I WAS WORKING ON THE PROOF OF ONE OF MY POEMS ALL THE MORNING, AND TOOK OUT A COMMA. IN THE AFTERNOON I PUT IT BACK AGAIN. - OSCAR WILDE I WROTE FROM A SENSE OF NEED. I NEEDED SOMETHING TO DO. YOU CAN’T JUST SLEEP ALL DAY LONG. - SNOOPY OUTSIDE OF A DOG,
A BOOK IS MAN’S BEST FRIEND.
INSIDE OF A DOG,
IT ’S TOO DARK TO READ.
- GROUCHO M ARX -
Volume 9 F Issue 1
E DITOR Nicole Bailey P RODUCTION M ANAGER Celeste Karpf FICTION EDTIOR Jordan Davis POETRY EDITOR Brittany Brockner L AYOUT Nicole Bailey Chris Bowker Brittany Brockner Jordan Huckins E DITOR IAL A DV ISORS Dr. Liz Ahl Dr. Paul Rogalus A SSOCIATE E DITORS Alex Cappello Jordan Huckins Jennifer Jones Elizabeth Mosher Elizabeth Rice Sean Robinson Carrie Waldron A SSISTANT EDITORS Eric Agosta Gina Hover Naomi Fosher B USINESS M ANAGER Jordan Davis C OV ER P HOTO Carla Blakely CENTRIPETAL IS PRINTED BY K ASE P RINTING, I NC. 13 H AMPSHIRE DRIVE, UNIT 18 HUDSON, NH (603) 883-9223
Submission Guidelines: Submissions are open to students, alumni, faculty, and friends of Centripetal. All submissions must be typed. No hand-written submissions will be accepted. Prose should be no more than 3,000 words per piece; poetry (up to 4 pieces) may be any length, any style. Micro-Fiction should be 500 words or less. Graphic Fiction, up to 4 pages; black and white art or photography, up to 4 high resolution images. Submissions should be e-mailed as attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions must contain name and contact information for the poet/author, as well as a brief note on the contributor. Centripetal accepts one time North American Rights for print and online publication. All rights revert to the authors upon publication. Acknowledgements: Plymouth State Poets & Writers would like to thank the following for their support of this issue of Centripetal: all of the contributors, with special thanks to Plymouth State University, the Hartman Union Building Staff, Mandarin Taste, Rodney Eckstrom, Dr. Liz Ahl, and the PSU English Department. We would especially like to thank Dr. Paul Rogalus, our advisor, without whom this would not have been possible.
Poets and Writers 19 Highland Ave. Suite A14 Plymouth, NH 03264 (603) 535-2236 email@example.com
CONTENTS V o l u m e 9 F I s s u e 1 1
Remembering my Dreams Edmund Dugas
Sensitive Artist Type
Carribean Blue Waters
A Late Elegy for Esther
Eryn Skye Phelps
Eryn Skye Phelps
10 Star Charting
11 The Dancer
12 Pickle Ball
16 Until Death Do Us Part
17 Her Everything
19 Out of Old Spice
20 Bones Journey
21 Forever Hair
22 The Opposite of Alone
30 Conversations in a Hotel Room
34 The Ocean Underneath
35 Something in the Ice
REMEMBERING MY DREAMS EDMUND DUGAS a drop of optimism gathers on the tip of an icicle clinging momentarily suspended and I try to force an eternity into the moment before it slips and shatters to the ground but i can’t stop it from falling. i can’t stop it from falling
SENSITIVE ARTIST TYPE EDMUND DUGAS I feel her presence on me the softest sound a china cymbal can make through a megaphone. Every day she’s becoming more familiar with my dance, feeling the air between us as I struggle to take it back. She’s even inventing a few moves of her own to unbalance my choreography. She’s also becoming better at finding me when I hide, skillfully peeling the layers from my skin and folding them while adjusting the temperature of the room for my comfort one degree at a time. As she carves into me the deep unwanted rivets I find myself slower and less responsive to sanding myself back to my vision of myself but instead adding my own whittled divets to at least contribute to her design. I am the art without the means and she is the one who buys the paper, puts the pen in my hand and makes coffee thinking I will trace answers onto thin paper for she cannot draw well by sight alone. She rows her boat through my waters
CENTRIPETAL every day looking for a place to land as I fight relentlessly to smooth out the ripples left in her wake.
CARRIBEAN BLUE WATERS LYNN RUDMIN Brine taste sank into my mouth and down my gullet as I stretched, reached for the sand dollar. I submerged my snorkel. A surprise. Infusion of spicy salt water and its sprinkling of particulate matter – what? old starfish remains? rubbedoff bright fish skin? My stomach accepted this accidental does, scaly hieroglyphs whose source the mothers of my mothers dreamed in, afternoons. Woman came to mind, our salty losses of blood vaginas plugged – no shame – with flesh or wadded stuff time of onset, time of gone. Mother walked the shoreline holding her book under her nose sturdy middle-aged legs propelling her along, sun reddening her, so Atlantic seaside thoroughly blistered her made her regret her stroll, causing her moaning in our camping-out tent, a-live. Now my own sturdy middle-aged legs floated easily out behind me like a croc’s tail, my mask reducing me to eyes.
CENTRIPETAL What I know is what I see, yellow-edged wafers of gray fish shafts of sunlight coming going all detritus Iâ€™ve swallowed down.
A LATE ELEGY FOR ESTHER ERYN SKYE PHELPS Too soon, this night is cracked by a broad bone of daylight. We are her family picking the bones of our past, looking across wide sand that stretches to ocean, to nowhere. Under this cypress tree, we toss memories into the fire: She is a silhouette in the window surveying her orchard and her son. Arm around the waist of his first love, the two young consider the orchard from a trellis smothered by heavy grapes. None can see yet the fall, which will pull down whole branches live, and leave the blackened pear trees to ache alone through the winter. Far from a valley of orchards, by an ocean the color of moon, our swift eyes remember the edges of her: Under the blankets, she is no bigger than a coyote curled. We have kept her breath among us for weeks. Now the shell of her body swells with leaving, and the daffodils from her yard wait on the bureau for a sign to bloom. The house inhales. Days later, in the kitchen,
CENTRIPETAL her husband spreads her ashes on all the countertops. Along the edge of the shore we burn the waterweathered bones of a tree. We revive her into the night, pushing against morningâ€™s break over the ocean. Itâ€™s impossible to not break things like a storm, a heart, the shell of a new bird, beginning: Every wet-winged life begins with violence.
SYNECDOCHE ERYN SKYE PHELPS The old brown hair dryer died yesterday morning. At first a soft whirring and then none at all, only smell of burned hair and motor. Late last night, for nearly an hour, I picked the lint out of the side screens as I once saw my mother do, wondering if I’d done it sooner… The truth is that I don’t even remember watching my mother blow dry her hair. I just know the machine was always there, fingerprinted in white paint, under the bathroom sink. I don’t even know when in became mine, although after she died, I found some footing in things she had owned. This morning the dryer is buried in the kitchen garbage under coffee grounds and banana peels, beyond resurrection. It wasn’t a bad representation, every day holding some aspect of my mother in a brown handle I’d seen my whole life. I could spend my whole life substituting possessions, each day choosing a different part to fill the place of the whole.
VERTIGO CELESTE KARPF The doctor says they can’t explain it, why when I drop my head, the world falls out beneath me. I shift my eyes to glance sideways inside my skull and the axis of the earth sighs backwards. Popping pills I struggle to stop the swelling of my brain, to ease the pounding of inner ear, the stomach mishaps. I guess I’ve accepted my constant teacup ride ticket, the space centrifuge training, and never trusting the penguin footwork. So if I fall away or grasp the eroding corners of fingered cabinets, forgive me, I’m teetering on the invisible imbalance of this incurable pogo reality. So now I’m more careful about sideways looks, and double takes. I never know when one will drop me struggling on the pavement. Wondering, which way is up, and unable to stop the constant falling.
STAR CHARTING CELESTE KARPF I wish to the dying twilight that I could draw all the stars in the sky and know every freckle on your body. Constellations of your universe are as epic and Iâ€™m an eager astronomer, wanting to touch each one and tell the story of every celestial figure that forms yours. My very own spiral galaxy to chart from afar and up close, something all the other astronomers only dream of. Iâ€™m no different. When I reach out and touch the planets wreathing your skin, I catch a glimpse of the soul burning in a thousand suns somewhere at the center of your solar system.
THE DANCER CARRIE WALDRON My creaking, stretching bones begin to fray, Once elastic muscles strangled and torn, I bend my heart again to pray. Graceful, pliant lines splinter to decay, Arching feet riddled with fractures now worn, My creaking, stretching bones begin to fray. That the memory of shadow-me will soon slip away, And over my abrupt collapse they should not mourn, I bend my heart again to pray. A critical eye do my tired limbs betray, Fouette, plie, again again again as I warn, My creaking, stretching bones begin to fray. Velvet and silk disguise my insidesâ€™ disarray, My ribs with jewels and shining lace I adorn, I bend my heart again to pray. My graying kidneys start to sway. I want to be reborn, My creaking, stretching bones begin to fray, I bend my heart again to pray.
PICKLE BALL CARRIE WALDRON “Cross-eyed greaseball!” “Baldy!” “Cross-eyed greaseball! The dancing queen of pickle ball, that’s what you are! What a fairy!” “…Baldy!” “You brown-nosing, fairy-dancing cross-eyed greaseball!” I feigned a ballerina’s leap as I smacked the ball onto your side of the court. “Baldy…” You were focused on the game. “As least I can hit the ball,” you bellowed. Your slender, wooden racquet came into contact with the small, blue rocket, and your left leg stretched out behind you in a graceful arabesque as you moved in for the backhand return. The ball whizzed past my nose and smacked the gym floor just inside the line with a profound thud. “Damn! One for cross-eyed greaseball over here,” I shouted to the scorekeeper of the day—one of the lazy kids that complained of a headache or a stomachache or some other imaginary ailment to excuse him from gym class. “Not bad for a fairy,” I sneered. Everyone teased you for your love of ballet. You’ve got to admit, you didn’t exactly have the ideal dancer’s body in seventh grade. I always thought you should give it up and focus on something you could actually do. Like pickle ball. “You must take up the whole stage in a tutu, don’t you, Caryn?” We would jeer, “Where do they find enough fabric to make a dance costume for you, anyway?” It wasn’t that you were tall. No, you were barely five feet; we made fun of you for that, too. But your figure was, let’s say, a bit plump. You weighed more than I did, and I was
CENTRIPETAL a good ten inches taller than you. Keegan Allman once told me he thought you would make a better football player than a ballerina. He must have never played a match of pickle ball with you. You might not have looked like the textbook dancer (you told me one day that a 5’2” dancer’s ideal weight was 80 pounds), but you could still prance around the court with agility and grace. And you were smart, too, I’ll give you that. Maybe too smart for your own good. I remember when you skipped a grade and ended up in crazy old Mr. McGee’s class. Remember how he used to wear those awful, smudged coke-bottle glasses, and we’d call him Mr. McGoo? We all thought you were a new student, like a transfer or a blow-in from Mass. or something. Somebody got wind of your secret, though. Was it Jackie Evans? She lived near you, didn’t she? Well, whoever it was, they ran around and told all of us that you were a stuck-up, snotty bitch and that you thought you were smarter than anybody else on earth. G**, Caryn, we were in sixth grade. Did you expect me to make my own analysis and just hunker up all buddy-buddy with you? It was too dangerous. I couldn’t risk it. You didn’t help the situation, either. You were just such an easy target. The stretch pants, white with French words written in curly black script all over them, the bulky homemade sweaters that made your head look too small for your body, that haircut. You were asking for it. And on top of that, you were always a suck-up, and a tattle-tale, and one of those hoity-toity Christian girls that drool sweet-smelling Bible verses in their sleep. You were bitchy to everyone, like you always had something to prove, like you were trying to make us hate you. Except for Mark Solomon. We all knew you were in love with him. We saw the notes, the glances. We saw the look in your eye when we dared Mark to kiss you during a game of truth or dare on the bus ride home from the math meet at Bow. Good thing he was a geek like you, so he didn’t notice how totally uncool you really were. He even liked your hair cut.
CENTRIPETAL I remember when Brian stuck a half-eaten apple in your French horn. I remember when the high schoolers spat on you. I remember when Mike Powers interrupted reading class on Valentine’s Day to give you a red candle shaped like a heart—everyone laughed so hard. I remember when you went away for the summer to a ballet intensive and came back with an eating disorder. I remember how you lost thirty pounds in a few months because you stopped eating meat, then eggs, then dairy. Then you stopped eating lunch entirely. “Veganism is the healthiest way of life,” you would tell us. Then you ditched the sweaters, the weird pants, and the perm. You also ditched Mark, which made all of us happy. Aside from the anorexia, you were becoming more and more normal. I still called you Cross-eyed greaseball, but my friends and I had accepted you into our clique. We invited you to go with us to Friendly’s once when we had an early release day from school because of parentteacher conferences or exams or something. Your obsession with veganism gave you an easy excuse not to eat in front of other people, so you sipped on a diet Coke and eyed me as I inhaled my greasy cheeseburger, a pile of red and orange spicy fries, and a Reese’s peanut butter cup sundae. The other girls were giggling and munching on fried and frozen treats, and you just watched us. “Don’t you ever get hungry, Cross-eyed greaseball?” “Not really.” You smiled, and I think if I had looked close enough, I would have seen the saliva welling up behind your teeth as you watched me take each bite. “Plus, I have a performance coming up. You don’t want to see an elephant in a tutu, do you?” Casey Gallant insisted you would have a mental breakdown before you graduated from high school because you just internalized everything back then. I’m surprised you made it this far, Caryn. I’m really surprised.
DUSK SARAH WELLMAN Rumpled sheets with pillows askew, Musky air lingers around the mattress. Pale moonlight changes colors through the curtains, Projecting shadows that dance on each wall; Their bodies move together with instinctive rhythm. Heavy breathing and caressing touch, They melt together; salty droplets form on silky skin. Hungry mouths compete with one another, Sensual kisses leave trails of warmth along their path. Flames flicker in darkness as wax melts to liquid. The clock keeps time with consistent ticks. As time passes, softer breathing and a warm embrace; Shadows become still and quiet ticks are heard alone. The loversâ€™ sleep, heart beats soothing as their bodies restore.
UNTIL DEATH DO US PART SARAH WELLMAN Sounds of laughter are carried in the trees as golden clouds move across the sky, the sun beginning to set into the mountains. The preacher speaks to the jilted bride; empty words of comfort with a thick, monotone voice that flows into one ear and out the other. A once bright face with green eyes full of life, now faces the woods, staring off into the distance, grey and vacant. Wilting flowers cover the ground surrounding her white, beaded wedding gown. Bare feet with painted nails begin wandering aimlessly; shoes lying alone inside the orchid and lily covered gazebo. She removes the ring of white gold and diamonds that guard a single opal and glides her fingers across the stones. Burning lungs fight for oxygen as tears are held back. Releasing the held breath, tears pour from grey eyes and shaking hands cover her painted face. Left alone, humiliated, after years of devotion, is a thought that stays plastered in her mind. Wiping tears and taking deep breaths, she forces herself to look up to the sky and close her eyes.
HER EVERYTHING ELIZABETH RICE Her pain awakens her every morning. She had barely fallen into sleep. Her respite yanked away because the pills had worn off again. She drags herself to the table. A cup of coffee, steam coiling, curling, is there waiting for her as it is every morning. She watches him go about preparing for the day. She watches him perform the tasks she cannot do. He prepares another cup of steaming coffee before he leaves her again. She watches him go. The pills take affect again. She moves to the living room for a while. Just to be with someone. The tv is her company throughout the day. The pain again. Itâ€™s time. The pills take affect again. Heâ€™s here again.
CENTRIPETAL Heâ€™ll share her pain. Heâ€™ll be her wake up, her lover, her performer, her pill, again, until her pain awakens her every morning.
OUT OF OLD SPICE NICHOLAS JONES Earlier today I bought a six pack of 16 ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon with a one dollar scratch ticket and three dollars in quarters. The depressing part of the story is that Iâ€™ve been out of deodorant for over a week.
BONES JOURNEY AUDREY GENT In the art of a poem, In the heart of our bones, Are the roads that we roam When we walk on alone. We are stone-boned at home, Holding fast to some cold Corner, won at the cost Of our own hard-worn core. So we roam to the roads Where our bones wonâ€™t know cold, Towards some warm-hearted cove, Cornered shore upon shore.
THE FOREVER HAIR AUDREY GENT My brother, my sister and I occupy stiff, Painfully floral furniture in a corner. We are the bereaved as such we are allowed to Sit in peace, to watch everyday faces in Occasional suits. My mother leans down, whispers, “His hair is parted wrong.” She’s right. Heavy comb lines pull his hair against its Natural angle, the family cowlick combed flat By some cold mortician. We’re sending my uncle towards forever with Unnatural hair. We are disconcerted, we Are responsible, but no hand moves to fix it We stand back as though death is something we can catch.
THE OPPOSITE OF ALONE RACHEL BASCOM We spent so many nights, that summer that we lived together, lying on the roof of our apartment building. Mostly we just stared up at the sky, not saying much of anything. If we’d been somewhere else, maybe it would’ve been considered stargazing, but in that part of the city, we really couldn’t see any stars at all. So instead we’d watch smoke trail up and dissolve into the night sky as we shared a cigarette, our fingertips brushing each time we passed the butt back and forth. Sometimes we’d talk, but it rarely was about anything that really mattered. Now I think sometimes that it was the things that didn’t really matter that were the most important. One night, in the middle of July, you asked me, “Do you ever feel like you’re all alone, even if you’re, like… I dunno, at a party or something, in the middle of a huge crowd?” I didn’t answer right away. I just stared straight up into the sky and took a long drag from our cigarette. “I dunno,” I said finally, releasing the smoke and lifting my arm to pass it back. “Maybe sometimes, yeah, but I never really thought about it before.” I remember that it took you forever to take the cigarette out of my fingers. Our hands hovered there, just above us, our fingers touching on the filter, but neither of us moved. At the time, it felt like it hadn’t been that long, but when you finally took it, you barely inhaled before it had burnt down to the filter. “I feel like that sometimes,” you said, tossing the spent cigarette over the edge of the building. “I don’t really know why I thought of it just now.” I hadn’t been sure of what to say to that, but
CENTRIPETAL eventually the words “Do you feel alone right now?” passed through my lips almost before my brain had processed them. You snorted in response; a strange little half-laugh even though I wasn’t sure what you’d thought was funny. You shook your head, bumping it lightly against mine. “Nah, it’s weird. When we’re up here, just you and me and the sky, and all that city bullshit is way down there away from us, it’s like,” you paused there for just long enough to make me think you weren’t going to finish your sentence. “It’s like I should feel alone up here, but I never do. I feel like I’m the opposite of alone.” “Huh,” was all I’d been able to reply with. A few cigarettes later, we stood up and headed for the door to the staircase. We were still silent, but when we got to the door, you reached out and stopped my hand before I could touch the handle. I felt a little dazed then, like I was disconnected from the world, as I turned to face you with a puzzled look on my face. But then you slowly pushed me up against the door and kissed me. Kissing you felt weird, but I didn’t pull away. Instead I returned the kiss, sliding the hand that wasn’t being held at the wrist by yours up to the back of your neck. I remember time feeling fuzzy and slow as we kissed and kissed, lazy and unhurried and both of us tasting like smoke. At some point, I slid down with my back against the door and sat on the ground, and you kneeled over me. Our lips never broke contact for more than a few seconds, and we were completely silent, save for the quiet sounds of breathing in each other’s air. It felt like we were drowning, but in a slow, accepting way. No panic or urge to make it stop, just the slowness of whatever this was washing over us and covering us completely. We wound up sleeping on the roof, tangled up in each other until the sun and the noises of morning in the city
CENTRIPETAL below woke us up. We didn’t speak to each other at all as we pulled our clothes back on. There just wasn’t anything to say. Life went on after that. We went to – and bitched about – work, paid the bills mostly on time, ate too much take-out, smoked too many cigarettes, and stayed out late far more often than we probably should have. We still went up to the rooftop sometimes, too. Every now and then we’d catch each other’s eyes and stop for a minute, grinning everso-subtly, before going back to whatever we were doing. We never really talked about that night, or about the other nights, on the roof and off. And we parted ways at the end of that summer when our lease was up. I went back to grad school, and you went out to California, just like we’d said we would. We emailed each other and talked on the phone every now and then for a couple years, but eventually fell out of touch. I’m still not sure why I’m thinking about that summer, but here I am, sitting on top of the roof of my own house now at 2am, watching the stars we’d never been able to see and smoking our old brand, even though I quit a few years ago. I don’t think I ever told you back then, or if I even knew it at the time, but you were right. Up on that roof, with nothing but us and the sky, and all that bullshit way down there away from us. . . I’ve never felt less alone in my entire life. And tomorrow, when I’m standing in the middle of a crowded room at my wedding reception, and I feel all alone, I’m gonna think of you.
08/23/07 ROB CARUSO â€Ścool night their faces dry with years of smoke and alcohol coffee. the sad murmur of thoughts emptied into each cup black & thick like motor oil coffee. total stranger beds of hours & doubting lives some takes pills to starve away sleep others drink coffee. eyes windows car lights restroom tips change napkin silver ware head lights dishwasher broom door opens veneer light whispers in sad recently divorce footsteps rent is due stay at her sisters canâ€™t be late for work coffee. yarn just got off work wallet not enough for a tip cups are too small & too expensive
CENTRIPETAL i was here two weeks ago coffee. overhead light flickering listen to conversations of course they lied voices soft and brutally obscure fall off the edge of the light only through fears and our dreams are motionless the profound silence of sleep folly of weakness coffee. that limestone taste of regret note book writing canâ€™t look the waitress in the eyes coffee.
EDUCATION BROOKE THORNTON Wandering through a library of souls Staring at lives bound between the covers of books Waiting to be opened If you should choose to reach up and pluck my collection of stories from where it sleeps high in the bookcase, be careful as you brush the dust from its aging bindings As you flip through the pages donâ€™t casually pass by those letters on the page forming the words sentences paragraphs story of my life Do not dismiss my memories for every one is a lesson learned a heart broken a body healed As your eyes glance over my chapters of stories may it add something to your book so that you might pass on a piece of me to someone else
CENTRIPETAL After all, what value does a lesson possess if it is not shared? When you are through I ask that you slowly close the book of my life Listen to the gentle swishing of the pages falling like rain and finally when the last page comes to rest with the soft sound of the cover closing place me back on the shelf to sleep again
FORGIVENESS BROOKE THORNTON Clinging to a shoe; the soft scent of rose petals crushed moments ago.
CONVERSATIONS IN A HOTEL ROOM ROBBIE BINETTE She told me I was going to die alone “If you keep acting like this,” “You’re not going to find anyone ever.” She told me this after I told her I didn’t trust her I looked out onto the city through the window: the garbage lights the fading sunset and I knew it was over I stayed with her that night even though I didn’t want to
EMILY ROBBIE BINETTE The last time I saw Emily was a month or so ago in front of the old Five and Dime on Main Street She was in an argument with the Chinese cashier of The Lucky Dragon about parking her boyfriendâ€™s car out front, her 2 year old daughter was in her arms and seemed too much for her to carry I remember when she got fired from the supermarket and had to drop out of school to take care of her daughter I worried about her after that but she just seemed to have vanished in the meantime even when she lived just next door Well, I saw her this morning walking across Main Street holding her daughter by the hand in the falling snow The little girlâ€™s blue outfit was collecting snowflakes from
CENTRIPETAL the storm and she was smiling Emily and her 19 year old frame that looked like a porn star and every single girl you ever wanted but never had, ruined by the birth of an angel who would have her motherâ€™s bright blue eyes When I leave this town, her ghost will probably still be there on the steps of the Five and Dime holding her child and watching the cars go by, waiting for something, waiting for someone that may never arrive
SECRETS BRITTANY BROCKNER Though hidden, secrets never disappear. A breath of lustful words from mouth to mouth, a whisper lingers faint in each touched ear. Concealed like nude skin under fabric sheer enough to tear, I saw but tried to doubt they were there; secrets never disappear. I saw her eyes flick to yours once, a leer so direct, like a map along a route â€“ a whisper lingers faint in each touched ear. The sweat on the back of your neck, I smeared with my own hands. You thought youâ€™d rubbed it out. Though hidden, secrets never disappear. All the while, you looked at me as sincere as priests look up to crosses, so devout. But whispers lingered faint in each touched ear. Our fallen fragile bond, now weak like mere leaves - hardened, clinging, crumbling, tossed about. Though hidden, secrets always reappear. The lingering whisper taints the listening ear.
THE OCEAN UNDERNEATH
Imitation of Sean Thomas Dougherty’s “The Sky Inside” BRITTANY BROCKNER My mother’s eyelids lift to reveal an ocean underneath. The ocean is green and curls into the sand of a Long Island beach. It is Robert Moses State Park. On the beach of my mother’s iris is a boxer puppy, tugged along on a chain by the small hand of my mother, a thin preteen, a sunburned man squeezes (some brand of sunscreen from the 60s) into his hand under a red and white striped umbrella. A (newspaper) tumbles across my mother’s feet – she winces at a political headline I will learn about in history books, a grimace like that of a mother watching news about a war her son is fighting in, there in her eyes, why the ripples between her brows – then the swell of her throat, a sob like a high tide that causes sand to vanish, I’m beached back into this seat next to her at this oak table. This kitchen. The dim light coming only from a small stained glass chandelier and the small t.v. reports of a helicopter down in Iraq. My brother, she worries. She tries to speak and a thousand unsaid regrets about motherhood pour out onto the table. I say it will be ok, I want to write to my brother. Her hand clutches her drink, then opens, her hand clutches the t.v. remote. The t.v. flashing scenes like a blinking eye. Turning off the t.v. Eyes closed.
SOMETHING IN THE ICE JACK FAHEY Greg’s phone buzzed rhythmically in his pocket, nagging at his thigh from beneath the covers. He twisted awake in the dark, deliriously fishing through his pajama pants for the snooze button. Silencing the alarm, he sank back into the pillow and breathed a long sigh of relief. Five fifteen… I can’t even believe it’s already five fifteen… He willed his eyelids apart and rolled his head to the left. Jamie breathed silently into her hair. Her long bangs had slipped from her ponytail in her sleep. They lay draped across her face as if to veil her eyes from the light of the automatic coffee maker, blinking away in the other room. As quietly as he could manage, Greg pulled the corner of the covers down and slid out into his moccasins as his eyes began to adjust to the darkness of the trailer. He stood slowly, favoring his left leg and then gingerly easing his weight onto his right. As he planted the ball of his foot, a warm ache burst from his right kneecap and spread pulsing down his shin, cruelly climbing his thigh. He held his breath to stifle a pained gasp and waited for the throbbing to subside; leaning one hand against the wall, the faux wood paneling that reminded him every day of just where they were living. Finally he was able to exhale, wipe the cool sweat from his brow and carefully make for the door. Shit… shit… shit… he breathed through gritted teeth at every other step… a riendly game of two-hand-touch my ass… He tiptoed through the bedroom door and pulled it closed behind him. The coffeepot had just finished filling when he emerged into the chilly kitchen, his stiff leg finally beginning to loosen up. He poured himself a cup and then filled his thermos with the rest. He took a cautious sip from the mug as he padded over to the sofa.
CENTRIPETAL All of Greg’s gear was laid out across one cushion of the couch. He sat down with a great sigh of relief, set his mug on the coffee table and picked up the TV remote, turned it on and quickly hit the mute button. The weather channel was already on. Rain in Miami. He kicked off his slippers and pulled on his smartwool socks. Sleet in Michigan. He poked his feet through the legs of his Carharts and hauled them up over his pajamas. Eleven feet of snow in Oswego. He pulled on a sweater and then a hooded sweatshirt over that. Ah, clear skies over New Hampshire, 2°F with 20 MPH winds. He ventured a bigger sip of coffee and gathered up his wallet, phone, and his Leatherman tool and stuffed them all into his pockets. He turned off the tube and stood up, a little more easily this time. Greg threw back the rest of his coffee and grabbed the bag of supplies from the fridge just as Cam was pulling up outside. The digital clock on the coffee machine read 5:28 AM. The sharp winter air singed Greg’s cheeks as he stepped out the door. The snow coated yard was aglow from the fullish moon hovering just over the treetops. Greg carefully closed and locked the front door and walked down to Cam’s pickup. He opened the door, cranked the seatback forward and dropped the plastic sack of groceries on the floor in the back. Greg paused for a moment, then turned and threw a little wave at the trailer where his fiancé still slept. He held his hand extended at arms length for a moment, solemnly; not so much to say good bye but to say good morning, so long and I love you before he dropped it to his side, turned, and climbed up onto the long bench seat inside the warm cab. “You get the beers?” Cam asked, exhaling a long draw from his Marb Ultralight.
CENTRIPETAL “Yeah, and the bacon, the bread, the butter, the forks, the paper towels, an onion, a pepper, garlic…” Cam put the truck in gear and pulled out of the driveway, nodding absently at Greg’s grocery list. He had on thick denim overalls tucked at the knee into his rubber wading boots. The sheepskin collar of his coat hugged the stubble that emerged from his neck and spread over his cheeks. Cam wore a thick goatee that ringed his chapped lips like a brown fuzzy toilet seat cover. “What kinda beer?” “Becks Dark.” Greg picked up the shotgun leaning against the seat between them. He instinctively checked the safety before he eyed the empty chamber, felt the spandex ammo strap stretched around the stock, then set it back with the barrel down at his feet. “Pff,” Cam snorted. “German crap.” Greg cocked an eyebrow in the dim of the dashboard light, shook his head and grinned at his friend. Cam just drank from his Styrofoam coffee cup and pushed on through the darkness beneath the evergreens. “Here, throw the beers in with the firewood,” said Cam as he tied a rope to the Rubbermaid crate. “And grab the ice pick while you’re in there.” “When’s the sun come up?” asked Greg with a grunt as he pulled out the long heavy pole. “I don’t know, in like an hour? We’ll get the fire going, start setting some traps and then I’ll get breakfast going.” Greg set out through the darkness as Cam followed behind him dragging the wood, their feet scrunching on the thin, wind packed snow. The stars were still shining bright, but the yellow moon had dipped behind Mt. Cube before the two pulled up at the edge of the pond. The faint morning light had barely started to edge over the hills to the east as
CENTRIPETAL they reached the bob house door. “Is Davey coming out today?” Greg said, looking over the lonely little hut in the failing light. “Nah, he couldn’t get the morning off. But I talked to Gerad last night, he might swing up.” “I guess he’s finally moving.” “Who, Dave? Is he moving in with what’s-hername?” Cam was fishing through the pockets in his camouflaged jacket. He pulled out a single key, fiddled with the frozen padlock. “Annie, yeah. Well, they’re getting a place out in Bristol. Here…” Greg pulled out his cell phone and flipped it open to cast a faint blue light onto Cam’s numb fumbling hands. “Thanks. Damn… That’s like thirty miles from the farm. He’ll have to be up at four o’clock to make to work on time.” “Yeah, but she got a job at a school down there. One of those… you know, like Montessori schools or whatever. Anyways, he’s amped for any excuse to cruise around in that new truck of his.” At last, the key clicked into place and the bolt sprung free. Cam pocketed the lock and flipped the mitten-flap over his bare fingers. “That still sucks. What’s he thinking, anyways? He hates that chick’s guts.” “Maybe when he’s with you. He knows how you feel about her guts,” said Greg as he slipped his phone back into his pants pocket. Cam pulled open the door and stepped up into the little building. “Nuh uh. I don’t even think about her guts. Did I tell you what she did, dude? I sent Davey home with a venison steak, a real nice cut, and do you know what she did with it? She threw it out, man. Just tossed it in the dumpster.” He lit a match and put it to a Coleman lantern, then lit a cig with
CENTRIPETAL it. The bob house filled with white flickering light and Greg got his first look around the little room. His breath fogged thickly in the bitter cold, cast as it was in the light from the gas lamp. “Well dude, you know what she thinks of hunting. Hey, nice oven. That thing work?” “Hell yeah it works. In fact… here, take this propane tank and screw it on outside.” Greg took the ice cold canister in his gloved hands and stepped back out onto the thick ice. “Anyway, fuck that, she was probably stuffing a cheeseburger in her fat face while she dumped out that steak,” Cam called through the thin wall. “She eats meat, alright. She just doesn’t like to think about how you get it.” Greg could hear the cast-iron creak of the woodstove door swinging open as he struggled to fit the gas hose onto the tank’s nozzle. Finally, he had to pull off his gloves with his teeth to manipulate the cap and screw it down tight. “Ok, I got it. Try it out. But hey, isn’t your woman tight with Annie?” “They were never tight, even in high school. Definitely not now.” …Now that you’re married, you mean… Greg smiled as he came inside and rubbed his hands over the crackling fire. “Sun’s on its way up,” he said, just to change the subject. “Nice. Let’s get these holes punched and then we’ll start breakfast,” and he handed Greg the ice pick and turned to gather up the traps. Greg emerged from the tidy little shack with the long sharpened pole slung over his shoulder and glanced to the faint light in the east. He set off over the ice to the nearest hole, long frozen over since the last time they’d been used. He stood straddling the hole and began to beat the pointed end against the perfect smooth circle. “Hey, aren’t you supposed to use a big drill for this?”
CENTRIPETAL “Yeah, but my brother broke the auger the last time he was up here,” Cam called over the ice, dropping the folded wooden traps beside the frozen holes as he passed them. “Don’t worry, that ice should only be a few inches thick.” “How about the rest of the ice we’re standing on?” “Oh, I’d say about fifteen inches or so. More than enough to hold.” Cam returned with a trap and the minnow bucket in hand as Greg finally pierced through the ice. Slushy water bubbled up through the crack. He swung the pick around and started to widen the hole with the flat chisel end. “It seems like every year there’s someone in the paper with their truck in the lake.” “Yeah, but that’s usually just some Masshole who thought he could drive across some little inlet in the middle of March,” Cam explained as he loosened the wing nuts that held the trap closed. He splayed out the legs into a cross that would sit over the hole and let the reel drop into the water. “This is the part that sucks,” he said as he pulled off his mitten and plunged his bare hand into the bucket. He came up with a little bait fish wriggling between is fingers. “See, you just take your minnow and put the hook through under the dorsal fin here, right beneath the spine. Don’t go too far down and gut-hook him though.” “The fish don’t like dead minnows, huh?” Cam set the flag, pulled his mitten back over his shivering hand and laughed “Yeah, you’ll be watching this trap all day long and it’ll never spring.” He capped the bait bucket and stood up with a groan. “Alright, a couple more of these and then I’ll throw down some bacon and eggs.” Greg stoked the little fire as Cam started the stovetop and put on some water to boil. “The flames died out while we were out, but there’s a nice bed of coals here.” “Yeah, that’s a good stove. Ron got that thing for
CENTRIPETAL twenty bucks outta some old ladies yard in Hebron. You want coffee?” “Yah, big time. How about that whiteboard?” All along one wall of the little room was a dry-erase board with a running tally of fish the Brower brothers had pulled up. Greg sat down on a low wooden bench against the wall opposite the scoreboard. “Heh. You like that? Did you see all that construction at the elementary school down the road? Well, that was just laying out in the yard and we scooped it right up. Pretty much this whole house was built for nothing.” “Pretty impressive. Has Crystie been out here?” “No way. She hates this shit. The cold, the early hours, everything. She won’t even cook the fish I bring home. She’ll lock herself up in the bedroom while I fix it up.” “Doesn’t she like fish?” “Oh yeah, loves it. She just can’t deal with the heads and whatnot. The eye staring up at her creeps her the hell out.” Cam dropped half a dozen eggs in a bowl. Then he started tearing up Swiss cheese between his fingers, dropped it in and stirred the whole mess up. Cam then pulled the bacon from the sizzling pan and laid it out across a paper towel to cool. “Sorta like Annie with the steak, huh?” Greg poured hot coffee into the cap from his thermos. “Not even, dude. Crys’ is cool with my rack mounts up on the wall and my guns and everything. She just thinks fish are gross.” “Yeah. Reminds me of that song: ‘it’s okay to eat fish ‘cause they don’t have any feeling.’” “Don’t know that one,” grunted Cam as he dumped the eggs into the pan of bacon grease. Just then, he looked up, out through the frosted window above the stove. “Dude, we got a flag. Here, you watch these eggs, I’m gonna go
CENTRIPETAL check it,” and he ran mittenless out the door. Greg stood in front of the stove, flipped the eggs and looked out the long, narrow window which Cam had pulled from the cap on his father’s old truck. Cam’s silhouette disappeared into the glare cast on the frost-patterned glass by the rising sun. Greg flipped the latch open and slid the cold panes apart to see out onto the ice. The sharp sting of cold air rushed in and bit at his cheeks as he shaded his eyes with one cupped hand. Cam had just reached the hole where the flag was still waving gaily in the blowing cold. He dropped to his knees, pulled the trap out onto the ice and started reeling in the line. Greg squinted to see Cam pull out the end of the line; a good-sized fish emerged from the water, flailing helplessly on the hook. Cam raised his catch up triumphantly for Greg to see, then reached into his coat pocket with his free hand. He pulled out a tape measure, laid the gasping fish flat on the ground, pinning the flapping tail with his boot. He stretched out the tape, quickly checked the fish’s length, then pulled the hook from its lip and dropped it headfirst back into the hole. As Cam began to walk jauntily back towards the bob house, Greg returned his attention to the scrambling eggs. The grease from the bacon was mixing in with the fluffy, cheesy eggs and his stomach grumbled greedily. He opened up the loaf of bread and set out some slices for toast. Upon opening up the oven door, however, he found it was full of pots and pans, tools, playing cards and tittie magazines. “Nineteen inch pickerel,” Cam boasted as he burst through the door. “Not too shabby if I say so myself.” He grabbed a marker from the dry erase board, plucked off the cap between his teeth and added a dash where it read Pick under his name. “You’re not keeping that one?” “No way, I only bring home the real winners.
CENTRIPETAL Oh, don’t bother with that oven, the bottom part don’t work,” Cam said as he rubbed his hands together over the woodstove. “Yeah, I wa—“ “Shit, dude, flag!” Cam cut in suddenly. “That one’s you, son!” Greg dropped the spatula in the pan, pulled on his work gloves and stepped out into the wind. He jogged across the snow to the sprung trap as Cam called out through the open window, “Hurry your ass up, you’re gonna lose ‘im!” He couldn’t run too fast though, for fear of tweaking his knee. When he got to the trap, he squatted down over the hole and tried to remove the reel from the water, but the surface had already frozen over. He punched at the thin ice with his fist until the trap was free, then gently pulled it up. He whipped off his glove and felt the line in his palm; there was definitely some pressure on the other end. He started pulling it in, hand over hand, trying not to yank the hook out of the fish’s mouth. In a moment he could see a large shape hanging from the end of the line as it emerged from the darkness below. Exhilarated, he towed it up and out of the water, but quickly his spirits collapsed as he saw what he’d caught. Dejected, he freed the minnow from the tangle of weeds that had snagged on the hook and plunked it back into the hole. He wound up the line, reset the trap and started to trudge back to the bob house. “Broken man, coming through!” Cam laughed from the bob house door. He could scarcely contain his glee. “How’s that for a walk of shame?” “Bite it, Cameron.” “Whoa ho ho! Listen to this guy. Get that sand out of your vagina and come have a cup of coffee. There’ll be
CENTRIPETAL more flags.” But there weren’t more flags. After the initial flurry of action a lull fell over the traps as the wind stirred up to an even gale across the pond. The two sat and ate breakfast, drank beer and shot the shit for over two hours, periodically peering out the windows. Greg still felt deflated from his first failure, but he had The Fever now; he looked out each of the windows between hands of cribbage, eagerly awaiting the next flag. Over the sound of the roaring wind against the walls and the crackling fire in the woodstove, he could faintly hear a small engine revving. It sounded like a chainsaw, or maybe a snowmobile. At last, at around nine o’clock, Greg ventured a glance out one of the side windows and sprang suddenly to his feet, spilling his cards across the floor. “Flag!” he said as he started for the door, but Cam was already stepping past him. “Yep. My flag,” said Cam, not trying to hide the hint of mirth in his voice. Shit thought Greg as he followed his friend out the door. Oh well… He didn’t really care if he brought home any fish, but he did want to land at least one before they packed it in for the day. As Cam ran on ahead, Greg walked casually behind him, taking in his surroundings for the first time since sunup. A thin fog rose from the ice and lingered at the foot of the snowy hills which glowed gold in the west. The edge of the pond was lined with thick brush and trees, with cottages poking out of the woods at staggered intervals. He could see that the closest cottage was inhabited. About a hundred yards away from their range of ice holes, Greg spotted a line of traps stretching straight out from the shore. They started about fifty feet out and continued regularly about ten yards apart towards the middle of
CENTRIPETAL the pond. He realized that the engine he’d heard was undoubtedly their neighbor running his auger, punching his own holes. “Look at that guy’s setup,” said Greg as he approached Cam, who was cautiously testing the line, waiting for the fish to tug at it. Cam glanced up at the row of traps and nodded, turning his attention back to his own hole. “That dude is just sitting in his cabin, looking out the window with his feet up. He can walk straight out and check all his traps while we’re walking all over this damn pond.” “Yeah, but we got a better shot of catching some perch, maybe even trout. I’ve got my money on those traps we’ve got by that little inlet on the other side.” Cam said, pointed to the holes beyond the bob house. Just then, a low groan emanated from the ice. “Whoa, what was that?” “That sound? Yeah, it’s creepy, but it’s actually a good thing. That’s the sound of ice forming underwater. It’s ok.” Greg noticed then that the surface of the ice was actually laced with faint pressure cracks that stretched all across the pond. Apparently, the ice sheet was constantly shifting beneath their feet. Suddenly, Cam scrambled around onto his belly, looking straight down into the water and let a little line slide out from his fist. “What are you doing?” “I’m gonna try to jig this fucker.” His muffled voice echoed from the hole as he spoke. “What?” laughed Greg, bending down to see past Cam’s head. “He just nibbled at it. The minnow’s still swimming on the hook. I want to watch him so I can see when a fish takes the bait. Then I can snatch him right up,” he explained from his prone position. Greg watched over Cam’s shoulder for a moment before the bitter cold started to creep in
CENTRIPETAL through all his layers of warm clothes. He stood up, rubbing his shoulders; more of an unconscious reaction than an actual means to warm up. “Yeah, well, you let me know how that goes. I’m gonna go check the fire.” “Uh huh,” mumbled Cam, barely listening. He was intent on the murky darkness below, his eyes straining to see the fish come back for the minnow it left behind. Greg walk listlessly back to the bob house, again taking it all in. Though he pretty much lived in the woods, he rarely felt as though he ever got out. He hadn’t been fishing since he was a kid, on ice or otherwise. He’d pretty much been working since the day he graduated three years ago. And sure, he’d gone for a hike once in a while with Jaime, but she was more of a hothouse flower herself. As Greg approached the little shack with its tin chimney pouring white smoke, he took a long, deep breath of the fresh air to freeze his throat and burn his lungs. This really is the life, he reflected, amused at his own private little cliché. Just as he put his hand on the iron door latch, Greg heard the sound of an approaching engine, and looked back over his shoulder to the shore. A great big truck, one of those newer Toyotas, was just cresting the hill. The monster machine lumbered out of the woods, pulled off the one-lane road past Cam’s parked truck and rolled down onto the ice. As it approached, Greg could hear, or rather feel the great pulse of bass emanating from the truck’s stereo. He saw the white Massachusetts plate on the bumper and couldn’t help but roll his eyes. The tinted driver’s side window slid down like a state trooper looking over his over his mirrored shades and the driver leaned his elbow on the door and asked
CENTRIPETAL “Hey, how ah’ yah?” “Good, ‘n you?” “Ahright, ahright,” the man nodded. “So how deep’s the ice out theah?” “About 15 inches out there,” Greg said, pointing towards Cam, still lying face down on the ice. The man turned and exchanged some words with the guy sitting shotgun. Greg could just see the Bruins logo on the back of his jacket before he looked back and said “Ahright, that’ll do’ah.” With a final nod, he flicked the switch to roll his window back up and threw the truck in gear. He continued to drive across the pond, the thumping bass fading as he pulled further and further away. Greg stared after them a minute longer before he shook his head in astonishment, pulled the latch and walked in the door. The heat of the bob house was wonderful on Greg’s tingling cheeks. He held his hands over the hot stove for a moment before opening up the gate and stuffing in a couple more big logs. Then he pulled a deep pot from a hook on the wall, filled it with water from a plastic jug and set it on top of the stove. He took the greasy, eggy pan from the stove and dropped it into the pot to soak. It was getting almost unbearably hot in the little room, so Greg slipped off his jacket and hung it on the wall, unzipped his sweatshirt, then sat down on a stool and started to flip idly through one of the girly mags. He glanced up just in time to see Cam out the window, standing up at the last hole in their little camp to talk to the driver of the truck from Mass before it pulled away, out to the center of the pond. Cam looked after them, scratching his head, and then went about resetting the trap. A few minutes later, Cam came stomping in through
CENTRIPETAL the door, dusting off the snow on his thighs, already in the middle of an irritated rant. “…of the dumb sons of bitches… Fucking flatlanders stinking up my pond. Hey, did you see those assholes?” Greg looked up from the magazine, amused. “Hah, yeah. They wanted to know how much ice there was.” “Motherfuckers asked me the same shit. God damn. Know what, we oughta paint ‘DON’T MASS UP NEW HAMPSHIRE’ in big letters on the front of the bob house. Show them what’s up.” “I don’t think they’d be able to read it till they got here, but yeah, that’s a good idea.” “Fuckin’ A. And did you hear all that bass? They’re gonna scare away all the fish,” Cam went on, looking out the window. “And now look! They’ve got dogs!” Greg glanced up. They did indeed have a couple of dogs blissfully running around the parked truck. They’d probably been in the back of that truck for a few hours now and had a good deal of steam to blow off. Cam paced around, agitated, then reached into the box of firewood and pulled out a beer. As he popped off the cap with the buckle of his belt, he craned his neck out the other window to get glimpse at their neighbor’s traps. “Look at that poor bastard. I haven’t seen one flag over there all morning, and he’s been here a few hours now. Oh, what do you know? You got a flag yourself there, Greggy,” he said, seeming to forget about the dogs and everything. “No shit, where?” said Greg, pulling his coat back on. “Right out here, c’mon,” said Cam, excitedly leading the way. As they reached the trap, the reel was spinning out
CENTRIPETAL line like crazy, jerking the whole trap around in the hole. “Alright, now just pull out the trap and set it to the side. Don’t try to reel it in right away, just let him take it a bit, then you can give’er a tug and really get that hook in there.” Cam was bent over with his hands on his knees, just as keyed up as Greg was as he held the line in his bare palm, allowing the line to play out a little. Then he gripped it tight and gave it a tentative pull, felt the weight at the other end. “Oh, he’s on there,” Greg exclaimed as he continued to pull in the line. “Oh yeah, he’s fighting me for sure!” “Nice, nice. Don’t yank it, just pull it in nice and easy. You should see him in a second.” Then just like that, Greg spotted the fish swim up out of the shadowy gloom, whipping back and forth on the line, trying to get away. “Here he comes. Looks like a striped perch. Good sized one too.” Greg gave one more haul on the line and the fish burst into the air, flapping and spraying water all over the place. Greg grabbed the perch firmly by the body, trying to free the hook. Suddenly, the fish writhed violently in his hand and his palm flashed with pain. “Jesus Christ!” yelled Greg, dropping the fish onto the ice and gripping his left wrist, staring at the blood pouring from a deep cut that ran from the base of his thumb all across the palm. “Oh shit dude, you gotta watch that dorsal fin,” Cam said as he hastily scooped up the fish. “See, you have to pin the fin down like this, or else… see? Those spikes along the edge are razor sharp. Watch out when you pull the hook, too, cause they’ll bite’cha. Nasty teeth.” Cam deftly removed the hook and examined Greg’s catch. Greg tried to pay attention but couldn’t quite get over the searing gash in his hand. “Whoa, this momma’s pregnant!” said Cam. He held
CENTRIPETAL the fish belly-up in front of Greg’s face. “See the egg sack down below the tail fin? My brother Gerad will squeeze those eggs right out onto a cracker or some toast and eat it right there and then,” he said with an amused grimace. “We’ll just let her back before she freezes; get some more fish up in this pond.” He gently eased the swollen perch back into the water and watched her as she swam away. Suddenly he jumped back from the hole with a gasp. “Whoa, did you see that?” He leaned back in to look into the water, but Greg was still intent on his injury, the slashed skin stinging in the cold air. “No, man, I didn’t see anything. I gotta clean this out, get it wrapped up.” “Well something just took down that perch. It was huge, whatever it was.” “What was it, another fish?” “Probably, I couldn’t tell. Something black just passed under the hole and when it went by, the perch was gone.” “So you didn’t see anything, then.” Greg said, starting back to camp while Cam remained, his eyes straining through the deep murk. Inside the bob house once again, Greg searched for a first aid kit. C’mon, what kind of shitty outpost is this? he thought irritably, peering up over the rafters under the roof, searching through the cooking supplies and fishing tools. Finally he opened up the oven and found the white tin box under an issue of Swank. He sat down on the bench and set the kit on his lap. He sprung the latches, opened the lid and sifted through the box with his right hand for some gauze, tape and antiseptic cream. After treating and wrapping the gash, he stood up and looked out over the ice. Cam was on his knees, having reset
CENTRIPETAL the trap Greg had pulled in, with the line in his hand. He was tugging the line gently to make the minnow dance. In his rapt attention to the circle of water between his knees, he had failed to notice the trap behind him with its flag standing straight up behind him. Greg slid open the window to yell out at him. “Cam!” he called, but Cam had his head down and his back to the house; that far out, he couldn’t hear. “CAM! FLAG!” That got his attention. He sat back and craned his neck to look around. “What!” “Flag! You’ve got a flag back here!” There’s no way I’m pulling his trap, not with this hand. Greg had more or less decided to sit back the rest of the day and drink his beers in the comfort of the bob house. Just as he was thinking this, he noticed that Cam had not stood up from the hole. In fact, he was leaning down into it; he appeared to be struggling with the fishing line. Just before Greg was about to call out at him, he saw Cam abruptly slam face-first to the ice. It looked like his arm had been tugged suddenly up to the shoulder into the hole. Jesus, he must have seen a monster fish down there after all Greg thought as put his tender hand through the sleeve of his jacket then pulled it on the rest of the way. How big can a fish really get in this little pond? He pulled on his gloves and ran out the door and onto the ice. Cam really seemed to be fighting hard, bracing his free hand on the ice and pulling at his left hand, still submerged in the cold water. Again, he was jerked to the ice; this time it looked like he might just lose it. As Greg got closer, he could see Cam’s face was contorted with pain, his cheek pressed against the ice. “Christ, Cam just let it go if it’s that big!” Greg cried
CENTRIPETAL over the distance. “The son of a bitch probably won’t even fit through the hole!” But Cam didn’t answer. He continued to strain, trying unsuccessfully to yank his arm out of the water. Greg was still thirty yards from Cam when he started to hear him groaning. He was actually writhing helplessly on the ice when he suddenly shuddered violently. Then he started to scream. Greg finally arrived at the frightening scene and dropped to his knees next to Cam, ignoring the flash of pain in his right leg. He grabbed Cam’s jacket with both hands and pulled, but Cam was fastened to the ice, his arm disappearing into the churning black hole. Greg’s feet slipped on the ice as he scrambled for leverage against the beast underwater, but he couldn’t make any headway. “Come on Cam, let go of it!” yelled Greg, but Cam just kept on screaming and squirming. His shoulder was being pulled further into the hole, up to the armpit, the jagged edge of the hole scraping his neck until there was a very loud pop like a cap gun going off under Cam’s jacket. Greg felt the sickening jolt as he heard it. He quickly let go, then wrapped one arm around Cam’s neck and the other under his armpit. He heaved with all his might, but could feel Cam slipping still further into the hole, his head cocked at an awful angle against his shoulder. More snaps and pops from within Cam’s ribcage accompanied his earsplitting shrieks that fogged continually out of his distorted mouth. A loud crack shook his back and his limbs dropped twitching onto the ice. Despite his horror, Greg could not stop trying to pull Cam free. Then, just like a stereo cuts out when the power is pulled, Cam’s screaming abruptly stopped with one great snap from deep within his neck. He let out one gurgling sigh as his torso was pulled deeper into the whole, his bones giving way to the hard ice and the tremendous force below. Cam’s head folded back
CENTRIPETAL between his shoulders, his chin jutting awkwardly out against the ice. Greg fell back to a sitting position, his face drained of all color as he stared with helpless revulsion. Then, with one last crash of shattered bones and a tearing of skin and clothing, Cam’s body was dragged through the ice, his right arm pinned between his limp body and the barrel of the ice hole. He stuck for a moment when his hips caught on the edge before his pelvis snapped in two and his rubber boots disappeared into the churning black water. Greg couldn’t move. He couldn’t stand, couldn’t cry out, couldn’t even blink. He just gaped at the hole in the ice, ringed with a mess of fresh blood and shreds of flesh. Before long, the crimson water settled and was calm again. He puked his breakfast into his lap before he knew what was happening, then turned to his side and continued to vomit onto the snow. Gradually, as the adrenaline left his system, the pain in his slashed palm and his bum knee started to come back to him. He lay on the ice, panting and weeping and drooling into his collar. He couldn’t take his eyes off the bloody hole that had just swallowed his best friend. He lay and cried for a minute or two longer before he was able to pull himself up to a sitting position and try to figure out what to do now. Just then, he heard the distant thwap! of one of the traps going off behind him. He paid no heed until he heard another trap spring a second later. He looked back, bewildered as all the other traps they had set started to go off in succession all around him. He got to his feet despite the pain coursing through his whole body, and gawked at all the reflective flags waving in the breeze. Then Greg started to run.
CENTRIPETAL He ran across the ice through the pinching pain in his knee, back to the truck. He wiped his eyes as he ran and then reached into his pocket, trying to find his phone. He arrived at the shore, finally freeing the phone from his pants only to flip it open and find that he had no phone service out here. Of course not. He stuffed it back in his pocket and wrenched open the door to the truck. He got inside and turned the key already in the ignition, then thought, Alright, where do I go? First, he decided to try their neighbor in the cabin on the shore. He drove down onto the ice and traversed the edge of the pond until he pulled to a stop in front of the little house. He stepped back out into the wind and made his way up the path and pounded on the front door. No answer. He leaned over, looking anxiously through the window. He couldn’t see anybody, so he tried the doorknob. The rustic little room was empty. A quilt lay draped over the arm of a rocking chair in front of the window. Behind it on the counter, a little teapot sat on a hotplate. Greg noticed that the plate was on, walked over and looked in the pot only to find it was empty and dry. Without thinking about it, he flicked off the switch on the hotplate and then looked out the back door. It opened up on a salty old Subaru station wagon parked behind the cabin. “Hello?” he called. Still no sign. Fuck this, I’ll just go check with those guys in the truck. He walked back down to Cam’s truck. It was then that he noticed that all the old man’s traps were sprung too, the neon yellow flags waving gently in the wind. Where the hell is this guy? he thought as he swung back into the truck and pulled out across the ice, following the traps toward the middle of the pond. Greg was thinking of all the fish that must be hanging on the hooks beneath these traps when he reached the last hole and all the blood rushed from his face once again. His stomach sank as he looked
CENTRIPETAL down through his window at the corona of blood spreading out from the open hole, already crusted over with a fresh layer of ice. Greg floored it across the ice, then breaking and sliding sickeningly to a stop at the truck parked in the middle of the pond. The first thing he noticed as he approached was that the two dogs were no longer chasing each other around in circles across the ice. Then he saw that all the traps around the truck had all gone off as well. He couldn’t shake that sinking feeling as he pulled up along side the towering Toyota. He got out and walked up to the door. He took a deep breath and tapped on the glass, waited for a response before pulling the door handle. He didn’t know if he really expected the two men to be in there, maybe drinking coffee and playing cards, but he was not at all surprised to find it empty. He stood there for a moment longer, completely at a loss for what to do next when he heard a whimpering sound. He pulled himself up to the cab and looked in the back. Through the back window, he could see with surprising relief the two dogs curled up together in the bed of the truck. Just then, a thunderclap rang out from beneath the ice and the truck lurched and dropped, bucking Greg off the runner and onto his back on the ice. He sat up gasping, the wind knocked from his lungs. The truck had sunk into the ice up to the front bumper, the wheels half submerged as the water bubbled up from the fissure in the ice. The dogs were standing up in the back with their front paws on the tailgate, barking and whining. Then the truck began to pitch further forward and both dogs slid along the bed and came to rest against the back window. Greg regained his breath and sprang to his feet. He ran to the back of the truck and pulled down the tailgate. “Here boys!” he called at the dogs. “C’mon, if you don’t wanna drown!” The larger collie got back up and was
CENTRIPETAL able to run up the slick slant of the sinking truck bed and jump down to the solid ice, but the smaller dog, couldn’t get a footing on the slippery surface. Greg glanced under the bumper to see how far the truck had sunk, then hopped up into the bed and slid down to the terrier crying among the tarps and tools in the corner of the truck. He lifted the dog up and dropped it right over the side, then stood shakily, putting his hands on the slanted roof for support. Looking over the hood of the truck, he could see into the open water. To his amazement, he saw a mass of dark, ethereal fingers licking up out of the water and brushing against the wheel-wells and reaching over the fender. Shocked by this bizarre vision, he turned and leapt for the open tailgate above him. He pulled himself over the edge and fell once again to the ice. Beneath the chassis he could see the same smoky tendrils emerging from the water; they were waving over the undercarriage, seemingly trying to latch onto the drive train, grasping at the exhaust system. Suddenly, the whole sheet of thick ice he was laying on gave way and dipped into the gaping smoky hole. Greg stopped himself from slipping down the slope and into the frigid water below by planting his foot on the rear wheel of the truck. He then pulled himself off the dipping ramp and down onto solid ice. The two dogs were standing back from the truck, growling and cowering from the inky aberration that seemed to be engulfing the whole truck. Greg got to his feet and ran back to Cam’s pickup, pulled open the door and called to the dogs, “Here boys! C’mon, get in!” The dogs looked up from their master’s truck, hesitated a moment, then ran straight past Greg and into the front seat. He reached past them and pulled out the 12 gauge, plucked a shell from the stock and slid it into the chamber. He pumped the handle, threw the safety and turned back to the massive hole in the ice.
CENTRIPETAL The cab of the giant Toyota was now completely submerged, the thick black fog flooding into the bed of the truck and spreading back, seeming to search along every surface for other creatures to absorb. Before long, the whole rear end had disappeared into the twisting darkness before him. Greg raised the gun and trained it on the center of the black mass. The fog crept eagerly up the ramp of ice as if it knew he was there. Without another second’s hesitation, Greg steadied the barrel and squeezed the trigger. The blast of scatter shot bored a hollow straight through the malevolent anomaly and splashed across the surface of the water, but it seemed to have as much effect as a hand waved through a ribbon of smoke rising from a cigarette. The ebony mist quickly found itself again, reformed and rushed onward at Greg’s feet. He backpedaled swiftly, reloading the shotgun even as he knew it was fruitless. He pumped another round home and fired it again with the same result. The thick fog recoiled silently in the wake of the deafening blast before the wispy coils of smoke regrouped and pushed onward. “Fuck this,” Greg breathed and turned to get into the truck, but as he pivoted, he felt a sharp pop in his right knee and his leg buckled beneath him. He dropped to the ice and cried out in agony. He tried to stand, but couldn’t even move his right leg. He started to crawl, leaving the shotgun on the ice, desperately making his way back to the truck. He could actually feel the tendrils of mist licking at his heels, trying to suck him back. He raced forward, crawling commando-style until he reached the truck, grabbed the door frame and pulled himself up into the seat. As the fervent tentacles of smoke crept up into the truck, Greg slammed the door shut on them, severing them from the cloud’s body. They seemed to twist in pain before they drifted limply up, coiling against the ceiling and began to fade.
CENTRIPETAL Greg turned the key and the truck sprang to life. Luckily, this truck was an automatic; Cam had never bothered to learn to drive a stick. Greg threw the pickup into Drive and stomped on the gas with his left foot. The wheels spun on the ice and the tail end swung around freely before the tires found some traction and tore across the ice, away from the grasping cloud pouring out of the pond behind him. Greg couldn’t breathe easy as long as he was still on the ice field. He looked up into the rearview mirror in time to see the last of the black cloud sink back into the hole. Suddenly, he felt the truck shudder, then swerve. He looked out the window to see that the ice beneath him was cracking up in a jagged line from the hole in the center of the pond all the way to the shore. The mist still wouldn’t let him go, was in fact tearing up the entire pond trying to sink him. Greg pressed down harder on the throttle while trying to maintain control on the undulating ice. At last the truck plowed through the snow bank at the shore and up onto dry land. Greg pulled his foot off the gas and hit the brakes. The dogs bounced against the dashboard with a yelp as the truck skidded to a stop. Greg took one last look at the pond and saw the thin black wisps poking up out of the spider webbed surface of the pond, still searching for prey. He tried in vain not to think about the four lives that pond had swallowed up today, tried to block out the ache he was already feeling at the thought of Cam’s grisly death as he sat alone in his best friend’s truck. Eventually, he wiped his eyes, put the pickup in gear and pulled out onto the one lane road into the forest, absentmindedly scratching the collie beside him behind the ears.
������ ���������� �������� ���������������������������������� ���������������� ���������������������� ������������������������������������������� ������������������
�������������������������������������������� ����������������� �������������� ������������������������ �������������������������