MIRAGE _________________ 2010 Literary & Arts Magazine
Cochise College Cochise & Santa Cruz Counties, Arizona
Editors Christa Crowell Cappy Love Hanson Ajaa Jackson
Faculty Advisors Shirley Neese Jeff Sturges Jay Treiber Rick Whipple
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ Front and Back Cover Art: “Up Clawson” by Jan Searle Cover Design: Rick Whipple Acknowledgements For their help in producing the magazine, the Mirage staff would like to thank the following people: Keith Ringey and Juan Zozaya for printing; the staff of the Copper Queen Library, Bisbee, for use of the meeting room; and Dennis Gordon, Doris Jensen, Ceci Lewis, Elizabeth Lopez, Diane Nadeau, Shirley Neese, and George Self for proofreading. Creative Writing Celebration Winners Mirage publishes the first-place winners of the previous year’s Cochise Community Creative Writing Celebration competitions in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, if available. The Celebration takes place in late March/early April and is produced by Cochise College, the University of Arizona South, and the City of Sierra Vista. The following are the winners of last year’s competitions: Poetry: “Refuge, Las Vegas, New Mexico” by Cappy Love Hanson Fiction: “Snake Picture” by Cappy Love Hanson Nonfiction: “Tricky” by Kathy Swackhamer Mirage Mission Statement Mirage Literary and Arts Magazine has a three-part mission: 1. It serves Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties by showcasing high-quality art and literature produced by community members. 2. It serves Cochise College by establishing the College as the locus of a creative learning community. 3. It further serves Cochise College students by providing them an opportunity to earn college credit and gain academic and professional experience through their participation in all aspects of the production of the literary and arts magazine.
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Font This year’s Mirage is printed in Palatino Linotype, a Renaissanceinfluenced serif typeface designed by Hermann Zapf and released in 1948. It mimics the letters formed by a broad-nib pen. Copyright Notice All rights herein are retained by the individual author or artist. No part of this magazine may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without written permission of the author or artist, except for limited scholarly or reference purposes, to include citation of date, page, and source with full acknowledgement of title, author, and edition. Printed in the United States of America.
© Cochise College 2010
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ Table of Contents Literature
Rain Harvest Deborah Girard Placed in the Brain Michael Gregory Judgement Day Stephen Bovée One Year Lavendra Copen Illusion Dorothy Stroud Chapel Chair with Candle at Canelo Richard Byrd Lucy with Pearls Lindsay Janet Roberts Green-Eyed Lady Lindsay Janet Roberts Artist’s Sphinx Christina Molidor Up Clawson Jan Searle Taking the High Road Jan Searle Jay Chafin, Tailor, Cannery Row Richard Byrd Winter’s Wings Christina Molidor Surmise Dorothy Stroud Tricky Kathy Swackhamer Refuge, Las Vegas, New Mexico Cappy Love Hanson David’s Haircut Donna Naa iii
1 1 2 10 11
12 13 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 24 25
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Last-Night Radio Mimi Ferraro Moths Lavendra Copen Drinking Gin with Josh in Muskegon Kevin McBeth Real Characters Harvey Stanbrough Art
Cobblestones Christina Molidor Twisted Crow Dicehart Ice Fishing Laurie McKenna Pallid Bat Cruising Robert J. Luce Untitled Pat Cole Rose Johnson Painting the Jonquil Motel Mural Richard Byrd Of Catholicism Nadine Lockhart The Death of a Small Girl Molly Harrico Snake Picture Cappy Love Hanson Untitled Molly Harrico
29 32 36 37 37 38 39
40 41 42 44 50
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ Rain Harvest Deborah Girard Tataâ€™s porch roof leaks Rain splash on ceramic tiles Rusted pails fill fast
Placed in the Brain Michael Gregory so might some actual man have spoken Yeats Placed in the brain By Plato, confined by process of elimination to the pineal by Descartes, located by Aquinas throughout the body till death do them, progressively more tangible liberated from the conviction that only ideas are real.
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Judgement Day Stephen Bovée I rolled over with a groan and died, and then things started happening very fast. For a brief instant, I floated upward, and then I was moving through space—I mean quick. I was hurtling. I went streaking through the void like a beam of light on fire. The universe rushed by in the manner of a speeded-up film: galaxies, nebulae, vast whirlpools of stars and matter—all sorts of astronomical stuff. It made me dizzy; I got vertigo just looking at the supernovas flash by, spraying sparks and burnt-out planets. It was exhilarating, but it was scary, too, in a way. It was all so huge and overwhelming, you know. But the really, really scary part began when I soared in for a landing (there was a kind of a cosmic runway out there, made of mother-of-pearl and lined with blue lights; it seemed a logical place to touch down) and fetched up against God. The last thing I ever expected! You see, I’d never believed in the fellow. But there He was, big as life, and scowling. “Big as life” doesn’t convey it very well. He was huge. Sitting down, He measured about twenty-five thousand feet high, as best as I could judge. His head was so high it poked up over a layer of clouds that formed about His breast. Perspective made Him look all out of proportion. I landed a couple thousand yards back from the throne, and from where I stood, His toes loomed up out of gargantuan sandals like the faces on Mt. Rushmore. Horrible things, from that angle. His head looked miles away—hell, it was miles away. I said He was scowling. Boy, was He ever. He had that I’m-very-disappointed-in-you,-young-man look, sorrow mingled with wrath, and He was rhythmically flexing His giant toes the way a cat flexes its tail. It scared me. You’d better believe it scared me, that hard look. But He let it go on a bit too long, and little by little, the dread started to give way to boredom. That stern dad act gets old pretty fast—I don’t care who is putting it on. I had time to give the old boy a good once-over, Him and his chair. The thing was gaudy with diamonds and emeralds and gold; no telling what it would be worth back on Earth. Yet one of the legs was sprung. That wasn’t the only jarring note. His toes, massive as they were, had yellow nails. They say it’s some kind of fungus that does it, I don’t know. I didn’t expect it here, anyway. The sandals were impressive enough, and the shimmery robe, which would have looked plain silly 2
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ on anybody else, gave Him a look of real authoritative dignity. And of course, His face was awe-inspiring. At first glance, that is. Those beetling brows, those blazing eyes, that noble nose! That leonine mane of hair! But His beard—well, let’s face it, long, stringy beards don’t look good on anyone. It was kind of nasty, to be honest. It didn’t look especially clean, for one thing, and could have used a combing—was that a bug I saw in there?—no, it was a human, a naked woman. She looked frightened and skinny and wretched. Our eyes met across all that distance, and she gave me an imploring look while pressing a finger to her lips. I gave her the slightest of sympathetic nods (hoping The Big Guy didn’t notice) and she burrowed her way back into the hairs. All this inspection didn’t take more than a second or two. But now the toes stopped flexing, and my attention sharpened up in a hurry. Unless I missed my guess, it meant He was about to speak. And so He began—speaking, I mean. How to describe it? It was like a hundred thousand jet planes taking off at once. Yet He wasn’t bellowing; it was just His normal tone. Well, what kind of voice would you expect out of a monster that size? He bracketed me with His fierce gaze (which caused me to shrivel a bit, you can be sure) and opened His stupendous mouth to draw a breath, and the vast suction almost pulled me in; then He let out a roaring blast of wind that sent me spinning the other way. “I HAVE REVIEWED YOUR LIFE,” He began, in awful tones, “AND I HAVE COME TO A JUDGEMENT.” This was it, I thought in a panicky flash. The big moment, and no time to prepare! “YOU,” He thundered, “HAVE NOT BEEN A VERY GOOD MAN.” And I will drop the capitals here, so long as you understand that the volume continued undiminished. “Yes,” I said, trying to keep my feet. It was true. That brought an unexpected pang, and I was ashamed. “You have had many opportunities to do good, and yet you persisted in doing wrong.” “Yes. Yes, I certainly did.” “You have sinned. You have lusted after women. You have drunk and stolen and lied.” All true. “You have used My name in vain. You have mocked the 3
___Mirage________________________________________________________ righteous and turned your back on the needy. You have cast aside the garments of holiness and reveled in filth. You have . . .” You know, along at first, I was feeling very low about all this, but the more He got to talking, the less effect it had on me. It was the same mistake as He made before with His gaze: He overplayed His hand. Blah blah blah, yammer yammer yammer, on and on He went. It got ridiculous after a while. Just pure nitpicking. He laid into me for coveting my neighbor’s oxen, for God’s sake. So after about ten minutes of this, I just had to put a stopper in it. I cupped my hands and yelled as loud as I could, “All right, guilty as charged!” He jerked and glared, and I regretted being so cheeky. I had to remind myself I was playing a most dangerous game. It was still hard to grasp, you understand, that all this Heavenly-Father business was true—yet in my post-death heightened state of awareness, I knew it was no illusion, and it was true. Those old Bible-thumpers had it right all the time; you had to hand it to them. What a dismal prospect. But (my mind was racing) there was one small ray of hope in the situation. Scriptural literalness had some interesting implications. It meant that the figure on the throne was omniscient, omnipotent, immortal, and infinitely vindictive. It also meant He was a giant dunce. “You freely confess your sins?” He roared. “Sure.” “You know that I can see into your heart, that no secret can be concealed from Me.” “I suppose not.” “The face of wickedness cannot be hidden. And confession without contrition is a sin in and of itself. Yet you dissemble. You presume to lie in My Almighty presence! You seal your doom, wretch. Abandon yourself to everlasting despair, for I damn you and cast you into Hell for an eternity.” Daft bugger, He meant it! He lifted His monstrous foot. The shadow of it darkened the ground for miles around. He was intending to squash me like a bug, or a worm, or something. “Hold on! Not so fast! I’ve got something important to say.” The foot kept coming. “I warn you, you’d better not!” “WHAT!?” His shriek almost rent the cosmos. “Are you threatening Me, insect?” “Of course I’m not threatening You. I wouldn’t dream of it. I’ve 4
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ always looked up to You,” I added, with a slobbery, fawning smile. At least I had Him talking. I was thinking hard, trying to remember everything I could about this character—not very much, unfortunately. Why, oh why, had I frittered away my earthly days on vain pursuits when I could have been studying the Bible, looking for His weaknesses? Oh well, it was too late for regrets. To hell with it, anyway—He said He could read my mind, and He probably could. “All right,” I said, ”You’ve got a point. I didn’t always measure up to what I should have, and I’ll admit it. But who are You, anyway, to condemn me? I didn’t create this mess, You did—and You saw fit to throw in a lot more stupidity and cruelty than was strictly necessary, I might add. I’m just a little part of Your botched experiment. Don’t blame me for being defective. I didn’t make myself. And if You think I’m going to take the fall for Your lousy workmanship, You’re crazier than a shithouse rat!” His guffaw was like a million sour trumpets. “Is that your idea of an intellectual riposte? I’ve heard more sophisticated arguments out of eight-year-olds!” “I notice You didn’t answer the question.” “I advise you not to go debating theology with Me, puny man.” “Who better?” “Your childish logic does not interest Me.” “Maybe it’s the subject that’s childish.” “I don’t think you’ll find anything childish about Hell,” He said ominously. “Just what I wanted to discuss with You! Let’s take the subject of Hell—” “Let’s not. Do you have any idea how boring, how trivial this is to Me? I’ve heard every argument, by people far, far abler than you, a trillion times over. The fact that I live forever does not make My time valueless.” “All I’m saying is, You owe Your creations certain obligations.” “Do I? You really think so? Watch.” He pursed His lips and worked up a wad of spittle. You could see Him swishing it around. Then He blew out a froth into space; the spittle became planets, solar systems, numberless worlds, inhabited and beautiful. (In my superhuman, deceased state, I could see everything in detail.) Quadrillions of creatures lived, loved, fought, and hoped: it all appeared before me in kaleidoscope fashion. But then the bearded titan lifted His hand, 5
___Mirage________________________________________________________ and from His fingertips flew quasar lightning, each bolt more powerful than angelic hosts of hydrogen bombs, and in an instant all those worlds were blasted out of existence. “Do you see?” He said. “I create, I destroy; do you really suppose it means anything to Me?” He spat out a tiny leftover planet and pinched it to dust between His fingers. “Well that’s cute. That’s just peachy. Nice show You put on, huh? What it tells me is that You’re a sociopath, a nihilist—not even that principled. You’re a moral zero. And You call Yourself God!” “You would do well to watch your tongue. I will not be mocked.” “Neither will I! You’ve got a lot of nerve passing judgement on me. You’re not one bit better than I am. Bigger, sure. More powerful— no denying that. And You live a lot longer. So what! I’m supposed to worship a big galoot just because He’s big?” “Fool! You think that’s all there is to it, do you? Size? Brute strength?” “It sure isn’t character!” “Your paltry mind is simply not equipped to apprehend My immensity.” He thought for a moment. He was upset, you could tell. His brow was all knotted up, and the clouds around His breast were turning black and spitting lightning. “Very well,” He said at last. “You claim to be My equal. Prove it! Take a sock at Me, I dare you. Give it your best shot. We’ll have it out, mano a mano.” “You’ve got to be joking. I might as well try hitting a mountain.” “Our disparity in size is meaningless. But if you wish, I’ll rectify it. In fact, I’ll make you bigger than Me, if that makes you happy.” He made a curious pass in the air, and I began to rise; He was levitating me up to His eye level. Hideous boils were breaking out all over my skin, and a horrible stench was gushing from my every pore. He was trying to psych me out. “Let’s see,” He said lazily, “shall we play large—or small?” His eyeball up close was as big as a stadium. I couldn’t even see His other eye; it was lost behind the Matterhorn of His nose. He winked, and the wind blowing off His immense eyelid whirled me away, and I was falling . . . . . . and shrinking. God was shrinking, too, even more swiftly than I. Together we diminished in size until we were no larger than poppy seeds, then motes of dust; we shriveled to molecules, to atoms, ever down, down, down, into the quantum world, and there we stopped. It was all quite strange in that realm (difficult to describe), but I could recognize God’s mocking laugh, and recognize also that I was indeed 6
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ larger than He, though only by a Planck length. And then we began to grow, shooting up so fast I lost my breakfast before we were more than a few miles high. We rocketed up past planets and stars, accelerating, God growing a bit faster than I, so it was all I could do to keep up with His ankles. I was the size of an ordinary galaxy by now, but what of it?—He was the size of a galactic cluster. I caught Him, though, in the end. We were exactly matched, billions of light-years tall, both so huge we had to stoop a bit to fit into the cosmos. He grinned and made one of His magic gestures, and I grew just a wee smidgeon more. It was done. I had two inches on Him now, two inches and an extra half-inch of reach. “Satisfied?” He said with a smirk. “Perfectly.” “Then have at it, kiddo.” Oh, He was a tempting target. Oh, how I’d waited for this day. I swung. I wound up halfway across the Universe, a right-hook haymaker that would have flattened . . . well, God. But wouldn’t you know it: my fist went through Him like He was smoke. He just wasn’t there. And in another second, I was flat on my back on the floor of creation, spitting out teeth. When my vision cleared, God was shaking hands with Himself over His head and doing a shuffling little dance. “I’m the greatest!” He crowed. A couple of dimwitted angels, no bigger than solar systems, whistled and applauded. I got up slowly, first on my hands and knees, then on my feet. I brushed a cobwebby star cluster out of my hair. I was mad. I was boiling! “Do you begin to apprehend My point?” God simpered. “Or shall we Indian wrestle?” What a rotten, juvenile trick! What a cheap stunt! And what a loony universe, with a joker like this at the helm! We faced each other, eye to eye. “All right, Mr. Smart Guy,” I said deliberately. “You win. You win, sure enough. But only because You make up the rules, as usual. You’re really something, You know. You can dish it out, but You can’t take it. And do You know why? Because You’re yellow.” “I am like hell yellow.” “You’re yellow as a toad’s belly. You’re yellower than any cur that ever slunk down a road. You haven’t got the guts of a tapeworm. Here You are, The Big Shot in charge of it all. I’d like to see You try just once—just once in Your miserable life!—try being an ordinary 7
___Mirage________________________________________________________ schmuck. See what it’s like to not be all mighty, to be not one little bit mighty, to be an ordinary guy trying to hold his skin together. Just for a day! But You’d never do it; You’re too yellow.” We were floating aimlessly through the void, God bristling and chewing His beard with anger. I recognized our Milky Way as it drifted by. “Look there,” I said. “That’s where I’m from, that galaxy.” My vision zoomed in effortlessly; it was a bit like Google Universe, only a lot more impressive. Earth was visible now, swirling blue and white. “That’s my home. There isn’t a living creature down there that doesn’t suffer and die, while You sit smug on Your merry throne. The lowliest slug that crawls is braver than You are. You couldn’t stand being mortal. You couldn’t bear it! You’d have to feel worry, pain, fear, old age— and that scares You stiff.” “Nothing scares Me.” “Oh, no. Of course not. Not You. See those billions of people down there?” We hovered over a miserable, impoverished country (there were plenty to pick from). “Take a good look. They’re all Your betters, every one of them.” I pointed. “Look at that guy there by the side of the road.” He was a wizened little fellow in a loincloth, with a sad, beaten face. He was selling cheap plastic toys from a cardboard box, and nobody was buying. Every rib in his chest stood out. “He knows what it’s like to be mortal. To feel pain. If You’re so tough, swap with that peckerwood. Just for a single minute, if You’ve got the guts, which You don’t. And none of this supernatural-being-in-a-humanbody nonsense. Play fair, for once. Ah, but You’d never do it, would You? Too yellow!” He set His jaw and narrowed His eyes, and sparks of holy rage crackled out of His hair. A vein was pounding in His forehead. “Damn you, we’ll see who’s yellow!” He gritted through clenched teeth. And suddenly we were there, standing before the toy-seller, who looked up at us in astonishment. His surprise was understandable: two beings appear out of nowhere, one of which is a crazy, wild-eyed geezer in a nightgown. “Yellow, am I?” said God, choking with fury. He raised His arms and made a demented gesture. “All right, then, triple-damn you: LET THERE BE SWAP!” He howled. And it happened. The toy-seller’s body jerked. The two fused, melded. I could see the exchange. The form of God the Father beside me twitched and stumbled. The toy seller (by which I mean God, you 8
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ understand—He was now inhabiting that body) began to feel Himself all over with His hands, and a look of uttermost horror was on His face. His eyes were full of disgust, self-loathing, and infinite dread. Meanwhile God (that is, the toy seller) was blinking at his robes in a stupid way. I didn’t waste a moment. I was on that toy-seller’s body in under a second. I grabbed Him by the throat and yanked Him clean into the air. I backhanded Him twice, then whirled Him over my head. He was begging and gibbering and crying like a madman. A heavy truck was passing by, a diesel blowing oily smoke. I threw that runty body under the wheels. There was a sickening crunch and a squish. It made quite a mess, I can tell you. The truck just kept on going. It was very quiet, there by the road. “I guess that takes care of Him,” I said to the individual in the robe. “Yes . . . yes, it does,” He said wonderingly. “Except . . . now . . . I’m Him.” He smoothed His robes. “Yes, I’m HIM!” Then, with growing triumph and conviction: “I’m God. I’m God. I’m GOD!” He turned to face me, and His expression was stern. “I can see the secrets of your heart,” He said. “Don’t try to hide your thoughts from Me . . .” Yes, He turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, that toy seller. Who would have thought being God would have gone straight to His head? He’s not as bad as His predecessor, maybe, but that’s not saying much. One of His first acts, I understand, was to command His children on Earth to worship toys, in particular dolls, and bow down daily to an arch-doll in the image of You-Know-Who. It’s rather depressing, really. On the good side, Hell isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
___Mirage________________________________________________________ One Year Lavendra Copen Her father is one year dead—felled by his congenitally congested heart, fired to ash and bits of bone too hard-grained to incinerate—when she declares herself absolved from grieving, real and wished for, free to rub clean the soiled lens of remembrance: how, in the amber dome at the beer bottle’s bottom, his eyes widened, how he seemed to wonder when his lids had turned that bubbly gold, his cheeks so glassy. When had his skin become untouchable by fingers lolling down the bottle’s sweaty flanks? When did the walls become too slick to climb back out? He had to slap away that surrogate self, spray the last few drops across the dining table, swipe up those fizzy mirrors with his sleeve. Maybe wonder never entered into it. Either way, she now revokes the promise he extorted from her not to tell, locked deeper with every click of her bedroom doorknob, every bottle cap’s key-like snap. She spits on her own cuff now, wipes away some grime—spits and rubs again, leans her full weight into the work.
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ Illusion Dorothy Stroud It is dominating the museum like the gas in the chambers. It is shaped like minds that fractured the world into bleeding angles. It should be brute iron or congealed, coiling smoke, or steel rickrack stretching taut under trains on ghastly tracks. Inspecting the uniformâ€™s flaccid sleeve, I found to my disbelief that the terminal swastika was made of black grosgrain ribbon.
Chapel Chair with Candle at Canelo Richard Byrd 12
Lucy with Pearls Lindsay Janet Roberts
Green-Eyed Lady Lindsay Janet Roberts 13
Artistâ€™s Sphynx Christina Molidor (Sculpture by Ben Dale) 14
Up Clawson Jan Searle 15
Taking the High Road Jan Searle
Jay Chafin, Tailor, Cannery Row Richard Byrd 17
Winterâ€™s Wings Christina Molidor (Sculpture by Ben Dale) 18
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ Surmise Dorothy Stroud The earth is rabid. People soak up evil through their feet. Recurring holocausts feed an addiction to dirt from acres of empires. A hunger for land cancers its way through all time and humanity. The blood of Abel has saturated the earth.
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Tricky Kathy Swackhamer (Winner, nonfiction competition, Cochise Community Creative Writing Celebration, 2009.) My Corolla slides to a stop in my gravel drive. I’m running late. Jay T., autistic and twenty-one years old, should be back from his new job. Since his recent seizure, I press to be home in time for his return. Pushing the door open, I listen to the insides of my house. Silence. I call out, “Jay T., are you home?” From his bedroom, he stammers, “I hear a person sounding like you, Mom.” Not long ago, the deli gave him a pink slip because of a business slump. Perhaps a truth peeks out in Jay T.’s version: “I didn’t get more hours because they didn’t get enough patients.” Currently, he shelves books at the high school. Marching down jammed hallways to the library, he calls out, “Honk, honk” to students lolling in the way. A perfectionist, he attacks his tasks with an accountant’s eye. The library’s low noise level accommodates his supercharged hearing. Even so, he wears ear plugs just in case the fire alarm buzzes. Because the school budget cannot afford even his token wage, he is not compensated. But the joy he derives from work transcends payment. Living by an ancient covenant, an old promise that guarantees laws will be constant, he thrills to the library’s steadfastness. In the east, which is on the left, facing south, the sun will rise. After winter, spring will green the brown. Likewise, Dewey decimals and alphabets will always stand in order. “Why do you like numbers so much?” I used to ask. “Because they’re my serious friends.” “Serious?” “They’re untricky.” Indeed, for him, numbers are straightforward. They are his confidants, guardians of truth, stability, and birth dates. Whether solving Sudoku puzzles or timing his running laps, he senses their draw. When he wrangles a birth date from a teacher, clerk, or UPS driver to calculate the day of birth, I feel uneasy. I know that years later, like a royal herald, he will trumpet across the cafeteria or parking lot, 20
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ “You are fifty today. I know that. You were born on a Tuesday. Yes. You are fifty.” Unlike numbers and laws of constancy, language and words unsettle him. Once, for homework, he looked up “fast” in his dictionary and made an appalling discovery: two definitions—speedy or not eating. Wham! The dictionary slammed shut. “I’m confused in my shoes,” he wailed. “They tricked me.” Material possessions have never inspired him either. Through grade school, he could imagine only two gifts for his birthday: lined paper and Oreos. But at age fifteen, the upwelling of an intangible wish startled him and me. Before bed one evening, he asked, “When I finish twelfth grade, will I have children?” “Well,” I began tentatively, “you’d have to get married first.” I pushed on blindly. “But you don’t want all that whining and changing diapers and no peace and quiet. Be smart like Aunt Julie. She never married.” With his long back bent, he gazed into saddened air. Soon his eyes began to waver. “Where do I have to come to get a wife?” His voice pled for what I was unable to give. Sighing, I poked around every pocket of my brain to find something. Empty handed, I mumbled, “We’ll see about that when you’re an adult.” We both grimaced at my non-answer. Six years roll by, and Jay T. meets Katie, his new job coach. Winsome, nurturing, she intuits his wishes, talks his lingo. But alas, after one month, she is called away to care for family in New York. She jots her address on a wrinkled deli receipt and hands it to him. “You can write me.” I recall his storming into the house, face quavery red, hands flapping at ears. “She’s gone!” In a flash flood of outrage, his lean body pitches and rocks. “Slow down,” I order. “Who’s gone?” “Katie!” he howls. He shoves the address into my hand. “My heart is pounding too hard. Take it out. I need a new heart.” Then, as if every muscle and bone in his body were battered, he hobbles to his room, crashes on the bed, and weeps. For weeks, he eats halfheartedly, sobs alone, and groans, “I’m 21
___Mirage________________________________________________________ worried about Katie.” His new job coach, Carol, comforts him. “Katie was homesick.” “What is ‘homesick?’” “Homesick is when you miss your family and need to go home.” He muses over this. Then, like Mount St. Helens, his body begins to tremble. He lifts his shirt to his mouth and then lets go. Raising fists to eye level, he shivers them. Energy snapping around him, he toedances in place as he cycles the movements: lift shirt, shiver fists, lift shirt, shiver fists—faster and faster until he erupts, “I’m homesick for Katie!” One morning, as he sulks, I suggest, “You can write her.” A dawn of hope lightens his blue eyes. Dear Katie, Thank you for driving me home on your last day in Arizona. How do you like New York? I’m going to do my chores without sitting there crying about you. Hear from you soon. Love, Jay T. After mailing the letter, I worry this might inflame his hurt. Maybe choking passion outright, leaving no air for hope, is kinder. Each day he rushes home: “Did the letter come from Katie yet? Does the Post Office have too much business?” Then he consoles himself: “I have to be like a rubber band to wait for Katie.” Without conviction, I intone, “Maybe tomorrow,” which instantly elicits a scowl and tirade of “I don’t like maybes.” Day after day, he flounders in a grief he does not understand. One afternoon, a letter arrives from Lisa, a former tutor. “Look what came in the mail, Jay T.” Speechless, he grabs the letter, charges into his room, bangs the door closed. Five minutes elapse, and he reappears. A telltale crease deepens at one corner of his mouth. “The sad news is I miss Katie, but happy news is Lisa remembered to write. Are we sorry Katie is tricky?” I nod gently. “Yes, but, for sure, you can see Katie in another life, the spirit world.” Squinting his eyes to hear inside himself, he announces, “That’s another tricky one.” As for all of us, time quiets pain. Gradually, wounds heal from 22
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ the inside out. The toughened heart resets, and habits, loyal as spring, return. Tonight, he prepares for another workday. Handing me his boxers with a thread dangling from the waistband: “There’s a string trying to get out of my pants.” Then he sets out his breakfast, transit ticket, and school ID badge. Dewey decimals await his guiding hand. Tomorrow, books will stand in heavenly order, numbers and letters radiant.
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Refuge, Las Vegas, New Mexico Cappy Love Hanson (Winner, poetry competition, Cochise Community Creative Writing Celebration, 2009.) January, and Iâ€™m hot rodding away from one more failed affair, foot pushed down a dozen miles an hour over posted limits on snow-margined roads. Down out of the Jemez Mountains, St. Francis Drive the length of Santa Fe, Glorietta Pass through the Sangre de Cristos: names that drip like water on my chapped lips as I hang on a cross by the nail through my heart. All afternoon, I idle through the prairie-grass, cottonwood, and salt-cedar wildlife refuge, distract myself with eagledecked trees, sandhill cranes picking over corn fields, mallards and Canada geese mottling ice-rimed ponds. Huddle in my fiberfill jacket, envy them their insulating down, their wings. Hope for alleged pronghorn herds the way I have for love and find them just as elusive. The highpoint is feeding Fritos to a gray roan jughead gelding on a private inholding, who rolls back black lips, curls his tongue, and grins yellow-toothed infatuation into my camera. The ghost-ridden 1800s Plaza Hotel is too pricey, the 1950s motor inns cheap and worse than charmless: too many layers of paint over too many layers of nicotine and splashed booze and sweat from bodies rubbed together, dreaming in their own juices. I take a room in a modern motel, big anonymous box, so characterless that my jeans and jacket, thrown over Naugahyde chairs, add appeal. Instead of struggling against that institutional tide, I give in, let it swamp and submerge me, sob into chlorine-clean sheets as I rub and press and spasm into whatever release I can get.
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ David’s Haircut Donna Naa I. “You got time today?” David asks, rubbing a hand over the slick spot on top of his round head. “I do. Just now I do. Come have a seat.” “You got time to take all this off my face, too?” “I don’t see why not,” I say. Securing the cape around David’s neck takes me to the final snap on its collar. “That too tight?” I ask, wondering what I’ll do if he says yes. “Naw, it’s alright. I’m in a good mood today. Just came from court. My case was dismissed. Hey, it’s kind of funny getting my hair cut after court.” “Dismissed?” “Yeah, the cops gotta quit harassing me.” “Whoa, you did get lucky, but next time come in here first, just in case. So, what exactly did the judge say?” “He said, ‘David, did you hit this man, Mr. So-and-so?’ (He’s one of the only ones besides you that calls me David. Even the cops call me Dozer.) So I said, ‘No, sir, I did not.’ And he said, ‘That’s what I thought. This is frivolous. Case dismissed.’” “Did you,” I ask, glancing in the mirror, “hit him?” David smiles. One half of his head is smooth and slick, the other still populated with the kind of straight dark hair that DeGrazia so loved to paint. “I wanted to. I would have, but it was too late.” “Too late?” “Yup. It’s kind of hard to hit someone when you’re laid out in the street with your head bleeding. So the judge dismissed my case. You know, one of these days, the cops are just gonna have to learn to quit harassing me and let me drink my beer.” I gently push David’s head forward to expose the hair in the creases just above the nape of his neck. “Well, David, do you think they’re harassing you because you’re sitting right under that sign that says ‘No Loitering’ while you’re drinking your beer?” David’s head jerks upright, halting all progress. “They had no right to put that sign there. I’ve been loitering on that spot since I was 25
___Mirage________________________________________________________ five years old. It’s illegal. They didn’t go through city council or nothing. The police chief just put that sign there.” I take the opportunity to switch from the clippers to the trimmers, the better to clean up around his ears. “You know, David, I think you’ve got a point there. Let’s see—that’s thirty-five years. You oughta be grandfathered in by now.” “That’s what I mean. Those cops gotta quit harassing me.” While I finish cleaning up around his hairline, I think about what David has just said. He might be right about the police chief not going through channels. It is a bit odd to have a no-loitering sign at the bus stop. But what do I know? “You want me to take everything off your face?” “No. Leave my mustache, if you would. Well, no. Go ahead and take it off. Today’s my aunt’s birthday. She doesn’t like to see me looking too straggly.” II. Round—round and smooth—that’s the best way to describe David’s head and face by the time I’m through with them. Round, smooth, and shiny like the caramels inevitably found at the pillowcase bottom two days after Halloween. His coloring is like a caramel, too. Even the creases along the nape of his neck remind me of the creases in those round, flat candies once you peeled the cellophane wrapper off. We’re the same age, David and I, both born in 1963, both born in the same state, and both here now in David’s native Bisbee, Queen of the Copper Mines. I don’t charge David for his haircut and beard trim, both executed with the same blade on my clippers, a triple aught. I don’t charge David, not because I’ve just turned him into a moon-faced innocent by clear-cutting his bandito mustache and pointy diablo beard, but because, well, because he’s David. The same David who, back when I still only knew three people in town (and two of those my bosses at the library), called out my name as I made my way down Drug Addict Alley, and threw me a flattery so simple and sweet I let it slip right through my ears, down my throat, and into my chest until I felt like maybe, just maybe, I belonged.
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ Last-Night Radio Mimi Ferraro I am the last late night DJ on planet Earth let’s play it holy station ride electro-magnetic waves way past infra red shoot synth rhythm bursts matrix the weary ether of time blast the vacuum of soul kick karma’s ass whistle past birth ion showers junk debris kick it for KJAM KWHY sweet afro KWSI Nothing’s the same when you’re movin’ at the speed of light TONITE I am the last late night DJ on planet Earth!! Hijack the station this is the last transmission Earth in flames everything collapsing got to catch my breath this is a test this is a test this is a test alert from your favorite all night satellite radio & I am the last late night DJ on planet Earth
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Moths Lavendra Copen Another brownish blotch detaches itself from the wall, whirs into a tannish blur against the kitchen light fixture. The pet store’s failed to freeze the birdseed again, and fingernail-sized moths erupt in mid-November. Hatched amid millet and safflower, they find no blossoms and die in clean-rinsed glasses in the cupboard, buttery popcorn bowls, pans set to soak like soapy lakes. The sink’s low spot pools the spigot’s drip and floats a coating of wing dust. Night offers no relief. Outside, the year’s first snowflakes swirl around the streetlight like swarms of icy moths.
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ Drinking Gin with Josh in Muskegon Kevin McBeth It was almost competitive, Us against the world, bottle, This gagging shit drunk, Self-abusive and without purpose, Punishing in its worthlessness, But in the end, it really was Incomparable in its Good, numbing quality. Josh had his own little ritual: Putting on one of his puke shirts, Feeding the cats, Turning off the phone, Cranking the Pearl Jam And chilling at least a twelve pack Of Coke for a combination of chaser and Breakfast. Then, the two of usâ€™d get down to business. It was like bearing down, heading over to a jobâ€” Agro-emotional slave labor boozing. We hated the work but loved the paycheck. The sheer volume Of what we would knock back Was absolutely vile. What we warmed up with Was enough to get a crew of sailors To burst into song, enough To put an entire group Of frat boys into a pant-pissing-tizzy. A dozen shots into it, The photo albums would start to come out And with them, memories, all good laughers, 29
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Never tears. No, we weren’t those types of drinkers, and From there on out, We were caught in the stranglehold Of reminiscence: The Willows parties, The Breakfast Club gang, The drunken bench press competition, Josh on videotape at Kamps’ Christmas party, Doing twelve seconds straight Off a handle of Gilbey’s. Our consumptive crescendo redefined Crescendo and Set a precedent that the producers of the best Gin in the world (Whatever the shit that is) Would truly be disgusted by. By 4 a.m., I felt sorry for any neighbors As the conversation got either Political or religious: “I vote we have another!” or “God damn, you’re wasteder than I am!” “What’re you want to do with your Life?” I’d say, pouring a couple more Hearty ones. “More of this,” Josh would say, laughing, And meaning it. These were our favorite times, Teenage self-determined outcasts Getting drunk and remembering Our other drunken depravities. “Ah, we’ll be dead by thirty!” I roar, And twist up a cigarette, 30
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ While Josh puts in a different CD, Tries to turn it up, And realizes the volume button is already maxed. We each turned thirty a few years back, And I went back to Muskegon To see the old bastard. We laughed about some of those times, And of course the Photo albums came out again. But this time, We split a six pack, And had to keep it down a bit, Because his two kids were sleeping In the next room. They say that what doesnâ€™t kill you Makes you stronger. I believe that What doesnâ€™t kill you Makes for great friendships, rekindles The most black and alive moments you have, and Fuels the light beer industry.
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Real Characters Harvey Stanbrough It was a dark and stormy night, but nobody noticed. They didn’t even care. They were all characters in another novel that would never be published because of opening lines like that one. Even before he put them on paper, while they were still little more than electrical impulses in Jacobsen’s brain, they had breathed a communal moan of disappointment. Well, all but Sam Stade, whom Jacobsen envisioned as the main character of the novel. Sam was the resident tough guy. He never sighed, and he never moaned. In fact, shit was nearly all he ever said, usually as he was flicking a cigarette butt, which was never shorter or longer than threequarters of an inch, either out the window of his car during a mandatory high-speed chase or into the corner of an alley just before he slammed a bad guy’s face into a brownstone wall. He nearly always looked neat in his brown suit with black pinstripes, although it was seldom buttoned. His hair was always in place too, cut short, and combed straight back. In fact, the only time he looked even slightly dishevelled was when he was getting beat up by bad guys in his office. At those times, his jacket hung on the coat rack beneath his fedora. The collar button on his shirt would slip out, and his narrow black tie would loosen and drape across his white shirt at an odd angle. Jacobsen allowed him only a very limited vocabulary that consisted mainly of curse words, other tough-guy talk that was usually italicized for emphasis, and clichés, and Sam was none too happy about it. “What’s the matter with this jerk?” he said to Sheila, the buxom, lighter-than-air blonde Jacobsen had once again assigned as Sam’s secretary. “He just doesn’t get it, does he? Nobody talks like this in novels anymore! All fragments and one word sentences? Shit!” Sam reached into the file drawer of his double-pedestal desk and retrieved a bottle of bourbon. “And to top it off, he’s got me drinkin’ this crap!” He filled an Old Fashioned glass. He lit a cigarette, then raised the glass to eye level to inspect its contents. “Liquid fire. All the flavor of piss on a hot summer day. Shit!” Sam quaffed the whiskey, then pitched the glass over his shoulder. It sailed through the open window and crashed onto the sidewalk four stories down. Another full glass appeared on the corner of his desk. 32
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ Sam uncrossed his ankles and braced his feet against the front of the desk, then pushed, forcing his chair away from the desk. He stood and walked around the desk, grabbing Sheila by the elbow. “Look, kid, we’ve gotta take him out!” Sheila’s voice was childlike. “Take him out? Where?” Sam released her elbow with disgust. “Nobody’s that dumb! See what I mean? Wouldn’t you like to have an original thought every now and then?” He pinched her naïve face between his thumb and forefinger and stared at her. Her puckered lips made her look like a pouty fish. “You don’t have a clue, do you, bimbo?” The fish spoke. “Talk straight, Sam. I don’t like it when you get like this.” He retrieved his hat from the coat rack near the door and pulled it low over his brow, cocking it slightly to one side. Then he lit another cigarette and reached for the door knob. “Never mind. I’m going to prep the scene. Just call the boys. Tell ’em to meet me at the Flamingo Club. Nine P.M. Damn, I hate talking like this!” Jacobsen was very punctual, so the boys arrived at the club right at nine. Their suits weren’t quite as nice as Sam’s, of course. They found him sitting in a booth in a dark, smoky corner of the club. He flicked a cigarette butt into the corner near the jukebox. Another one appeared between his fingers. One at a time, the boys slid into the booth and sidled around until all four of them were seated: Link, the lawyer; Scar, a Coke dealer from Chicago; Stupid, a thug whose apparent function was to repeat everything Scar said; and Willie, the beat cop who was also Sam’s only friend. Someone had relocated Scar’s pockmarked nose onto his left cheek, where it interrupted the narrow white furrows that would otherwise have run from his forehead to his chin. His overall appearance had earned him the respect of the others. He spoke first. “So what’s going on, Sam? I got a load of Cokes to deliver.” “Yeah, what’s going on?” “Shut up, Stupid.” Sam glared at Stupid, then glanced at Scar and the others. “Look, boys, I’m really tired of playing the patsy for Jacobsen. The slob hits a few keys and thinks he’s a writer. I used to think he’d come around, but not anymore! Damn! I wish someone else had dreamed us up.” He lit a cigarette and blew a smoke ring for effect. 33
___Mirage________________________________________________________ “Well, what can we do about it, Sam? We’re just characters.” “Yeah, characters.” “Shut up, Stupid!” Sam turned his attention back to the others. “I know we’re just characters, f’Christ’s sake! But there’s gotta be a way to end this agony! Shit! That’s why I brought you boys down here. We gotta figure out what to do and how to do it! Any ideas? Link?” Link nervously straightened himself and looked at his fingers. “I guess we could cuff him to death, Sam.” “Brilliant, Link! Just goddamn brilliant!” Sam flicked his cigarette butt into the corner, then lit another one. “Where’d you get your degree, anyway? Monkey Ward? Think! Exactly how are we gonna slap him around? We ain’t even real!” Sam shifted his attention. “Willie, whadda you think? Help me out here! All these italicized words are driving me nuts!” Willie slipped his fingernail file into his vest pocket and looked up calmly. He lit a cigar and blew a trail of smoke over Link’s head. “We cut him, Sam.” “What? How we gonna cut him? Haven’t you been listening?” Willie was unphased. “Every time he gets near a page of the manuscript, we all rush to one side. The paper shifts and voilà! We cut him.” Sam fired another cigarette butt into the corner. “I think you’ve been hanging around Link too long. What good’s a paper cut or two gonna do?” Willie smiled patiently. “How often does he go to sleep with one of his worthless manuscripts on his chest?” “Shit, I don’t know. At least once a day, I guess.” “Right. And at least one page is always next to his throat, right?” “Well, yeah . . . I suppose so.” “You know so, Sam. And we’re in all the slob’s manuscripts, aren’t we? On every freakin’ page.” “Sure, you know we are, but . . .” “We cut him. End of story.” Willie drew his thumb slowly across his throat. “Then we disappear to wait for some other genius to invent us. And maybe—just maybe—the next one will at least have an agent.” When Marge Jacobsen came home from work that night, the house was dark except for the eerie glow cast by the test pattern on the television. 34
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ “Baby, I’m home,” she called. No answer. She flicked on the hall light, then walked into the living room and found her husband asleep on the couch, the last few pages of his manuscript sprawled across his chest as usual. Idiot. Give your characters just a little life and you might actually sell something. “Come on, big guy. Let’s go to bed.” She reached to shuffle the manuscript pages, but they seemed stuck together. “Eating toast and honey in the living room again, hmmm?” She picked up the pile of papers and carried them to his desk, then turned on the desk lamp and screamed. It was sweet, but it wasn’t honey.
Cobblestones Christina Molidor
Twisted Crow Dicehart
Ice Fishing Laurie McKenna 37
Pallid Bat Cruising Robert J. Luce
Untitled Pat Cole 39
Rose Johnson Painting the Jonquil Motel Mural Richard Byrd As Mirage went to press last year, friends and admirers of Britishborn painter, muralist, illustrator, and performance artist Rose Johnson were saddened by her death at the age of 48. She died in her beloved Bali. The island deeply influenced her unique allegorical style during the last two years of her life. She was working on a memoir about her life on the island. Rose, an Arizona icon, won many honors and awards. She exhibited in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Bisbee, and the Douglas Campus of Cochise College. Her public art includes murals at the Maricopa County Fair and Sojourner Women’s Shelter in Phoenix; hybrid buses in Tempe; the Scottsdale League for the Arts facility; the Child Crisis Center, Autumn House Women’s Shelter, and Bicycle and Pedestrian Pathway Canal in Mesa; and the interior of the Chiricahua Community Health Center in Douglas. Her Bisbee murals grace Castle Rock, Higgins Hill Park, the Jonquil Motel, and the Boys’ and Girls’ Club. Her illustrations appeared in Arizona Highways Magazine, The New York Times, and other periodicals. She also collaborated with Bisbee novelist Diane Freund on a series of children’s books. The staff and faculty advisors remain grateful for Rose’s generous contributions to Mirage.
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ Of Catholicism Nadine Lockhart And the babysitter takes the catechism, flattens the small book on her bed, shows us our souls— It’s fascinating like a science, the body outlined in black, not unlike a chalked murder on asphalt, colors in reverse. Hers—she points to it—is pure, not marked, my sister’s the same. Which is mine? She laughs, Yours is that one full of black dots. She hates Blake— Piping down the valleys wild, Piping songs of pleasant glee— And when my mother returns, I’m waiting in the empty lot next door, a field of cold grasses graze my legs, innocent reeds play to me, wind in my ear, Pipe a song about a Lamb! And the babysitter, she is blonde, and bright, and perfect.
___Mirage________________________________________________________ The Death of a Small Girl Molly Harrico The child had loved him Like a father Or the supposed father In her mother’s home He was a feeble-minded child himself Occupying the body of a monster Putrified rage pitting his face He had shared his sickness with her when He told her to come and take a nap with him Pretending to be concerned With the nap times of little girls She was made to lie down in her own mother’s bed Like a child mistress When she’d slithered away Escaping from beneath the broad hand of the sleeping man She sat in the fading afternoon light Of an empty living room All of the happiness spilling from her Like loosed blood She moved her toys around in mock play As she went through the motions A rot grew inside of her Like fast-growing mold it covered her small heart Unaware of the longevity of the disease She could only thrash about In the thick slug of the murk that engulfed her She carried on this way Until her mother’s man awoke This was when she first learned To become invisible Thinking herself a ruined creature The heinous sickness Could never be washed away No matter how many would claim they loved her And were charmed by her beauty 42
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ The shadow that he had cast on her remained She hid away the sickness when she could Dangerously tucking it away Into the passing of days
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Snake Picture Cappy Love Hanson (Winner, fiction competition, Cochise Community Creative Writing Celebration, 2009.) The first picture that goes missing is the framed Polaroid taken six months earlier at Sea Breeze Mall’s Wildlife Wonderama. In the photo, Tanya’s just turned thirty-five. She’s wearing black wool slacks and an off-white Victorian blouse with double-buttoned lace cuffs and Great-gran’s cameo pinned on the high, ruffled collar. She’s at a weight stylish in the late nineteenth century, thirty pounds heavier than when she met her husband. (Brad—ten years older and a head taller—hasn’t gained half that.) For the picture, she’s taken off the blue fleece jacket she wears, not against one of the mildest winters on record, but against a constant inner chill. Tanya’s dark-brown hair dips and rises to an elegant twist, caught up with faux-pearl pins. Not because she expected to have her portrait taken with a legless reptile, but because she’d just treated Jeanette, her best friend since high school, to birthday brunch at Roderick’s. The chef makes pasta Alfredo, their favorite comfort food. The strait-laced outfit makes the jungle backdrop and thirteenfoot Burmese python draped around Tanya’s shoulders look wildly improbable and primevally sexual: a living shawl patterned with brown, black, and tan scales. The snake casually caresses her left breast with its tail, flicks its tongue across her cheek like a lover. Tanya tips her head toward it with an open-mouthed smile, eyes half closed. The snake, as Tanya remembers it now, was smooth and glossy. In the too-air-conditioned mall, it contracted and released against her, soaking up her body heat. Its lidless eyes stared into hers as if boring for something deep and forgotten. Its keeper snapped the shot. While suns burned on Tanya’s retinas, the man crossed the unnaturally green Astroturf, unwrapped the snake, and hoisted it with a grunt back into its terrarium. Tanya just sat there, blinking into the fluorescent lights overhead. When the man motioned, she got up and shuffled to his folding table to pay. After pocketing her check and giving her the picture, he stepped behind her to drape the snake around an older woman in a flower print polyester 44
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ dress who had already sat down. Tanya wanted to ask about the snake, where it came from—someplace tropical and warm, she was certain—but the man was already running through his patter to relax the other woman. Jeanette oohed over the picture as she handed Tanya her jacket. “I’d never have the courage,” she admitted, “but I sure admire yours.” Warm for once, Tanya draped the jacket over her arm. After they hugged, and Jeanette left for her nursing shift at the hospital, Tanya strolled on to a National Parks booth staffed by uniformed rangers. She glanced over brochures for Yosemite (she and Brad had been there) and Yellowstone (they hadn’t). She looked at their taxidermied great horned owl, its feet wired to a branch, and touched the breast feathers, almost expecting warmth. But the owl was as cold and dead as the sawdust it was stuffed with. That was when she admitted what she was really doing: anything to keep from going home. Her husband and three other computer engineers had had their jobs offshored. They’d formed a consulting group while they sent out résumés and all worked out of their homes. When she arrived, Brad would probably be at the dining table, surrounded by two laptops and heaps of computer diagrams, the weekend’s bad news blaring from the television. Knowing she couldn’t bring herself to endure the bombardment yet, she studied a display of binoculars and birding scopes, smiled at the salesman as if she might actually be interested. Five months after the snake picture was taken, Tanya stood across the dining table from Brad, hugging herself against shivers, despite the unseasonable June heat. Her skin felt frigid, inflexible. She wanted to snag it on a twig, rub it on a rock, wriggle out of it. When he finally acknowledged her, she stumbled through her catalog of hurts and disappointments. Brad motioned her to get to the point. Tanya said what she’d rehearsed: “I’d like us to refinance the house so I can get into a condo.” She’d found it already, a southfacing one-bedroom in a complex with a heated pool and hot tub. Brad met her comments about their fourteen-year marriage the same way he’d met most of her communications lately, with armsfolded silence. Finally, he said, “If that’s the way you want it.” Tanya blinked. “Of course, I don’t.” 45
___Mirage________________________________________________________ “So stay.” “How can I?” “Just make a decision.” The anger that had been coiled inside her struck. “It would be easier to be alone alone,” she snapped. In tears, she turned away, thinking, This isn’t who I want to be, a flaming bitch. Neither was the woman who’d been huddled inside her, torpid with the chill of grief. An hour later, when Tanya noticed the snake picture gone from the top of the living room bookcase, she felt her ribcage constrict. The more boxes Tanya packs—gleaned in early-morning forays to the grocery store before her office manager job at the local dental clinic—the more Brad clumps around the house in his gum-soled loafers, pulling down the many framed photos they’ve accumulated and stuffing them in unlikely hiding places. Last to go—she’s sure he intends this symbolically—is the wedding photo over their dresser. This is only the finale. Brad has been progressively disappearing her for three years. Even before the layoffs, he worked more overtime. Since then, he’s covered the dining table with schematics and thousands of lines of code, topped with a cardboard sign lettered in aggressive black marker—DO NOT DISTURB, THIS MEANS YOU— because she once edged enough space for an egg salad sandwich and a glass of white grape juice. He’s kept the television news turned up, the volume and violence and the lack of space on the table driving Tanya to take her meals in the kitchen. As if to punish her, he’s used their king-size bed only for sleeping, back curved toward her like a shell. Then, a few months ago, he started rolling against her in the middle of the night, grunting through clenched teeth, crowding her right out of bed. Unable to wake him, she’d trudge around to his side, climb back in. Sometimes, he growled—actually snarled like a furious animal—and rolled toward her again. Certain, in the morning, he’d only been snoring. Couldn’t be blamed for what he’d done in his sleep. Insisted she’d dreamed the whole thing or made it up to torque him. The snake picture is the only one Tanya searches for. A couple of weeks after she starts sleeping in the rollaway bed in the guest room/ den, she finds the photo face down in Brad’s bottom desk drawer, on 46
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ top of a pile of scallop-edged black-and-whites from his grandparents’ Wisconsin resort. The one directly underneath it is of Brad, about ten, insulated in jacket, hat, muffler, mittens, and fur-lined boots, hugging a snowman. Brad has previously secreted the snake picture in the dining room hutch, the bathroom vanity, and the kitchen junk drawer. It emanates a subtle heat that saves it from the obscure company of holiday table cloths, bathtub cleansers, and fancy food recipes Tanya has cut out of magazines and will probably never use. Tanya doesn’t even ask what hiding the pictures is about. Shaking her head, she rescues the snake photo from the desk drawer and sets it out again. This time, it crowns the growing pile of different-size boxes that contain her books, records, tapes, and CDs, her high school annuals, and the wedding silver her mother gave them. Cupping her hands around the gold-toned frame, Tanya studies the image. If Brad has noticed the startled, ecstatic expression the photographer captured, he’s never said so. When she first showed Brad the picture—hoping, in truth, to shock and tempt him—he shuddered. Tanya explained that snakes were only muscles and ribs and dry, smooth scales. He wouldn’t be convinced they weren’t slimy—big worms with fangs and cold-killer expressions. “Stupid risk,” he spat, tossing the photo across the table at her, clicking on the afternoon news, and going back to work. Now, as Tanya packs shoes, hiking boots, galoshes, and her goose-down parka into the suitcase she’s had since her only year of college, she acknowledges that snakes are more than muscles and scales—sensuous and powerful creatures, absolutely present in their bodies. All Brad would have to do is touch one, let it wind around him. She still fantasizes that a single encounter would reawaken him. Not long after the photo was taken, Tanya actually stood in front of the dining table, waited for Brad to look up. There simply wasn’t a better time; all he did these days was work and sleep. She held out the snake owner’s business card, which promoted school discovery programs and private group presentations. “Transform your relationship with reptiles,” it said in sinuous red letters. She pleaded, as she had pleaded with him to talk with her, pleaded with him to see a counselor. Brad had already developed a hermetic mantra with two 47
___Mirage________________________________________________________ variations: I’m fine; I’m fine. This time, he added, “Have you lost your mind? Normal people are afraid of snakes.” He glared at her, the first direct eye contact they’d had in weeks. “Normal people are too busy making a living to get wound up in nonsense.” Zipping her suitcase, Tanya wonders again if she’s the crazy one, making such an outrageous request. Snake therapy—what was she thinking? Thinking is her problem these days. She’s grateful for her job, the flow of patients and personnel issues that busies her mind. In the absence of distraction, she wonders what she’s done to deserve this, fills in the blanks with endless speculation. Brad is repulsed by her gained weight (Jeanette thinks that’s an excuse, not a reason), thinks her requests for intimacy are unreasonable in the face of work pressures. (“They’re hiring kids half my age for half the salary. Be a little supportive, will you? I’m doing this for us.” Tanya thinks but doesn’t say, What us?) Maybe he’s using work to cover up sexual problems, Tanya thinks as she packs. Heart problems, a brain tumor for all I know. At her lowest, she’s sure there’s someone else, a woman who’s prettier, smarter, a better cook, who has a college education and a higher-paying position. All those workday hours when she’s at her job . . . She slithers through this mine field, back to the question Jeanette asked at Roderick’s after they did the final walk-through at the condo: “If you knew the reasons, would it make you feel less like ripping your skin off?” The following Saturday morning, Tanya sheaths the snake picture in bubble wrap and snugs it into her last-minute box, along with hand soap, shampoo, moisturizer, tampons, a bath towel, and a change of clothes. Behind the bedroom door, Brad either sleeps soundly or lies soundlessly awake. Remembering one of Jeanette’s outbursts—“He’s a coward, and he’s making you look like the bad guy for leaving”—she vows not to open the door. So close to the end, Tanya’s body vibrates. In frantic inspiration, she pulls the snake picture out and unwraps it. Tiptoeing down the hall—alien in the house in which she no longer owns an interest or a future—she props the picture against the bedroom door. The frame makes a tiny metallic tink against the wood that reverberates through the house. Clenching her fists and pressing her lips together, she 48
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ thinks, The man should know what he’s missing. There’s a deeper, barely formed thought, too, from that center of pain that doesn’t feel safe to probe yet: Maybe he’ll want me back. Out the den window, Tanya sees the husband of one of the clinic hygienists pulling up in his pickup, towing the homemade trailer he’s volunteered to move her furniture and boxes in. Her heart thumps in her throat. She stands still, unbreathing, chilled fingers shoved deep in her armpits. It’s not too late, is it? She can still change her mind, can’t she? As if to drive home the final nail of inevitability, Jeanette pulls up behind the trailer, gets out in her jeans and a tie-dyed T-shirt, ready to help load. Together, she and the hygienist’s husband stride up the walk. The doorbell rings. Hefting the last-minute box and angling it against her hip, Tanya starts down the hall. To staunch tears, she holds her breath, falls back on a recurring fantasy of sitting naked in a pit full of constricting snakes. They would see her with those unwavering eyes, gravitate to her body heat. Stroke and embrace her. When Tanya is almost to the front door, she feels, or imagines she does, a flick on her cheek. A breath breaks free and glides like a caress through her body. All at once, she can think. She wheels and hurries back to the bedroom, bumping the box on the wall, not caring if Brad hears. As she snatches up the picture of the snake embracing her, a flush rushes over her, tropical and warm. The doorbell rings again. She turns and strides toward the living room, clasping the framed photo against her chest. As she opens the door, the inrushing air strokes what feels like brand new skin.
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Untitled Molly Harrico I dreamt of myself centuries ago Through dusty ages I saw myself fresh and nude Lying beneath the ripples of an intimate stream High up in the desert mountains Oaks stood close Tangled into hugging shadows A warmth enveloping my wild primal youth I swam in place In the crystal clear brook Its bottom lined by Richest jade, root red, and polished black stones Tumbled and washed Their thick skins rubbing Over centuries of friction Playing the subtle music of their togetherness Clicking and clacking through echoing waves Blessed water trickling for hundreds of miles through wood Waterfall and desert flats Like a sacred whisper heard through the body of the world The creek song travels through evergreens And past the plumping little apples of manzanitas After the sun fell The wide darkness blanketed mountains and valleys Yet I was there High up in this lovely place I stayed in these live waters The steady warmth of a motherâ€™s body surrounding me like a womb The tendrils of the sweet stream Seductive as the beguiling eyes of some far-off goddess The water seemed to cast a light Other worldly and primeval both Here I reveled in this perpetual deep-seated light I stayed in the luminous forest high above the raised desert Closer to the stars and moon 50
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ The little stream held me like a prized fish A jewel Polished by eternity
___Mirage________________________________________________________ Biographical Information (Not all artists and authors provided biographical information.) Stephen Bovée is a Bisbee oil and watercolor painter, playwright, and cartoonist who has lived in Bisbee since the Bronze Age. His prose and illustrations arise from a unique sense of humor. Richard Byrd began taking pictures in Memphis, Tennessee, at age eight, when his mother gave him a Kodak Brownie. He is known for his photographs of musicians, some of which will be displayed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His current project is bits of Bisbee— doors, gates, and graffiti. Photography has been a catalyst, capturing decisive moments, whether in events or changing light. It has changed his life. Patricia Cole has been a resident of Willcox for three years. She is presently enjoying painting at Cochise College with Professor Ron Fritts. She has always loved art and is an accomplished photographer, having completed instruction at Santa Monica College and gone on to begin and run a very successful business in Beverly Hills. Lavendra Copen grew up on Cochise County ranches, attended the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, and taught high school in the Four Corners area. She is raising two granddaughters and experimenting with water harvesting and organic gardening near the Huachuca Mountains. Crow Dicehart focuses on unusual effects. “Twisted” is a shot of a parking lot through an old-style glass block. Mimi Ferraro was a finalist for an Arizona Commission of the Arts Playwriting Fellowship and a four-time winner in poetry at the Cochise County Creative Writing Celebration. Her poetry and short pieces have appeared in Phoenix House Art Journal (NYC), the Arizona magazines Mirage, Mule, Blue Mountain Review, the online poetry journals Voices on the Wind and Monsoon Voices, in addition to the 2008 and 2009 issues of the New Mexico Sin Fronteras Magazine. Deborah Girard is a retired park ranger and a teacher.
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ Michael Gregory is the author of two poetry books, The Valley Flower and Hunger Weather 1959-1975, and co-author, with poet Chris Dietz, of Song of the Beast. His work has appeared in over thirty periodicals and anthologies and has won numerous awards, including the Arizona Commission on the Arts Creative Writing fellowship. Since 1973, he has lived off-grid on forty acres in the high desert of southeastern Arizona, where he raises organic fruits and vegetables. Cappy Love Hanson lives near the Swisshelm Mountains with her husband and their menagerie. Her poetry, short stories, and nonfiction have appeared in Blue Mesa Review, ByLine, Mirage, Transworld Snowboarding, Writer’s Digest, Writers’ Journal, and other magazines, plus Voices on the Wind, an online poetry journal. She is currently working on a memoir about her life with parrots and has been a volunteer on the Mirage staff for several years. Molly Harrico is a student at Cochise College. Nadine Lockhart received both her MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. Last year, she was awarded the Critical Language Scholarship from the State Department to study Punjabi in India for three months. She’s a founder of the Phoenix Poetry Reading Series. Her work has appeared in publications throughout the Southwest, including the Blue Mountain Review (anthology) and the Sonoran Review, where she was a finalist in this year’s contest. Robert J. Luce was a wildlife biologist in Wyoming for three decades before retiring in 2002 to pursue writing and nature photography. He lives along the San Pedro River and travels extensively to write about and photograph the natural world. He has authored a number of technical wildlife publications, supplied wildlife photographs for several books, and written articles for outdoor magazines. Disappearance Creek, his first outdoor mystery novel, was published in 2009. Kevin McBeth chose a career in elementary education to ensure that he would always have a receptive audience for his music and poetry. He teaches fourth grade at Valley View Elementary in Palominas and resides in Bisbee with his incredibly tolerant wife, Jenny. They had their first child this summer, a boy. 53
___Mirage_______________________________________________________ Laurie McKenna is a painter, writer, filmmaker, and member of the Central School Project. She holds a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and has lived in Bisbee since 2002. Her short films have been screened throughout the U. S. In her 2-D work, she frequently uses vintage educational ephemera. Her current work is a series of clay tiles entitled “The Memory of Water.” Her mixed media paintings often examine American historiography. Christina Molidor graduated from Buena High School, Sierra Vista, in 2010. Her passions are theater and photography. She will be attending the University of Arizona in the fall and plans to major in history. Linsday Janet Roberts has lived her whole life with a fierce passion for the arts. In 2005, she moved to Saint David, Arizona, from Logan, Ohio. Working the last twenty years in tin, she realized that copper was much more enjoyable. Using copper wire and sheet copper, she works portraits, jewelry, purses, frames, garden gates, and furniture. Her works are on permanent collection with the White House and the Governor’s Mansion in Ohio. Jan Searle is a sculptor and painter who, as she puts it, is currently living “on the other side” of her life. Her goal is to paint people in the lives they are living, whether they chose those lives, or the lives chose them. She wants to travel the world and express on canvas the people she sees—their pain, their resiliency, their joy, their lives. Dorothy Stroud is Oklahoman by birth and Arizonan by circumstance. She has taught language arts for nineteen years in Arizona public schools, where she tried to instill in students the same excitement about poetry that her fifth-grade teacher imparted to her. After living in California and Alaska, she settled in Arizona, where she is now retired with her husband, and searching for places to publish her poems. Harvey Stanbrough is a retired U.S. Marine. He is also a writer, poet, writing instructor, and freelance editor who lives near Whetstone, Arizona.
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ About Mirage Mirage Literary and Arts Magazine is designed and produced by students of Cochise College with help from faculty advisors and volunteers from the community. Those interested in participating in the production of Mirage should contact Cochise College at 520-515-0500. Submissions are accepted from Cochise College students and residents of Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties in Arizona. The works are selected via an anonymous process: Each submission is judged without disclosure of the writer’s or artist’s name. Submission Guidelines 1. Submissions will be accepted only from students at Cochise College and residents of Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties. All submissions must be the original work of the persons submitting them. 2. A single cover sheet must accompany submissions, listing all titles of works, as well as the submitter’s name, address, phone number, and email or fax. The cover sheet should also include a brief autobiographical statement of seventy-five words or less, written in the third person. No name should appear on the entry itself, as submissions are evaluated without knowledge of the submitter’s name. 3. Artwork and photographs must have titles or must be identified as “Untitled.” If necessary, artists should indicate correct orientation. Digital format is preferred, such as email attachment or compact discs; however, slides are acceptable. If photographing original artwork for submission, the photographer should pay attention to lighting and orientation to prevent shadowing, glare, skewing, or unintentional cropping. 4. Submissions will not be returned. 5. Submissions in poetry and prose must be typed. Prose should be double spaced. Single spacing is permissible for poetry. Font should be Times New Roman 12. Unless unique formatting is integral to the piece, literary works should be aligned on the left margin and not printed in all upper-case letters. 55
___Mirage_______________________________________________________ 6. There is a 2,000-word limit for prose entries. Each person may submit up to five pieces of writing and five works of art. 7. Mirage encourages digital literary submissions, which must be Microsoft Word document files. 8. In matters of mechanics and style, the Mirage staff defers to A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker. 9. Mirage also encourages digital art submissions. IMPORTANT: Unless digital photographs of art are submitted in the correct format, the magazine cannot use them. Art submitted electronically (by email, on compact disc or other media) needs to be at a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch (DPI) and at 100% of its original size. Photos should be at least 6 x 9 inches. Resolution: Remember, printing on a press requires much higher resolution; what looks good on your screen or from your laser printer will not necessarily look good when printed on a press. Any image copied from a webpage will not have the proper resolution. A minimum resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels in jpg format straight from the camera is best. Any attempt to resize or resample may cause problems for us because print resolution will depend on how we ultimately size the photo for the magazine. The minimum size is important. If, for example, a photo is only 640 x 480 pixels, it is too small for the magazine. Compression: Please do not compress photos when emailing them. Compressed photos lose information that cannot be restored. (It is not like zipping or stuffing files; photos cannot be “unzipped” or “unstuffed.”) Many programs will automatically downsize photos for emailing and viewing on a computer screen, but they usually have an option you can click to send the photo without reducing its size. Please choose that option. Note: The staff of Mirage reserves the right to revise language, correct grammar or punctuation, revise formatting, or abridge content of any literary work—which includes the brief biographies of writers and 56
_______________________________________________________Mirage___ artists. The staff also reserves the right to crop, resize, or modify works of visual art in any way deemed necessary to ready them for inclusion in the magazine. Where to Send Submissions: Submitting via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Submitting by mail or Cochise College courier: Cochise College Attn: MIRAGE 4190 W. Hwy. 80 Douglas, AZ 85607