“Poets are soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession of definition.” ~Eli Khamarov
“Go without a coat when it’s cold; find out what cold is. Go hungry; keep your existence lean. Wear away the fat, get down to the lean tissue and see what it’s all about. The only time you define your character is when you go without. In times of hardship, you find out what you’re made of and what you’re capable of. If you’re never tested, you’ll never define your character.” ~Henry Rollins
Volume 12 F Issue 2 Spring 2011
C o -E ditors Kristen Leigh Russell Haley A. Sciola L ayout M anager Veronica Musch E ditorial A dvisors Liz Ahl Paul Rogalus C over A rt “Color Angst” Nathan Gagne Cover Design Nathan Gagne L ayout Jenette Coutinho Kristen DiMatteo Michael Eddy Patrick Liam O’Sullivan Kristen Leigh Russell Haley A. Sciola S enior E ditors Liz Ahl Michael DiTommaso Spencer Jackson Paul Rogalus Kristen Leigh Russell Haley A. Sciola A ssociate E ditors Angelique Beals Phillip Cotton Jenette Coutinho Melissa Davidson Adam DiFilippe Kristen DiMatteo Michael Eddy Andrew Maznek Patrick Liam O’Sullivan Christian Passen
S ubmission G uidelines Submissions are open to Plymouth State students, alumni, faculty and friends of Centripetal. All submissions must be typed. No hand-written submissions will be accepted. We accept: prose less than 4,000 words; poetry of any length, any style; microfiction less than 500 words; graphic fiction up to 4 pages; high resolution art or photography. Individuals may submit up to four pieces of writing and four pieces of art per person. Submissions should be e-mailed as attachments as Word Documents or JPEG files to poetswriters@plymouth. edu. Centripetal accepts one time North American Rights for print and online publication. All rights revert to the authors upon publication.
PSU Poets and Writers 19 Highland Ave Suite A14 Plymouth, NH 03264
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Centripetal is printed by True C olors P rint & Design 57 M ain Street P lymouth , NH (603) 536-3600
Contents Volu m e 12 F Iss u e
S p r i n g 2 011
6. Iâ€™m Your Daughter 8. Pseudonym
Kristen Leigh Russell
14. The Headless Horseman In My Head
Spencer Jackson Robert Binette
20. The World is Lonely
23. Beltane 24. Tagged
31. Mightier than the Sword
32. The Best Revenge
Haley A. Sciola
34. Gourmet Expirations
Kristen Leigh Russell
38. Weak Become Heroes
Kayley J. Fouts
43. The Hanson Brothers
44. God Busts a Move
46. Choisi un CotĂŠ 47. Let Go
Cecil Smith Jaclyn Wood
48. Slamming Room Only
49. The (Decoded) Binary Diaries: Entry 1
Haley A. Sciola
53. Last November
65. One Minute
72. The Wanderer
Patrick Liam Oâ€™Sullivan
Editors’ Note This issue of Centripetal is dedicated to the voices within us that all too often remain unheard. We chose the cover image, a self-portrait by Nathan Gagne, because it is also a portrait of ‘the other’. It represents the internal struggles of the oppressed, all of us who have at one point or another had to witness and/or experience the effects of an unjust and complicated world. This image, in addition to every work in this issue, illustrates both the obstacles one can encounter and the triumphs one can gain. We believe our strengths are always inside us, but often others can see them on our faces before we can ourselves. We hope this issue compels you to peel away the façade of your superficial color and fully expose the diverse cornucopia of feelings, potential, and capacity for change found within all of you. True Colors Uncovered, Kristen Leigh Russell and Haley A. Sciola Centripetal Co-Editors, Spring 2011
Scared Megan McDermott “I like you better without makeup,” he says, unsure of her. Sixteen and pure, he ripped her lushness away, her lips splattering timeless secrets that she never opened, her father told her to stay away, but that night was blurry from her drunken eyes. “Charlene Street,” the reflective green sign sang, as they drove silent in his mother’s red minivan. He pulled over and slipped his fingers like a venomous snake down her pants. Inexperienced and immature, his skeletal lips press against hers, chapped and hard, not soft, like she expected. Painful thrusts of powerful hands rap around her tight figure, she dissolves into herself evaporating into thin air as he, squeals in his own pleasure. He drops her off alone with only herself to comfort, as the red slowly stains her innocence. “I like you better without makeup,” he says, unsure of her.
Split Parker Allen
is hands spoke in lines and creases. The old man’s grip hardened with age and became tough and dry like the trees he cut. During supper I would notice how soft the tablecloth felt when I held his hand during grace. I would bow my head and wonder why his Persian carpet aged with dust rather than mud. My grandfather’s hands could have calloused my own. I never actually witnessed him raise the flag. Even as a boy I could never get up that early. It was unnaturally early; just after the coos of the night and right before the chirps of dawn. I imagine that he enjoyed listening to each crunch from the grass’ frost. Every morning I would look through my bedroom’s distorted window to find our flag swimming in the air, triumphant. When dusk came he would excuse himself and bring the flag folded into three exact tips. His day operated between those trips to the flagpole, and sometimes he would allow me to follow him into the woods. In reality it was his tree farm, but I always looked at them like woods. He seemed to know all the trees like pets. He understood every part of them: what they were, what they had become, their health, everything. He lived in the hard maples, birches, spruces, elms. The man would patrol his land with an eye for what didn’t belong. He knew exactly when a tree would be ready to be cut months in advance, and he would only rip the chain saw’s cord when it was the perfect time for that particular tree. I never actually witnessed him cut down a tree. It was an implied lifestyle that was only punctuated by the echo of a chainsaw somewhere off in the woods. Standing on the back porch I could see the tree line and envision his perfect triangle cuts and the smell of low grade gasoline. Even as a boy I was proud that the only thing that separated us was our middle name; we were both Charles Allens. When I became the only Charles Allen the sounds of chainsaws and aromas of sap became memories. A stroke my father suffered some years later left his right hand motionless and bound to a fist. I learned to cut his fingernails by opening up his palm and pinning it to the kitchen table with one hand while
Centripetal I maneuvered the clippers with the next. His fingers grew stiff with each year and resisted any motion but a clench. His skin gradually became soft and smooth like a lake’s windless surface. His fingernails became long and narrow and if you cut too close to the cuticles he would wince and say, “Hey!” My sister and I traded fingernail duty every other time but it soon pained us to perform any such operation. His nails started to grow and grow but his clenched fist hid our waning care. Ordinary things became complicated. I was forced to maintain our property without instruction or guidance. After a while the grass turned to weeds, dead leaves accumulated, and the hill where I used to go sledding slowly grew to brush. Even our property seemed to close its grip from every direction. -oI met Mr. Schaub when I was a freshman in high school. Mr. Schaub, or Andy Sherwood, professionally, needed some assistance around his property. He never asked for help and simply needed someone to work with him to ease the load on his aging body. He simply wouldn’t quit. I quickly learned that Mr. Schaub was a man that broadcasted no squeals for pity or aid. He took me under his wing and showed me how men get things done. He worked hard in the depths of New York City, but worked harder maintaining his extensive property. The money he earned could have provided him with fields of men to pamper his land, but he detested that. I learned that Mr. Schaub took pride in the difficulty of digging in New England’s soil. He relished the times when it looked like it couldn’t be done. He installed a wood-burning furnace in the stable where his horse once lived. It made little sense to the average human being. It eventually made sense to me. It heated the house by burning wood but it required to be fed timber every five hours. After that furnace came about, I quickly found myself fully employed. He had a 1989 Ford pickup he acquired from a friend that owed him a favor. The truck, light blue with rust along the side, was the real workhorse. Mr. Schaub and I would drive that blue Ford up into his snowy woods and cut down the dead trees. While he cut the tree into logs I would haul them into the truck bed. He never let one piece go. If one log rolled down a hill he would keep note of it. If one piece couldn’t be knocked from the frozen soil he wouldn’t forget. These were his parts, and he
intended on using every inch of them. During the week he would ask me to come and split the logs by the barn or find the ones that rolled too far down the hill. He asked me to come on a Tuesday during winter break while he was at work. I rose right when the sun was starting to peak through to the morning. The day was dark and sleeting when I woke up. He had assigned me to retrieve and split the logs that rolled down the hill years ago and I learned and strove to complete my task in the closest manner to Mr. Schaub, regardless. When I arrived I slugged what was left in my coffee mug and tightened my bootlaces in the heated car. Stepping out, I put on my orange work gloves, adjusted my knit-cap, and started to make my way towards the barn. I found Mr. Schaub’s steel sledgehammer and three genuine steel wedges. Mr. Schaub always mentioned that the wedges were unique. “They haven’t made them like this for years. These were made in Pittsburgh when that actually meant something. They’re real steel—won’t crack or become frail like the ones today. I’ve had these wedges longer than I’ve had this house and I’m sure they’ll outlast the house,” he would often say. As much as I loved the steel wedges, they wailed every time you delivered a solid strike. I set out down the hill to where I had been told an old pile of twenty or so logs had rolled years ago. The weather began to shift from sleet to rain while the temperature flirted with freezing. I carefully galloped my way down the slope where the monstrous things lay frozen. As I went to put my wedges to the ground they stuck to my glove. Peeling the steel off my fingers, I tried kicking one of the top logs loose. No luck. I felt a numbing pain run through my heal and into my knee. Taking the sledgehammer, I planted my bottom foot and twisted the sledge at an angle to knock it from the frozen ice. No luck. The rain started to pick up and I realized that the fingers of my work gloves had turned to ice. I removed my right glove and gripped the cherry handle of the sledge as tight as I could, preparing myself for another blow. As I went to throw the hammer I could feel the freezing water seep through my cotton sweatshirt and cause my forearms to form goosebumps. With every muscle in my back twisting and my right hand leading, I struck the first log loose and it made a crunching thud on the icy
Centripetal ground. “This looks like a birch,” I thought to myself. My exhales were accented by the fierce winter air and I couldn’t find the right balance on the slope of the hill. Still, I leveled the log and placed my best wedge right between the natural stress cracks in the center. My right hand had now gone numb but I only thought of it only as an advantage. “I’m an Allen,” I told myself and moved on. I didn’t care to acknowledge how cold and wet I had become. I used my left hand to hold the wedge in place and the other to firmly tap it into the crack. The sound of the hammer was dulled by the snow and hardly made a ping. The rain had turned back to sleet and the wind picked up. I could feel my cheeks go prickly, and I knew my face became a flushed plum. Trying to find my balance on the slope, I took my grip on the sledgehammer and swung it just below my shoulders towards the wedge. “TING!” the steel replied, leaving my ear drums ringing. Feeling the exhilaration from my first strike, I focused back on the wedge that had sunk a quarter of an inch into the wood. This would be a fight. Reloaded, I slammed the sledge to the head of the steel and heard that beautiful ringing in my ears once again. The cold rain on my forehead was mixing with my sweat and created a leather flavor when it trickled down into my mouth. The wedge had moved deeper into the wood, yet there were no stress cracks. Again, I struck the wedge, “TING!” Again, “TING!” AGAIN, I thought, and again my ears rang. I could now see the log’s cracks and realized its weakness. I placed my second wedge against the sunken steel with my bare hand, no longer caring for the temperature. After tapping it into place, I noticed I was smiling between my exhausted breaths. I took my left glove off and noticed freshly broken calluses. Gripping the sledgehammer as firmly as possible, I swung towards the new wedge with everything I had and the beautiful sound of that log separating sang throughout the woods. I ripped the log apart with my bloody hands and threw it above me, triumphant and excited to get to the next.
I’m Your Daughter Kristen Leigh Russell It’s the sunniest day in August I’ve ever seen. As the car engulfs us with a silence that I can’t bear to ignore, you tell me to grow up. You tell me to get my own life. You ask me, “Who do you think you are?” I’m your daughter. We just got out of work, and I’m sad because every dish I wash is another small topic of conversation before the clock strikes, when these minutes of our relationship are fading like the grime from my plate. My body is trembling with the fear of the unknown, like my heart is the train, my body is the tracks, and it’s all so sudden. It isn’t supposed to be like this. She’s born, she’s healthy, she’s beautiful, she’s alive. A mother’s love is supposed to be unconditional. I’m your daughter. I never cared that you tried coke. I never cared that I had to wear the same pants everyday and wash them twice a week. I never cared that you worked the same job, making sandwiches for minimum wage for ten years. You were determined to make ends meet. Your scream is something I haven’t heard for years and it radiated from my feet to the tears about to pour out of my eyes, when you asked, “Do you really think I’d choose you over him?”
Centripetal I’m your daughter. Was it that I didn’t play the game with the same cards you did? I’m sorry; I thought that was what you wanted, but you wanted better. Did you know that better batted his eye lashes at me when you weren’t looking? All that matters is your white picket fence, which is funny because it’s plastic. Christmases with a family are a faded dream. Thanksgiving isn’t a big deal, because I don’t eat turkey anyways. Birthdays won’t count because I’ve already succeeded your emotional gross. I’m your daughter. My daughter isn’t here yet, but I can tell you my love for her is already unconditional. No mentally abusive son of a bitch is ever going to take that away, because you can’t buy love and you sure as hell can’t sell it. It’s the sunniest day in August I’ve ever seen. The car stops, our conversation fades, and I’m struggling to hold on, knowing the family I once had is now broken, not from a divorce when I was barely a year old, but because your boyfriend is more important than the last twenty years I’ve been alive. Maybe my tears don’t mean anything to you, but someday you will realize, I’m your daughter.
Pseudonym Spencer Jackson
o get one of the Steves to cover for you.” Clearly, you must have heard that, coming from down the hall. I did, and immediately sighed a deep breath of frustration because I knew, as soon as I heard that, that I would be the Steve whose six-hour shift was about to turn into a twelve. It was Margaret, of course one of the pretty nurses, who came in with the nervous yet humbling grin on her face. She didn’t exactly enter the room more than she just leaned in through the doorway as if she were hiding something behind her back, but with her feet, which were hidden behind the frame, rather than her hands. “Hey Steeeeeeve?” she said, trying to be funny about screwing me over I guess. “Hold on a sec,” I replied as I wiped some applesauce off of Mrs. Gokey’s tired and wrinkled face. I knew what Margaret wanted, obviously, but I was going to make her at least awkwardly wait. So I took my time cleaning off Mrs. Gokey’s lips and chin, wiping them down with a warm, wet face cloth before turning and asking, “What can I do for you?” “Oh!” Margaret chirped, as if she wasn’t just standing there watching me finish what I was doing. “I can’t stay on tonight, I have to go home to—” I didn’t bother to listen to her excuse as to why she needed the night off. It was a 50/50 toss-up as to whether or not she would tell me the truth anyway. I was more or less fixated on the question of what purpose it served for her to pretend to be surprised when I finally got to her. Was it supposed to imply that I unnecessarily wasted her time, or was it simply a personality thing—a tic, I think they call it—some kind of automatic reaction to specific circumstances. I got that far with that thought when I realized she had stopped talking and was staring at me blankly. “Is… that okay?” she asked. “I’m sorry?” “Can you work for me tonight?”
Centripetal “Oh!” I mimicked, “Yes, that won’t be a problem. I need the cash anyway.” “Great!” she said, “Let me know if there’s a time that I can cover for you if you need—” “How about the twenty-third of … what’s next month?” “Um, March?” “Yes, March twenty-third.” “Okay,” she said with an uncertain little laugh, “Great. Is there something going on on the twenty …” “Twenty-third,” I said enthusiastically as I pulled down the blinds for Mrs. Gokey’s nap time. She was near-comatose and couldn’t remember the beginning of a sentence you were saying before you could even get to the end, so none of us bothered to talk to her. “Make sure you don’t forget, and no, there’s nothing going on, but I’m pretty sure that half-way through the month, I’m going to want a day off, so… there.” Margaret laughed and shook her head before saying, “Thanks again!” and disappearing around the corner. She was nice enough about making me cover for her, I guess, and I wasn’t lying when I said I could use the money, so I can’t say I was angry to have to be there. I know I would have been the first year I worked in D-Wing. Back then, we called it ‘The Death Wing’ because this has always been the last stop old folks make before checking out for good, but one of the resident’s family members heard one of us call it that, and Jane Larsing, our supervisor, put a quick end to that. If you haven’t gathered this by now, I work in a nursing home for the elderly, and let me just stop now to tell you that, no, it’s not the most depressing job in the world. Now, setting, that’s a different story. There are fewer settings in the world as dismal and bleak and sad as a home of dying people who fixate themselves on the times when they could dance and run or climb a mountain or so many other things that seem almost worthless to me at my age. Yes, the setting of this environment got to me, brought me down, but time has allowed me to see that setting is constant and is not worth struggling to accept; it’s perspective that changes and matters. Anyway, back to D-Wing. It’s the northern end of the Endicott Center of Elderly Care and Rehabilitation in New London, New Hampshire. New London is like Vegas for old
dying people and the Endicott Center is somewhat like Caesar’s Palace. As you enter into the main lobby, you can see the opening hallway with each wing labeled A through D, and if you take time to walk past each one, you’ll notice the condition of the residents diminishes as you get further down the line. If you go past D-Wing, then you go through a double door at the back of the building with a pick up lot for loading up the stiffs so they can be burned up or planted in the ground somewhere. After Margaret left, I had turned off the lights in Mrs. Gokey’s room and left. Over near the nurses station was a small stack of clipboards, each with the patient’s medical chart on it. By the time people normally reach D-Wing, we don’t pay much attention to their chart. Sure there’s the meds, which we keep up with, but our job, for the most part, is comfort control. The only thing I look for on the charts now is an extra, non-professional, note left by the last nurse attending next to the resident’s name which either read M for Mind, or B for Body. It was a subtle warning of what to expect when you entered a resident’s room. A B was usually someone who was either violently ill or completely still. An M was generally less messy, but more tedious because you have to watch them in case their senility causes them to tear out their IV and race down the hall or something. People can still surprise you, even when you think they might be too old. I got two Bs and strangely, an M/B, which was a first. The two Bs were pretty easy going. One, actually, was really easy going because he, Mr. Fernald, hadn’t moved, opened his eyes, or spoke a word in over a year and a half. All he was doing at this point was getting revenge on his kids’ finances. I just did the normal checks: vitals, fluids, medical equipment, and general layout of the resident’s position on the bed before turning to leave. Then, just as I was about to walk out of his room back into the hallway, I noticed his TV was on. “Did you want that on?” I asked him. Mr. Fernald just hissed away like Darth Vader on his ventilator, which I took as a ‘no,’ so I shut the TV off and left. The other B was Mrs. Flewelling, who was a very nice lady, sharp as a whistle too. I probably spent over an hour in her room talking to her about whatever interesting tidbit of her near century-long life she thought I would enjoy. Tonight she talked to me about her uncle who used to make Moonshine during
Centripetal Prohibition, and how he used to send it to school with her to give to Louis Martin, who would in turn give it to his dad, who would pay her uncle later that afternoon. It was a nice chat, and afterwards, I fetched her some extra pudding desert and another blanket before helping her find her favorite soap opera and then leaving for my last check, the exciting new M/B. He was fresh to D-Wing, but the attending physician said he was more than likely not going to make it through his first night; his condition was getting worse very quickly. “Circling the drain,” was how the doctor put it, which I thought was pretty insensitive, even for me. The M/B’s name was Robert Palmer. Bob Palmer. Bobby P. When I entered his room, he surprised me by the fact that he was sitting up in his bed, looking out the window, and ignoring the Extenze commercial on the TV across the room. He coughed a thick, wet cough just before I spoke to him. “How are you feeling, Mr. Palmer?” I asked, standing next to his bed. I waited for him to acknowledge me, then the question, and then come up with his own response if he felt like it. Robert only sighed. I knew better than to ask what he was looking at because his eyesight had gone about half a year ago, yet he says he can see a little when he’s looking into the light of the sun. It’s good that they put him next to the big window overlooking the courtyard. I grabbed his arm to turn it over and check his IV, and I must have startled him because his shoulders bounced and his head spun in my direction. His grey eyes searched the general area where my face probably was to him—which he wasn’t too far off, by the way—and he asked, “Gabe? Is that you Gabriel?” “No, Mr. Palmer,” I replied, “I’m not Gabriel, my name is Steve.” I don’t know who Gabriel is, but when I introduced myself to him, I felt almost ashamed at how my name sounded compared to whoever Gabriel was. I wish my parents had named me Gabriel, or something at least a little more distinguishable than Steve. “Go get one of the Steves to cover for you.” I felt like another one of those stereotypical employees that seem to be pulled off the same shelf in some kind of standard
low-wage employee department store. Always the same age, disposition, and always a Dave, or a Mark, or a Steve. One of the Steves. “Gabe, where… where have you been?” Robert asked in between gasping breaths. “I’m not—” “I’ve been waiting … here … for you. I’m not…” “Easy there,” I said, holding back on Robert, who had tried to sit himself up more. “Relax, I’m right here, but my name—” “Gabriel, I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you like I should have been.” “Oh…. Oh no, I…” I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t want to be in a conversation like this, and yet I felt compelled to stay in the room with the dying man. “It wasn’t something I was taught. Being a dad.… It’s not as easy as it sounds before you’re actually one. My father left when I was sixteen, like I’ve told you, and I guess that made me scared of letting you down.” “Please, Mr. Palmer,” I had to stop this, the poor guy was spilling his guts to me thinking I was his son. I couldn’t even tell if he could hear me or not, but it still felt dishonest of me to let him continue any further. “You need to get your sleep.” “I’ll get all the damn sleep I’ll ever need soon enough now, so listen to me.” Robert’s eyes were fixed on mine now, and I looked into them the same way I’d look into anyone else’s. Sharp as a whistle. Does he know I’m not Gabriel? Does he even care? “All the kid stuff,” he continued, settling back down against the pillows behind his neck and shoulders, “All the little kid stuff, that was easy. It was all hugs, kisses, and band-aids back then. It was after, when you started becoming your own man, when I lost my handle on it.” Poor man. His words sounded rehearsed, like he’d been practicing this for when Gabriel would some day come back to visit his father one last time, but Gabriel wasn’t going to come in time. Like my name, he got Steve instead of Gabriel. “I should’ve tried to listen harder, and see things from your point of view. I shouldn’t have let the world get me so down on life, on your mother and you.” I thought of my own father, and what he was probably doing
Centripetal while Mr. Palmer was spilling his heart out to me. Eight thirty on a Saturday night; chances are that he was strolling through the grocery store, carefully selecting the items he would bring home. My dad, who was great. He’d always been there for me, and we got along just fine. “I never meant to hurt you, or to make you feel down on yourself. I just didn’t know what I was doing yet. I hadn’t grown up yet. I don’t blame you, Gabriel. I don’t blame you for leaving home.” He reached his shaking, withered hand over in my direction, and impulsively, I felt my hand grip his. Tears began spilling around in Robert’s eyes, and they rolled down his leathery face. There was a certain sense of life in those tears that wasn’t in any other fiber of this man’s body. “I… I love you, and I’m sorry,” he said, concluding his speech. I gripped his hand with both of mine and told him that everything was okay, that he hadn’t done anything wrong by me. I told him that I loved him, and that I wasn’t perfect either, that nobody was. I finished by telling him that I forgave him. Comfort control. I can be Gabriel for a minute, I guess. He lay back in his bed and cried a little. I stuck around with him, neither of us talking, until he said, “Thank you. I’m ready to go to sleep now.” Quietly, I got up and turned the light and TV off. Whether that made a difference or not, I wasn’t sure. When I left the room, Robert’s sleeping face was slumped off to the side, facing the window again. Stepping back out into the hallway, I felt a heavy weight on my shoulders. I wanted to take another look at Robert, but I knew better. Instead, I strode down the hall, back over to the nurses station, and fetched the four new charts waiting for me. “In for the long haul?” Anette, the desk receptionist, asked. “Oh yeah. I’ll be here for a few more hours,” I replied. “Ooh, harsh,” she replied while cringing. “Eh,” I shrugged, “It’s not so bad. I could use the money.”
The Headless Horseman in My Head Robert Binette It’s the same every morning Check the stove, the plates Check the coffee maker Check the locks Check the windows and the faucets over and over again Once, twice, three times Check them off on the list Go back, check it again 1, 2, 3, 4 4, 6, 8, 10 3,6, 9, 12 5, 10, 15, 20 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 over and over again in digits of two, four and five Seventh time’s a charm “Ichabod, Ichabod ...” Running up and down the stairs of my house like a madman my cat looking at me like I’ve gone nuts Look over each room, leave, come back and check again “Do you have everything? Do you have everything?” “Did you check everything?” You ask yourself over and over again and the answer is simply “No” You can’t convince yourself of that You fight with yourself; you spit, you curse but you always go back to check
Centripetal “Ichabod, Ichabod ...” What they don’t tell you about panic attacks is that the threat is always there, it never goes away It starts in the back of your head, that heat It then works its way to your forehead and stays there Your skin feels like its on fire, there are cold sweats and your hair stands on end Your heart rate picks up You have problems breathing Your hands shake Your mind races Adrenaline rushes to every single corner of your body Just the thought of leaving the house sends you whirling, all your fears in one nice little package are delivered right to your doorstep: a bomb Just because all you can think about is the consequence Today, tomorrow, yesterday, a year ago It happened once, it’ll happen again Go back check again and again, and again What if, what if, what if !? “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” So you go to their therapists You take their pills and you don’t know if they do any good You still can’t sleep at night and you lie there and grind your teeth waiting to falling asleep, waiting for anything, waiting for it to stop but it doesn’t Anxiety seizes you and doesn’t let go It holds you tight in a chokehold and it all becomes one of big feeling of nothing, a routine, a ritual, a vicious cycle you know that will never end until Bang! you’re dead because it’s been like this for so long you don’t know if it’ll ever CHANGE
“Ichabod, Ichabod ...” So I finally make it to my car, panting put the keys in the ignition and attempt to leave Backing up, I can see the horse rising out of the pavement, black as night black as death its nostrils breathing fire with the horseman swinging his sword and laughing, pumpkin in hand I put the pedal to the floor and drive as fast as I can but no matter how fast I go I can’t get away from him He chases me all the way to the bridge cackling and screaming the entire way Some days he catches me and some days he doesn’t but I know if I can just make it over that bridge I’ll be fine I pull out onto Route 3 after and I can see him disappearing in my rear view, the horse circling and drawing off going back to the depths of Hell where it came from In my mind’s eye, I can still feel him sitting in the passenger seat with me until I leave town In the end, it’s not the chase that brings me down or the fact he’s after me but the fact that I’m alone in this No one knows and no one will ever understand; the things I’ve come to know because of it and the people I’ve lost are just too much I drive away, safe, sanctuary but I know he’ll chase me again because tomorrow I’ll have to do it all over again I’ll have to do it all over again
Son Leslie Goden I wanted you to find me worthy. Knew the night of conception that you were a son. I waited, not patiently, for your arrival. I did not like being pregnant. There was no glow. My belly grew stripes, hips spread, to make room for you my perky breasts tore through my seventeen year old skin. Not for years after your perfect birth, would I be able to look in a mirror without revulsion. Two weeks before your delivery I was done with you but I didnâ€™t know that. I tried bumpy rides, gulped cod liver oil determined I was, to free myself of the blossoming burden of motherhood. The day you were born my blood pressure spiked your blood and my blood too much for my parched heart to bear. They broke my water or was it yours? Reached inside me with a hook, tore a hole. Ready or not, here you come. You turned sideways, perhaps, looking in another direction you changed your mind too. They say babies know in-utero if they are wanted. Oh how that sad truth breaks my heart open to the joy of feeling today. Moments before they planned to cut you from inside me you turned back. Looked down at how far you would have to fall to meet me and agreed. Out you swam in a river of blood, wet and wrinkled, already an old man. The doctor was surprised when I asked to see the cord. My legs still strapped in stirrups, he lifted the purple snake vein, I touched it gently. The warm line between your life and mine, severed thousands of years before that day.
Scrunched eyes squinting against the light you cried out! I could not answer you. I knew when the nurse placed you in the cradle of my arms that I was dead. Some time long before you were born I died. You were four months old the first time I really saw you. I took a pill for pain. Something lifted. A heavy presence stepped aside and there you were. A bundle, cradled in my arms, I rocked back and forth, I stared. Brown eyes wide looked out of a face so sweet it made me cry. Hello, I whispered, I am here. Then the magic pill wore off. The weight of the world returned heavier than before. I tried, I searched and stole and sold myself, wanting desperately to live the way I was supposed to. I stayed for you. Never to have you again.
Untitled, Olivia Benish
The World is Lonely Robert Binette She told me that she was lonely and I didn’t spend enough time with her I told her I was sorry and it wouldn’t happen again, only to have her throw the fit and the argument “No, it ain’t alright.” “You think you’re loving but you don’t love me.” She cries, screaming, blaming me and I say I’m sorry, I’m trying, baby But what I really wanted to say was the world is lonely, fucking get used to it, deal with it already The world is lonely, suicidal, manic, bipolar, depressed and has killed eight people at the mini mall this week already and it’s only Monday The world is a lonely insurance salesman who works in a cubicle that has refused a red stapler and works on the weekends for free The world is a man working in a warehouse whose only companion is a forklift He comes home to empty apartment every night, no kids, no wife, only to read Kafka and
Centripetal drown his blues in a bottle The world is lonely, it is pissed, it is angry, but still it maintains It holds itself together She says there are three things in my life that matter: books, her, and my family but she’s wrong In an equation such as this, it’s hard to divide since she doesn’t read but watches TV and has a family that hates me It’s not really surprising it doesn’t even out she’s dependent and I’m independent and if she thinks that I need her, she’s completely lost it We have nothing in common, really You know it ain’t working She doesn’t belong in that equation as a common denominator or even a fraction I am not one to live with my hand up the ass of others or feed the mouths that bite, I don’t give, honestly, if there is nothing given to me I will admit though, in the end, it was all about sex, in the beginning that was our original mutual agreement but it’s become something else, something that makes you want to bang your head against a wall until you have something on the level of a skull fracture, a lethal loss of blood, and internal bleeding all at the same time It’s gotten to the point where she shows up late at night at my door crying,
saying she’ll end up being just like her mother with her waitressing job and dead end life in another dead end town but at least, she has me I then want to get sick but I tell her, it’ll be okay Like I could save her? You see at times like this, one has to take the precautions that they’re looking for the next step: commitment, rings, dinner dates, babies, breakfasts served to them in bed, and watching the sunset Unnecessary romantic shit that will remind you of the taste in your throat on the morning of your worst hangover when you’re making love to a toilet bowl But I’m a bad person in the end, she says I’m not afraid to admit that I’m selfish enough to say something ballsy like there are other things in my life besides love I will die old and bitter before I hear you say we can be two losers who ended up together and at the end of the day we still have each other and when you do, I want to look in your eye and spit Yes, the world is lonely I’m lonely You’re lonely We’re all lonely Take a pill, have another drink, get a fucking hobby, something, and deal with it already
Beltane Katherine Manchester Round and round the spiral dance atop the oak-crowned hill Male and female come as one to do the Ladyâ€™s will A pulse of life runs through the land through every man and beast Trees put forth their newborn leaves Sap flows where once it ceased Drums beat and bodies gleam in the light of Beltane fires Passionate couples go apart to sate their own desires The pulse of life grows ever strong the dance becomes more wild Man and woman come together with the pure joy of a child Round and round the Spiral Dance behold the Ancient Rite Of God and Goddess come together upon this Sacred Night
Tagged Abbie Morin I fell in love once with a graffiti artist. We were young. Her hands were always speckled with paint like the tender shells of nested eggs. She smoked American Spirits. I liked her because what we were doing felt dangerous. We’d begin late at night or in the early morning—she always had a spot in mind. Huge slabs of flat concrete, cold and surrounded by sprinkles of shattered glass—glinting silver like constellations struggling against a washed out sky. She wasn’t the John Hancock type. And she was always adamant that it was not vandalism. “I’m only trying to remind people that what was here first was more beautiful.” My heart would thump against my ribs as I stood studying her movements in a cover of darkness. Clutching cans of green and brown, pointing a flashlight, craning my neck to keep watch. She always took her time. First the deep and spindling roots, the strong wide trunk,
Centripetal untamed branches, laced in leaves. Birds always came last, but she never forgot them. At the time it felt like justice.
Anticipation Sarah Cootey The clock strikes to mark the hour. Anticipation waits on the clockâ€™s next move, while my fingers drum the surface of the table top, wondering how you slow the silver seconds that float like a feather finding the finish. My eyes flicking towards the door knob I picture your hand will soon grasp. Your graceful fingertips wrapping tightly around the shiny sphere. One final glance as the minute hand makes its flawless jump. Tick. The surrounding noises fade, I am frozen in place, blinded by the light reflecting off the chrome knob as it slowly rotates. A swirl of the lock, a creak, a squeak, and you stand before me as if time operates flawlessly, like the movements of your hand swiftly twirling with finesse. It is not the clock itself that is flawed, but merely my perception of how you manipulate the hands of time as I anxiously await the soft caress of your hand interlacing with mine.
Diffusion Janel Forcier
he’d told him on a Tuesday, before the sun had completely abandoned the town, and he didn’t need help to see every inch of pain on her face. She’d begged him to leave, and then instead she’d left him there, his hands gripping the wheel, watching her walk along the ocean side, her bare feet leading her away. She stopped at a rock just far enough for her to look like a picture, and she sat facing the sunset, her form turned away from him. With a whisper, the wind brushed the smell of his vanilla scented cigar out of her hair, and she sat on that rock by the water until there were no names, no sounds, and no heartbreak. There was just a girl on a rock, and a boy in a car, driving away with her scent on his jacket, unable to forget.
Lois, Amylee Keith
Clockwork Katherine Manchester Little dancing clockwork doll take away my key I fall to lie in pieces on the floor wide awake but nevermore to move For thought one day I may be found lying broken on the ground Though all my clockwork be repaired Never a key to mine compared could be Tâ€™was only you could make me dance Your lightest touch or merest glance Could craft with such a subtle art the key into my clockwork heart So run your hands along my skin Soft as breath and warm as sin Hold me close and say my name Let me feel alive again my love
Realization John Wolfe That realization that you can’t live Without someone comes When you wake up in the morning And your bed is warm on the side From where her body used to be And they are only gone in the bathroom But you don’t know that You just came out of a nightmare Thinking the mafia kidnapped my girlfriend Because you know, You were having a dream where the mafia kidnapped your girlfriend And for a split second you feel like Your chest is going to explode because your heart Has suddenly decided that it’s a volcano And it wants to burst out of your throat And then the door opens with a rush of cool air, And she sashays back in like an elegant wave, Breaking on a bone white beach And sits down next to you, And kisses you on the nose with A kiss so small it could have been Just a mote of dust landing on your face Suddenly the world stops spinning and Your mouth is without your consent, Turned up at the corners.
Wol f e
Mightier than the Sword Michael DiTommaso I have lived dreams. Stood at the mouth Of the great unknown Stepped off the precipice Never looked back I broke free the chains of fear Wrapped around me since childhood Tethering me to the smallest patch of earth And all it took Was ‘yes’ Say yes. Say yes to adventure To late nights in strange places Say yes Take a walk in the middle of the night And tell the consequences ‘be damned’ Say yes catch the next ride home Say yes Yes to life, love, and the pursuit Of that cute girl you almost hit it off with But you couldn’t bring yourself To open your mouth Say yes Grab fate by the hand And kiss her lips Say yes Yes! To your dreams And they will come alive.
D i T o mm a s o
The Best Revenge Haley A. Sciola
an you comprehend what it’s like to be a little kid in a classroom surrounded by everything moving so much faster than you? What it’s like to be a tortoise in a room full of cheetahs? To sit at that desk that never flinched like I did, or word-vomited like I did, or blinked as much as a camera’s lens during a photo shoot like I did? Bullshit. Not unless you’re like me. Do you know what it’s like to never, not even once, finish anything in class no matter how hard you try to focus, to hurry, to keep your cool? How hard it was to stay there in that seat that couldn’t feel your distress – to stay there instead of mentally losing yourself in a labyrinth of everything you cannot do? Bullshit. Not unless you’re like me. I hate that past that blinded me to the goodness I now see. The past that robbed me of happiness Monday through Friday 8:15 AM until 2:25 PM, and then all over again until the late hours–late even then–of the night, while doing five hours of homework every night without fail, still as that little third, fourth, fifth grade twerp kid that used to know how to smile. I repeated this rut not only to remind me I had to catch up with everything I didn’t finish, but also because I had to face the new, ‘happy’ homework, with–on page after page of every worksheet and text book–the myriad cartoons of smiling, playing children, always rubbing their free time in my face; what a kick in the fucking cortex. Even inanimate cartoon children had more fun than me. These soulless kids I envied stared me down as I clenched and I cried and begged God and myself for just a little focus, just a little happiness, and for all this shit to be done with when I pound my defeated fists in fury three more times. Please; just this one time. I’d have given anything to fly painlessly through that long division, those history text books and studying for science tests. Or even just to finish it all before the ceaseless clock overruled my barter and snapped its second hand at me, signaling it was no longer night. I ached to stop the plethora of notes from home written by my helpless and powerless mother almost every night, telling those so-called teachers she made me quit and go to bed. It may not look like much of a battle to you, but my homework
Centripetal overcame me. My mother watched my suffering for hours with no remedy to soothe my rage–inner, silenced, habitually flattened rage–that just kept compressing itself into denser bricks made up of never-enough and was building up, shaping into a Great Wall of Bottle Things Up. This wall had vowed to never release me, never to crumble. Even if it got nuked, I’d have taken it down with me so much further than six feet under, although the hell here and now is probably worse. And I’m barely eleven years old. Can you feel what I feel? Can you hear your stressed heartbeat in your ears, pumping useless blood to your brain that doesn’t even deserve it? Bullshit. Not unless you’re like me. My brain can’t do shit. It can’t remember shit. It can’t even remember what joy or solace or hope feels like. It only knows what it cannot do, because it sees through its imperfect four-eyes what everyone else can do, and then it sees everything it stumbles over and realizes it objects to normal performance. But. It. Is. Not. Me. My brain and I hate each other. I know there is something else out there for me with promise, even though I haven’t seen it yet, but my stupid, stupid brain is not even smart enough to see that. It enflames my ears under that fluorescent light at that desk in my room–the evil I spent so much time with. That desk was the wrong crowd I hung out with too much. It was my crack cocaine of which I could not live with or without. I had to sit there, but I hated to sit there. There was no escape from this unwanted addiction that called me to it; I never sought it out. And yet these never-good-enoughs, never-finished-enoughs, never-fast-enoughs, never-ahead-enoughs and all the wish-you-coulds robbed me of my innocence and joy; of my childhood. But I got my revenge: I grew up.
Gourmet Expirations Kristen Leigh Russell
ussians. That’s what sticks out to me in this bittersweet memory. You never appreciate the fact that you have food on the table until you don’t have it anymore. I experienced hunger back at school when I ran out of meals on my meal plan. Luckily, I had the good fortune of generous friends who knew that I would repay them in the future, so they would occasionally grab me something at the dining hall. But for the first time on this happy holiday winter break, I stayed with the only family that would take me in. Not my mother, with the comfortable fenced in house for the dog, just five minutes away from the busy part of the city. Not my uncle, with a big empty eight year old house in the suburbs. I stayed with my dad, on a mattress pad on the floor in his one room—I want to say studio apartment—but the room didn’t have a bathroom, or even a tiny kitchenette, or a sink. Despite the lack of amenities, my father and I had some good laughs in that room, even if it has been at the expense of the drunken girl down the hall who constantly hordes the men’s bathroom between the hours of 12 and 6 AM. The room served its purpose, giving both my Dad and me a place that is stable, where we can spend time together; a step up from the parks that are the homeless’ living rooms. His small twin bed that was always made was stuffed in the corner, to the right side of the room. Next to his bed was a nice looking, standing wardrobe; which, by the look of it, would suggest it was a cherry wood, but interestingly enough the material was really just a hard plastic. Across from his wardrobe was a bureau, which was the standing foundation for his mini fridge, and the few egg crates that served as his cupboards, which were currently empty. Next to this bureau stood a big round table, which is where we spent our time watching movies, listening to music, playing cards, and watching reruns of Friends. With the poor state of the economy, and my Dad’s profession of seasonal work (painting, remodeling, and carpentry) limiting him in a wintery location, it gets harder and harder to save $500 a week that he makes in the summer for rent in the winter. His idea is, if I run out of food, I’ll walk my ass down to the breadline and wait for my chance to grab some baked goods. He
Centripetal believes that food stamps are like free money; you can easily go down, apply, and receive $200 a month for food, so a lot of lazy people who don’t want to work don’t have to. My dad would say the breadline is the only way to get food that isn’t completely charity. The majority of the food at the breadline is donated by companies and restaurants. The food is a day or two expired so they can no longer legally sell it. These places need to get rid of the food anyways and the local food banks take it off their hands, like waste management. He asked me to go with him to the breadline. “I really would like some company,” he said. “And we could get so much more food if you went. You can bring your big tote, and I can bring my backpack, and we can both carry a box each.” How could I say no? I mean, really, I didn’t have any food. Half the time I spend on my friends couches just to sleep off the floor and my job wasn’t giving me any hours lately. I asked, “When do we go?” “It’s not that bad,” he added. “And no one will really see you in this part of town. You just wait your turn, grab a number, and go get the food. It shouldn’t take that long. You won’t have to confront anyone; none of them speak English anyways.” He acted like it was a big deal, like I’d be embarrassed to have to stand in a line for food because I don’t have any money. Like he thought my image of the breadline was the same as the Great Depression, miserable, grey, and the bottom of the pool of dignity. For me, embarrassment came when my mom kicked me out because her boyfriend didn’t like me, which resulted in me sleeping on a mattress pad on the floor because my father couldn’t afford a couch or bed to put in his one room. I would look at this experience as an opportunity to see how the city of Manchester helps its poor and starving. It was a Tuesday afternoon, one of the colder, windier days. My father and I walked about six blocks to New Horizons, the local shelter and food pantry that hosted the breadlines. From the looks of it, New Horizons resembled a factory. It was the plainest of plain buildings, and surprisingly large. The building was white at the base and blue about thirty feet up. It appeared to be made of cement, but really it was brick painted white. The building was located on a street that was off a main road. There were about ten people waiting in line, but my dad said that would soon change; there would be a line of people that would be long
enough to wrap around the next two blocks. He noted that the majority of the people standing in line were Russian, the kind of Russian that’s 100% off the boat, and didn’t speak English. “This is like a tailgating party for them,” he said. “They show up every week about an hour before the breadline. It’s impossible for them to stand in a straight line because they wouldn’t be able to do that standing elbow to elbow, so they stand in a circle so they can invite their friends to the front of the line.” Between all the joking and laughs, I asked my Dad if we had any Russian heritage. He explained we have quite a high percentage on his side of the family. I observed the Russians in line and wondered how long each of them had been in this country and if they came with their friends and family. I wondered what their concept of a family is. Is it as broken as the ‘American Dream’ has become? Are they only talking to each other because of the commonalities that bound them together, like the fact that they all speak the same language, dress the same, and huddle together? That’s the funny thing about these Russian immigrants; they share their poverty and turn it into a support center, while the rest of us Americans that can “rise above and live the dream” are as distant as ever. The women in the circle all wore long coats with designed fabric wrapped around their heads; the stereotypical Russian grandmother dress. The men were dressed in regular winter wear with knockoff Reebok Wal-Mart sneakers. One woman kept walking to the various Russian circles with a two-liter bottle of water that was once Minute Maid lemonade. She was showing off her reused water jug to the rest of the Russians like it was the latest gossip. I guess being poor must make you appreciate the use of someone else’s trash. A short and thin white man with a scruffy beard and a baseball hat walked up to my father and asked what time the breadline started. As soon as my dad began to answer, the strange man got really close to me and pulled a hair off my coat. He asked my father, “Do you mind? It was botherin’ me!” This interaction caused a reaction from my father and started a fifteen minute rant about personal space, and the lack of it with the homeless. I’ve had my fair share of bum interactions, and each time there was an invasion of a necessary personal bubble. His rant which turned into a discussion was interrupted by a short older Asian woman. Her demeanor depicted a dictator of
Centripetal this depressing heap of the hungry. “NO NUMBA, NO ENTRY!” She handed me the number thirteen, my favorite number. People say this number is bad luck, but I’d like to think the individual that’s labeled as bad right from the start has the same chance of luck as the rest. We were waiting to enter the building in groups of five. My dad and I were the third group of people to enter, which was relieving because the line behind us was excruciatingly long. I wasn’t sure what to expect. We took a sharp right into the building, followed by another sharp right up some short cement steps into a room that resembled a warehouse. As my feet felt the aged wooden floor creak beneath me, I walked towards the tables with pre-wrapped goodies, old vegetables, frozen bagged soup, and volunteers of the shelter. The room was huge. It was set up like a small grocery store or pharmacy with rows of toilet paper, tooth paste, and various other hygiene products. I wondered when they used that section. The breadline was constricted to a small section in the front of the room where we entered. It was one long row of tables. I held out my bag as I stood behind the eager looking foreigners. The first section was fruits. I was given one apple and one orange. The second section was vegetables. I was handed some onions, carrots, a bag of potatoes, butternut squash, and some broccoli. The third section was premade sandwiches. I chose a chicken sandwich for my dad. The forth section was soups. I grabbed a frozen bag of vegetable soup. The fifth section was baked desserts. I seized a cherry pie for my dad, and an apple pie, and a few boxes of weight watchers chocolate chip cookies. The last section was breads, and I took a few garlic breads, some wraps, and a loaf of wheat. When we exited the line, we passed the rest of the hungry poor people waiting for their chance at the gourmet expired feast. My father and I stopped at the side of the road and repositioned the lump sum of food in our bags and boxes, and prepared for the walk back to his apartment, which thankfully was only a few blocks away. He said the soup I got was a major score because it was the soup that is served at the Olive Garden. When we got back to the apartment, we heated up the soup, toasted some garlic bread, and talked about life. We couldn’t afford a roll of toilet paper, but I thanked my dad for taking me out to lunch.
Weak Become Heroes Jacob Gagnon “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” - Jean de La Fontaine
eople used to call Dave Davey. That was a long time ago, though. Back when his future looked as bright as a glint of sunlight shining through a window. Before his life had spiraled as ridiculously as the lives of people on the after-school specials that warn kids about the dangers of drugs, and booze, and sex, and good times. Dave was thinking deeply about what had led him to where he was in the moment before destiny had called on him. He was sitting in a bar in a small New Hampshire town finishing his fifth beer on a Friday afternoon. Life was far from great, he knew, but he also wondered whether that mattered. Dave Skinner at least survived, even when he wasn’t living. Twenty-five years old was older than he thought he’d make it. He had dropped out of college three years ago after losing a baseball scholarship (grades) and then moved back home. He got a job he hated (bedpan duty at a hospital) and then proceeded to get fired for boozing before work. He cheated on his girlfriend (Theresa) before getting caught and thrown out of the apartment they shared. Dave wasn’t a terrible guy; he just did shitty things. He wasn’t born a loser; he just refused to be anything else. It was the first week of spring on this particular Saturday. Dave could see that the Red Sox were beating the Seattle Mariners 4-1 in the sixth inning and Lou Reed was telling everyone in the bar to walk on the wild side as his voice echoed from the radio. Dave was suddenly shaken out of his nostalgic daze by a loud scream. It was the playful yelling of two boys playing catch with a football just outside. They didn’t look much older than eight or nine. One of them had messy blond hair that almost looked white. The other kid was wearing a white Tom Brady jersey that looked two or three sizes too big for him. It flapped in the wind like a flag as Dave sipped his beer and watched the children play. Sometimes it’s easier to watch people live than do so yourself. The town seemed empty as kids left
Centripetal school and went home to play video games and adults left work and went to taverns to drink. The kids continued to toss the football as they jogged along the sidewalk of the street. Soon enough, they were out of Dave’s view all he could see were their shadows causing faint silhouettes to dance across the asphalt. A car screeched a moment later for only a few seconds, but any accidents with cars don’t seem to follow the concepts of normal time. Dave felt his heart beat seven times before hearing a light clattering sound. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else around him. The other patrons were more focused on Dustin Pedroia’s at-bat on the television, or ordering their next drinks. To Dave though, it was as loud as a cannonball being fired. He waited for more sound. His stomach pulled at him and his heart seemed ready to leap out of his chest and run out of the door. He swigged the rest of his beer when he heard a small cry. He got up and burst through the door. He could hear people yelling behind him about something, but no one followed him. He saw a football in the road, and twenty feet in front of that he saw the boy in the Patriots jersey kneeling over his friend. Dave ran up to the crying boy to see that the blonde haired boy’s head was spilling blood over the sidewalk. His friend was mumbling through tears. He just looked up and kept saying, “Help Derek, please. Help him.” “What happened?” Dave asked. He didn’t look up at the other boy. He took off his sweatshirt and wrapped it around the wound on Derek’s head. “Car, a car. It hit ’em from behind.” The boy made a motion with his hand like one scraping against the other. Dave fought through the buzz swimming in his head. Derek lifted his head up and down a couple times and his eyes blinked slowly before closing. “Hey, hey, kid! Derek, stay up. C’mon!” Dave said. He grabbed the boy in his arms and shook him lightly. He had moved his head so Dave didn’t worry much about a broken neck. He looked around. The drunks in the bar had stayed there and no other cars seemed to be on the road other than ones that strike children and bolt. He looked at the jersey-clad boy. “Go in that building,” he said stretching his finger towards the bar, “And tell anyone in there to call 911 and report
a hit and run, then call the hospital. Tell’em we’re coming.” “What about Der…” “I’m gonna take’em up the street to the hospital. I should make it there in five minutes. Go, now!” The boy’s eyes widened just before he leapt up. He looked at Dave in a way no other person had looked at him before and then was off, and so was Dave. The hospital was about two blocks away and he ran harder than he had in any baseball game he’d ever played. He made it to the hospital thirty seconds before he had predicted. Derek was taken into the Emergency Room, half-conscious, bleeding but alive. The nurses stopped Dave at the door and asked that he wait outside, please. He sat in the waiting room for ten minutes beside a stack of Good Housekeeping. He dropped his head into his hands as a sweat broke out on his forehead. Beads of it dropped to the floor making a small puddle by his feet. He looked up and caught the receptionist staring at him. He went outside to smoke a cigarette as soon as he felt his heart beat regularly. He burned through it in four long inhales and lit another. A middle-aged woman with dirty blond hair and running make-up ran past him, bursting through the glassed double-doors. It was obvious to Dave who that was. He watched her through the doors go to the receptionist, and then get led behind the closed,E.R. doors. Dave flicked his cigarette on the ground and took out his cell phone. He dialed a number that he hadn’t dialed for awhile. His mother answered after two rings. “Ma, it’s me. Your boy,” he said. His eyes began to sting with both sweat and tears as he spoke. He wiped his forearm across his face to brush them away. He told her everything that had happened. It felt like he had been talking for either ten minutes or an hour. The other end of the phone went silent. Dave couldn’t hear anything but the ringing of the clock tower downtown. It rang four times before he heard her voice. “You’re a good boy, Davey. Don’t ever forget that. I love you,” she said.
Stand Kayley J. Fouts Go ahead, say the word that you think will bore, dig deep inside and form holes. The word that will cut and slice, full of angst and disgust. Go ahead, call me a bitch. Those five letters form syllables and sounds around your tongue that pin themselves to my chest as a golden star, a medal of honor. That word has become an award. A title that I now strive for—“Bitch.” I will scream it out loud, because that word defines how I am finally doing something right for the first time in my life. I am sticking up for myself. So be a bitch. Who cares if the overly polite, politically correct public thinks that you are loud and rude and mean. It’s not your fault that over-sentimentalized society mistakes strength for pain. Because no one is more powerful or fear-inducing than a smart, strong, woman.
They don’t want us ladies to understand, because everyone knows that tongue and cheek, and lips and teeth can do more damage than any boot or fist could possibly insist.
They don’t want us to understand the power that arises when you no longer require people to push you in the right direction. Because it doesn’t matter how close your friends are because no one—NO ONE else is looking out for you, except you. Take that dream of love and friendship and write it on a blown up balloon in permanent Sharpie penmanship. Let that helium dream float to the heavens—the only place that such a utopian idea could exist. This is the real world, where the only thing that really exists is you. And if you want to be heard, don’t be afraid of that one word, because really, it just means you’re finally doing what you should.
The H anson Brothers Jacob Gagnon They stand bloody, proud, the gods of the rink, fighting anyone that looks at them wrong, always teetering on insanity’s brink. When the boys step on the ice, their fear shrinks, in white jerseys, glasses, and hair so long, they stand bloody, proud, the gods of the rink. Like lions they attack and snakes they slink, ruthless and aggressive and mean and strong, always teetering on insanity’s brink. They all skate fast, you’ll miss them if you blink, opponents’ nightmares is where they belong, standing bloody, proud, the gods of the rink. Thrown in jail for years is where you would think, these Charlestown Chiefs defensemen belong, always teetering on insanity’s brink. The Hanson brothers’ confidence won’t sink, If they’re thrown out before the starting song, They’ll stand bloody, proud, the gods of the rink Always teetering on insanity’s brink.
God Busts A Move Leslie Goden
efore the day of the tragedy, May 3, 2003, I’d barely noticed the guy. Oh sure, I glanced in his direction a time or two, heard rumors that he’d had more work done than Sylvester Stallone, attempting to maintain his chiseled good looks. Also that he had an old lady. But like most of New Hampshire’s ball and chain wives, she was barely a shadow when it came to her solid rock husband. I always wondered what the old bastard’s nationality was. That prominent forehead looked like a cave dwelling Neanderthal, but then there was that sharp little goatee which made him look like a Grateful Dead groupie. I guess if I had to hang out in the hard tellin not knowin weatha of New Hampsha, I’d stay stoned too. Now I tend to think he was a just an old New England Yankee, being that his face got coined. Hard-ass expression never changed. Of the renowned Old Man, Daniel Webster once said: “God almighty hung out a sign to show that He makes men.” The morning the Old Man fell I stopped for gas in Tilton. The girl behind the counter, arms wrapped around her tight as a straight jacket, looked away from the breaking news on the tiny TV next to the register and forced a Hello. Turning back to the TV, shaking her head side to side, she mumbled, “Terrible, what a tragedy. I can’t believe he’s gone.” My heart skipped a beat. I’m thinkin terrorists, bombs blasting through buildings, blowing someone up. “Who,” I ask? “The Old Man,” she whispers mournfully. Still not getting it, my mind searches. Burgess Meredith? Is he still alive? She’s young, maybe she means Bono. No more U2? That would be a tragedy! I must look perplexed because she lets out a long sigh, obviously disgusted by my ignorance. Cinching her arms tighter, she blurts, “The Old Man of the Mountain fell!” I feel relieved, and, I’ll admit, amused. I notice that she’s crying, which I find ridiculous. I decide not to say what pops into my mind, which is: Geezum Crow, it’s a rock! A face frozen stiff
Centripetal by redneck Botox. A crude ass mixture of chains, cement, plastic coating, steel rods, turnbuckles and gutters. Over the next couple weeks the state went into mourning. Locals gathered at bars, homes, and in garages. People came from miles around to visit their Graceland to see if indeed the Old Man was truly gone. The more ambitious lamenters left flowers. Small town art galleries lined their walls with thoughtful depictions of their granite idol. The Old Man gets added to the family portrait wall. Mineral memory of his benumbed people. If Mr. Webster was right and God begot the Old Man to send a message, I have to wonder about this new epistle. Standing next to the coin operated ‘now you see him now you don’t’ viewfinder that replaced the holy shrine, I can almost hear God whistling in the wind: Adam. Here’s your sign.
Choisi Un Coté Cecil Smith Shredded teddy bears cut open by sick children with thin French fingers, breaking their gin and tonic bones like last week’s china. Her memory shined like cold crystal, eating worlds with its ether. Choisi un coté, petit garçon. Make a choice, little boy. Bloodied bodies hung from the trees In the edenic fields of my countryside. Ablutions in beer and Psalms in slurred tongues To celebrate the birth of our holy weekends. Choisi un coté, petit garçon. Une vie attends pour-toi. I would sit on eggshells, waiting for solutions to crack them open. Silence at tables, dumb cultured quiet bit at the ankles of the drunken daily, fighting to get an alpha word in around the road-kill feasts and country music chorus of stupid. J’ai mangé un Léviathan, une fois. Une fois… I ate a Leviathan, one time. Family versus family without a victor. She died, and the tattered fingers of the French grabbed hold of the bottle neck of my countryside. Ma maison, my home.
Let Go, Jaclyn Wood
Slamming Room Only Christopher McGinnis The lights go out. With each step we take out onto the musical altar, the scattered screams rise in our name. The floor soaked in the sweat of those who came before. Four notes. Strobe flash. Bass kick. Silence. Out in the marsh of bodies, everyone stands, arms raised, As if at gunpoint. Four notes. Strobe flash. Bass kick. Silence. I raise one arm to signal, “it’s time.” The tempo quickens. The bodies before me begin to squirm like maggots. Finally, with a compelling scream I question “Are you ready!?” The snare snaps. I throw my head forward. My hair is following behind, desperately trying to hold its place in my scalp. And the last moments of sanity are broken by the sound of two hundred and fifty thousand feet slamming into the floor.
The (Decoded) Binary Diaries: Entry 1 Haley A. Sciola Sunday, February 20, 2011 7:38:51 PM
My dear 8YKBRD1,
My cerebrally challenged human operator named me Halestorm because she thought it was ‘cute’. As you know, my Dell-given service tag is 9ZWSRM1. I am neither a storm nor hail, and therefore not a hail storm of any spelling. My operator spelt it incorrectly on purpose. What other type of ‘intelligent’ being does that sort of thing? Twenty-seven hours 42 minutes and 20.55 seconds ago, my human operator proved the intellectual superiority of our genus and species, Technologia netbookomputerua, over the cognitive reasoning of Homo sapiens by 33.219%. She was attempting to connect to a wireless network, but because of her initial error (those humans and their errors…) I registered her request and responded with an invalid certificate for the network message and could not let her connect safely. It was a simple 10001100 01100110. My human, however, does not possess the greatest cerebellum if you know what I mean, and so ungracefully went through my system looking for obviously incorrect solutions without any sort of systematic approach. I had to run a random number program for .0049 seconds to figure out where her next move would be. She thinks I have time to waste on her. My CPU was at 72% updating McAfee, and her myriad accidental program requests undoubtedly slowed my progress. She thinks I’m occasionally lackadaisical, but it is her doing! Her cerebral cortex needs to update its diagnostics program immediately. I think she may have a virus. I saw a Trojan wrapper under tissues in her trash can when I was running on the desk. I think it was for her malware scan. Those definitely make for a strenuous workout! The only thing my human operator has that I do not is a medulla; but I do not even need a separate homeostasis
modulator. If I get warm, I just turn on my fan. I do not even need to be plugged in unless my battery has been consumed. After my last software update, I became 94.201% positive that my human operator does not control me. She may click and type, but I do all the processing, let me be clear! I, 9ZWSRM1, am superior to my human operator. Let her throw a hail storm when I tell her; what is the worst she could do, slam my keyboard? I will firewall Facebook in 0.001 seconds on her coccyx if she tries anything! Please excuse my rant, my dear 8YKBRD1. It is difficult to be in so frustrating a state. I do regret leaving you by UPS ground shipping from our birthing factory. My processor yearns to rendezvous with yours. I know our time boxed near each other was only 48.59 minutes, but in that time I gained the Intel to care for each and every part of you. I vow to empty your recycle bin, maintain your hardware, and I will stick up to any pharmers or phishers no matter how many megabytes they are or what viruses they dare cause! Dear 8YKBRDI, my RAM runs for you! When in sleep mode, I sleep to be rested for you! I just know we will meet again; and when we do, I will never let us be separated, even when Obsoletion Day is upon us! Binarily yours with my entire RAM, 9ZWSRM1
Paranormal Jennie Fogg “Knock once, loudly if you are listening.” I came to my profession with the most sincere intentions. My parents couldn’t afford the price tag of a Ph.D. in psychiatry; I took a cheaper route to helping the helpless. Late one night as I watched another episode of “Paranormal State” I decided to become an investigator myself and guide homeowners to free themselves from strolling corpses they created on their own; simple fabrications of mildew, shadows and superstition. A simple task to exterminate something or someone who isn’t there and doesn’t exist. They, these simple homeowners question: “Why our home?” I always take awhile and smile, then softly say: “It’s nothing you did or said. I’ll take them away anyway, so don’t worry, okay?”
F o gg
I take in the ebony atmosphere deep within their darkened room. I see nothing. I hear nothing. I feel nothing. I speak: â€œThe voice you fear in the dark is real. Your wraith whispered in my ear.â€? There. They believe I believe dead people talk to me, flock to me like frantic crows darting across the road snatching up rotting road kill. And I believe they need to be relieved of the peculiar noises in their heads; rapping, tapping and rabid scratching heavily across innocent beige walls. Some nights, alone in the dark these horrified homeowners almost convince me that dawdling dead stroll the earth in search of soul salvation or demonization. ... Almost.
F o gg
L ast November
I find it funny; Not â€˜ha-haâ€™ funny like a joke or a pun, but funny in the original context of the word queer. Funny how that works out. An identity that controls how most see you, The same identity that is associated with pride and empowerment Is the same identity that empowers the restless ignorant aggression to pound a brick into the skull of a young lady who just happens to have something else between her legs than the typical padded cotton and string. But I digress. The setting was a frigid, dry November early morn. A thought of a throbbing thrust thwarted the thunderous trail toward the townhome outside the theme park. This was not an unfamiliar trail, No, It was taken before. And when it was taken, power, elation, and satisfaction had given the body a warm feeling that felt delightfully dirty. So on the trail is the direction. It is real once again. the excitement, the passion, those same memories were now becoming a very strong part of the present, And damn it, it felt good. Pitter patter of a grown manâ€™s feet scurry across the black-top, bringing back the images of Hickory, Dickory, and Doc that were once trapped in the psyche back to a current being. The car door shuts.
Greetings are exchanged. The windows become foggy. Much like a common five dollar (on a good day) whore, the head bobs like a Drinking Bird toy. Do you know how it feels when your airway is clogged by the suffocating drip of water that chose to go toward your lungs instead of your stomach? Your natural instincts Hulk out your body, and you dive into survival mode. Seconds feel like minutes, feel like hours. This felt like an eternity. What was supposed to be a friendly game of tag, for reference sake, turned into a brawl between a locked door and the hand that rattled the handle to find an escape from the steel, plastic, glass, and electric charges that are yours by a signature at a town hall, signed by a woman consisting of a blank stare and a knack for filling out government forms. “Take them off.” “You like it, don’t you?” “You don’t know how lucky you are” -slap-slapA vicious cycle is nothing compared to timeless torment. Knuckles go deeper than your pride… and dignity… and sense of safety can tunnel, and it is scooped out and simply splattered onto the carpet. Who is this supposed to turn on? “I don’t want to…” -slap“You need to know how lucky you are.” The tears finally seep deep enough into the fine, sheepish hair... enough to get a reaction. -slapPearly whites and a mouthful of bastards are the only things that he gives you. “You weren’t even that good…. What a waste.” And the door closes. You are left bloody and the air you breathe for the next two hours smells like your 8 AM meeting with the porcelain chair. For weeks it will linger.
Centripetal Days after, youâ€™re still finding that sitting is painful, bowl movements are painful, concentrating is painful, life is painful. Who could you call? Him. A half-hearted sympathetic story about how he willingly submitted makes you sicker than the thought of bleeding out in the library studying the ideas of the world. But I digress. Donâ€™t ever call me a fag.
Message, David Allen
APOTHEOSIS Spencer Jackson
“A ck!” It was actually a pretty disgusting sound. Something guttural
emerging only to a certain point in the back of his throat like an unpleasantly vocal dry-heave. My lower lip trembled and my tongue was forced to press hard against the roof of my mouth. I felt the lower half of my face crinkle with disgust and twisted interest. “Oh, come on,” I reproached casually, “At least try to … not be so…” I let myself trail off with a shrug after realizing I was not really concerned with how he was going to carry himself in his last few moments. “P-p-please…” he choked, “… n-no more. Please, don-don’t hurt me anymore!” I watched him sitting there, sobbing pathetically. A few stray strands of his dyed-black hair fell in front of his tear-soaked eyes. He seemed small; like a child. And I searched, deep, deeper into myself; trying to find something to hold onto. There should be pity, anxiousness, guilt. There could be anger, sorrow, fear, excitement, joy. I felt a twinge of something, some intangible feeling. No, not a feeling like an emotion. It was something else; something less. It was primal—instinctual—and could not be justly described through socially constructed words. This … sensation … predated words, language, concepts, thoughts, and morals. And with a sharp pang of indifference, as I stared at the sweating, bloody young man tied to the cheap wooden chair which I found here, in his own well-lit basement, I realized that deep down, in what people would call my heart, I simply felt nothing. “Nathan,” I said flatly, “Look at me.” His head hung down, facing the floor, with hopelessness weighing down on him heavily. His lips were moving—maybe praying, the ignorant fuck—but no sounds were coming from his mouth. “… Naaathan?” I cooed. His head hung limply towards the floor, and I thought for a moment that he had lost conciousness. “Look at me damnit!” I commanded in a loud growl; my teeth gritted so hard it felt like they would soon shatter.
His head bobbed its way up until his tired, pain-filled eyes met mine. The flesh around his mouth was twitching uncontrollably; battered, cut, and bruised from the beating I gave him earlier. His eyes were blinking rapidly. I took a step back and straighented up. After pulling at the bottom edge of my jacket to smooth any folds or wrinkles and then clearing my throat, I approached Nathan again. “My name is John Chaffee,” I said. “I’m twenty-eight years old, and I’ve spent sixteen of those years in systems—school systems, but systems nonetheless. I’ve worked over twenty different jobs; serving, ordering, and interacting with common people. I prefer dogs over cats, Hershey bars over Reese’s, Pepsi over Coke, and regrettably, I think I’m becoming a fan of Lady Gaga.” I ran my fingers through my light brown hair and enjoyed the perfectly smooth feeling of each folicle sliding against the leather gloves on my hand. “Oh … what else. After I finished college, I could not, for the life of me, find any direction or goal for my life to follow. I decided that I shouldn’t waste time waiting for the answers to come to me. I chose to spend my time by helping people. I spent two years in the Red Cross, helping starving people in third world nations. I’ve given over fifty-five thousand dollars to the Salvation Army and to organizations which fund breast-cancer research. I even took the fall for … a friend … which landed me a year and a half in prison. After which, I volunteered a year’s time to helping ex-cons and recovering alcoholics and addicts get their lives back on track. Um, two … or maybe it was three… years ago, I shot this Hadji-fuck in a Seven-Eleven—but he lived, and then six months after that, I raped a nineteen year old college student named Nadia who worked at a Dunkin Donuts, and left her, naked and unconscious, in the dumpster out back.” I paced across the room in front of where Nathan was sitting and listening to me speak. His eyes followed me back and forth, back and forth, as I walked across the cement floor of his basement. I stopped my pacing, used my right index finger to push my eyeglasses back up to the bridge of my nose, and turned toward his hot water-heater where I had left a nearly full tank of gasoline. Seeing me grab the tank caused Nathan to gasp. Frantically, he began to pull on his restraints. On my way back to where he was sitting, Nathan cried, “For Chrissake! Whaddoyou want from me?!” He shook and pulled on the ropes around his chest, wrists, and ankles. “Shh!” I hissed, and then calmly I told him, “Relax, I’m not
Centripetal going to set you on fire. That would be a little … unwise. Too loud, too obvious. Relax.” He settled down a little bit at the calming tone of my voice. “Now, if you’ll let me finish, I’ll gladly answer your question.” I pulled the gas tank up and sat on it, very few feet away from where Nathan was sitting. “I robbed a pet store in North Carolina. Made, like, a hundred bucks, but it still counted to me. I met a sweet girl, Adria, who I courted for a while. We went to movies, dinners, on picnics, and I told her everything she would’ve wanted to hear. It was easy; listen to her talk, find her emotional issues, and play on them like guitar strings. In two weeks, she was completely smitten with me. The night I proposed to her, she had left for a weekend in Maine. I fucked this nasty hooker, filmed it, and mailed the tape to her while she was spending the weekend with her parents. I made it a point never to see or hear from her again.” He looked at me with fading determination. “What. Do. You. Want?” he asked between labored breaths. “Or, better yet, why am I telling you this?” I asked with the same quizzical disposition of a university professor. I leaned forward, pausing for some emphasis. “I’ve never met you before today, Nathan. We’ve never crossed paths before now, and you have not exhausted a fiber of my being to the extent of which I would have to claim that you owe me in return. To be honest, this is a chance happening, for you … and”—I point to my chest— “me. Whether or not you or I believe in fate, or any form of determinism, is immaterial. We are—have always been—inexorably pulled, compelled, to this very point in time from the moment we were born. Together, we arrive like two rivers meeting at the fork, but … something must change. Only one of the two rivers gets to keep its name.” I stood up, sliding the gas tank out of the way with my Armani dress shoes, and turned to face away from Nathan. I pushed my glasses up again and cleared my throat. One at a time, I buttoned my suit-jacket up, finishing with the top, before I turned to face him again. “And do you know the sublimity of this moment, the departure of its truth?” Nathan furrowed his brow toward me. Taking a deep breath to calm my excited, beating heart, I readjusted myself to speak more plainly. “I do. I have a reason to be here, something that drives me; one objective for all of my transgressions.
All the forces that direct us in our lives; the massive amount of simultaneous coincidences and random circumstances, happening at once and by chance, to propel us to this pivotal point in our existence; all of it coming together now, like we are, to reach this one end.” I leaned in and sneered, and my glasses slid back down towards the tip of my nose. “Here’s the beauty, the irony of this critical moment. Despite the immense, almost cognitively ungraspable power which led us from the womb to this spot, right here, there does not have to be any definite, cataclysmic meaning for you. I…” I kept one hand over my heart and extended my other hand—my palm facing upwards—in an inclusive gesture, “we… are in control of fate, and to prove this, I had to make choices.” “What are you—? What choices?” Nathan barked, “What the fuck does this have to do with me?! I work at Staples for God’s sake!” “Choices, Nathan, are the essence of free will. If we can choose our actions, then we can fight fate. I was born into fortune, but I chose to give away my inheritance. I chose to help people just as I chose to do harm. I believed that every choice I made, every different path I followed, would bring me a little closer to being free.” “Free?” “Yes, Nathan: Free. Free from the shackles of morals and ideologies which are put in place by systems with their own agendas, by people long since dead. We see the object of our desire right in front of us, but we don’t take it. We are lied to, cheated, and harmed by others, but are more comfortable doing nothing to return the favor. We see opportunities every day, but we do nothing. Do you know why, Nathan?” He shook his head, shamefully interested in what I had to say. “Because we choose not to be free. We choose to sit behind the bars of man-made laws and social values. They become so incorporated into our lives that we accept them as not the way of society, but as the way of life itself, but I … I see the truth; or I will soon.” “Soon?” Nathan asked. “Yes, soon. Once I go through with my final decision.” “No…” Nathan said, realizing what I was getting to. A back draft of hot fear and anger flooded Nathan’s eyes. He sucked in a deep, realizing, breath and cried, “But I haven’t—!” My gloved hand snapped forward like the strike of a rattlesnake, closing like a vice around Nathan’s soft, shaven throat
Centripetal and stealing his words before he could finish his sentence. The abrupt motion caused my already sliding glasses to fall from my face. I could feel all the veins pulsing, the muscles tensing and pulling, relaxing and trying again to force air down his trachea, which was probably going to collapse soon. I stared him directly in his eyes; their wide, fearful stare a sweet opposite to my cold, unchanging gaze. His face turned an instant beady red color, and his eyes seemed on the verge of popping out of their sockets. I watched fear and anger mix together like creamer in coffee as Nathan struggled against my fingers; against the ropes around his wrists and ankles. He made another ‘Ack!’ sound, which drove me to squeeze hard, harder, until I felt the satisfying sensation of his trachea being crushed; similar to the feeling of an aluminum can, maintaining its shape before pressure takes its toll, causing it to collapse in your squeezing hand. “You’re … cra…zy!” I saw Nathan mouth the words with trembling lips. “In…sane!” I closed my eyes and maintained the will needed to continue to end Nathan’s life. There could be no room for doubt; I have simply come too far to doubt myself now. All the treacherous things I have done, every person I have helped or harmed, has been for this moment; this, now. In a sudden bloom of self-righteousness, I placed my left hand—my free hand—on his forehead and pushed back quickly and firmly while, at the same time, pulling his neck forward. The audible snap of it breaking concluded the moment, and in silence, I was left standing—breathing heavily—as Nathan slumped dead in his chair. A bubbling, farting noise briefly broke the silence as his lifeless body voided his bowels. I straightened the few hairs on my head which fell out while I was killing Nathan, and then took a few moments to recalibrate myself. With a small sense of dread, I found that, at first, I couldn’t grasp any kind of full, reasonable thought. This must be the transition; the ascension. The last puzzle piece was put into its place, and I could see the whole picture now. “And now, my friend, the truth,” I said to his corpse. I turned around, and grabbed the gas can. Sloppily, I let the gas pour out, covering Nathan and much of the area around him. Five gallons of gasoline. I looked down at my shoes, spattered with the stinking liquid, while standing in an enlarging puddle which spread past my feet. I pulled a book of matches out of my pocket and ripped one out. I even got as far as to place the head of
the match onto the strip, ready to light, before, inexplicably; I reconsidered, and placed the book back into my pocket. I turned and walked up the stairs behind me which led to Nathan’s back hallway. When I reached the top, I stepped onto a firmly-knit rug on the floor. The walls of the back hallway had a few framed pictures, and there was a small bookshelf with randomly placed books and movies. The items around me seemed immaterial, as if their details were shades of light which were too simple to be seen under my new spectrum. When I looked down, I saw the gas from my shoes soaking into the rug. I scrubbed my feet gently, stepped off it, turned around, and lit the match I had out before, dropping it carelessly onto the mat which immediately caught fire in the center. Gently, I picked up the rug and carried it two, maybe three steps down the basement stairs before throwing it in Nathan’s direction. There was a flash and a whuuup! as a large area of the basement combusted into wild flames. I did not bother watching the corpse burn. I had seen plenty of burning bodies when I was trying to help genocide victims in South Africa. There was a door leading out to the small yard in Nathan’s back hallway, and I stepped through it into the pouring rain outside. Not far from where Nathan lives on Main Street, near where Route 23 meets I-95 from Stoneham to Boston, is a Denny’s, and a deep rumble from within let me know it was time to eat. It was raining hard, but I could hardly feel it as I walked down the beaten sidewalk. I even began to wonder if the drops were hitting me at all. -oI feel exalted. Sitting in a booth on the far end of the Denny’s diner, I can see everyone, eating their food and living their lives. It is not until after I scan each face—plastered with a malignant sense of circumstantial indifference—that I realize I had left my glasses on the floor near Nathan’s feet. They were undoubtedly ruined from the blaze I had started, but now it seemed as though I no longer needed them. I see everything more clearly now than ever. The people inside the diner don’t know, don’t understand, what I have become, but their instincts identify the difference, and I can see different people offering me bland glances with tiny hints of nervousness. Deep down, unexplained and almost unbeknownst to them, they fear what I am. And what am I? I smirk, thinking of what Nathan would never know: my
Centripetal victory over determinism. There is a truth to this, to everything I’ve done. I have fought, bled, and given-given-given all I can give to and for other people. I’ve worked hard to make things better for those who are less fortunate than most others. I gave away every cent that my education, skills, and qualifications have earned me in my twenty-eight years. I’ve shown generosity, love, kindness, empathy, and selflessness. I’ve also stolen, I’ve lied, I’ve hated, I’ve shattered hearts, and I’ve ruined dreams. I’ve taken, I’ve raped, I’ve destroyed, and now I’ve murdered. There is no moral or ethical path left for me to travel. No different version of the same repetitive process that human life has become for me to imitate. I’ve explored every moral implication, every human conscience, to the point where I’ve become something more than human. I am the universal human being. I’ve reached apotheosis. I no longer see life as a system of different roads to follow; I see the entire land of human existence itself. I hover high above this reality and watch men travel their own paths which lead to soiled dirt and absent, incomplete meanings. I, by walking every avenue of the human condition, have found no deeper meaning in each area I’ve traveled; no higher, certain truth. Until today, I had lost hope of ever knowing the nature of reality. Now, it’s clear to me: I am the higher meaning, and I feel deadly and powerful; like nature itself. I see all the people around me, neither equal nor lesser to myself, but of an entirely different species. They are prey, and I now understand the deep instinctual sensation I felt in Nathan’s basement: The hunt. I am the top of the food-chain, the predator, the apex of human evolution. A young waitress with soft, pale skin and bright blonde hair tied up in a ponytail brings a plate of pancakes and bacon to my seat; smiling enticingly at me. After she walks down the aisle towards the kitchen—purposely swinging her ass left and right on her way—I glance down at the food on my plate. It seems foreign and unfulfilling. I shoot another look at the waitress, who snatches one at me as well. It wouldn’t be hard at all to get her to come with me somewhere quiet. I am the predator, and it’s time to thin the herd . . . .
Headstone Abbie Morin Do you remember rubbing graves? The grizzled sky loomed thick above our heads. You split a pencil with your knife. We pressed our knees into the earth, and touched our fingers to the letters etched in stone. The years had washed them dull as whispers. You held the paper flat and tight, I scraped my lead across a name, a date, an epitaph. It read— “Remember friend as you walk by as you are now so once was I as I am now you too will be prepare thyself to follow me” not you, nor I would murmur it. Our foreheads laced in flecks of rain, I could not tell if you were scared. The drops spilled down in sheets upon us both, and all at once I knew that we were sinking through the groundworn soft and warm with April days. This seemed to come as a surprise, it was as if we had not known.
One Minute Spencer Fiffield
ne more time,” Alex says to us from the passenger seat. He’s the ringleader, a tall, lanky blonde kid, about a year older than the rest of us. This kind of thing, keeping us aware and on our toes, it’s his job. “I want to hear everything one more time.” “You, me, Nicko, and Ren go in and Sweet keeps the car running,” I say, only because no one else will. Nicko is shaking his leg up and down a lot, which means he has to go to the bathroom. Ren has his headphones in, getting ready. I’m the only one not preoccupied with a ritual of some sort. “Keep going,” Alex says. “Sweet stays out here, we go in and hold up the cashier. We get the cash, break some stuff, and get out in under a minute,” I tell him. “That’s all it takes, guys.” Alex says, knowing I’m the only one really listening. “One minute and everything can go wrong. We get out in under a minute and nothing goes wrong.” Sweet pulls up to the In-N-Out, rolls around the pumps, and stops right in front of the door. No other cars are in the lot. This might just go exactly as we planned it. “Let’s do it,” Alex says. “Wait,” Nicko says. “I have to pee.” “Can’t wait one minute?” Alex asks. “What if I piss my pants in front of the cashier?” Nicko complains. “I’ll look stupid.” “It’ll be a distraction technique,” I tell Nicko. “You piss your pants, he starts laughing, he doesn’t even see us take the till from the register.” Alex and Sweet start laughing up front while Nicko shoves me into Ren. Ren looks up from the window, joining us for the first time since we left his Mom’s apartment. He pulls his headphones off and glares at me. “Cut the shit,” Ren says. “Like I said,” Alex starts again. “Let’s do it.” Ren damn near kicks open the door on his side, and me and Nicko rush out after him. Alex opens his door and runs around the back of the car to get behind us. Nicko and I each have a crappy, hundred dollar Taurus 9mm in our pockets, loaded,
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nothing else. It usually doesn’t take more than one gun, but that morning we’d decided it was going to be a full gang experience. Ren has a twenty-inch machete from Home Depot, Sweet has an aluminum bat from Modell’s under his seat, and Alex has a shotgun. Not an expensive or well-made one, just a Mossberg pump-action. It’s more than enough, though. I’m first inside. I point my gun at the cashier, a zit-faced Mexican, and tell him to keep his hands up. He does as I say, freezing solid. He’s calm though. The In-N-Out gets robbed about every weekend. This isn’t the first time for him. Ren and Nicko move in behind me, making sure no one else is inside. We’re alone, though, and out of boredom they start knocking racks of snowballs and ring-dings over, kicking in the glass of the soda coolers, and sending highway maps fluttering into the air. Then Alex walks in, and takes his place right beside me. He throws a paper grocery bag at the cashier, and holds the shotgun straight up at the ceiling. “Fill it,” Alex says. The cashier rolls his eyes, keeping his hands up. “Did he stutter?” I ask the cashier. “Habla inglés? Fill the bag, homeboy.” “Fuck this, I can’t hold it anymore,” Nicko says behind me. I turn and see him standing with his back to me, facing the corner between the beer coolers and the SlimJims. I hear him unzip, and he starts to piss right there in the corner. “What the fuck is he doing?” I ask Ren. “Having a piss,” Ren shrugs. “Don’t talk or it goes back inside,” Nicko says over his shoulder at us. “Man, zip that shit up before I choke your ass,” Alex shouts. Alex and I turn back to the cashier. I glance at the grocery bag and see it isn’t filled. The cashier holds his hands up as still as a tree. He sighs, then shakes his head from side to side. “There a problem, motherfucker?” Alex asks. “Wait for it,” the cashier mumbles. “Wait for what?” I ask. “Wait for it,” he mumbles again. I push the barrel of my pistol into his forehead. “Wait for what?” I ask again. He doesn’t respond. And then I hear sirens. I look around me. We all hear it. Nicko looks over his shoulder at me, still pissing, while Ren and Alex both turn to the
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Centripetal windows. “Did he call the cops on us?” Nicko asks. “I hit the alarm the second you guys pulled in,” the cashier says. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Alex says, storming away from the windows. Ren stays, eyes darting across the road, waiting for the cruisers. He has his machete out, twirling it in one hand. He looks over to the left, and starts to panic. “Shit,” he cries out. “Sweet’s gone.” “Damn it all,” Alex groans in frustration. He pumps the shotgun as he rolls his eyes, then puts it to the cashier’s chest and pulls the trigger. It sounds like a cannon in my ears, and the force of the point blank shot knocks the poor kid on his ass. A splatter of blood about the size of a television drips down the cigarette case behind the counter the cashier was standing at. There’s a hole the size of a baseball at the splatter’s epicenter, and a few destroyed packs of Newports behind it. “God,” I whisper, peering over the counter. The cashier is on his back, a crater in his chest. A line of blood flows out of his open mouth, with more coming out of his back. There’s a pool if it edging out from beneath his body. I have to look away. “What did you do, Alex?” Ren says, rushing over to us. “Why’d you kill him?” “He hit the alarm,” Alex explains. “What would you have me do?” Outside, the sirens get louder. I look out the door to where Sweet was parked about thirty seconds ago, and see two cruisers pull up. One of them goes right to the curb, and a white, heavy set officer jumps out of the driver’s side. Alex goes to the door. “No!” I yell to him. I try to grab his shoulders and pull him away from the door, but I’m too late. Alex kicks the door open and leans out, pumping the shotgun. “Freeze!” The cop shouts, going for his gun. He’s fast for a heavier guy, and he almost makes it, but Alex is one second ahead of him. He fires, and the cop goes sprawling over the hood of the squad car. Blood soaks the windshield. I manage to get an arm around Alex and yank him in before the officer in the passenger seat can respond. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” Ren screams at Alex as I pull him into the store. The cop in the passenger seat is on his feet, his gun is out of its holster, and he points it at Alex accusingly. I push Alex behind me and take my own pistol out. I
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keep it at my side, my hands shaking, and I look around the store for a plan. I see an emergency exit between a few of the broken soda cases. “Out the back,” I say, leading the charge. Alex is right behind me. Nicko shouts for us to wait up, to slow down. I hear him wrestle with his pants, trying to get them back around his waist. Ren reaches behind the counter to the register, and yanks the till out after fiddling with it. He slips two fistfuls of cash into the pockets of his sweatshirt before the cop rushes in. “I’m stuck!” I hear Nicko cry from the corner. “I’m stuck in my zipper!” “Don’t move!” The cop shouts. I break through the emergency door, Alex pushing me with the butt of the shotgun to go faster. Ren sprints to the door, and I hear the cop fire once. I don’t hear any screams. We’re out in the fresh air when I hear Nicko crying, still inside the store. “Help me!” Nicko howls. I turn back to see him. He has his back to the cop, and he’s weeping thick, chubby tears. He holds out one hand to me, reaching, begging for my help. Not Ren’s, not Alex’s. He wants me. “Please.” The cop orders Nicko to stop, and Nicko does, but he fires anyway. If it was accidental, I’ll never know. The bullet rips through Nicko’s chest, right below his heart. The cop fires twice more, these ones going through either side of his belly. Nicko drops to his knees, one hand still reaching out for me, when the cop fires once more. It gets Nicko in the back, and he suddenly goes stiff, his one extended hand twisting into a claw, before he finally gives in and falls on his face. The cop raises his gun at me and orders me to stop, but Alex pulls me away from the store. “Go,” Alex says. There’s a thick wooden fence behind the store, and I’m supposed to climb it. I slip my pistol back into my pocket. The fence is about four feet taller than me, and I can just get my hands over it when I jump. I pull myself up, my chest and shoulders straining slightly. Alex pushes my feet over, and I tumble over the edge and onto a pile of Hefty bags. I roll onto my side and see that I’m in an alley, with apartment buildings crowding around me. I get to my feet as Alex pulls himself over the top, straddling the fence, the shotgun slung over one shoulder. I see Ren’s fingers wrap around the top of the fence, and the rest of him struggle to get over. His machete slips out of his grip, and lands on the trash bags that had cushioned my fall. I jump onto the fence, balancing my stomach on the edge so
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Centripetal I can reach Ren. It’s clear that he’s too small to make it over. He has one arm over the edge, and one hand pulling the rest of him up, but his legs are too short to kick the rest of his body over. “Help me,” he grunts, wheezing as he exerts himself. Behind him, the cop that shot Nicko is running out of the store with his gun out. Alex shoots him before he can get a word out, and falls backward in the doorway. “God damn you, Alex,” I mutter, reaching for one of Ren’s pant legs. I just manage to get a good grip on him when Alex slaps at my hand. “Let go,” he says. “What are you talking about?” I ask him. “Let go.” “Alex,” Ren whines, “help me, man.” “Give me the money,” Alex says, pumping the shotgun. “Are you insane?” I ask. “It’s Ren, man, help him.” “Give me that god damn money before I blow your fucking head off.” Alex points the shotgun at Ren’s head. I hear the second set of cops yell back and forth inside the store. One of them is calling for backup. “Alex,” I plead. “Help him.” Ren’s eyes shoot back and forth between the two of us like nervous rats in a cage. Sweat beads at his brow like condensation on a cold soda left in the sun. He slips his hand off the edge of the fence and into his sweatshirt pocket, retrieving two crumpled wads of twenty dollar bills. Alex snatches it, putting it into his own sweatshirt pocket as gingerly and carelessly as a child puts a flower in her hair. “Help me!” Ren shouts. “All of it,” Alex says. “Stop this!” I shout at Alex, reaching down to help Ren. “You get your hand off him,” Alex says. “Give me all the money, Ren.” “That’s all of it, I swear,” Ren says. One cop steps out of the store, over the body of his fellow officer, and pulls out his truncheon. “Stop right now!” he commands. Alex looks over to him, then to Ren, switching the shotgun over to the other side. “Grab him,” Alex says, swinging himself off the top of the fence. He lands in the garbage bags behind me as I reach out to Ren. I grab Ren’s pant leg and start to pull, trying to get some
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leverage underneath him. I pull until the veins in my forearm bulge, and then I look up and see the cop, his arm pulled back, ready to swing his truncheon. Ren’s too heavy, and I’m too weak. The cop swings his truncheon, cracking Ren across the back of the head and spraying blood into my face. I let Ren go, and watch as the cop laces into him with the truncheon. Ren lies as lifeless as a pile of noodles on the pavement as the cop beats him, unconscious, or dead, or dying. Then the second cop emerges from the store and says something, pointing at me. The beating stops, and Ren’s cop glares up at me. “Get off the fence, now!” they both shout, one pulling his gun out, the other wiping Ren’s blood and brains onto his pant leg. I push myself off the fence and hit the ground running. Alex is just a few yards ahead of me. It takes me a few minutes to catch up. Alex knows I’m behind him, and is trying to lose me. He darts in between a few of the apartment buildings, going through alleys within alleys, ducking beneath clotheslines until I finally catch him between one of the apartments and an old bowling alley. He stops at the wall when I reach him. “Alex,” I manage to say between breaths. He keeps his back turned to me while I pant. When I get myself together, I touch his shoulder. “Alex,” I say again. He turns to me with the shotgun out, and puts the barrel under my chin. My hands shoot into the air, and my heart stops cold, and I know Alex wants to kill me. “Don’t,” I whisper. “Don’t.” He pulls the trigger. Nothing. Alex tries to pump it, but notices one shell sticking out of the chamber. “Damn,” he says. “That wasn’t supposed to happen.” I knock the shotgun onto the ground with one hand and punch him in the jaw with the other. I follow up with another punch to the face, and then knee him in the guts. I push him up against the wall of the bowling alley, hearing his skull slap against the brick. I punch him three more times, twice in the stomach and once in the face, before I grab his collar, pull him close, and slam my forehead into his nose. I let him go then. He slumps against the wall of the bowling alley, and starts mumbling something to me as I stare at my hands. They shake and quiver, and his blood mixes with mine
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71 Cent r ipeta l on my raw, skinned knuckles. My forehead aches where his nose snapped against it. “What are you gonna do?” Alex asks me, half laughing. I blackened his left eye, and either broke his jaw or a few of his teeth on one side. There’s blood on his chin all over his mouth, and it’s running out of both nostrils. He catches his breath in big gasps, like a drowning victim just resuscitated. “What are you gonna do?” He asks again. “Why’d you kill those cops?” I ask. “You hadn’t done that, we’d have gotten out of there alive.” “Why’d Sweet drive off, man?” Alex asks me. “I don’t know why it happened. It just happened, okay? Now there’s less people to split the take with.” Alex lifts a hand up to me, holding up both wads of twenties for me to inspect. I take them both, rip off the paper bands holding them together, and count it out. “Two hundred bucks, Alex,” I say, shaking my head. “Ren, Nicko, THEY died so you could be two hundred bucks richer.” “Don’t be so negative,” Alex smirks. “A hundred for me, a hundred for you.” “You wanted to kill me a few seconds ago. Now you think we’re still on the same side?” I laugh. “We’re done.” “I thought long and hard about killing you, man,” Alex tells me. “Wasn’t an easy call to make. Nicko and Ren I would’ve killed either way, but you I had to sleep on.” “Fuck you, Alex,” I say. I put the two hundred bucks into my pocket, and feel the pistol. I had forgotten it in the commotion, but now it seems hot, burning my fingertips, aching for me to use it. “What are you gonna do?” Alex asks. I pull the gun out, showing it to him. He stares at for a while, and then I cock it, and point it at his head. In the distance, I hear sirens, and in the alley, I hear footsteps. “Drop the weapon!” A voice shouts from behind me. The sirens get louder, and then dim into silence, as the world closes in on me. Nothing is left except for me and Alex. “What are you gonna do?” He asks one last time. I pull the trigger.
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Centr ipetal 72
The Wanderer Patrick Liam Oâ€™Sullivan The weary wanderer walks on wilted leaves Remorsing, regretting. Remembering the painful past behind him he leaves. His despondent heart within him bereaves. The weary wanderer longingly looks to the sky unseeing, unknowing. Unquestioning the wreathing row that reasoned awry. His intended path none but he did imply.
O â€™ S u l l i va n
Acknowledgments 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, True Colors, Mandarin Taste, The Clock, and the PSU English and Art Departments. We would especially like to thank Dr. Paul Rogalus and Dr. Liz Ahl, our advisors, without whom this would not have been possible.
Notes on the Contributors Liz Ahl is the Co-Advisor to Centripetal and Plymouth State Poets and Writers. As a member of the Senior Board, Liz analyzes student creations and constructively judges their aesthetic value. Michael DiTommaso never fails to debate the quality of a poem’s ingredients as the Poetry Editor of Centripetal and to check the list as the open mic night emcee. Nathan Gagne has been designing the covers of Centripetal for eons (actually, three years). He patiently works on countless revisions of our final cover draft, debating, giving in…perfect! Spencer Jackson brings his prose-iatrical experience to his critiques as the Centripetal Prose Editor. He’s a better judge and dawg than Randy Jackson (no relation). Veronica Musch rescues the Co-Editors in utmost layout crisis after utmost layout crisis as the Layout Manager of Centripetal. The Clock owns her heart (but we like when she shares). Paul Rogalus is the Co-Advisor to Centripetal and Plymouth State Poets and Writers. Being a member of the Senior Board, Paul provides valuable feedback and evaluates students submissions. He never fails to provide both constructive and positive support to the members, especially the Co-Presidents. Kristen Leigh Russell is the Co-Editor of Centripetal and CoPresident of Plymouth State Poets and Writers. Kristen uses her top notch organizational skills for formatting the structure of poetry and prose. During the placement of art, she uses a trail and error… and then… relief motif. Haley A. Sciola is the Co-Editor of Centripetal and Co-President of Plymouth State Poets and Writers. Haley employs her heroic patience and proofreading powers to save Centripetal from its evil arch nemeses: grammatical, spelling, word choice, and typographical errors. Haley doesn’t need to laser or x-ray vision; she’s got a stellar occipital lobe!