t like The Beatles,” but she just closed her eyes, in what I assumed was relief. She was on her back, braid half undid, covers only over one nipple. I knew her name, and that was it— Phyllis. God, what an ugly name. Her room, now lit up more than the night before, revealed itself as bright white with blue accents. The curtains, stiff, were blue. The desk, holding a smallish TV and a mug filled with pens, blue. The trim around the floor was blue, although a lighter shade. Her door was white, but the knots of wood were left unpainted. With my contacts out, I kept mistaking them for spiders. She pinched the skin of my leg between her toes. “In high school,” I said, not knowing exactly why. Silence in an unfamiliar room, I suppose. “In high school, we were told to write in a stream of consciousness.” I paused to see if she understood. I couldn’t tell if she did or not. I continued, “I wrote the word ‘fuck’ thirty-six times.”
times, checking for errors in that giggle. She would cut out a wheeze here trim the volume off a bit there, calculate the precise moment where to put the big intake of breath. It was all perfect. It was all so fucking perfect. She probably had a portable little mirror she would take to malls, and before talking to somebody, make sure she was squinting properly. Should she show teeth? It was perfect, and she was using it on me. Well, I wasn’t looking at her. I had that much of a choice. Phyllis. What an ugly name. She probably batted her eyelashes, “Yeah,” she said, “I had teachers that let us swear. Don’t think I ever went that far, though.” I moved my leg away from her toes. “No, no, no,” I said quickly, “The thought of having unedited ideas come to life scared me.” I had to look at her. She nodded like she was on board—On board with something that didn’t even make sense. Of course I wrote, “fuck” just because I could.
I continued, “I was scared I would have nothing to say.”
Phyllis giggled. It wasn’t a schoolgirl giggle. It was mature and subtle as if she had recorded herself a million
“Vodka” and “Practice” are two words that do not belong in any sentence that also contains the word “Tattoo.”
F O LE
H T T RU
JARED TABER J.C. Taber lives in Mecosta, Michigan. His passions are comedy with After Hours Improv and creative writing. He has a wonderful family, a beautiful fiancée, a dog, and a cat.
NICOLE VOICE Nicole Voice is a novice poet, hoping to win over readers with evocative, erotic, and scantily clad poems. These poems are not entirely nude, however, and maintain some decency by keeping their shoes on.
All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now, really all I need is you and you’re here now so I have all I need now, and I will always need you now and then, don’t you like the sound of that now, I need your fingertips to play around with my tie now, and mine will spin now and again down the curve of your spine, and you will need to whisper “now take your time,” and now there is little time left, I need so much more now to get to know you better, I need to know you better. I need your wide brown eyes to read my future, because all I need now is hiding under my satin covers, now you need to whip off those blue cotton Hanes because it’s now or never, so need me now so it can be done.
The lights from the dock drip into the Atlantic, smearing gold into deep blue, green, purple water, like the too-thick strokes of a Van Gogh painting, whose fluid movement mimics the curling and unwinding of waves around my feet. The night sky devours the horizon, black infinity above bleeding into black infinity below. There is no room to miss you between the stars of the Milky Way, dust glowing on a dark table, frequent as the freckles on your back. The ocean would have me forget you the way itâ€™s already forgotten the footsteps that follow through the sand, smoothing you from my memory with fingers patiently relentless enough to carve cliffs out of rock. The wind is crisp and wet. It coats my lungs with damp, salty air. Waves purr through the silence to remind me that you, on the opposite end of infinity, are the moon dipping into liquid ink, pulling my limbs, like the tide, away from the shore.
midn ight inis o on irr Heather allen Heather Allen has an easier time writing poetry than she does writing third person bios.
He didn’t dislike his name; he disliked people who assumed it was spelled J-E-F-F-S-M-I-T-H. Before advancing to the hostess stand and speaking to the young woman there, Geoff already knew the obligatory dialogue that would ensue. It occurred every time he had to schedule a dentist’s appointment or renew his vehicle’s registration. “Welcome to Monty’s,” said the blonde hostess, flashing teeth that must have been recently whitened. Geoff’s own teeth were white, but the whiteness came from a strict ritual of brushing four times a day, twice more than recommended by the American Dental Association. “I have a dinner reservation for two,” Geoff responded with a closed-mouthed smile. “Excellent, sir,” replied the hostess, her voice almost squeaking with the pre-packaged enthusiasm possessed by all successful food service workers. “Can I have your name, please?” “Smyth.” “Great,” she chirped, dropping her eyes to the hidden list on her podium. “S-M-I…” she mouthed, moving her finger down the paper. “Actually, it’s spelled ‘G-E-O-F-F-S-M-Y-T-H,’” Geoff interrupted. “Oh,” she replied with a nervous titter, “I never would have guessed that.” Geoff used to break such tension by saying “it happens all the time,” and then he would explain that he was named after his British grandfather. Geoff looked a lot like his grandfather, who looked like an average chap with an average head of mediumlength brown hair. Lately, though, Geoff had become tired of explaining his name and its origin. He found that he reveled in simply correcting others and drew a degree of satisfaction from their befuddled stares. Therefore, Geoff said nothing to the hostess, opting to maintain eye-contact until she submitted and fumbled for two menus. “Please follow me, Mr. Smyth,” the hostess said, with a little less tooth than before. After being seated at the small, circular table, Geoff smoothed out the white tablecloth and flipped open his cellphone. The display read 8:01pm, meaning that Trish was already late. He should have just picked her up at the library. As the Young Adult Librarian, Trish was not required to stay past closing time at 7:00pm, but she always ended up chatting with a community college student named Benny who restocked the shelves, and those conversations could last for over an hour, if unchecked. Just last week, Geoff had gone to the library to pick up his wife.
GE O F SMYT F H
He waited for fifteen minutes in the periodicals section, perusing a crisp copy of The New Yorker while the last patrons filed out. When the clock read seven, Geoff straightened out of his chair and walked to Trish’s desk, only to find an empty seat and her dogeared paperback copy of Carrie by Stephen King. “I’d probably do Katniss,” Geoff heard from somewhere off to his left. “L ...O... L,” said Trish, “you are such a horn-dog, Billy.” “She sounds pretty hot, that’s all. Just that fact that she’s all strong and, like, hard to get, and stuff.” While wondering what kind of a name Katniss was, Geoff locked on to the voices and wandered to the Young Adult section. Trish was leaning with one elbow on Benny’s re-shelving cart. “She’s like 16, though,” Trish said while handing Benny a copy of Mockingjay. “Bro,” replied Benny—why would someone call a woman ‘Bro’ Geoff thought—“I’m only 20.” “Well, I don’t know,” said Trish. “If I was a 20 year old guy, I’d probably like a more mature woman. Maybe like Jessica Alba, or something.” “Sorry to interrupt,” said Geoff, causing Trish to drop a copy of The Book Thief. “You dropped that book on its spine, Bro,” said Benny, “I hope it doesn’t get paralyzed.” “Oh, sorry Geoff,” said Trish while bending over to pick up the book. Geoff chose to ignore Benny’s eyes and their magnetic attraction to his wife’s posterior. “I should probably hit the road, Benny.” “Alright, Bro. You guys got plans, or something?” “Yeah,” said Geoff. “Well let’s get going, Trish.” “That’s cool,” said Benny, “what are you guys doing?” Geoff didn’t think Benny was much of a spelling connoisseur, so he didn’t feel like explaining that they were going to the Burlington Middle School Seventh Annual Spelling Bee. “We’re going to the spelling bee at the middle school,” said Trish. “Geoff wants to see if any of the kids are Burlington College material.” Geoff pursed his lips. He was not “scouting” for his employer. In fact, most of the children at Burlington Middle School would, upon turning eighteen, probably scoff at a small liberal arts school in their sleepy hometown and head for New York City or Boston. Geoff genuinely enjoyed proper spelling. “Oh, that’s cool,” replied Benny. “I’m probably going to go to my friend’s house later and watch some Netflix. We’ll probably end up watching…” So far this verbal waterfall had taken five seconds. Geoff was timing it on his watch, determined that it wouldn’t get to fifteen. “That sounds like a wonderful evening,” said Geoff, unsure of whether or not Benny was done talking. “Well, it looks like you have some work to do, so Trish and I better get out of your hair.” “Get out of my hair? What does that mean?” asked Benny while pulling his sweaty brown bangs out of his eyes. Geoff didn’t have time to wonder how Benny had
somehow made it through twenty years of existence without ever hearing this common expression, so he pretended not to hear him and started walking toward the lobby. “See you tomorrow, Benny,” said Trish, pausing long enough to pick up her copy of Carrie at the reference desk. Geoff had already made it out to his Range Rover, and he decided that starting the engine and tapping the horn would be a nice hint for Trish to expedite her trek to the parking lot; however, it took Geoff five minutes worth of wasted gas to realize that Trish wasn’t setting any efficiency records for punching a time-clock and locking up her office. “This is quite the waste of fuel,” Geoff said to his empty passenger seat. The clock on the radio read 7:15, and the event was scheduled for 8:00pm. Waiting another five minutes could mean having to park in the undesirable parking lot, the one that featured the egregious sign for “handicaped” parking. “I am not utilizing a parking lot that besmirches the English language,” muttered Geoff. He turned off his SUV and half-walked, half-jogged back to the library doors. Upon pulling the door handle, Geoff realized that the doors automatically locked at 7:00pm. He thought about knocking on the glass, but he pictured the smudges that his hands might leave. Instead, he brandished his cellphone and called Trish. “Geoff?” answered Trish. “Hello Trish. I was going to come back in to check on your progress, but the library doors have locked.” “Check on my progress?” asked Trish. “Yes. As you know, the spelling bee starts at eight, and
it is creeping up on
7:17.” “Relax, Geoff. I’ll be out in a few minutes.” A second before hearing Trish disconnect the call, Geoff heard the toilet flush in the background. Geoff never used public restrooms, and he assumed that Trish would at least have the decency not to answer her phone in one. But, Trish had become a different person in the two years they had been married. First were the minute changes, like her transition from jeans to pajama bottoms on her days off from work, but now, apparently, Trish had become the kind of woman who had no qualms about taking phone calls in the lavatory. He placed the phone back in his dress slacks and stared at the face of his Timex. “Alright, let’s go,” said Trish, not making eye contact with Geoff, but brushing past him into the parking lot. She got into the Range Rover and shut the door a little too loudly for Geoff’s liking. Trish enjoyed the cringe on Geoff’s face, and she hoped that he’d be inclined to obsessively check the passenger side door for non-existent damage later that night. After a hectic drive through town, in which Geoff allowed himself to go one mile per hour over the speed limit, they arrived at Burlington Middle School at 7:40. Parking was not a problem. *** Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or
eggs may increase your risk of food-born illness. “Food-born illness,” chuckled Geoff. “Sorry I’m late,” said Trish. Before Geoff could stand and pull out her chair, she plopped down across from him and started thumbing through her menu. “I could have picked you up,” said Geoff, noticing that it was 8:07. “It is really no inconvenience.” “I know,” said Trish, “and that’s sweet of you, but the walk is relaxing. It helps me air out, too, so I don’t smell so musty all of the time.” Trish didn’t really care about the walk, but it was easier than telling Geoff he made her nervous when he perched in the periodicals section. Geoff smiled at Trish’s joke. It made him think when she was a young, brown-haired creative writing instructor from Burlington College who always snickered at his dry witticisms in the faculty lounge; it was a great shame that this same instructor had been forced to take a second job at the library, and that this second job had suffocated and eventually terminated the first. Instead of inspiring a new generation
of Jonathan Franzens, Trish was pedaling Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling. “Hi, my name is Robert, and I’ll be taking care of you today,” said the waiter. Geoff noticed that Robert had a bit of a five o’clock shadow. Waiters, in Geoff’s opinion, should be cleanshaven. “Which wine would you recommend, Robert?” asked Geoff. “Hmm, good question,” said Robert, gazing over at another table. “I’m kind of new here, and I haven’t really had a chance to familiarize myself with the menu.” Geoff recoiled in his chair. “You don’t have a wine suggestion?” “I’m sorry, sir,” said Robert, “but they’re listed on the last page of the menu.” Geoff cocked his head slightly and squinted at the waiter. “Geoff, don’t worry about it,” said Trish. “I’ll just take a glass of water,” she said to Robert, hoping that her goodwill would soften Geoff’s heart. Trish didn’t mind when she was the one irritating her husband, she even thought that a little irritation was good for Geoff, a way to lighten him up a bit. He never stayed upset with Trish, and they would normally reconcile over a game of Scrabble or a nice chardonnay. However, Trish hated to see her husband get upset at others, especially over trivial matters that made Geoff look like an anally retentive Englishman. “Good choice, Ma’am,” said Robert with an affable smile. “And for you, sir?” “Well, Robert,” said Geoff as he stared at the blatant typo about undercooked food on the menu “in lieu of a nice glass of wine, I would prefer to have a chat with your supervisor.” “I’m sorry, what?” asked Robert. “I want to talk to your manager,” said Geoff while putting down his menu hard enough to make the silverware clink. “Don’t you
speak English?” “I’m very sorry, sir,” said Robert, already starting to slink away, “let me see if he’s available.” “Geoff. What’s wrong?” asked Trish. “A waiter should have a wine recommendation.” “Yeah, I know, Geoff, but that’s not it,” said Trish, with a smile of wonderment. “We’ve been married for two years, and I’ve never heard you use a contraction.” Geoff stared back at Trish with a glazed-over look in his eye. He thought of Sister Margaret and her knuckle-busting ruler. “Contractions,” Sister Margaret was fond of saying, “convey a proclivity toward slothfulness.” “I am sorry, Trish,” said Geoff. “I did not mean for you to hear that.” Robert the waiter returned to the table with a silk-tie-wearing, balding man whose name tag said the name Chris and the word “Manager.” “Good evening, sir and ma’am. How can I be of assistance?” Geoff did not like the sound of that “ma’am,” but he
appreciated that Chris offered his assistance, instead of his help. Sister Margaret also used to teach forgiveness by letting her students ice their knuckles, so Geoff decided to ignore Robert’s ineptitude. “Perhaps, Chris, you could recommend a good wine?” asked Geoff. “Unfortunately, sir, we don’t serve wine here,” said Chris, “however, we do serve several types of beer. In fact, pitchers of Coors Light are only six dollars tonight.” Geoff stared at Chris. “If you’re looking for something higher-end,” piped in Robert, “we also have pints of Guinness for four dollars.” “Oh,” said Trish, “you like Guinness, right Geoff? Since it’s British.” Geoff could handle Trish being seven minutes late for dinner. He could handle the thought of Benny going home and pleasuring himself to the thought of Trish in some naughty librarian glasses. He could handle the fifty English Composition essays that were sitting in his office, waiting for a bloodbath of red ink, and he could even handle the fifty typo-filled, ranting e-mails from the barely literate high school graduates who did not know how to properly use commas with coordinating conjunctions that would follow. He could even handle 35 years of people calling him “Gee-off Smythe.” However, looking at the red, shining scalp of this restaurant Manager who was trying to tell him that Monty’s no longer sold wine, when the menu not only had a wine section but an explicit invitation to “ask our servers for a wine recommendation,” Geoff was propelled off the handle. “Gentlemen,” began Geoff, “how about you each take one pitcher of Coors Light and one pint of your Irish beer,” he said, glancing at Trish, before returning his stare toward Chris, “insert their contents into a giant bulb, and take turns squeezing beer into each other’s rectums.”
Time paused in the restaurant. Even the hostess interrupted her bubbly conversation with a patron long enough to stare at Geoff. Trish was staring, too, but her eyes were unnoticeable compared to the pale shade of her face. “Get out of my restaurant, asshole” said Chris, his shiny scalp a molten shade of red. “Gladly,” said Geoff, standing from the table and heading for the door. He bumped into the hostess’s podium on the way out, and she raised her middle finger at his back. Geoff pivoted around and unleashed on Chris. “Oh, and fix your damn menu.” He looked back at his table and saw Trish sitting there with her head in her hands. “We are leaving, Trish,” said Geoff, dulling his tone. “Go home, Geoff,” said Trish, shaking her head. “I’ll walk.” “Get out of here,” said the hostess, “or I’m gonna call the cops.” Geoff needed to leave before his newfound rage caused him to put his head down and demolish her podium. “Fine, Trish,” he said with a great effort to sound calm. “What time will you be home?” “Nine o’clock,” said Trish, just throwing out a time to appease Geoff. Geoff felt like saying “so, 9:07, then,” but he held back and walked into the parking lot. *** Geoff really wanted that wine at Monty’s, and now he needed it, since he would be spending the night at the Economy Motel. After his blow up at the restaurant, Geoff drove back to his office, hoping that harshly grading a
few essays would provide a venting of his rage. When he arrived at the front door of Proctor Hall, Geoff found the following notice on the door: Proctor Hall is Closed Indefiantly Due to Discovery of Asbestos in Basement. He felt like defiantly ripping the pink piece of paper off the door and greeting it with his red pen, but Geoff had swallowed his rage and trudged back to his SUV. Upon returning home, Geoff found yet another note, this one authored by Trish and taped to the door: Geoff, I think you need some time with Geoff, since Geoff seems to be the only person who doesn’t annoy Geoff. When you come to realize that not everyone can live up to your standards, give me a call, and I’ll see if I believe you. This is all I’m going to write, for fear of making a grammatical mistake. Sincerely, Trish Geoff felt nauseous; he had scanned the note for errors before even reading it for content. Not knowing what else to do, Geoff checked in to the first motel that he could find and tried to sleep away this horrible night. But sleep would not come, and all Geoff
could think about was the sweet numbing effect that a glass of wine would have on his tensed up mind. After locking up his motel room, lest some passing vagrants enter and mess up the tasteful floral bedspread or steal the Gideon’s Bible, Geoff walked to Rick’s Discount Liquor Store across the street. Geoff often passed Rick’s on the way home from work, but that was always during the daytime hours. Now that night had fallen, Geoff noticed that the “o” had burned out on the sign so it read “Liqu r.” Geoff thought about getting back into his Range Rover and driving to another store, but Trish’s note wafted up in his head. He decided to patronize the Liqu r store. Geoff thought the gentleman behind the counter looked like an especially world-weary version of Kevin Costner. “What can I do you for?” asked the clerk, as Geoff surveyed the extensive menagerie of bottom shelf whiskey. “Which wine would you recommend, sir?” asked Geoff. The clerk’s laughter sounded like the ignition of the old Lincoln Towncar that Geoff’s mother used to drive. He even emitted some exhaust in the form of a wet secretion into a wellused handkerchief. Geoff wished he had patronized another establishment. “Personally,” said the clerk, “as a retailer of the finest boozes in New England, I would have to recommend a bottle of MD 20/20. Not only is it a potent beverage with a lovely bouquet, it’s the only wine that I sell in this shithole.” Geoff had never heard of MD 20/20. He also did not have a good feeling when he noticed the five dollar price tag on the bottle the clerk placed on the counter. “Would you like that in a paper sack like the bums drink it?” asked the clerk. Geoff considered walking out; however, being a wine snob was a catalyst for his current predicament, so Geoff put a ten on the counter and told the clerk to keep the change and the paper sack. *** Geoff began by drinking from the little plastic cups that the motel provided, but MD 20/20 soon proved not to be a sipping wine. It tasted a bit like fruit punch mixed with nail polish remover, not that Geoff knew what nail polish remover tasted like. “Hell with it,” said Geoff, as he drained the rest of the cup and took his next swig straight from the bottle. “This is quite repulsive,” he said to the end table, after his third swig. He was already starting to feel a warmth rising from his stomach and up into his head. “This must be why the homeless drink it,” he told the lamp, “it keeps them warm.”
After half the bottle disappeared into his gut, Geoff felt the motel room was a little too warm for his liking. “What’s the thermostat at like eighty?” he asked the lamp. The lamp didn’t feel like answering, and that irritated Geoff. “Fuck you,” he said to the lamp, “I’m going to see Trish.” After taking another sizable swig, Geoff stumbled to the door, bottle still in hand. He’d never previously driven drunk, but Geoff figured it couldn’t be too hard. The basically illiterate kids in his composition class were doing it all of the time. He successfully backed out of his parking spot (not much of a feat, since his vehicle was the only one in the lot) and navigated the Range Rover onto the highway. “This is pretty easy,” said Geoff, unaware that he was driving on the shoulder. The silence in the SUV made Geoff nervous, so he reached over and turned on his radio. Someone was droning about something brainy on NPR, but the words sounded like an uninspired PowerPoint presentation from one of his students. He mashed the search button on the steering wheel. “WQIF, playing all the hits Vermont can handle,” said the voice on the radio over a booming dubstep beat. “Coming up hot off the request line “Call Me, Maybe” by the Canadian cutie, Carly Rae Jepsen.” “I threw a wish in the well,” began the generic female pop voice named Carly, and Geoff remembered that Trish had wanted him to call her when he realized that not everyone could live up to his standards. “Trishy,” said Geoff to his empty passenger seat, “I’m not even living up to my own standards, anymore.” He fumbled in his pocket for his cellphone, mashing the accelerator in the process. Sergeant Randy Horton was waiting in the parking lot of the First Methodist Church with his lights off. Wednesday nights were usually pretty quiet, but Randy thought he might nab a few speeders to reach his personal quota. To kill the time, he was sitting in his car, singing along to the radio “ripped jeans, skin was showin’, hot night, wind was blowin’, where you think you’re going, baby?” The radar gun read 75 MPH when Geoff’s Range Rover roared by. Geoff saw the flashing lights, and he may have been drunk, but Geoff still had the utmost respect for the Burlington Police Department, and he was happy to give the right of way to the officer. Geoff slowed his SUV to a stop and pulled it up onto the curb with a jolt. Sergeant Randy exited his cruiser and approached Geoff with the world’s brightest flashlight. Geoff rolled down his window. “Good mor…evening, officer,” he said, realizing that he had been pulled over. “It’s 2:30am, sir,” said Randy. “About how much have you had to drink tonight?” “About this much,” said Geoff, holding up the nearly depleted bottle of MD 20/20. Looking at the lonely remnants left in the bottle, Geoff gunned the rest down before the officer could react. “Actually, about this much.”
“Please step out of the vehicle, sir,” ordered Randy.
*** Riding in the back of Sergeant Randy’s police cruiser, the red flashing lights mixing with rays from streetlights on the side of the road, Geoff had come up with an interesting theory that all alien abductions were muddled memories from DUI arrests. He was about to let Sergeant Randy in on his theory, but the officer spoke first. “Mr. Smythe, do you teach at Burlington College?” “Ayuh,” said Geoff, slipping into the horrid New England accent that he promised himself he’d never speak. “I thought so,” said Randy. “I had you for some English class.” Geoff couldn’t quite figure out if this conversation was actually happening. “I didn’t know we offered degrees in copping,” said Geoff, feeling somewhat bad about calling Randy a “cop.” “Naw,” said Randy. “I dropped out. You were a good teacher, though. I got my first C in your class.” Geoff couldn’t figure out if the officer was bragging or complaining, so he didn’t respond. “Tell you what, Professor,” said Randy, “I don’t think you need a DUI on your record, and you didn’t hurt nobody. How about I take you to the drunk tank and let you sleep it off.” “Anybody,” replied Geoff. “Didn’t hurt anybody.” *** Geoff slept for a few hours, but the MD 20/20 woke him up with the need to void the entire contents of his abdomen into the stainless steel toilet/sink combination in the corner. After his violent bit of retching, Geoff curled back up into the fetal position on the long, hard slab that served as a bed for the drunk tank patrons. The walls were made of cinder blocks and covered with a thin layer of white paint; Geoff watched as the lines between the bricks swam back and forth. On one of the bricks, near the white metal slab of a door, he noticed that someone had written something in permanent marker. Given that the room smelled and looked like a public restroom, Geoff wasn’t surprised to see graffiti. “Smythe?” said the deputy through the small slot in the door. “Smyth,” replied Geoff. “Like John Smith, from Pocahontas.” “Close enough. Anyway, you sober enough to make a phone call?” Geoff figured he was. He felt a little better after vomiting, and he much preferred the thought of sleeping in his own bed, or even the couch, to the hard slab. “Yes,” said Geoff. “Thank you.” The deputy opened the door and handed Geoff two quarters. Geoff picked up the greasy receiver and wiped the earpiece on his slacks. He struggled to find the quarter slot, but he got lucky on his second try, and the quarters plinked into the belly of the pay phone. The clock above the front desk read 5:34am. Geoff doubted that Trish would have her cellphone on this early, so he punched in his home phone number.
After four rings, a male voice answered the phone. “Yo.” “Who the hell is this?” Geoff asked. “Oh, that you Mr. Smyth?” “Benny?” asked Geoff. “Yeah, Bro,” said Benny. “What in the name of God are you doing at my house?” asked Geoff, feeling the need to take another knee in front of the stainless steel toilet. “Trish invited me over, Bro. She was crying, and stuff, so I thought I’d come over and make her feel better.” “Make her feel better?” muttered Geoff. “Yeah. We watched a Harry Potter movie until she stopped crying. She’s asleep now.” Geoff gripped the receiver hard enough to hurt the tendons in his wrist. “By the way, Bro, the cops called, and they impounded your ride.” Geoff slammed the receiver into the cradle. The overweight officer at the front desk shot him a disdainful glance but soon returned to playing Minesweeper on his computer. “You getting a ride?” asked the deputy who was leaning against the wall a few feet away. Although Benny, if asked, probably would have let Geoff ride on the back of his moped, Geoff really wasn’t in the mood to return home and sleep on his own couch while Trish and Benny had a slumber party in his bedroom. “No,” said Geoff, “I might as well sleep here.” “Whatever, big guy,” said the deputy. He led Geoff back to the tank and said “we’ll wake you up at 8:00am.” Geoff said nothing, and the door slammed shut. Thirty minutes later, the door swung open, awakening Geoff from a light sleep. “You got a cell mate, buddy,” said the officer, leading in a red-eyed frat boy with Greek letters on his hoodie. Geoff guessed he went to the University of Vermont. “Sup, Bro?” said the frat boy, as the door once again slammed behind the deputy. Geoff glanced up, but didn’t feel like talking. “What you in for, Bro?” asked the frat boy while taking off his hoodie and sitting on the other end of the long slab. “I’m an Anglophile,” said Geoff. “Sick dude,” said the frat boy, “my uncle was one of those.” Geoff bolted off the slab. He could not take anymore of this. “Get me out of here; I changed my mind,” he yelled while banging on the steel door. However, the deputy was on break and the overweight officer at the front desk had drifted off after successfully
clearing his minefield. Geoff pounded for a few more minutes. “Jesus. Relax, Bro,” said the frat boy. “Why the fuck is everyone calling me Bro?” yelled Geoff. “I am a sir to you, goddammit.” “Sorry, Bro,” said the frat boy. Geoff glanced down at the graffiti on the cinder block. It read “Cyndi sucks dick real good.” Remembering that his red pen was in his pocket, Geoff pulled it out and began trying to cross out “good” and write “well.” “Whatcha doing?” asked the frat boy. “I am fixing this grammatical error,” said Geoff. Even though he was scratching hard, the red pen hadn’t removed any of the marker. “Why?” “Because a bunch of idiots are bastardizing the English language. You know, last semester I graded an entire essay that was written in texting language. Pretty soon, people will start writing like that on their goddamn resumes.” “Who cares, though, Bro?” said the frat boy. “All you need to know is that Cyndi likes sucking dick. As long as you got that, who cares how it’s written?” Geoff’s red pen broke in half. The message on the wall was unaltered. He scooped up both ends of his pen and threw them in the toilet. *** Geoff awoke with one hell of a headache. The frat boy was snoring in the corner, and the noises coming through the slot in the door indicated that a new shift of officers was coming on duty. Geoff approached the slot, and made eye contact with one of the deputies. “Excuse me, officer,” said Geoff, “could I make a phone call? I am in much better shape than last night.” “Sure,” said the officer, “you ain’t under arrest, so you’re free to go when you’ve sobered up.” “I feel very sober,” said Geoff. The deputy opened the metal door. Geoff received another fifty cents, and he found the number for the Burlington Cab Company on a sign taped to the wall. He dialed the number, and the female dispatcher answered the phone. “Burlington Cab Company,” she said. “Hello,” said Geoff, “I need to set up a ride from the police department to the Economy Motel.” “Alright,” said the dispatcher, “could I have your name, please?” “Certainly, it’s Geoff Smyth.” “OK,” said the dispatcher. Quietly, she began to spell to herself “J-E-F…” “Actually…” Geoff started to interrupt, but then he paused. “Hmm?” said the dispatcher. “Never mind,” said Geoff. “OK,” she said, and she whispered again “J-E-F-F-S-M-I-T-H. “It’s all the same,” said Geoff.
JEREMY BALL Jeremy Ball is a foul-mouthed bearded man who will be looking for work after this year. He also wants a cuddle-buddy. I guess what he’s trying to say is that he’ll sleep with you, if you pay him.
NU C L
C A LYP
In the Nevada desert, where the sun still shines, a hairless, naked throng flocks to bake their flesh into a tan bacon hide that will hide melanoma under melanin and make them sexier to the paler city people. The elderly have been unplugged. Generators are needed to charge cell phones, laptops, and vibrators. Soon, slow obese people will be burned for fun, or fuel. Unzooed polar bears growl by the gated suburbs, demanding fresh fish long since breaded and served at Long John Silverâ€™s to those who could not afford Red Lobster. In the Spartan Supermarket, displaced New Yorkers, Californians and survivors of the sinking of Maine pelt cans of Pork â€˜n Beans at each other, as they advance over the fallen toward the finite supply of ice cold beer.
E T F INI
M O B LO
DARNELL GARDNER 26
CCEENNTT RRAALL R