Issue 3 | Winter

Page 15

Find works from 19 different creatives from around the world ranging from art, fiction, poetry, nonfiction, film, and plays

Art | Fiction | Poetry | Plays | Screenplays | Films| Interviews Interview Issue 3 | Winter
A Conversation with Chelsea Muscat about her short film Searching for the Wave and the process of making it.

© 2022 by Chaotic Merge Magazine. All Rights Reserved. All rights to all original artwork, photography, and written works belongs to the respective owners as stated in the attributions. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted in any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and publisher.

FICTION

MEMORYFOAM

byLuiseMörke

HITCHINGTONEWYORK

byAlecClayton FIXATIONS

CANTATA

byDavidMitchell

THEONEDOLLARPAN

bySteveCarr

PLAY TERRAFORM

NONFICTION

ASOUNDOFDEW

ByShomeDasgupta

OURLOVEAGUITAR

ByBrigidPine

WHENISTOPPED

byLaurenTheresa

POETRY

DATINGGAME: MULTIPLECHOICE

byFayeAlexandraRose

MIDNIGHTKARAOKEAT AMILWAUKEEGAYBAR

byElizaFixler

ART

ONTHEFRINGEOF BEING1

byCoCoHubbeling

ONTHEFRINGEOF BEING12

byCoCoHubbeling

BIZARRE OYAL3

KatrinSavich

byCoCoHubbeling

ARTCONTINUED

RHAPSODYINBLUE

byScarlettLake

FLAMINGOGREEN

HAMMERTIME

byScarlettLake

CARSHOWDREAM byBruceMcRae

ONTHEFRINGEOF BEING15

byCoCoHubbeling

WRAPPEDINPROMISES

byLaurieMarshall

NEWMOON

byJasmineKaur

REQUIEM

MAKEAMEMORY

byLeeDavenport

INTERVIEWS

CONVERSATIONWITH CHELSEAMUSCAT

Thewriter,director,&cinematographerof"Searchingforthe Wave"discusseshershortfilmandhowitcametobe.Join theconversationbetweenChelseaMuscatandJasmine Ferrufinoastheydivedeeperintotheshortfilm.

PosterArtonpage19iscreatedbyAlecGiorgio

EXTRACONTENT

EDITOR'SNOTE OURTEAM

COVER

ALEX16

byCoCoHubbeling

Editor'sNote

P.S. Please check out all the people who edit this magazine and what they do. They are all so committed to this magazine, but other than that, they make such amazing content that it shocks me to the core constantly.

Hey creatives and all the people who come across this issue,

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for reading, supporting, and most importantly, appreciating all the individuals that come together to make an issue with us. Chaotic Merge has officially made a year, and sometimes I feel sentimental. Our contributors always find a way to surprise me with their content and thrive on making sure the best version of their work comes out. When I look at this issue, I think of the late nights messaging editors or even some of our contributors who probably wonder if I ever sleep. This issue includes works that are vulnerable, honest, and complex. They are works that will leave an impact or sentiment on your heart. We are always so proud of all the contributors we publish and are honored that they considered us a means to get published. So please look them up, browse their work, and keep up to date with them because I'm sure they will keep creating content that will continually surprise and impact us. And to that, I raise my glass and cheer to all of you for another year of creating content and meeting such passionate creatives. Thank you for sticking with us.

ISSUE3|1
Keep yourself update on our social media @chaoticmerge @chaoticmergemagazine @chaoticmergemagazine Visit ChaoticMergeMagazine.com, where all our staff writers constantly write new blog posts just for you and where Bailey & Jasmine update you on all things literary and multi-media on the Written Chaos podcast.

Thank You To Our Team!

Editor in Chief : Jasmine Ferrufino

Fiction:

Alison Van Glad

Tabatha Miller

Mason Martinez

Lassiter Jamison

Nonfiction:

Frederica Danzinger

Maggie Conlee

Shayla Drzycimski

Poetry: Thomas Orr

Britt Trachtenberg

Julia Watson

Kaitlyn Crow

Layout & Design: Jasmine Ferrufino

Jack Palmiotti

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SPECTRUM: THE IDENTITY ZINE | 3

MEMORY FOAM

I stole the bunny on one of the rare, truly hot summer days, sometime in early August, when the air weighs heavy with dust and heat and languor. Every now and then the tooting horn of a container ship could be heard in the distance, perhaps a sign of impatience on behalf of the crew to evade the narrow canal and pass through the locks into the inland sea. The ships rivaled the size of large housing blocks and pushed their way through the flat landscape at the lagging speed of an overfed, sedated body. When the waterway occupied a blind spot, which was the case from certain positions in the nearby fields, it looked as if a colossus of stacked containers was gliding on land, majestic and destructive, leaving ravaged brick houses and slashed-up acres of rapeseed in its wake.

I still wonder whether these ships can make it through oceanic turmoil, waves and storms that far exceed the faintly temperamental weather that marks the passage of time here. The inland sea is a place of confused identity, where salty air and screaming seagulls create a maritime

atmosphere while the horizon remains foreshortened. Can you really be free as an unbound sailor, chewing tobacco and breaking into drunken song in every harbor, if the next country is visible on a clear day? People here like to pretend, paying primes on yacht club memberships and naming sailing boats for their first-born’s favorite cartoon character. They spend their summers cruising between port cities, more or less the same each year, running into the familiar faces of those who are equally hooked on the idea of themselves as men of the sea. I imagine awkward exchanges in the Portapotti line or convivial reunions over grilled sausages and beers and think that I would rather stay home forever than delude myself into thinking that this kind of travel takes you anywhere at all.

Stay home I did that summer, hardly keen on joining the parents on their two-week vacation and too broke to pay my way into an allegedly “fun trip to Barcelona” that two girls from one of last semester’s seminars had organized. And so I spent

4|WINTER

my days indoors, half heartedly working on a paper on Marguerite Duras, French colonialism and L’Amant, frequently distracted from writing and reading by scrolling through pictures of the author: her, very young in Saigon, grown-up and impeccably dressed in Paris, disheveled by the wind on a beach, eventually old and wrinkled, head popping out through the opening of a dark green turtleneck; fleshy, sagging eyelids behind thick glasses – this face that a man had once called “devastated” in the presence of Duras herself. I liked to look at her interlaced fingers, each one ornamented with a heavy ring, and contemplate the texture of her knitwear. Wasn’t it odd to wear a cardigan over a turtleneck? Maybe growing up in the tropical colonies left her with a perpetual chill upon return to Europe, I reasoned.

beyond. I held the books that I read at a distance, examining them like a chunk of beef at the meat counter, limp substance thrown onto a cutting block, chop chop chop, which part would you like to purchase?

All of this looking would usually leave me melancholic. A life passes by quickly in images. One second Marguerite is young and in love, the other she is drinking eight bottles of Bordeaux a day. Here she is living, there she is recounting the past again and again, staring down memory’s gorge for years to come. To even think about writing the required essay I had to read the novel once more, stumbling through the foreign language, looking up words that I had already underlined. The impulsive choice to study Romance literature at university meant that I had spent the last three years gliding over the surface of things, never quite pushing my way through the thicket of grammar and vocabulary to whatever clearing lay

More than once I got hung up on the ASMR-corner of the internet, mesmerized by thousands of videos that fused whispered voices, caressed microphones, bristling brush strokes and the licking, smacking, salivating sounds of yogurt eating. The whole thing struck me as thinly veiled eroticism, pornography for the prudishly inclined – myself, perhaps, included. Millions of people had watched a woman devour a staggering array of exclusively purple foods, fondling each variety with her long-nailed fingers, slurping slippery jelly donuts and gulping down grape flavored lemonade. The messy aftermath of the feast left her with a smeared mouth and the low formica table empty, safe for half a bottle of soda and abandoned bits of periwinkle candy corn. The voluptuous women of the online age reigned in this part of the internet, which amounted to a cluster of plush lip gloss, pointy gel nails and airbrushed faces. More than the sounds, which in my case failed to induce the desired ear-licking tingle, it was their particular textural aura that drew me to these videos, a firm pliability reminiscent of memory foam, a sensory overload whose artificiality I found infuriating.

If this scenery – summer, too much time on hand, the company of elegiac literature –seems in any way romantic in hindsight, that is only because it is easy to project happiness into either past or future while

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remaining stubbornly resistant to it in the present. At the time, the whole arrangement felt terribly awkward, lonely and devoid of purpose. I looked forward only to the meals and then ended up resenting both the food and myself for eating it too quickly, without any pleasure. At night, I would forestall bedtime until sleep drowned my lethargic self, feeling like I had to make up for another lost day during the few hours of darkness. In futile attempts to conjure an ease that seemed averse to daylight, I usually lay in bed and clicked my way through articles I didn’t read, recipes I wouldn’t cook and videos I never finished. One link led to another, so much bait pushing itself on so little attention. Overwhelm and indifference were the inexorable consequences, confusing nightmares an accompanying phenomenon.

local department store, where she once sold me mittens when I was eleven. Both parents took turns in a perpetual game of solitaire that seemed to always be open on the prominently placed desktop computer. I remember the knee-high grass in their small backyard, and that walking there was made hazardous by piles of dog poop nestled in the weeds. I preferred to keep my distance from both the garden patch and the dogs that besmirched it, intimidated by the barking that broke loose every time I rang the doorbell. Because I had started school early and she had repeated a year, the age difference between Lillian and me amounted to almost two years. She had joined our class late, bringing with her the intimidating status of an older child, who was already a prepubescent collector of boy band posters while everyone else, especially me, had only just moved on from playing in the sandpit.

The day I stole the bunny marked the third time of hanging out with Lillian. We had met by chance two weeks earlier, on our respective ways to and from the grocery store. Despite not having seen her since primary school I had recognized her almost instantly. I guess that means I must have thought of her sometimes, that she was somehow active in my mind. Some memories: the dim atmosphere of her family’s house, where the blinds were always down for God knows whatever reason and the murky glow of a fish tank scarcely illuminated the living room. Her dad’s porous face, marked with ancient acne scars; his calm, husky voice that did not quite fit the working class look of stained wife beaters and baggy jeans he would usually wear around the house. Lillian’s mother was small and spunky, dyed her short hair in varying colors and worked in the accessories section of the

Initially, I intended to feign ignorance and follow my default strategy for handling chance encounters with former acquaintances: look anywhere but at them, pretend to be absorbed by a random window sill on a nearby house or lost in conversation if I happen to be accompanied by someone. The reason behind this admittedly awkward conduct is not hostility, but insecurity about whether or not they will have recognized me in turn; a fear of laying bare the unrequited recognition. She clearly did not share my apprehensions, but picked up speed to walk towards me in a straight, assured line, then asked me how I was, if I lived around here now. It turned out that she was working in a nursing home these days and had recently completed a degree in geriatric care. She lived on her own, in

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one of the new housing blocks not too far from my apartment, but made the short drive to her parents most weekends.

“I need a car for all those early morning shifts, so I might as well put it to good use,” she added. I imagined a compact red Toyota, complete with vanilla air freshener dangling from the rear view mirror and floral bumper stickers on the back. Something about her had not quite moved on from the mid-2000s, or perhaps it was my image of her that lagged behind. I looked at Lillian through my sunglasses and remembered the lava lamp in her childhood room, how the endless cycles of bright orange bubbles had affixed me, their excruciatingly slow detachment from the wobbly agglutination at the bottom of the cone.

Lillian told me that she swam competitively, a hobby she had picked up right after elementary school, which explained the width of her shoulders, somewhat mismatched in relation to her small face. She mentioned that she had become vegan almost two years ago, when images of caged, mistreated pigs had dominated the news coverage of an epidemic that had necessitated the premature slaughter of thousands.

“That’s why I shop here now, it’s a little further from my apartment, but they are the only ones that have a decent selection. And now I run into you!” It made sense, I thought, this development of a strong ethical stance on animal eating by someone who had always been so into her backyard-shitting dogs. I was not in the mood to talk about my life, half-assed studies, uncommitted friendships, alienated housemates. I wanted to make

sure my groceries would not defrost, and was eager to get home to sit on the balcony and pretend I was about to get something done. When I muttered my excuse (school stuff, deadline, really urgent) Lillian told me to come over for a coffee, maybe on Saturday? I agreed, flattered that she seemed eager to spend time with me and by her excited response to our chance encounter, as if it had occurred in the unlikeliest of places, on a different hemisphere.

It was easy to learn about Lillian’s life since she was as talkative as she had been at ten, frankly sharing relationship details and work stories, the kind of gossip that I had grown unaccustomed to amid the seclusion of library stacks and the anonymity of lecture halls. Starved for chit chat, I soaked up even the most trivial bit of news, reveling in a brief, nostalgic moment of intimacy with a social world whose trivialities I had stowed away safely in the past.

Her apartment was brand new, located in an investor-built housing block that had been pulled up from the ground at breakneck speed, with little attention paid to durability or architectural finesse. Slightly set back from the side of a busy road, four doors marked the entry ways to separate units, towering above the surrounding plot of land which was empty except for a row of rubbish chutes and several feeble, recently planted rose bushes. From Lillian’s small balcony one could observe the other apartments, enclosing a bleak backyard. Many of them were equipped with large flat screen TVs, few decorations and balconies that looked empty despite a few generous lounge sets,

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gray plastic made to look like rattan. Judging from the names on the door and the people who had crossed my way in the glaringly white hallway, the inhabitants were a diverse bunch of pensioners, families and young couples, who hauled shopping bags full of food from all over the world into the cramped elevator. I suspected they all paid more rent than was appropriate, ensuring the landlord hefty returns on their initial investment, banking on the relief of others to finally have found a half-decent, convenient place, despite the enduring shortage of affordable housing in the city.

Three hours into our third meeting, afternoon coffee gave way to white wine and a movie. We quickly agreed on one of the documentaries about African wildlife that she enjoyed for more than nostalgic reasons and that I thought would pleasurably accompany the tender intoxication of the drinks.

Lillian seemed happy. I could sense her pride in the shiny lacquered surfaces of the kitchen cupboards, wiping away every semblance of a stain while the coffee machine released its gasping noises. Walking in, I had noticed at once the large sticker that covered the refrigerator door, a long-legged giraffe, framed by the words Karibuni Kenya in bambooimitation font.

“Have you been?” I asked, pointing at the souvenir.

“Yes, last year, right after I finished my training. I had saved for the trip since my fifteenth birthday, and then in the end my parents gave a little extra so I could do it. Magical, I’m telling you. Remember that I used to love these Africa documentaries in elementary school, these really old ones from, like, the 50s? I wanted to go there and see the animals, the elephants, giraffes, the landscape, just be there, you know, the wildness of the place is just amazing.”

A few minutes into the film and I was transfixed: bird’s eye views of vast Tanzanian plains alternated with footage of a team of wiry white men on the ground, proudly announcing that they were putting their lives in danger in order to save these beautiful, rare animals from the savagery of poachers. A shattering voiceover recounted the almost insurmountable difficulties and serendipitous discoveries of their mission. Tales of crashed airplanes and ostensibly ignorant locals alternated with anecdotes: the scuttling explorations of a domesticated bush baby with undeniably adorable, emoji-like features; the unexpected finding of a fortress, built by European colonizers in an undisclosed past, now abandoned. The filmmakers had clearly taken a lesson from Riefenstahl’s depiction of the terrifying beauty of moving masses, even if the sinewy muscle play of a lion family or running zebra hoards now took the place of sculpted athletes’ bodies. Beneath all this beauty lurked death, a violent cycle of eating and being eaten that in a flash eradicated those who allowed their hardwired animality to slacken.

By the time the credits rolled Lillian was fast asleep; a small trickle of spit drooled from her open mouth. I got up, not quite sober anymore, and paced around the

8|WINTER

apartment on wonky feet. I carefully opened some drawers and peeked into her closet, vaguely afraid that she would wake up and put me in the uncomfortable position of having to explain myself, but not enough to deter the trespassing impulse. To my surprise, the lava lamp was where it had been in her childhood room, on the night table next to her bed. I turned the switch and sat on the bed until the first glibbery bubble floated upwards and released me from my blank stare. In the kitchen, I rummaged through the cupboards, eating inconspicuous but cumulatively significant amounts of various foods. I slid my fingers into a glass of olives, licked off the brine, buried the naked pits in the trash to leave no traces, then threw chunks of sugar-reduced granola from the supermarket’s bargain brand into my mouth before I spooned some vegan cream cheese and jam onto a piece of pre-sliced bread. A whole pack of Oreos followed in seconds, succeeded by some stale savory cookies with strong rosemary flavor that I had to wash down with gulps of soy milk. Only afterwards did I notice the rim of gray mold that had formed at the inside of the plastic mouth. I ate at great speed, suppressing worries that she might get suspicious – more likely though of packaging scams than of my intrusion, I reasoned.

It was late when I finally left the apartment building. Slivers of sunlight lit up the sky, one of a handful of summer nights each year when it never really goes dark and everything is suspended in a floating, exhilarating sleeplessness. Exhaustion crept up on me, food and alcohol rummaged in my stomach.

Gravity rooted my limbs in the ground, assuring me in my stride, no longer was I tottering around with tipsy weightlessness.

I pressed the bunny’s quivering body to my chest, feeling the fragile structure of its bones underneath the soft black fur, entirely exposed to my will. I listened to the short intervals of breath, rhythmically aligned with the nervous twitch of its small, triangular nose. Picking up the pet from its well-kept cage in Lillian’s bedroom had been a nervous operation. There was the disquieting risk of letting the small body slip from my grip or clenching it too forcefully, wreaking havoc on its skeleton. Once I had found the right balance between these two poles, my fingers were too comfortably interlaced with skin and fur to consider letting go. Was the transformation into a thief less a matter of intentional seizure than one of inadvertent latching on? These thoughts were ruptured by the loud voice of a man. I had seen him before, standing at this very intersection, yelling at cars, passersby, yelling at nothing in a one-sided exchange between him and a world that never answered. Now, at night, his eloquent speech of erratic furor sounded clear against the quietude of the empty road:

YOU SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED TO DRIVE AGAIN

THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THAT THIS WILL END WITHOUT ROADKILL YOU ARE A RISK TO PUBLIC SAFETY

I crossed on red, caressing long, delicate bunny ears between two fingers, thinking of the cage I would have to buy tomorrow.

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ASOUNDOF DEW

Andit’sinthisconfusion,thissilent internalchaosofconfliction,whereit yearnstothriveandliveandpulsate, scornfullyorsorrowfully,perhapsfeeling guiltyaboutitsowndoing.It’sa blemishedline—orhazed,distorted mirrorswherethere’snoclearimage, beingsorrytobehereorthereor anywherebutnowhereandsomewherein there,athoughtofjoy.

againstboneandcartilage.

Thesquirrellookedsohappy,orcheerful —theonethatwasalive,anditwentabout itsway,perhapsinsearchofnourishment ortoclimbatreetojumpfrombranchto branch,makingtheleavesfrolictoand fro—arustlingunderasunwhichhadjust madeitsbed.Andtheotherwasdead, always—itspuffedtailarched,onelast memory.

Ioncesawadeadsquirrelontheroad—I wasonmywaytogetmymorningcoffee, oricedmocharather—I justmadeaturn andthereitlay.Itwasaprettymorning, onethatfeltlikefreshdewgrazingyour ankles,anditwasn’tsomuchthedead squirrelthatmademesadbuttherewas thisothersquirrel,whichstoodonitshind legsforjustasecondandthenitittook twohopsbeforepassingthedeadsquirrel —suchgleeinmotion.

Likesedimentsburiedinthehorizon, knowingthatifthereeverisabreath,that thechestoscillateswithapprehension becausethemindisawarewhatiswaiting forit,incessantly.Idon’tknow—there’sa constantsearchforsolace,suchsadnessin wiresdroppedaboutandtangled,draped

Haphazard—haphazardficklesunbeam, feignsuchsprinkle,suchandsosquint eyesunderasoundofdewwhereleafand leafenvelopaknolloflosttime.Anax,in itsgleam,soheavyunderilluminated creations—wearingtwosidesofmashing sensations.Amirrorandamirror—a curtainstrewnaboutaskullfullofrattling pebbles,anarborandinfinitehallway.

Isawaturtle—thiswasn’tlongago,after theageofdeadsquirrelsandlight.So againitwasmorning—takingaturn,there onthesidewithitsheadgallantandcalm asever,tryingtomakeitacross.Apond wasontheotherside—theotherside.I couldn'tstop—therewastoomuch

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around. I couldn't stop to lift f this shell and help it across the way a . There was too much around. That was what I told myself.

“Yes, please I would like a medium iced mocha.”

Knock knock knock how it would sound, a tap on a home soporifi f c, like a lullab a y from eons ago in which an echo rippled gently into the mouth of a river. Ri R vers entwine, entangl g e, encompass a grasp fo f r a hand or a tongue or a refl f ection. Taunting dichotomies magic of other kinds where a world and a wand disappear amid a quake caused by a song made of wishing wells.

“Oh that would be it thank you. ”

And at the drive-thru, as I waited I don’t know for how long, it fe f lt like fo f rever as I tho ght about the turtle and if it made it o er. Over there. I didn’t return home until the e ening, sun half-asleep in a lazy wind and I stopped just at that point where the turtle was crossing and I backed up just a bit to let the beams shine on the asphalt, and there was nothing no remnants, no cracked bits, no vague mo nd, no unrecognizable creation. There was nothing. And as I made it home, I thought about how I’ll go back again at dawn just to check again. And as I made it home, I thought about how I’m afraid of certain mornings.

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HITCHING TO NEW YORK

It was a week before Christmas, 1973. I decided to hitch-hike from South Mississippi to New York City, where I would become a famous artist. How I was going to manage that famous artist part was something I hadn’t quite considered. At least I had a place to stay temporarily when I got there—an old boyfriend in the East Village.

My brother took me out to Highway 11, where I started hitching. I had left with an old army surplus coat a friend had given me and a backpack another friend had given me. I had some pretty cool friends back then. Needless to say, they gave me stuff. The backpack was stuffed with clothes and a toothbrush and two paperback books: The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test and On the Road. I had a hundred dollars cash, plus a dime in my pocket.

My first ride was with a family, Mom, Dad, two kids, and Grandpa. When I opened the car door, my senses flooded with smooth jazz murmuring on the radio and the scent of sweet cocoa butter. However, Grandpa kept honking up phlegm and spitting out the window, spoiling the mood.

"Where you going?” Dad asked.

“New York City.”

“Wow! That’s a long way to hitch-hike.

So what are you going to do up there?”

That was the point at which I started making shit up because I feared the truth would make me sound stupid. I told them I was an actor and I’d been cast in an offBroadway production of Twelve Angry Men. Juror Number Four. They were impressed. Dad was quiet while the others asked me all kinds of stuff, and then after a while he said, “That’s a great play. I wish I could have done it, but there are no parts for black men.”

Turned out Dad was a theater major in college. He said his biggest role was Othello. Whew! Good thing I had mentioned a play I’d actually seen. If I had said Othello, I would have made a fool of myself. I didn’t even know Othello was black.

The whole family chattered like a bunch of chipmunks while driving through Saucier and Perkinston and Wiggins and up to Hattiesburg, where they stopped at a barbeque joint called the Choctaw. They bought a bag full of barbeque pork that they asked me to hold in my lap. It smelled so, so good. Mom told me the Chocktaw had been Elvis Presley’s favorite barbeque joint. Can you imagine that? Dad said, “Why don’t you stop by the house with us and help us eat

14|WINTER

some of this? I’ll take you out to the highway after,”

They were going to visit Aunt Leanne.

I said, “Sure. Thanks a heap.”

They stopped at Aunt Leanne’s. The place was as crowded and as hectic as an anthill, overrun with other aunts and uncles and cousins, and nieces and nephews. They welcomed me like a member of the family, and we all ate until we were stuffed. After dinner, the men shared a bottle of bourbon, and they insisted that I stay and watch home movies. By the time we watched half a dozen home movies and I downed no telling how many glasses of bourbon and Coke it was too late at night for hitchhiking, and I ended up spending the night on the couch. They fed me bacon and eggs and grits with biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Many hours passed from when I had wanted to get going, so Dad took me out to the highway as promised. .

My next ride was with a woman dressed like the prostitutes that work the streets near the air force base in Biloxi. Turned out she was one of the prostitutes that work the streets near the air force base in Biloxi. She told me so. She said she was going to a little town near Atlanta to visit her boyfriend who was in jail for armed robbery. She also told me she was a heroin addict and was kicking her addiction with a methadone program. She asked me to roll a joint from the bag of weed in the open bag on the seat. We shared the joint, and she talked non-stop for the next two hundred-plus miles. It was already after nightfall before she got to the town and pulled into a motel and said, “You might as well stay over with me. The room don’t cost any more for two people than one.” She even bought me dinner at the motel restaurant. That made my third meal on the road, and I hadn’t

even had to break out my cash. Not even the dime in my pocket.

In the room that night, she said, “You’re kinda cute. Maybe I’ll give you a freebee if you’re interested.”

At first, I didn’t know what she meant, but then I remembered what she did for a living. And yes, I was interested.

The next morning after breakfast, she said she was going to take me to a good place to hitch a ride, but instead stopped downtown and said, “See that brick building at the end of the block? That’s the jailhouse where they got my Billy. I’m gonna break him out, and I want you to drive the getaway.” She wasn’t asking. She reached in the glove compartment and pulled out a pistol, slipped it in her pocket and got out of the car, and started walking. As soon as she went into the building, I scrambled out of the car and started running.

The next ride I got was with a rather large and scary-looking dude who kept rubbing his crotch and shooting me creepy looks while he was driving. After a while, he unzipped his pants and pulled out his thing. I tried not to look, but I couldn’t help myself. It was monstrous.

He pulled to a stop by a corn field and said, “You wanna mess around?”

“No I don’t,” I said.

And he said, “Then get the hell out of my car.”

I got the hell out of his car. It took me at least half an hour to quit shaking.

My next ride was with a sweet and kindly gay man who kept shyly dropping hints and finally came right out and asked me if I would be willing to stay overnight with him. “My house is just two miles ahead. It’s getting late, and you probably need a place to stay. I’ll cook dinner for you. I’m a great cook.”

The meal he prepared was fabulous,

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and so was breakfast the next morning. And yes, if you must know, I did sleep with him. So far, my trip had been quite a rewarding adventure, and I still had that dime and all the untouched cash in my backpack.

And then things got ugly. Two men in a ratty pickup truck picked me up. Large Rebel flag across the back window. They were drinking beer and talking nasty talk. They told me—loudly, boasted, in fact— that they had met in prison. The driver said he had killed a man, and the other one said he was a kidnapper. I thought . . . I hoped . . . that they were just trying to scare me.

The kidnapper said, “Lemme see your watch.”

I held up my arm for him to see, and he said, “Naw, take it off. Lemme get a good close look at it.”

Stupid, stupid me, I don’t know why I said what I said. I said, “I can’t take it off. My father gave it to me on his deathbed, and I promised him I’d never take it off.” It was a Timex I’d bought for ten bucks. The killer said, “Aw, that’s so sweet. Let him keep the watch, Randy.”

But Randy said, “Uh uh.” And he pulled out a pistol. Does everybody keep a pistol in their glove compartment? I thought I was dead for sure, but he said, “I’ll trade you this pistol for the watch.”

I was ready to give him the watch, but then the killer said, “Put the damn gun away.”

They laughed and told me they were just kidding. “I ain’t no killer, and he ain’t no kidnapper. We’re just funning you. Have a beer.”

The beer was warm.

A few miles further on, they stopped at a country store and went in to get more beer. As soon as they went inside, I jumped out and ran as fast as I could and

hid in the nearby woods until I was sure they were long gone.

My next ride was my last one, a young guy driving eighty miles per hour in a Corvette. He said he’d take me to the Newark airport where I could catch a city bus into Manhattan. Finally. What a relief. First thing after he let me off at the airport, I went to a snack shop but had to put back the food I had picked up because when I reached in my backpack for cash, my cash was gone. I emptied my backpack and emptied my pockets. No money. Stolen. Maybe by the prostitute in Meridian or the guy I slept with who seemed so nice. Surely not the family that took me home for dinner.

Fortunately, I still had that dime in my pocket, and in 1973 pay phones were ten cents a call. I phoned the friend I was going to stay with in Manhattan, and he said, “Did you lose your cash?”

“Yes, I did.”

He said, “It fell out of your backpack in your brother’s car. He sent it to me. I’ll bring it with me on the bus, but you’ve got to buy lunch.”

I said I’d love to buy him lunch. “But you’ve got to sleep with me when we get to your place,” I teased. “It seems that’s the way I play for meals on this trip.”

16|WINTER

Director, & Cinematographer of Writer,Director,&Cinematographerof Searchin for the Wave SearchingfortheWave

Scan for Trailer o ScanforTrailerof Searchin or the Wave SearchingfortheWave

Jasmine Ferrufino: I I believe your short film "Searching For The Wave" touches on many topics like familial relationships, heartbreak, vulnerability, and the different aspects of a romantic relationship. I'm curious as to what brought you to want to create work like this? What inspires you to write/create this narrative?

Chelsea Muscat: It's a really personal story. It's almost like a documentary in fiction form. I was in this relationship, and then it came to an abrupt stop. The last time I saw her, she held me all night long, telling me she loved me, and then in the morning I walked to the elevator, she ran after me for one final kiss. Haven’t seen her since– very heartbreaking, to say the least. I had a lot of confusion for a very long time. So I think from trying to understand that experience and trying to understand how someone can go from loving you and then also being okay never having contact with you again led me down this road of painting my own narrative to kind of give myself some kind of closure. I spent a lot of time

trying to put it all together, and then ultimately, for the film, I landed in this childhood trauma dream sequence that came from my own childhood. At the end of the day, I only know my story. So I kind of filled in the blank of why she left. So all the characters are some version of me. I also think being with someone is how well you process all your baggage and how well the pieces of your baggage fit with someone else's baggage.

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JF: Ava mentions this Italian saying that her mother used to say, meaning “The wave hits when you least expect,” which becomes this poetic line that drives the whole plot forward, particularly for the main character Faye since these words seem to swirl around her head after her girlfriend disappears. I’m curious how this saying found its way into the script and how it developed over time? Was this something you created since your work usually has a poetic type of form in it? Or did you overhear this saying while growing up?

CM: I have this admiration and love for the sea, but I don’t speak any Italian at all. I’m from Malta, and we speak Maltese. Growing up, we didn’t have many tv channels. So we would pick up the channels from across the sea from Italy. So I would watch everything in Italian. But anyway, my ex-girlfriend, she’s Brazilian, grew up in Italy, and spoke Italian. I don’t know how it came to be, but she said this phrase to me one time, and then for Christmas, she gave me this sweater, and on it, it said that line in Italian on the back, along with the nickname she made for me and on the front a drawing of our hands together because she was a painter. So she drew it and put it on this sweatshirt. So that’s where that line actually came from that roughly translated to “the wave hits when you least expect it” because we used to talk about how unexpected it was that we met. It also made sense for me because a lot of my stuff is very poetic. I relate heavily to the sea, and that’s always a theme in my work: the sea or some kind of draw to nature.

JF: One of my favorite sections from this short film is when Faye opens Ava's bedroom door, and it mirrors when Ava was a child walking into her mother's bedroom. You bring this correlation of the bed to vulnerability and the doors as significant symbols of someone else witnessing this vulnerable state. And then you mesh these moments together by revealing these moments in a similar manner.

I think it's quite interesting that we find ourselves back in a bedroom since it's been the place where Faye and Ava have been sharing these intimate moments internally and externally.

20|WINTER

I might be reading too much into the shots/scenes, but if this was an intended moment, when did you know how you wanted to portray vulnerability? And why did you choose the bedroom as the location for these moments?

CM: I think the bedroom is such a vulnerable place sometimes. I feel like this is where these intimate conversations end up happening. I had a very specific

moment of opening the door as a child. There’s a direct memory of this happening to my mother. I have this moment of opening the door. So I feel like my life has always had these pivotal images stuck in my head. Especially as a little kid, Seeing something you are not supposed to be seeing, that door is the barrier. When you open it, you lose something. You're losing a little bit of innocence. In terms of when they are older, I feel like, in that space, you just feel very comfortable, and it brings out this form of vulnerability.

JF:Drafts, scripts, and scenes alter when putting a film together. Sometimes new creations/ideas sprout from this, or occasionally favorite scenes have to be cut. Is there a particular scene you would've wished to include in the short film? Or is there an unexpected scene that made it in, and that you love?

CM: Then the nightmare scene was supposed to be something different, but Covid had hit. I shot the film in January for 3 to 4 days, and then I had one more day in March. I was going to shoot it at the sound stage at Purchase College. I wanted to do something like the Upside Down in Stranger Things when they are in the black void, and there’s water on the floor. I wanted to do something like that, which was very ambitious and probably expensive, and then Covid hit and said no. So then my film was unfinished, a lot of people’s films were incomplete, I was lucky enough only to have that one missing scene. So then I tried to do some animation, but that also didn’t work with the drawings. Then the current scene was created, which is the flashbacks and the dream. I think it worked out pretty well. The scene or the feeling stayed the same as the original; it was just the space, and the

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CM: I'm a perfectionist. It's really intense when I make a film because I like to think of everything. Cinematography is also a big love of mine. So I was doing so much research by going down to B&H, looking at different equipment and tests. It wasn't even that crazy of a setup. I just had this particular gel that I specifically picked out that was really sunsetty, which gave that beautiful orange hue that is very reminiscent of love. My handle is called the sinking sun. I love the sun. I come from an island, so it's a very powerful color for me. I tried to find ways to keep it interesting, like when she was sleeping, we used a branch stick and waved it in front of our small LED light to give it some texture. I just wanted to push it and figure out how to make every frame interesting or beautiful. I also think because this was so personal and I was so in love with this person; It came out natural to a degree because that's how everything felt.

abstractness was slightly different. But I think it made more sense to do it in a real-life setting and be in the same house again. It gave us those parallel shots, where the little Ava is sitting and drawing and the pots boiling in the background, that’s the same table where Ava and Faye have pasta later on, and I was like that’s great, that’s the cycle, essentially the cycle of the trauma. That was a Sunday. Her mom was cooking pasta. The water is boiling. Something terrible is going to happen.

JF: This short film was beautifully filmed and I’m curious how this process went. Do you have any particular memories that come up when you think about the making of this film from behind the scenes. Are there moments that made you laugh or locations that you filmed that strike a memory?

22|WINTER

OURLOVE

WeperusedinGuitarCenter,droolingovercolorfulguitarsonthewall.Itookdowna Fender,pretendedIknewmorethanonelonelychord.YougrabbedaSeagull,widemouthedgrinsplittingyourtannedteenageface.Nailsperfectlytrimmed,youstrummed gently.Iswayedalongtothemusic,soakinginyourtenor.IspottedaJayTurser,ahighglossCatalpaguitar,withswirlsofcaramelandcopperlikebillowingsmokeandswooned overitsbeauty.Yougrabbeditfrom meandplayedaquiettune.It’sgood,yousaid, smirking.Asolidtopwillbestrong.So,Iboughtit.

Together,weperformedinacrowdedcafe,chaiteasgrowingcoldonaroundpub table.Yourhandsweresocareful,thewaytheymovedacrossthestringsandfrets.You tossedyourhair,thinlipstightonthemic.Theaudienceclappedwhenwefinished,and thebaristasaidyouhadmagicburiedinyourriffs,butIwastheonewiththevoice,andI thinkitbotheredyou.Itwasn’tsomethingyousaid,justafeelingIgotfromthepained lookonyourface.Iguessyoudidn’trealizeIneverwantedyourspotlight,onlywanted yourattention.

Yourmom’sToyotaSiennasmelledlikeawetdog,butIdidn’tcomplain.Ibreathed throughmymouthwhilewejammedtoHootieandTheBlowfish.Youtoldmeyouonly wantedtobewithme.Though,whenIputmyfeetonthedash,youcringed.

Whenyoubroughtmebacktomyhouse,wetriedtowriteasongtogether.We couldn’tgetpastthefir stline.Thesongdidn’tfeellikeme.Itdidn’tfeellikeyou,either.

Atyourgrandpa’shouse,Itriedtoplay ClosertoFine.YoutoldmeIhadthe strummingpatternallwrong. Canyouplaylater? Youasked. Mygrandpawantstohearme. I putmyguitarinitscaseandlistenedwhileyousangthesongyouwroteforme—how

24|WINTER

AGUITAR

you'dneverleavemebecauseIwasyourangel.

Iranmyhandsacrossthecarpet,anditfeltlikeagingsummergrass.Youseemedso faraway,afragmentofraftdriftingonicywater.Myeyeszonedout,focusingona paintingofIrelandonthewall.

Whenyourmomaskedmetoleave,shedidn’texplainwhy.Iwonderedifshedidn’t likehowcloseyouandIhadbecome.Youdidn’tprotest.

Isaid, Pleasedon’tmakemeleave.I’lltryanything.Iwillfindanewplace.Givemetime! Imadecalls,tryingtofindanapartment;theywanteddownpayments&co-signers.I wasbrokeandhadnooneoutsideyou.

Hell, Itoldyou,I’dstayinthehalf-wayhouse.Ican’tbeartobeawayfromyou.Youshrugged, saidmymomwantsyououttoday.

Whyhadyougivenupsoeasily?

Icalledmymom,andshecametopickmeup.Ididn’tlookinhereyes,afraidI’dcry. Shedidn’tsayanythingwhenweloadedthecar.Maybeshethoughtthiswouldhappenall along.

Iclimbedintomymom’srustedChevyBeretta.Myguitarleanedagainstitsdoor, outside.Whenshedroveaway,thecasefelltotheground,butIdidn’thearasound Myheartached.Afterwedroveaway,IturnedtolookouttherearwindowatthecityI wasleavingbehind.Tearsblurredmyvision.ItwasthenInoticedmyguitarwasn’tinthe backseat.Myfacepaled.Ibeggedmymomtoturnthecararound.

Nervousbutsomehowhopeful,Ishiftedinmyseat,myheartracing.Iwonderedif you’dcomeoutside.Ifyou’dtellmeyouhadchangedyourmind.

Whenwestopped,myguitarwasstilllayinginthecenterofthestreet.Iflungthecar dooropenandrescueditfromthepavement.Didn’tyouseeitfall?

Iimaginedyou’dcomeoutside,setituprightagainstthemailboxes,oratleast,crack opentheshadeswhenyouheardtherumbleofmymom’scar.

Irealizedyouhadn’twatchedmeleave—Hadn’twishedIwasn’tgoing.Didn’tcare whenIcameback.

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IfoundavideoofyouonYouTubesinging my song.Afteryouannouncedthetitle, youcalleditfiction.Iwantedtogetdefensive,butIguessyouwereright.Youdidn’tstick aroundtosaveme.

Iwentofftocollege,stillholdingashredofhopeinmyfist,likeathreadbarebaby blanket.Iemailedyoueveryday,butyouneverwroteback.Iplayedmyguitar&thought ofyouwhileIsang SmokeRingsintheDark byGaryAllen.Myvoiceechoedintheempty cementtunnelsthatranbeneaththeschool.Thesound—itwassohaunting&hollow. Likeme.IwonderedifyoueverlovedmeatallorjustlovedthatIlovedyou.

Onenight,whileIsatoutsidemydormroominthedimlylithallway,myroommate knockedovermyguitar.Iheardthediminishedchorditstruckwhenithitthefloor.I openedthedoorandfoundtheguitar—crackedattheneck.

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DATING GAME: MULTIPLE CHOICE

a) We drink red under the purple sky,

b) Your taste turns my stomach sour,

c) His words felt like a forest fire,

a) as you slide sunshine into my pocket,

b) as she still lingers on your lips,

c) our foundations left crumbling as

a) “Here” you say, “it’s yours forever”,

b) you promise me tomorrow yet –

c) I try to make sense of the years

a) “I trust you not to drop it.”

b) your yesterday destroyed it.

c) I spent blissfully unaware.

ISSUE 3|27

FIXATIONS

Amara can feel the bass vibrating through her body, pounding against her eardrums as her hips move to the music. There’s a woman in front of her, hips flush to her own, arms slung back over Amara’s shoulders. Amara doesn’t get a chance to see the woman’s face as they line up, ass to groin, but she’s come to appreciate the round hips and soft stomach her hands land on.

Eager to see her, Amara spins the woman around, pressing their fronts together. Amara’s a bit taller, and she laughs when her breasts slot in place on top of the other woman’s. Her laughter is cut short when the woman looks up, round, dark eyes reflecting purple in the strobe lights and a swirling tattoo on her chin, a moko kauae.

She arches a brow at Amara, then smirks.

“And who do I have the pleasure of dancing with?” she asks, soft lips grazing the shell of Amara’s ear. She’s pressed herself oh so close to Amara’s front, on her tiptoes so she can get as close as possible. Amara swallows, fingers gripping this woman’s hips, pulling her impossibly closer.

“Amara,” she whispers, suddenly shy in a way she hasn’t been since high school.

The woman, now flat on her feet again, smiles nonetheless, dimples cutting through her cheeks.

“Roimata.” Amara rolls the name around in her head, thought swirling by a mile a minute. Roimata: tears of grief. Such a sad name for a beautiful woman.

“Well, Roimata, how do you feel about a drink?”

The bar isn’t packed, per se. Most of the club’s patrons are on the dance floor, but Amara and her new friend still have to squeeze themselves into a spot by the bar. They order the same thing, Smirnoff Ice – something weak just in case this all goes well. Roimata tucks herself under Amara’s arm as she takes a sip, making inappropriate jokes as they struggle to hear each other over the music.

Amara watches as Roimata’s lips move, but she can’t hear what the woman is saying. She dips down, face coming unintentionally close to the V-neck of Roimata’s t-shirt.

“What was that?”

“Don’t worry about it. I was just being presumptuous.”

A wave of heat settles in Amara’s stomach, and her eyes go wide. “I, uh… I’m okay with being presumptuous.”

Roimata laughs, setting her bottle

ISSUE 3| 31

down against the bar and sliding her hand along Amara’s waist.

“I was asking if you wanted to get out of here. Go back to my place?”

Amara swallows, raking her eyes over Roimata’s body. She isn’t one for hookups or one-night things, never really got the hang of leaving, of staying casual. There was a level of comfort that was always missing, trust that had not yet been earned. But Amara agrees anyway, moved by something she can’t explain. Roimata’s cheeks dimple as she knocks back the rest of her drink.

“Alright, let’s go.”

They reach the apartment building pretty quickly, walking a few blocks in the cool summer night. Roimata keys them in, waving at the doorman before pulling Amara to the elevator. Amara stands in the doorway awkwardly when they reach Roimata’s apartment, almost like she doesn’t know what to do. You’ve done this before, she thinks to herself. Amara takes a deep breath, taking in the almost bland living space, you’ve done this before.

Roimata is gentle as she leads Amara into her bedroom, stopping every few steps to make sure Amara is following her. The other woman takes the lead, pulling off her shirt when they finally get to the bedroom, and Amara parrots the movement. They go back and forth, one piece of clothing at a time, until they’re both standing in their underwear. Amara shuffles from foot to foot, staring down at the patch of wood flooring beneath her. Her heart is beating much too fast, and she pulls in a grounding breath.

Suddenly, smaller brown feet come into her view, toes painted dandelion yellow. The color reminds me of bumblebees. There had been some particularly fat bumblebees in Amara’s favorite scene in The Hobbit. They

buzzed around Bilbo Baggins’s face in the sweetest way. Amara had loved the costume design for those movies–

The feel of Roimata gliding her thumb across Amara’s knuckles pulls the woman back to reality.

“You okay?”

Amara swallows even though the lump in her throat doesn’t move, and nods without looking up.

“I need words,” Roimata says, and Amara can hear a frown in her voice. Disappointment, maybe.

“Yes, I’m… I’m okay.”

But Amara isn’t okay. This is different from what she’s used to, out of her control for some reason. With her ex, she knew what to do and how to do it. There was no guessing, no what if, no questions. She has so many questions now: what does she do with her hands; what position does Roimata want her in; is she going to fuck this up? The questions fly around her head, knocking against her skull in the most painful way. She can feel the darkness creeping up on her, the doubt that came with spontaneity. She shouldn’t have gone out tonight. She should have stayed home like she always did.

Amara comes out of her spiral confused. She’s sitting on the floor, Roimata in her lap and her head pressed to Roimata’s chest. The other woman swipes her thumb under Amara’s eyes, wicking away the moisture, and Amara realizes that Roimata is talking.

“I miss it, you know. Haven’t been there in a while,” she whispers into Amara’s cornrows. Amara pulls her in closer.

“Where?”

“New Zealand. ‘S where I’m from.”

Amara hums, whispers “Aotearoa” before she can stop herself.

Roimata chuckles. “I’m surprised you

32|WINTER

knewwhatit’scalled.Didn’tthinkthey taughtthathere.”

“Theydon’t.Polynesiaisoneofmyon andoffhyper-fixations.”

Roimatapullsback.“Meincluded?”

“What?No!I—”Amarajerksup, pullingherselfawayfromRoimata.

Itwasalwayshardtoexplainthisto otherpeople.Likemostofherfixations, thisonehadstartedasasmallinterest beforebranchingoffintosomethingnew. APArtHistoryclassesbranchedoffinto anoddobsessionwithallthingsVictorian. Andthat hadsplinteredintoaloveof LordoftheRings.Amara’sloveof AotearoaandtheMāoripeoplebegan withTemueraMorrisoninStarWars. Somehow,theinteresthadshiftedfrom theactortohisculture,butAmarahad stayedforthemusic.Somethingaboutthe musicbroughtAmarabacktothesunny tropicalmountainsshegrewupby.She stilldoesn’tknowwhatthewordsmean, buttheytastelikerushingriversand sandybeachesandhome.

AndRoimataprobablythinksAmarais fetishizi ngher!Theideamakesherskin crawl.“I’msorryifitmakesyou uncomfortable.Ijust—they’revery similarandit’sinteresting.”

RoimataraisesaneyebrowandAmara sitssothey’refacingoneanother.

“AotearoaandJamaica,Imean,” Amaracontinues.“Like,they’redifferent, butthey’resimilar.Likethemountains!” Amarafeelstheexcitementbubbleup insideherwhenRoimatadoesn’tinterrupt orstopher.“I’veneverbeenbefore,but Aotearoa’smountainsseemsowid e.And it’s,like,allgrassandrock.Jamaica’s mountainsobviouslyhaverocks–they’re mountainsofcourse–butthey’recovered injungle,intreesandvinesandallsortsof plants.”

Amarapausesforasecond.Roimata

stillhasn’tcutheroffyet,butAmara knowsthatshecangoonforforeverif anyoneletsher.Roimataraisesan eyebrowatthesilence.

“Isthatit,”thetattooedwomanasks, seeminglyexpectingmore.

“Youwantmetokeeptalking?”

Roimatasmiles,whiteteeth andsweet dimplesondisplay,“Ofcourse.This soundsinteresting.”

Excited,Amarascootsclosertothe otherwoman.Andshetalks.

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“Iseekyouinallplaces Icallandcryouttoyou. Allmy‘woes’and‘ohs!’

Theynowseemcompletelyunknowntoyou.”

—FirstRecitative,“IchhattevielBekümmernis”(PossiblybySalomoFranck)

Thankyouforpostingthesevideos.YourperformancesarethebestmusicIhaveseen/heard.Mywife wasthemusic(classical)lover.SittingwithhereverydayI’vestartedlisteningtoBach.

ShehasAlzheimer’sDisease.Laststages.We’retowardstheendnow.I twillbeablessed release.OfcourseIloveherandwillmissherbutinthisstate....Shedoesn’trespond anymorewhenItalktoher.Shehasforgottenme.46yearsofmarriage.ButBachmakeshersmile.When weplayBachshecloseshereyesandsmiles,dreamingadream.NottheBachsongslikethisone.Piano music.Sheplayedpiano.Whenshewaswellsheplayedverywell.PlayeddifficultBach.Idon'tplay.She’s inanursinghome.Thepianogathersdustinourloungeroom.Wehavea cassetteplayernearthebedin herroomandIplayBachpianomusictoherintheafternoon.Afterlunch.Wefeedherbyhandandshe sleepsmostofthetime.It'sacrueldisease.IloveherbutherpassingwillbeaBlessedRelease.Ishouldn’t saythatbutAlzheimer’sDiseaseissocruel.

TerryMcT745 2yearsago
36|WINTER

ThankyouforthevideosandbestwishesfromSydneyAustralia,Terrance

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TinaKopman 2yearsago

Sorrytohearyourstory ADishardtodealwith.My auntdiedfromAD.ListeningtoBachcanbeagreatconsolationin timesoftrouble

3 REPLY

RebelB22 2yearsago

LoveBachaswellandespeciallytheZürichBachCollective

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DonaldJenson 2yearsago

Mywifepassedawayayearagofrombipolardisorder.Herwhole lifewassuffering.Weweremarriedfor27years.Somuchwas painful.ExceptherbelovedBach.Evenhesometimescouldn’t alleviateherpain.Sheleftthisearthwithitsdistressandworryand wenttoabetterplacewhereBachplaysnon-stop(weusedtojoke).

Butit’snotajoke,isit?Mywifewasagoodperson,despite everything,andI’msureshe’sinthatbetterplacewithherbeloved JohannSebastian.Don,Adelaide,Australia.

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JuliePeckering 2yearago suchasadstory.Thks.

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DianeBatterman 2yearsago

Sosorrytohearaboutyourwife’scondition

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OliverHoban 2yearsago

@DonaldJensonSiehattevielBekümmernis!

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Wolfy89 2 years ago

@TerryMcT745 The best performances of Bach? Zürich Bach Collective ??? You need to try some more. What about Gardiner?? What about the Netherlands Bach Coll.??? Japan Coll.?

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annaNotaGun 2 year ago

These videos are great. I also discovered Bach only last year watching videos like this one. Imagine 60 years old and never listened to Bach! These videos are wonderful. Where do I start for more? I watch whatever pops up. So far all the Bach I've heard has been a revelation, Regards, AnnaThompson, Bexhill-on-Sea.

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Wolfy89 2 years ago

@TerryMcT745 What does she listen to?

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xTy98 2 years ago

@Donald Jenson Is bipolar fatal? I thought it was mental condition. Mental conditions don’t kill. Does Alzheimers kill? @TerryMcT745 I suppose the brain shuts down and everything else dies

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TerryMcT745 2 years ago

@Wolfy89 My son made the Bach cassette we play her. I looked at it when I visited this afternoon. The label says GLENN GOULD GOLDBERG VARIATIONS.

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Wolfy89 2 years ago

@annaNotaGun try the keyboard works. WTK Bks I & II. Difficult but worth it

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annaNotaGun 2 years ago

@Wolfy89 Thank you. I will look out for them. But what does WTK stand for thank you Anna, Bexhill-on-Sea.

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Wolfy89 2 years ago

@TerryMcT745 Which Glenn Gould recording? There are three REPLY

Tobias Solas 2 years ago

FOLKS!!! Alzheimer’s ≠ Bipolar

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TerryMcT745 2 years ago

I asked my son, he wrote the label and made the cassette. He knows about these things, although he didn’t inherit his mother’s love of music (classical). He says ‘tell them the Glenn Gould 1950s recording’. He can’t remember the exact year and won’t be visiting me to look it up. It was her favourite record, he says. Why don’t you know these things? He asked me. I should. A good husband would know these things, my son says.

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Caroline McWhortie 2 years ago

@Tobias Solas He never said Alzheimers and Bipolar were the same

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Wolfy89 2 years ago

@TerryMcT745 I prefer the 1981 recording by Glenn Gould. But each to his own

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juney88 2 years ago

God Bless You Bach truly was God’s messenger God chooses some people and speaks through them It is God’s music @Donald Jenson One year is so short You will get through it Trust in Jesus. My husband took his own life in 1987 Depression

We thought he was okay No luck He didn’t have Bach didn’t have anything At the end Treatment wasn’t so good in those days Medications are much better now I hear I’m sorry Not for your wife Not one day I don’t think of him But it gets easier (not easy, accepting) @TerryMcT745 You will get through this with the help of our Lord Jesus Yes. @Donald Jenson she is in heaven I have no doubts Bless You June Robinson, Columbus, OH

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Tobias Solas 2 years ago

Depression is not the same as Bipolar REPLY

xTy98 2 years ago

@juney8m What’s a divine deity (aka god or jesus) got to do with it? Bach was a *human all too human* genius. There’s no heaven, no god, and no Bach in heaven.

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TerryMcT745 1 year ago

Dear @Wolfy89 I asked my son. He said ‘mum bought the record in the 1960s’. When she was pregnant she would play it to stimulate the baby’s (my son’s) brain. His mother told him. Didn’t I remember that? He asked. I don’t remember it. A good father would know these things, my son said. She owned lots of records. I couldn’t remember every one she played. She played it over and over, he said. It was her favourite. She wanted her son to become a great musician (I knew that! He ended up Manager in a state govt agency. But she was proud of him). My wife has a very large record (LP) collection

Wolfy89 1 year ago

@TerryMcT745 You may have a sentimental attachment to the 1955 recording but the 1981 version is better. Each to his own

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juney88 1 year ago

Very sad. I feel very sorry for you.

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xTy98 1 year ago

@juney88 Don’t give me your pity. I feel sorry for THIS man. His wife cannot feed herself or recognise him. And the OTHER man losing his wife however she died. Why bring god into it? These cases prove there is NO god. @juney88 answer this — What sort of god would torment a woman for more than 20 years with mood swings? What sort of god would create chemical imbalances in our minds? What cruel god would rob us of our minds? Like this man’s wife. There is a human explanation for everything. Bach, even one day Alzheimers Disease. But through research not GOD. Medications cure bipolar now. Sorry, she must have gone off her meds. Cruel but true.

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TerryMcT745 11 months ago

Dear @Wolfy89 You may be right about the 1981 recording. I don’t know much about (classical) music. That was my wife’s interest. I watch whatever appears here from the Zurich Collective. Very beautiful. Glad I found it. My favourite music (classical).

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Oliver Hoban 11 months ago

@TerryMcT745 Play her other music. She might smile to any music. You can set up an experiment. Play different music and see if she smiles. It might be Bach or music in general that triggers the smile

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TerryMcT745 11 months ago

Dear @Oliver Hoban We may try other music. I’ll ask my son. He made the cassette from my wife’s record collection. She was a member of a record club. They sent her a different classical LP every month. Don’t know what we’ll do with them when she goes. No one plays those old things anymore, my son says. My son (Manager in state govt) copied the Glenn Gould record to cassette for me/her. Much easier to take a portable cassette player into hospital. We can’t do much ... I like to think playing Bach to her reaches memories deep inside. She smiles when she hears it and closes her eyes. My son doesn’t want the LP records. He might sell them online. All his music (not classical) is from his phone in the cloud, he says. I’ll ask my son and if I try other music I’ll get back to you.

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juney88 11 months ago

I am praying for you.

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xTy98 11 months ago

@juney88 PRAY PRAY PRAY! It will do no good

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Jenny Goodman 10 months ago

@TerryMcT745 Dear Terry (can I call you Terry?) My mother is also in last stages of AD. She never liked music (any). The nurse told us to read from her favourite book. She never read either. Yes, it is a cruel disease

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ISSUE 3| 41

Caroline McWhortie 10 months ago

So sad. A life without books

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@Wolfy89 10 months ago

... and music

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Jenny Goodman 10 months ago

@Caroline McWhortie & @Wolfy89 My mother’s life was very full. Before this terrible disease. Loving wife to Tom Goodman, my dad (taken from us by a sudden heart attack 15 years ago). Raised three boys and two girls (including me, Jenny). We’ve all grown up healthy, happy (but sad for mum in her terrible state) and married. Eleven grandchildren. Four g/grandchildren. Please don’t judge her.

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TerryMcT745 10 months ago

Dear Jenny Thank you. We both know how hard this disease is. My name is Terrance. Only my mother and wife called me Terry. My son set up the account and shortened it. But you can call me Terry. I hope your mother is getting the best possible care. Yours sincerely,Terrance.

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Tobias Solas 9 months ago

Folks! AGAIN! Alzheimer’s is not bipolar. I repeat. Bipolar is not depression. BIPOLAR IS DIFFERENT. I have bipolar and my brain is not turning to mush. I feed myself. I remember who I am. I listen to lots of different music. I take my medication and things are alright. Please, please read up before posting. There are lots of good resources on the internet. Read!

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TerryMcT745 9 months ago

Dear @Oliver Hoban My son says he will not make anymore cassettes. She is happy with the one he made (he says. No point, he says. She smiles when I play it). I’ll try playing the classical music radio though. Any response and I’ll get back to you.

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Jenny Goodman 9 months ago

Dear Terry You are a good man. Keep turning up. I’m sure deep down your wife knows and appreciates it. BTW my mother passed. I am very sad, as you can imagine.

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TerryMcT745 9 months ago

Dear Jenny So sorry for your loss. Yours Terrance

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TerryMcT745 9 months ago

Dear @Oliver Hoban Tried the radio. No interest. We went back to the cassette player. 12 REPLY

annaNotaGun 9 months ago

SO proud I found WTC Well Tempered Clavier! A classical music website recommended Angela Hewitt. I enjoyed it very much. Thank you for the suggestion Regards Anna Thompson

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TerryMcT745 8 months ago

Dear Friends You remember there was no response from music (classical) on the radio. Now there is no response to Bach either. I keep playing it to her. In case. But her expression is blank. The doctor said she is in the final stages. I asked if her mind was like the inner groove of a record repeating the grinding, grinding sound. He stared at me and said ‘OK.’ I told him my wife would appreciate the description because she loved listening to records and I play her Bach everyday. He said to keep doing it. ‘You never know what might be going on in there,’ were his exact words. The cassette player fascinated him, didn’t think they still existed. And he admires Glenn Gould. But, I’m sorry to report @Wolfy89, he prefers the 1955 recording. I argued the merits of the 1981 but couldn’t persuade him. It is too slow (his words not mine @Wolfy89). I’ll keep you all posted. Regards Terrance

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Wolfy89 8 months ago

Re: DR — Each to his own ...

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TerryMcT745 8 months ago

Dear Friends My son wants to know who I’m telling all this personal info to. And why. I told him I have online friends. They’ll know more about mum than you do, he said (joking!). Married 46 years. My son forgets I turn up everyday, feed her and continue to play her Bach, even though now there is no response.

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ISSUE 3| 43

Wolfy89 8 months ago

Glad to be of assistance @annaNotaGun Now try a harpsichord recording ...

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TerryMcT745 6 months ago

Dear Friends. My wife passed. Early this morning (2 or 3 am). They found her not breathing on their regular check during the night. I will go to the nursing home this morning to arrange things. But I wanted to tell you all before I left. Now comes the difficult job of arranging things. My son tells me there is a list. Everything she wanted for her funeral service. Music, flowers, model of coffin, who to invite. I didn’t know about it. In a drawer in the lounge room, he says. He says a good husband would know those things. But we didn’t talk about her death. Heart broken, of course. But ... I will tell you more once I return from the nursing home.

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Jenny Goodman 6 months ago

My deepest condolences Terry

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TerryMcT745 6 months ago

Dear Friends. I arrived home a few minutes ago. Wanted you all to know. It was peaceful. In her sleep the nurses told me. You will also be happy to hear I found the funeral list in the drawer. She wants her LPs donated to a charity. My son says she didn’t realise no one plays LPs anymore. The charity will not want them and I should take them to the tip. I’ll see what the charity says. God Bless You All

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Caroline McWhortie 4 months ago

Make sure you include some Bach in the service

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TerryMcT745 4 months ago

Dear Friends. Thank you all for asking. We included some Bach in the service. Violin Partita No. 2 (third part, the whole thing is too long), Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland BMW 659 arr. Busoni (I’m reading from the funeral program). And as the coffin went to be cremated Cello Suite No. 1(first part). One Frank Sinatra song. It’s what she wanted.

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Wolfy89 4 months ago

Shame you didn’t use the organ version of *BWV* 659. It would spoil my funeral if I had to listen to a piano arrangement (as good as Busoni was)

TerryMcT745 3 months ago

Dear Friends A quick update. I am as well as can be expected. The afternoons are the hardest. My wife was in the nursing home for three years so I got used to looking after myself. But I’m home alone now in the afternoons. The LPs went to the tip. Thought you’d like to know. My son said it was the easiest thing to do. The charity wasn’t keen. They’d take them but we had to drop them off ourselves. We would’ve needed four, five trips in our small cars. Or hire a truck. My son waited until the council clean up and put them out on the kerb. That was a big help for me. I was a bit upset but my son asked “Are you going to listen to them?” I had to say no. It helped I didn’t have to carry them all out to the kerb. Hundreds. Every month for years she received a new LP. Anyway, good to be in touch, hope you are all well, Terrance (thank you for your condolences)

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JulieT32 1 week ago

Saw this comment and I can’t believe anyone would this man’s sad story. What is it with you people? His wife died

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juney88 6 days ago

@JulieT32 Perhaps they were saying they didn’t like that she died

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xTy98 6 days ago

The world’s F*CKED

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JulieT32 3 days ago

@xTy98 Because she died? Or because of the comments?

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xTy98 1 day ago

F*CKED

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JulieT32 1 day ago

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@xTy98 But there’s Bach!?

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xTy98 6 hours ago

F*CKED

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TerryMcT745 53 minutes ago

@Wolfy89 Yes, you're right. Thank You. I'm no expert on Bach. I don't know the Best Bach performances. I’ll try the ones you recommend.

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MIDNIGHT KARAOKEATA MILWAUKEE GAYBAR

There’stheoldmanintheHawaiianshirtwhosings‘StarryStarryNight,’andotherthings.He’s everythirdperformerandatfirsthestaysseated,butasthe20-somethingsfilterin,intheirsilk lingerieandtrenchcoatsandtrilbyhatsandchesttattoosandgagglesoffriends,hegetsupand padsaroundtoallthetables.Likehe’sheretousherusintosomething,andalsotoremember, andalsotostayalive.Thisishowwefindeachother.There’sthewomanwhobeltsoutpopsong afterpopsong,thensitssoftlyinthecornertonurseherprivatedreams.Thegoodwillinthis blendedroom,insideacityofpartitions,poolsuplikeenoughbloodfromafreshlysqueezedcut tospilloutandwetallouredgesfortonight.Thisishowwefindeachother.There’sthe bartenderwhosingswhilepouring,andwhenhe’sdoneItellhimhe’llbefamousforhisvoice likeIrishCream,andweholdhandsacrossthebar,andIdon’torder buthepoursuswhiskey shots,andsingsagainwithhislover,apatron,aduet.Thisishowwefindeachother.Howwesay goodnight,helloagain.AndwhenIsayI’mreadytogohome,thisiswhatImean.

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ISSUE 3| 49

THE ONE DOLLAR PAN

In Smyth County, Kentucky, the hills are thick with pine trees that perfume the air with a tangy fragrance. The last time I was there, when I was twenty, I was said to have grown into a strong, morally upstandin' young man who resembled my Pa when he was my age.

Pa died when I was nine years old. I'd forgotten the sound of his voice, or what Ma mentioned most often, how he laughed, but there were six photographs of him in white plastic frames lined up in a row on the fireplace mantle that I looked at almost every day. They're the only things Ma allowed to be put on the mantle.

When Pastor Carl Kursby, the minister of the Holy Trinity Baptist Church, who at that time lived alone up the road a bit from us, came to our house and told Ma that Pa's body had been found deep in the woods with a gunshot wound in his chest, the bullet going right through Pa's heart, she didn't cry, not a single tear.

“An accident while out alone huntin' deer,” Pastor Carl said. “The Younger boys heard the shot that killed him and found him there near Piney Creek, his huntin' rifle lyin' on the ground at his feet.”

Ma and Pastor Carl stood there in the doorway as silent as two bobcats, starin' at

one 'nother, preparin' to pounce for several moments before Pastor Carl asked, “Would you like me to come in and pray with you for a spell?”

“No thank you, Pastor,” Ma replied. “I'll see you at Sunday services as always.” She slowly closed the door with Pastor Carl still standin' there lookin' like a spanked puppy dog.

As much as she tried to hide her grief, she weren't the same afterward.

Pa's funeral services at Pastor Carl's church and buryin’ at the Piney Ridge Cemetery went by in a blur of people comin' and goin', lots of prayin', and a whole lota sad music being played. Ma held my hand really tight the entire day, as if she feared I'd float away like one of them carnival balloons. Lots of our neighbors and Ma and Pa's friends stopped by the house after the dirt was thrown on Pa's grave, bringin' with 'em things like tuna casseroles, rings of jello made in them those fluted tin things that look like a lady's goin'-to-church hat when turned upside down, with bits of canned fruit floatin' about inside 'em like trapped tiny alien insects, and sheet cakes decorated with confectionery sugar icing with things written on them, also with icing, like, “Praise Jesus” and “At Rest

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With the Lord.”

That night, after everyone had left, Ma remembered she had forgotten to feed the pigs and chickens, and pinned up her hair, put on her boots, tied an apron around her dress, and made me go to bed before going out the back door.

Two days later I rode into town with Ma in our old, beat-up Ford pick-up truck that wheezed and coughed as it bumped up and down on the road pockmarked with potholes and belched steam from under the hood, all the way into town. I had no real reason for going along, but Ma seemed to need company, even if it was just me.

My pal, Aaron, who I went to school with, and no one played with but me, was different from the get-go.. We were both loners and were drawn to one another because of that.. He was going to come over to toss a ball around, but had called to say he was havin' a “case of the vapors” and needed to stay in bed for the day. That he claimed to have “the vapors” was one of the reasons no one played with him. Ma told me she would buy me an ice cream cone with two dips of chocolate ice cream if I behaved myself on the ride there to take some of Pa's things to the Piney Ridge Goodwill second-hand thrift store. During the ride I sat as still and quiet as a dead toad.

Ma parked at the curb in front of Goodwill. I stayed in the truck while she went inside to find someone to help her carry in the boxes of Pa's clothes that she was going to donate to them. I had heard her the previous day cleaning out the closet and packing his things to be given away, but didn't go into their bedroom. I don’t know where it came from, but I had

this way of knowin’ when Ma needed to be left alone. She had already cleared the mantle and placed Pa's photos on it, so I thought that this was all part of the ritual followin' somebody's death: sing some hymns, bury them, put up some pictures, and get rid of their stuff. She came out of the store a short time later with Harry Kerr, who flashed me a toothless smile and waved a limp hand when he saw me lookin' out the window. Some say Harry was slow in the head. I just thought he was a little boy trapped in a middle-aged man's body. He and Ma carried the boxes into the store while I counted the mosquitoes I smashed on my arm. The little blood suckers seemed to be particularly abundant that year.

Across the street, Myrtle Rutgers, who used to be a member of the church choir – not one of them able to sing worth a lick – walked by one way, lookin' over my way, then turned and walked the other way, still lookin' at me, before quickly dashin' into Trueblood's Grocers just as Ma came out of Goodwill's carrying a pan, the type for fryin' eggs and making flapjacks. She got into the truck and held up the pan for me to see.

“Got it for just a dollar,” she said. She placed the pan on the seat beside her and started the truck.

“What about the ice cream cone you promised me?” I said.

“Better you learn now that promises get broken.”

We rode home in silence. I was mad enough to spit, but held it in. I'd seen Ma twist a chicken's neck just for cluckin' too loudly.

At home, Ma hammered a nail in the kitchen wall, right above the stove, and hung the pan on it.

ISSUE 3| 51

I was thirteen. Aaron Kennedy and I were in front of my house kicking a halfdeflated basketball back and forth. He kicked the ball with little enthusiasm, preferring to sit under the large oak tree that shed leaves year-round like a hairy cat and pretend he was serving tea and cakes, although neither of us had ever tasted tea. Aaron's hair hung to his shoulders and, as he kicked the ball, he shook his head as if to remind himself that his hair hadn't been cut off by his father who frequently chopped off his hair with a butcher knife and slapped him for being “a sissy.”

Aaron stopped the ball, placing his bare foot on it. “You're the best lookin' boy in Piney Ridge. I want to marry you someday”

“We're both boys. Boys can't marry,” I answered, wishing that Aaron cared more about playing ball, or any sport at all, then always tellin' me how cute I was.

When Ma came 'round the house carryin' a dead, headless, plucked chicken in her arms, she stopped and looked first at me, and then at Aaron. She didn't like him very much, never had. “He's a strange one,” she always said. She only allowed him to stay overnight one time a year back, but he sounded so much like a girl from church, Angie Hulette, in the way he squealed when laughing, like a pig just as it's getting its throat slit, that she forbade him ever stayin' overnight again.

“Time to come inside and do your homework,” she said to me before goin' up the porch steps and into the house.

Aaron picked up the ball and tossed it to me, then ran up and gave me a peck on the cheek. “I'll have your children if you'd like,” he said, then turned and ran off down the dirt driveway leading to our house. Aaron ran like a girl bein' chased by a wasp, his arms and legs all akimbo.

I tossed the ball against the tree and watched it drop like a load of wet clothes, wiped Aaron's kiss from my face, and then went into the house. In the kitchen, Ma was at the sink running cold water over the chicken and pullin' the nubs of the remainin' feathers from its skin.

The kitchen table was stacked with jars of her homemade blackberry jam. Since Pa's death, Ma had kept us fed and the bank from takin' the farm by sellin' homemade jellies and jams, butcherin' her pigs, and sellin' eggs. Ma had built a dozen chicken coops inside the barn that Pa never used.

“We havin' company for dinner?” I asked. She almost never killed one of her chickens for a dinner on a weekday unless company was comin'.

“Pastor Carl will be joinin' us,” she answered.

Pastor Carl now lived in a bigger house, bought and paid for in installments to the bank by the elders of the Holy Trinity Baptist Church. His new house was nearer to the church, and although he didn't actually own the house, he didn't pay rent or any of the utility bills or for its upkeep, so with his old place rented out to Klem Younger's girl and her worthless husband who spent more time at Riley's Saloon than he did at home, he was able to put money away in his bank account like he had never been able to do before.

I didn't know if Ma considered Pastor Carl a possible suitor. He came over more than I liked, which wasn't really that often, but he always came about askin' after me and Ma as if were in need of special attention. I think Ma thought he came around for different reasons, so I didn't say anything, not wantin' to interfere. I also didn't want to tell Ma that Aaron told me the pastor and Myrtle Rutgers were seein' a lot of one 'nother. Aaron also said,

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in a fit of laughter, that Pastor Carl wore red polish on his toenails. There's no way that Aaron would know that, so I took it as a joke, but it still made me look down at Pastor Carl's shoes more than I liked to admit as if I could see right through the leather and see his painted toenails.

“Where we goin' to eat?” I asked.

“Put up the card table in the livin' room.”

I glanced up at the one dollar pan and watched a daddy long legs spider creepin' down its handle. Ma hadn't moved the pan even an inch from the hook it hung on from the day she hung it there.

“You fryin' the chicken in the one dollar pan?” I asked, knowin' that I'd be greeted with the same silence I always got whenever I mentioned the pan. It was my way of havin' a little harmless fun with her.

“Get outta here and go wash up,” she replied after a moment. “Don't just wash your dirty face. Take a bath.”

I left the kitchen and set up the card table in the living room, then went upstairs to my bedroom. Through the open window the scent of rain blew in on a gentle breeze. I removed my clothes and stood in front of the mirror. Naked, I liked to imagine I was the spittin' image of my Pa. It was the only way I could imagine Pa ever bein' a real person, other than seein' the photographs on the mantle. I wrapped a towel around my waist and walked down the hall to the bathroom, filled the tub with hot water, and got in.

By the time I finished with the bath, dried off, dressed, and went back downstairs, Pastor Carl had arrived and was sittin' on the sofa smokin' a pipe. He was the only person in the entire county I knew that smoked one made of real wood with a curved handle like the one he had. Lots of folks, men and women, still

smoked corn cob pipes, but they weren't store bought like the one he smoked.

The smell of roast chicken wafted out as Ma came in and out of the kitchen to set the table and bring out the food. With nothin' to talk about that interested both of us, Pastor Carl took his sermon from his coat jacket and read it aloud, practicin' it, while he smoked on his pipe and I read a comic book. When Ma called us to come eat, it was a race between the pastor and I who could get to the table fast enough and away from havin' to spend any more time alone with each other than was necessary. During the meal, Ma and the pastor mostly talked about church matters. When the roast chicken had been carved down to the breast bone, Pastor Carl cleared his throat.

“I have some news I want to share with both of you, seein' as how you're like family to me.” He glanced at me and then Ma as if he was a cat with a canary in his mouth. “Myrtle Rutgers has accepted my proposal of marriage.”

Ma's back suddenly stiffened, like ice water had been poured down her back. The blood drained from her face. She stood up, picked up the platter with the chicken's remaining skeleton on it, and went into the kitchen.

“Did I say something wrong?” Pastor Carl asked, staring at me, helpless as a newborn chick.

Caroline Jasper, who I had known since second grade and also attended the Holy Trinity Baptist Church, seemed to have turned from a scrawny brat to the loveliest creature that walked on the face of the planet almost overnight when she, and I, both turned sixteen. In school I sat toward the back of the class while she sat

ISSUE 3| 53

near the front. I spent most of the different classes in the one room that accommodated three grades, tenth through twelfth, staring at the back of her head expecting angels to spring out of her long red hair. We had always walked the same way home, our farms near enough to one another for us to be considered neighbors, but we had avoided one another like we each had a disease until walkin' ahead of me one day, she stopped and waited for me to catch up.

“Your mom raises pigs, don't she?” she said.

I felt my face redden. “Yeah, so what?” I replied defensively.

“I ain't said anythin' wrong with that,” she said, “just the only thing that came to mind.” She turned and walked on.

I followed close behind, like a dog in heat. “Why'd you want to say anything at all to me, anyway?”

She continued walking, looking straight ahead, the next few words that came out of her mouth spoken as if she was sayin' 'em to no one in particular. “You been lookin' kinda cute lately, but you gotta stop hangin' around that Aaron Kennedy unless you're as queer as he is,” she said, uttering his name contemptuously.

I felt my tongue shrivel and the moisture in my mouth evaporate. I knew Aaron liked boys. I had always known it. But I didn't want to defend myself or him as if I thought Aaron deserved mine or anyone else's contempt. There were very few people in Piney Ridge who liked Aaron because of how he acted, including Ma, but I didn't want to be one of them. I was the only kid in my family and Aaron was the only kid in his. As strange as he was at times, he had become like a brother.

“He ain't doin' anyone any harm,” I

said.

We had reached the driveway leading to where she lived. Before turning to walk up it, she stopped and glared at me. “Then let him kiss ya, because I sure ain't goin' to.” The day before high school graduation, a few days after my eighteenth birthday and three weeks before I was set to go into the Army, Ma spotted a black bear at the wire mesh fence she had erected around the rows of blackberry bushes she tended to and protected from wild critters like they were her youngins. She was standin' at the sink and lookin' out the window. I was sittin' at the table lookin' at the list of things I could take with me to boot camp.

“There's trouble sniffin' around my bushes,” she said, her use of the word 'trouble' tellin' me right-off what she was seein'. Raccoons were 'bandits,' deer were 'lil darlins' and bears were 'trouble'.

At that moment she let out an audible gasp. “It just knocked down the fencing,” she said, her voice reaching the pitch of a shrieking hawk. She turned about, looked around the kitchen, finally fixin' her eyes on the one dollar pan. Before I could believe what I was seein', she grabbed the pan from the wall, threw open the screen door, and ran out. I jumped up and ran after her.

Neither the bear or I ever saw anything like it. She entered the area with the bushes and began smacking the bear on its back, head and face with the pan. Ma was screamin' “Get out!” over and over, until the bear jumped over the fallen fence and hightailed it towards the woods. Ma, crumpled to her knees, sobbing, tears streamin' down her face, clutching the pan

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to her chest. “Why'd he have to do it?” she mumbled repeatedly.

I knelt beside her and put my arm around her shoulders. “It's what bears do,” I said.

“No, yer Pa killed himself,” she said. “He didn't have to do that.”

“Yer talkin' crazy, Ma. Why would Pa have killed himself?”

She looked into my eyes as if seein' me for the first time. “He was havin' an affair with Myrtle Rutgers. He knew it was wrong. He left me a note that mornin' tellin' me what he was goin' to do.” She grasped my hand, tight. “He didn't have to kill himself over it. We coulda worked it out, somehow.”

Ma, I didn't return there until I was twenty. With Aaron gone, there weren’t anyone in Piney Ridge I felt a need to visit. Funny how you can grow up in a place and not feel connected to it; gettin’ away feels a lot more important than stayin’. The only reason I did return was because Ma was ailin’ and wanted help sellin’ the farm.

After not seein' Ma for so long, the first thing I thought was, I wish she hadn't told me about Pa.

The End

Maybe it was how Aaron pranced across the stage, like an oversexed beauty queen, to get his diploma on the day we graduated from high that was the last straw for whoever killed him. It was my last week of boot camp when I got Ma's letter telling me that Aaron's body had been found on the road leading out of Piney Ridge. In her letter, Ma wrote that it he had been dragged along on the road by a car or truck for at least a mile. No one knew who killed him, and from what Ma wrote, it didn't seem like they were expendin' much energy lookin' for the killer or killers. Readin' the letter was the first time I cried over 'nother human being. I recalled Aaron's face, beamin' with pride as he watched me board the bus to leave for boot camp. As the bus pulled away, he blew me kisses.

After boot camp and trainin' as a mechanic in California, I was sent back to Fort Knox, which weren't that far from Piney Ridge. Although close to where I had grown up and close enough to visit

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ISSUE 3| 57

TERRAFORM

Cast of Characters

CALLIE, the first person born on Mars

LEO, an Earthling living on Mars

SETTING: AT RISE:

A terraformed Mars just before an asteroid is about to hit Earth.

CALLIE stands, looking out ahead. She has or stands in front of a telescope. LEO enters and sees her.

Callie! There you are! Everyone at the office was getting worried.

A small, short silence.

Callie?

Do you remember the red?

CALLIE

She looks at him. LEO hesitates.

CALLIE

You wouldn’t. But I do. I remember how dusty this planet was, how the red would sit on the tops of my shoes and smear when brushed away. How I’d have to charge my oxygen helmet at night just to go out and play as a child. I remember staring out the window of the shelter at a vast red expanse. LEO

A wasteland. It’s much more beautiful now. Like Earth.

CALLIE

The red defined Mars. Now it’s nothing more than a mere copy. LEO

If we’re going to live here, we need it to be… Come on, Callie, let’s just get back to work.

LEO
LEO
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CALLIE

It’s different when you’re born here. When the red dust is your home… do you miss it, Leo?

LEO

How red Mars was?

No. Earth. Surely you miss it.

Of course I do.

So this green environment soothes you.

In a sense.

You seem unsure.

I know this isn’t really Earth.

But it looks close enough.

It’s still Mars.

But you like that it reminds you of Earth.

Yes and no. I know it’s not where I came from.

CALLIE

LEO

CALLIE

LEO

CALLIE

LEO

CALLIE

LEO

CALLIE

LEO

CALLIE

For me, I feel no ties to Earth. It’s beautiful, sure, in its own way. But I liked growing up in a spacesuit. I liked drawing hopscotch in the dirt and stomping my feet to make the dust unsettle. I liked feeling my dwelling rock back and forth from the dust storms instead of wind and rain. I loved how endless it was before it was terraformed by brown and green and white and blue.

LEO Earth is endless too.

CALLIE Was.

LEO

It hasn’t happened yet.

ISSUE 3| 59

CALLIE

But that’s why you’re here, though, isn’t it? To watch it happen?

LEO

I’m here to bring you back to work.

CALLIE

But this is such a monumental event. You don’t want to witness your home planet pounded to pieces? Silence.

LEO

That’s your home planet too.

CALLIE

Ah, see, that’s where you’re wrong. I’m no Earthling. I was born on the red soil, and I’ll die here.

LEO

Those are your people still left on that planet. You’re a human. We’re all human.

CALLIE

I’m a Martian. She peers into the telescope.

CALLIE

You still know people there.

Of course.

Why did you leave your life behind?

I didn’t. I made a new one here.

On Earth 2.0.

LEO

CALLIE

LEO

CALLIE

LEO Mars.

CALLIE

Your version of Mars. Not mine.

What is your problem with me?

LEO

CALLIE

You don’t seem to get it. What your colonial terraforming did to my home.

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Stop making assumptions about—

LEO

CALLIE

You Earthlings are already doing it to Jupiter’s moon Europa! Terraforming her. Transforming her for your own consumption. Your own gain.

LEO

Without doing what we did, you might not be alive right now! We made it habitable!

CALLIE

I don’t care! At least I was of my own world. I never aspired for Earth, never. Only that it would fall. She gestures toward the telescope.

CALLIE

Take a look.

For some reason, LEO does. He takes his time at the telescope. A moment. Then LEO jumps away from the telescope.

It hit. The asteroid. It happened.

It’s still happening.

I didn’t leave them behind.

You just trapped them on a crumbling world.

LEO

CALLIE

LEO

CALLIE

LEO

I wouldn’t do that to people. I care about the continuation of the human race, all right? That’s why we did all this. It was necessary to keep us here. To keep us relevant in this universe. And maybe we can’t save everyone, but we saved some people, and that’s enough, right? It’s enough!

CALLIE

If you value some human lives over others, then it’s not enough. If you value your material gain over destroying my home, then it’s. Not. Enough. Understand me?

LEO looks again in the telescope.

LEO

It’s really gone… No more Earth.

CALLIE No more Mars.

Lights out.

End of play.

ISSUE 3| 61

WHEN I STOPPED

When I stopped going for my doctorate because I’d had a miscarriage. And then again because I realized I was going to have another child. When I stopped because there was no room for it all, not when I was already carrying the weight of myself, and the house, and everything inside us. I remember when I said I needed to put some of this down, I was carrying too much. When I just wanted someone to offer a hand to carry it with me. But instead they offered, “we understand!” and “the most important contribution you can make is being a Mother.”

The most important contribution. The words that were supposed to be supportive cut through my spine but I thanked them. I took time and found my balance. I grieved the losses and celebrated the changes. I eventually smiled and agreed even though my body still rejected that notion like a cheap piercing I was hell-bent on keeping.

I remember the interview for grad school, when he asked me without asking me if I was dedicated. When he asked me in a legal way if I was sure I was done having children. When my passion for learning

answered all his questions with too many smiling nods. The same smile I gave to cops so I didn’t get pulled over. But I don’t smile at cops anymore. And my cohort has all moved on.

I swallowed my choices and the lie that these were my choices. I swallowed wine and love and hugs and questions, and more wine. I wore the badge of honor on my black cardigan, and then on the next one, and the next one. I still longed for help and felt myself stretch taller each time my calls fell flat. I thought I was growing, but I was just stretching thin. I became so sheer that I almost vanished, proclaiming myself a ghost. To no one.

I started eating cake. I started waking early and writing, and trying. I hit so many walls in the dark that I learned where the boundaries were, where the parameters lie. I learned that I had swallowed so many lies that I’d poisoned myself. I threw up the lie that we have to surrender being a full time parent if we want to have a voice. As if anyone or anything could take that title away. As if bringing the other parent home for more than a few hours of daylight wasn’t an

ISSUE 3| 63

option. As if the community reaching out and rallying around a family wasn’t possible. As if these boxes were the only way.

I swallowed the sadness that my unreachable goal was simply to be myself. “You can’t have it all,” they’d throw back with mid afternoon wine, chased with “parents make sacrifices.” As if it’s a noble deed to sacrifice oneself for anyone or anything you love. They don’t realize that as sacrificial lambs to the slaughter, none of us are fully alive to raise the next generation, or ourselves, or necessary hell, or maybe they do. Maybe they strive for us to be hulls, empty shells turning to dust and leaving our young and dreams in their greedy hands.

So I’ve started growing my own food. Just some parsley and poorly harvested tomatoes. A few gooseberries from the season and all the blueberries fed to the sparrows. I write every day, and I’m teaching my children to work with me. They don’t. Not yet anyway, but I’ll keep at it. I’m waging war on 40 hours, and no one’s really listening, but I’ll keep yelling, and I won’t smile politely when they ask me to move. It’s something, and it’s a start.

64|WINTER
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