â€˜Tis strange -- but true; for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction. Lord Byron
Volume 11 F Issue 2
C o -E ditors
Alexandria Cappello Lisa A. Riley
L ayout M anager Veronica Musch
Alexandria Cappello Lisa A. Riley Kristen Leigh Russell Haley Sciola
E ditorial A dvisors Dr. Liz Ahl Dr. Paul Rogalus
A ssociate E ditors Michael DiTommaso Janel Forcier Spencer Jackson Liz Rufiange Kristen Leigh Russell Haley Sciola Jennifer Streeter
C over A rt â€œ Mollyâ€?
Lisa A. Riley
Cover Design Nathan Gagne
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. Four submissions per category may be submitted for each individual: Prose of any length; poetry 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 in Rich Text Format (RTF), Document (DOC, not DOCX), or JPEG to poetswriters@mail. plymouth.edu. 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 and 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, and the PSU English and Art Departments. We would especially like to thank Dr. Liz Ahl and Dr. Paul Rogalus, our advisors, without whom this would not have been possible.
C entripetal is printed by True C olors P rint and D esign 57 M ain Street P lymouth , NH (603) 536-3600
Poets and Writers 19 Highland Ave. Suite A14 Plymouth, NH 03264 (603) 535-2236 email@example.com
Contents Vo l u m e 1 1 F I s s u e 2 1
The Boy Rolls Down the Hill
Lisa A. Riley
270 Oak Street
17 riding from reno with a Kimberly Paniagua 18 Fallen
19 Boundless Boarders
27 Retail Bitch
31 Minuscule Mayhem in Dorm Dungeons
32 Stale Mate
36 The Silence of Thoughts Kayley Fouts 37 For WSB, III
38 Ice Cream
48 Barroom Humor
49 Bad Kitty
53 Second-rate Love Poem
54 Rain Upon the Roof
56 Welcome Home
58 Walking Out
63 Urban Warefare Acid Trip Kevin Matthews 65 A Dusty Fury
68 Anywhere But Here
70 how the Santa Anaâ€™s destroyed my home 71 Time Bomb
Kimberly Paniagua Carley Barton
Fleeting Freedom Liz Rufiange
Long days were spent together in the heat seeking shelter in the shadows that fall from the giant oak who stands sentinel in the front yard. We can’t stay still under the sun that beats our shoulders red, but we tough it out, for we mean to escape the oppressive indoors and the eyes of our caretakers. We count with eyes peeking through fingers and skipping numbers. Heat settles in our bones, making us impatient and ready and mean for the chase, anxious for the seeking and the fall of those who hide. The chaser listens for the heart beats of kids who are partially shielded behind the swing set because they can’t find better hiding spots. We are all fluent speakers in the losers cant. When one is found who takes a tantrum, our eyes squint and we shriek our laughter at the loser who beats the ground in anger. Our individual losses are forgotten in the heat of the other’s failure, overlooking times when we spoke similar tongues; we fall and trip clutching our sides. We were mean salespeople from the start. With twisted and mean smiles, we heckle passersby unmercifully until we can’t screech our slogan—“Lemonade: 25 Cents!”—without noticing the fall of our cracking voices. We watch with starving eyes as our collection of quarters grows, already imagining the heat that is quelled in the air-conditioned arcade and the beats that blare from the stereos. To each of us, we are the conqueror who beats everyone and wins the most tickets, which will mean bragging rights and prizes and will be the prompting of many heat fueled bickerings. We salivate over the prizes that can’t be won. Go-Karts and toys—taller than our six years of growth— make our eyes glaze and our hopes never fall.
Centripetal Alas! How quickly we stumble and fall back to reality with finger puppet prizes that only beats penny candy on the prize scale. Eyebrows furrow and eyes flood, feet stomp and fists clench, we mean to broadcast to all that some prizes can’t be won. We snivel and shuffle back out into the oppressive heat. Heat cools before we decree it, and soon the leaves shrivel and fall. We can’t catch the sun and the cold beats us until we’re mean and numb, staring towards school gates with wary eyes.
America Ben DiZoglio America, must you bombard me with your attitude? This idealism is too much. I am overwhelmed. Your inaction is devastating. Everyday more people are obliterated. My ideas are not for sale. I am for sale. America, Why must I whore myself? I simply wish to exist In peace. I’m taking back my life from The unwavering masses who want me to blend in Or become a monster and make their plastic lives seem sane. America, why do you bask and boast Over successes that never last? Your failures echo In my heart of mold. Bacteria devours your refusal Of equal rights for your out of the closet citizens. When will you be worthy of the millions whose love does not surrender To your Occasional Christian ethics? I won’t ask, America, Because I know you won’t tell. My green, rotting heart feasts upon the maniacal way You stare at the followers of Islam. It must be the religion Driving them to madness. Some evil cult. It couldn’t be desperation, Hunger, poverty, religious persecution, Or a government that ignores them. Could these minor Restraints really warrant violence? America you were once a terrorist Rampaging against these same wicked crimes, have you forgotten? Your selfishness is a disaster America. Once you stood Tall and proud. You revolted against foreign rule Only to then incarcerate your own villages in Africa. As a child light pierced my eyes And gave me strength. Now disgrace is all I feel. Your carelessness knows no end. The spread of fake democracy, And American neo-Imperi-coloni-alism painted into the mural Of radiating freedom, life, liberty, and the pursuit Of capitalism. dizoglio
Centripetal Korean lives, Afghan lives, Vietnamese lives, even American lives All disposable to defeat them reds. As if destroying One nation you labeled as red was not enough. America, do you still have goals? Must I destroy All that I love to free myself from your grip or Should I simply give up? Like the brilliant sun Which rises expecting nothing I will continue to trudge Painfully through your quicksand floor that tries to swallow me.
The Boy Rolls Down the Hill Nate Graziano Drunk for the first time on Booneâ€™s Farm wine, the boy pukes in the backyard at the party. He pukes on the shoes of a football star with biceps like kegs. The football star shoves the boy to the ground and kicks his ribs until the boy starts to scream. Meanwhile, the blonde girl, who the boy wants to impress, watches and winces. At the top of a small hill, the boy lifts himself to his hands and his knees. Seeing the boy teed up, the football star kicks him one last time, and the boy starts to roll. He tastes the grass as the night skyâ€”a strobe light flashes in front of him. The boy rolls and rolls until the man hits the fence sixteen years later.
A lessa ndr a, Lisa A. Riley
270 Oak Street Spencer Jackson Careful now, the foil bent and molded in my hands which moved fluidly around the giant green cucumber. We’d gotten a food shipment a week early, and everything had to be wrapped and stored away. I can’t say it was the first thing I wanted to do, but it was slow and I was hungover, so I didn’t really mind. After adding some extra aluminum foil to the top, I stood back to look at the work I’d done so far. The next part would be hard. I rubbed my chin and contemplated what materials I had to my disposal; ending up with a pair of fist-sized red onions. I wrapped them in foil as well and used a separate piece to connect the two spheres to the base of the cucumber. Standing back once again, I reveled in the glory of success. My morning’s work had become art. “Hey Spence,” Alec, a tall, rigidly framed coworker, came around from the counter area out front and said, “Stop doin’ whatcha doin’ and take a delivery! The dumbass didn’t say whe—Oh God!” Alec jumped back when I spun around, revealing the two foot metallic penis I’d spent all morning crafting instead of doing my job. “Dude! What the fu—“ “Robo-Dick!” I exclaimed proudly, “Whaddaya think?” “I think you need help, man. Go take the delivery.” Laughing heartily, I said, “Okay, well let me put this away. Somewhere everyone can appreciate it.” I walked into the walk-in cooler and put the giant dick up on a shelf right near head level so that anyone coming in couldn’t miss it. From outside, I could hear Alec shout something. “WHAT!?” I hollered back. “IS THAT WHAT YOU’VE BEEN DOING THIS WHOLE TIME?! THERE’S STILL SHIT EVERYWHERE!” “WHAT!?” I yelled again, this time just mockingly. “I SAID IS THAT WHAT YOU’VE BEEN – Oh fuck you!” He shouted after seeing me already leaving with the pizza. I jumped out the door into the cool November air. This time of year sucks because it’s already cold as hell, and there’s no snow. It’s just cold and everything’s dead. I walked briskly across the parking lot to where my ’92 Dodge Shadow waited patiently, like a triumphant steed ready to ride into battle once more. I’d worked at Screwie Lewiez Pizzeria for three years now, and this car had been with me since the very beginning, but rust and overuse were taking their toll. Soon the car would have to be sent to the scrapyard in the skies; the Valhalla of auto-warriors. I put the pizza bag in the front seat and jumped in the driver’s seat. jackson
It should last through to like May, but even that’s a stretch. The words of my father—a skilled auto-mechanic—hung heavy like the words of a doctor issuing the last few months of life to a cancer patient. If this was to be the last ride of the Shadow, then let it be glorious! I punched the gas, lighting up the front tires. From inside, I could see Alec laugh as he shook his head. The tires squealed and I was off, speeding down the roads of Newport, New Hampshire like a bat outta hell. As the music blared in my car, I snatched the order slip off the pizza bag and looked at the address.
270 Oak Street Newport On Right, no # on house.
Great. This would be a bitch to find. I drove on through the main town, around a busy rotary, and down North Main Street. It seemed I had to call these people to see if they could describe where their house was a little better than ‘On Right.’ I slapped one thigh, and then the other. Shit, my phone was still at the restaurant. I sighed with frustration as I looked at the Jiffy Mart convenience store on the corner, and took the left turn onto Oak Street, a windy and narrow road that curved up and away from the busy town and into the dense forest. That Jiiffy Mart was where I’d worked a few years ago—one of my first jobs—and the owner there was a real asshole. I always told my friends how I’d love to drive a car into that building to totally ruin the place. Finding this house was going to be a pain in the ass, and it will probably take a while too, which means I’ll most likely get a shitty tip. Double damnit. I drove up past 150, 175, 220, slowing down as I got closer to 270. After passing 262, there were only two more houses on the right. “You gotta be fuckin’ kidding me!” I moaned while I drove by; both houses had no numbers or mailboxes, so either one of them could be 270. My car sat motionless in the middle of the empty road as I debated which driveway to go down. It was really 50/50, and if I was wrong, the only thing I had to do was back up and go ten feet to the next driveway. “Fuck it.” I said, and drove down the closer of the two. The first fifty or so feet of the driveway was okay, but after that, huge, water-filled pot-holes and surfacing boulders made the driveway look more like a cow path. I stopped my car, worried that either one of the rocks would pull out my driveshaft, or my car would plummet into the depths of one of the giant pot-holes, never to be seen again. jackson
Grudgingly, I piled out of my car with the pizza and began to trek up to the house. The driveway wound up and curved around to the back of the building like an octopus’ tentacle around its prey. The house was tall with tan paint and brown shutters. There was a long porch on the front, leading up to a large wooden door. When I finally reached that door, I gave the doorbell a try, but heard nothing. After a moment, I knocked on the door a few times and listened carefully. Guy’s probably taking a shit, I thought to myself. I felt incredibly awkward knocking on this person’s door without knowing if it was the right house or not—a feeling I should be used to by now. After a quiet moment passed, I decided I would try the other house, but as I turned to leave, I heard the knob turn and the door open. “Oh!” I said, quickly turning around, “I’m sorry, I didn’t think I was at the right place. Did you order a pizza?” There was an attractive, yet older-looking woman in the door way. Her long black hair was starting to see the first few strands of grey and her face was beginning to wrinkle. She smiled politely with a sense of warmness that was both appealing and comforting. “Come in.” She said casually and stepped aside. I walked through the front door into a large decorated hallway. There was a hand-woven carpet on the hardwood floor, several paintings and framed pictures on the walls, and a few well-crafted lamps. “Just put it in the kitchen, hun, I’ll get some money.” “Okay cool.” I walked through the hallway towards the door she pointed me towards. My pace faltered for a brief moment as something caught my attention. It wasn’t something appearing in the corner of my eye, or a quick, quiet noise, but a slow and foul smell. I couldn’t help but to wrinkle my nose as I opened the kitchen door. One step into the room, and I froze; the door swinging away from my hand as if the it were letting me take in the whole sight. The room was trashed. There were dark stains on the floor and walls. The table, stove, and counters were covered with old rotten food in cans, pots, and dishes; some with a fresh coating of maggots. In a small rotunda on the far corner of the room, where there was probably once a nice two-person dining area, was a heaping mound of filled, leaky trash bags. The rush of air that came by me when I opened the door stank like hell. It smelled of grime, shit, and . . . something else. I carefully stepped over some trash on the floor to a point where there was little enough on the counter-island to set the pizza box down. For some reason, I was being careful not to make any noise. The room. It was off, like a plate of bad food in a five-star restaurant. My eyes moved around from each filthy spectacle to the next. The trash pile was probably the worst. It stank horribly, and judging by
Centripetal the stretch-marks on the now deflated bags, it had been there for a while—long enough to decompose. Look at all this shit, Jesus Chri— My heart stopped. When I took another look at the pile of trash, I noticed a shoe, but didn’t think anything of it— there were plenty of random things strewn about—but when I noticed a thin grayish-brown ankle leading out of the shoe and under the bags, my body became rigid. I was pretty sure I was breathing, or something of the sort. Each terrified breath came short and shallow, making my chest tighten up. GET OUT! I spun around to leave, but stopped dead when I saw the woman standing, arms tucked behind her back, in the doorway to the hall. Swallowing deeply first, I attempted to play it off like I didn’t see anything, “Um, that’s thirteen eighty-eight ma’am.” She stepped forward slowly, head sagging forward, until she was only a few feet from me. “Ma’am?” I croaked awkwardly. Her face shot up, her features looking sinister and glaring with jaundiced eyes. She slowly smiled to reveal two rows of jagged yellow-brown teeth with dark gums. It was a total transformation from the warm person who answered the door. I could feel my own face twist back with horror, and before I knew what was coming, she whipped her right arm around from behind her back, revealing a glinting silver blade. I barely managed to raise my arms up before I heard a bold ffft, ffft! noise followed with fierce spots of pain on my shoulder and forearm. She’s stabbing me! “Shit!” I cried, jumping back to avoid her lashing. There wasn’t much room, and it took only a few seconds for my leg to catch on something. I felt my weight get the better of me as I feel backwards, landing right on the mound of garbage Instead of the expected feeling of landing on a pile of trash bags—like some kind of redneck bean-bag chair—I sank right in like it was chunky, disgusting jello. From above, I could feel the woman’s weight fall on top of me, though I couldn’t quite see her. Scrambling, pushing, and pulling, I rolled my way to the surface of the garbage, and flopped out of the side of the pile. Wasting no time, I shot up to my feet. The woman was still on top of the trash, screaming, stabbing, and thrashing violently. As if she could feel my glance the garbage-carnage stopped instantly, and she spun her face—twisted with rage—around at me. My first instinct was to run, but I couldn’t move. My chest was snapped tight with fear, and my heart was racing.
Like an animal, the woman scrambled wildly to her feet and stood, back hunched and arms forward, facing me. She held the steakknife in her hand with the tip of the blade pointing straight at me. “Please,” I cried, “Don’t do it!” As if that was her cue, she sprinted at me, screaming wildly as she approached. I tucked my head and raised my arms up to fight. When she got close enough I swung my right fist out wide and punched her in the right side of the head. She wailed and flew to the floor. “Oh God!” I half whimpered, half mumbled, “I shouldn’t have done that…” As I spoke, I was inching my way towards the door. The woman moaned on the dirty floor, grabbing her face. She looked up at me with hate-filled eyes and she smiled the same
wicked smile as she did before; this time allowing black blood to ooze from her bottom lip and pool on the floor. Get. The. Fuck. OUT! Still facing her, I made quick but significant steps towards the hallway. The woman, still smiling, climbed to her feet and hissed laughter. That was enough for me. I took off running through the hall, and out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw the woman run somewhere else inside the kitchen. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw she was not behind me, but still I ran like a madman. The front door was only a few feet away, and I charged at it. It doesn’t matter if that’s a pull-door; I’ll kick the fucker down if I have— One of the doors in the hallway on my left opened just as I was about to run by it, and the woman came diving out; her body fell right in front of where I was running. I was running too fast, and I toppled right over her. “GOTCHA!” She wailed triumphantly. She moved extremely fast—too fast—and by the time I was beginning to pick myself back up, she had spun around, swung the knife high into the air, and planted it deep into my thigh. ____________________________________ “If you come across someone with a broken leg or deep laceration in the mid to upper thigh, it‘s imperative to leave the person‘s injury be until paramedics arrive. Can anyone tell me why you don‘t try to treat or move the leg?” An older, tired looking teacher stood in front of the dusty chalkboard with diagrams of different broken bones. Several lethargic hands made their way up after a few minutes of awkward silence. “Yes, Spencer.” “Well,”I guessed, “isn‘t it because of a big vein in the leg. The femur . . . femo . . . femoral vein?” jackson
The teacher smiled, probably relieved to not have to call on more than one person. “Very good, except it‘s the femoral artery. But yes, if you were to try to move someone who has a severed or lacerated femoral artery can bleed to death in a matter of minutes.” ____________________________________ I screamed violently, rolling and twisting; trying desperately to grab the knife which now stuck out of my leg. Even though the blade was still handle-deep in me, I could see scarlet bursts of blood shoot from the wound. “NO!” I bellowed, “YOU BITCH! YOU FUCKIN’ BITCH!” She giggled and cooed as I crawled away, trying to distance myself from her. She followed me slowly, playing with me; allowing me to crawl four or five feet away towards an end table with one of the well crafted lamps I noticed on the way in, before she pounced again. She grabbed the knife-handle and began to wrench and twist the blade, sending flaming bolts of pain up through my body. With a sickening squishing noise, the blade came out followed by a geyser spray of blood. The door was only a few feet away, but it felt like miles. A new kind of fear began to set in; other than the fear of pain or death—and somewhat worse—was the growing realization of what I would have to do to this woman to survive. I rolled over onto my back, facing the woman. She loomed forward, arms hanging like heavy nooses, and cackled. She was like a monster, a beast. The shock of the attack was still fresh in my body, but my mind was beginning to catch up to the situation. “Come on!” I grunted, my voice more like a hoarse whisper between panting breaths. Seemingly approving of my taunts, the woman licked her lips, letting some dark red drool drip out of her mouth. She inched towards me, twirling the knife back and forth with her hand. Our eyes were locked upon each other’s, waiting for the moment. With a hiss and a scream, she darted forward, the blade raised high into the air. Instead of trying to dodge or grab at the knife, I shot my arms up behind my head, and grabbed a hold of the large porcelain lamp on the end table behind me. The timing was good enough; I brought the lamp down on her head hard enough to shatter it. There was an extra cracking noise that didn’t sound like a broken lamp. She fell hard onto me, but was barely moving. Taking no chances, I spun her over onto her back, and clambered my way on top of her, my fingers digging and prying hers off the knife. Just as soon as I freed the blade from her grip, her furious vitality came shooting back into her muscles. She tore and tugged, grunted and pulled, almost throwing me off her, but I had the advantage of weight. There was such a sudden fury; a horrible hatred that gave jackson
me new energy. I pushed down fiercely onto her throat with my left arm, keeping my elbow straight so she couldn’t push back, and I began landing punches on her head with my free right hand. Morals weren’t a part of this. It wasn’t just self-defense. There was no logic, no empathy, no control. It was beast on beast; survival. I pounded until she lay battered, bruised, and motionless. She was still; she was dead. “Oh . . . oh God!” I whimpered, “I . . . I killed you.” The smell of grime, trash, and death was overwhelming and getting worse by the second. It wasn’t the severity of my wounds, or the dead body of my unnamed attacker that made me wrench myself painfully to my feet and hobble to the door. It wasn’t a fear of anyone else being in the home, or the thought of someone else pulling into the driveway to come home that made me throw the door open and shamble out onto the porch. It was the smell. I needed the comfort—any comfort—of fresh air. As soon as the cold November weather hit my face, brushed my hair, and entered my lungs, I collapsed into a sobbing mess. A moment later, I vomited a good amount right on the porch steps. “He . . . help . . . HELP!!!” I gasped, finally managing a loud shout. Nobody. I let my head sag against the wooden support post on the porch, and the sharp cold feeling of metal on my cheek caught my attention quickly. I eyed the post where I’d laid my head, and let out a coarse laugh. Rusted brown metal letters, easy to miss if you’re just glancing, spelled out the number 272. Wrong house. Wincing, I pulled myself to my feet; leaning my weight on my right leg. My pants were drenched in luke-warm blood, and I didn’t have much time. I zombie-walked my way down the stairs towards my car, grunting and groaning as individual bolts of pain shot up from my leg. The car seemed so far away, and the edge of my vision was already turning dark. “Come on, come on . . . go.” I said to myself. “YOU LITTLE BASTARD!!!” A shrill cry echoed through the cold air. I spun my head around and saw the tattered woman standing, hunched forward with pain, in the doorway of her home. “No!” I choked. She was in rough shape to say the least; her face had large bumps protruding from her cheek and brow, her jaw was cleanly broken and hung at a sickening diagonal angle, and her right eye was jackson
Centripetal dark red with broken blood vessels from being strangled. Despite her injuries, she could still move just fine. She began to quickly scramble her way down the steps, and began to race after me. I was bleeding out rapidly, and had little energy to fight. I practically through my right leg forward and let the left drag behind me. Shuffling like this as fast as I could, I was coming close to my car. I got to the point where I could almost reach out and touch the hood of the Shadow before the woman’s weight hit me from behind. In my condition, a calm breeze would’ve knocked me over; her impact, however, sent me crashing into the fender of my car and slamming to the ground. My left shoulder landed in one of the massive pot holes, and brown, muddy water splashed up into my eyes and mouth. I could feel the woman’s hands pushing, slapping, and punching my chest and face as I choked on the nasty fluid. Fortunately for me, she must have been too caught in her own rage to think to grab her knife. I reached up and grabbed a deep fistful of hair and pulled it down towards me. Growing up with two, more athletic, older brothers who spent most of their childhood and adolescence fighting and wrestling me gave me somewhat of an advantage, and despite my injured leg and growing weakness, I was able to push up with my right leg to throw my weight over hers. She flopped onto her chest and I pounced down, pushing her face to the bottom of the water-filled pot hole. She whipped and thrashed, but my sense of will told me that this was my last chance; she’d kill me if she got out of this one. She grew still after a moment, but I held her head under the water just a while longer until I felt her chest convulse as she drew in deep lung-fills of water. There were three deep water-filled breaths, and she went completely limp. When it ended, I found that I had been sobbing while I was holding her down. I huffed for each breath as I backed my way towards my car door. There was no doubt that I had killed her now. She laid there with her face resting at the bottom of the puddle and her hair floating on top of the muddy water. I pried open the door, smacking my dizzy head with the edge as it opened. The hit wasn’t very hard, but the pain was sharp and made my eyes water. I was in very bad shape, and my leg was beginning to bleed slower and slower. She may have already killed me. Still, I wasn’t giving up, I pulled my way into the driver’s seat and shut the door; making sure to lock it before starting the engine. My left leg hung lazily off to the side as I backed the car out of the driveway. Most of the drive down Oak Street was a blur after that. I know I was driving fast; too fast. Some corners would snap me out of it for a second as I went off the edge of the pavement and my car jerked to the right. I couldn’t drive myself to the hospital. The closest hospital
was in New London—a full twenty minutes to a half hour away—and I’d crash before I made it there. That’s it! If this was going to be the Shadow’s last ride, than it shall be glorious! ____________________________________ Brad Mayfield sat on the counter of the small Jiffy Mart that sat on the corner of Oak Street and North Main, blowing bubbles with his gum. It was colder than normal out, and that kept the people home for the most part. “Hey Lou!” Brad shouted across the store over to where the deli was. “LOU!” “WHAT!?” “Can I go home?” “WHAT?” “CAN. I. GO. HOME?!” “Are ya’ kiddin’ me?! You just got’ere half’n’our ago!” “There’s nothing going on! Nobody’s pulled up in— WHAM!! Brad was thrown off the counter by an impact against the wall next to him. Something hit the store. Lou, a fat Italian man in a heavy white apron came running around the deli counter. “What in God’s name!” The young cashier and the deli man ran outside to find a small white car with a pizza painted on the hood which was now pretty dented against the small brick building. They ran to the driver’s side to find the door already open. On the ground was a young man covered in deep cuts, bruises, and blood. On the pavement next to where he was lying was a note with 911 scribbled on it in rough sharpie. ____________________________________ I must have been out for a while. I had some crazy dreams involving fudge-cicles, golf-clubs, and giant fish-people in race cars. I still can’t quite remember what they had to do with each other, but when I woke up and saw a nurse in pink scrubs checking a bag of fluid next to me as I lay in a hospital bed, I turned my head toward her and grimly said, “Heaven is ridiculous.” “Yes it is,” she said, smiling as she left the room. It was late, around three a.m., and I wondered if anyone came to visit while I was sleeping earlier. Too weak to move, I felt myself drift off again. “Hey… hey, you awake?” I cracked my eyes open to see one of my older brothers standing at the foot of my bed. “Hey man.” I said, shuffling a bit in the uncomfortably stiff bed, “Did they find her?” jackson
His smile faded to a grim bite of the lip, “Yeah . . . you did leave her right in the driveway y’know.” “What did the cops say?” “They thought you were a murderer”—the word struck me deeper than the steak knife—“that is, until they found the other three bodies in the house.” “Three?!” “Yup. Listen, we’ll worry about everything once you can get around. There are other people here too.” From outside, I heard shuffling feet as everyone I worked with came in. They all looked concerned and scared to see me, but they were relieved when I greeted them with my famous, “HI!” even though it hurt my chest something fierce. It was kind of an awkward visit. Everyone said for me to get better, and that they missed me at work and yadda yadda. I didn’t really like the attention; I couldn’t shake the image of the limp body lying face-down in the puddle. Still, I had to wonder why Alec—whom I was a closer friend to than anyone else I worked with—was standing behind everyone with his arms behind his back, smiling foolishly. They stayed and chatted for a little while, and when I had to use the bathroom, I urged them to leave. It took me five minutes to get out of bed and into a wheelchair, and another five to navigate my way to the bathroom. Like hell I’d use a bedpan. When I left the bathroom, everyone was gone, and with a measureable amount of effort, I managed to pull myself back into my bed. I was just beginning to relax when a glint of silver on the right side of my peripheral vision caught my eye—the image of the steak knife flashed in my mind—and I jumped, turning to see the large aluminum dick I’d spent all morning making yesterday; it now had a note that read, Get well soon! –Alec.
riding from reno with a well-known stranger Kimberly Paniagua In a truck somewhere between desert and pavement I sit with my grandfather in Nevada. He balances cups of iced tea on his belly AC spittin that cold air again. Teach me the lessons of Cash and crew cuts. Teach me how to hold a woman. I picture Nam‘ tattoos hidden beneath your white t-shirts. I pretend you actually loved my mother‘s mother. I enter the world of truck-drivers through a CB radio. A life lived entirely in sound. No faces, just names, lost brothers of the highway. The red light switches off and we enter the Indian night again. I am full of this car ride and the horrible seat between us. Like a dash mid-sentence. The dreaded gap between generations Sits there between you and I. Let‘s escape the heat of the west, The coldness of this car ride And seep into each other‘s lives for a bit.
pa n i agua
Centripetal Fallen Janel Forcier Fold your wings in, boy. No one expects you to fly. You can rest for a while, no one will blame you for that. Just sit there, try to reflect, I’ll keep watch and make you safe. Stop, don’t pull the feathers out, you’ll only hurt yourself. That tear and rip won’t reach her skin, and you’re too beautiful to be marred for her. But now I get the point of fallen angels, why God lets you leap from grace. To be so high only to end so low. You have nothing now that she won’t call, or so you tell your dwindling sanity. Just know there’s a point to this, you can learn. Angel, you fell in order to raise back up, you need to stand. I’ll be right here, always. Don’t ask why. For I’ve never seen the likes of you before. And, wounded as you are, your wings aching from overuse and tenacity, I can’t help but need you now.
Boundless Boarders Amanda Marie Chaos Lurks in the structure, Etching itself deep inside the lines, Like glue seeping into unseen cracksâ€”a bond Constructed by an arbitrary hand. The foundation of disorder for the ordered whole Is layered with the texture of tension, As are hands that seek to reign in the endless grains of sandâ€” The interplay is infinite, never determined Threatening, always, A final collapse
Centripetal Prison Brianna Kleckner The clattering of hand sharpened Metal along the steel prison bars shrieks Within the walls of this cold domain in hell. The persistence for protectionThe grinding, the filing, the sharpening—all Objects are weapons as long as they’re held right. A sea of orange jumpsuits worn by Waves of foreign unfamiliar faces rally Their noisemakers, desperate for attention. Relentless Spanish chatter is spit from cell To cell- I often find myself tangled, Tripping over every roll of their tongues. I make my rounds following The once solid yellow line painted Yet worn on the cold concrete. Pieces of paint wear and tear With each hopeless footstep that Drags along the dreadful line—After Six months of correcting The teeth wrenching clings & clangs Always follow my brain home. Their empty eyes lock stares With mine through steel barriers—I Often wonder if they remember The way the sun feels against their Pale skin, mostly covered in nothing more Then some amateur gang art. Here, sins are believed to be Forgotten while sanity slips right from Your finger tips— To hell with Dreams. To hell with families.
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Their children have no father- but instead A profound void as these convicts Pursue to taste redemption.
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22 Centripetal Panic Nicole Nolan I can‘t breathe. It‘s how it always starts. Well, actually it starts with a stray thought. It could be something random, like I‘ll be in High School soon. Something as trivial as that can lead to a full blown panic attack. This time, it‘s a brief picture in my head of a dead body. Not just any dead body, my dead body. I‘m decaying; worms are flowing in and out of every open orifice. This is my worst fear. It causes shortness of breath. My chest rises and falls quickly as a knot forms in my stomach. I can‘t expand my lungs all the way. It feels like there is a belt stretched across my chest restricting my breathing. My heart begins to pound and my stomach twists violently. I am sitting in my bedroom, the room I have slept in my entire life. The walls are stark white and the carpet is a pale pink color. I lean my head back against the bottom bunk of my bunk beds, my face is flushed. My hair is down and around my shoulders, a week before I had gotten bangs to try and hide the acne that runs rampant over my face. I am eleven years old. I clench my hands into fists and squeeze my eyes shut. I try thinking of rainbows and bunnies. I try thinking of anything happy and light that might drag me out of this downward spiral. It doesn‘t usually work, but I try any way. I picture a bunny hopping across a field in my mind. The image is ripped to shreds and I am staring at my dead body. My eyes pop open and I stare blankly at the wall across from me. This is when the questions flood in, the questions I don‘t have answers to. Who am I? What am I supposed to do with my life? When will the world end? What will happen after I die? What if I get a life threatening disease? What if I‘m physically scarred? What if I get in a car accident? What if I fall into a coma? What if I become brain dead? What if I already am and this is all a dream? How long will it take my body to decompose? Who will remember me after I‘m gone? What is the point in all of this? I am Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. I scramble at the sides but it is useless, I‘m falling and there is nothing I can do until I reach the bottom. I bury my face in my knees, grinding my eyes against the soft fabric of my pajama pants trying to rub the questions from my mind. Bright bursts of light explode nolan
Centripetal 23 behind my eyelids from pressing too hard. I don‘t care, it distracts my mind for a few seconds but there is no running from the overwhelming feeling of drowning. I have a need for control over my life since the recent upheaval of my parents‘ divorce and my father‘s open spiral into the bottle. My panic attacks are an extension of this inability to keep things together because no matter what I do, Daddy‘s not coming home. At some point, I fall forward onto my knees with my forehead pressed against the coarse carpet. I hope that the closer I keep my body together the less I will feel as though all the pieces of me are drifting apart. The darkness frightens me so I turn my head towards the steady beam of my lamp. I stare directly into the light allowing my sight to be swallowed by the brightness. It goes blurry as my eyes fill with tears. I don‘t know why I‘m crying. Well, I do know why I‘m crying. It‘s this feeling, this oppressive, can‘t breathe feeling. I don‘t know why I‘m feeling this way. I‘m only eleven; I shouldn‘t be worried about dying. I feel footsteps coming down the hall. I glance at the door but it is obscured by the light flash left over from staring at the lamp. My door knob turns and she enters the room. Her mouth opens to ask me a question before she registers what is going on. I sniffle pathetically and continue to cry quietly. She doesn‘t even ask me what‘s wrong; we‘ve been through this too many times to count. She bends down and helps me up. She walks me to my bed and holds up the covers while I slide under them. She sits carefully beside me. I can see how tense this all makes her. A mother cannot handle being unable to help their child. Her hand reaches out and pushes my sweaty bangs from my forehead. I wish I could say her presence was a soothing balm. That having my mother by my side calmed me and put me in a place where death couldn‘t touch me. However, this is not the case; I continued to ride out the panic attack, with her present. Once it had embarrassed me to have her there, to have anyone see me crumble to a weeping, wailing mess for no apparent reason. This isn‘t me, I am not weak. I am known for being independent and stubborn. Most times I would rather bite my tongue off than ask for help. Now, I needed her there so I didn‘t feel so alone, so trapped inside of myself. We don‘t talk; there isn‘t really anything to say. She smells faintly of food, she has just gotten home from a night of waitressing. Her hands are rough from the constant work. I know she is tired and staying with me is keeping her from doing nolan
24 Centripetal all the things she needs to do. Yet, she stays, stroking my head and letting me know she is there and I am loved. The panic begins to fade; my nightmarish corpse floats slowly to the back of my mind where it will stay until it decides it is needed again. Exhaustion overcomes me. Lately, I have been so tired. I nap constantly, my afternoons are spent in bed or in the tub, where I linger never being able to feel clean. I spend hours lying in the tub as the water cools turning my digits to prunes. Then I drain the water and curl up in bed still damp and sleep until dinner. Take another bath, and then go back to bed. My eyelids feel heavy and begin to close. I missed dinner again, but the desire to eat tends to shrivel up during an attack. My mom pulls the chain to my light and the room is shrouded in darkness except the soft glow from my night light. She continues to stay, knowing that sometimes the tide can turn quickly and in a blink I can be back in a full blown panic. This time, I find peace and I am soon beginning to drift. My sister sneaks into the room and tiptoes up to her bunk, keeping as quiet as possible. She fears waking me, sometimes after an attack, my embarrassment turns to rage. I scream and shout mean things and pick fights about trivial matters. Tonight, I am fragile, I am weak. My cousin storms into his room next door and slams the door but I am barely aware of the loud slam that shakes the house or the music that he turns on at full volume. In gratitude, I squeeze my mother‘s hand once; it is the closest I can come to saying ‘thank you’. For the night, I am gone, I am dead asleep. Nothing could wake me.
Centripetal 25 Asylum Ben DiZoglio Underneath the maple tree I lie Watching a warm September day slip Away. Whether or not I want this moment to change Is meaningless. I am bewitched by natureâ€™s force. This tree allows peace to be mine And graciously I accept its hypnotic asylum. This oasis is what keeps me out of the asylum. I reminisce about cold, thin, raw beds where patients would lie Surrounded by screams that could have been mine But to tell I would have needed my mind. Iâ€™d slip Into a comfortable coma, pulled by the force Of rainbowed pills which would daily change And rattle at the bottom of plastic cups like change In my pocket, when I had pockets. But that off-white asylum Has claimed my pockets by force And uniform pajamas. To say this purgatory is clean would be a lie. Fresh urine awaits me daily in pools that made me slip And stumble within a body that was no longer mine. Psychologists, with tedious pick axes, would mine My turbulent, cavernous mind that never seemed to change Because it has stood the test of time. I feared I would slip Into insanity or worse, normality. So I stood upon a wire guarded by my asylum Hoping one day my feet would lie Upon solid earth and I would no longer fear that gravitational force. It was my own weakness that allowed the force Of others to convince me I belonged to an insanity that was never mine. I believed, wholeheartedly and closed mindedly, every lie Offered to explain my restless mind and how to change My condition. So as to melt into the universal kettle. The asylum Evaporates from my mind just in time for the sun to slip dizoglio
26 Centripetal Behind the arc of the hills. With brittle fingers I slip This poem into my pocket and slowly force My legs to stand avoiding a leaf which also has given up asylum For the opportunity to wander. This solace of mine Comes from the hills and the trees that will not change Or release me from their loving embrace. An unraveled lie And a lone leaf are all that lie at my feet as I slip Down the hill, cautious of frosty change beneath my feet that will force Discretion to be mine. Lest I should once again disappear, into asylum.
Centripetal 27 Retail Bitch Robby Binette When we were kids we were known as “Port Plaza Babies” We were the ones who didn't get allowances, didn't have summer vacations and stole candy and baseball cards from the stores we were destined to work at for the rest of our lives K-mart, J-Mart, Wal-Mart, Fag Mart Walgreens, Rite Aid, White Hen, CVS Shaws, Market Basket, Target; names that we would memorize and eventually call “the store” or “work” When we were in high school we dropped sports for jobs, something that seemed like a good idea at the time, but no, we were wrong It started there and never stopped We bagged groceries, stocked shelves, packed produce worked registers, deli counters, front desks, answered phones, filed paperwork, and spend enough time in back rooms, freezers, basement storerooms and loading docks that we should have had a caught at “the store” It seems, unfortunately, we had found a second home It did seem to make sense at the time We had to make payments on our shitty car that never started and the insurance that came with it We had to pay for lunch at school, entertainment (CDS, DVDS, video games et cetera), and gas for the shit box car We had places to go and things to do, let alone how much it cost to go out on a date or keep relations going with the opposite sex Everything cost money; the exact amount for our success was something we never could achieve though which sucks cause it seems like everyone else had it so much easier binette
28 Centripetal While the others we knew worked in restaurants behind the scenes in sinks, in front of grills, working drive thrus, pouring drinks at bars and waiting tables we heard the stories of the free beer and joints passed around freely on the weekend nights in these paradises while we worked every night of the week under the supervision of malicious store managers and surveillance cameras Did such places even exist? I still don't know They always seemed to be one step ahead and us, the retail bitches, one step behind; poor with our minimum wage pay checks and in spirit with our lives of shame dealing with the public So we went to college and we got away from it for awhile but we would eventually return to the only life we knew; one that of sales and retail The others seemed to have had the opportunity to go to better schools, affording the unearthly tuition for that of a private or Ivy League school somehow while we probably will be crippled financially for the rest of our lives with stupid loans going to State Some of us may be living the dream that the pieces of papers we earned as teachers, business associates, managers, lawyers and graduate students but not all of us are there quite yet; we're all barely keeping our heads above water, still dreaming but in the meantime, we're working with our heads down, waiting for the next payday and the unknown prize of opportunity to come along You see what brought this up was a friend of mine recently told me that they wanted to be a full time poet and a writer and while he is still debating on keeping his job behind a meat counter, they've holed up in their mother's basement to “scrape their soul” and come up with mind blowing slam poetry and America's next great novel I only told them good luck because I could never do it, they probably won't either like Bukowski said “Don't Try” cause you're lucky if you can live that way and we're not all the same I just can't and I'll admit that out of jealousy and fear
Centripetal 29 I don't tell them the responsibilities I have for my pet, my apartment rent, my parents' failing health, my electric, water, heating, and sewage bill my addiction to ridiculously priced cigarettes, a normal girlfriend if I’m ever lucky enough to keep one, the cost of keeping a car, food to eat, living alone and having the occasional good time I told them I may not write all the time and that’s how I’m not like you because it’s everything else that convinces me to go out there and live it and not write all about it The word, the poem and writing ALL THE TIME is not a way I see to preach my love for it but to help me get out of bed in every morning Yes, I may be a retail bitch, Mr. Writer but writing does other things for me besides, I’m out in the world and “trying” and not living in my parents’ basement
Untitled, Olivia Benish
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Minuscule M ayhem in Dor m Du ngeons, Kayley Fouts
Centripetal Stale Mate Jennifer Streeter You’re a stranger across from me, in a chess match where you are the King and I am the Bishop and this, this, is a stale mate. We are in the oddest of locations, nestled between washers and dryers in the smallest of laundry facilities, but it‘s the only place where two strangers can have privacy. You look unfamiliar. Your eyes have changed. They said that you would look a little different, I didn‘t know different meant lost. We stare at each other, egging the other on, to just say something, to break the void between us that‘s heavy with silence. I don‘t even know if you know I‘m mad, or upset, or whatever feeling it is that I have and can‘t explain—but you continue to look at me, your arms glued to the side of your awkward body. You‘re unfamiliar with your own skin. I wonder if you know where the scar on your left arm came from---You fell through the door. The room smells of fabric softener and smoke. Your mouth hangs open a bit, and I wonder if you‘re going to say something, and when you don‘t, I speak up. “Glad to be home?” Your eyes study my face, memorizing it, or trying to. “Yeah.” That‘s it. There‘s nothing more, you just place your right foot behind your left, and lean against the wall. “Do you remember anything?”I ask, prodding you to tell me something of substance, and instead we banter about nothing. “Not really. They had to teach me to tie my shoes again.” I laugh at the absurdity of what you say, and cringe when I think about just a few weeks before: bruised, on your knees, looking as though you was praying, begging some higher power to release you from the prison of your own mind, and the white walls of the hospital room. “I‘m just glad you‘re home,” I tell you as you close your eyes. I can‘t help but wonder if you‘re trying to remember my name. “I uh…” you pause, biting your lip bruised. “I‘m sorry about your birthday.” It‘s at that moment that my throat closes, and my eyes
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swim, and I can‘t seem to hear or see you correctly. My mouth, a thin line taut across my face just nods. “Linda told me that we were supposed to have a sweet sixteen party. I‘ll make it up to you,” I think back to when I had ulcers as a child, and remember the way it felt when my stomach would pull, twist, and ache, it‘s beginning again. This is no ulcer. I joke with you about music and television shows you can‘t remember. That is familiar, this is us, father and daughter, and I see you are comfortable, everything but your hands. Knotted like a tree. “When can I come back to your house?” I ask, my white-knuckles gripping the washer behind me, some part of me wishing you would take me in his arms like a small child, and carry me home. You just shake your head; I imagined it snapping off, rolling away from me. “I don‘t know,” your voice cracks, and I pause; reaching out for you, pressing my body against your torso, against the casts. Your arms flounder at your sides, up then down, up then down, till landing on my back. “I miss you.”
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Centripetal Hands Angela Hartmann Your hands are Restless when your sisters’ Experiences leave your lips. Gently protective, Your eyes are serious Regardless of the smile igniting Your expression. Your love for her Echoes shamelessly In your office, Yet you don’t need To breathe a word. If she were here I wonder if she would See how Your fingers search For loose paper decorating Your orderly desk, Or how your concern Shows itself in the corners Of your laughter. Maybe she would feel The weight of your memories, Swollen and sharp, Like raw truth waking after A Tequila hangover. Or perhaps, That is why you hold them, So she doesn’t have to scrape Herself on the edges Of her painful past.
If she were here She would observe your Fingertips reaching For something, anything As her experiences Cling to your lips.
Centripetal The Silence of Thoughts Kayley Fouts The clock clicks every time the second hand moves one sixtieth of a minute, It dances around the edge, twirling each number, teasing them with the prospect Of dancing with the notorious second hand. In the basement, the furnace grumbles a soft beating protest, all the while Filling the pipes with hot water that is carried through them like arteries, Bringing warmth throughout the ventricles of this empty house. The pulsing grunts emitted from the small, gazing, furry beast on the table in front of me, Barely punctuates the soft silence. I am alone. Everything is quiet and I can finally think for the first time in many bitter cold months. The t.v. is off. The music is off. My eyes are closed, opening me up to a world that is usually shut down And pushed aside to make space for more pressing matters. My mouth is stale and I am only trying to listen now Instead of pulling the trigger to vibrate the cords That makes me spew incessant garbageâ€”shooting those around me down In rapid fire succession. Yet still, the more I stop to listen, The more I realize that I never had anything to say all along.
For WSB, III Angela Hartmann Your memory causes the The metallic taste of blood To surface in my mouth, But I donâ€™t hate you anymore. I still wake up randomly at 3am, With nightmares of you, And I cannot sleep in silence Because I am afraid of hearing your footsteps In the hallway of my childhood, But I am numb when I think of you. I saw a picture of you today, And my heart broke open Bleeding every negative moment That has connected us, But I could still breathe. I still wear the physical scars You gift wrapped for me, proudly, And I am not ashamed of who you Accidentally created me to be, But Iâ€™m still discovering who I should be. Your memory causes The metallic taste of blood To surface in my mouth, But I have forgiven you.
Centripetal Ice Cream Spencer Fiffield JUNE Third grade was over. Ethan slept. He slept on and on, past breakfast and almost past lunch, until he heard the sound that all kids long to hear once summer rolls around. Bells chiming to the tune of The Entertainer wafted in through his open bedroom window like scent of freshly baked cookies set out to cool. It woke him gently, but once that pernicious tone was recognized, nothing else mattered. In a matter of moments he was on the front lawn in his sleeping shorts and baggy t-shirt. His hair was a mess and his underarms reeked of freshly sown BO. But he was not alone. Looking to either side of him, Ethan saw Alex and Derek, in similar dress, all waiting to see that shining white truck pull alongside the curb before them. They nodded and smiled to each other. During the school year they were neighbors only, as the recent development of social cliques had barred them from one another, but during the summer they were a family. They were the children, and Jonah was the provider, and in just a few tantalizing, almost agonizing seconds, Jonah would stop his square stallion of a Good Humor truck in front of them, unroll the window covering, and offer them all the treats their hardearned allowance could buy them. The bells grew louder. On instinct, the three children looked to their right, where Franklin Street met Whitestone, and where Jonah began his usual route. There was nothing. But still the bells grew louder. Once it was on top of them, they knew to turn their heads and face the other way, towards Granite Street. Sure enough, the saintly chariot of frozen dairy was there, a Good Humor as always, but something was different. The truck stopped. The boys licked their lips. Whatever reason Jonah had for changing his route must have been something trivial. The summer was off to a good start. The window unrolled. â€œHi, everyone!â€? Said a dark, strange man in a Good Humor uniform. He smiled yellow teeth from beneath the black mass of hair that hung off of his chin and rode up either side of
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his face like a cowboy’s chaps. His skin was dirty brown, wether from tan or from grime was undetermined. This man was not Jonah. “What can I get you kids today?” The man asked. The three boys could not help but stare. Jonah, the fresh faced ginger man-boy, teetering on the brink of childhood euphoria and adult wisdom like a wire-walker in the circus, was replaced by this bizarre, hairy man without a name tag. Fate had been cruel this summer, and no one spoke. The man’s smile began to fade. “No one wants ice cream?” He asked innocently. “It’s so hot out. I’d think you kids would be in the mood for something special.” The man disappeared for a moment before returning to the window with a cone of blue ice cream. The cone itself was quite ordinary in shape and size, however it’s peculiar hue had an inescapable grasp. Ethan looked to either side of him. Derek and Alex stood frozen, just as he was. Blue ice cream? Unheard of. But no one was willing to make that precious first step into the unknown. No one wanted to be Neil Armstrong, preferring to be Buzz Aldrin. “Well, if no one wants to try the top secret hidden flavor, I’ll just be on my way.” The man shrugged, slowly putting the cone back from whatever alien dimension blue ice cream came from. Ethan slammed his eyes shut. The new guy wasn’t Jonah, but blue ice cream was too tempting. Whatever else happened this summer, if anything else at all, Ethan would be able to say he tasted blue ice cream. “Wait.” Ethan said suddenly. The man in the window looked up, blue ice cream cone still in his hand. The smile was slowly returning. “Yesssss?” The man stretched with an odd laugh. “How much for the blue ice cream?” Ethan asked, a slight click in his throat. He stepped forward, resting one hand on the sill of the Good Humor window. “It’s called Christmas Cookie Carnival,” The man said, extending the cone to Ethan gently. “And the first one is on the house.” “Why are you selling Christmas ice cream in the summer, Mister?” Alex asked from behind the thin glasses that hung loosely from his slender nose. “My name is Murdoc. No such thing as a ‘Mistier’ in a Good Humor uniform, now is there?” Murdoc laughed and f i f f i el d
Centripetal yanked his beard spastically. Ethan couldn’t help but laugh at this. He looked back at Alex, and saw that his skepticism had been replaced by a good chuckle. Derek was starting to crack up, too. Murdoc was a good entertainer. “As for why I’m selling Christmas ice cream in the summer, well why the heck not? Isn’t Christmas the happiest day of all time?” Murdoc asked in a caricature of shock, his hairy palms attached to either side of his face like Macaulay Culkin. “Speaking of happy, Ethan, you’re going to want to eat that cone pretty soon, or else you’re gonna be wearing it.” Ethan laughed at Murdoc’s voice. Murdoc was a funny man. A strange looking man, and kind of scary in a way, but instantly likable. He was better than that guy from last summer. His name was barely even worth remembering. Ethan took one lap from the top of the slightly melted cone, and let the blue ice cream melt on his tongue and run down his throat. At first it tasted like simple vanilla, somewhat disappointing considering its exotic and rare color. But then-Ethan smiled big. Alex and Derek took one step forward to examine their friend’s smile. Ethan kept smiling, and the started to laugh. The cone was too good. Too good for one boy to handle. “What’s it taste like?” Derek asked. “It tastes so good!” Ethan laughed loudly. “Try it!” “Give it here.” Alex tried. Ethan backed away from him, still laughing, but quieter now. “No way, man. Get your own. They’re great!” Ethan went hard to work at the blue cone, each lick better than the last. It tasted like Christmas, a feat every child deems impossible before they get too old. Ethan’s theory had just been disproved. “Can I get what he has?” Derek asked. “Me too!” Alex reached up to Murdoc impatiently, his fingers grasping at the air in anticipation for the delicious cone that they would soon hold. “Whoa, no need to shove, Derek! Calm down there, Alex.” Murdoc reached underneath the window with both hands. “I think I’ve got two extras lying around somewhere.” Murdoc’s hands soon came back into view, each holding a cone of Christmas Cookie Carnival. As soon as they were visible, the two boys snatched them up like lab rats snatch up cheese at feeding time. “This is terrific!” Alex began to giggle. “I didn’t think ice
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cream could taste this good!” Ethan nodded in agreement while Derek began to bite into his cone slowly. The three boys in unison rubbed their stomachs with delight as they laughed about the delicious ice cream. In the truck Murdoc smiled and nodded to the boys. “I’ve got other houses to visit, Ethan, Alex, and Derek. It was nice to meet you!” Murdoc pulled the window shut. The boys did not turn away from the cones they dutifully licked and slurped and ate. They kept laughing and eating, giggling and rubbing at their small stomachs. The Good Humor truck began to stutter, before it went down the street and turned onto Whitestone. The boys kept laughing, ignoring the two girls in pigtails that stared at them in awe across the street, wondering what exactly was so funny. Ethan didn’t stop laughing until bedtime, when he asked himself when he told Murdoc his name. JULY The fireworks were over. Ethan slept until noon, when his alarm went off. He rolled off of his mattress bare-chested, and ran to the bathroom. He had to pee in the morning now, which was something he usually didn’t have to do. But then again, Mom had sat him down back in April, when he had started to smell funny, to tell him that he was starting to grow up, and that somethings happened when you grew up. Peeing in the morning was probably one of them, and he knew getting bigger was one of them for a fact. Dad had told him that when he started to outgrow his sleeping clothes. The shorts were replaced, and the baggy shirt simply thrown out. Ethan got hot at night, and wearing a shirt kept him up now. Ethan stumbled onto the front lawn, the faint bells of Murdoc’s truck coming from the miles-away Granite Street already. He knew he would not be late. He lined up between Alex and Derek, who were also starting get big like him. Across the street, Susie and Sandy, their pigtails somewhat loose this morning, waved as they waited for Murdoc’s truck. “What do you think he’ll have today?” Ethan shouted to them, cupping his mouth with both hands. “I don’t know, but I need an extra one for my friend Hannah.” Sandy shouted back with the same method. “And one for her friend Clair.”
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Centripetal “I hope he has enough!” Ethan laugh-shouted through the hand cups. “I’m getting two cones for myself today!” “Is that why you have boobies?” Susie asked, joining in with her own hand cups. Beside Ethan, Alex and Derek started to laugh, their own pubescent boy-breasts jiggling beneath sleep clothes. But quickly the laughter stopped, and Sandy and Susie held hands as they ran across the street at the sight of Murdoc’s truck. “Hi, everyone!” Murdoc smiled as he unrolled the window. “What will it be today?” Instantly, the five children jumped up to the window, fighting to be the first to get some of the delicious ice cream. Most of them wanted Christmas Cookie again, as they had ever since that special day at the beginning of the summer. Susie and Sandy’s friends, curious though suspicious of the magically delicious cones, wanted simple and regular Chocolate. Amidst the shouting, Murdoc raised his hands politely. “Okay, okayyyyy,” Murdoc laughed. “But before you make any drastic decisions, try this.” Murdoc reached underneath his counter and retrieved a jet black cone with bright red chunks in it. It held the children in silence, but differently from Christmas Carnival. This had a air of menace over it, like fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. It made the children unsure, and Ethan began to wonder if maybe this time they shouldn’t get any ice cream at all. “This is called Cemetery Gates, ooo-oooh.” Murdoc began to cackle in a cartoon witch’s voice. “Who wants to try?” The children were silent. “I know Ethan wants some.” Ethan looked up from the black cone and into Murdoc’s eyes. They were almost nonexistent, hidden in the shade of the truck window, but Ethan knew they were there, and they were sweet. He couldn’t let Murdoc down. “Sure,” Ethan said, nary a note of manhood in his voice. He wondered if maybe he wasn’t becoming a man if ice cream still scared him. With a deep breath, he put the ice cream to his mouth and took a bite as weeks of Christmas Cookie had trained him to. This new cone was bitter at first, but like it’s cheery, Christmastime counterpart, sweetened with time. This was not joy, Ethan felt, but relief. He forgot about peeing in the morning, or what Susie had said about his noticeable boobies. He laughed, but it was a calm, lighter laugh, like a clever inside joke. “You guys should try some.” Ethan whispered, taking another bite. Silently, the other children followed their friend’s
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suggestion, giving Murdoc their allowance in exchange for a black, ominous cone of Cemetery Gates. They each supped of it, like King Duncan’s murderers washing their arms in blood,and each cringed at it’s acrid bite before succumbing to its black numbness. It was better than Christmas Cookie by far. “Can we get Chocolate for our friends?” Sandy asked, holding Susie’s hand and her black cone at the same time. “Don’t you think Clair and Hannah would like some new ice cream instead?” Murdoc gleamed. “Chocolate is so boring.” Sandy and Susie exchanged glances before shrugging and taking an extra cone of Cemetery Gates each. Ethan was right behind them, crunching on the last bits of chocolate waffle cone before handing over more allowance and asking for a second cone. Alex and Derek formed a line behind him. “Of course, Ethan. You’re my number one customer.” Murdoc smiled, taking Ethan’s money and giving him a second cone. This one was noticeably larger than the previous. Ethan was about to say something when he saw how jittery Alex and Derek were getting as they waited. Alex was sweating even, just standing there. Today was a bit cooler than it had been weeks previous, and yet he was sweating so hard there were rings under the sleeves of his t-shirt. His eyes were squinting to fight off the sting of his acidy drippings as they ran down his forehead and into the sockets which hid behind thick coke bottles. Ethan guessed the boy had outgrown the thin frames he had started the summer with. Alex was growing up just like him. Ethan looked down. His cone was gone. “Guys, what happened to my cone?” He asked his friends. They did not look away from Murdoc’s window as they ordered. After the transaction was complete, they stood in silence, looking down at their feet as they ate. The girls had retreated into their playhouses across the street, leaving just the boys and Murdoc. Murdoc was just waiting, the occasional puff of smoke shooting from the truck’s tail pipe like the short laughter that escaped from beneath his bushy beard. “Guys?” Ethan asked. “Get away.” Derek muttered between bites from his cone. “What happened to mine?” Ethan asked. Alex said nothing. “You’re wearing it, big fella!” Murdoc laughed, pointing to Ethan’s bare and fleshy chest. The boy looked down to see a few melting drops and crumbs forming underneath his chin and running down his body like sweat. “Want another?” f i f f i el d
Centripetal Ethan thought for a moment, looking at his two friends, eating their cones in silence while staring at the ground with empty eyes, before he reached into his pocket for more allowance. AUGUST Ethan sat awake for hours. It was getting like this. Fifth night in a row. He had woken up at four to pee. It hurt. He cried, but went back to his bed, leaving his tears on a bath towel. But it still hurt, and not just down there. His chest burnt. His back felt flimsy. And his shirt, which he’d taken to wearing again to cover up the twin balloons of skin that swelled until they were encompassed by stretch marks, was drenched with sweat. Scariest of all, his heart hurt, like someone was slowly stabbing it with a thin needle. Mom was right. Doctor was right. Nine is too young to want to die, Ethan thought. No more ice cream. At noon, he walked onto the front lawn. The sun was out, as usual. To one side of him, Alex stood with his cane. He had no glasses, because the glasses stopped working. He’d outgrown them. To the other, Derek sat in his chair, his big sister, who was well on her way to joining them, had to push him to the curb. Across the street, Susie, Sandy, Clair, Hannah, Hannah’s little brother Sport, and Sport’s friend Joe, stood in a line, wobbling. They looked less like children, and more like sweating eggs in children’s clothing, stretched taught over their swollen bodies. Ethan felt sad. But then the bells began to ring, and a small ray of light began to glow within him. No more ice cream, though. Ethan looked back down, the last ray of sunshine extinguished within. The truck came. The window opened. “Hi, everyone!” Murdoc smiled. He drummed on the window sill of his Good Humor truck, and sang hello to each child by name. “Hel-lo Sannnndyyy! Hel-lo Suuuuusie!” Each child got their name in the song, and Ethan came last. He got a special windowsill drum solo, and Murdoc sang his name three times aloud. But Ethan didn’t look up. “What’s wrong, big fella?” Murdoc asked from inside the truck. Ethan still looked at the ground. “No more ice cream, Murdoc.” Ethan felt his eyes get hot, and he tried as best he could not to cry in front of everyone, especially the girls. “Mom says I can’t. Doctor says I need to eat special food
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only. I need to take pills now, too.” “Oh no,” Murdoc said quietly. “I’m sorry, big fella. You’re my number one customer! But Mom knows best, and Doctor sure knows a lot, too.” Murdoc began to pull on his beard. No one spoke. Everyone knew Murdoc wouldn’t serve anyone until he served Ethan, so there was no point in fighting. “But I’ve got an idea!” Murdoc said, one finger pointing to the sky through the roof of the truck. “What if you had just one more cone, your favorite flavor, on the house?” Ethan looked up at Murdoc. He looked the same as he had in June. As a matter of fact, he was the only one who looked the same. Same black beard. Same yellow teeth. Same no nametag on the same white Good Humor uniform. “No more ice cream.” Ethan tried to explain. Murdoc kept on smiling. “Come on, big fella! One last cone! Your favorite flavor, on the house!” Murdoc started to laugh and yank his beard. The other kids started to laugh. “In fact, one free cone on the house for everyone!” Ethan looked around at the kids. They looked so eager to be pleased. Ethan couldn’t let them down. “Okay, Murdoc.” Ethan said. “You win. One last cone.” Murdoc’s smile thinned, showing less teeth, but widened to cover his whole face. He rubbed and clapped his hands together in excitement. “Yes yes yes, that’s what I love to hear. In fact, this being such a special occasion, you deserve a special cone that no one will ever see or taste except you!” Murdoc pointed at Ethan from with the truck. “It’s so special, I can’t even carry it in the truck! You kids will have to come back to the ice cream factory with me.” All around Ethan, the kids clapped and cheered, and those who could jump did. Alex and Derek refrained, but Derek’s sister rubbed Derek’s head with one pudgy hand in joy and excitement. “That is, if Ethan says it’s okay.” The laughter stopped. The kids stared at Ethan. He felt naked. His eyes were getting hot again. But he didn’t want to let the other kids down. He knew they were all like him, all sad on the inside. The ice cream was the only way for them to be happy. f i f f i el d
Centripetal He couldn’t let them down. “Okay.” Ethan whispered, one hot tear coming from the corner of his eye. “Okay, everyone!” Murdoc shot away from the window, only to appear again at the back of the truck, kicking the big silver doors open. “Into the truck!” Ethan hobbled to the back of the line, and from where he stood, the rest of the kids would never fit in there all together. But Murdoc was sure he could get them in, going so far as to lift Derek out of his chair, reaching out from the truck to grab the young boy’s arms. Sure enough, they were all in. The door shut behind Ethan. It sounded like a heavy iron gate at the front of a concentration camp. Ethan felt huddled and cramped in the back of the truck, but Murdoc assured them the ride would be short. “Why don’t you all just close your eyes, and when you open them, we’ll be there!” Ethan sighed, his breath hot on his own chest, but did as he was told. He closed his eyes, and soon remembered how much sleep he’d been losing this summer. He could count the hours as they flew away from him, like chicks from the nest. Five last night, four the night before, six the night before that-~ It was too cold for summer. Ethan opened his eyes and peered past the still nodding heads of his friends. Through the windshield, he could see that the truck was parked in front of a burned out warehouse, the front of which was covered in graffitti and decals. “Where are we?” Ethan asked. “The ice cream factory!” Ethan heard Murdoc shout as the door he’d been leaning on was whipped open. Ethan fell onto the hard gravel a few feet beneath where he’d been standing, and felt a good amount of shock as he looked up to see his beloved ice cream man. Murdoc didn’t bother to help him. Rather, he was helping the other kids out of the truck. Derek complained about not having a chair to sit in, but Murdoc ignored him too. He eventually gave up and sat on the ground. Once everyone as out, Murdoc slammed the door and turned to face the kids. “You’re all my favorite customers!” Murdoc started cheering. Ethan looked up. The sun was blotted by thick gray fog, and the air was so cold he could see his breath. This was not the world he had come from. “And I wanted to show you where I come from.”
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“What is this place?” One of the girls asked. “Well it’s not the name that counts, is it?” Murdoc smiled. “This is my world! Don’t you love it?” The kids were silent. They looked at the ground, as was their sheepish defense mechanism. Derek played with a few gravel stones. Slowly, just like that special day at the beginning of the summer, the smile faded from Murdoc’s face. “No one likes my world?” Murdoc asked the kids. No one answered him. “Well too bad!” Murdoc yelled. It startled the kids. Never had Murdoc raised his voice, nor had he any reason to. He was always happy, but not this time. Not in this world. Ethan began to wonder if maybe he should have stayed true to his promise of no more ice cream. This wasn’t worth it. “When do we get the ice cream?” Derek whined from where he was sitting, throwing a small stone of gravel away from himself. “No more ice cream!” Murdoc shouted. “None! No one gets any ice cream!” “I want to go home.” Sandy and Susie muttered in unison. “And no one goes home.” The kids were like prairie dogs gripped by fear, and no one could look away from Murdoc. His chest heaved with anger, and his hairy face quivered. His fists balled and unballed, and his breath came loudly to his lips. “No one goes home from my world.” Murdoc muttered. “Ever.” Murdoc’s fingers began to shake, as his once trim nails grew long and yellow, and his fingers began to extend to an impossible length. His arms became long enough to touch the ground as he stood, and his chest expanded enough to rip his shirt. Inside his beard, the yellow smile grew wide and pointed, like the treacherous maw of a shark. One of the girls screamed, but no one could run. A few tried, but none got away. Ethan sat on the gravel beside Derek, and cried. “What are we going to do?” Derek asked sheepishly. “Die, Derek.” Ethan whispered. Another girl screamed somewhere in the distance. Ethan picked up a gravel rock and threw it away from himself.
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Centripetal Barroom Humor Nate Graziano At the table in the corner of the bar—below a signed picture of Carlton Fisk with his arms over his head, hopping down the first-base line after his walk-off homerun in Game 5 of the 1975 World Series—a man with a mustache tells a joke about fucking a pig, and while the punch line never arrives, we still laugh with our heads tilted back, pumping our bellies like bag pipes. The woman next to me is named Jean and says she hasn’t worked in over year and a half, still she orders bourbon from the top shelf. Slightly buzzed, she tells the bartender that she took an aptitude test at the unemployment office the other day, and now she’s thinking about going back to school to be a dental hygienist. “Hi Jean,” the man with the mustache yells from the corner. “Get it?” A Viagra commercial comes on the television, and the man sitting next to Jean cracks, “If I had a hard-on for over four hours, I’d go to a whorehouse, forget the doctor.” Everyone laughs. It’s almost one on a Monday afternoon, and we’re all pretty well lit. Abandoned, the jukebox loses out to laughter—at least until the late-afternoon crowd arrives, having worked a full-day for shit pay. No joke.
Bad Kitty Samantha Byers She looks down at her worn out Prada stilettos she bought new just last week as she prowls down a cold, grim street. “It’s a quiet night,” she thinks to herself, for she usually has plenty of company by this time. Her tired feet keep moving robotically, retracing her steps from the night before. Her toes reach the end of the sidewalk and wait for the red hand on the other side to disappear. She pushes back her tousled blonde locks as a black Cadillac drives past and shouts, “Hey, baby!” She gives back a flirtatious wave. “No…come back,” she says softly while adjusting her bra; presentation is everything. She turns back to see the red hand gone but a black cat sitting silently beside the street light catches her eye. The first smile of the night breaks her tainted face. The sound of her stilettos start clicking against the pavement, “Here kitty kitty,” she calls leaning over and holding out her hand and the cat waits for her. She gets close enough to reach down and give it a little rub on top of the head but it quickly scurries away. She decides that she was too close to stop now so she moves from her beaten path to follow this teasing feline. Her stilettos create a different, almost clean sound as she makes a new way towards a new hunt. She gets to about a half a block of cleanliness then hears someone from behind call, “Here kitty, kitty.” She recognizes the voice and quickly forgets about the chase. She turns around and prances over to the man who called for her, “Hey Daddy!” “There ya are!” Says Dave; grabbing her waist, pulling her close. She smells the alcohol entangled in his breath, “I’ve been lookin’ everywhere for my lil’ kitty cat.” Dave has been there for her from the start; a reliable customer if you will. “Car’s over here” Dave says, directing to the same place as always. Kitty walks toward the alley with Dave’s hand around her waist— he gives a little slap on her rear before disappearing into the shadows. The musty, foul odor is back, making Kitty want to claw at her own nose. The blue Camry is parked underneath the fire escape but backed in this time. Dave opens the backseat door and hops in, scooting all the way over. He pats the seat next to him. Kitty slips in shutting the door behind. She feels that she is byers
Centripetal sitting on something and pulls out a fairly new child’s baseball glove. “So what do you have in mind?” she asks placing the glove by her feet. “I have 200 bucks and some blow,” he strokes her arm. She slides her straps enticingly down past her shoulders, passing a freckle every now and then, until her arms are free from her dress. She interrupts her own show, “I need some motivation, Daddy.” Dave willingly reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a silver case. He flips it open revealing a mirror, straw, and a little tied bag. His thick fingers fumble with the knot. “I can never fucking open these things! Why do they cut them so damn short?” She slowly slides the bag out of his struggling hands and naturally unties the knot. Dave carefully pinches the bag out of her grasp. “I loosened it up for you” he assures. The white powder trickles down to the compact mirror, creating a small pile of snow. “So I was at Lucky’s the otha night, right?” Dave starts to compress the powder and form two even lines, “And this pussyass, drunk as fuck may I add, came up to the bar and stood right next to me, right?” He pauses to offer the straw: “Here ya go, Kitty.” She takes the straw from his hands. “Anyways, the fucker accidentally hits my arm as I was takin’ a swig,” Kitty leans over and goes up and down both lines, “spilling it all over my fuckin’ lap.” She licks the mirror clean. “I was fuckin’ pissed right?” She leans her head back—letting the drip numb the back of her throat. “So I fuckin’ jumped up and….” She sighs as his words begin to fade until she can’t hear them anymore.
Slit Abbie Morin Last night I dreamt in color For the first time in 5 months. It was about you. I was fucking some chick That had an anchor tattoo Under her right collar bone. She was whispering in French With a heavy tongue, And scraping her nails Loudly Across the gray paint Of the plaster walls. I was close to climax With my lips pressed Hard on her shoulderStifling my moans As I rocked against her. You walked in. You stood in the door frame Watching me Naked Struggle to escape her arms And legs To get to you. I tried to explain, Stammering And ranting Until you silenced me. You tried but You couldnâ€™t hide your disappointment As you sliced through the skin on my throat With the pen that had been perched behind your ear And I didnâ€™t bleed. morin
Centripetal I merely ran my fingers Through your scarlet hair And smirked. “Shhhhh.” Before turning back and Nestling my face Between the thighs Of the girl With the anchor tattoo. You called me today. I didn’t pick up.
Second-rate Love Poem Mark Flynn You are the girl of my thoughts I love you to the end of this vacation When I’m with you I feel like 100 bucks If you were dog food you’d be K-L Ration Your voice is an infomercial to my ears Your eyes are liked glazed donuts You’ve got teeth like new golf balls When I see you I almost go nuts You are the 2008 Patriots An undefeated season 18 victories but no ring No one quite knows the reason Your love is on me like a pit bull Something I’m not sure I can survive I have been stung by the love wasp Not just one, the whole hive Our relationship is a 3 cylinder Yugo Chugging up a hill Or wishing for a glass of water While choking down a pill Our love is a brand new bike Missing just one pedal Everything about you is good enough You’re my silver metal
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Centripetal Rain Upon the Roof Jay Moscowitz You say there is a man who keeps you on your knees. He makes you beg forgiveness and always makes you plead. You say, “I’m sorry” and “Thank you”, but never once have you heard him say, “Please.” And, all along he’s thinking that you’re getting just what you need. He tells you stories and parables just like they’re proven fact, He quotes chapter, line and verse just to show you how to act. And, love, he says, it won’t be found by lying on your back. But, recently you’ve come to see it’s more complex than that. He says you are unfaithful in the way that you behave. But, you’re riding high on so many new emotions, like on the crest of a tidal wave, When he yells for you to pray for salvation, he brags he’s already been saved; All along you’re thinking how the road to Hell’s been paved. He’ll never understand you, you won’t enlighten him, As your light glows ever brighter, his grows ever dim. What you perceive as righteous, he perceives as holy sin. And, recently, the masquerade has been quickly wearing thin. He doesn’t know who he’s talking to when he looks into your eyes, He doesn’t know that you’re no longer so easily recognized. When it’s love he says that he’s offering, the kind of love that’s blind, He forgets your eyes are wide open and you can read between the lines. Now when you look into the mirror you see more of the future and less of the past. And as the heavens rumble loudly, it’s all slipping through your grasp. ‘Cause you think you need permission, you think you’ve got to ask, You’re finding out how hard it is just to let things pass. The clock doesn’t offer answers, but it provides you with several clues. Every time you hear it chime you run frightened and confused;
Every time you turn on the radio you can hear it on the news And you’ve read it in the headlines and you know there is no time to lose. As the storm blew wet and cold you blew in through my door. You were looking for some warmth, to hear my thoughts and nothing more. Nothing more can be added, it’s like the sea rushing to the shore; The sands are always changing and nothing’s ever like it was before. So let’s raise a glass to innocence, let’s give a toast to truth, Let’s sing one more verse in praise of the losing of your youth. Let the trumpets blare and let the walls come down, there’s nothing left to prove, And the only reality for us tonight will be the rain upon the roof.
Centripetal Welcome Home Alexandra Dickenson His red shirt is torn along the seam, the crinkles create mountainous peaks and valleys. His work boots wrinkled and stained beat out the seconds till he walks in the door. The cacophonic chorus the dogs sing as he turns the door handle wakes me from my seat. His half cocked collar matches his half cocked grin. Cracks in his hands map the days spent moving boxes, cooking dinner, caressing my neck. The cut of his grin softens as he walks the few steps to meet my lips. His kiss crackles down my spine. The hum of his laughter vibrates my lips and I laugh back. He puts his oversized pink mug on the tiled counter. I center myself to him and slip Into the nook of space created by our bodies as we touch. Days, nights, names, faces pop out of existence. We are hidden from the world in our moment of reunion.
A r r i va l , Su m me r Z hou
Centripetal Walking Out Abbie Morin An ochre autumn gust blasts mercilessly against my frame and I feel razor like specks of shredded leaves whip across my cheeks. I find myself gasping for air, forcing my breaths into choppy gulps that snap my mouth open and split my lip with a single crimson line. I burrow my chin tightly into my chest and suddenly can feel the full weight of the week that has been implanted permanently into my shoulders. The twinge flares through my neck and jaw with a metallic burn that bubbles inside my muscles. My heart pounds against my ribcage, each thump making me shockingly aware of my solitude and how alive I feel. My leather dress shoes had been pinching my toes painfully for the first three miles, but I haven’t felt all too much down there except for the occasional dull ache since then. I had stopped twice before to slip off my loafers and stockings to massage the color back into my feet, but I quickly surrendered that technique after discovering that it would be less of a struggle to just keep trudging and let them go numb. I got the call about Willow at 4am on the Tuesday before last. I would have never woken to my buzzing phone if it weren’t for Liv, who sleeps lightly due to what the doctors call a nervous stomach. “Would you silence your fucking phone?” My eyes shot opened at her demand as I simultaneously lunged for it and flipped it opened. The screen displayed a number I did not recognize and the glow illuminated Liv, who scowled at me before violently tossing onto her other side to face the wall. “Hello?” There would be no time to brace myself. The news leaked from the receiver into my ear and dripped slowly out of my gaping mouth, “Okay, bye”. I staggered back to the bed like a wounded deer, legs buckling, hacking and sputtering, my vision completely clouded by fluorescent spots. Liv let out an exasperated sigh, “Who was that?” I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t think. My mouth tasted like aluminum as I squeezed the words out of me. “Willow is dead.” The first time I saw Willow she was sitting on a park bench, holding hands with a girl with a straw colored faux hawk and freckles. Willow’s face was tinged with blush from the sun and a mass of tightly spun blonde dreadlocks came spilling down onto her shoulders. As my eyes wandered from her paisley print button up,
to the clay beads she had strung in her hair, I immediately wanted to know her. My desire to meet her was matched with my inability to find an excuse to talk to her. My first year of college was a raging catalytic storm, and the transformation of myself and my life left me breathless. As the mist began to clear I found myself in a fiery relationship, not with Willow, but with her fair haired ex, Liv. I met Liv at a party at a friend’s apartment in the middle of January. I was self conscious, being freshly out of the closet, so I spent my night drinking Captain on a ratty blue futon that caved drastically in the middle. I tried to hide the fact that I was watching Liv’s every move from across the room, but I know she saw me. The way she would flip her hood over her slightly grimy hair and slither outside to smoke a cigarette, or the way she raised her eyebrows before answering a question screamed confidence. “Came out when I was thirteen years old. Never looked back.” Her voice was a soft, growly mumble that forced me to lean closer to hear her. Liv brushed her palm against my leg as she reached for her beer bottle. “Oh, you play guitar? I dig artsy girls. Always have.” I was hooked. Months passed and my bond with Liv grew more and more dysfunctional. She was my first girlfriend, and I treated her that way. I learned very quickly that not giving in to Liv would cause more hurt than doing her endless tasks and chores ever would. The energy it would take to battle her toxic anger was better spent finding her next high. After awhile I just grew tired of fighting all together and submitted. “This is your fault.” You’re right. “I need twenty dollars.” Here’s twenty five. “Why do you make me do this to you?” I’m sorry. Even when she told me she loved me, and then took it back, I contained myself. As long as Liv remained with me, I told myself it didn’t matter- that it was better than being alone, that things would change. “Willow has a thing for you. I can tell.” I noticed the dirt beneath her yellowing nails as she hit the joint I had spent all afternoon trying to find. Her face was calm, but I could tell by the tinny quality her voice had that she was forcing it. Her hair needed to be washed and her nose was burdened with an unflattering bump, but her eyes were the color of unpolished aquamarines. In our most heated and desperate fights, it was always her eyes that pierced me beyond repair, that deflated me and my argument and shut me up. She expelled pot smoke directly into my face. “I know you’d never have the guts to cheat on me anyway.” My first form of secret rebellion against Liv came in the morin
Centripetal form of befriending Willow. Part of me wanted to figure out what was behind her mysteriousness, her secrecy. The other part of me just wasn’t satisfied with the Willow that Liv had described to me- my instincts told me to see for myself. Getting to know her was like trying to look through a painted window. I didn’t know what to make of her silence, and what I would later learn as her fear of speaking. I didn’t understand why she quaked at the touch of a stranger, or why she couldn’t look me in the eyes for the first few months. I didn’t know her deepest worries, or her dreams for ten years from now. What I knew about my new best friend was that she liked Elliott Smith, that she ate toasted English muffins everyday for lunch and that she loved to walk. Willow would make her treks at midnight every night without exception, even in cascading rain or deathly cold. “I like the way the air tastes. It keeps me feeling alive.” Some nights she would find herself deep in the woods, others she would walk alongside the interstate until the sun peaked over horizon. “Everything looks bigger when you’re by yourself.” Willow’s wisdom quickly became my form of comfort, and she padded the worst of blows I took from Liv, wrapping her arms around me or answering my calls in the late hours of the night. The lowest point came when I walked into Liv’s room to discover her beneath some girl from the basketball team. The night I found her I cried until my insides eroded and I collapsed at Willow’s doorstep. Her shirt was soaked in my tears and my breath reeked of rum when she finally kissed me. Her lips pressed against mine very softly at first, but it turned into something hungry and frantic. Every word she had omitted from our conversations over the months flooded through this single circuit we created. When Liv begged me for forgiveness I wanted to tell her no. I wanted to scream at her to fuck off, but the more she rationalized and justified, the more I faltered. She found the weakness in my armor and laid her deathblow. “Baby, no one will ever love you like I do. Ever.” One wide-eyed puppy dog whimper paired with a promise that things would be different and I gave in. How could I tell Willow that I had failed? That Liv and I were back together. Willow had crossed so many of her own boundaries to get to me, so why was I still so afraid? “Out of a week, how many days are you happy with Liv?” I couldn’t honestly answer without working myself into a corner. What would make me happier? I think I knew. So why was I doing the opposite? It was 11 o’clock on a Tuesday. Liv was out, and Willow
knocked twice before entering. I had spent the afternoon planning what I was going to say to her, how I was going to break the news. She walked across the room, but didn’t sit down. I could tell she was undone. It was clear in the way she was pulling at the skin on her hands and how fiercely she held her gaze away from mine. She already knew. “Are you okay?” I asked. “I’m not sure.” “You’re not sure?” She twisted her mouth into a bow-shape. “I mean, I think I am.” “Is that a lie?” I already knew her answer. “I don’t know.” “Will…” “I’m fine.” “I’m worried about you.” “You shouldn’t be.” She glanced at me for the first time since she’d arrived. “Is this conversation making you uncomfortable?” “Yes. Probably about a 9 out of 10.” “Is it bothering you though?” “Nah.” “Does it bother you to be uncomfortable?” “Well, yeah.” “But you just said this doesn’t bother you.” “It doesn’t.” I sent air streaming out of my nostrils, half laughing, the rest in frustration. “You’re a shitty liar.” There was silence, but not a looming staticky silence, not the kind that begs to be filled. It was the kind of hush you could curl up in for awhile. Willow turned to leave. My hand found her shoulder before she reached my door; she stopped, but did not turn to look at me. I buried my face deep into the wearing fuzz of her four dollar thrift store flannel. The dandelion checks blurred with the sky blue ones as my face got close enough to smell her. It was warm, a familiar smell of lemongrass and cedar mulch- pot stems and laundry softener- musky cologne and wet hemp. Still deeper, I inhaled the undertones of green tea and unburned patchouli incense- Old Spice and Parliament Lights. Finally Willow gave, once again, to the person who had taken the most. Before my knees had a chance to give out, her arms were wrapped around me once again, keeping me from hitting my dust covered floor. A rogue dreadlock freed itself from her hair band morin
Centripetal and scratched my cheek like a newly knit wool sweater. She was trembling. Her insides rattled against me as she let out a shuttered sigh. “What am I doing?” I didn’t recognize my own voice, but it certainly wasn’t the soft purr of hers. I wasn’t even sure to whom I was asking this- myself mostly, Willow, or maybe some image of god. Neither of them answered. “I’m so fucking weak.” She pressed me closer. Then she left. Around 2 o’clock that morning Willow was discovered on the side of route 93. She was laying in a puddle of red and had probably been dead for about an hour before they found her. There were no skid marks on the road- whoever hit her didn’t even try to stop. “Goddamn drunk drivers.” The officer had said, shaking his head. They still haven’t found the guy. Liv was wearing black. She shampooed the grease from her hair and cleaned her finger nails with a toothpick for the funeral. Leaning against her forest green Jetta, Liv avoided my eyes as she took a deep hit. She wasn’t able to hold in the skunky haze long before a raspy cough sent flecks of spit flying from her mouth. I pretended not to watch as Liv shoved the blown glass pipe, that she affectionately called “Jupiter”, back into its home in the left pocket of her pants. “I think that service was bullshit. No one there knew a thing about her.” I felt myself getting warm despite the abnormally cold bite to the November air. “What, and you think you did?” Liv ran her hand through her hair, making it stick up on end. I had challenged her. I was in for it. “Jesus Christ. Would you drop it already? She’s gone.” She was losing the patience she had scrambled to find the Tuesday before last when I sobbed and dry heaved against her bony shoulders until the sun rose and fell again. I turned up the collar on my moth eaten pea coat and turned from Liv. “Get in the car.” Her scratchy voice was sharp and prodded me like a cattle brand. I felt my steps quicken as my soles scraped against the pavement. “Where the fuck are you going?” I broke into a sprint across the parking lot towards the woods in the distance. “Fuck off Liv! I’m going for a walk!” I screamed this into the wind, but she didn’t hear me. I didn’t care. And like Willow, I didn’t come back.
(Urban Warfare Acid Trip) Kevin Matthews Pallid Purple Pillar clouds Soar softly slowly down to the ground With wonder washing wrapping round While whispering not one silent sound All spinning serpentine back and forth from the purple paradise to tumbling tumult fireflies with wispy washing turtle doves catching glowing electric bugs which lightened up their eyes. The buildings burning black to dust the steel is stripping reddish rust From Ferrous flowers glistening Crimson in a concrete world Still the purple pillar clouds soar softly slowly down and tumbling tumult fire flies with fervent flashing laser lights which burn the blazing summer sky with washing ragging rosy reds Just as the blood bursts from their heads So potent purple pillar clouds soar softly slowly down to the ground with burnished bloody bastards bleeding blindly in the empty streets The world is spinning serpentine Thorough the purple paradise with tumbling tumult earth and sky Which brought the wispy washing clouds Closer as they die. So steel and sweat and blood and black Send twisting terrors turning back to base with broken bodies lying lame upon the freezing floor
Centripetal So putrid purple poison clouds descend with death down to the ground leaving lovers lying lame wrapped within their last embrace Still soldiers standing in a line wait until the rest report Still not sure of which ones win So theyâ€™ll be back to fight again...
A Dusty Fury Samantha Byers The field that once flourished with life is now doomed with despair and death. Silence deafens the air; lungs full with dust and throats in need of quenching. It is as if the water was stolen from the heavenly skies and replaced with Hell’s heated wrath. The sun beats down on the defeated land, sucking the life out of animals through their hides—making one cringe and another chew on his own heart. Percy got up earlier than usual today. His small bare feet tip toe across the floorboards making them whine with each careful step. He slips on a pair of worn out boots and ties them the best he could with the shredded laces. As he straightens vertically, his pants slide down his thinning waist. Holding his pants up and embracing his breath, he steps out into the blue dawn and trudges through the brown land toward a rickety barn. A pile of dust clings to the side of it, reaching almost to the edge of the tin roof, blocking the sunlight from beaming life through the window. Percy grasps the handle to the sliding door with his adolescent hands and pulls, struggling to push through the sand. The sun breaks through the opening, lighting up the old, dusty barn. Three cows stand quietly behind a short wall, hanging their heads inertly and squinting their eyes from the first light of the day. A smile breaks Percy’s face, “Good mornin’ ladies.” He goes down the line and rubs each cow’s forehead, “How ya doin, Oreo? Sleep good, Bessy? You hungry, Jody?” Their sides are just ribs while their backs are hip bones and vertebras. Their muzzles droop lifelessly, cracked and dehydrated. Percy throws the cows the last three flakes of hay they have left. Their eyes sparkle with hope as they indulge their last meal. Percy takes the bailing twine left over and strings it through his belt loops, tying his pants up tightly, “Sorry buddies, that’s the last of it.” He looks around the haze and spots a warped milking stool. The stool seems to weigh more than Percy as he struggles to carry it across the room to the opposite wall where an inverted rainbow of blue, red, and yellow ribbons hangs. He sits the stool down and looks back at the cows, “Can’t be forgettin’ these, now can we?” Percy carefully unties one side of the sting of ribbons byers
Centripetal from the wall and shifts the stool to the other end. He manages the other side down from the wall but with the string being twice the size of him, ribbons just coast down—some making it to the middle and some flying off the steep track. As Percy steps out of the barn he hears the house’s front door snapping back and his dad appears on the porch adjusting his baseball cap, gazing out into the dead land in his patched up overalls. His high cheekbones protrude like the cow’s ribs and his once emerald eyes faded into a dusty grey. Percy drops the trail of ribbons at the bottom of the porch steps and climbs up to his father, “Mornin’ Papa.” He looks away from the ghastly lands down into the young, bright eyes of his son, “You’re up early today.” “Yeah, couldn’t sleep none. Figger I’d let those cows eat sumthin’. Used the last of it.” Percy pauses and looks away into the miles of death, “Where we gettin’ more?” He rests his elbows on the porch railing lacing his cracked fingers, “Hard to tell, Percy. I don’t think we’re gonna be able to get any more. We gotta find food for ourselves first before we can start thinkin’ about them cows.” Confusion spreads across Percy’s face, “There won’t be any hay in California?” “Sure there’s hay in California,” he said with some enthusiasm, “There’s hay ‘n’ jobs ‘n’ fertile land sprouting with fruits ‘n’ veggies. That’s why we gotta get movin’ today. We can’t waste another minute here.” “We’re bringin’ the cows, right? ‘Cuz I wanna show them that I’m the best there is in makin’ cows look pertty. Look at all these ribbons.” He runs down the steps and lifts the string of ribbons up and over his head standing on his tiptoes. His dad cracks a smirk as the little boy runs back up the stairs. He rubs Percy on top of the head, messing up his greasy hair, “Yup, you sure are the best, kiddo.” “So, we’re bringin’ them, right?” He hesitates and avoids eye contact with Percy, “Sure we are. They’re the only ones left to be packed.” That was true. The house was emptied of all its memories and piled high on top of their rusted pickup truck, securely strapped down with ropes. Their whole life packed up and ready to go venture across the States in hopes of starting fresh in a plentiful California.
They hear movement in the kitchen through the screen door, “Think Ma’s up,” Percy said. “Yeah, sounds that way, don’t it. Why don’t you go inside ‘n’ see if she needs any help?” Without another word Percy goes inside the bare house. His father still stands on the porch staring at the deserted land with tears welling up, getting ready to burst, but shakes it off before any real signs of weakness. He starts walking toward the distressed barn following and imitating Percy’s short strides from before, hoping to take up time. As he nears the building, he reaches a soiled hand into his overall pocket and pulls out a bowie knife then disappears into the barn’s shadows.
Centripetal Anywhere But Here Ryan McLellan There’s a bedroom in Chicago with my name carved into the wall and I am a heart that beats for August. The only thing left to do is breathe and I’ll be happy to die wearing a scarf in the winter cold as the city escorts me down streets filled with stairwell kisses, open invitations and violent love in the moonlight, communion of sweat, crazies with damaged goods in the trunks of their cheap beater cars that play mix tapes with custom track-lists in special handwritten fonts – There’s a couch for me to crash on in California that’s still empty, discussions sit scattered like jigsaw puzzles around dining room tables, unfinished in the yellow light, like every poem I’ve ever written. Bonfires yet to be built and burned; LP’s that need dust-offs and spins and I’ve become a drifter. I hitch along the dead highway, curse the names of local law enforcement, the sun just beginning to dry my khaki trench coat as a car hits a puddle just right – There’s an old horse in New Hampshire that knows more about me than any girl I’ve ever dated. We talked during ten-mile trail rides; he stepped, elegant, over gnarled roots on strong legs, we’d take quick canters through pastures and open it up at full gallop for the last two miles down Rye Beach, warmed by adrenaline, and just before we’d put the horses into the trailer I’d pat Jimmy on the neck, his red chestnut coat a prism of sweatbeads and sunlight, look him in the eye and thank him for listening – There’s a nine year old in Maine that wonders why he hasn’t seen his brother in six months and I am a cold slab of stone. He gets good grades, takes violin lessons and plays football in the summer while I bitch about being alone when he wants nothing more than to see me, to play homerun derby in the backyard; and sitting on
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the porch at his house is my mother, possibly sipping non-alcoholic beer, listening to WRKO on an old radio and wondering what she did wrong – There’s a long broken-down ’86 Cutlass that calls every night, leaves long drunken voicemails, begs me to drop a few grand and make her live again but I know it’d take more than that, more than I can give. There are too many places I neglect, people I forget, too many friends dying lately and too many thoughts about my own mortality. Life is now a Clockwork Orange eyeopener, massive marble statues of Worry, tributes and foggy memories, funerals and frozen windshields – There’s a poetry reading in Edmonton that wants to hear me read but fears freeze up my engine and snap off the key in my ignition; a church in Colorado I haven’t stumbled into to sit weeping in a pew while a storm passes like the last wave of nausea, the last choking heave; there’s an expensive coffin in Boston that my son hasn’t had to buy because he hasn’t been born yet, a mortician in Allston that has yet to make my acquaintance…but I know we’ll get along just fine in the end –
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Centripetal how the Santa Ana’s destroyed my home Kimberly Paniagua I saw my home on a magazine cover once Heads of houses peek over flame Over men saving babies to peer back at me And I think of the place I was born And of the people living on concrete slabs of sidewalk now Pitched tents where parked cars use to go Evacuees sorting through distorted belongings The palms no longer line our streets They are my hands holding your blackened hills They are pulling your body out of charred rubble Where are you my Los Angeles? My dirty sidewalks, my tangerine-tinted surfer boys I remember a time when I loved you. As a child I looked out into night-time hills dotted with golden flames And thought of city lights There was no need for moons back then and even now On the east coast I watch my home die in television clips I read about helpless Lola as she grabs her children Marcus takes a pillow My mother’s voice echoes back through the receiver And I realize how distant we’ve become She tells me about the Santa Ana’s The ones that come every year
pa n i agua
Time Bomb Carley Barton We knew this was coming. Having met five months ago I warned him, I warned myself. Don’t fall in love. Keep your guard up. Build your walls so tall that he can’t see over them. Make him give up before he has a chance to know you. We knew this was coming, so what did we do? We lived every day absolutely, brilliantly, and blindly in love with each other. He never did give up, but we knew this was coming. For 5 months it trailed at our heels, a dark undeviating shadow. We did worse than try to kick it away, we let it stay there and tried to outshine it, working intricately around it, the way a bomb diffuser handles a ticking time bomb. We had no idea which wire to cut, but we knew this was coming. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. We stood at the gates of hell, and as the gates swung open I caught a glimpse of Satan, the man checking passports. A rush of hot air blew my hair across my face, strands sticking to my damp cheeks. Immigration. I need to sit down, I thought. Sam read my mind, he had become quite good at it. I always thought it cliché, the idea of knowing what the other was thinking, as if I didn’t have a mind of my own. I’ve always been stubborn like that, but I didn’t even have to use words anymore. Sam sat down first, I followed his lead. When I know I’m about to lose something, I start to think back to every time I’ve ever done or used that thing. His lap. This was the last time I was going to sit on his lap. I went to speak, and instead I sat there with my mouth dropping open and closed, eyes darting back and forth, trying to look into both of his big blue eyes at once. I had never noticed how impossible that was. I couldn’t think of what to say. “Don’t say anything, just focus on your papers,” he whispered in my ear. In different circumstances I wouldn’t have minded him knowing everything I was thinking by the look on my face, my body language, the shift of my weight. This was not the time. “I don’t want to fill them out.” “You have to.” We sat in silence. I distracted myself with the strangers roaming past me. In a year, 14 million people pass through Kingsford Smith airport in Sydney, Australia. 14 million faces with 14 million destinations. 14 million hellos, and yet what a strange phenomenon this airport was, because while it was filled with travelling bodies, brushing shoulders, and passing nods, I couldn’t barton
Centripetal have felt more alone. I couldn’t breathe. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. “Breathe Baby!” “I can’t.” “It’s going to be ok.” “Then how come it isn’t?” Sam wrapped his big arms around me and I pressed my cheek against the top of his head, I breathed in his blonde hair and dug my fingers into his shirt. Our sobs grew louder, his chest heaved as he buried his face in my sweatshirt. The walls of the airport had closed in around us, leaving us boxed there by ourselves. Nobody else existed. There was no room for I’ll miss you, no room for don’t go, no room for please don’t leave me. My plane was taking off in 30 minutes. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. We stood back up and walked over to the sliding doors, the difference between here and there. “Find my lips.” What a silly thing for him to say at a moment like this. One night I made him read Cosmo with me, a girly magazine which had been lying on my bed stand. We read an article which said that everyone’s brain has neurons in it to help us to find our partner’s lips in the dark. Neither of us believed it so we flicked the lights off, and stood at opposite ends of the room. Ready, Go! When our lips met in the middle we couldn’t help but laugh. We shed our clothes, pulling shirt over head, playfully fumbling with pant buttons and bra straps, and the laughter never stopped. “Find my lips.” He said again. Reality rolled in like an angry tide wiping away my brief daydream. I wanted to say something awful to make him love me less, to make this easier. I looked around frantic in thought, making eye contact with every inanimate object I could find: Water fountain, baggage claim, rest room, emergency exit sign, this was an emergency. He placed his hands on my shoulders and suddenly I felt grounded again. Standing on my tip toes my lips met his, but my lips quivered and tears streamed down my face. My plane took off in 20 minutes. “Smile for me, it’s my favorite face you make.” My thoughts began snowballing with the same childish guilt that takes over when somebody dies and everything suddenly becomes your fault inside your own head. What if I just hadn’t met him? I wasn’t even planning on going out the night I met him! I didn’t speak. I studied his face; I ran my fingers through his hair, down his cheeks, over his chest. I loved the freckles plastered across his nose like splatter paint, the creases in the corners of his smile, the way his eyebrows raised whenever he tried to get me to do something I didn’t really want to do. I didn’t want to smile. When doorbell rang the night of our first date my heart pounded through my chest and I bounded
down the stairs like my ass was on fire. He stood there in his royal blue shirt with a big grin on his face and I knew I was in trouble that very moment. Every time the door bell rang for the next 5 months I flew down the stairs with that same fire, heart pounding out of my chest. I should have stayed in, because here I stood now, heart pounding out of my chest again, in a very different way. I shouldn’t have answered the door. Maybe if I had just stayed in that night we wouldn’t be in this uncompromising position. “You have to smile for me one last time.” His voice broke the snowballing and for an instant I could focus. Smile? I was about to get on a plane going in the wrong direction. I wasn’t going home, I was leaving home. This was goodbye. My thoughts began to snowball again, snippets and snapshots of scenarios. All I wanted was to be the mysterious American girl he was dating that nobody knew, until like the day of his rugby game when I wore his jersey, and could hear the chatter as I walked by. His team mate struck up a conversation with me about the weather just to hear my American accent. I wanted to be bickering with him over the correct pronunciation of words. I wanted to be coming, not going. I smiled, and strangely it wasn’t forced or fake. I knew it would make him happy so I smiled like the first time I met him, the giddy, flirty smile that got his attention when I was just some silly American girl who was looking for an adventure, and he was just a hometown Australian boy willing to show me around. “There she is.” He laughed. There I was, for my last moment. I hadn’t said a word in 10 minutes. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. “I have to go.” The words felt like jagged razors slicing down my throat, I took two steps toward the sliding glass doors. Sam kissed his two left fingers and walked them down over his right shoulder, down his right arm off his hand and into the air. I caught the kiss with my right hand and walked it up my left arm and shoulder, touching my hand to my lips. Our love had become tradition. The bomb ticked on, but we knew what was coming. My plane took off in 15 minutes. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. I turned around one last time to see his handsome face. The doors of immigration closed, and when I knew he could no longer see me, my face crumpled in pain. My knees hit the ground as two security guards came to my aid. Everything went black. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Boom.
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