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C.S.W. VOLUME XXXVI FINE ART / LITERARY MAGAZINE OF UNM

2013


Copyright © 2013 Conceptions Southwest Published by the Student Publications Board University of New Mexico All rights revert to authors upon publication ISSN 1048-8790 Conceptions Southwest is the prime literature and arts publication created for and by the University of New Mexico community. Its staff is made up entirely of student volunteers and is directed by an Editor-in-Chief who is selected by UNM’s Student Publications Board. Submissions are accepted from UNM undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni, and participants of Continuing Education. This issue is brought to you by the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico (ASUNM) and the Graduate Professional Student Association (GPSA). Copies and back issues are available in the Daily Lobo Classified Advertising Office, Marron Hall, Room 107. Conceptions Southwest’s office is located in Marron Hall, Room 225. (Phone: 505-277-5656 / Email: csw@unm.edu) C/O Student Publications MSC03-2230 University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

over C Art Printed by Starline Printing 7111 Pan American West Freeway NE Albuquerque, NM 87109 505-345-8900

FLORENZA

by josephine b. vincioni 36” x 36” Acrylic See page 64

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copyright

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NOTE FROM THE EDITOR First of all, I want to say thank you for picking up this magazine: no matter if you are a reader, a reader’s friend, a contributor, a contributor’s friend, a magazine staff, or a magazine staff’s friend. Now, every one of you is a part of the 36th edition of Conceptions Southwest. Second, I want to tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity that we are still printing a physical copy of the magazine in this fast-paced digital age. You are now holding a bundle of actual paper and ink prints, one of the oldest man-made technologies, not some weird virtual thing called “portable document format” (.pdf). The weight of this magazine in your hand is the passion and love of art and literature of every dedicated, hardworking staff member. They volunteered a huge amount of their spare time in the past year, including more or less every Friday afternoon, winter break, and spring break, for the production of this magazine. The magazine represents the diverse creativity of the University of New Mexico community. We have received more than 120 submissions from undergraduate students, graduate students, non-traditional students, international students, alumni, staff, and faculty. I only wish we could have a bigger budget to publish more. Third and last, I want to say that I am just so proud to be involved. Enjoy! Junfu Han|韩君傅

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editor’s note

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WHO MAKES UP C.S.W. editor-in-chief

junfu han

managing editor

gianna may

design director

robert lundin

staff-at-large william abernathy vicky camarillo laura lewis sarah tario antonio sanchez megan underwood maggie waring

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staff nancy louise diodati anastasia fever graham gentz natalia krystal marie leon IV

staff

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STAFF BIOS

S.W.

Abernathy, William / Will is a creative writing major who will graduate in 2015. He plans to continue writing and editing after college with aspirations to become an established poet and novelist. Camarillo, Vicky / Vicky is a sophomore, majoring in English with a focus in creative writing. Her interest in that field began when she was eight years old and she read a little book called Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. She’s from Texas and hopes to attend graduate school there after she graduates from UNM. Han, Junfu / Junfu is an art education graduate student. He is originally from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. He quit his engineering job and moved to the United States in 2008 to study fine art photography. Since then, he has interned at four different newspapers in the country. After graduating by the end of 2013, he plans to move back to his home country to document the rapid changes.

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/ LITERARY E OF UNM

Lewis, Laura / Laura is currently in her sophomore year. Her major is languages, with a focus in French and Chinese, and her minor is business. She hopes everyone enjoys this year's CSW!

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Lundin, Robert / Robert recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in environmental planning and design from the School of Architecture and Planning. He hopes to attend an eastcoast law school one day. In the mean time, he lives downtown, practices Brazilian jiujitsu, and is enjoying life away from school. May, Gianna / Gianna is a junior undergraduate majoring in history and English with a minor in interdisciplinary arts. She is a Data

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Entry Clerk and Peer Advisor at the University Honors College and is a history intern at the Albuquerque Museum. She is also a mentor in the YDI Mentoring Children of Promise Program and is a staff member of Scribendi and is currently the Managing Editor of Conceptions Southwest, after having been on staff since 2010. She loves history, video games, most food (generally chocolatebased), and puns. Sanchez, Antonio / Antonio is a multimedia journalism major and expects to graduate May 2014. He is currently the Assistant Culture Editor at the Daily Lobo and a reporter for the culture, news, and sports sections of the paper. He is a tennis coach at Sierra Vista. Antonio has been a member of Conceptions Southwest since 2010. Tario, Sarah / Sarah is a senior graduating in May with a degree in English, creative writing. She is also a wife, mother of two, a writing tutor, and hopes you'll see her work in a bookstore one day. She lives in the East Mountain area and really hates her commute. Underwood, Megan / Megan is a junior and double major in English and East Asian Studies. Megan is active within both the Creative Writing and Japanese departments at UNM. After graduating, she hopes to work in the publishing field, possibly in translation of Japanese literature. Waring, Maggie / Maggie is a junior at UNM majoring in history and creative writing fiction. She enjoys reading literature and studying ancient and medieval times. She plans to attend graduate school for history after she graduates.

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table of contents miscellaneous

poetry

artist

artist Keith Deininger William Abernathy Scott Palmer Joseph Kuster Christina Faris Kylie Manning Linnea Burleigh

short fiction

Laura Pasekoff Rachel Lamb Keith Deininger Lorin Bentley Rebecca Fetzer William Abernathy Sarah Chantal Parro Laura Pasekoff

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table of contents

title

page

Lead the Way, Sparky! Yellow Powder just sitting there Poncho’s Left A Sin of Omission All this beloved and vulnerable flesh still-frame of energy exchange Encounters Wool Sweater Epistle The Tallest Ladder Consolation The World Upside Down Before I Was Young

11 12 24 32 33 34, 35 57 63 65 66 67, 68 69 70 96

Postcards from Tomorrow All You Can Eat You’ve Given Me a Name The Tenderly Beating Heart Fall Gardening No Stress Skin Winds, Oceans, and Angels

1-7 13 - 15 19 - 22 23 25 - 27 28 - 29 94 - 95 98 - 102

C.S.W. Copyright Editor’s Note Staff Listing Staff Bios Special Thanks 35th Anniversary Contributing Artists Submission Guidelines 2013 - 14 Submission Form

I II III IV V VIII IX - XV XVI, XVII XVIII XIX

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table of contents page

title

artist

47 48 49 50 51 52 53 58 59 60 61 62 71 72

Nature’s Looking Glass Summer’s Long Gone After the Thaw Serenade The Cannibalism of Desire Octopoda Incirrina Shape of Silmulacrum Grazing Near Inca Ruins Mother and Child Mek’ele Marketplace Taney Butterfly Jellyfish Bike’s Rain Chill Ride

8 9 10 36 37, 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 64, II, Cover Art

Evolution Hands Audrey Serenity Cosmic Water Dance Bliss 42 Flight of a Thousand Birds Artemis Portrait Cry the Beloved Country The Old Bazaar, Tehran, Iran Fall Winter Florenza

Lauren A. Marek

16 - 18 30, 31 54 - 56 89 - 93 97 103 - 106 107, 108

Bravery and Bridges Me and Dogs The Yuwipi Man A Funeral in France Surfer’s Paradise Salty Crown of Thorns The Artist’s Touch

Kendra Crooks Arun Anand Ahuja Jeremy Shattuck Sarah Chantal Parro Laura Pasekoff Jordan Parro Nancy Diodati

73 - 88

Blank

Sarah Chantal Parro

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photography

Kelly McCarthy

Claire Stasiewicz Christina Faris Lauren Salvato Jessie Myers Juan Labreche

visual art Brenda Stephens

Kim Huynh Sarvin Bourbour Josephine B. Vincioni

nonfiction

script table of contents

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SPECIAL THANKS Daven Quelle and the Daily Lobo Advertising Office for marketing. Carolyn Souther for her financial advice. Jim Fisher and Dr. Leslie Donovan for all their support. Best Student Essays Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Thayer for her help and advice. ASUNM and GPSA for their support and funding for the magazine. Council Chair of GPSA Kris Miranda for help securing funding for the future. The State News’s Mike Joseph for maintaining our website. Becky Maher and Starline Printing for their assistance and professional advice. Every professor and teaching assistant that let us be a part of class. Every staff member for their dedicated work. Every contributor. Every reader. Without any of you, this issue of Conceptions Southwest would not have come to fruition.

student publication board dr. leslie donovan (chair) taylor bui (asunm rep) bridget chavez (asunm rep) damon hudson (asunm rep) miguel gandert (c&j professor) timothy carpenter (c&j rep) kris miranda (gpsa rep) robert trapp (nmpa rep) v.b. price (president rep) VIII

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1978 - 2013

35 th anniversary

AND STILL GOING...

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SO MANY CHANGES, YET STILL THE SAME dr. leslie a. donovan Thirty-five years ago, when the first edition of Conceptions Southwest was published in May 1978, the world was a very different place. Those of us who were the first editorial staff members of CSW put together the entire magazine by hand. We had no personal computers (let alone tablets!) on which to store and edit the works we wanted to publish, no Adobe professional publishing software to typeset and construct pages, and no internet through which to send and receive digital submission files. We had no templates or master pages or applied styles to make the text on our pages look consistent. Instead, contributors mailed or hand-delivered submissions in hard copy, on paper, typed on a typewriter, or even hand-written. Yes, that year, we even had a few submissions submitted on lined notebook paper, written in ink from ballpoint pens. We then had to retype every submission we accepted for publication into the typesetting machines that we were lucky enough to have access to, thanks to UNM’s Student Publications Department, whose Board in 1977 had granted us the seed money for our first edition. Those first typesetting machines we used were huge, slightly bigger than a large-sized washing machine today. It could take up to ten minutes for the typesetting machine to print out our text for the magazine on a special kind of very expensive photographic paper. We then ran those long galleys of typeset text through another tabletop device that spread hot wax on the back to stick to a page. If we were not careful to put the galleys into the waxer upside down, then wax would cover our typeset text and we would have to start all over again. Finally, we would use rulers, t-squares, and exacto knives to cut and place the typeset and waxed text on specially designed pages with blue-lined markings and borders. And that was only the process for the text in the magazine. In 1978, all the images for the works of art we published

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Dr. Leslie A. Donovan is a 1978 CSW founding staff member and now Associate Professor of UNM Honors College and Chair of the UNM Student Publications Board. were submitted as photographic prints, slides of paintings or sculptures, or original drawings. We treated those formats as treasures; for if any of them were scratched or damaged, we could not print them because it would be impossible to get a second copy. We turned over those original images to the UNM Printing Plant, who used highly specialized technology to reproduce those images that they then stripped by hand onto the photographic film that was then transferred onto metal plates before being printed through offset printing technology. Yet, as difficult as these various technical processes were, the most challenging, but also most wonderful, aspect of those early days of CSW was how our staff communicated with each other—face to face, almost daily, with no cell phones, no text messages, and no email. When we were sophomores in college, my friend Gayle Krueger and I got the idea in 1977 to create a literary

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magazine for UNM. She and I had both worked on our high school literary magazine (The Accolade at Del Norte) and were again working as student employees of Student Publications together in 1977. Because UNM’s previous literary magazine, Thunderbird, had ceased publication a number of years earlier, we thought UNM students could benefit from a new publication for not only literary works, but also works of art. Young, wholly inexperienced, and incredibly idealistic, Gayle and I secured funding from the UNM Student Publications Board, advertised for and found a more experienced student (Rick Celum) to take on the role of Editor-in-Chief, and set out to solicit submissions for what would end up a 6" x 9", eighty-page, perfect-bound book, printed only in black and white because color images were too expensive. We decided on the name “Conceptions Southwest” because we wanted our magazine to be a model for the highest achievement in all creative arts in the same way the magazine Poetry Northwest had long been a model for stellar achievement in poetry. That first year, we were excited as well as a bit daunted to end up with more than two hundred submissions, among which were works by locally well-known poets, writers, and artists, such as Jon Gil Bentley, Patrick Clancy, Gene Frumkin, David Johnson, Joyce Kozloff, Harvena Richter, and Paul Willeto (one of whose sculptures was featured on that first cover). After that first extraordinarily humbling and successful year, Gayle went on to become Editor of CSW’s second edition

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in 1979, while I waited until 1981 to take on that role. That first edition of Conceptions Southwest in 1978 was a labor of love in so many different ways. For Gayle and me, it was an homage to our high school training and teachers who had inspired in us a love of literature and art. It was also a yearning to produce from our own friendship something exceptional that would be a gift to others. But, most importantly, the 1979 Conceptions Southwest was an effort by all of its staff members to demonstrate the love for and power of art and literature. What we aspired to produce in those early days of CSW is no less important in its 35th year than it was way back then. In those early years, we published many new writers and artists, too many of whom to list who gained the necessary confidence and respect to go on to become leaders in their own creative fields. Just as it was all those years ago, today’s CSW is motivated by the sincere desire of its staff to prove that art and literature matter in this world, that creative works can change lives and make the world a better place. As idealistic and sentimental as such statements may sound, they are resoundingly true and unabashedly possible. I, for one, would not be who I am today without the experiences of those early years working on CSW and, I would hazard to guess, neither would your own world and life be as rich and full of potential for growth and change, dear reader, without such magazines of literature and art as the precious CSW you now hold in your hands.

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Above: Daily Lobo advertisements of CSW, 1978

Cover of the first CSW, 1978

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Conceptions Southwest

Poster for the 30th anniversary, cover collection, 2008

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Thirtieth Anniversary 35th

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2008

2009

2010

XIV

35th

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2011

Conceptions Southwest 2012

Conceptions Southwest

2012

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Postcards from tomorrow rachel lamb POSTCARDS FROM TOMORROW

rachel lamb Six pills and a paper cup half full of water. Six pills to keep me alive and I don’t even get a full cup of water. That skinny little brunette, the one who always looks SHORT FICTION like someone plugged her into a power outlet, is staring at me, waiting to see if I’m going to make a fuss about the water. Every morning and night I tell them I need more water to choke down the horse pills they push on me and I always get the same response. “I’m sorry, Mr. Moore, but you know the rules.” Today I don’t bother. I take the pills two at a time, rationing my water so I don’t choke on the last two, and then open my mouth to show the nurse I’m not hiding anything. It’s rare that one of the folks around here tries to get out of taking their meds. Still, old Mrs. Hartland had been stashing one of the pills to help treat her breast cancer because she refused to swallow anything green (which was the first sign her mind was starting to go). No one flat out said that was why the breast cancer killed her in the end, but apparently they weren’t taking any chances either. I crumpled up the paper cup and moved away from the pill line, watching as the remaining residents shuffled forward. They all had a slightly dazed look, like they weren’t sure they were in the right line or why they were in line at all. A rush of anger swept over me and I resisted the ludicrous urge to knock them over as though cow tipping.

lamb

STA FF CHOICE A WA RD

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I’d be eighty years old next month, and while my mental faculties were in order, these people reminded me every day that I could start to lose my mind at any time. “Eugene!” A soft, energetic voice, one I had come to recognize quite well, called out to me. I turned, gripping my cane a little tighter, and looked down to see Cassie, the great-granddaughter of one of the oldest residents here. “Mornin’, Cassie. What are you doing here so early? Visitations aren’t for another three hours.” Cassie shrugged, holding her arms behind her back as she twisted back and forth. “Mama has to go to the city today and wanted to stop by on the way out. We’re moving there, ya know.” Cassie paused and scrunched up her nose as she looked up at me with bright eyes. “Wait, you know which city, right?” I felt a smile pull at the corner of my mouth and nodded slowly, knowing better than to even attempt to verbally answer her once she got on a roll. “It’s the big city, Eugene. The biggest one in the whole world. Even bigger than Ithaca!” “That’s pretty big, ain’t it, Cassie? You know, I’ve lived in New York all my life and I’ve never even seen the city.” I moved away slowly, hoping she would follow me rather than think I was done talking. I sat down on a bench near the recreation room and put a hand on my chest over my heart. The damn thing had been giving me hell ever since my last heart attack and it seemed I

Rachel Lamb / Rachel, an Albuquerque native, is a recent graduate of the University of New Mexico where she received Bachlor’s degrees in English: creative writing and psychology. She is currently among the administrative staff at Popejoy Hall and plans to continue her creative writing coursework in graduate school in 2014. She has previously been published in Best Student Essays and was nominated for the Lena M. Todd Award in Fiction.

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couldn’t go more than a couple of days without needing nitroglycerin. Cassie hopped up onto the chair beside me, landing with a soft thud as she quickly adjusted her skirt. Her little arms, free of wrinkles and calluses, made me laugh. She reminded me of my first daughter, Shirley. “How old are you getting to be now, Cassie?” Cassie pursed her lips and looked up at me, beaming as she crossed her arms over her chest proudly. “Eugene! I’m going to be seven in October! Remember? Last year we had a party with Paw-Paw and Mama let me dress up even though it wasn’t quite Halloween yet.” “Seven? Already? Seems like just yesterday you were crawling around this place getting into everyone’s business. Bet you don’t need to crawl no more, huh, kid?” Cassie laughed loudly and jumped down from the chair, landing firmly, but not gracefully. “I gotta go, Eugene. I’ll see you next time! Mama says we’re going to come back to say bye to Paw-Paw before we move!” Cassie started to run away, toward room 109 where her great-grandfather permanently resided, and then stopped suddenly. “I forgot! I wanted to tell you, I think your cane is really cool, but it would be so much better if you painted some flowers or cats or something on it! Or whatever boys like!” Cassie waved and spun around, running off out of sight. Still, I watched and waited for her to come back for several minutes. When I was convinced she wouldn’t be back, I pushed myself up from the chair and relocated to the recreation area for a day of court TV and reruns of The Twilight Zone.

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lamb

Seven months after Cassie’s last visit, I watched as a nurse I’d never seen before peeled postcards off the walls in room 109. One by one, she dropped them into a small wastebasket until an entire wall’s worth of postcards laid discarded on top of the trash of a dead man. Resident 109 had been found dead in his bed early that morning and everyone kept saying he’d died peacefully of natural causes. I couldn’t help but wonder what was so peaceful about dying alone. When the nurse finally left the room, passing me as though I wasn’t there, I gave into my

curiosity and retrieved the postcards from the wastebasket. I recognized a few of the designs and realized that Cassie and her mother had been sending me the same postcards they had been sending Resident 109 since their move. These ones, much like mine, had various drawings on the back, usually a small cat or butterfly, with a scratchy signature next to it. On the top one, beside Cassie’s drawing of a snake, Resident 109’s great-granddaughter had written, “Paw-Paw, missing you today & loving you always. Love, Kay.” I stared at her words and then turned the card over. For the past seven months I had been receiving the same postcards, though none of them had ever contained a special message like this one. Each postcard featured a different tourist spot in and around New York City. This one was a photo of Times Square at night. Just looking at the photo made my eyes hurt and I found myself squinting to block out the brightness of the lights. I’d never seen so many lights before, not in person, not in a picture, and not even on TV. "Mr. Moore?” I turned to see Resident 109’s nurse, the one who usually monitored arts and crafts, standing at the door. She held a bundle of sheets and blankets and I realized she was there to clean the room and prepare it for a new resident. I folded up the postcard, dropping the others into the wastebasket, and slid it into my pocket before leaving the room, giving her a brief nod. As I stepped out into the hall, the nurse poked her head out of the door and smiled at me, a soft smile that made me feel a little uncomfortable and a lot like a child. “I’m taking the group out today if you’d like to join us. I know you usually decline, but it could be fun. I’m thinking of taking everyone to the park to see the ducks.” The cynical bastard within me wanted desperately to take the woman and shake her. I’d learned recently that somehow, for some ungodly reason, the word “old” had become synonymous with “ducks.” Well, any breed of bird, really. “Is that all? The park?” Her smile faltered briefly and she shook her head, recovering quickly. “No, it’s not all, Mr. Moore. I’d also like to stop at

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the drug store, the bookstore, the thrift store, and Mrs. Martinez requested ice cream. Is there anything you’d like to do or will ducks be sufficient?” Her smirk almost made me smile. Almost. “I could use a new book.” I held onto my cane so tightly my knuckles turned white. I stared at them and traced the outline of my wallet in my pocket with my free hand. I hadn’t carried a wallet in years. All it held was an expired driver’s license, a residence card for the senior home, the folded up postcard, and my entire life’s savings, $1,679, which I had been hiding since I arrived at Fairfield Senior Living. The bulge in my pocket caused by the thickness of the wad of cash made me feel like everyone was staring at me, like they all knew what I was planning. The shuttle slowed down and finally came to a stop in front of a small bookstore. It was our last stop of the day and my last chance to get moving. I pushed myself up and followed the line of residents off the shuttle. The line was slow moving and while I felt like I’d run them all down out of anticipation, I maintained a steady pace, trying my best to be invisible. The inside of the bookstore matched the outside: clean and shiny. I’d always thought of books as being timeless, vintage, and classic. This store apparently thought of them as being fine china, needing polishing and glass display cases. I couldn’t even smell the wonderful scent of dusty pages begging to be read. With a trace of regret, I allowed myself to remember my own bookstore. Raven Books was everything a bookstore was supposed to be: messy, brimming with books, cluttered with new arrivals, books too sacred to get rid of, and people. It was the love of my life and I secretly cursed my son for making me give it up after my first heart attack. “Alright, folks! Take a look around and if you see a book you like, take it on up to the register. The owners are providing us with one free book per person, so pick a good one!” Resident 109’s nurse smiled brightly and moved away

from the door, rushing to unhook Mr. Patrick’s oxygen tank from a bookshelf. The other nurse, a big fella with more hair than face, was escorting Mrs. Velasco around the bookstore with a distant look on his face. It was now or never. I slipped out the door, thankful there was no bell to signal my departure, and crept past the shuttle. I held up my arm, only vaguely aware of the way it shook like a leaf blowing in the wind. A yellow cab cut across two lanes and pulled up in front of me, his passenger-side window down. “You lookin’ for a ride, old man?” I grunted my response and he looked me over slowly. “You got money?” I hit the side of the cab with my cane and stepped off the curb, opening the backdoor. “Of course I’ve got money, you idiot. Now, you up for a bit of a drive? I’ll cut you a deal....You get me to New York City in one piece, as quickly as possible, and I’ll give you your fair with plenty extra for you.” I lowered myself down into the cab and shut the door, taking one last look at the bookstore. The kid in the front seat was still staring at me as though I was crazy and I raised my cane again, tapping the Plexiglass between us. “That’s a five hour drive, man!” “Best get moving then, kid.”

lamb

“I held onto my cane so tightly my knuckles turned white.”

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Nathaniel had finally given up on making small talk after his repeated attempts to find out why I was on my way to New York City had crashed and burned so badly. Now, the sound of a sports radio channel floated back to me, the occasional radio transmission from the kid’s cab company cutting through. I stared out the window, noticing how traffic had begun to slow and grow more congested the longer we drove. Nathaniel weaved his way through impossibly tight spaces and kept us moving while I watched the fair total click higher and higher on his digital counter. I leaned forward, using my cane to steady me as the car went over bumps and dips in the road.

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“Nevermind. Just get me to New York in one piece, alright kid?” Nathaniel dropped me off at the edge of Times Square. My back ached from sitting for so long and my legs felt like two twigs ready to snap the second I put weight on them. Only my cane felt solid and reliable at my side. People swarmed around me, their shopping bags slamming into me, nearly knocking me into the street. The sound of car horns filled the air, intermediate breaks between the blares, and I shook my head wondering if people had learned to just ignore the sound altogether. I took shelter against a streetlight and, for the first time since I got out of the car, took in my surroundings. Countless buildings, stores, exhibits, and tourist stands surrounded me. Women in heels taller than a can of soda and thinner than the tubes on Mr. Patrick’s oxygen tank hobbled past me. I watched the way they walked in short, clipped steps, their ankles shaking slightly. The brunette closest to me, her arms loaded down with shopping bags and sunglasses pressed firmly over her eyes despite the setting sun, diverted around a souvenir stand and disappeared around the corner. Also watching her go was a black man straddled with a double-sided posterboard which read, “OBAMA CONDOMS: 1 for $2, 3 for $5!” “Hey!” he called after her. “Now you can feel like the First Lady every time! Remember the election with your man’s next erection!” Most people around him walked by as though he wasn’t even there. A few tourists raised cameras when they were several feet away where he couldn’t do his sales pitch. One man stopped and tried to talk him down on the price without much luck. I laughed my scratchy laugh, despite the pain in my legs and back, and felt a renewed energy strike me hard and fast. I’d made it to New York City. No nurses to shuffle me off to the next activity, no pills to choke down with half a cup of water, and no predetermined bedtime for my own “health and well being.” The Obama Condoms guy turned and saw me staring at him. He raised his hand, holding three foil-wrapped condoms waving them back and forth. “Bet you got some little blue pills on ya, don’t you, my man? I saw the way you were lookin’ at that honey. You

short fiction

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“Hey kid, tell me about the city. Say a guy’s got just one day left on earth, where should he go and what should he see?” Nathaniel’s eyes flickered up to the rear-view mirror and he studied me for a moment before putting his eyes back on the road. “You want to see all the touristy shit or do you want to see the real heart of New York?” I stared out the window for a minute, considering his question. I remembered the postcards Cassie and her mother had sent. “Both. I want to see the lights of Times Square, but I want to see the real parts of the city too, the parts not shown in the movies.” Nathaniel nodded and picked up a toothpick, putting it in his mouth. It stuck out the corner of his mouth and I watched it begin to turn as Nathaniel chewed on it. A smoker, I thought as I watched him. I glanced around the cab and saw “No Smoking” signs tacked up on either side of the cab, literally staring its passengers in the face. “You trying to quit?” I leaned back in my seat, watching the kid through the rear-view mirror. He looked confused for a moment, but then his expression cleared and he shook his head. “Nah, man. Just can’t smoke in the cab. They’d have my ass for that.” “You should quit. Take it from an old man who smoked for nearly sixty years. It’ll come back to bite you in the ass and once it does, there’s no biting back.” Nathaniel’s eyes found me in the mirror again, but he looked away quickly. “You sick or what?” I laughed, though it sounded foreign and strange. The cancer was still in the early stages, but already I could feel my body changing. A scratchy laugh was only the beginning and that was bad enough for me. “They say I’ve got lung cancer and I’m starting to believe ‘em.” I looked out the side window and shook my head. “I’m eighty years old, kid. I’ve had a good run, but I never thought it’d be the goddamn cigarettes that would take me out. Figured it would be something a bit more interesting. Something right out of Texas Ranger or MacGyver, ya know?” Nathaniel raised an eyebrow. He clearly didn’t know.

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got protection? Ain’t no better way to show a girl some affection than by wrapping your White House with the Presidential Seal.” “Son, I haven’t had an erection in over ten years. Putting the face of a black man on my penis isn’t going to make it grow anymore than that ‘honey’ can.” He laughed, doubling over with loud guffaws and nearly knocked a man out with his Obama Condoms sign. When he straightened up again, he pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head and came closer, leaning against a trashcan. “You’re a funny cat, man. Where you headed? Planning to drag your skinny ass all around Times Square? I don’t see no camera. Let me guess, you’re here on business? Just lookin’ for a little something to keep that heart tickin’?” A light flickered on the building behind the Obama Condoms guy, drawing my attention and I turned slowly, taking in all the buildings around me. I squinted my eyes as I stared into the bright lights and large display screens pushing various products, Broadway shows, movies, and businesses. I looked from one to the next until I’d taken in the entire block. A large double-decker bus passed in front of me with the picture of a man holding a blood-splattered knife, a creepy, but almost charming, smile on his mouth. The name “Dexter” was printed under the knife in red, jagged letters. Suddenly, I wanted to know more about that knife-wielding man and his TV show. The Obama Condoms guy had wandered off, apparently disenchanted with his lost sale and the plight of an old, erectionless man. I pushed my way, slowly and often painfully, through the crowds, sometimes allowing the forward momentum of the folks behind me to carry me forward. My bones hurt, my feet screamed, and my hand hurt from gripping my cane so tightly. Every now and then an obviously drunk young person would stumble by me, sometimes giving me a nod or a grin of pure joy. I moved on, gradually getting slower the longer I pushed my way through the crowd, the speed of those around me preventing me from taking my time. Suddenly it occurred to me that Times Square had been a mistake. Nathaniel had tried to warn me, but I’d grown obsessed with the idea of lights and excitement. I reached into my pocket and

short fiction

took out the folded piece of paper Nathaniel had given me before dropping me off. Banshee Pub—1373 First Ave. Tell them Nate sent you. I glanced around, trying to figure out how far I was from First Avenue. Finally, deciding even another block was too far to walk, I stepped out on the curb and stuck my arm out, just as I had in Ithaca at the bookstore. Only, this time nothing happened. I waved my arm a bit, even tried a good shout, which only made my throat hurt. I waved my arm some more until finally a man in a pinstripe suit stepped up beside me. He whistled loudly, loud enough to make my hearing aids squeal, and then gave me a nod before walking away. I turned back around to find a yellow cab idling in front of me. “Banshee Pub, First Avenue,” I said, settling back. The woman, likely Jamaican and possibly a descendent of Bob Marley, whom my daughter had loved so dearly, given how well she sung his songs, pulled out onto the road without a word. The pub was small and crowded, but welcoming all the same. I made my way toward the back, taking a seat in a red padded chair at a weathered square table. I wasn’t sitting long before a woman showed up beside my table, her hair pulled back into a ponytail that appeared to be coming loose as it drooped limply. “What can I get ya, hon?” “Something cold and wet.” “Scotch on the rocks, coming right up.” She tapped her notepad with the end of her pencil and stuffed it back into her apron before moving on, stopping at the table beside mine to clear away empty glasses. I sat back, leaning into the padding on the seat, thankful for the way it cushioned my bones and took some of the pressure off my joints. I glanced around the pub, barely registering the lively music playing overhead, until my eyes fell on the painting behind the bar. I studied it, wondering if I found it too colorful for such a seemingly rustic pub. The bright blues and greens of the sky and countryside depicted in the painting contrasted with the furnishings in the bar. But when my eyes fell on the redhead soaring over the countryside, an enraged look on her face, I suddenly decided I quite liked the painting. I studied her, the way her curls flew back in angry disarray as she propelled

conceptions southwest


herself forward, likely looking for a fresh victim. Her body was barely covered by strips of blue silk. Still, it was her expression that interested me most. I briefly wondered where she was coming from and who her most recent victim had been. “Ah, the banshee.” My waitress set down a glass filled with amber liquid, ice cubes crowded together in the scotch. “Who do you think she’s after?” I looked up at my waitress and her face broke into a grin. “With any luck, my ex-husband, Nate. Enjoy your drink, love.” I laughed before I could stop myself, but this time, the laughter wasn’t just scratchy. It was strangled and painful and it felt as though my lungs were on fire. Almost instantly the tightness in my chest that I’d been ignoring so well flared in intensity and I groaned in response. The waitress paused and turned back, looking me over before putting her hand on the table, leaning down toward me. Her t-shirt draped forward and I caught a glimpse of large, pale breasts spilling into black lace. “You okay there? Want me to get you some water?” I shook my head and looked away from her breasts, picking up my scotch. “I’ll be fine. You said your ex’s name is Nate?” She nodded and I shook my head slowly. “And your name?” “Marla, but everyone calls me Destiny on account of my following my destiny to the Banshee Pub all the way from North Dakota.” She smiled, but the light didn’t reach her eyes. I opened my mouth to say something about it, but the men four tables down all stood up at the same time, erupting in cheers and laughter as they pounded each other on the back. Marla laughed and patted my hand before heading over to them. “What’s the occasion, boys?” Marla began to clear empty glasses and bottles from their table, balancing them in a way that told me she’d had years of practice. “Joey here’s gettin’ married! Been talking about it for years, but he’s finally taking the plunge!”

The men all erupted again and Marla shook her head as she took a step back. “I’ll get you boys another round to celebrate.” I got up and made my way to the bar, my scotch in my free hand. I stopped at the bar, standing a few feet from the end, leaving space between myself and the man in the nearest stool. “Hey, Marla, this round is on me, alright?” Marla turned and looked at me, then nodded before leaning forward over the bar. “You boys hear that? Next round is on the house thanks to our guest here.” The men all turned and looked at me, taking a second to size me up before they erupted into cheers again. One of them, the one I took to be Joey based on the way everyone slapped him on the back as he got up, grabbed a chair from a nearby table and pushed it up to their own, nodding me over. I shrugged and made my way over to them. “What’s your name, old man?” “Eugene Moore,” I said, leaning my cane against the table as I sat down. The young man closest to me grabbed it as it started to slide to the side. “Well, we thank you for your generosity, Eugene. I’m Charlie, that there’s Joey, our man of the night, and this is Mitch and Nick.” Nick, the one holding my cane nodded and tapped his glass against mine before taking a long swallow. I took a swallow of my scotch, feeling the burning in my throat and lungs intensify as the liquid flowed down into my stomach. A few seconds later, the burning subsided and left my throat feeling comfortably numb. I grinned and sat back in my seat before signaling to Marla to keep the drinks coming.

“It was strangled and painful and it felt as though my lungs were on fire.”

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Nick and Joey carried me out of the pub, one of my arms around each of them and my feet dangling from the differences in our height. Mitch and Charlie were close behind and Charlie slid my wallet back into my pocket after paying off our tab and tipping Marla. We moved up the street, Mitch leaning on my cane while Charlie asked him where his pimp hat was and Nick and Joey kept

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“Sounds good, kid. Give Deb my best. Buy her something pretty with that money. And I don’t mean flowers. They die and chocolates will make her fat. Get her something she’ll actually like.” Charlie snorted and stepped forward, shaking my hand as I sat up a little. “It’s been a pleasure, Eugene.” One by one, all four men said good night to me, thanked me for picking up the tab, and wished me the best in the remainder of my sightseeing. I got up, stripping my clothes off as I waved them all out the door. When the door finally closed and their voices began to fade as they walked down the hallway, I sat back down on the bed next to my folded up pants. With a sigh, I ran my fingers over the belt laced through my belt loops and then stood up, pulling the belt free. I walked over to the window, looking down over the city lights, and leaned against the glass. There I stood until my legs began to tremble and I worried my knees might give out. When I could no longer put things off, my thoughts turned to Marla. “Destiny,” I said out loud and carried my belt with me to the bathroom. I swung my belt up over the bathroom door and then pulled the door closed, using all the strength I had to get it to click into place, securing my belt as I looped the buckle end into a noose. I yanked on it hard, pleased to see that it didn’t budge. I drug a chair over and climbed up onto it, lowering the noose over my head, all the while keeping my eyes on the city lights. And then darkness came.

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me between the two of them, my feet touching ground periodically. We swayed together, the three of us leaning from side to side as the world shifted and we tried to right ourselves. I hadn’t been drunk in over thirty years, but distinctly remembered how important it was not to let the world catch you off guard. “On your toes, boys! Keep the world on its toes!” My voice once more felt like my own, though the burning in my lungs and the tightness in my chest kept breaking through the alcohol fog. Joey and Nick nodded intensely, repeating my words over and over until Mitch joined in, swinging my cane from side to side as he did. Suddenly all four men broke into song, singing about keeping the world on its toes and striking while the metal was hot, forging a whole new tomorrow. I laughed again, something I’d done more in one night than I had since my wife died. Briefly, I reconsidered my decision to give Joey the rest of my money, save enough for a hotel room for the night, as a wedding present. Maybe it would be worth spending one more night in the city. No, I thought, listening to the young people around me celebrate their lives. It’s time. No more ignoring the obvious. Joey and Nick deposited me on the bed of a relatively nice hotel room while Mitch and Charlie pulled my shoes off, put my wallet and nitroglycerin on the table beside the bed, and leaned my cane within reach. “Thanks again, Eugene! Deb and I will get an invitation out in the mail and we can always send Mitchy to pick you up.” Joey shook my hand and I nodded, knowing I’d never get that invitation.

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EVOLUTION

18� x 24� Pencil Drawing

lauren a. marek

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marek

Lauren Marek / Lauren is currently a junior at the University of New Mexico. Always having a love for art, she has continued to draw, valuing it as not just a hobby, but a way to express inexpressible ideas. She recognizes art not as a general study, but rather a personal venture and joy that has the capacity to capture observers, as well as those that wish to create an art for themselves.

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HANDS

18” x 24” Pencil Drawing

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lauren a. marek

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AUDREY

18” x 24” Pencil Drawing

lauren a. marek marek

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lead the way, Sparky! LEAD THE WAY, SPARKY! keith deininger

keith deininger

deininger

The smiling man went by my house Talking to his dog as he walked The neighbors shook their heads My parents said, “Get away from the window.” The man said, “Such a pretty dog.” “Go, Sparky! Go!” But the man’s leash was empty Dragging on the sidewalk My dad yanked me away No one believed me I could see the dog too I wanted to go where it was going

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Keith Deininger / Keith is an award-winning writer and poet. He is the author of numerous works of short fiction, the novella Fevered Hills, and the novel The New Flesh (June 2013). A graduate of the creative writing program at the UNM, he currently resides in Albuquerque with his wife and their three dogs. <www.KeithDeininger.com>

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conceptions southwest


yellow Powder YELLOW POWDER keith deininger

keith deininger

A box of crunch-dried Baby heads Resides in my apartment I crush them Pulverize several every night Into yellow powder Add water Simmer The resulting sludge Crawls

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All you can eat ALL YOU CAN EAT

deininger

keith deininger

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Walter considered the array before him. He used his fork to deliver noodles to his mouth as a farmer pitches hay. He speared eggrolls and fingered cream cheese wontons, grinding them deftly, letting them slide satisfyingly down his gullet. There was teriyaki chicken and hot peppered beef, stir-fried green beans and honey glazed shrimp, egg drop soup and fried sugar globs of dough; there was meat skewered on sticks and fish fried in garlic oils, six different kinds of soft serve ice cream and an entire section of cakes, cookies, and puddings; they all had a place, a warm spot to nestle into, an ache to cure, a great, empty spot to fill. Walter packed the little table in the corner of the restaurant with food from the buffet and used his fork, spoon, knife, hands, and teeth to clear it. “Fatty,” they called out behind him. “Chunky monkey.” They made farting sounds. They oinked. They hurled cruelties with the impunity of young boys at the back of the classroom when the teacher’s back was turned. Walter turned his back to them and ignored their catcalls. He stood. “Whoa!” the boys jeered. “Whoa, there!” He began to walk toward the buffet. “Boom,” said one boy, matching his stride. “Boom... boom...” “Is that an earthquake?” said the other boy. “Hold on to something...hold on....” Walter held his head down, keeping his eye on the colorful swirls of food spread and splattered on the buffet counter, smearing his freshly-cleaned plate with further wads of lo mein noodles, grease-sweating eggrolls, a

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keith deininger

dollop of lacerated pork. He returned to his table quietly. The boys’ mother had returned from her own trip to the buffet and so the boys were subdued, for the moment. He sat and continued to eat; there were still a few nooks and crevasses to fill. The bell above the door tinkled and the figure who staggered into the restaurant drew glances and a few disdainful stares. The only one who didn’t look was Walter, his focus wholly on his food. The derelict’s presence clouded into the restaurant: street sweat and alley trashcans. The derelict took a couple of steps forward, his bloodshot eyes darting from one corner, then to the next. He licked his peeling lips and approached the checkout counter, his tattered coat pulled tight about him like a desert tarp. “Table for one?” the waiter behind the counter asked the derelict, his eyes scanning this apparition warily. The derelict shifted, shuffled, mumbled something. “What was that, sir? Can I help you with something?” The derelict moved quickly; he bent forward and flung his coat from his shoulders; it fell and crumpled like a dead animal skin; he jitterbugged to the edge of the counter and leaned forward until the waiter could see yellow amongst the web work of veins in his eyes. The derelict held a small pistol in a hand that shook visibly; he was pointing it at the waiter. “Alright,” the derelict’s voice commanded, “the register, open it!” Silence fell over the room like a shroud. “Sir...okay, sir....Just calm down,” the waiter said, fumbling to get the cash register open. “Just give me a minute...okay, sir?”

conceptions southwest


The derelict danced from foot to foot; his entire body was shaking with excitement. He gripped his pistol like a lifeline, his knuckles white as bone. He swung his pistol around the small dining area and all the customers sitting quietly, with their half-eaten plates of food before them, flinched. “Everyone just stay in your seats. I’m not afraid to use this thing,” the derelict said to the room. He waved the pistol around, a cracked smile twanging his lips at the way people tensed every time the barrel came to point at someone. At the back of the restaurant, in a corner, Walter continued to eat. His chews and slurps and the clinking of fork on plate could be heard, faint and constant, over the hush in the room. The derelict was shaking his pistol at a family of four near the front of the restaurant. “I used to be just like you people,” he said. He hunkered down so he could look directly into the face of the family’s little girl. “I used to spend my afternoons eating this kind of shit, just like you.” The little girl was crying. “Yeah, I sure did.” The derelict pushed his streetrotten face in close, assaulting the little girl with putrid animal smells. “Ah,” he said, “is the little baby gonna cry? Look at the lil’ baby. Ah, such a crybaby.” The cash register pinged. The derelict got back to his feet, pushing off the family’s table so that it shook and rattled; one plate near the edge fell and tossed shrimp stir-fry across the floor. He staggered backward a couple of steps and then, righting himself, headed back to the main counter. He pointed the pistol at the waiter. “Cash. In a bag.” The waiter started clawing crumpled fistfuls of cash and tossing them into a plastic bag with the words “Happy Family Chinese Buffet” printed on it while the derelict watched. In the corner, a scraping sound cut through the tension like a snapped fingernail. The derelict whirled about. Walter was getting to his feet, having pushed his chair out behind him.

“What are you doing?” the derelict shouted. Walter began to shuffle toward the buffet. The derelict leveled his pistol, his finger tensed on the trigger. “I’ll ask it again. What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Walter looked up. “I’m hungry.” He pointed to the buffet. “Not now, tubby, alright? Go back to your seat. Just sit down and shut up, will you?” Walter, unconvinced, continued to point at the buffet. “I said no. Sit down! You fat freak.” Walter lowered his hand, but continued to stand where he was. The derelict growled, his face twisting with rage. He stormed across the restaurant to where Walter stood. He shoved the end of his pistol into the soft folds of Walter’s belly. He waded into Walter’s bulk until he could push his cankered face inches before Walter’s doughy face. He jammed the pistol in hard, bruising hard. “Alright,” he said, sending flecks of spit-mucus to glisten on Walter’s cheeks. “I want you to go and sit down quietly or I’m going to start shooting holes in this belly of yours and let your fat gush out all over the floor of this pathetic fucking restaurant.” He rammed the pistol in hard again for emphasis. “Do you understand me, fat boy?” Walter nodded, a hurt and misty look on his face. The derelict turned to go and collect his bag of money; his hand with the pistol was stuck. He looked up at Walter, who was looking down at him with an intense look in his eyes. He pulled, but his entire arm, up to the elbow, was enfolded in Walter’s rolls. “Hey...let go...” Walter grinned widely. The derelict tried to pull free, but his arm wouldn’t budge. He tried to fire the pistol, but he could no longer feel his hand and nothing happened. He pulled and pulled; he struggled; he brought his foot up and tried to push and pull at the same time; nothing. He was stuck. The derelict stared up at Walter; his heart dropped down, down; he stopped struggling and stared. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He watched Walter’s face, that

“‘I’m going to start shooting holes in this belly of yours...’”

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The room was in a stunned silence. Then someone began to clap; it was the waiter behind the counter. Slowly, others joined in; everyone in the restaurant was clapping. Walter looked around at all the people, at the waiter behind the counter flinging his hands together dramatically, at the restaurant’s patrons with their mouths hanging open, at the family of four and their looks of gratitude; Walter smiled. He looked over at the two boys who had been making fun of him earlier and their clapping faltered, but when they saw his smile they resumed their applause twice as vigorously. Walter took a napkin from his table and wiped his face carefully. He patted his belly with both hands; he was full; he couldn’t eat another bite. Every spot had been filled, every nook and crevasse. He belched again, loudly. The two boys from earlier were still watching him. He met their stares. Walter smiled; he smiled widely. The boys cringed. There might be a little bit more room, just a cranny, a tiny, aching notch to nestle something into.

deininger

grin, widen, then split. An absurd row of yellowed horse teeth came forward, two rows; there was a snap, a jaw opening at an impossible angle; a tongue lulled; a halfchewed glob of meat left a slug trail as it dropped; saliva dripped, bubbled. Walter’s eyes rolled back, then fell out of sight, his entire face like a flap of rubber. The derelict could only stare. That mouth! That mouth! It opened: flexible rubber like a snake’s jaw, pink and wet with digestive juices; muggy, fetid; slippery. It came down over the derelict, scooping him up so that his feet stuck in the air, kicking. There was crunching and squishing; blood dribbled out the sides like fruit punch; the feet kicked once more, stopped, slid down, disappeared. Lips came together over teeth, closing. Walter’s tongue snaked out and licked his lips. He chewed, swallowed, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He belched loudly. Walter looked around at all the staring people. He smiled, tentatively, shyly; he dropped his eyes to the floor. He turned and made his way slowly back to his table.

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B


and ridges ravery B B kendra crooks

BRAVERY AND BRIDGES

amount of bravery it takes to build a bridge to connect a gap, whether it be between black and white, sickness and health, life and death, or heaven and earth. I know they tried to teach us something in world history class about what happened in South Africa in the 1960s. Apartheid was the government’s way of separating human beings based on the color of their skin. I learned what actually happened when visiting the District 6 Museum and multiple townships. I’ve always liked to think of myself as a relatable person with an open mind, but when walking into the daycare at St. Luke’s Hospice, a fear began to arise in me. “What if I can’t connect? What if they don’t like me? What if the color of my skin and the language that I speak separates me from them?” I looked at Masego Moema, my partner for the week, in hopes of some guidance on how to proceed. I noticed that her eyes were just as wide as mine and we were both hesitant to initiate an art activity with a room full of sick people. The fact that she is South African and can speak some of the language made no difference. Suddenly the line drawn between black and white that has pulsed through the history of the world since the origin was eliminated. I realized the connections I made that day with the people in that room were not built with racial barriers, but solidified by smiles. Being able to sit with another human and paint with all of the hues of the rainbow was enough to know that no color should have ever been separated in the first place. Beyond the black and white, the makeshift flowerpots and colorful painted interpretations of the homes from which the patients

Kendra Crooks / Kendra is a senior film student at the University of New Mexico. She finds true inspiration in the fragile reality of life and the beauty of the different countries in this world. She hopes to continue traveling, producing art, and inspiring others to live life to the fullest.

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crooks

When I was in grade school, I daydreamed in the realm of fairytales. I often imagined myself in the role of being some kind of warrior embarking NONFICTION on a grand adventure. I’d imagine when traveling to far off lands and exploring the unknown with absolute confidence, I would prevail in my attempts of exploration. My mom would enthusiastically support my escapades by hand-making my costumes and helping me button up my outfits. “Be brave,” she said. It wasn’t until much later that I began to realize that bravery wasn’t just meant for knights in shining armor and that a happy ending may be harder to find. I remember holding my mother’s swollen hands when she got sick and thinking that our fairytale was over. When she died in one of the coldest winters ever recorded, it became hard to see life in the same way. For a while it seemed like a resounding hush fell over everything I once thought was beautiful. It took time to understand that just because someone is gone, it doesn’t mean they haven’t left anything behind. Crossing that bridge from darkness to light took a lot of strength. A year and a half later I was lucky enough to embark on an adventure of a different kind. Throughout being in South Africa, I have witnessed several instances of bravery. I have also noticed many occasions in which two conflicting ideas, people, or concepts were separated. As I began to question why, I started to see that differences are created by an assumed space or preconception. My mission was to explore those differences and see the STA FF CHOICE A WA RD

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came, another difference arose on which to contemplate. Of course, this realization came much earlier when we were provided with our syllabus. We were going to be working with sick people. I don’t remember the day, or even the month, that I began to see my mother as a sick person. She was very adamant about not revealing her pain level, or the fact that she had a disease at all. To me, her hands felt the same, her voice sounded the same; but it was when I noticed the eyes of all of the people who came to visit that I started to understand. When my uncle and aunts came to sit at her bedside, their eyes became sullen and their expression fell empty. A hopelessness infiltrated the atmosphere and I saw the separation between herself and her brother and sisters. I felt the fear of imitating their response creeping up when I would pay attention to the amount of morphine in her bloodstream and the increasing swelling of her limbs. When I walked into St. Luke’s Hospice the first day of our visitation week, I remembered to use every muscle in my body to contain that habit of seeing someone as a sick person, because, as hard as it was for me, I knew it was not what they needed. “Don’t look down. Don’t let your memories haunt you. Don’t assume anything,” I repeated to myself as Professor Reid held the door open. What I voluntarily walked into wasn’t a scary pit of doom, but rather a canvas to experiment on. Sure, we were afraid. It was our first day! However, the sequence of events that led me to one astounding woman, a Mrs. Lee Ann Reid, gave me the strength I needed to feel the fear, understand the doubt, and, in a completely unexpected way, heal. I remembered reading an article by an author Dr. Rachel Remen. In “Wholeness,” she talks about how the purpose of arts in medicine is to heal, not to cure. Peter Fox, a spiritual healer at St. Luke’s, reiterated this concept when lecturing our class about death and dying. He said plainly, it is indefinable. “As an experience in which there maybe be no solution, there is at least a resolution.” So, as I sat down to draw the outline of the

water fountain in St. Luke’s Garden with my new friend, I left out the sullen looks and the preconceived truth that she was sick. I also noticed that she didn’t mention her reason for being there or what circumstances preceded her. For a moment in time we were brave enough to draw and be without labels. I was not a student, she was not a patient, and we were in a safe space of light. I didn’t notice her illness as she hopefully didn’t notice my lack of confidence. For a time, we were brave enough to sit with each other and be just as we were. I left St. Luke’s with warmness in my heart. When we returned that following Friday, I was excited to revisit my friend and say hello to the sisters in the ward. It came to my attention that one of the patients we had visited before was no longer on the dry erase board. I am unsure of where he went, but I understood that in hospice, there are limited destinations. Once again I felt conflicted in differences. Humans, as I’m told, are the only species aware of their own deaths. We grow up with flexible bones thinking, “I’ll live forever!” And when we tire or look death in the eyes, we realize that mortality is inevitable. I looked at the names on the board. How many had been erased before? Who was the hardworking nurse who erased my mother’s name from the board? Death is hard. That day I visited Mrs. Reid again, happy to know that the same easy bridge could be walked upon between us. She told me a story of her and her sister in Egypt and I told her of the dryness of the desert. I will fondly remember her forever. However, it wasn’t until the last room that I observed the beauty and the bravery existing between life and death. A woman sang to us. She was hidden by a curtain pulled by the doctor. We were all lucky enough to have one of our classmates play the harp while we tried to instigate a creative encounter. I was humbled to hear the murmur of sweet noise coming from behind a curtain. Who was this woman? What was her name? How long did she have to live? I don’t know. But what I do know is that she sang. And when the curtain was lifted, we saw

crooks

“For a time, we were brave enough to sit with each other and be just as we were.”

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her face as she saw ours and she kept singing. For that moment in time, everyone in the room was elated. We weren’t scared of this woman’s pain or circumstance, and she wasn’t afraid of us. I looked outside at the garden I was drawing for a patient in another bed. I felt a sense of peace and balance when noticing fallen leaves next to blooming lilies. I thought of how funny it is that, as humans, we are so afraid of dying, when in reality, it is the one true thing we really know. I think it’s time to start taking lessons from the trees and try to understand the natural beauty in the cycle of life. I’m not sure if it’s for everyone, but some people claim to see beautiful images or hear welcoming music as they are passing on. I remember seeing some of the blurry pictures my mom would draw in her notebooks. At the time, she couldn’t explain them, but to me it looked like she was depicting herself ascending. I thought about that again when Shelly, the sister at St. Luke’s, shared a memory of a patient. She said she was holding the patient’s hands as they lay dying, but was incandescently moved when they said, “I am ready to go now. I am satisfied.” I will never forget the day my classmate and I got lost in the city and ended up embarking on a solo hiking adventure. For some reason we were meant to have

gotten separated from the group and be on our own. The terrain was difficult and our sweat made no attempts of hiding itself. Our joints were stiff, lungs exhausted, and we were beginning to feel the effects of being ill prepared for such a venture. Despite the dehydration and lack of direction, when we reached the top of Table Mountain, I felt like I knew what my mom wanted to ascend to. I felt the alarming reality of how small I am and how silly it is that we try to measure the earth and all of its wonder. I climbed to the top of the highest rock and looked out into the ocean, into the unknown. And even though I could feel the blisters beginning to form on my heels, the vibrations of a larger entity were pulsing through my bloodstream. I was gifted with a little taste of heaven that day. From then on, I knew that my mother was alright. I knew that all of the people we love that die aren’t really lost. I am sure if someone were to ask us young and healthy people if we were satisfied and ready to go, we would shy from the question and continue avoiding the thought of what happens after we die. I can only hope to be as fulfilled as Shelly’s patient when it is my time, but until then, as I walk upon the rocky earth, I will be brave enough to look to the sky and smile and work hard enough to keep building bridges to connect me to the beauty of the unknown.

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you’ve given me a name

bentley

lorin bentley

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YOU’VE GIVEN ME A NAME

The only change in his existence came with the twist of each season, which even then only offered him a recycled shade of the world. He never felt the warmth that came in the mornings of summer or the goosebumps in winter. He did not have a name, at least that he knew of. But now, after having gazed for lifetimes at the same wild garden and hills, she had appeared, he had seen her, and he knew he loved her. He had not known that a face would appear again after so long. Before, there had only been the one: the face of a blurry young man that moved slowly and smiled with his eyes, eager. In his memory, the young man always appeared covered in white dust. That dust conjured up a pain: a pounding that beat in his body as the young man bent over him. But the pounding had become a memory, one that had faded—and too much so. He spent the light and dark of each day, each season, the same: feeling nothing, doing nothing. But not that particular night. She had appeared that morning, and he had seen her. The moon illuminated his garden and the grass beyond, and he felt more than nothing. He loved her, but even this thought—love—did not have a name in his mind. It only sat, brilliant and tight, churning in the chest somewhere below his eyes. He thought of earlier that day. Seasons had passed since he had actually considered the young man of the memory to be real. It was like a knife through his chest, then, when that morning a shout came

lorin bentley

from somewhere not too far behind him, a place he had never seen, and so had thought might not exist after all. And, for the first time that he could remember, he heard voices. He knew that these came from the mouths of things, the same things as the young man. He did not understand how he knew this, but instead poured himself into listening to the voices, which grew louder. He found he could understand them. “Mother, this place is divine!” “Charlie, get down from there, you’ll break your leg and then you’ll be sorry. What your father will have to say?” “Oh, darling, isn’t this place everything it’s meant to be? Oh, darling!” “I’d rather have a look about the grounds before deciding anything.” The voices jumbled and rose, and with them his euphoria. After a moment, though, he began to think that perhaps his feelings were premature, for the noise was now frightening him. But before he had completed this thought, one of the voices stood there before him. It was a girl. She was nearly a woman and had short, wavy, dark hair. If her cheeks had not been so sunken and yellow, she might have been pretty. But he did not notice this. He only knew delirium. He wanted to shout, to leap forward and take the girl in his arms and run away, beyond the garden and over those hills which were his existence. Even though he often thought to himself about many things, he knew no words to express the wildness he felt now. For all this new feeling, though,

Lorin Bentley / Lorin is an Albuquerque native and a senior at UNM majoring in English and minoring in history. She has never had a story published before but is a lover of stories—real and fiction—in all forms. And, though she is now a fan of Doctor Who, she wrote the first drafts of this story before she knew about the weeping angels, so don’t worry about any potential threat David might pose for mankind.

short fiction

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vol. xxxvi

up and brushed the side of his face with her hand. At her touch, he wanted to move like he had never wanted anything else; the desire burned within like acid. Still, he stood steadfast, and hated himself for it. He did not know how to move. But it was possible, he thought to himself, for here before him was a moving, breathing being! “You are beautiful,” the girl murmured. “I don’t know how long you’ve been standing out here. Who carved you out and left you here to keep watch over this ratty old garden for all your life? Whoever’s done it, it’s not fair to you.” She put her hands on his shoulders and spoke again. “David.” At the sound of the strange word, he felt something grow inside his chest. It thumped and pounded so loudly that he thought beyond a doubt that it would break out of his chest and bounce across the garden, off the edge of the world. But it remained, hammering in his ears. All of the anger and surprise of the day came to rest inside the growth, melting together and forming one word in his mind that he had not known the name for: love. “Yes, I’ll give you the name ‘David.’ I know it’s the name of a famous statue somewhere, by Michelangelo maybe? You’ve got on more clothes than him, though. If you didn’t, Mother would have you carted away, I know it.” Her hands fell and she stepped off the platform on which he stood. “Yes, you are beautifully made. I think I will make a friend out here, after all.” She shivered suddenly, convulsively, and the beating in his chest grew to a peak. He wanted to move, to hold her tight, but his feet remained still. “It’s so cold out here. I should go inside. Good morning, David. Enjoy the sun, and maybe I will see you again soon.” She disappeared after a moment. He wore himself out waiting and listening for her return for hours afterward. He drifted in thought…. The thumping in his chest brought him back to the garden, caught him off guard. It beat louder and quicker as he listened to it. The sun was now falling. And his name—David was his name. The brown-haired girl suddenly flooded his thoughts. He loved her. She had spoken to him, given him a name…. David did not understand why he could not pick up his feet, or move his hands or face. It was the first time he

short fiction

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he stood unmoved. And now the girl was looking at him, her eyes resting on his face. He felt certain that her gaze would cause the free movement of his body, of which he was very conscious at the moment. Again in his mind he imagined the two of them running and leaping together, and believed that the vision would become life at that moment. But he did not move, and became angry at himself. Anger—another new feeling. “Mother! Come look at this,” the girl suddenly said. “It’s curious. I’m not sure what to think of it.” Her voice was shaky, but he was mesmerized. A slender woman with graying brown hair came into view and looked him up and down. “It’s vulgar,” she spat. “I think he’s beautiful,” said the girl, gazing again at his face. Something in his stomach—or in some place, he was not sure where—tightened and melted. “It’s as if he was actually...human once,” she said. “Only maybe,” she quickly added as her mother snorted and walked away. The girl turned and followed her back to the unknown behind him. The voices continued for the rest of the day, and he listened with everything in him for the girl again. It came every once in a while, mixing in with the others: the mother’s tart one, a squeaky one, an exasperated one, a low, almost inaudible one. There were also other noises: banging, scratching, and scraping. As the moon gradually replaced the sun, the noises and voices stopped. Silence, disappointment, welled up in him. And now his insides stirred and tightened as he replayed the sight of the girl in his mind over and over again. She had looked in his eyes, said he might have been human once. He wondered exactly what that meant. The night continued, the moon falling across the sky, and he lost himself in thoughts. The night ended, and the sun glowed. As his eyes came back to focus on the garden and grasslands, there stood the girl suddenly in front of him. The sight of her surprised him, and he felt a tingle up his spine as she stood gazing at him. Slowly she stepped forward, up onto something which brought her almost eye-to-eye with him. Then she reached

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was aware of these parts—of toes and fingers. Even as he thought about them, he felt the breeze passing around him for the first time. As the sun continued to fall through the sky, he felt the warmth from it on his face, and longed to stretch his back. It was almost sunset when he heard the rasping of footsteps in grass and the girl stood before him once more. The thing in his chest beat madly. “Well, David,” she said, “I see you’ve not moved since this morning, and I’m glad. You look so real; I’m afraid you might get up now and walk away.” She turned and walked around the garden, glancing back at him every once in a while. “I don’t really understand why we had to move out here, but maybe it was because of you. Though Mother said it’s—well, this can’t be the right way to live, running from sickness. But, yes, I’m glad we’ve found you, though Mother almost hates you. Father’s the only one who thinks you’re worth keeping out here in the garden. And he’s the one letting me make this place clean and proper looking again. I don’t know how long it will take, how much is left.” She circled around the garden’s overgrown paths, trailing her hand through tall clumps of weeds. Suddenly she was bent over, then on the ground, coughing into a clenched fist and pushing against her chest with the other. David stood by, unmoving, burning to hold the girl in his arms. “Please, let me help you! You’ve given me a name!” he whispered. The girl’s head whipped around, and she stared wide-eyed at him, still coughing into her fist. Before he could realize that she might have heard him, her mother came running through the tall grass, holding her dress up over her ankles. “This is enough!” she said, her voice cracking. “Your father has no say in this anymore! Trying to kill you, by the looks of it! What nonsense! You will stay inside, whatever the doctor says!” Her voice suddenly dropped to a whisper, urgent. “I’ll not have you waste time tending dead plants.” She took the girl firmly by the arm and led her, still gasping and holding her hand to her mouth, into the unknown world behind.

Deep in the night, the girl returned. Instead of coming directly to David, she slowly traced her way through the moon-flooded garden. He became aware of her gentle beauty and again longed to wrap his arms around her. After a long time, she at last came and stood in front of him. A cough caught in her throat, and she was bent double again. The fit lasted longer than earlier that day, and he saw something dark on her hands as she pulled them from her mouth and wiped them on her dress. She looked into his face, and he saw her eyes leaking at the corners. “Look at you, David. You really are something, aren’t you? Glorious. Something about you makes my heart ache.” She walked up to him, and he felt her curl up on his feet. She stayed there until the sun rose and warmed them both. The girl often visited David in his overgrown garden. Sometimes she came first thing in the morning, when everything was cool and gray. Sometimes she came at midday, when David had no words to express the new misery he felt at the sun’s heat. Other times, she visited when the moon came out. Every time she would walk around the garden, making plans for a flower here, a vegetable there. “It will be beautiful,” she told David, “if there’s time.” If she came during the day, her mother would eventually stomp out and order her to “return to bed.” David wondered at those words. Eventually, as her coughing grew louder and thicker, her mother would come rushing through the grass with a scrap of cloth, her face soft and crumpled, eyes threatening to leak, and neither she nor her daughter would say anything. But the girl still came and talked to David everyday, and he listened to her and watched her. He loved her.

bentley

“She stayed there until the sun rose and warmed them both.”

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short fiction

Then, for two days, she did not come. David knew, because he had begun to count the days— the cycle of light and dark—and she had not come for two of them. Still, he waited, watching the garden and hills before him, basking in the mornings. Only a few small sounds came from the unknown behind.

conceptions southwest


And, finally, she came back in the dead of the second night. The moon was full and round, and the girl tottered toward him with the trace of a smile. David saw that something in her appearance had changed, but could not figure out exactly what. She wore a nightgown that was stained down the front, and her feet were bare. David boiled with affection, his arms and legs straining to move. She did not speak; she only stood in front of him and stared hard into his eyes. Then she stepped forward and wrapped her arms tightly around him. “David, I will miss you,” she rasped. David felt his entire being glow with fire, and he knew if she did not let go, that he would crumble and break into pieces. The desire to wrap his arms around her burned in his chest and hurt him like he had never hurt before. Then the girl let go of him and disappeared to the world behind. After a long, still moment, David found he could move his head. Then his shoulders. It was just before dawn. David’s feet felt heavy, and he stopped every couple steps to listen to the world—to try to understand the new sights. Ahead of him was a small cottage with an open door. He walked slowly through it, then up a flight of stairs. He felt he finally understood. The thumping in David’s chest reached a new speed as he turned and saw a man staring at him on the landing of

the staircase. The man was colorless, solid, unsmiling. As David unconsciously reached up to scratch a spot on his face—a sensation he had never known before—the man moved too. David was looking in a mirror. He continued on and found the girl lying on a bed in one of the rooms. The bedcovers were stained with something dark, just like her nightgown. She stared at the wall, her face colorless. Solid. Unsmiling. David stood in the doorway, hearing the last words the girl had spoken as she had wrapped her arms around him—around a cold, carved statue. “David, I will miss you.” He walked toward the bed, his chest beating, and looked down at the girl. She did not move. He sat down—hard— next to her, his hands moving toward her face. She did not move. He touched her cheek. Still she did not move. The thumping, pounding lump his chest fell to his feet through the floor. Though he held her face in his hands, the heat in him was gone. And as the sun stretched back into the world, David returned to his garden to face the grassy hills again. The world was silent, and he felt nothing. Later when Charles and Elizabeth Domstone would walk through the garden of their little cottage, eyes leaking, hands locked, they would not notice the statue that their daughter had named, or the way that he stood, unmoving, once again.

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he tenderly beating Theart THE TENDERLY BEATING HEART

fetzer

rebecca fetzer

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Last of all, just before the sun began to set beyond the hill, a little firefly left his home to visit his friends in the meadow. Here and there he went, lighting the way past the sleepy buttercups, saying goodnight to the yellow daisies, and smiling at the drowsy daffodils. The little firefly landed upon a buttercup, which was bending over as if in pain. “Friend Buttercup, why do you bend over so?” “I am hurting,” he said. “The pain is in my heart.” “Friend Buttercup, what is wrong with your heart?” “It is broken with the cares of life. The wind blows and pushes, the rain pounds and stings, and the sun beats and burns.” “But, Friend Buttercup, without these things you could not grow,” said the firefly. The firefly gently touched the face of the buttercup. “You need the wind to bring the rain. You need the rain for nourishment. You need the sunshine to grow stronger.” Friend Buttercup said nothing. He continued to bow in pain and sorrow. “Friend Buttercup, may I look at your broken heart?” asked the little firefly. The buttercup pushed aside his petals and showed the firefly his heart. Very gently, the little firefly picked up Friend Buttercup’s heart. He looked at it closely. “Friend Buttercup, your heart still beats. It must feel broken because there are many wet tears and they have made a wide river that runs through the middle of it.” The little firefly looked into Friend Buttercup’s eyes. “I can help you Friend Buttercup, but you must be willing to trust me with your heart.”

rebecca fetzer

“Please help me,” whispered Friend Buttercup. “I fear my heart will cease to beat.” The little firefly tenderly held the beating heart. He drew it close to his warm, comforting light. The gentle warmth began to stop the flow of tears. How quietly and closely he held the buttercup’s heart all the night through. With the dawn came a gentle breeze. Instead of pushing the buttercup, the breeze caressed him. Behind the gentle breeze, the warm sun shone in its full glory of the new morning. The river of tears began to slowly dry up! “I am feeling better little firefly. My heart is healing now!” The little firefly gently dried the last of the tears from Friend Buttercup’s heart. He returned Friend Buttercup’s heart to its place behind the yellow petals. Just then, a gentle rain began falling. The buttercup lifted his face and drank gratefully. “Thank you little firefly. With your kind and gentle ways and your comforting light, you have mended my heart and restored my life.” “Friend Buttercup, your heart hurt because you let the cares of life become a river of tears that flowed too deep. I leave you with a piece of my light to comfort you when the wind blows too hard, the rains are heavy, and the sun’s rays burn too hot. Hold the piece of my light to you heart, and your tears will gently cleanse your heart instead.” The buttercup remembered all that the firefly taught him. To this day, instead of hurting, his heart now beats tenderly with the peace of light given to him by the deliverer of light and the healer of hearts. Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Rebecca Fetzer / Rebecca teaches classroom music in Albuquerque Public Schools. She is currently attending UNM as a graduate student to obtain a Master’s degree in music education. She feels her faith is the guiding force in her life.

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ust sitting there J JUST SIT TING THERE

william abernathy

william abernathy

When we finished I signed the contract with a cigarette, Not noticing the fine print, I thought how nice our names looked together. The things you accidentally sign, just sitting there. “You’re in for a treat,” the doctor said, “you’re pregnant,” One of the fringe benefits of my deal showing its head. The things you accidentally learn, just sitting there. His reason for leaving seemed contrived, some hidden bylaw I overlooked, He forgot to clear it through management, but I didn’t bring it up. The things you accidentally let slip by, just sitting there. Aunt Lacey called and asked for a status report, I hesitated with the subject header: “self-pity.” The things you accidentally indulge, just sitting there. Mom wanted to fly in from the East and consult, But I told her business hours were over. The things you accidentally ignore, getting tired of sitting there.

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Finally the prototype of my labor, a little heir With a simple title and a blank page (intentionally), Helpless no longer, I held him to me, and together we sat there.

poetry

abernathy

William Abernathy / Will is a creative writing student in his junior year at UNM. This is the first time he’s worked up the nerve to submit for publication. Besides writing, he enjoys reading, watching anime, and taking things apart.

The project deadline arrived and found me—you guessed it—just sitting there. Mom flew in to oversee the transition period. Mom, Aunt Lacey, the doctor, and I held a conference Crammed together in my cubicle as I struggled to produce. The engineers said the machines were properly configured, and The guys down at PR began prepping a press release, and My computer printed but there was a paper jam, so IT suggested I push harder.

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all gardening F FALL GARDENING

abernathy

william abernathy

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My dead husband, Henry, watches me from across the table while I sip my tea. In the picture he’s sitting at his new desk, excited to find a job so soon out of college. Back then, newlyweds, we got excited about small things like that: a new place to sit. “Bye Mom,” Brenden says as he walks through the kitchen, backpack slung on one shoulder. He’s growing up so fast. The other day I noticed that he has some substantial peach-fuzz growing on his lip. In less than a year from now he’ll graduate high school, and then he’ll leave me too. “Mr. Fenley gave me the afternoon off at the gas station to write a paper for history. I’ll be back at four.” Brenden walks out the side door that leads into the narrow walk, past the trash-can between the house and the vine-covered chainlink fence. I hear his first few steps on the path, and then he’s gone. I stir brown sugar into my oatmeal and glance over at Henry, smiling in disbelief at me through the glass. I put him there after he died a year ago in a crash on his way home. We live in a suburb called Glassberry, an hour west of Denver. He was on I-70 when he swerved to avoid a dog. It was wandering down the road. When he swerved, a Ford Bronco in the next lane ran straight into the driver’s door, Henry’s door. I cried for a month after Henry died. I don’t remember anything from that time but tears—not the funeral, not my job, not taking care of Brenden, but then, he was old enough then to take care of himself. He took care of both of us until I got back on my feet. I used to carry that picture around with me, placed it on the pillow next to me, talked to it when Brenden went to school, telling him how hard it was being alone and how I was no good at serious stuff. Henry was able to avoid the dog. One day Victoria, my supervisor at a nursery in Glassberry,

short fiction

william abernathy

called and said that either I had to come back to work, or she would let me go. I put Henry’s picture in front of his chair at the kitchen table—so he could still be a part of family dinners—and came back to reality. I look at my watch, it’s six-thirty; time to go to work. I get home just after five. Brenden’s windbreaker hangs from the back of one of the kitchen chairs. That’s right, I think, he told me he’d be home early to write something for school. I walk gingerly into the hall. His door is closed, but I can hear the wheels of his desk chair rattle as he shifts around. Contented, I go back into the kitchen where I now notice the mail in a neat little pile on the table. That boy has everything covered. On top of the pile is a letter from the bank with “Urgent” stamped on the envelope in red ink, smeared on one end. I feel my cheeks heat up and I wish that I’d gotten to the mail first. I slide my callused finger under the flap and find out what’s so urgent. Dear Aster Lovechild, You have neglected to make payments on your mortgage for the months of July and August. If both these payments aren’t paid along with September, then we will be forced to foreclose on your house. Please see your contact information below and verify that we have your correct phone number so that we may contact you sooner in the case of another emergency.... I sigh and set the letter back down. The rest of the mail looks like credit card bills, so I ignore it. Instead I look at Henry across the table and ask: “How did you ever manage? I’m not you. I don’t know if I can do this alone.” Henry made more than enough to meet our needs working as an accountant. I’d worked the same part-time job at the nursery since we got out of college. We didn’t need the money then, but I needed something to do and I liked working with

conceptions southwest


vol. xxxvi

out. And you shouldn’t be reading my mail.” I give him an exaggerated frown and tilt my head down. “It’s rude, you know,” imitating Grandpa Norm’s voice. He doesn’t laugh. “I can give you what I earn at the gas station.” “No, sweetie.” I shake my head. “That’s your money. You should spend it on things that you want. You be a kid while you still can. Let me handle the grown-up stuff.” “Alright. You really should go to bed.” “Okay, mister, you win.” I ask Dianne, the nursery’s owner, if I can work extra hours. She and I both know that there’s not much more for me to do, but she agrees. We didn’t talk about how long I could work overtime, but I know not to ask again. At the end of the week, on my way home I drive by Little Napoli, an Italian restaurant that was Henry’s favorite. I pull into the parking lot and try and think of the manager’s name. Armand? Arlo? It was something like that. Henry would have known. He was always very friendly with the staff. I step into the dark restaurant. It’s quiet and three waiters stand around the welcome desk; the evening rush not yet started. “Excuse me, can I speak with Arlo?” Two of them in black dress and small aprons look dumbly at me. The other, at ease in his pressed white shirt, studies my face a moment and says: “Do you mean Mr. Alonzo?” Damn. “Yes, he’s still the manager, right?” “Ah, no ma’am. He’s part-owner now. I don’t think he’s in yet tonight. May I help you with something?” The other two wander back into the restaurant. “I was wondering—well my husband, perhaps you remember him. Henry was his name. Anyway we used to eat here a lot. I was wondering if you needed any help?” “Help, ma’am?” “Yeah, if you had any open positions?” “Oh, I’m sorry I don’t know. I don’t think we’re hiring, but that’s the manager’s business. Shall I get him for you?” “No,” I say, “that’s alright.” I laugh and smile and rush out the door. With the extra time at the nursery, and a little help from Henry’s savings, I manage to swing the mortgage and keep the house.

short fiction

abernathy

plants. Brenden came along, but he was such an easy child that I was able to keep my job. I’d been losing it slowly since he died a year ago, trying my best to keep Brenden and myself above ground. Soon I’ll have to find another job, something that will pay enough to meet the mortgage. Brenden will graduate high school in the spring, and, though he talks about different colleges his friends are applying to, he never applies to any of his own. It breaks my heart; it makes my guilt all the worse. Henry left Brenden eight thousand dollars in a savings account to help him through college. I have been dipping into it to help pay mortgage. I try and console myself, thinking that I’ll put it back before he graduates. I haven’t told Brenden about it yet. I want to tell him, to give him some hope of going to college, but what if I can’t put the money back before he graduates? I don’t think I could lie and tell him that Henry left him less than he did. I put some water on the stove to boil for macaroni and look out the kitchen window. Just below the window, stretching twelve feet into the backyard, my two strips of garden lay bare, resting from the summer crops and slowly falling asleep as the weather gets colder. After dinner, I leave Brenden sitting at the table still working on his paper for school. I sit down in a deep chair in the living room with Pride and Prejudice. Before long I yawn and notice I’ve read one sentence ten times. “Hey Mom,” Brenden says what seems like a moment later. I open my eyes to see Brenden sitting on the couch across from me. My watch tells me I was asleep for a half hour. “Mmm?” I rub my eyes and yawn. I’m the one who was just sleeping, but he looks exhausted. His eyes are red-rimmed and it looks like they’re only open through habit. He leans forward and rests his face in his hands. “You should go to bed,” he says for what seems like the hundredth time. “Really. What’s the point just sitting there and fighting it?” “No, I’ll wake up here in a second. I want to finish this chapter before bed.” He picks his head up and smiles, lets the smile slip away, and he says: “I read the mail. I know I shouldn’t have, but it was sitting open on the table. Do we have the money to pay the bank?” “Oh, don’t worry about that, Brenden. It will all work

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September ends; October brings the first chilly winds of autumn with it. I wiggle my hands into my pockets to warm them against my thighs. I get home after work and find Brenden in the living room chewing on a sandwich. “No work today, sweetie?” “No. Mr. Fenley cut my hours.” “Oh, I didn’t know. Brenden,” I sit down across from him, “I got a call from one of your teachers. She said you’re failing economics.” He studies his sandwich, selects a bite, and says, “So?” and takes another bite. “So why didn’t you tell me that you were failing? I could have helped you study.” I cross my arms and lean back. “Since when are you good at economics?” “Hey, don’t talk to me that way.” He’s not looking at me, tearing through his sandwich in a moody silence. “Stop acting like such a brat. Just because I’m not your father doesn’t mean that you can disrespect me. I’m still your mother, Brenden Lovechild. It’s time you started acting like my son.” “Why bother? I’ll be out of the house soon enough.” “That won’t change the fact that I’m your mother, and with an attitude like that, you won’t get very far in life.” He mumbles: “Not like I’ll get very far anyways.” “What was that?” “I said it’s not like I’m going to college so why bother and worry about doing well in life.” I try and think of something in defense, but all that comes to mind is the money I’ve been taking from him. A tense silence passes, and I retreat from the room. Over the next few days I scold myself in the mirror for not being more responsible. Finally, I go back to Little Napoli, and Alonzo gives me a job waiting tables. It’s tedious and much more demanding than the nursery, which I still work at for the morning shift, but I make enough in tips to keep me there. It’s not enough, however, to go on living in the eighteen hundred square-foot house that has been our home for the last six years, so I buy a “For Sale” sign on my way home to stick in the front yard.

short fiction

Brenden and I are walking in a park near our new apartment. Someone bought the house in February for much less than I was asking but only a little below market value. The trees are all bare, holding our breath, waiting for spring. “I noticed you didn’t put Dad’s picture on the table,” Brenden says. We’re both staring straight ahead as we walk down the path. “Yeah. It’s time we get used to our family as just the two of us.” I think how empty the table has seemed now that there are only two of us, like a flower with some petals missing. “Mom? What’s going to happen when I graduate?” “Are you asking about college?” “Yeah.” “Well, your father left some money in a savings account to help with that.” After a pause he asks: “How much?” “Eight thousand dollars, but I’ve taken some of that out. I did that to pay the mortgage, but I’ve put some of it back. If you work the summers, then between what you can save up and what I’m earning now, you should be able to go to school.” We stop at a bench and sit down to watch the ducks sliding into a pond, their buoyant bodies insulated against the cold. “Brenden, I know I’m not your father. He would have done a better job putting you through college and being your parent. I love you, though, and I’m trying to do what’s right by you. I probably can’t answer many of your questions and I’m not a good example of a responsible adult. You’re probably better at being an adult than I am already. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I still want to be your mother, even when you leave for college.” “I know I’ve been really against you this year. Sorry about that.” I hug him to me, feeling him breathe in and out. He pulls away slowly after a few seconds and shifts around on the bench. “How are things at the nursery?” “We’re just coming out of our slow season. People are all getting ready to plant their spring gardens.” “Oh...that sounds good.” “It will be.”

conceptions southwest


o tress N S NO STRESS william abernathy

vol. xxxvi

my throbbing temple with a finger. TICK, THROB, TICK, THROB. The air seems thicker as though I’m developing a stuffy nose at an alarming rate. I nibble my lip and close my eyes. The phone rings. “Hello.” “Hi Shanon. Do you have a moment?” Still staring at the ceiling, I listen to thee more ticks rattle out from the watch. “Yes.” “What are you doing this weekend?” “Why?” So far it’s the same conversation as the one with James. Word for word Thomas is saying what James said as if they were both reading from the same script for a part in a B-movie. “I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me.” I play dumb. Maybe he’ll lose heart and shut up. “Out where?” “Well, on a date.” “What? With you?” “...Yeah. Like something romantic.” I don’t say anything. Maybe he’ll hang up. “Are you not feeling it?” he says. “If you aren’t, that’s fine.” Good boy. “I’m really flattered Thomas, but I like being friends. We have such fun together. Why did this have to happen,” I ask as if some unavoidable act of God had befallen the two of us. “Are boys ever friends with girls?” “No, they are. I am. Look, I don’t want you to doubt our friendship.” He’s trying hard to be nice; he must really like me. “But you’re sure? You don’t even want to try?” I sigh; the poor bastard’s going to take this really hard. I let him down real easy. “I like you Thomas, I really do. It’s just that I was in this situation earlier. I don’t want to lose another friend. You’re such a nice guy. You can do better

short fiction

abernathy

I stare at my computer with a blank face. iTunes is open; I can’t find a song I want to listen to. Ten seconds into one and I’m already dissatisfied. I click another and the process repeats. My phone rings. “Hello?” “Hi Shanon, it’s Cecelia.” “Hey. What’s up?” “Not much. I called to see how you’re doing.” “Oh, I’m fine.” I find a smudge of lead on my desk to rub at with my thumb, waiting for her to say something. “Well how are you feeling? I mean, doing alright?” “Yeah, I’m fine,” I tell her for the second time today. I called her earlier and complained that James, a close friend since high school, hit on me this afternoon. He wouldn’t accept “no;” I wouldn’t say “yes.” The sun’s low in the sky and at just the right angle to shine through my window. I reach for the cord. Blinds closed, the room’s irritatingly dark. I pull them up a little way; no good. The sun’s right at the bottom of the window. I turn the pole, adjusting their angle. Either the sun’s in my eyes or the room’s too dark. I yank on the cord and the blinds wiz up to the top. Disappointed by how sturdy the fixtures are, I try and ignore the sun. “Look, Cecelia, I appreciate the call. But I’ve got a calc test to study for. Talk to you later? Great.” I hit “End” and drop the phone on my desk. I spin three times in my chair, get up, and look in the mirror. There’s a zit high on my forehead. It’s an annoying one that’s going to hurt like a bitch to pop. I crawl onto my bed and lie face down for a few minutes. I turn over and stare at the ceiling; nothing’s interesting. I notice my watch ticking away. TICK, TICK, TICK, TICK. I take it off and push it under my pillow. From beneath my pillow, the ticking seems to grow louder. With each tick I can feel the veins in my temples throb. I touch

william abernathy

28


“Sure.” I feel compelled to take one, not out of a sense of courtesy, but fate. I take the cigarette. He hands me the lighter, saving me the trouble of asking. We smoke in silence, looking at nothing in particular. The sun doesn’t reach this side of the dorm. The tops of the buildings across the street are gold with light. The sky is a gentle blue-gray. It doesn’t choose which. We don’t see the need either. We’re all tired. Day’s almost over. I finish my cigarette and look at him once more. He’s already started a second. I bend down and stab the butt on the cement. “Thanks,” I say. “Yeah, don’t worry about it. No more stress, ‘kay?” He looks at me with an eyebrow raised. Under normal circumstances I would hate him for being so ironic about everything, but I can’t seem to find the emotion. “Okay.” “Good.” He looks back at the sky and blows out a stream of white smoke that quickly dissipates into the ever-coolingevening. “No stress.” He says it to himself, as if I’m already gone. I leave. When I get back into my room I find my cell phone waiting for me on my desk. It’s crossing its arms and sticking a hip out, judging me, pretending to be my conscience. I pick it up and press “Send.” “Hi, Thomas. One date, okay? That’s all.”

abernathy

than me anyway. Really, I’m not that special. I just want things to stay the same.” “Sorry about your friend. Things will stay normal between us. Though I wish you’d consider it.” “I have,” I lie. “I’d make you miserable.” “Alright. I’ll see you later.” I thank him and say goodbye. Oddly enough, some of the tension I felt building earlier seems to have retreated. I go out to the parking lot next to my dorm and get in my car. It’s an ‘87 El Camino with black primer and the left side mirror missing. A song plays on the radio. I don’t remember the name, but it used to play when I was in middle school. I can’t think of anywhere to go, so I get out. A skinny guy comes out of the dorm. He’s wearing a fedora and vest. Hipster. I don’t know his name but I’ve seen him on the second floor of my dorm. He takes out a pack of cigarettes and lights up. Typical. I ready a response in case he talks to me. He’ll probably just sneer at my clothes. Jerk. I step up the curb. We’re right next to each other. I look over; he’s looking at me. Asshole, I should punch him. “You okay?” he asks. “What?” I say. I can’t detect any emotion on his face. “Are you okay?” “Yeah. Why?” “Want a smoke?”

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short fiction

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Me and Dogs ME AND DOGS

arun anand ahuja

arun anand ahuja

engineering. My thesis had me sacrifice dogs after day-long experiments on each. I was modeling the blood profile of a drug that gets injected into a human right after a heart attack; at the end of such overwhelming trauma to the dogs, I would humanely give them a heart attack by injecting a fatal dose of potassium chloride. One of the professors who was on my thesis approval committee told me that sufficient statistics could have been obtained without sacrificing thirty-five dogs. After graduating, I went to work in a lab where we studied mitral flows through the heart. It was easier to experiment on an animal with a disproportionally large heart, and that would be dogs. Night after night I sat on the lab computer, programming away while next morning’s sacrificial dog howled loud and long in a cage next door. These sessions were interrupted once by a bunch of irate medical students, who then launched a complaint, protesting animal cruelty. Years later, years after moving to Berkeley and becoming a bit of a naturalist, I worked for a project studying the mental health of children. We were a small team, so small we all worked in the principal investigator’s house, which had in it an English sheepdog. I hated it when the dog barked at me (the highest paid employee!) because I was programming for them and would lose concentration. When I shooed the dog away, my boss said I should instead “behave like a sheep.” He actually said this. When I kept warding off the dog, my boss gave me an ultimatum: either I stopped “disciplining the dog” or I would be terminated.

Arun Anand Ahuja / Arun is taking a string of movement relaxation classes at UNM, teaches quigong exercise to seniors, and is fascinated by the natural tai chi of cats.

vol. xxxvi

nonfiction

ahuja

These days a strange dog has just to amble in my direction, and I go into a mental gridlock as a condensation of a push-pull impulse deeper than flight or fight. So I am beginning to wonder why. What is it about my karma that I have such strong sensitivities about dogs? Because I have noticed that underlying this confused aversion on my part when approached, I am sensitive enough to also want to hug them (especially shaggy retrievers). To explain this, I must get back to my childhood. We had two dogs in the family. The first came on board when I was three. I was so fascinated seeing a tail on a body that I would hang the puppy upside down by seizing this snaky appendage and watch the puppy snarl as its head arced upward. Maybe this was why for, the fourteen years this dog lived with us, it ignored me pointedly, never once coming over to be petted. Years later, this dog got bit real hard in the head by another dog. Maybe that was why it was more than jealous when we got our second dog, a cute little cocker spaniel, and kept attacking it. One day I noticed the older dog was no longer with us. Those months my father was operating on dogs at the hospital to practice open heart surgery. I never saw that dog again. A few months before I left town to go to college, I was attacked at night by a pack of wild dogs at a lonely intersection, while bicycling back home. I fled, with one of them trying to nip a pedaling ankle, escaping only because I could shut our gate on them. Five years later I was off to graduate school in biomedical

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In Berkeley, the dogs were like people: they would have this whiny, complaining, slow-rising bark. When I moved to Albuquerque, I discovered that a lot of dogs have an explosive onset to their bark, especially when they are behind those solid wooden fences. It shocks the crap out of me, a guy who walks a lot, because I don’t have a car. It’s like, “Why can’t I bark first?” But after all these experiences, I am, by now, hip to matters of ordinance enforcement, when it comes to Albuquerque, even nuanced matters like it being a violation of code to have a dog off-leash in a front yard without a fence. Do I hate dogs? Sorry, but that kind of gossip about me is false. Dogs are like human kids. That is what somebody said who let his dog bark at me smack dab in his own house during his party. I see his point. Besides, I suffered the throngs of dogs being brought over from all parts of town to the UNM North Golf Course; I lived right next to it for many years, and I did not mind too much. This is because I had a sweet-tempered bichon frisè to walk myself, and yes, let stand at times off-leash in

the front yard with no fence. This was my sister’s dog; I was living at my sister’s house. Right after I moved in there, my sister, a doctor, assigned this doggie to sleep on my bed with me for therapeutic purposes. You see, I had just been diagnosed, among other things, with PTSD. The psychiatrist who diagnosed me with PTSD gave me a clue. He guessed that when my dad, the military surgeon, dragged my mother over to where I was sitting and gave her a black eye, our dog must have barked. Last year my sister’s dog died; I found a sob stirring deep in my heart for just the second time in my life (the first was a full year after my mother died). In so learning about the grieving process, I have become a Buddhist. We chant for the happiness of all living beings. During gongyo practice, we strike the gong for “individuals who are deceased.” I start with pets my family has had. Just before I move up to people, I ring out a quick burst of thirty-five.

ahuja

“I found a sob stirring deep in my heart for just the second time in my life”

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oncho s left P â&#x20AC;&#x2122; scott palmer

PONCHOâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S LEF T scott palmer

Boy soldiers in green bodies Melt in throes of Zippo flame Clad in olive uniforms They cannot speak With plastic tongues

sounds create environmental notice with cheap bullets, crisscrossed fly into sunken chests hearts shrink upon self Ammo fusion cores are weak i in my tiny modes Daddy War bucks held war counsel, i am fright no land to name as own little troop movements At five a.m. morning daddy home, vacation over El Paso heat pick weeds, put in coffee cans red full to the brim Sister in the house

Scott Palmer / Scott has been writing for twenty-seven years. He works at UNM. He writes poetry to expunge past issues and feelings from his present.

vol. xxxvi

poetry

palmer

with Daddy dearest a cruel drill instructor rape & pillage, own daughter mental army mess tents my mind runs away

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A sin of Omission A A SIN OF OMISSION joseph kuster

joseph kuster

kuster

He wears a red shirt and khaki shorts, moves with deliberate oddness. I can create the future in a second, so I do. I play with the idea, but I can’t afford any more women in white dresses. At the bank, a teller shows me that a compliment can change the course of a day. I stroll through aisles of canned goods, feeling kinship with older women, with withered hands, with faces that reflect the simple joy of a compartmentalized life. This is My House, this is My Kitchen, This is the Spice Rack that steals minutes from my day. I agonize over every new flavor Paprika, nutmeg, imitation vanilla. I don’t make dramatic mistakes. Only little ones.

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Joseph Kuster / Joseph, originally from Colorado, is pursuing a double major in film and German. He was previously featured in the Celebrating What is Important to Me essay anthology (2006-07 volume), and his article, “Allusions That Dare Not Speak Their Name: Coded Culture and Queer History in Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” was published in the spring 2012 issue of Best Student Essays.

poetry

conceptions southwest


All this beloved and Vulnerable flesh ALL THIS BELOVED AND VULNERABLE FLESH joseph kuster

joseph kuster

vol. xxxvi

kuster

These are the things that linger: A dirt road Crisp white fabric The glint of a lapel button Dust caught in an undulating breeze over miniature tire-track mountains A goat crossing the path who regards me with his somber eyes one confused animal to another. Give me a hug, I was brave today The blanket I wrapped myself in before drifting to sleep The uncertain mantra that held my hand Hovering recognizable faces that will never look the same and were never what I pictured in my head Today is a day for huddled bodies around quiet beds For the tiny fulcrum that separates before and after For the sharp scent of antiseptic that changes the color of the world. Give me a hug, I was brave today Withdrawing to the comforting press of the bubble Where sensation becomes irrelevant Where the faces in my head are real They are colorful and joyous and mad with belonging whispering and shaking with delight Drowning, submerged in softly lit miracles. Give me a hug, I was brave today The present, impossible irrelevant pinprick, Imprisons the man I could be and have been in shards of meticulously blown glass An anonymously brown patch of earth A glowering accusation lingering in the back of the skull Suddenly the shards are broken the world turns

poetry

34


kuster

35

One oppressive rush of sound alters every future. Give me a hug, I was brave today Maybe I’ve needed someone, some warmth before sleeping A face, a hand, a thought, a gesture A rock anchoring what I can imagine to what I can touch But it’s too much and it’s not enough and it’s beautiful to taste It burns and it soothes and this vessel will never stop aching Somewhere alongside a dirt road little pieces of leg are being carried by ants carefully stored for some inevitable future when there’s nothing left to devour There are only two horrors what we do to each other and what happens for no reason. Give me a hug, I was brave today I will still sleep on the glistening bones of selves that never were as ants carry me safely into the catacombs of their own grand realities murmuring placid fantasies to patient shades gentle gods whose names are songs of forgiveness Blessed Be the Tie that Binds A dwelling that feeds on reluctantly marred flesh, that radiates and grows and twines that can only and will always exist twisting spires of joy, sentient inevitable towers because being brave isn’t enough. This is the world that was and the world that is Gloriously sealed by its own hermetic peace Here lies the brooding open field inside my mind Quiet and acquiescent and finally utterly still a repeated cycle, a millisecond, an eternity Growing and ravishing, healing with a glance The only gods are the ones we create The listless soil exhales life and flesh and curiosity cultivating the only light that matters Here is where the stars have faces they breathlessly anticipate the graceful dance of endless possibilities The unstoppable intricacy of one moment of one life Impossible and terrifying and unspeakably flawless This is where we live, in the space between seconds The eternal insistent flash Magnificence, dreams that walk and love, enormous and elegant, A tiny hand grasping a finger, a perfectly blue eye, The shape of a dress, the sound of a cello, Waves on a beach, unconditional smiles, Shifting and laughing and swelling in unison Purple hearts, fluorescent pupils, carefully applied freckles The ceaseless blanketing warmth of acceptance unavoidable, unyielding, all-consuming These are the things that linger.

poetry

conceptions southwest


SERENIT Y brenda stephens 13” x 8” x 26.25” Acrylic on Glass Vase

vol. xxxvi

visual art

stephens

Brenda Stephens / Bre is an abstract colorist who emerged onto the art scene in 2007. Her work delves into the use of color as a means of expressing certain emotions and feelings within the viewer. To date, she has shown her work in the states of Ohio, Missouri, New Mexico, and California.

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COSMIC WATER DANCE

12” x 48” Acrylic on Canvas

stephens

brenda stephens

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visual art

conceptions southwest


stephens

vol. xxxvi

visual art

38


BLISS 42

24” x 36” Crayon on Paper, Cardboard

stephens

brenda stephens

39

visual art

conceptions southwest


FLIGHT OF A THOUSAND BIRDS

24” x 24” Acrylic on Canvas

brenda stephens

stephens

vol. xxxvi

visual art

40


ARTEMIS

Digital Art

huynh

kim huynh

41

Kim Huynh / Kim has been drawing since she could hold a pencil. Most of her inspiration comes from other artists and her current mood. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been showcased in the annual Albuquerque Metro Art Show.

visual art

conceptions southwest


PORTRAIT

Digital Art

kim huynh

huynh

vol. xxxvi

visual art

42


CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY

Digital Art

huynh

kim huynh

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visual art

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THE OLD BAZAAR, TEHRAN, IRAN sarvin bourbour 12” x 16” Oil Color

vol. xxxvi

bourbour

Sarvin Bourbour / Sarvin was born in 1976 in Tehran, Iran. She practiced as an attorney for ten years. She also pursued her interest in fine arts, participating in several group and solo exhibitions in water color as well as oil color. Her work was selected for the competition “Remarkable Women in Art” and was exhibited in the Red -Dot Gallery in Santa Fe in November 2012.

visual art

44


FALL

16” x 20” Water Color

bourbour

sarvin bourbour

45

visual art

conceptions southwest


bourbour

WINTER

12” x 16” Water Color

sarvin bourbour vol. xxxvi

visual art

46


NATUREâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S LOOKING GLASS

mccarthy

kelly m ccarthy

47

Digital Photography

Kelly McCarthy / Kelly is a graduate student at the University of New Mexico and she is pursuing an M.A. in sociology. As an aspiring photographer, she has been published several times and is starting a photography website to showcase her portrait work.

photography

conceptions southwest


kelly m ccarthy

vol. xxxvi

mccarthy

SUMMERâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S LONG GONE Digital Photography

photography

48


AF TER THE THAW kelly mccarthy

mccarthy

Digital Photography

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photography

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SERENADE kelly m c carthy

Digital Photography

mccarthy

vol. xxxvi

photography

50


THE CANNIBALISM OF DESIRE claire stasiewicz Digital Photography

stasiewicz

Claire Stasiewicz / Claire is a sophomore at UNM. From photography to writing extremely poor poems, Claire participates in many different art practices but would not consider herself an artistâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;though, if you want to call her one, she wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t object or anything. Claire studies art history, is a Scribendi staff member, is deeply involved in many important and wonderful organizations, and spends far too much time eating Nutella.

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OCTOPODA INCIRRINA

8” x 8” Cyanotype Print

claire stasiewicz

stasiewicz

vol. xxxvi

photography

52


T

SHAPE OF SILMULACRUM Digital Photography

stasiewicz

claire stasiewicz

53

photography

conceptions southwest


he yuwipi man T THE YUWIPI MAN

jeremy shattuck

I was invited to my aunt and uncle’s because they wanted children to some degree, but they were unable to have any. To make matters more interesting, my uncle had recently been in a car accident that had caused him brain damage, and my aunt had breast cancer. I cannot imagine how much of a pain in the ass I must have been. However, it was hard because I missed my parents and siblings most days. A few weeks later my mother called and told me that my father had stopped taking his meds. He had thrown his prescriptions into the trash as he exited the Tucson hospital after an altercation with his doctor. I was immediately concerned about him, but my anxiety was eased when I was told I would see them all soon. When I saw my family, I was ecstatic. My father was friendlier than I had seen him in a long time. My parents explained that we were all going to a Yuwipi ceremony in southern Missouri. My aunt was invited because of her breast cancer and was able to bring my father along. It seemed so secretive that I am still unsure I should even be talking about it, much less writing about it. We drove for a long time into what seemed like the deep countryside. It was green and lush with many serpentine streams that cut through the rolling landscape. Everything tasted, looked, and smelled a dark and pungent green, a striking difference to the dry desert I was accustomed to. The gravel in the driveway crackled as we pulled up to a two-story abode fenced by cars. The inside of the house smelled of potatoes and corn and was packed with people of all ages. I did my best to stay close to my father and

Jeremy Shattuck / Jeremy is a senior in cinematic arts at UNM. He hails from Santa Fe and spends his time producing music and films and writing for his website, hipandtrippy.com.

vol. xxxvi

nonfiction

shattuck

It was 1988, and my father was dying from an acute case of lupus. The Western take was to dose the patient with moderate amounts of anti-inflammatories (steroids) in the hope that it would improve the vigor of the heart, lungs, and immune system (a treatment that has hardly changed since). However, the steroids only seemed to exacerbate his condition. Instead of small amounts of fluid in his heart and lungs, larger and larger quantities began developing. Doctors responded to this by increasing the dosage of steroids and performing periodic surgeries to drain the fluids. My dad was always miserable and angry from the steroids, but I never hated him for it, not even when he hit me in the head with a cup from the other end of our living room. My father was an artist, and my mother was a full-time student at Cochise College in southern Arizona. It is safe to say we were far from financially stable for a medical calamity. Moreover, the hardship became the catalyst for my being sent to live with my dad’s sister and her husband in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis was one of the most challenging times of my life. I was from St. David, Arizona, a town of about one thousand people. I had only seen one African American boy in my life, who suffered greatly from the white Mormon children who ran the schoolyard. In St. Louis, there was a myriad of gradients and languages that seemed to mostly harmonize. Aside from ethnic diversity, the famous arch and the tall buildings were dizzying. Going to the corner to get the paper for my uncle even scared the crap out of me; he didn’t understand why.

jeremy shattuck

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avoid most of them. The ritual began in a small Lakota/Sioux sweat lodge in the late afternoon. The lodge was circular, constructed from arching willow branches and covered with many buffalo hides to keep the heat in and light out. It was designed to fit about ten people, but I found twenty plus men inside wearing a mixture of shorts and deerskin breechcloths. Before I entered I made an offering for my father’s healing, placing my prized black Casio watch inside the medicine bag attached to a small tepee-like frame of prayer sticks. After making a clockwise motion around the lodge and saying “mitakuye oyasin” (to all my relations), I proceeded into the darkness. It was dry and hot inside; the smell of dirt and ash infused with the silence. The shaman began to sing and drum from somewhere in the darkness. The rocks in the center hissed and pulsated red, gray, and white as cold water crashed against them. A vaporous, reddish glow illuminated the faces of my father and the young Lakota surrounding him. My father’s white hair and pale complexion seemed to fade in and out with the gloom. Scalding hot sweat poured on me from a young Native American man standing over me. With every scoop of water that hit the rocks, I lowered my body closer and closer to the cool ground. I knew I needed to stay to support my father in prayer, so I remained as long as I could. By the third door, or third time the entry is opened to recognize the Third World (Cardinal Point), I had to leave because I was too hot. Outside the door, several painted turtles had gathered. There was a stark contrast as I crawled onto the cold mud and away from the hot steam exuding from the lodge. An hour or so later I saw my father again: his face was a dark red and his large potbelly protruded over the white towel around his waist. He looked happy and exhausted. After dinner we gathered for the ceremony. There were about twenty-five who had come for healing and about fifty others who had come to pray for them. The ceremony took place in a large basement. There

were about five rows of people crammed foot-to-back and side-to-side against one another. A small path was left through the center of the room. We faced toward the front of the room where a shaman stood in western attire. To the left of him were two rows of those being healed, including my father and aunt. On the right side of the room there was a handful of men who would do the singing and drumming. My father had told me the basement had to be used because natural light would drive away the spirits needed for the healing. The door and two small windows were covered with several layers of trash bags, as would the shaman be. I was in just about the dead center of the rows of people on the left side of the room. I felt claustrophobic because we were packed in so tightly and the windows and door were sealed. Made worse by the anxiety I felt for my father’s welfare. After the shaman’s hands and fingers were bound with rope, he was wrapped in several black trash bags and then put inside a couple burlap sacks. My father told me after that they could not start until he had stopped breathing and “left his body” to work with other spirits. Several minutes later he stopped moving and the lights were turned out. In the pitch-black room I saw small, colored lights that appeared to dance to the haunting singing and syncopated bass from the deerskin drums. The smell of the basement seemed to intensify as the singing and chanting increased in volume. Pretty soon they were right on top of me, a rattle right next to my right ear and a man’s voice singing in my left. I thought I understood the song at the time, but I couldn’t figure out how anyone had gotten anywhere near me. I lied about the ceremony for many years after. I even angrily told my mom later that evening that “someone stepped on my hand.” She replied in a loving tone: “Oh yeah?” She knew I was lying because it was simply not plausible. I was terrified of what happened to me in the ceremony, but more scared that none of it would help my dad. Watching a man appear to revive himself after being pulled out of all of those bags was also terrifying. I might go as far as

shattuck

“The shaman began to sing and drum from somewhere in the darkness.”

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to say that was the first time I saw death and luckily the last for a long time after. My father made a full recovery and to this day (2013) shows no signs of any autoimmune disease. My aunt developed a watermelon-sized bruise over each breast and has been cancer-free ever since. They were also both disowned by their doctors instead of congratulated. However, what matters is that my family and I were ecstatic. I am not sure what happened during that

summer in St. Louis. However, I can tell you that I was given the chance to truly get to know my father, who is now one of my best friends. We have enjoyed many more sweat lodge ceremonies together and a few bottles of whiskey beneath the stars and beautiful desert sky (now in New Mexico). I am now thirty-two years old, and I can tell you, I love my father, and, though I do not know what happened, I thank that Yuwipi Man for giving me the chance to know him.

shattuck

vol. xxxvi

nonfiction

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Still-frame of energy exchange STILL-FRAME OF ENERGY EXCHANGE christina faris

christina faris

faris

On the treeless street a shimmer of bone glows from the gray hands that hum near breasts and throat of that wild plum woman. Her skin quivers, untouched and shatterproof as a godhead. A flame-white aura encases their bodies into a single trembling cell & her moth-breath escapes into a starless sky, leaving bits of wings behind for him to gather and try to piece together

57

Christina Faris / Tina is a super senior at UNM, studying creative writing and international studies. She will be pursuing a Masterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s degree in international relations next year. She loves traveling, inordinate amounts of coffee, Latin America, and almost any kind of chocolate.

poetry

conceptions southwest


GRAZING NEAR INCA RUINS christina faris

STAFF CHOICE AWAR D PHO T O G RA P H Y

Digital Photography

faris

vol. xxxvi

photography

58


MOTHER AND CHILD lauren salvato Digital Photography

salvato

Lauren Salvato / Lauren is a senior at the University of New Mexico majoring in environmental science and minoring in sustainability studies and Italian. She has a passion for traveling and has grown to love photography. The photographs submitted were taken in Mekâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ele, Ethiopia on an Operation Smile Medical Mission.

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MEKâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ELE MARKETPLACE

Digital Photography

lauren salvato

salvato

vol. xxxvi

photography

60


TANEY BUT TERFLY

myers

Digital Photography

61

jessie myers

Jessie Myers / Jessie is attending UNM and majoring in anthropology. She has been practicing photography as a hobby for five years.

photography

conceptions southwest


JELLYFISH jessie myers

Digital Photography

myers

vol. xxxvi

photography

62


ncounters E kylie manning

ENCOUNTERS kylie manning

Last night he met a bear— Nose to nose they froze Bare-branched oaks encircled While distant stars twinkled above And the field crickets sang. Last night he met a woman— Hands clasped as they embraced Window blinds were drawn While streetlights illuminated the avenue And stray cats yowled.

manning

Last night he met a ghost— Breath halted as they wavered Curtains stirred by a mysterious breeze While candles flickered upon the table And the staircase creaked.

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Kylie Manning / Kylie is a Master’s student in the UNM History Department. She earned her BA last May with a major in American history and a minor in film studies at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA. She is a native New Mexican, a dancer, and an avid reader.

poetry

conceptions southwest


FLORENZA

36â&#x20AC;? x 36â&#x20AC;? Acrylic

josephine b. vincioni STA FF CHOICE A WA RD V I SU AL ART

vol. xxxvi

vincioni

Josephine Vincioni / Jo graduated from UNM, retired from American Airlines, and is currently the clinic coordinator for the Hereditary Cancer Assessment Program at the UNM CRTC. She is inspired by God, devoted to her husband, adult children, extended family, and friends. And considers herself to be very blessed.

visual art

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ool sweater W WOOL SWEATER linnea burleigh

linnea burleigh

My sister pinned him on her wall; the tack left a printed circle and a hole piercing straight through, dead center. In September she scrawled a note on the back and mailed it to me with a purple dress. I propped him up on my dusty Wurlitzer against old glass bottles, dried flowers sticking from their necks, and there he sits, his dejected gaze staring out from under a crown of feathery hair and above the collar of a dark-knit sweater. The thick strokes of brows are too similar to my brother’s, a boy trying to be a man, but hiding behind sneers and scorn, like a sheep in its wool from shearers and sharp thorns. So as sisters we’re tied closer than the matching curve and shape of eyes, the same intonation and quick laugh, blood type O positive, because we share him—our brother—a boy tired of the world, who’s wound himself into a stubborn knot and won’t be undone. And we’ve both stared at this photo, a man tired and worn, whom I know I don’t know but I feel like I should.

burleigh

We sisters to a brother can’t watch him every day, so we look at this man’s peering eyes, hope, and pray. But really— what use is wool, if to not be knit into a sweater?

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Linnea Burleigh / Linnea had always hated poetry, so it came as a bit of a surprise to her when she took a poetry writing class and realized how ridiculously mistaken she had been. Ever since then, she has spent her spare time with her new love, scribbling nonsense, hoping that some truth and beauty might come out of it.

poetry

conceptions southwest


pistle E

EPISTLE linnea burleigh

linnea burleigh

I wrote a letter to my father. I pinned it on a tree and it flapped there all winter. The snow ran the ink in long blue rivulets and sagged the paper wet and thin, but it flapped itself dry every day. In spring, the winds tore it away and I chased after before it flapped down the street. I hung it up again and traced the lines with indelible marker so rejuvenated it flapped once more. All summer, through dry rains and quick days, it fluttered involuntarily like the mutter of a steady heart and the whisper of slowing breath.

Then in the First Week of Winter, when each flake is fragrant and new, the glint of the pin in the gray bark caught my eye like starlight, and I suddenly heard the faint flutter of paper through the blood in my ear, like words of truth in reply to the unsent.

poetry

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vol. xxxvi

The paper thinned and tore, each scrap struggled up to the blank sky against the swirling leaves and baring branches, and I forgot whom it was to and why it even mattered. The letter had slipped itself into nothing but a slur and murmur of what it was, and the ideals it had set forth, yellow, bright hope for restoration and regeneration, green promises of forgiveness, were blurred into the very bark of the tree as if they had never left that from which they were created.

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he tallest ladder T THE TALLEST LADDER linnea burleigh

linnea burleigh

burleigh

There is a poem whirling around my head out of reach. I know itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s there; its breath is soft on my neck, an incessant hiss in my ear.

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I write, hoping each word will be another step in a ladder that will carry me nearer To that damn poem buzzing a little farther away, taunting me with a hum that sends goosebumps up my arm. I turn my head and catch a glimpse of it, a little ball of burning, a piece of the sun as piercing as the rising moon, the wind in the aspens, a cold running brook and the bite of autumn in my lungs. A wild knot of thread spun from a touch on the small of my back, an old wrinkled hand cradling a babyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s head, the smell of fresh, warm bread spread with butter, a new mother and father laughing, the sight of the stars spread over the depth of the sky. I cannot catch it.

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conceptions southwest


And suddenly I begin to wonder if I caught it, what would happen if my fragile body reached up and took the spinning orb into my thin, shaking hands? They would catch fire in an instant, burn in a roar of light, Flaming hands of yellow, blue, orange, that set fire to every page they touch, Leave a room of books in ashes, pens cracked open, the ink dried up, And I with nothing but singed eyebrows and scarred hands. I stand, hazy, three rungs from the top of the tallest ladder the poem still whirling my head And climb down to seek something that wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t bite so hard.

burleigh

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onsolation T C CONSOLATION

linnea burleigh linnea burleigh

burleigh

I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know if you remember what I told you last December about Orionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s constellation and why it gave me consolation to think that each star in its place, like the moon has a face, has been drawn by imagination into order and sensation; that despite chaos and torment and the stench of our own rotting ferment, humans seek the stars, connect the dots, and wish for something better than their lots.

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poetry

conceptions southwest


he world T upside down THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

linnea burleigh

STA FF CHOICE A WA RD P OE TRY

linnea burleigh

For a moment the world was upside down. For an hour it tipped up and over my wriggling toes. For a day it hung, bottom up, draining slowly. For a week terra firma slid down and out in long delicate streaks toward the sun. For a month we were a comet in the sky, slow motion, in perfect, cadenced beats, flying with our flare before us, lit up by the light in the darkness. For a year we were pulled out, our thin bodies stretched taller than trees or steeples, our talon fingers reaching at the sky below us. For a decade we lengthened down, our pointed feet running over the stars and moon that hummed shrilly, octaves beyond perfection, whirling blindly past a century, a new millennium, never stopping, but moving, smoothing, everything into a long upside down streak of color scent and sound. Something snapped, clicked.

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burleigh

When I opened my eyes you were standing above me smiling your hand solid on my shoulder the sun glowing behind your ear.

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BIKEâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S RAIN

Digital Photography

labreche

juan labreche

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Juan Labreche / Juan is an undergraduate of the University of New Mexico. An aspiring photojournalist majoring in multimedia journalism. Juan seeks out the passion expressed by individualsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; lives across the globe.

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conceptions southwest


CHILL RIDE juan labreche Digital Photography

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labreche

Rain drizzles the rues in the fourth arrondissement, Beaubourg, Paris. On the western side of the Pompidou a group of young cyclists, messieurs et madames, most of them on fixies with cans of Seize Soixante Quatre (1664) in hand, congregate and exchange hearty laughs, hugs, and the customary kiss on each cheek. Those who do not have a beer in hand walk into the nearby Monoprix and “get one for the road.” The group is known colloquially and increasingly as the Paris Chill Racing group (PCR). Taking the idea of the serious training ride and turning it into a more accessible group ride, the individuals behind PCR wanted a less serious, more socially forward method of gathering cyclists interested in riding fixies. This notion is solidified by the ending point of the often over twenty-five kilometer long rides through the busy streets of Paris. Traveling through England and France in the spring of 2012, I came upon the group of indispensable young cyclists in Paris. I spent two months cycling around Paris documenting the lives comprising the self-titled group. Camaraderie, love, bikes, beer, and a lot of Ricard were staples of two-wheeled Parisians. I left my heart in Paris. À bientôt.

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lank B

BLANK

sarah chantal parro

sarah chantal parro

Scene I

Setting: A psychiatrist’s office. Lights up to reveal a young woman—KATHERINE—sitting on the edge of a therapist’s couch, facing the audience. She is upset, sniffling, holding a wadded tissue in her hand. The psychiatrist, Dr. John Fielding, sits in a chair adjacent to the couch, wearing glasses and holding a pen and notepad. Time: The not-so-distant future. KATHERINE You must think I’m crazy. DR. FIELDING I’m your psychiatrist. KATHERINE Right, so, it’s in your job description to think I’m crazy. DR. FIELDING You’re in mourning, Katherine. The grief you’re experiencing is very normal. And we can take as many sessions as you need to work through it. KATHERINE Is that supposed to make me feel better? DR. FIELDING Does it?

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KATHERINE I don’t think anything can make me feel better anymore (long pause). I mean, how am I supposed to feel happy, or not even happy, to just feel…normal…now?

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Sarah Chantal Parro / Sarah received her B.A. in professional writing, with a minor in theatre from the University of New Mexico in 2012. Her work has been published previously in both the 2011 and 2012 issues of Conceptions Southwest. You can also find her freelance theatre reviews for TalkinBroadway.com as well as articles on EvangelicalOutpost.com.

script

conceptions southwest


DR. FIELDING You don’t need to have a specific goal you’re aiming for regarding your emotions. It’s important to just let yourself feel what you need to feel, whatever that is. KATHERINE I feel like shit. I feel like God hates me, or maybe just doesn’t care. I feel—(chokes back a sob) DR. FIELDING Go on. It’s important to vocalize. KATHERINE I feel like I don’t want to feel anything anymore! DR. FIELDING What do you mean by that? KATHERINE I mean…he’s gone. He was here, he was with me, and everything was fine, and now…he’s just…not. And I don’t want to feel happy because I can’t imagine ever being happy again, but I don’t want to feel what I’m feeling because it makes me want to kill myself. DR. FIELDING Katherine, have you been having suicidal thoughts? KATHERINE …No. Not really, anyway. I just mean that…I’d rather not feel anything at all than have to keep going the way I am. DR. FIELDING I know it’s difficult, but the emotions you’re feeling are part of the grieving process. KATHERINE Well then I don’t want to be in this grieving process anymore! I want this all to be over, to never have happened. DR. FIELDING You can’t change what happened, Katherine. All you can do is try to sort through it and rebuild your life. KATHERINE …

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DR. FIELDING …

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KATHERINE … DR. FIELDING Listen. There’s a new drug available now. It’s been in clinical trials for a long time, but it’s gotten some really positive results, and now I’m able to prescribe it to patients. I think it might help with what you’re going through. KATHERINE New drug? DR. FIELDING Yes. It can help you deal with your…pain. In small doses, mind you, but it might be a good supplement to our sessions, which seem to not be having quite the complete effect I would have hoped. DR. FIELDING scribbles out a prescription and hands the paper to KATHERINE. DR. FIELDING Get this filled and come see me again in two weeks to check in. KATHERINE Thank you, Dr. Fielding. (pause) Will this really help me? DR. FIELDING My job is to help you heal, so as much as it can help with that, then I hope so. Blackout.

Scene II Setting: The living room of DR. JOHN FIELDING’s home. His wife, LAURA, is busy tidying up. She is dressed nicely. JOHN enters. LAURA John! LAURA goes to him and kisses him lovingly. She helps him out of his coat.

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LAURA (playfully) You’re late. Stewart and Nancy will be here soon.

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JOHN Oh, that’s tonight? I completely forgot. LAURA Well, I’ll finish getting ready out here. Why don’t you go freshen up? Dinner’s already going.

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conceptions southwest


JOHN (sighs) Alright. Lights go black and there is a quick scene change. Lights up to reveal the dining room, where JOHN, LAURA, STEWART, and NANCY sit. There are a few lingering dinner dishes, but they have moved on to drinks. The men are laughing. STEWART (through laughs) So I told him, “If I give you another month’s worth of meds, will you promise to stop calling me at home?” NANCY Oh, I hope you don’t actually use prescriptions as bribery, Stewart. STEWART We do what we have to do, Nance. Isn’t that right, John? JOHN Don’t worry, Nancy. We psychiatrists take the Hippocratic Oath just like the rest of ‘em. Although, I have been thinking about something I prescribed a patient earlier today. STEWART Oh? JOHN Poor thing. She’s been grieving so severely, and you know how the board has been pressuring us to promote that new drug…. STEWART Ah. Yes. I’ve been feeling a little on edge about that as well. And you prescribed it to this girl? JOHN Well, in light of her situation—and of course I can’t divulge any details—but just based on her sessions lately, I felt like it might actually…help her. LAURA What is this new drug?

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JOHN I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Emoticlipsen. “Eclipse your negative emotions,” the slogan goes. NANCY Oh, yes, I’ve heard of that. I even have a friend or two who’ve taken it. I’ve only heard good things.

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STEWART Well, it was in trials for a long time, and for good reason. Personally, I think they should’ve waited longer to release it to the public. JOHN That’s my feeling as well. I can’t help but wonder if I made a mistake by prescribing it today. It was the first time I’d given a patient a prescription for it. LAURA Well, John, if you think this medicine could help a patient, you didn’t do anything wrong by giving it to them. JOHN I’m just not sure if it’s a realm of science we fully understand yet. If it’s something we’re ready, I’m ready, to dole out to patients. Especially when they’re vulnerable. STEWART I wouldn’t worry too much, John. I mean, I’ve got my reservations as well, but I’ve already given it to three patients in the last six months, and they’ve all shown marked improvement. It only seems to be doing good. LAURA So what does it do, exactly? I mean, what is it supposed to help with? JOHN It’s designed to suppress negative emotions. Pain, guilt, shame...or grief in the case of my patient today. Any emotion that’s unpleasant to feel, you pop a pill and poof! No more bad feelings. That’s how they advertise it, anyway. I’m not sure if I totally trust those claims yet. STEWART Actually, it won’t just be pills if things keep going the way they are. If they keep getting positive feedback from patients, talk is, they’re going to develop an injection for higher doses and faster relief. JOHN It hasn’t even been on the market for a year! What about long-term side effects? NANCY Well I think it sounds great. I’d love to be able to take a pill to get rid of my negative emotions. I’d be a saint at the DMV.

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LAURA, STEWART, and NANCY laugh. JOHN takes another drink.

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STEWART Listen, John. They know what they’re doing. I’m sure that patient of yours will only be thanking you in a few weeks. Top me off?

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conceptions southwest


JOHN refills STEWART’s drink in silence. LAURA John, you’re a good man. And a good doctor. If you felt like this medicine would help your patient, you should trust that feeling. I know I do. JOHN smiles at LAURA, and they share a brief, tender moment. Then: LAURA Now, who’s up for dessert? Blackout.

Scene III Spotlight up to reveal a young woman—KATHERINE—sitting on a chair at a desk and listening to the radio. On the desk is a glass of water. The stage is otherwise dark. RADIO ANNOUNCER Welcome back to the program. We’ve got a great segment coming up that you’re going to want to stick around for. If you could take a pill or an injection that would suppress your negative emotions, would you? Well, there’s a new drug that’s been on the market for a few months now, quietly growing in popularity, but it’s also sparking some controversy. KATHERINE reaches into her pocket and pulls out a prescription bottle. She pops it open and shakes a small, white pill out into her hand. She places it in her mouth. RADIO ANNOUNCER The drug is called Emoticlipsen—you’ve probably seen the ads, promising to “eclipse your negative emotions” and leave you only feeling positive ones. Some researchers, and even some patients, are claiming that this is not entirely true, and that the ads are dangerously misleading the public. KATHERINE takes a drink from the glass of water and jerks her head back, swallowing the pill. As she does so, another spotlight comes up onstage, revealing JOHN sitting in his study, listening to the same radio program. RADIO ANNOUNCER Joining me today to discuss this issue is psychiatrist Dr. William Bradley. Dr. Bradley is among the original team of researchers who developed Emoticlipsen. Now, Dr. Bradley, how do you respond to those who are saying that Emoticlipsen is being falsely advertised?

parro

DR. BRADLEY Well, it’s simply not true. Emoticlipsen is advertised absolutely correctly. I can tell you first-hand that the drug does exactly what those ads say it does: it suppresses negative emotions to help people work through difficult times in life. As DR. BRADLEY’s voice is heard, KATHERINE shakes two or three more pills into her hand, puts them in her mouth, takes a drink of water,

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and swallows. Her actions are methodical. RADIO ANNOUNCER Listed among the side effects of Emoticlipsen are mood swings and depression; isn’t that a bit ironic? DR. BRADLEY Human emotions are complex. That’s why, instead of believing rumors and sensational claims, patients should consult with their doctors before starting Emoticlipsen, especially if they experience any negative side effects while taking it. KATHERINE pulls a small medicinal syringe out of her pocket. It is filled with a clear liquid. She rolls up her sleeve and injects the entire contents of the syringe into the crook of her arm. As she does so, her eyes roll back slightly, and for a moment she seems like she’ll pass out. There is a knock on the door in JOHN’s study. Lights dim over KATHERINE as JOHN turns the radio down and gets up to answer the door: it’s STEWART. JOHN Stewart! What are you doing here so late? STEWART John, I think you should sit down. Something’s happened. They sit. JOHN What is it? STEWART It’s Laura. STEWART places a hand on JOHN’s shoulder. JOHN What’s happened? STEWART She and Nancy were driving home. There was an accident. Nancy’s alright, just a few bumps and bruises, but Laura… she’s gone.

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JOHN gets up and starts pacing, distraught.

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STEWART The other driver swerved to avoid a dog. Or at least that’s what they said.

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conceptions southwest


JOHN I don’t understand. I don’t— JOHN stumbles back into his chair and holds his head in his hands. He starts to shake, then suddenly looks up. JOHN I want to go. I want to be there. JOHN gets up and moves toward the door. STEWART stops him. STEWART John you can’t! JOHN I want to see her! They struggle. STEWART There’s nothing to see! JOHN seems stunned by the words. The two stare at each other, silent. A phone rings in the next room. JOHN It’s probably— STEWART It’s okay. I’ll get it. STEWART exits. JOHN sits, clearly in shock. Lights rise over KATHERINE, and we hear the radio. RADIO ANNOUNCER Well, there you have it, listeners. Emoticlipsen—the miracle drug to “eclipse your negative emotions.” Ask your doctor about it today! And Dr. Bradley, thank you for joining us. DR. BRADLEY Thank you for having me. And as a final word, I also want to encourage anyone listening who may be dealing with emotional stress, pain, or trauma to talk your doctor or psychiatrist about Emoticlipsen. It may be just the thing to help you through your difficult time.

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parro

As the segment ends, KATHERINE’s eyes begin to roll back in her head and then close. Her breathing becomes short. She slumps over onto the desk, knocking the glass over and spilling the remaining water. A few moments pass as we observe her lifeless body and hear the RADIO ANNOUNCER’s voice.

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Blackout over KATHERINE. JOHN grabs the radio and throws it against a cabinet in the wall, then collapses into tears. Several items fall out of the cabinet, among them a pill bottle. JOHN Laura… JOHN sees the pill bottle and picks it up. He cradles it in his hands and stares at it. Blackout.

Scene IV The stage is dark. A spotlight comes up to reveal a radio, identical to the one JOHN destroyed on a small table DSC. As each character in the radio ad is heard speaking, another spotlight comes up to illumine them standing onstage, one by one. Spotlight comes up to reveal RADIO ANNOUNCER standing directly behind the radio, facing the audience. RADIO ANNOUNCER Are you sad? Lonely? Depressed? Just feeling a little blue? You’ve heard of Emoticlipsen, but did you know that it’s not just for serious depression? Spotlight comes up to reveal WOMAN #1 standing a few feet SR of RADIO ANNOUNCER, facing the audience. WOMAN #1 Some of my friends are on Emoticlipen, and I’ve thought about it, but I didn’t think it applied to my day-to-day anxiety. RADIO ANNOUNCER Well, it does now! Emoticlipsen has recently been approved for all levels and variations of negative emotions, from clinical depression to everyday down in the dumps. Spotlight up to reveal MAN standing opposite of WOMAN #1, SL, facing the audience. MAN I deal with a lot of stress at work. Can Emoticlipsen help with that? RADIO ANNOUNCER You bet! Emoticlipsen is cleared to treat any and every negative emotion you can think of! Spotlight up to reveal WOMAN #2 and CHILD standing slightly USL of MAN.

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WOMAN #2 My child suffers from moodiness. Is Emoticlipsen safe for kids?

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RADIO ANNOUNCER Emoticlipsen is safe for everyone ages five and up!

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conceptions southwest


CHILD smiles and gives a thumbs up to the audience. CHILD Thanks, Emoticlipsen! RADIO ANNOUNCER Talk to your doctor to see if Emoticlipsen is right for you! (in a stage whisper) But chances are, it is! ALL Have you had your Emoticlipsen today? Short blackout. Lights up on JOHN’s office, the same setting as Scene I. JOHN is agonizing over some paperwork at his desk. There is a knock at the door. JOHN Yes? STEWART enters and closes the door behind him. JOHN Is it lunchtime already? STEWART No. It’s just after ten. JOHN Then what is it? STEWART I just bumped into Elaine. She said you haven’t given out any new prescriptions for Emoticlipsen in almost three months. JOHN Did she? Well, you can tell Elaine, just like I told her, that I don’t believe in prescription quotas. I only prescribe medicine if I think my patients need it. STEWART But John…who doesn’t need Emoticlipsen? Everyone has negative emotions.

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JOHN You sound like one of those god-awful commercials that are always on.

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STEWART Well…I know I had reservations about it when it first came out, like you. But Nancy’s been taking it, and— JOHN What? Why is Nancy on it? STEWART I don’t think it’s any secret that she’s been pretty shaken up since…since the accident. She was the one driving, after all. I think she somehow feels responsible. Like she could have done something to avoid it. JOHN She shouldn’t feel that way. STEWART I know, but she does. Or at least, she did. John, it was awful. She wasn’t sleeping, she was falling behind at work, she couldn’t focus. But she’s been taking it every day for a few weeks now, and— JOHN Every day? The minimum dose is only twice a week! STEWART The minimum dose doesn’t work for everyone. They look at each other in silence for a few moments. JOHN What do you want, Stewart? I have work to do. STEWART Listen, John. My point is: you need to start upping your prescriptions, or else the board is going to take action. JOHN They’re going to fire me? I’ve been here longer than anyone. Longer than you.

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STEWART I don’t know if they’d fire you, but I do know that they’re not happy.

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JOHN Thanks for the warning, I guess. Is that all? Another pause.

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conceptions southwest


STEWART John…it’s been over six months. JOHN (sighs) We’ve talked about this. STEWART I know, but don’t you think that…maybe it’s time? Time to try and move on? Get your life back? JOHN Laura was my life, Stewart. And now she’s gone. And the only thing that reminds me of what I used to have is the pain I feel. Every. Single. Day. I’d rather feel that than feel nothing. STEWART It’s not about feeling nothing. It’s about…managing your pain, so you can be productive again. (pause) It’s helped me. JOHN You’re taking it, too? STEWART Sure! I deal with anxiety, stress, moodiness… JOHN This is exactly why I won’t prescribe it to so many of the patients who come in here. They just want a quick fix to all of their daily troubles. STEWART It’s safe for all levels of negative emotions. JOHN Did you memorize that commercial? STEWART John. As your friend, I want you to think about. Just think about it. Alright? You haven’t been yourself, and every time I see you, it’s like you’re less and less you. I just want to see you get back to normal. Will you think about it? JOHN I can’t make any promises.

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parro

STEWART pats JOHN on the shoulder and exits. JOHN pulls the same pill bottle from the earlier scene out of his pocket and sets it on his desk next to a picture of LAURA.

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JOHN Is he right? Do I need to move on? JOHN opens the pill bottle and taps a small white pill into his palm. He considers it for a moment. JOHN I love you, Laura. He pops the pill in his mouth and dry swallows. Blackout.

Scene V JOHN’s dining room from Scene II. Again, it is a post-dinner scene: JOHN, STEWART, and NANCY sit at the table, having drinks. They are smiling. They all seem happy. NANCY John, thank you again for having us over for dinner. It’s been too long. JOHN Well, thanks for helping with the cooking. I’m afraid I’m not very good in the kitchen. That was always Laura’s specialty. STEWART and NANCY laugh. JOHN smiles half-heartedly. STEWART Yes, she was quite the cook wasn’t she? I bet you’ve even lost weight since she died. JOHN frowns for a moment, then recovers. JOHN I wouldn’t be surprised. STEWART Nance, could you get me another? NANCY Sure, sweetie.

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NANCY exits with STEWART’s empty glass.

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STEWART So…how have things been?

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conceptions southwest


JOHN I’m not sure. STEWART Has the Emoticlipsen been helping? JOHN I suppose… STEWART But…? JOHN It just…it does what it’s supposed to. I don’t feel as sad anymore. I don’t have this weight of pain on me all the time. STEWART That’s great! JOHN But it doesn’t feel right. My wife, Stewart. It’s supposed to hurt. Isn’t it? STEWART For a little while, maybe. But John, we’re doctors. If there’s one thing I think we both know from doing the work we do, it’s that pain is bad. And anything we can do to make it stop is good. JOHN By taking away the pain, it’s like I’m losing part of her. The only part of her I have left. STEWART She’s gone, John. I’m sorry, but it’s high time you accept that and move on. And it sounds like Emoticlipsen is helping. JOHN is not fully listening. He’s gotten up and crossed to a side table against the wall. He picks up a photograph and shows it to STEWART. JOHN This photo. It’s the most recent photo I have of us together. From our trip to California last summer.

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STEWART I remember you telling me about it.

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JOHN After Laura died, I could barely be in this room without breaking down because I knew that this photo was here. Now I can look at it… JOHN stares into the frame. JOHN And I feel…nothing. I feel some of the happiness associated with the memory, but other than that I’m just…blank. And that feels wrong. JOHN continues staring at the photo. STEWART watches him. JOHN I still miss her, Stewart. Emoticlipsen hasn’t taken that away yet. When I think about her too much, it starts to come back…the pain. JOHN’s face becomes more pained the longer he looks at the photo. When he looks back at STEWART, there are tears in his eyes. JOHN I don’t think I can keep taking it, Stewart. I don’t think I want to. STEWART John, you’re upset. You need another dose. STEWART tries to take the photo away from JOHN. JOHN No, I don’t need another dose. JOHN grips the frame tightly. They struggle for a few moments. STEWART John, just trust me! STEWART pulls the frame free from JOHN, but it flies out of his hands and shatters on the floor. The two of them look at it.

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STEWART I’m sorry.

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STEWART takes his own bottle of Emoticlipsen from his pocket, taps out a pill, and holds it out to JOHN. STEWART But it’s for your own good.

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conceptions southwest


JOHN stares at the pill in STEWART’s hand. He is about to take it when NANCY enters holding several pieces of broken glass. NANCY What’s going on? I heard something break. JOHN What is that? NANCY What? Oh, I’m not sure. I was going to ask you. NANCY sets the glass pieces on the table. JOHN gets closer to look at them. NANCY I found them in the back of the cupboard, wrapped in a towel. It’s some sort of broken glass? JOHN It’s Laura’s. Silence. JOHN It was a novelty glass from a bar in Mexico. She brought it home from our honeymoon. I told her not to buy it. It was overpriced. STEWART John… JOHN I broke it. It was an accident. It happened a couple of days before she died. I was trying to do something nice…Laura hates doing the dishes, but she always does. I was actually trying to be careful. It’s oddly shaped. Narrow at the bottom. I couldn’t get my hand in all the way while I was drying it, and I dropped it. She loved that stupid glass. Every time she drank out of it she smiled at me. I didn’t want her to know I’d broken it. I hid it. JOHN breaks down, falling to his knees. STEWART looks at the pill he still holds in his open palm, looking genuinely concerned for the first time. JOHN It hurts. Oh, Laura…it hurts.

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NANCY remains standing by the table, watching. Blackout.

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A funeral in France A FUNERAL IN FRANCE

parro

sarah chantal parro sarah chantal parro

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When I think of France, I think of being surrounded by the constant noise and movement of our large extended family; huge meals around huge tables; late nights feeling our way back to the rented van through the pitch black that surrounded my aunt’s farmhouse; the dogs wrestling over large sticks; hours spent perched in the tree outside my grandparents’ house, overlooking the huge cornfield across the street and wondering how anything could be so peaceful. I think of the ocean. I think, of course, of Paris. The last time we went to France was to attend my grandfather’s funeral. Papa died suddenly in the spring. I say “suddenly” only because all death is sudden; he was old, early eighties, and his health had been declining in that vague, general way it does when people get old. My grandmother—we called her “Mutti,” a nickname that I can never remember the meaning or origin of—had passed almost exactly one year before; I had not been able to attend her funeral because of school commitments. When Papa died, it was early May, a month before my fiancé, Jordan, and I were to get married. We were both in college, me finishing my sophomore year, he his senior year. We had met in high school at a swing dance party; he’s taller than me by just enough, so I can look up into his hazel eyes, but also wear high heels without awkwardly towering over him. He has a full build and strong arms, but not overly muscular. He taught me how to do the rock step. We’ve been together ever since. I was studying in my bedroom when my family got the news. I don’t remember what I was studying, but my younger sister Hannah, thirteen at the time, interrupted whatever it was by knocking on my door. When I answered it Hannah said, without any pretext, “Papa died.” She wasn’t crying. Even at thirteen, she had a sad, knowing

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look in her eyes, as if she was really telling me, “Mom’s upset; she needs us.” In the initial shock I could only stare stupidly and mutter, “Oh. I’ll be right down.” I shut my door and returned to my desk for a few moments to gather my thoughts and prepare myself to face my mother, who was still downstairs. Before I had the chance to leave my room, however, Mom came knocking to tell me the news, apparently unaware that Hannah had done so minutes earlier. She had tears in her eyes, and her voice shook as she explained that her brother, Danny, had phoned from France, where almost all of her family has lived for over thirty years and now where both of her parents had lived and died. Soon my other siblings, David, Jonathan, and Jonathan’s wife, Nicole, joined us in the kitchen of our family home. My older sister Rebekah would join us later; she was in California attending law school. I can’t remember if my father was there; I have no memory of him from this night. Perhaps he had been on call at the hospital, as he was so many nights. The next several minutes are a blur in my memory, consisting of hugs and stiff nods as we tried to console our weeping mother. Nicole spoke kindly and gently; Jonathan, my oldest sibling, held our mother in a hug for several long moments. Hannah seemed as bewildered as I felt and sat quietly in a corner. For children, trying to comfort a parent is perhaps the most difficult task. I’d known Papa better than anyone else I’d known who had died, but even still, I didn’t know him that well. Our relationship was built over isolated visits across many years—and many thousands of miles—and in the minutes after getting the news of his death I was filled more with concern for my mother than with grief for Papa. I couldn’t bear watching my mother cry for long, so I got

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settled the rest of the family in Biarritz, France, ultimately establishing a Christian radio ministry from home. There my extended family on my mother’s side has lived ever since. The arrangements for the funeral were made in about a week. We were to fly out to Biarritz—Jordan, David, and I cramming for finals during the eight-hour plane ride over the Atlantic. My parents generously paid for Jordan to come along. Their gesture reminded me of how Jordan was becoming part of my family; he and I were becoming a family. My parents had footed the bill for Jordan to come on another visit to France only four months earlier, over New Year’s. “We want to visit more often because we’re honestly not sure how much longer Papa is going to be around,” Mom had said at some point, explaining the increased frequency of our visits. We went to France to see our family once every two or three years since I was about eight or nine, but after Papa and Mutti’s health began to decline, our trips became marked with a new sense of urgency. Even still, I never fully appreciated the reality that each time I saw my grandparents could be the last time. It’s not that I didn’t believe they were going to die; perhaps I just never felt like anything I could do would make a difference. France is lovely in the springtime, as everyone probably imagines it is. The first time I ever went to Paris was in June several years before the funeral. It was the summer before my senior year of high school, about six months after Jordan and I started dating; he did not join us on this trip. En route to visit Papa, Mutti, and the rest of our extended family, my parents, siblings, and I spent three beautiful, sunlit days meandering the cobblestone streets, passing hundreds of parked bicycles and smart cars and boulangeries where you could enjoy lunch on the patio. We saw the Arc de Triomphe; we took the fifteen minute elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower; we followed hordes of tourists through the Notre Dame, admiring the stained glass and statues of saints. I remember gazing up at the figure of Joan of Arc, who was martyred at nineteen, wondering if my own faith could withstand a similar test. At some point we were across the street from a high school, and all of the students were lounging out front, smoking cigarettes. While walking through a “red light”

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up and began to make tea because I didn’t know what else to do. All I knew was that I couldn’t simply sit there and do nothing. I thought that, in some small way, making tea was helpful. Words were useless. Anything I thought of to say seemed inappropriate, insignificant, or merely flat. I can’t remember if Papa had been in the hospital; I want to say that yes, he had been, and that he had died peacefully, perhaps in his sleep as my grandmother had. I don’t remember any major complications or violent battles with disease or sickness. I’m sure someone asked my mother about these things, but the answers are lost and irrelevant. Mostly, everyone was quiet while my mother cried at the kitchen table. I can see the yellowish light of the lamp hanging over her and the pinkish hue of our tile, countertops, and cupboards. I can see the corner by the sink where the electric kettle sat, and the cupboard next to the fridge where I retrieved the tea bags. I know that I made the tea, but I can’t remember if my mother or anyone else drank any of it. I believe I drunk mine out of that same overwhelming need to be active in some way. Remembering now, I begin to invent an image of my mother cradling her mug, or perhaps it’s left unattended on the counter, forgotten and growing cold. I made tea as a way to escape the powerless feeling that comes with death and grief, but after the tea was made my only choice was to return to my mother’s side and sit idly, powerless once again. My grandparents had been missionaries to the Belgian Congo in the 1950s. My mother, the second eldest of what would be seven children, had been born in California before her family moved to Africa; two of my uncles were born in the Congo. My mother was quite young at the time, less than ten years old. Papa and Mutti worked as teachers at a missionary-run school. My mother’s family left just before the Congolese gained independence, when things started to get dangerous; she once told me about how soldiers started patrolling the school, carrying machine guns and never saying a word to anyone. Their family left quickly and over the next several years moved back and forth between the United States and France, where Papa and Mutti felt called to continue their mission work. Eventually, my mother and her older brother started at Westmont College in California while my grandparents

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district, we passed a three-story building with the name “SEXODOME” emblazoned across the top in huge, red letters. I took a picture and posted it on Facebook when we got home. At night, I would use one of our international cell phones to call Jordan from half the world away; I’d lean out the window of our hotel as we talked, watching the occasional passerby on the dark street below. It was nearly midnight in Paris, and early afternoon back home in New Mexico. During that first trip to Paris I spent an afternoon with my siblings visiting a large, very old cemetery where apparently some famous people were buried, although I can’t remember seeing the graves of anyone I recognized. Jonathan, who had studied film in college, found the grave of a famous filmmaker and asked me to take a picture of him beside it. Stone figures adorned many of the graves. There was a large angel fixed above one, its arms outstretched in immovable flight. A weeping woman sat on another, with the Greek letters for “alpha” and “omega” carved into her base, a clear reference to Revelation: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” I peeked through the locked doors of small mausoleums that housed dead people I didn’t know. My attention was on photographing the stained glass, which was everywhere. It’s odd that these monuments to the dead had been turned into a tourist attraction, a fact I readily accepted as I snapped pictures of the structures that marked the end of so many lives. Perhaps that sounds irreverent, but part of me wonders if it is; after all, a gravestone or a burial plot does not contain the essence of the person who is buried there. The person is gone long before their body is buried.

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Rebekah always seemed at home in France; she loved visiting, and would often depart from the rest of the family to take solo tours, or spend the day with our cousins while the rest of us stayed at the hotel to relax. She was in the middle of a three-month visit, spent mostly in Paris but also with our extended family in the South, when Mutti died. Rebekah kept a blog during her stay, and I remember a particularly sad post she wrote shortly after Mutti’s funeral. Rebekah wrote of walking in on Papa crying one day; he apologized quickly, saying, “I’m sorry. I just don’t

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know what to do with myself without my dear wife here with me.” The very thought of it makes me feel helpless; I’m glad it wasn’t me who had disturbed Papa in his grief. Of all of my memories of Papa, I have no memory of him crying, or even seeming sad. At least, if he was, I never realized it at the time. One of my clearest memories of Papa is of him sitting in his special chair in the living room—the big leather one that’s the color of Dijon mustard—flipping through the channels on the TV. I was sitting on the couch, probably reading or half-napping. Mutti was sitting at the dining room table on the other side of the room, but she could still see the television. Papa had paused on a movie of some kind, and it looked like it was in the middle of a sex scene. Mutti called out, scandalized, “Jim, what is that on the television?” Papa replied without hesitation, his voice booming throughout the house, “It’s two people making love, that’s what it is!” During our New Year’s visit, Papa would often sit at the dining room table, in the same chair where Mutti used to sit, reading the World Book Encyclopedia. I’d mention this to Jordan, finding it quirky and funny. “No,” Jordan said. “It’s sad. He must be so lonely.” I can picture Papa sitting—in the same chair where Mutti usually sat—alone at the table, flipping aimlessly through the encyclopedia, occasionally calling out bits of trivia to us as we passed by on our way to the kitchen or the living room. I didn’t see it at the time, but I think Jordan was right, and it makes me wonder how much of a difference simply sitting next to Papa at the table and making small talk could have made. But I didn’t try because I never knew what to say. When my parents, siblings, Jordan, and I went out for the funeral in May, we first flew to Paris and then to Biarritz, a small, ocean-side city that attracts a lot of young people and tourists. My grandparents’ home is in the rural countryside, still in Biarritz, but outside of the main city. We exited the small Biarritz airport, met by a few of my aunts and uncles and cousins, and immediately drove to the funeral parlor to view Papa’s body. What an interesting phrase; not Papa, just his body. The sun was low, and it was getting chilly. We waited outside as my aunts and uncles went into the small viewing room. When it was our turn, we slowly and quietly

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entered the room. It was small, with white walls and a white ceiling and floor. The only light was the orange, evening sunlight filtering in through the curtained doors. Papa’s body lay in the open casket, surrounded by bouquets of flowers. We sat, the silence only punctuated by sniffles. I cried a little as I stared at his lifeless, but peaceful, body. He could have been sleeping. I guess everyone says that about the dead. When we left the viewing room, Jordan took my mother in his arms and held her as she cried. She looked so fragile and small wrapped in Jordan’s strong arms; tears streamed down her face and he kept his stiff. In the midst of grief, I was again reminded of the hope and joy of Jordan becoming part of our family. I loved him for comforting my mother. We stayed in a small hotel in downtown Biarritz, near the main plaza and within view of the ocean. One night I lay awake in my room, distracted from sleep by what sounded like teenagers chatting and laughing loudly in the alley outside my window. French is a beautiful language, but not at two o’clock in the morning when you’re trying to get some sleep before burying your grandfather. It rained the day of the funeral. In my memory it rained every day we were there, although that’s probably not true. The service was held in a large Protestant church (Methodist or Lutheran, I think). It had a high ceiling, stone floor, and long, wooden pews. My cousin Isaac played the piano, a talent he was famous for among the family. After the service at the church we drove to the cemetery. We buried Papa on a hill next to my grandmother. Actually, he was technically buried on top of Mutti in the same grave. I watched several large men in black suits whom I didn’t know—I assumed they had been hired for the occasion— carry my grandfather’s smooth, plain wooden casket up the hill. There was some sort of ad hoc pulley system in place to lower him into the ground. We huddled under umbrellas; I struggled to walk, my high heels sinking into the muddy grass. I watched my mother cry, her face distorted by grief. As Papa’s casket slowly disappeared into the earth, I silently said as much as I could remember of the orthodox prayer for the dead:

“Into thy hands, O Lord, we commend the soul of thy servant, Papa, and beseech thee to grant him rest in the place of thy rest, where all thy blessed Saints repose, and where the light of thy countenance shineth forever.” After the funeral, everyone went out for a meal at a restaurant next to the ocean. We had steak and a pinkish wine called “Rosé,” because they were Papa’s favorite. My cousin James took a video camera around to collect everyone’s memories of Papa. After some deliberation over whether it was appropriate, I shared the memory of him shouting about the sex scene on TV. Everyone laughed, and the mood began to lighten as more stories were shared. The next day we had another big meal back at Papa and Mutti’s house, the first time I can remember being there without Papa and Mutti. I was in the kitchen serving myself a plate of pasta. I overheard my uncle Jimmy, my mother’s older brother and the eldest of their seven siblings, say to his wife, “We’re the oldest generation in the family now.” For some odd reason, I laughed at this. Maybe I was nervous, or maybe there was something in his tone that made it seem funny; I can’t remember. But he looked straight at me and said, “I’m serious.” I felt embarrassed for laughing and quickly filled my plate and left the room. I suppose that when your parents die, you begin to think about your own mortality. Most death I have experienced has felt detached and distant. I killed my fish once, by accident. A student at my high school committed suicide, but he was three years older than me and I’d never known him. And even Papa, my grandfather—whom I had visited so often during most of my young adult life, whose special chair in my grandparents’ living room I can picture clearly—even his death feels detached. Grandparents are supposed to grow old and die. The interesting thing about grandparents is that from the time we’re children, grandparents are old; you never notice them age and you have no real memories of them as youthful and thin and with full heads of hair. Old age and death are normal for grandparents, but it doesn’t affect us young people. At least,

“Grandparents are supposed to grow old and die.”

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school one night, I gazed at my reflection in the window. It was dark, and the fluorescent lights of the bus made me look abnormally pale, and I pictured—again, just for a moment—what I might look like when I get old. It’s moments like these that remind me, even more than Papa’s funeral, that age and death are inevitable things, awaiting all of us. The view from my grandparents’ gravesite is spectacular; I’ve always thought that rain makes everything more beautiful. Colors seem brighter; contrasts are clearer. During the burial, I looked out through the rain across the hills and trees to the softer, patchwork hills in the distance, all purple and gray and green, and wondered how anything could ever be so peaceful.

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that’s how I think about it—or rather don’t think about—most often. I know it will be different when my own parents begin to degenerate. I’ve been caught off guard by split second glimpses of it. During Christmas one year, I remember looking at my father across the kitchen table, and there was something about his face that made me realize what he might look like as an old man. His skin is starting to wrinkle and his hair is going gray. In a flash I pictured him, with rounded shoulders and silver hair, sitting in his own chair in the living room, close to the television, or at the far end of the dining room table, absent-mindedly flipping through a book. And suddenly, that picture doesn’t seem so distant. While riding the bus home from

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conceptions southwest


Skin

sarah chantal parro

SKIN

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vol. xxxvi

blossoms in the springtime. When she would walk past him, it was like he was in a green park somewhere in the middle of April, the last patches of the last snow of the year hiding in the shady bits of grass that faced north. They had sat underneath a blossoming tree, the tiny pink flowers bobbing their heads in the breeze, adorned with the first pale green leaves that would ripen and sustain throughout the summer months. She had shrieked when a bee landed on her white sundress, jumping off of the blanket and shaking her skirt so vigorously that Dan had caught a glimpse of something pink, maybe even lace. It was only for a second, but it made him embarrassed and excited at the same time. Not knowing what else to do, he had laughed, and she had glared at him. Not long after the bee, she had given herself to him in the quiet darkness of her apartment bedroom. The sheets smelled just like her, which was probably to be expected, but for some reason it felt so mystical and special and beautiful, like he was the first and only one to have ever smelled her, to have ever lain beside her and felt the smoothness of her skin, as well as the imperfections: a dry patch on her elbow, the slightly raised lines of a childhood scar on her lower back. He loved the way her skin stretched over her bones and muscles, the way it pulled taught over her curves, even the way it bunched and folded on her belly when she was hunched or curled. He had discovered that while she smelled like cherry blossoms, she tasted like salt. This was probably how most people taste, but he was sure she was a pure, unalloyed mineral, hewn from some deep cave in an exotic land, someplace that no one had ever been to before, and that no one would ever see or experience again. He was the first, he must be. No one else

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“Sir?” The girl behind the counter was holding out a small slip of smooth white paper. Dan looked up from the black granite countertop he had been staring at. He had been thinking about how the gray and white specks looked like little stars, or maybe they were star clusters, or maybe they were galaxies with black holes in the center, but because he was so far away from them, they just looked like little gray and white specks. The counter girl was looking at him from behind her thick-framed glasses. She had a pretty enough face, although the silver ring hooked onto the left corner of her lower lip was a little distracting. Her dark hair was unsuccessfully pinned back, with many wavy strands falling behind her ears and hanging against her cheeks. He looked at her for what was probably just a little bit too long to be polite, but there was something about her, something that he couldn’t quite put his finger on, that made his heart leap ever so slightly, causing his breath to catch in his throat for just a second. Was it her eyebrows? The way those strands of hair fell in her face? Was it the angle her arm made as she held his receipt out to him, the smooth porcelain skin of the underside of her forearm gleaming in the yellow coffee shop lights, revealing slightly gray stretch marks at the crook of her elbow where the epidermis folds and stretches as she blends iced drinks, brews hot tea, pins up her hair, fiddles with her lip ring, and hands him his receipt? Dan decided that it must be her skin. That was what made him pause, if only for a second, and remember all of those things he wished he could forget. He wondered if the counter girl wore perfume that made her skin smell anything like…hers. She who always smelled of cherry

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him, she was much more significant than any globular cluster or red giant or spiral galaxy. When he lay there with her gently snoring on his chest, he felt like he could take the entire universe face on, and still feel powerful, and proud. Right now, though, Dan didn’t want to feel anything. He took his receipt from the counter girl, sat alone drinking his coffee, and made a point not to look at her again as he left. He drove himself home in the dark, not paying attention to the way the moon shone mysteriously from behind the clouds or the fact that Venus was the brightest it would be all year, only a few degrees south of the moon. When he got back to his apartment, he mechanically took off his clothes and climbed into bed, and he lay there, alone in the dark, not thinking about what it had felt like to have another body next to him, and not thinking about how all he smelled was sweat and coffee. He rubbed his right knee, which was sore and misshapen from an injury sustained many years before, and he tried not to wonder if any one could love such an ugly patch of skin.

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had felt her delicate skin. She was like a rare doll, but she wasn’t a doll, she was a woman, and she was his woman, and she was only his woman, because he was lying in her bed, listening to her breathe as she leaned on his chest, staring across the room at the pink perfume bottle on her dresser, barely outlined in the gray pre-dawn light. He had turned his head awkwardly to get a look at her, but all he could see was her dark, wavy hair, partly covering her face and strewn across her shoulders and back like the spidery branches of leafless trees in winter, stretching their dark, twisted fingers upward into the cold, empty air. But Dan didn’t like to think about such things. He didn’t want to think about her skin, or her hair, or her smell, or the blossoming tree or the starry sky that had stretched over them as they lay together in her bed. He didn’t want to think about her thoughts on God, or the universe, and how she had once told him that she felt so small when she thought about all the billions of stars and galaxies floating out in space, unaware of her existence. He didn’t want to remember that she had felt small in his arms, but that to

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efore I was young B BEFORE I WAS YOUNG laura pasekoff

laura pasekoff

Before I was young, I was the African plain. My teeth were the bones of lions; I was the rabid jaw of a hyena, and Leather stretched across the head of a drum. Before I was young, I was Babylon. I was the look in a mother’s eye, and the ruined face of her scorned child. I was her clay-baked skin. My heartbeat was the pounding of Roman footsteps across stone-paved roads; My fingers, triggers, pulled back in warfare. Once I was a spear; once I was a poet’s pen. The hills of Ireland made up my flesh— My hair hung with witches and the Catholics. I will be the roof overhead, and the floor underfoot; The napkin on the table and the blanket on the bed.

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poetry

pasekoff

Laura Pasekoff / Laura is an undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico. She has lived in Albuquerque and Wodonga, Australia, and is currently pursuing an English degree.

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urfer s aradise S ’ P W SURFER’S PARADISE

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I once spent fourteen hours crying on an airplane, only to be forgotten at the airport eight thousand miles away from home. When my ride arrived, I was greeted with an accent I couldn’t understand and a puppy that was later dog-snatched by a pair of door-to-door salesmen. I lived with a power woman with an affinity for toilet paper roll holders; her hobbies included buying houses to “do them up.” She loved to leave me home alone with the boy from Finland. She once dropped us in the middle of town with fifty dollars and instructions to see a movie. It was a terrible movie, and then we ate McDonald’s and didn’t speak to one another. In the fall I skipped class for red wine. I took it home on the bus from school, still wrapped up in its brown paper bag, just to see what people would say. No one noticed. The walk from the bus to the house wasn’t long, but it felt long. I popped the bottle open walking through the front door, sat down on a bar stool from the kitchen to drink it, and watched Australia’s Got Talent. It was dark when the bat flew out of the blurring television, knocking me off the bar stool. I was a bowling ball, a perfect strike against the wine bottle. The boy from Finland wouldn’t help me chase out the bat without a tennis racket, just in case. He asked me to make him dinner. The boy from Finland stood a foot taller than me, and learned English with an Australian accent. He was scared of spiders and heights and lesbians and thought I was “so American.” He was all muscles and blond hair and diabetes. I used to buy him donuts; he wasn’t one to resist a Krispy Kreme. Churros at the amusement park in Surfer’s Paradise should have killed him when the heights didn’t manage it.

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I wanted to bungee jump off a crane. There’s a reason Surfer’s Paradise is called the Gold Coast—the coast there is gold, the color of pounded metal and lust before body odor and disappointment. The moonlight didn’t shine on the sand that night. The moonlight was the gold, was the sand, stretched across the ocean in dunes of ready teeth. The crane shined, lit up with neon, destructive and brash against the beauty of that place. The parking lot stretched out under the bungee line, ready to crush skulls. Rule 1: No fatties. The operator let the drunk woman with a crying child ride, taking her hundred dollars and confiscating her beer before pushing her off and listening to her yelp. I took a walk for gelato up the beach and watched the homeless artist sculpt a four-foot head of sand. The head clawed its way to the surface and breathed fire when the artist lit a pool of petrol in its mouth. The gelato was sweeter on the walk back to our beachside apartment, the sun setting in a gray wave of heat, the waves sipping at my footprints until the coast forgot about me. In the winter, the power woman left me and the Fin for a funeral, and then for China. She left us with a broken heater, so I slept on the foot stool in front of the fireplace and watched French television and the Finnish boy’s warm body as he wandered from room to room, lonely and wondering how he would get to the airport. Even in the winter he was tan, warm and gold like the beach where we’d fallen asleep together and I’d burned until I blistered. When he’d gone, I hid in the basin of the shower and let the hot water sear my skin.

conceptions southwest


inds, ceans, W O and Angels

WINDS, OCEANS, AND ANGELS laura pasekoff

vol. xxxvi

how she would haul him from his rocky grave and up the cliff. A soft drizzle began to fall. Sasha grabbed the angel under his arms, careful to avoid tripping on his monstrous wings. She wrenched him up, fighting the reaching grasp of the tide at her legs and the crumbling ground at her feet, and dragged him away from the cliff and toward the water. She wasn’t strong enough to lift him completely, but the water was as calm for autumn. The waves crashed against the rocks of the cliff as it grew steeper towards the north, so she took him south, pulling him through the water until the rocks eased into a level beach. Getting him into deeper water was difficult. He’d been caught up and twisted in the rocks, and pulling and shoving his limp form was almost more than she could manage. Several times she stopped to check his pulse and make sure she hadn’t killed him along the way. Despite his injuries and her transport-related abuse, his heart continued to beat like a slow, steady drum. His pulse was slower than that of a normal man, and it took her a moment to locate the dull thrum in the ruin of his neck. She found it and kept going, until finally he was deep enough in the water to float easily. She walked along the cove bottom and tugged him gently behind her, watchful of the undertow as she cut through the powerful waves. Her hands and toes burned with numbness after being submerged so long in the freezing water. It took half the afternoon to get him onto the beach. The rocks were coarse and their jagged edges cut the angel’s

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Sasha saw the angel fall, and hesitated. It was the hesitation that pushed her forward—she had spent too long caring for the wounded to let hatred make her careless of death. Despite her fear and dislike of winged men, she went looking for the angel, moving quickly and carefully across the jagged rock face that lined the edge of the sea. She hoped he would be dead before she reached him; she had never heard of an angel falling from the sky. It was likely that there was nothing she could do, but that first hesitation drove her on. The angel wasn’t dead when Sasha found him. It took her an hour to make her way down through the sharp spires of rock where he’d fallen. His body was trapped uselessly in a crevice of the cliff face, the icy water of the ocean pushing up and sliding back down his crushed body. If she were to leave him there, the tide would rise and he would drown. Sasha stared at him, motionless for a moment as she marveled at his destroyed beauty. The angel’s wings were soft and perfectly white inside and a dark, almost black shade of brown across the back. His hair was golden brown turned dark with water and with blood, his face slashed so that his features were difficult to make out. He was naked—a mess of broken bones and crushed wings. One of his arms was twisted around the wrong way, dislocated at the shoulder and crushed at the elbow. His wings had fared no better, and a mess of torn feathers covered the point where his beta-manus wing structure had struck the ground—twisted metacarpals stuck out from beneath the skin. Sasha eased toward him, unsure

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abused flesh, but she dragged him up the shore to keep him away from the hungry tide. She had a truck up at the house, a few miles up the road, so she left him and began the climb. Her clothes were soaking wet, her boots bloated and heavy, but she made it to the top of the hill to the bluff where her small house sat overlooking the cliffs. By the time she got back down to the beach, the angel was gone. It was surprising he’d managed to regain consciousness at all, but Sasha knew that he was delirious and injured, and he was a danger to himself this close to the water. She started out again the way she had come. The angel wasn’t hard to follow. Blood spatters dotted the gritty sand and a trail littered with broken feathers led her to where he’d collapsed, his head against his hands as he kneeled before the majesty of the ocean. He turned glittering, storm-gray eyes to face her, but was too weak to resist when she silently loaded him up into the back of her truck. He was heavy, and his waterlogged wings were in the way, and he wheezed in agony until she’d gotten him safely up into the bed. She slammed the tailgate and climbed back into the driver’s seat. When they reached the house, he was unconscious again. With careful maneuvering, Sasha dried the angel as best she could and laid him out on a small guest cot in the house. She splinted the broken bones that could be splinted and stretched his wings out on either side of him, unsure how to prop them up so their fragile bones wouldn’t heal crooked. The hospital where she’d worked had kept specialized slings for angel wings. That seemed a lifetime ago. She cleaned away the blood and grit from his wounds, and took a thread and needle to the deepest of his cuts. Then she zip-tied one of his wrists to the frame of the bed and left a glass of water and some bread on the bedside table. That night she slept blessedly free of nightmares.

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The angel slept for days. His bones healed quickly, faster than the injuries on his face and back and chest. On the third day, Sasha bathed him gently with a sponge and bucket of warm water, taking the time to clean his hair. He didn’t wake to eat, so she took the bread away. She left the water, replacing it each day, knowing that his thirst would be terrible when he woke. When he had been with her a week, still without food

short fiction

or drink, Sasha grew worried. His pulse was still strong, but he had begun to sweat, and occasionally cry out in his sleep. His dreams grew more and more violent, and some times he would thrash. Twice she was forced to reset his bones and restitch his cuts. To pass the time, she groomed his wings with her fingers and pulled out loose feathers, saving those that were undamaged in a large jar. It felt good to have something to do with her hands other than rinse away blood, and when she ran her cool fingers over him, he ceased to struggle in his dreams. Nine days after the angel fell, he opened his eyes. Sasha was going over his wings again with gentle hands, and felt his gaze ease over her. “Water?” he asked. Sasha gestured toward the bedside table, and he reached out a hand for the glass, holding it in fingers that trembled. He drank the clear liquid down, his gaze never leaving her as she continued to pick through his feathers, careful to only tug at those that were already loose from his skin. His vulnerability was soothing, in a way. “Who are you?” he asked, when he’d finished the glass of water. He smelled of clean air and the barest hint of brine. He fit perfectly there, in her home by the sea. “My name is Sasha,” she said, and her voice was coarse from lack of use. “You’re safe here, angel.” The angel nodded and lay his head back down. When he closed his eyes, the lines of pained tension settled out of his expression. He didn’t look young, as some did in their sleep, but he did look free. Sasha brought the bread back to the bedside table that afternoon. She would have made soup, but didn’t have much to eat in the house. She hadn’t dared to leave, not with an angel in her back room. If he woke in a temper, Sasha wanted to be there to kill him before he could hurt anyone. That’s what angels did—they hurt people, no matter the consequences. Sasha had seen it first hand. Sasha knew he was dangerous, no matter how defenseless he looked. The angel woke again late that night, and ate what she gave to him, and each time he woke after that, he ate a little more, until the pallor of death left him. He still thrashed in his sleep. The third time he woke, he asked her why she’d tied him to the bed. “I didn’t want to drag you back here, if you decided to venture out,” she lied, using scissors to cut through the

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plastic zip-tie. “Back at the beach, you tried to escape. It wouldn’t have done you much good, to prowl along the beach until you got yourself killed.” “You’re helping me,” the angel said. “Why?” Sasha remembered to see past the beautiful animal’s vulnerability. Dealing with angels was similar to dealing with lions, except lions have no heart for evil. “Leave then, if you want,” Sasha said, and her voice was hard. “I won’t stop you.” “I have offended you,” he said, after a moment of quiet. He sat up and winced at the pain in his broken ribs. “Please, where are we?” She opened her lips to answer when a sound came from overhead, the scream of a bird who was not a bird. Sasha froze, and the angel did as well, both silently counting the heartbeats until they heard the answering wail from the sky. Both cursed in unison, and their eyes met. “I’m not on great terms with angels,” Sasha said. “Neither am I.” Sasha felt understanding between them. Closing the curtains to the window of the guest bedroom, she put her hand out to the angel, touching him carefully on the forehead in a gesture of peace. “Stay quiet,” she said. ”If they come down from the sky, I’ll send them away.” Sasha took the jar of feathers she had gathered from tending the angel’s wings and went to the small kitchen at the front of the house, sitting down to wait. A tall, dark haired man with wings like pale sand began pounding at the door. Sasha answered after the second knock. “Good day,” said the angel in the entryway. He was just under six feet and slender, his hair full and his eyes dark and open. Even his smile gave off an easy charm. Sasha wasn’t fooled. “Afternoon, by now,” she said, and to her relief her voice sounded almost normal. “What can I do for you?” “My company,” said the new angel, gesturing towards the sky. “We’re looking for a fallen friend. He’s been hurt, and we can’t find him to offer our aid.” The sorrowful look that

took over the sandy-winged angel’s face was heartbreaking and compelling. “Please, miss. Have you seen anything?” Sasha looked at her feet, and let fake sadness creep over her own features. “I...well. Maybe it’s better if you see for yourself.” She left the door open and headed into the kitchen, where she’d left the jar filled with feathers. Drawing one of the smaller ones out, she handed it to the sandy-winged angel, who had followed her inside. Her instincts clamored at her to run, to get away, but she fought her fear and met the predator’s gaze. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “The feathers were scattered everywhere earlier in the week. The wind’s blown most of them away, but these were just so beautiful. I couldn’t let them go. There was some blood, further down the beach. I’m afraid the ocean has claimed your friend.” Sasha was looking for it, or she wouldn’t have seen the brief glimmer of satisfaction on the visiting angel’s face. He disguised it quickly, but not so fast that she missed it. “Do you mind,” the new angel said, nodding toward the feather she’d handed him, “if I take this with me? As a momento?” You mean as proof, Sasha thought darkly, but she only nodded her head, casting her eyes down to share her grief. “Please, keep it. I’m so sorry for your loss. Is there anything I can get for you?” Sasha kept up her charade, terrified that, now she had told the sandy-winged angel what he wanted to hear, he would kill her. Instead, he just shook his head. “No, thank you, miss. I must return to my companions, and give them the news. It seems we can call off the search.” “I’m so sorry,” Sasha repeated. She walked him to the door. He ducked outside and ruffled his wings, clutching the brown and white feather firmly between his fingers. He nodded, gave her a pathetically sad little smile and bid her goodbye, taking off into the sky. Sasha watched him fly until he was less than a speck in the air, and the cries of his companions faded. Then she closed the door, locking it tightly and returning to the fallen angel in her guest bedroom.

“Even his smile gave off an easy charm. Sasha wasn’t fooled.”

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He looked at her with wide, contemplative eyes when she brought in a bucket of warm water and a sponge. Silent now, she took a seat next to him and ringed the sponge in the water, and then trailed it carefully over his chest while she waited for him to speak. “It is brave, to lie to an angel. Or foolish.” He let out a long sigh, relaxing against the bed as she sponged his shoulder, moving down his arm. “Your touch is like the breath of heaven.” Sasha let a smile touch her face at the angel’s wistful tone. “What do I call you?” “Ventus.” “Ventus,” said Sasha quietly. “Wind.” She looked up at the angel’s face, and then he smiled for the first time. If the angel reminded her of the sea and rain and wind, then his smile was the sun itself, coming over the horizon as the storm broke. “Your smile is beautiful,” Sasha said. She hated herself for thinking he was lovely. Her sister had made the same mistake, and an angel had ripped out her heart, in the most literal sense. Sasha stopped bathing him and left the room.

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The day was cool and calm outside of the small house. The dark cliffs rose higher and higher toward the north, and the dull, gray ocean crashed in waves upon the rock. The sound was calming, a constant reminder of the peace that Sasha had come here to find. She had killed the angel that had murdered her sister. It was a great sin to kill an angel, even in vengeance. They had hunted her, and it had taken years for her to escape to this place, where the angels seldom flew. The scrub and harsh landscape kept most of them away. The beings of the air, for all their majesty, preferred greener pastures and less rain. The storms that came to this place were sudden and torrential, and it was unwise to stray so far from safer winds and sky. Is that why her fallen angel had come so far north? she wondered. Was he trying to escape as well? Sasha could see her sister in her mind’s eye, dead on the floor, her angel circling the house in wide circles. When he’d finally landed, his fingers were coated in Nadia’s blood, and Sasha had gone insane. He was dead before she’d even made the decision to act, and his fellows came after her

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with demands for justice. They were too blind to recognize that justice had already prevailed. For months they chased her, until one by one they forgot or moved on. Now she and the memory were alone, living along the barren northern coast, surrounded by a hatred that had never faded. Sasha sighed and rubbed her palms together to throw off the chill of the outside air. Ventus hadn’t killed her sister. His own kind had thrown him out of the sky. A crashing noise came splitting through the cool air from the direction of the house. Ventus had left his bed, and she watched as he staggered into the hall, the cord of the bedside lamp tied around his leg. He pulled the lamp off of the side table and glass shattered along the floor. He ignored it, stepping on the sharp shards with bare feet as he stumbled into the hallway and crashed into a set of glass shelves. The shelves held what few trinkets she’d clung to after leaving her home to flee the angels that hunted her, and they came tumbling one by one toward the hardwood floor. Ventus made a mad lunge, catching them one by one, barely holding them in careful fingers as he staggered into the kitchen table. A small glass unicorn figurine fell from his grasp, and Sasha reached forward, grabbing it before it could hit the ground. “I’m sorry!” Ventus gasped. He was far from stable, his face pale from the pain of trying to move, but he didn’t drop any of the other trinkets, placing each carefully out of harm’s way on the countertop, before sinking to the floor. “I thought I could get up.” Sasha just looked at him, her heart slowly settling in her chest. The trinkets were sentimental, but had no other value. She looked at the little unicorn in her hands—it had belonged to her mother, and then her sister. She set it down, and then crouched next to Ventus where he sprawled on the floor. “Why’d you get up?” she asked him. “Not the brightest choice.” “I wanted to go outside,” he said, shooting a longing glance to the open front door. “When you left again, I started feeling...cramped.” “You’re claustrophobic,” Sasha guessed. “No.” The denial came too fast and too harsh, and Sasha hid a smile. A great angel, afraid to be alone in a small room.

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If he tried to attack her, she’d just lock him in the basement. “You should stay inside,” she said. “The others might come back.” He shook his head. “They won’t. Arrogance is a common trait among angels. They’ll never believe you were clever enough to lie.” “Are you arrogant?” Sasha asked. Looking at the heap of wings and man on her kitchen floor, she had a good idea. “Unequivically,” he declared. “But I can’t stay in here any longer. The walls are starting to shrink.” With that, he started to ease back to his feet, leaning heavily against the wall. When he was standing he began to take slow, careful steps toward the door. His feet, cut from the glass of the broken bedside lamp, left little droplets of blood along the floor. Sasha offered him no help, watching him struggle to the door in silence. Ventus reached the doorway, and basked in the glory of the weak sunlight. The shadows of clouds played across his features, and a gentle sea-breeze pulled at his hair. The tension trickled from him slowly, and the angel took deep breaths. “You’re claustrophobic,” Sasha said again from the doorway. She followed him out, if only to make sure he wouldn’t do anything foolish and hurt himself further. The angel didn’t deny it this time, just let the air wash over his bare chest. The muscles in his back were thick, corded, and marred with healing scars from his fall. The back of his wings were the dark colors of freshly ground coffee.

“The angel who came here,” Ventus said abruptly. “He’s called Falcon. If you ever see him again...” Sasha waited, but he didn’t finish his thought. She considered prompting him, and decided against it. Curiosity wasn’t in her best interest. Ventus was in no condition to be up and moving, but little would deter him. Soon he would be gone. Ventus leaned heavily on the railing of her front porch, crawling and pushing himself up so he could sit on her front steps. Sasha breathed deeply, and walked from the doorway to take her place next to him. He closed his eyes, and, without thought, Sasha tugged another loose feather from his wing. This one was pure brown, dark and solid and warm. She twirled the feather carefully between her fingertips, considering the angel and the sea, studiously not thinking about the past. “It will be months before I can fly as I am meant to,” Ventus said in a low voice. Sasha looked up from the feather to see that he was watching her in turn. His eyes slid across the planes of her face. “I will never be able to repay the kindness you’ve shown me in saving my life.” Only somber sincerity showed in his expression; his thoughts were masked behind the opaque gray of his eyes. Sasha’s lips flickered into a smile. “I owe your kind a life,” she said. They fell into silence, and together watched the clouds race across the sky over the horizon of the sea.

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Salty crown of thorns SALT Y CROWN OF THORNS

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First you need to salt the rim of the glass. Dip it in a little lime juice preferably, but sweet and sour will do. Once the rim is moist, grind it against the salt so that scraping sound is worthy of the term “grinding.” Then let the tequila stream from the bottle and splash over the ice into a salt-crowned glass. One and a quarter ounces exactly. Next comes the triple sec. Just a splash, a half ounce at most. Then the sweet and sour. No proportions on that, just fill up the glass now. The alcohol wears that sugar-rich filler like a miter, hiding the scorching sins underneath. The last part is the lime-wedge garnish. Normally limes like to bite the rim of the glass and be out of the way, ignored. But a lime on the side of a salt-rimmed glass is bad form in some circles and so it is safer to impale the wedge onto a toothpick and let it bleed a little into the cocktail. Margaritas are a local favorite of the Southwest, and when you’re visiting Albuquerque you should always stop by the lounge in the hotel to sample their take on the phenomenon. I don’t care for margaritas myself, but I do enjoy making them. And after bartending for only a couple of months, I was really starting to get the hang of pouring the tequila and the triple sec at the same time. Not only does it help you mix drinks more quickly, but the patrons like it too. It looks flashier. It makes them feel like they are getting higher quality service. Albuquerque Inn & Suites is a small hotel that I’ve never seen in its entirety. The small bar area, which serves as a breakfast bar in the mornings, is situated off to the side of the much larger lounge area, decorated with faux-leather

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armchairs, a television, and fireplace. And all of this is just past the front desk so that anyone walking in the front doors can simultaneously see all of it. It was the first bartending job I had just out of bartending school. I needed more money than working in the mall could provide. I hoped that the restaurant business could deliver. When I walked in for the first time for an interview, I was met by a squat woman at the front desk with wavy gray hair which could only otherwise be described as “big.” She wore men’s polos and a silver ring on every finger. She had an illegible tattoo on her hand between her thumb and index finger which looked like the remains of a loopy script or a star. I couldn’t tell. I didn’t need to ask if the lift-kit Dodge diesel parked out front was hers. “I’m Jordan, and I’m here to interview for the bartending position,” I said. “Just have a seat in one of those chairs; someone will be with you in just a bit, alright?” I smiled and meandered toward the armchairs but didn’t sit down. I was a little too nervous to sit without fidgeting. I was imagining strict interview questions when I was startled by someone from behind. I spun around and didn’t immediately see who had spoken to me. But there, standing at no more than five-feet was a serious looking woman in a pantsuit. She wore short, spiky hair and blackrimmed glasses. “How’re you doing?” she asked with a flair of southern accent. “My name is Sara, and I’m the director of sales. George is the general manager and I apologize that he can’t

Jordan Parro / Jordan is a high school mathematics teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His interests include philosophy, theology, mathematics, running, and the arts. His photography has been published in Scribendi and featured in local art galleries.

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vol. xxxvi

and respect Sara and as far as I’m concerned, John, other women don’t have breasts.’ Now how do you like that?” “Sounds like you’ve got a good man,” I said. “Well, I’ll tell you, Jordan, I like you and I’m gonna recommend to George that we hire you.” I walked in the front doors and approached the front desk as was my custom. The squat woman I had met before was named Pat, and I liked Mondays because Pat always had a good story to tell. “Did you visit your boy up in Clayton?” I asked. Pat recounted that she was speeding at ninety-five miles per hour on I-25 headed to Clayton prison when she was pulled over. Good thing for her, she and the state patroller both have a Dodge Ram fetish. She got out of the ticket by talking about lift kits and Flowmaster mufflers. A tall man walked up behind me while Pat was talking, probably thinking I was a guest and waited for his turn at the front desk. He was wearing a leather vest and seemed like the biker type. His grease-black goatee tapered off right in front of his chest. There was a woman on his arm. She wore her dark red hair down around her shoulders like a cape. I laughed at Pat’s familiarity with New Mexico’s mother fuckers and walked toward the bar to get set up for happy hour. It was late July, the rainy season, and the burnt undersides of the clouds were draped across the mountains, diffusing the harsher afternoon light. Many guests were waiting on the patio just beyond the bar, enjoying the cool breeze on the warm day. Three children, siblings, were playing in the shallow end of the outdoor pool. The oldest, a girl, maybe thirteen, was sitting on the steps half in and half out of the water, as if to keep watch of her two younger siblings. The middle child was a rowdy boy, jumping and splashing the youngest girl. She was no older than six or seven. The line at the bar starts early on days like that one. Patrons, hot and tired from the desert sun, are looking to cool off. The monotony of one drink after another keeps the time moving quickly until it’s time to close. The glassware becomes a cauldron for cheap vodka and gin; occasionally the older gentleman will make his way up, tip his hat, and ask for scotch on the rocks. Ladies often prefer a cosmopolitan; the cranberry juice and lemon-lime liqueur

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be here today. But thanks for coming by. Let’s step into my office.” Sara trotted toward her office. I was distracted by how quickly she walked. “My name is Jordan,” I said. “Well good to meet you; here, sit down, you’ll be more comfortable.” Sara took a minute to look over my application and resumé. “Well you seem qualified enough, I’ll tell you, my husband Russ is always saying you need three people in life you can trust: your doctor, your jeweler, and your bartender.” I tried to laugh genuinely. “So this bartending academy you went to, what do you learn there?” she asked. “Well, we focused a lot on being able to measure alcohol without a jigger, mixing with two hands, that sort of thing, you know?” “I had to take a class like that once; I was in Houston working for the Hyatt...but that’s another world away. Let’s go out to the bar area and I’ll show you around,” she said as she led me out of her office toward the breakfast/bar area. “Yeah, since we’re looking for a bartender, they’ve been having me run the bar and I hate it. I can’t open these damn wine bottles. The cork always breaks.” She pointed at the speed rack and jiggled the lock back and forth unsuccessfully. “Well this is where most of the liquor is; this stupid ring is getting in my way though.” She was talking about her engagement ring. “Wow, that’s a nice diamond,” I said “You like that? That’s an eight thousand dollar rock right there. You see how it’s a little yellow?” I nodded. “Most people look at that and say, ‘You got ripped off.’ But I tell them, ‘Look again! That’s a champagne diamond.’ My husband is good to me, baby. You couldn’t tell from his past though, oh no. He’s been married three times and I’m his fourth. But when I went into this marriage, I said to myself, ‘Sara, you’re going to make this work ‘cause you’re not doing this twice.’ And here we are thirteen years later. I’ll tell you, he was hanging out in his buddy John’s backyard the other day and John points to his wife Kathy and says to Russ, ‘Did you notice I bought Kathy a new set of tits?’ and Russ says back to him, you’re going to love this, ‘Well I love

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make it sweet enough to drink without noticing. Happy hour had just started when I heard shouting coming from the down the hall. It could have been children playing or a mother losing her temper, but the sound was distant, muffled. I took a mental note of hearing the disturbance, but I could not continue to pay attention to it as customers continued to line up and order drinks. Cape Cod, Lynchburg Lemonade, Gin and Tonic, Bud Light, Rum and Coke, Merlot. The man in the vest approached the bar and ordered a drink. I took a glass, rimmed it with a little sweet and sour. I tapped the rim into the salt tray, but the salt was running low and not much was sticking to the glass. I started a new glass. This time I ground the rim of the glass into the salt until I could hear it, the sound of walking on gravel. I filled the glass with ice then reached for the tequila and the triple sec. Next the sweet and sour crown, a stab of lime, and I thrust the drink onto the bar just under the man’s pointed goatee. “Thanks, buddy,” he said with a smile. “Thank you sir.” He handed me an extra dollar tip and headed back around the hall to his room. “Jordan, call the police!” Pat came rushing up to the bar. “You know that red-headed girl? She came in with that tall biker guy with the goatee?” “Yeah?” I said, puzzled. “She’s threatening me back there; I’m going to check, but I don’t think they’re even guests of the hotel.” I pulled out my cell phone, ignoring a beckoning patron. I had never dialed 911 before. It was difficult to explain to the operator what exactly was going on. “She’s acting very, well, threateningly,” I stammered. I tried to make it sound as serious as possible so that it did not seem like I was wasting her time. But I didn’t experience anything firsthand, so it was hard to sound convincing. She said that an officer would be on the way. I hung up and spun back to the bar to get to that customer who hailed me earlier, but Sara was trotting over, taking orders. She looked at me and said, “Go help Pat; I’ll take care of the drinks.” As I walked away from the bar I heard a customer order

White Zinfandel and Sara respond, “Oh honey, you don’t want that. That’s out of the bottle. You want a Tequila Sunrise.” Whenever Pat “needed help,” it was always because it’s time to throw someone out of the hotel. It’s not a big enough hotel to warrant hiring full time security, so before I had to assume rather comically that, before I was hired, Pat was the full-time security. I walked toward the front desk when Pat darted out from behind, her billowing gray locks bouncing with each step toward the room. Pat motioned for me to follow and briefed me on what she had learned at the computer. “Yeah they’re not checked into any rooms, but they’ve got the key to room 225 that’s checked to some woman named Margaret. One of them is doing drugs in the room.” Being a make-shift bouncer for a hotel is not something that comes naturally. There’s a sense in which I have to don a new personality, a hard-ass, who doesn’t give a damn if you have no place else to go. I have to walk bigger, and not let my eyes dart around when I get confused or intimidated. I have to act like I am God. I took a moment to compose myself outside of room 225. I closed my eyes and pushed aside the “me” that smiles and jokes with patrons for tips. I imagined the spiteful and unsympathetic persona I had to adopt, grinding it into my mind so that it wouldn’t slip. I locked my hand into a fist and banged on the door three times. “Open up,” I barked. The goatee man answered the door. A little smoke wafted from the room. “I’m sorry sir. You need to leave.” “What the hell are you talking about? We’re guests here.” He began to snarl. “We’ve called the police. You and your party need to leave.” I wasn’t afraid of this man, but the exhilaration of screaming at a stranger is like drinking too much coffee on an empty stomach. You don’t feel any emotion, but you’re exhibiting all the signs of anxiety. “Fuck you guys, I’m going to get my kids.” He charged off toward the pool. I followed after. I tried to keep my face expressionless. When we got to the pool he began bellowing,

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“...screaming at a stranger is like drinking too much coffee...”

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“Janey, Adrian, Lou get out of the pool now.” His kids were the rowdy little ones I had seen playing when I first started my shift. They smiled in playful defiance, unaware that the glow on the wall of red and blue lights were police officers come to force them out. “I’m not kidding with you dammit, get out of the pool now.” “Daddy what’s happening?” moaned the boy, Adrian. “These people don’t want us here.” He gestured at me. The girls were solemnly following orders, but the boy, Adrian, contorted his face and looked about to cry. Two police officers walked in through the gate to the pool, led by Pat. The goatee man seemed not to notice the cops and shuffled his kids back into the hallway toward room 225. The father and his children didn’t make it to their room before the police took over barking and questioning. The red-headed woman emerged from the room and rushed toward her children, frantically asking the standard lines of questioning, “Are you okay?” “Did they hurt you?” One officer searched the room, the other questioned the goatee man, becoming visibly displeased with the answers. The man finally crossed the line when he refused to sit on the ground, accusing the cop of bigotry. The cop responded in kind by arresting the man. The two girls stood somberly against the wall down the hall, eyes to the ground, but the boy, Adrian could not contain himself anymore. He burst, tears raining down his cheeks as he watched his father being handcuffed, face against the wall. After a minute or two of untamed sobbing, the red-headed woman took the boy by the arm. “Stop crying,” she said, “this is all just a bunch of shit alright?” Somehow, being comforted that it was shit did not bring Adrian back to a calm, more reasonable state of mind. Instead he sobbed, mouth closed. “You’ve got to be a man,” the woman said. But Adrian was not a man, he was a boy. I wanted to pat him on the head, tell him not worry, that things would turn out okay. I wanted to apologize to him. I didn’t know that when I came in to work, I would have to initiate this

trauma. I couldn’t talk to him, and I certainly couldn’t pat him on the head. Instead I tried to avert my eyes, arms folded and face expressionless. A mask to hide that I even wanted to cry a little myself. With the officers there I no longer needed to be. One of the officers shook my hand, an act of camaraderie against evil. Adrian saw us shake and began sobbing again. Albuquerque Inn & Suites is a calm place. The employees are colorful, off-beat people with great stories to tell. The patrons are harmless and happy, more likely to laugh when you cut them off than be offended. And everyone likes a good margarita. But for Adrian, he won’t remember that. I imagine in seven or eight years he’ll hate margaritas, even the look of them, with their salted crowns of thorns. He probably won’t think back fondly about the adventures children can have staying in a hotel, going swimming, getting lost in the maze of identical hallways, or riding the elevator to every floor. It’s easy to acquit myself. The man was doing drugs, probably in front of his children on a normal week. This week he gifted his kids by neglecting them in a swimming pool, so they didn’t have to watch. When I remember that day at the hotel, I wish I didn’t have to watch. Margaritas mean more to me now than they did before that day. I still don’t care for them. They are still fun to make. But they’re fake. The sweetness and bright color are façades hiding the burn of the tequila. Albuquerque Inn & Suites is a place full of brightly colored people, and a quirky friendliness that, at times, makes it seem unreal. I don’t have to worry that I’m being tricked about reality though, because if I start to drift, thinking the world a friendly, sweet place, the reality of Adrian is jarred out of the crevasses of my mind and I remember the harshness of the bouncer persona. I remember feigning ignorance. And I remember Adrian, the sweetness of seeing him play and splash in the pool. In a moment he was transformed by the inescapable contradiction that that day was bliss and torment.

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s touch he artist T ’ THE ARTIST’S TOUCH

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I clearly remember the day the film crew showed up at my grandfather’s house. A truck drove slowly down the driveway and parked. Jack Ofield, a young nonconformist looking guy, who would years later become a well-known director, producer, and professor of film at San Diego State University, stepped out of the truck and walked up to shake Grandfather’s hand. “Harvey, nice to see you again,” Ofield said, just like they were old friends. More vehicles pulled into the driveway. Young men unloaded TV cameras and sound equipment and began setting up around Grandfather’s woodchip pile. My grandfather, Harvey Ward, was eightynine at that time and frankly, he paid them no never mind. He just got the logs ready, just like he did when no one was around. I was just a child of about ten years old and I ran up to him and asked, “Grandpa, what is happening?” Grandfather explained that the film crew was there to film him making scoops. “Why, Grandpa?” I inquired further. “They seem to think that it is special…or maybe they want to make their own. I don’t rightly know.” Then he laughed, a quiet laugh, mostly with his eyes and with a smile that made everyone who saw it smile too. He always smelled like fresh-cut wood, spending most of his days covered in sawdust. He had been making scoops for seventy-five years. “Scoops,” as my grandfather called them, were wooden shovels that he hand carved, first with an ax and then with other handmade tools. Wooden shovels were used by grain and gunpowder factories, which could

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not use metal shovels because they would contaminate the grain or cause a spark in the gunpowder. The majority of wooden shovels my ancestors made were designed for use in the gunpowder factories in Pennsylvania. I later discovered his father was an Englishman and his mother was Delaware Indian (Lenni Lenape, as they were originally named, from the upstate New York area). In Native tribes, families were assigned roles. His family was assigned to make the all-wood tools the Native American tribe required. This meant bowls, firewood boxes, etc. In the northeast United States, there was plenty of wooded forests in the 1700-1800s, so the use of wooden tools was natural. In later years, Native Americans traded beaver skins with the English in exchange for metal tools. Wooden tool making was a family tradition passed down from one generation to the next until my great-grandfather and his brothers were taught by their father as teenagers to make wooden shovels. Wooden shovel making was a family tradition as far back as anyone can remember and has been documented as far back as 1833. That would have been my great-great-great-grandfather, Joseph Epoth Ward. Before him it was his father, Cornelius Ward, who passed down the story of his father gathering wood for scoop making when the “stars fell from heaven.” That would have been the Leonid Meteor Shower that occurred November 12, 1833, known as one of the most remarkable of all the meteoric showers that have ever occurred. It was estimated that as many as two-hundred thousand stars per hour fell for five or six hours.

Nancy Diodati / Nancy will be graduating in May 2013 with a Bachelor’s in English: professional writing concentration. Simultaneously, she will be completing a Bachelor’s degree in art studio. As a freelance writer, Nancy has published poetry and several articles relating to business endeavors and success motivation. She loves New Mexico and is a dedicated wife, mother, and an especially proud grandmother.

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Grandfather said, “The stars that fell that night in the woods surrounding him were as big as a man’s closed fist and they fell on the ground and just quivered until they burnt out.” And as an old lady described it, it looked “like a gigantic umbrella.” It didn’t take long to film Grandpa. He could make a “scoop” in fifty-one minutes from start to finish. My grandfather wasn’t the fastest at making wooden shovels. That talent stayed with his father. His father, Joseph, was not only renowned for making his wooden shovels the fastest, but also with an extremely smooth finish which he achieved using a single-headed ax. Grandfather remembers when he and his father made 3,185 shovels out of chestnut in 1925. At that time, wooden shovels sold for three dollars a dozen or Joseph, his father, would make custom shovels for thirty-five cents. My ancestors were the only ones in the 1800s to make the “D” handle, which was named after the capital letter “D.” There were other wooden shovel makers, but they were making shovels with long stick handles like a broom handle. My grandfather’s father and his father before him also taught the next generation to melt metal to make the custom tools needed to build shovels by hand. Before the Jack Ofield documentary, entitled The Last Shovel Maker, was broadcasted on PBS in the 1970s, Grandfather sold a handmade wooden shovel for eight

dollars, but after the show aired and at the encouragement of Jack Ofield, who said he “never met a man like Harvey Ward, who was so talented with hand tools,” Grandpa raised the price to fifteen dollars because his shovels came into such great demand. He would mail them all over the world after that. The documentary is still being shown at film festivals all over the world. My grandfather made shovels right up until he died in 1982, at age ninety-two. There was also a book written about my grandfather’s shovel making by David Goff, entitled Wooden Scoop Shovel Making, published in 1973. My grandfather is just as popular now as he was when he lived on this earth, thanks to the video Jack Ofield made, which is still circulating the film festival circuit today and now includes international audiences and the wooden scoops my grandfather made sometimes come up for auction at various places and sell for three-hundred to five-hundred dollars. I didn’t understand the significance of what my grandfather did or who he was then. How could I? I was born into this family and watched the shovel making day after day. Grandfather was so unassuming about his craft as Jack Ofield said he was “completely unaware of…(his) connection to American cultural and industrial history, yet carrying on an indigenous craft central to the agricultural world that comprised ninety percent of our nation in time gone by.”

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CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS Abernathy, William / Will is a creative writing student in his junior year at UNM. This is the first time he’s worked up the nerve to submit for publication. Besides writing, he enjoys reading, watching anime, and taking things apart. just sitting there - Poetry, Fall Gardening / No Stress - Short Fiction Ahuja, Arun Anand / Arun is taking a string of movement relaxation classes at UNM, teaches quigong exercise to seniors, and is fascinated by the natural tai chi of cats. Me and Dogs - Nonfiction Bently, Lorin / Lorin is an Albuquerque native and a senior at UNM majoring in English and minoring in history. She has never had a story published before but is a lover of stories—real and fiction—in all forms. And, though she is now a fan of Doctor Who, she wrote the first drafts of this story before she knew about the weeping angels, so don’t worry about any potential threat David might pose for mankind. You’ve Given Me a Name - Short Fiction Bourbour, Sarvin / Sarvin was born in 1976 in Tehran, Iran. She practiced as an attorney for ten years. She also pursued her interest in fine arts, having several group and solo exhibitions in water color as well as oil color. Her work was selected for the competition “Remarkable Women in Art” and was exhibited in the Red -Dot Gallery in Santa Fe in November 2012. The Old Bazaar, Tehran, Iran - Oil Color - 12” x 16”, Fall - 16” x 20” / Winter - Water Color - 12” x 16” Burleigh, Linnea / Linnea had always hated poetry, so it came as a bit of a surprise to her when she took a poetry writing class and realized how ridiculously mistaken she had been. Ever since then, she has spent her spare time with her new love, scribbling nonsense, hoping that some truth and beauty might come out of it. Wool Sweater / Epistle / The Tallest Ladder / Consolation / The World Upside Down - Poetry Crooks, Kendra / Kendra is a senior film student at the University of New Mexico. She finds true inspiration in the fragile reality of life and the beauty of the different countries in this world. She hopes to continue traveling, producing art, and inspiring others to live life to the fullest. Bravery and Bridges - Nonfiction Deininger, Keith / Keith is an award-winning writer and poet. He is the author of numerous works of short fiction, the novella Fevered Hills, and the novel The New Flesh (June 2013). A graduate of the creative writing program at the UNM, he currently resides in Albuquerque with his wife and their three dogs.

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<www.KeithDeininger.com> Lead the Way Sparky! / Yellow Powder - Poetry, All You Can Eat - Short Fiction Diodati, Nancy / Nancy will be graduating in May 2013 with a Bachelor’s in English: professional writing concentration. Simultaneously, she will be completing a Bachelor’s degree in art studio. As a freelance writer, Nancy has published poetry and several articles relating to business endeavors and success motivation. She loves New Mexico and is a dedicated wife, mother, and an especially proud grandmother. The Artist’s Touch - Nonfiction Faris, Christina / Tina is a super senior at UNM, studying creative writing and international studies. She will be pursuing a Master’s degree in international relations next year. She loves traveling, inordinate amounts of coffee, Latin America, and almost any kind of chocolate. still-frame of energy exchange - Poetry, Grazing Near Inca Ruins - Digital Photography Fetzer, Rebecca / Rebecca teaches classroom music in Albuquerque Public Schools. She is currently attending UNM as a graduate student to obtain a Master’s degree in music education. She feels her faith is the guiding force in her life. The Tenderly Beating Heart - Short Fiction Kuster, Joseph / Joseph, originally from Colorado, is pursuing a double major in film and German. He was previously featured in the Celebrating What is Important to Me essay anthology (2006-07 volume), and his article, “Allusions That Dare Not Speak Their Name: Coded Culture and Queer History in Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” was published in the spring 2012 issue of Best Student Essays. A Sin of Omission / All this beloved and vulnerable flesh - Poetry Huynh, Kim / Kim has been drawing since she could hold a pencil. Most of her inspiration comes from other artists and her current mood. She’s been showcased in the annual Albuquerque Metro Art Show. Artemis / Portrait / Cry the Beloved Country - Digital Art Labreche, Juan / Juan is an undergraduate of the University of New Mexico. An aspiring photojournalist majoring in multimedia journalism. Juan seeks out the passion expressed by individuals’ lives across the globe. Bike’s Rain / Chill Ride - Digital Photography Lamb, Rachel / Rachel, an Albuquerque native, is a recent graduate of the University of New Mexico where she received Bachlor’s

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CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS degrees in English: creative writing and psychology. She is currently among the administrative staff at Popejoy Hall and plans to continue her creative writing coursework in graduate school in 2014. She has previously been published in Best Student Essays and was nominated for the Lena M. Todd Award in Fiction. Postcards From Tomorrow - Short Fiction Manning, Kylie / Kylie is a Master’s student in the UNM History Department. She earned her BA last May with a major in American history and a minor in film studies at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA. She is a native New Mexican, a dancer, and an avid reader. Encounters - Poetry Marek, Lauren A. / Lauren is currently a junior at the University of New Mexico. Always having a love for art, she has continued to draw, valuing it as not just a hobby, but a way to express inexpressible ideas. She recognizes art not as a general study, but rather a personal venture and joy that has the capacity to capture observers, as well as those that wish to create an art for themselves. Evolution / Hands / Audrey - Pencil Drawings - 18” x 24” McCarthy, Kelly / Kelly is a graduate student at the University of New Mexico and she is pursuing an M.A. in sociology. As an aspiring photographer, she has been published several times and is starting a photography website to showcase her portrait work. Nature’s Looking Glass / Summer’s Long Gone / After the Thaw / Serenade - Digital Photography Myers, Jessie / Jessie is attending UNM and majoring in anthropology. She has been practicing photography as a hobby for five years. Taney Butterfly / Jellyfish - Digital Photography Palmer, Scott / Scott has been writing for twenty-seven years. He works at UNM. He writes poetry to expunge past issues and feelings from his present. Poncho’s Left - Poetry Parro, Jordan / Jordan is a high school mathematics teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His interests include philosophy, theology, mathematics, running, and the arts. His photography has been published Scribendi and featured in local art galleries. Salty Crown of Thorns - Nonfiction Parro, Sarah Chantal / Sarah received her B.A. in professional writing, with a minor in theatre from the University of New Mexico in 2012. Her work has been published previously in both the 2011 and 2012 issues of Conceptions Southwest. You can also find her freelance theatre reviews for TalkinBroadway.com as well as articles

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on EvangelicalOutpost.com. Blank - Script, A Funeral in France - Nonfiction, Skin - Short Fiction Pasekoff, Laura / Laura is an undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico. She has lived in Albuquerque and Wodonga, Australia, and is currently pursuing an English degree. Before I Was Young - Poetry, Surfer’s Paradise - Nonfiction, Winds, Oceans, and Angels - Short Fiction Salvato, Lauren / Lauren is a senior at the University of New Mexico majoring in environmental science and minoring in sustainability studies and Italian. She has a passion for traveling and has grown to love photography. The photographs submitted were taken in Mek’ele, Ethiopia on an Operation Smile Medical Mission. Mother and Child / Mek’ele Marketplace - Photography Shattuck, Jeremy / Jeremy is a senior in cinematic arts at UNM. He hails from Santa Fe and spends his time producing music and films and writing for his website, hipandtrippy.com. The Yuwipi Man - Nonfiction Stasiewicz, Claire / Claire is a sophomore at UNM. From photography to writing extremely poor poems, Claire participates in many different art practices but would not consider herself an artist—though, if you want to call her one, she won’t object or anything. Claire studies art history, is a Scribendi staff member, is deeply involved in many important and wonderful organizations, and spends far too much time eating Nutella. The Cannibalism of Desire / Shape of Silmulacrum - Digital Photography, Octopoda Incirrina - Cyanotype Print - 8” x 8” Stephens, Brenda / Bre is an Abstract Colorist who emerged onto the art scene in 2007. Her work delves into the use of color as a means of expressing certain emotions and feelings within the viewer. To date, she has shown her work in the states of Ohio, Missouri, New Mexico, and California. Serenity - Acrylic on Glass Vase - 13” x 8” x 26.25”, Cosmic Water Dance - 12” x 48” / Flight of a Thousand Birds Acrylic on Canvas - 24” x 24”, Bliss 42 - Crayon on Paper and Cardboard - 24” x 36” Vincioni, Josephine / Jo graduated from UNM, retired from American Airlines, and is currently the clinic coordinator for the Hereditary Cancer Assessment Program at the UNM CRTC. She is inspired by God, devoted to her husband, adult children, extended family, and friends. And considers herself to be very blessed. Florenza - Acrylic - 36” x 36”

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SUBMISSION GUIDELINES General Submission Guidelines 2013-2014 Return submissions to the Daily Lobo Classifieds Office, Marron Hall, Room 107, or to csw@unm.edu by December 9th.

Who Can Submit: Any UNM undergraduate, graduate, professional, non-traditional, continuing education student, alumni, faculty, or staff.

What to Submit: Fiction: Short Fiction pieces or excerpts from longer works, no longer than 5,000 words each. Nonfiction: Short memoirs, personal essays, literary journalism, or excerpts from longer works, no longer than 5,000 words each. Poetry: Any style, no longer than 5,000 words each. Scripts: Works for stage or screen, including monologues, short plays, short screenplays, or excerpts, no longer than 10 pages each. Photography: Digital copies only. Longest side no shorter than 1,000 pixels. Must be 300 dpi. Visual Art: Two-dimensional works (paintings, drawings, digital art, prints, etc.), or photographs of three-dimensional works (sculptures, models, jewelry, installation pieces, etc.). Comic art must be no longer than one page. Electronic copies must be 300 dpi. Music: Sheet music, with or without lyrics, no longer than 5 pages each. • • • •

Text submissions may be in any language, so long as a translation is provided if not in English. Visual submissions may be in color, but much of the magazine will be in black and white, so keep this in mind when submitting. We will not accept previously published works or simultaneous submissions. All works must be titled. “Untitled” is not an acceptable title.

How to Submit: • • • • • • • •

A completed Submission Form must accompany all submissions. Submissions are limited to 5 works per person in any category or combination of categories (i.e. 5 poems or 2 poems and 3 photographs). Do not include your name anywhere on any submissions, only on the Submission Form. Hard copies and electronic files are accepted. Electronic files should be in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format. Electronic submissions are preferred. Text submissions must be typed, double-spaced, with page numbers and a title. Visual submissions must be .gif, .jpg, or .tif (minimum 300 dpi) if submitted electronically. Electronic files must be titled with the title of the piece and the category (e.g. The Great Gatsby, Fiction). If you are delivering a physical copy, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for notification of acceptance or rejection.

To Submit: Send submissions to csw@unm.edu or drop off submissions at Marron Hall, Room 107.

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2013 -14 SUBMISSION FORM General Submission Form 2013-2014 Return submissions to the Daily Lobo Classifieds Office, Marron Hall, Room 107, or to csw@unm.edu by December 9th. Name:____________________________________________________

Email:____________________________________________________

Mailing Address:________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Phone (cell):_______________________________________________ UNM Status (circle):

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1. Title:___________________________________________________

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Please write a short (2-3 sentences) biography of yourself in the third person. If we publish any of your submissions, we will print this biography in the magazine. Please note any publications that have published your work before. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ I, the undersigned, do hereby certify that the work I am submitting is entirely my own. Conceptions Southwest will not be held liable for disputes concerning plagiarism found in my work. The work I submitted has not been published before, and I am not submitting it simultaneously to any other publication. If accepted, I authorize Conceptions Southwest a one-time use of my work for publication in the current issue, with editing if necessary, and for use in promoting that issue. Upon publication, all rights revert to me.

Signature:_________________________________________________

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Conceptions Southwest, 2012-2013  

The staff of CSW is proud to present the 36th edition of Conceptions Southwest!