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Haute Dish The Arts and Literature Magazine of Metropolitan State University


Volume 8 • Issue 2

Inside This Issue The Day After Graduation


Until Morning


Sarai Meyer

Zach Jansen

Punto 6 Luke Gliddon

Impossi-bull Bob Patty Voje


London Bridge


Light On


Monday Morning Bike Ride


Thistle at Sunset


Cat Flinger


The Rain


Amy Schuster Zach Jansen

Matty Spillum Rebekah Pahr Heidi Fuhr

Wendy Stokes

Walking 14 Autumn Kisling

Wild Places


Dinner with VanGogh


untitled feet 7-22-2012


The Mud Pit


Jason Rustan Kathleen Donovan

Heather Schillinger Jason Fihn

Self-Portrait 19 Rebekah Pahr

The Depot

Sarai Meyer


Charlotte 21 Colleen Connolly

Countdown to Tour


Away From Here


Matty Spillum Zach Jansen

Janie 24 Nick Hutchinson

Untitled 26 Anne Rusley

The Enlightenment of Oscar Brimley


Till then I will abide with thee


What Light of My Life


Airport Reflections


Harrison’s Boots


Shepherds of Lost Sleep


A Fate Worse Then Death


Paradoxal Fluxuation Temporal Shift


Jeffrey Peterson Laura Brodie Zach Jansen

Matty Spillum

Sasha Reanier

Evan Nordstrom

Nick Hutchinson Patrick Parisian

Apartness 38 Laura Brodie

From the Editor Welcome to the (very special) Summer 2012 issue of Haute Dish. This is the annual issue we open up to the entire Metropolitan State University community. As you can see, this issue is jam packed. We received 106 submissions from students, alumni, staff and faculty; 33 were accepted. The editors worked very hard to choose what they thought were the best (I’m sure a couple of them lost sleep over their obligation to choose only a few). We appreciate everyone’s submissions and hope that you will all submit in the future. July 1 marks the beginning of a new year for Haute Dish (new academic year, new year for us). Submissions are already being accepted for our Fall 2012 issue. With staff changes and the normal bumps in the road, we may have a few technical difficulties, but get to our submission page and GO FOR IT! We are sad to see some of our excellent editors leave us but we are glad to see them graduate and either begin a new or improve an existing career. We were fortunate to have such a great team last year and, as usual, are looking for a few new editors, with a passion for great writing and art, to carry on the tradition. Haute Dish will be a participant in this year’s Metropolitan State Fall Fest. This is new for us so please stop by and say “Hey”. Information will show up all around campus, in your e-mail and Web announcements soon. Look for it, look for us! Thank our editors (past and present) and to all of you who spend time with us. We truly appreciate you. Good luck and good bowling! Diane DeRosier Douglass

Summer 2012 Managing Editor Diane DeRosier Douglass

Staff Amber Anderson Jeff Arcand Nick Hutchinson Chiara Marano Jamie McKelvey Sarai Meyer Cat Miller Amber Newman Trent Olson Matty Spillum

Faculty Advisor Suzanne Nielsen

Submissions: Visit The Fall 2012 issue is open to all Metropolitan State University students. Deadline is Sunday, August 26, 2012.

Front Cover Art Got Something To Say? Serena Mira Asta

Back Cover Art t he haves and the have nots straight from my tulips Gail Gates

All copyrights are retained by individual artists and authors. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is strictly prohibited. Haute Dish is a production of Metropolitan State University and is made possible in part by student activity fees.

Bios Serena Mira Asta is an artist and writer who lives in the Lowertown neighborhood of Saint Paul. She is also a singer, and is learning to handcraft her own sketchbooks. She loves spinning and dyeing, but is careful how often she says that out loud.

Evan Nordstrom, student. “I’m just a guy going to school. I like to write poetry. I enjoy melancholy, manic phases, and sometimes bouts of sadness, as these emotional states contribute to my desire to write. Just kidding. But not really.”

Laura Brodie was born in Scotland and lived in South African during the Apartheid era from the ages of 7 until turning 18. She is working on a bachelor’s degree in creative writing with a minor in gender studies. Laura writes poetry, memoirs and occasional stand-up comedy. Someday, she hopes to write a book about her experiences growing up in South Africa.

Rebekah Pahr is pursuing a degree in technical communication with a minor in studio arts from Metropolitan State University. She enjoys writing, painting and drawing; her creative work is inspired by her childhood memories. Rebekah will be graduating this spring to seek a position as a tech writer, plan B is to move to Key West and paint on the beach, plan C is to become her childhood idol, Peter Pan.

Colleen Connolly, student, lives in Saint Paul with her husband Nick, their cat Ms. Mia, and two dogs, Pete and Howie, who by the way rescued them. Her poems, essays and stories have appeared on the refrigerator door and bathroom mirror.

Patrick Parisian is a writing major at Metropolitan State. Upon graduating, his dream is to be a book editor and, somewhat, renowned novelist. A native of Minneapolis, he tries to incorporate aspects of the Twin Cities in all his works.

Kathleen Donovan is currently pursuing a degree in English and creative writing at Metro State. Past studies include writing workshops through The Art Colony in Grand Marais, Minnesota. She is a devout poet, writer and essayist who continues to publish short stories, essays and poetry on her website

Jeff Peterson is an instructor in management and marketing at Metropolitan State University and St. Cloud Technical and Community College. He is also co-owner of Channel Partners Capital LLC. Jeff and his wife Martha live in Minnetonka and at their cabin near the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness.

Jason Fihn is completing his first semester at Metropolitan State and will be majoring in professional writing as well as minoring in creative writing. He writes fiction primarily to tell an entertaining story, and if it in some way tackles real life issues that’s cool too.

Sasha Reanier is currently a creative writing major at Metro State. After years of living and looking for work on the streets and soundstages of Hollywood proved sufficiently dismal. Sasha made her way across the country searching for her niche. A little snow and state fair food was all she needed to put down roots in the Twin Cities.

Heidi Fuhr majored in creative writing at Metro State and is now a graduate student in the master of liberal studies program. Her worst fears are centipedes, landlords and bureaucratic nightmares.

Anne Rusley is working on her computer information systems degree at Metro State. Anne’s submission (page 26) is her final project from Papermaking, ARTS 304, with Erica Spitzer Rasmussen, Spring semester.

Gail Gates, student, master of liberal studies program at Metropolitan State. The need to photograph my world comes at the expense of other more rewarded homework and housework. It’s not that I’m good at photography… it feeds me like dark chocolate brownies on a rainy day.

Jason Rustan is a First College student focusing on writing. Jason has discovered recently, that when he meets other owners of Buicks on the road, they give him a slight nod of recognition and a small wave, like they are part of some sort of secret fraternity.

Luke Gliddon, student in the urban teacher program. Last year, in Argentina, he found some farms to WOOF at and headed for some adventure. “Let’s climb that”, he said to his friends. It was the largest peak in the area. Luke lives in Minneapolis and enjoy good company, good food and bees.

Heather Schillinger is an artist, a student and a mother. Heather enjoys both arts and crafts from papermaking to painting with acrylics on canvas.

Nick Hutchinson is a Haute Dish editor and creative writing senior at Metro State. He plays bass in the band Two Eyes for the Dead and is currently working on a novel, which he expects to complete by the end of the year. He enjoys biking, crossword puzzles, and cursing. Zach Jansen is an award-winning screenwriter studying screenwriting to become a paid (and more award-winning) screenwriter. Other than attending school, writing scripts, watching movies, filming movies, writing stories, caring for his two toddler sons, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, cooing meals, cleaning the house, emptying the litter box, listening to his wife, taking his daily constitutional, and mindlessly surfing the net, he sleeps. Autumn Kisling is in her final year at Metro State where she will graduate with a double major in professional and creative writing. She’s happily married and a mother of two little girls. In addition to writing, she also enjoys photography, reading all kinds of books and watching movies. Sarai Meyer is a poetry editor for Haute Dish and is pursuing her degree in creative writing. She enjoys writing poetry on the roof, walking across the Stone Arch Bridge in the evening, and collecting antique bird cages.

Amy Marie Schuster was born and raised in Anoka. She is continuing her education in art design and marketing at Metro State. Her works are on display at various local venues and boutiques. Her work is also displayed at art shows, festivals, benefits, and various silent auctions. Amy enjoys staying connected and does so by using various social media sites and updating her website Matty Spillum writer, student and tutor... I live at Metro, I sometimes believe. Wendy Stokes is a senior double-majoring in professional writing and social studies teaching. When she is not homeschooling her children or beauty advising at the airport, Wendy enjoys writing, jazz and documentaries. Patty Voje has spent the past two decades as a creative in the ad world. She is currently enrolled at Metropolitan State University completing her degree, a task she put off for the past 25 years. She’s the mother of two grown children who are off finishing their own degrees. Outside of work and school Patty enjoys painting, writing and chilling with her three bulldogs. u


The Day After Graduation Sarai Meyer the day after graduation tasseled cap on a shelf forgotten like confetti in Times Square on January 2nd



Until Morning Zach Jansen The slender red digits of the alarm clock burn in the darkened room. The amber glow of the streetlamps outside peeks through the curtains, outlines our naked bodies lying on the bed. I count the tiles on the ceiling, the same routine since the first night. I blow her hair from my face. This is the worst part. Waiting. She falls asleep every time. I once heard that when the police arrest someone they can determine the person’s guilt by whether or not they’re able to sleep. An innocent man can’t close his eyes, his mind searching for the reasons of his incarceration. A guilty man gets the best rest of his life. Yet I never fall asleep after nights like this. I told Emily I had to work late. She knows better than to ask questions. I wouldn’t lay a hand on her, but like a dog that’s been struck down so often she just expects the worst when there’s potential for an argument. I ease Angie’s tired arm off my chest. Goosebumps ripple across my body as the warmth of her arm vanishes. A sudden itch on my back becomes a shiver. It’s always too damn cold in this room. The bed groans as I sit up and swing my feet to the floor. Angie doesn’t move. I open the drawer on the nightstand––push in, pull up, then tug. The Gideon’s inside slides toward me, as if offering answers to any questions I might have. But I’m not looking for guidance. I get plenty at my Narc-Anon group. I flip the bible’s pages and snatch my token of fidelity. How lovingly it glides on compared to how I have to yank it off. I reach to the floor. My clothes are neatly piled, ready at all times for my eventual departure. I always found it funny how in the movies a discreetly leaving man would never put on his shoes. Only takes a few moments, but every time he’d carry them out. Seemed like it was so the actor had something to do with his hands. But there’s more to it. I know that now. Fully dressed––shoes in hand—I check my pockets. Everything’s here. I still haven’t forgiven myself for losing

my brother’s lucky thimble one of the first times we met here. All I have of him now are memories: he’s four or five years old, playing with the shiny trinket on the kitchen floor. Mom steps over him as she prepares lunch or dinner. Him trying to spin the thing like a top. Him forgetting to take it with him to the pond… I request the same room every time, a back-up plan so I know where to look in case something else important goes missing. I pull a few bills from my wallet and drop them on the nightstand. I do it more for me than her. The Gideon’s stares up at me from the still-opened drawer. I close it–– pull all the way out, lift up, and push in––and head for the door. The faded yellow light rushes in and, like me, is quickly gone. The door locking sounds hollow, echoing off the empty space left by the brain cells I never really cared about. Or needed, I guess. Always does. Sounds hollow, I mean. I kick off the sheets––always too hot in here––and sprawl across the bed. Only time I don’t have to hide these stretch marks that run over my stomach like bicycle tracks hardened in the mud. A finger traces my caesarean scar and when they meet I feel the numbed tugging and pulling. I hear my sons’ crying, Aaron first and Jimmy Jr. two years later. Been weeks since I’ve seen them. I want to, but Jimmy Sr., he says it’s not a good time now. He has a real job. And a wife now, too––a goody-goody-looking girl he met at N.A. Emma or Amy. Something uppity like that. Pretty, I guess, if you like half-full eyes and someone who’s more bobble-head doll than human being. Jimmy told me that before she cleaned up, a boyfriend got pissed at her for stealing his stash or messing around or something and stabbed her in the belly. So now she can’t have babies. But she gets to take care of my children. She still gets to be a mom.

He never asked to marry me. Only wanted to get me pregnant. He called it practicing to get pregnant. Never thought he’d actually have to play the game. He started getting clean right away and hit me when I didn’t. He always pushed me around, so it wasn’t anything I couldn’t take. Guess it’s better we didn’t walk down the aisle after all. That goody-goody girl takes it. I don’t know that for sure, but if he took it out on me, why not her? My kids never have bruises. I snatch the cash and roll one of the bills into a tight, narrow tube. On the nightstand are a sheet of foil and my baggie. There’s a lighter in my purse. Next to it is a thimble, its silver drab and worn, its pock marks rubbed flat. It was sitting on the floor a few months ago. A forgotten relic from when people had to mend and patch problems instead of replace them. Jimmy used to talk about his brother having a thimble. He left some money this time. I pop the rolled bill in my mouth and pour some meth on the foil. The lighter’s meager flame flickers under it. This is the worst part. Waiting. I think about the money.I should pay the rent. I should buy groceries. I should get nice clothes for a job interview. I should– Smoke wisps from the foil. I inhale… My mind is a sheet of paper in the wind. My veins fill with anything but should. Everything else can wait until morning.



Punto Luke Gliddon photography 6


Impossi–bull Bob Patty Voje “That Mike Vick is a real creep,” I thought to myself as I read the latest installment on his dog fighting drama on the front page of the Pioneer Press. “Who could do such a thing?” I didn’t know it at the time, but that very thing— dog fighting—was happening a block from my house and, unbeknownst to me, I had recently committed to such a dog. I have a bad habit of replacing men with dogs. I’m not sure why, but I seem hard-wired to do so. The moment I made the announcement to my sisters that I was filing for divorce, their response was, “don’t go off and do something stupid like buy another dog.” Any dog lover knows that nothing fixes hurt and rejection as fast as the love of a dog. Besides, who has time to wallow in self pity when you’re wallowing in a flood of puppy pee and mourning the loss of your Nordstrom’s fine leather goods, now strewn upon the living room floor? His name was Bob. I named him after my recently deceased uncle. I felt it was only right, for if it hadn’t been for dear Uncle Bob and his tidy inheritance that arrived that spring, Bob the dog might not have been. I bought Bob on a sunny April day, from a neighbor a block away. Bob was the last of a litter of Old English Bulldog puppies—six months old already and no takers. No takers—that resonated with me. The breeder explained that they had planned to keep him for stud but had a change of heart. I didn’t question it. I changed my mind all the time. Bob was solid white with one brown spot over his left eye that looked remarkably like an eyebrow. He had big brown, watery eyes. His giant, block-shaped head set his eyes so far apart I often wondered if he could see straight ahead. All in all, he was pretty adorable. In hindsight, I probably should have glanced at his feet or inquired about his parents, but I just figured he’d be a “normal” bulldog. Plus, my daughters were there and it was love at first sight. I guess when your parents are divorcing any distraction will do.

I knew something was amiss on that very first day I brought Bob home. There he was, planted on the couch between my daughters Lillie and Jane, watching television. That was when the size of his paws finally registered. Jane, my younger daughter, held one of Bob’s front legs up and said, “Look Mom, he’s gonna be ginormous!” That first night when I put Bob in his new kennel, he barked incessantly. Our other dog, Betty, was also a bulldog—an Old English Bulldog to be exact. She never barked or drooled or chewed or dug—all things that Bob excelled at in the first 24 hours at my house. After a couple of days with Bob I was feeling a little ill, kicking myself for lack of impulse control, which is in itself an oxymoron. Go ahead, just try to control your impulses. Maybe he wasn’t really “pure-bred.” In my haste, I had skipped the step where you ask for the official papers from the American Kennel Club (AKC). Bob was seeming less and less like an Old English Bulldog. He didn’t fit the profile. I started to research bulldog breeds and realized Bob was probably a mix of some sort. The AKC website described traits of the entire range of bulldog breeds, from largest to smallest: Bull Mastiffs, American Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, Old English Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, and the current fashion trend - French Bulldogs. As I read about the different breeds the American Bulldog started to stand out—coloring mostly white, nose less pushed in, block-shaped head, a tendency to bark, and a condition they called “wet mouth” which basically means they drool like a faucet. American Bulldogs are, hands down, the least popular of the bunch. You’ll never find one at a dog show, but dog pounds and rescue centers are brimming with them. American Bulldogs are so unruly they practically have to give them away. Not knowing what kind of bulldog Bob really was, I started to refer to him as an “imposter-bull,” because he was like one of those cheap imitation fragrances you buy at continued...



Walgreen’s—you have no idea what you’re getting, but you know it’s not going to smell good. After a year with Bob I changed my response to “impossi-bull”, because that was the one thing he clearly was. Before Bob, my yard was a respectable assortment of small, somewhat neglected shrubs and plants. Three trees littered the small city lot with sticks and acorns, shutting out most of the sun from above. A few tufts of grass managed to break through. After a few short months with Bob the appearance of my backyard had gone from “acceptable” to that of a war-torn third world country. Every shrub had been buzzed down to a mere twig, destroyed dog toys sent wads of white stuffing billowing through the yard like tumbleweed. He dug holes so big you’d think we were conducting bomb testing. Dirt and mud everywhere. Not one blade of grass remained. On the back of my house was a large two-tiered deck, brittle and fading in the sun. Underneath was dog paradise. Betty loved to crawl under the deck and sleep in the darkness on the damp cool ground. Bob didn’t quite fit, hence began his love of digging. It took Bob all of five minutes to dig a hole deep enough to gain access, destroying the adjoining garden, sending hostas and lilies flying. I never understood how Betty could emerge from under the deck looking as good as new and Bob emerged looking much like a coal miner, just the white of his eyes showing. Which brought me to the discovery of Bob’s next problem—fear of bath time. Bulldogs are two things, strong and bull-headed. It would take myself, both of my daughters, and a few of their friends to drag Bob into the tub and soap him up. Bob’s biggest issue was nerves. He was a nervous guy and his nervousness triggered an unsightly amount of drool and shedding. Unfortunately, everything made him nervous— walks, car rides, vet visits, animals, teenagers, children, storms, sirens, fireworks, suitcases, dogs barking on television—the list goes on. My family and friends developed a quick dislike for Bob. When people walked 8


through our front door, Bob would literally bowl them over with his nervous affection. Drool constantly hanging from his large oversized jowls he’d leave large, dark, wet stains on everyone’s pants, an event we later coined “being Bobbed.” Betty, our “good” bulldog, had little patience for him. Bob would beat her down the stairs, practically knocking her over in the process. He’d quickly finish his bowl of food and race over to her bowl, push her aside, and inhale what was left. He squished his large frame into her dog bed so he could be next to her. Betty wore a pained look on her face whenever Bob was near. Aggression was another of Bob’s problems. He was overly aggressive towards unfamiliar dogs, and at 100 pounds he was difficult to control when he decided to pounce. I became afraid to leave the house with him. The neighbors had even less patience. Any time they attempted to entertain guests on their patio, Bob was there in full crazy-dog mode, terrorizing them as he jumped angrily on their chain-linked fence, barking, gnashing his teeth, and sending spit flying into their yard. One day my neighbor knocked on my door and asked me how long I planned to keep Bob. I didn’t know how to respond, finally I muttered something about him being “family” and quietly closed the door. I caught Bob giving me a thankful glance. The next weekend my neighbor took down the chain linked fence and installed a ten foot tall privacy fence, which took Bob about one day of head-butting to bust through. I spent my evenings nailing fence boards back in place and apologizing to my neighbors. By August, Bob was fitting nicely into his extra large paws and now weighed in at a whopping 110 pounds. Bath time now required the strength of a professional wrestler or two. Most days I was too exhausted to even look at Bob. His daily parade of mud, spit, snot, and dog hair scattering through the house, sticking to everything, began to take its toll. Bob was also a big chewer. All summer long I would cringe at work when my cell phone rang, I’d glance to see it was one of my daughters and brace myself for whatever

terrible thing Bob had done that day. One day he chewed the railing off the back porch. Another day he literally ate the bottom basement step. Another he devoured one of my antique dining room chairs. One chilly Fall afternoon, Lillie called sobbing, Bob had chewed off the corner of our piano bench. Lillie was the pianist in the family and our piano was the only thing Bob could damage that would bring her to tears. It was also the only thing of real value that I owned. That was the last straw. “God damn it!” I snapped, “I’m coming home right now.” “No, don’t,” pleaded Lillie, “it’s not that bad!” I stormed out of work. When I burst through the front door, I found Bob sulking on the couch. He knew he had crossed the line. I looked at Lillie and said, “That’s it, I cannot do this anymore. Bob has got to go, He’s ruining my life!” Now, both daughters pleaded “No, don’t send him away! We need him, we love him!” I replied, “Well, I don’t need him!” Then Lillie said something that has stayed with me to this very day; she announced, “Sometimes it’s not about you. It’s not about what you need. It’s about what we need, and more importantly, what Bob needs. You might not need Bob, but he needs you. If you bring him to the pound no one—absolutely no one—is going to adopt him. You’re his last hope.” It all came flooding back. The ugly divorce. The proclamations of “I can’t do this anymore”. It was all about me, what I needed, no real thought to what anyone else needed. I was a terrible parent; there was no way around it. I looked at my kids’ sad expressions and then glanced down at Bob who, for the first time, was sitting perfectly still, halo in place, staring at me with his big, bulging, watery eyes, as if he himself were pleading with me. At that moment I committed to Bob. I needed to commit to something. I needed to prove to my daughters and to myself that I could stick around when times got tough, that I could be counted on. I wouldn’t run away from this problem. this one, I would solve. I surrendered to the craziness that was living with Bob.

I got used to mopping the floor daily, spent my weekends scrubbing dog spit off the cabinets, furniture, windows, and sometimes ceilings. I gave away my beautiful Laura Ashley bed spread and replaced it with a more practical model from Target. I threw away all of my rugs, tore out the carpeting and adjusted to hardwood floors. In order to avoid other dogs and small children, I waited until dark to take Bob on his daily walks. I blew through my spending money on dog chews to save the furniture I had left. Things got a little better. Shortly after Bob’s 2nd birthday, a different story on dog fighting landed on the cover of the Pioneer Press. This time it was about the breeders a block away, the very people I had bought Bob from. It turned out they were fighting dogs. My vet figured they had originally kept Bob to fight him and probably discovered he wasn’t any good at it, and then unloaded him on me. That explained a lot of Bob’s issues—his irrational fear of teenagers, his territorial personality, his aggression towards other dogs, his chronic anxiety, and low lying depression. Knowing this really changed how I saw Bob. I understood him better and my frustration started to fade. I worked with Bob daily and gave him the structure, routine and discipline he needed. We became friends. In the years that followed, my daughters finished high school and one by one they ventured off to New York for college. Much like my own reaction, the comings and goings of the girls was hard on Bob. When the suitcases came out he would panic, sitting by the front door, brimming with anxiety— eyes big, panting, drooling, and shedding. After they left he’d pace around the house for days with a worried look on his face. Bob and I bonded with the house so empty. By this time, my older bulldog, Betty, was at that stage in life where sleeping twenty hours a day was perfectly acceptable. She was hardly there. That left Bob and me. Every night when I got home from work, continued...



Bob would stare at me intently, following me from room-to-room. He’d watch me eat dinner, clean up, pay bills, mow the lawn—he’d even watch me watch television, which, frankly, seemed a little over the top. Later in the evening, after it was good and dark, and all the small children and normal dogs were safely inside for the evening, Bob and I would share a quiet walk. The occasional rabbit or raccoon would scurry through the darkness and send Bob flying and me along with him, like a kite on a string. I will forever be grateful my daughters were home on summer break when Betty died. She was 13—very old for a bulldog. The chart on the vet’s wall had her at 110 in human years. We had just returned from what would be Betty’s last trip to the cabin. Betty and Bob were never happier than when they were at the lake running free and soaking up the sun on the dock. The last trip for Betty was a tough one. We carried her up and down the giant set of stairs to the lake. The day after we returned home I heard Betty collapse upstairs. Bob beat me to the top of the stairs, panic in his eyes. He watched with concern as we picked up her cold, dead body and carried her out of the house. Bob walked around the house for weeks, looking like he was crying—really crying. He sat on the couch and held his head down. There was no comforting him. Six months later, I brought him to the vet for shots. He had lost over 20 pounds and was sadder than ever. I told the vet I was worried there was something seriously wrong with him, “There was” she replied, “He has a broken heart.” Poor Bob, so upset over the loss of his beloved Betty, and she never even liked him. The following year, we lost Bob unexpectedly. It was New Year’s Day, and I noticed he was moving very slowly. At first I thought it was just his depression worsening, but in a 24-hour period he came to a grinding halt. I brought him to the vet. They thought perhaps he ate something and we should leave him overnight to see if it would pass. If not, they would perform surgery in the morning. Bob sat 10


in the lobby of the vet office, drooling, panting, shedding — clearly upset. He had never spent the night away from us before. I kissed him on the head and told him not to be such a big baby; I’d see him tomorrow. The next morning as I walked in the door at work, the vet called. She had terrible news—Bob had died suddenly that morning. It appeared to be a heart attack. I put down the phone in utter disbelief. And I remembered all those years, eight of them to be exact, that I had struggled with Bob. All the times I had wished he was gone. All the times I had told myself “when Bob is gone, I’ll be able to keep the house clean, go for walks in the daylight, invite friends over, be normal again.” And now he was gone, my dear friend Bob. My big, messy, difficult friend Bob. I drove home tears streaming down my face. Bob was so unpopular with so many people it was awkward to break the news. I got some interesting condolences, usually preceded by a long pause “Oh, I’m sorry, I know you loved him.” “Wow, you’ll finally be able to have a yard again!” Or my personal favorite, from my teenage nephew “Bob was a real asshole, but I know he meant a lot to you, sorry he’s dead.” And, of course, my sisters were quick to add, “You’re not going to get another dog, are you?” Clearly, they don’t even know me. I think about Bob every day and I miss him dearly. Bob taught me a lot. From him I learned patience, tolerance, and, most importantly, how to commit to something—no matter how difficult. What did I do with my newfound freedom in a Bob-free house? I got a couple more dogs, of course. One is a rescue dog with bad eyes and a healthy appetite for furniture, the other a perfect new puppy— a pure-bred English Bulldog this time. And, in an effort to choose wisely, I took careful note of his paw size and his parents. u

Light On

Monday Morning Bike Ride

Zach Jansen

Matty Spillum

My neighbors left their back light on again last night. They used to have a dog.

Wind cures you onto my lips warm traceries linger, finger paths stripe arms, neck, and torso in fading heat. I pedal and memorize the trails of touch so lately blazed. By journey’s end, each line has melted into sweat, leaving only the islands you branded into my throat and shoulder, calved like Surtsey by passion’s tectonics, blood brought to blush and steam in a sea of pale skin.

Old habits die hard.

London Bridge Amy Schuster painting

Cat Flinger Heidi Fuhr

Thistle at Sunset Rebekah Pahr paint pens on Arches paper, 22 x 18 in.



“Mommy, guess what? I got two-hundred-eighty experience points on Cat Flinger. I can use them to buy a virtual habitat for my guy? And he had yellow hair but I spent twenty points on changing his hair to blue? And Mommy. . . . Mommy. MOM. I also got this weapon? It’s like a super charger so I can fling the cats like way, way farther? It’s really cool, but it cost like a hundred points. “And Mommy. Mom. . . Mom. I beat Tyler’s high score, and we had this bet? So now he has to give me his best Yu Gi Oh cards, which are ‘Devastated Vegetable,’ ‘Immortal Magnet Dragon,’ and ‘Winds of Resecturen.’” “That says Resurrection.” “Resurrection. Whatever. So Tyler gave me those three cards? And. Um. ‘Devastated Vegetable’ is a Power Card? Which are the ones with the holograms on them and higher damage points? See, Mom, like this one. See? Mommy, See? So Tyler was supposed to give me six cards, but, like, I let him give me only three? Because one is a Power Card? But if he beats my high score on Cat Flinger. . . Mommy. Mama. Are you listening to me? If Tyler beats my Cat Flinger score I have to give him seven cards? Or three regular and two Power Cards? “But Mama?. . . Mom. If I can just get, like, fifteen extra minutes of screen time then I can get my Cat Flinger score up? Since I just got to upgrade my flinger with the super charger like right before I had to get off the computer? And anyways? Abbey got to have ten extra minutes of TV last night before bed. Um. And. . . . And, Mommy. Mom. And, she also got to sit in the front seat on the way to Target and on the way home. So can I Mommy?” “Can you what?” “Can I play Cat Flinger for fifteen extra minutes so Tyler won’t beat my high score.” “No.”

The Rain Wendy Stokes Quick drops of organized thoughts March down in a metallic cadence Low-pitched Across and upon Gutters and gates and eaves and shingles And privately closed mailboxes Black and silver An indifferent coolness Breezes through creviced branches Of banks and libraries Shadowed against swaying leaves With sky High And scraping indigo sighs

Having forsaken clouds and time Again descends Although much stronger than Paper bags tearing and pristine skirts splashing And Tribune sections scattering heavily Around bus stop benches And quick drops of organized thoughts March down in a metallic cadence Low-pitched Across and upon Gutters and gates and eaves and shingles And privately closed mailboxes Black and silver

Pot-holed, tire-trod city streets Now shimmering vibrantly With convenience store lights Bright On this night Allow puddled cars to pass As my moistened face sighs Beneath the edge of this umbrella’s end This permissive space Hovers in an evening embrace And this rain Now much too familiar Before this place



Walking Autumn Kisling photography 14


Wild Places Jason Rustan A pounding on the window caused him to look up. “Are you going to get gas, or what?” yelled a man through the glass. Barrett Ashby peered at the man as if through a fog, slowly remembering where he was and what he was doing. “You’re holding up the line!” The man had a blaze-orange knit cap pulled low on his forehead, and Barrett could see the hostility in his eyes and the neglected hair in this flaring nostrils. He nodded to the angry man, who backed away throwing up his arms in exasperation. As Barrett got out, and ran his card through the pump-reader, he forced himself to think about nothing. He focused on a steady drip of melting snow from the overhead canopy, then a rainbow of gasoline shimmering in the afternoon sunlight in a pothole puddle near his rear tire, then a bevy of crows neatly lined up at the roof’s edge of the station, watching him as the numbers on the pump spooled. The angry man honked, and again threw up his arms in disgust. Barrett pretended not to notice him, shut off the pump, and replaced the nozzle. Behind the wheel again, be began to replay the events of this terrible day in his mind. Dissolution of Marriage sounded so clinical, sterile. Dissolution: The act or process of resolving or dissolving into parts or elements. Dissolved. Like a drop of saltwater in fresh. No longer a we, or us. Just separate parts, dissolved. “How did I end up in a foreign car?” he wondered aloud to himself. “Was that my idea?” He thought not. It was nice, his Lexus, all tan and leather and wood grain on the inside; all black and shiny and suburban on the outside; the four-wheel drive and SUV hinting that there may have once been something wild about this man who now had few wild places left. He drove on through the streets, gutters trickling with melt, dirtied with sand and salt, remnants from the coldest winter of his life. He knew this ride well. He knew the dissolution said he would no longer be taking this ride when going home. “You built the house, and now its hers!” he said to the Lexus, this

time with a tinge of bitter laughter; and he heard his voice crack just a little, and he felt the lump in the back of his throat familiar from the few times he had wept in his adult lifetime. He had until the weekend to remove his things. He found himself in front of his garage; not the one attached to the house; but his garage, detached and near the back of the small acreage site; near the aspen and elm that separated his lot from the river. A twelve-footwide concrete driveway split off from the formal drive and snaked through the grass and scattered remnants of snow to his garage. The drive was lined with birch trees, approaching maturity, standing sentinel to the quiet and empty yard. The trees were beginning to bud, he noticed; and he marveled at how another year of his life had passed, another season gone, and with it the union which he had allowed to define him for so long. He thought he should grieve for the marriage, for the loss, for the finality of the day; he thought that he should wail in agony and shake his fists at the heavens, but all he really felt was tired. He was aware of the sun, warm on the back of his neck, and was aware of the birds, busy in the aspen and elms behind the garage, and the gurgle of the river beyond. He opened the overhead door to the garage. The afternoon light spilled across the interior of the shop, leaving shadows in the recesses, towards the back by the work bench and the parts cleaner. He flipped the bank of light switches up, and the shop came to life. The hum of the fluorescent lights greeted him. The motor on the air compressor powered on, pistons pumping, replenishing the tank. He breathed deeply and welcomed the scents of the garage/shop: grease, oil, gasoline, and dust from a season of disuse. A sense of comfort and solace washed over him. The car was there, where he had left it; covered by a lime-green tarp. He gently removed the tarp, folded it like a bed sheet, and placed it on the workbench. The car sparkled magically in the sunlight filtering in through the open door, and Barrett felt pains of nostalgia and loss. continued... u


His dad brought it home on a trailer when he was fourteen. He didn’t think much of it at the time. The orange paint was oxidized, and speckled with surface rust in places. The windshield was broken, the seats ragged, the dashboard cracked, and the carpet ripped. “A ’69 Camaro.” Barrett said, not able to hide the uncertainty and apprehension in his voice, given the car’s dilapidated condition. “Yeah, she’s been sitting for a while,” his dad said smiling. “It’s a little rough, but we’ll bring her around. Let’s get her in the barn.” Barrett and his father rebuilt the car from the ground up, a frame-off restoration. All the parts that weren’t welded on were removed, cleaned, labeled, and itemized on the big workbench at the rear of his father’s machine shed. For the next three years, the two of them spent their spare hours side by side, trying to return the car to as original condition as possible. Finally, on a cloudless day early in the summer, all was put back together and she was ready to ride. Faded orange no more, the Camaro was now resplendent in lustrous midnight black, with white rally stripes adorning the hood and trunk. “Here’s your car, Son.” Barrett’s dad said as he tossed him the keys. The Camaro sprang to life, and he rolled it out into the yard, into the sunlight, to the cheers of his mother and sister. He circled the car now, gently running his fingertips along the smooth, cool surface. He marveled at the simplicity and sheer beauty of the design, and was struck by how he and his father had transformed the husk of a muscle car on that trailer long ago, to the showroom piece now before him. He opened the door and slid softly into the driver’s seat. He caressed the steering wheel and dash, and breathed in the smells. The interior of the car, restoration notwithstanding, retained the mildewed scent of antiquity familiar with classic automobiles. Memories flooded back, from before, when he still had wild places. There was the time that he raced Pat Kramer in his ’77 Trans Am on Highway 22; and turned the headlights off just for fun as he redlined the tack, 16


screaming through the night. He recalled the shouts and laughter of revelers above AC/DC’s Highway to Hell as they threw another pallet on the bonfire at the old bridge, Jennifer Dalton close as the flickering flames danced in reflection on the hood. And later, concealed in a field of wheat under an August moon, he and Jennifer had sex on that very same hood, and all of his life was that one summer night and he wondered if he had truly felt alive since. The memory was bittersweet and brought a faint smile to his lips and water to his eyes. “What the hell happened to me?” he said to the garage. He was somewhat startled by the sound of his voice and gave a nervous laugh as he wiped at the corner of his eye. It was true, however, that he had no idea how he had gotten from that wheat field and the boy he was then, to this garage and what he now was. Somewhere along the way, after college, after leaving the Great Plains for the Big City, he had lost track of who he was. The joy and discovery had slowly faded from his life and he hadn’t even noticed it was gone. Now he mourned its loss. At what point he had started to sleepwalk through his existence he did not know. He supposed that maybe he wasn’t unique at all in this, perhaps it was part of growing up, growing old. He cranked down the window and propped his arm on the frame of the door. With his right hand he grasped the shifter, and imagined running through the gears on some long ago wild summer night. He recalled sitting in the car, in the barn the night his father had brought it home. He remembered the elation and wonder he felt; gripping the steering wheel, pressing his feet against the floorboards with the torn and rotting carpet, thinking “This is mine! I own this!” There was little that had made him feel that way since, and there was nothing from the nearby house that he considered “his”, nothing he really wanted from the dissolution of property. Except this. Barrett turned the key and the engine rumbled to life. It had been a long time since he had started it, and he was

Dinner with VanGogh Kathleen Donovan surprised at how good and strong it sounded. Eyes closed, he listened to the throaty rumble of the dual exhaust; he gunned the engine and the car rocked from side to side as the throttle blades in the four-barrel carburetor slapped open and closed. He smiled as he thought of the car he and his father had made together, and the roads he had traveled, and the wild placed that remained. ____________________________ The Camaro raced towards the setting sun. The road stretched out before him; snow still lingering in the ditches, little traffic on this evening in the spring. Sometime after darkness had fallen and the freeway had transitioned to interstate, a midnight black 1969 Camaro with white rally stripes screamed through the night. Barrett Ashby was going home. u

A forgotten street cafĂŠ Wrought iron on cobbled stone There- tucked beneath the golden light Cradled by amber awnings We were encapsulated by The indigenous indigo night Thoughtful threads of conversation Echoing against stone Merged with Clinking silver against shiny china Comets swirl As satellites sashay High above our humble hearts

untitled feet 7-22-2010 Heather Schillinger photography u


The Mud Pit Jason Fihn Molly sat at one end of her family’s mobile home looking in a cracked mirror. She deserved more than this, she thought. She glared across the dusty room at her dad, who lurched forward on tired knees fixing the plumbing beneath the miniature bathroom. He’d been in there all morning and Molly needed to get ready to meet her new friends at the edge of the woods. Only two weeks had passed since they moved to the new trailer park and already things weren’t working out for her. Her family had settled into the mud-pit, the lowest plot in the property. It seemed as though no matter what way they maneuvered the mobile home, it tilted this way or that. Most of the kids at Molly’s High school lived in houses that stayed in one spot, never sinking or slipping, and made sure she knew hers was not a socially acceptable living arrangement. “When will you be done in there?” Molly shouted across the room. Her dad glanced at her and shook his head lightheartedly; He was used to her impatience. Suddenly her stepmom Carol barged through the flimsy door with her dog, Rosy, and started hollering: “Molly don’t be a brat he’s been working hard on that so we can stop walkin to the porta potty!” Carol was a behemoth of a woman with one wiggly tooth left in the front of her gaping mouth. Molly shrugged angrily and picked up her cat, Figgy, who was startled by Rosy. “Leave the dog outside Carol she’s all muddy!” Molly’s dad yelled. Carol’s eyes narrowed madly, and Molly’s outlook brightened a little to see her stepmom so upset. “She don’t stop barking at the neighbor’s dog when she’s outside! A little mud in the trailer beats listening to that all day!” Carol stood wide-eyed waiting for Molly’s dad to respond. “Well put her where she can’t see the neighbor’s dog then!” “I’ll bring her back outside,” Molly offered, exchanging pursed grins with her dad, “I have to go to the public 18


restroom anyway.” Carol’s face instantly purpled, she hated being undermined. Molly put Rosy on her leash, which she strategically attached to a post behind a large propane tank so that the dogs wouldn’t notice each other, and headed for the bathroom. Carol was right, it was a porta potty, but Molly held herself accountable to higher standards and referred to it as a public restroom. It was a short path there and she enjoyed her time outside. A summer rain had recently subsided and the dew still lingered on the grass and whatever else she found in the overgrowth, such as baseball bats, tennis balls, bean bags and plastic cups. These were objects that people left at the park because it was also a campsite where people vacation. The campers never spoke to Molly and only gave passing glances as they sat at their fires, giggling in her direction. After using the decrepit bathroom Molly dragged her feet back to the mobile home, her damp shoelaces clicking with each step. Her dad was outside now, sitting by a burnt-out campfire. “Are you finished with the bathroom?” “It’s fixed Molly but you gotta be careful with it. This place is all messed up nothing seems to work right.” Her dad explained. Molly sensed her dad’s frustration as his hands, still dirty from the plumbing, exhaustively poked the hopeless fire with a stick. He sighed, and whispered to Molly, “I think your step-mom keeps clogging it.” They both laughed quietly to each other as Molly entered the mobile home. She discovered Carol asleep on the couch with her tongue bulging from either side of her weakening tooth. It astonished Molly that it hadn’t fallen out yet. She walked into the bathroom to investigate the cleanup and heard a strange sound. It was meowing! “Figgy,” Molly inquired; “Figgy?” the meowing grew louder, muffled beneath the newly sealed floor! Molly darted outside and yelled, “DAD! Where’s Figgy?” “What do you mean ‘where’s Figgy’?”

“She’s stuck under the bathroom floor! I can hear her meowing from under it!” Molly’s dad leapt from his chair, tipping it over. Startled, Rosy started to yip excitedly. The neighbor’s dog heard her and instantly the two started to snarl and growl at each other. Inside the bathroom Molly’s dad started prying away the floor he had spent all day putting back together. Carol awoke in an uproar, crying out for answers: “What’s goin’ on in here! Why are ya tearing up the floor?” “Figgy is under there!” Molly bellowed. “What is the damn cat doing under the floor, can’t y’all do anything right!” She spat as she threw her hands in the air. After several minutes of plucking out nails and tugging, the floorboards popped out of position. Burrowed in a dark corner under the boards Molly could see Figgy’s linty orange tail. “Figgy,” she called, “Figgy come out of there.” “She’s not comin’ out til’ that dog stops barkin’ out there!” her dad asserted. He was right, Figgy never felt comfortable around Rosy. Carol’s agitation was growing and her face flushed an awkward shade of violet. She opened the door and screamed at Rosy: “SHUT UP ROSY!” Her tooth shivered as spit flew from her putrid mouth. She slammed the door shut and stomped into the bathroom. “There! Will the cat come out now?” her tone wasn’t helping. Figgy burrowed further beneath the floor. Rosy yelped once more and then went silent. Carol stormed to the couch, once again collapsing on it. Figgy’s head started to creep from under the floorboards, but just as she emerged someone pounded on the door. Carol rolled from the couch, Molly’s dad stood up, surprised. Carol ferociously swung open the door. Outside a man held Rosy in his arms, only she was limp. “What happened,” Carol moaned. Molly put her hands to her mouth. Her dad peered from behind the door. Self-Portrait Rebekah Pahr acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 in.

“She jumped over the propane tank to get after my dog,” he said gravely, “she hung herself!” Molly squeezed herself around the man holding Rosy and ran from the Mobile home. Looking back, tears clogging her eye-lids, she saw the mobile home tilting sideways in the mud, the man with Rosy dead in his arms. Her dad peered downward somberly as Carol bellowed obscenities. The campers gawked, looking back and forth between Molly and the trailer, once again reminding her that this was not a socially acceptable living arrangement.

The Depot Sari Meyer He was there every time I came. Usually after school or long days of work when I needed tea. He sat by the wall with the thin, metal signs that read Merlot and Chardonnay. Under the clock frozen at 4:51. In front of the window framing the railroad tracks and constant stream of trains. He always wore black‌ with glasses stuck on the tip of his nose. He sat on an old notebook and wrote in a new one and sipped from a blue, speckled mug. He looked at everyone but never made eye contact. There was always a leather jacket thrown over the seat facing him but he never seemed bothered that he was always alone. Over time and tea, I watched his thin, gray ponytail crawl down his back.



He was there when I got there and there when I left. He was as familiar to me as the chai I always got until one day— he was gone. And that was the day I took his place By the wall with the thin, metal signs that read Merlot and Chardonnay. Under the clock frozen at 4:51, In front of the window where I watched a train slide by like his pencil over paper like coffee from his mug like dust onto his jacket like rain into his grave.

Charlotte Colleen Connolly Charlotte glided her fingers over the dashboard swirling patterns in the dust. As her patience faded, she fidgeted with the radio turning it on and off. Mona slapped Charlotte’s hand bringing her back to the reality of her rumbling stomach. Charlotte pouted sinking into the front seat. Mona flipped the visor down and pushed the dome light on. She pressed her lips tightly together, then wiped along the outline of her bottom lip with her index finger removing the smudged red lipstick. After taking a last glance in the mirror, she looked over at Charlotte. “Momma, I’m hungry. Can we eat now?” “Don’t you think momma looks pretty?” “Yes, momma. Let’s go.” Charlotte pushed open the door, rushed out and slammed it shut. She ran across the parking lot to the entrance of The Brewery. Mona stepped out of the car and noticed two men talking. They turned her way and watched. She proceeded through the parking lot unhurried; each step a calculated sultry movement. Her gait an invitation. One of the men caught up with her as she approached the door and held it open. “Let me get that for you,” he said. “Thanks.” She cocked her head, flashing him a brilliant smile. Charlotte hurried over as Mona entered The Brewery. “Momma, I’m hungry!” Mona grabbed Charlottes hand and squeezed it as she pulled her near. “Don’t embarrass me.” He looked down at Charlotte, who looked away. “I guess somebody’s pretty hungry, huh?” Mona let go of Charlotte’s hand, but not before giving her a heated look. “How about I buy you ladies dinner?” he said. Charlotte knew the look on her mom’s face; she had seen it many times before. It was the look she wore when she got what she wanted. At the table, Charlotte fingered the grooves worn into

the wood. She closed her fingers to her palms and felt the stickiness from touching the bottles of condiments. The air was stagnant, infused with a blend of stale cigarettes, perfume and grease. The same smell that lingered in her mom’s hair on mornings when Charlotte had to wake her up. Dinner progressed like an open bar at a wedding as Mona charmed her way through one drink after another. She didn’t seem to mind his hardened look. She didn’t seem to notice his sunken cheeks or watery, sallow eyes. She didn’t notice the blood vessels that ran around the edges of his nostrils like broken railroad tracks. Charlotte was less blind. She noticed his filthy nails when he licked the shiny butter off his thumb. How he laughed at anything her momma said. She stopped noticing when he swiftly shifted his eyes toward her. After Mona left for the restroom he picked up her drink and finished it. While Charlotte stared at his fingerprints on the empty glass, he reached across the table and touched her hair. “Same color hair, huh, just like your momma. How old are you?” Her stomach churned. Charlotte shifted uneasily out of his reach. As he pulled away, his tongue caught the spittle from the corner of his mouth. When Mona returned, it was decided they would continue back at her house. The parking lot glowed in a greenish hue from the dim streetlights, letting out a faint buzz like the sound coming from a hornet’s nest. Charlotte knew how the rest of the night would go. She would be sent to bed when they got home. He and Mona staggered to her car as Charlotte lagged behind, eavesdropping on their mumblings. Charlotte felt his look as he turned and stared. When they reached her car, Mona steadied herself then unlocked the door on the driver’s side. She slid in then closed the door and sprawled out across the front seat. continued... u


Countdown to Tour Matty Spillum Charlotte walked over to the other side of the car. She saw him bend down and look through the window at Mona. “Looks like your momma’s taking a nap,” he said, as he walked around the front of the car toward her. “I think we should let her rest a bit. Let’s wait in my car.” Charlotte grabbed hold of the handle. The door was locked. “Momma open the door!” she pleaded as she continued to pull on the handle. “Momma please!” He scanned the parking lot, then took another step toward her. Her stomach tightened, and her body trembled as the blood rushed from her face. She never took her eyes off him as she moved away from the car. “I don’t have to go with you,” she said nervously. He reached for her. A voice in her head screamed run. Unsteady on his feet, he chased her across the lot toward the street. Charlotte ran down the sidewalk then cut straight into the traffic. Cars swerved and screeched trying to avoid her. Panicked, unable to breathe, Charlotte was nearly across the intersection when above the pounding in her ears, she heard it. Turning she saw his twisted body hit the pavement and bounce against the curb. Breathless, she slapped her hands over her mouth and stared at the blood. u



Coffee and cookie linger on your tongue wan October sun dances in your eyes when I come up for air… Thirty days doesn’t seem so long now so much to occupy moments with so much less time to linger on the lack of quiet mornings, making coffee while you sleep. And dinners will be careless, hurried things, and the cat will claw me idly, going through the motions terrorizing the yarn and the blinds. The Scrabble will sit unused with the cribbage. Still, cold cereal mornings tick by, bowl by bowl and every restless nighttime prayer presages another dawn another step nearer November. When I can taste the coffee on your tongue and bite into a cookie as the November sun sparkles back at me.

Away From Here Zach Jansen The building laid low to the ground, drab and insipidly constructed with gray brick. Plain, unobtrusive, bland, lackluster. Empty. I had been watching the mundane structure for a while, couple hours, I’m sure, from across a parking lot, a slow street, and next to a power pole covered in flyers for missing pets. I had finished the last of my M&Ms maybe an hour ago and was now ready to sit down for lunch. Burgers sounded good, but since Ashley would be paying I’d have to push her hard so we wouldn’t end up getting Subway again. Nothing against Subway, but sometimes a man wants some beef. Some middle-aged woman walked into the building with a girl who probably didn’t even have her driver’s license yet. It happens. She said I could have gone in with her. “It won’t be weird,” she said. “You’ll be fine.” “You won’t be the only guy. Trust me.” Trust me. She trusted me, once. All it takes sometimes. The doors swung open, this time revealing Ashley. She lumbered towards me, carrying a small white paper bag like it weighed fifty pounds. I thought about meeting her halfway. Thoughts come and go. “What took so long?” I asked when she was close. “Paperwork.” “Like insurance?” “They just ask about your history.” “History?” “STDs and stuff.” She leaned against the power pole and took out her cigarettes. Waste of time, I thought. Unless she lied to me a few months ago when she said she waiting for me. “What’s in the bag?” “Keeps me from gettin’ infected.” “Any vicodin?” “Just a few.” “And?”

Her hands shook as she struggled to extract a smoke from the pack. “And what?” “I don’t know... Anything else happen?” “I wanted you to be there,” she said handing me the cigarettes. I slid one out easily and popped it in my mouth. I pulled one out halfway and offered her the pack. She snatched it like an overprotective parent. Her hands shook as she put the cigarette in her mouth and lit it with her turquoise lighter. “I didn’t see any guys go in this entire time.” “I wanted you to be there.” I spat my unused cigarette to the ground. “Let’s get something to eat.” I grabbed her arm, ready to lead her back to the car. “It was a boy.” “What was?” She didn’t have to answer. I didn’t want her to, either. But sometimes a man’s got to know: “They told you?” She stared at her feet, like she was making sure the ground was still underneath her. “I asked.” I quickened the pace. I could feel her dragging behind. Her arm fell away from my hand. I reached into my pocket and dropped the car keys in front of her. “Go home.” “Where’re you goin’?” she asked, cautiously bending down to pick up the keys. I started running. I could hear her yell at me. For me. But I couldn’t look back. I had to keep going. I didn’t know where I was headed, but I knew I had to get away from where I was. Yet no matter how fast I ran, I could still hear her calling out for me.



Janie Nick Hutchinson “Please have my word that this is a routine investigation,” said Principal Toshi. “We’re not accusing you of anything.” He looked directly at Janie’s dad when he said this. “Look, Bob,” said Mr. LaSalle, “you know me. You know I would never do anything to hurt my daughter.” “As I said,” Principal Toshi continued, “we’re treating the matter as delicately as we can. But our primary concern is making sure that Janie is growing up in a safe environment.” He flipped open the manila folder on his desk once again, frowned, and closed it. “Basic human decency prevents me from showing you what she’s drawn here, but I assure you, if our roles were reversed, you would be just as alarmed as I am.” “I’ve seen the things she draws,” said Mr. LaSalle. “She’s been at it all summer long. Believe me, no one is more concerned by it than I am.” Mrs. LaSalle looked at her husband, then back at Principal Toshi. “We’re a very loving family,” she began, but paused to reconsider her choice of words. “We are good people. Janie has a fascination. Who are we to take that away from her?” Janie sat in her bedroom, drawing on a large sketchpad, with several dozen Polaroids scattered on the floor around her. “Janie, honey.” Mrs. LaSalle knocked on Janie’s door. “Hang on a sec, Mom.” Janie tucked everything under her bed. She picked up a My Little Pony and started brushing its hair. “Come in.” “What are you doing, sweetheart?” “I’m brushing a pony.” “Yes. Janie, your father and I are just the teensiest bit concerned about you.” “Why’s that, mom?” “Well…we know that you’re a little mature for your age…” Janie brushed more vigorously. “We just want to make sure that you aren’t…that you aren’t…” “Mom, I’m eight years old. I’m an eight-year-old. That’s fucking sick.” 24


“Oh, of…of course.” Mrs. LaSalle forced a weak laugh and left. It was quiet reading time in Mrs. Abbot’s classroom. Janie read from a thick volume of her own choosing. Mrs. Abbot strode up and down the aisles of desks, and then stopped next to Janie. “Janie,” said Mrs. Abbot, “that’s not an appropriate book for someone your age.” “Why the hell not?” “Because it teaches you that kind of language, for one thing.” “Yeah, well it’s also widely recognized as a landmark piece of experimental fiction, and one of the greatest books ever written.” “It’s too mature for you. Here.” Mrs. Abbot snatched the book away from Janie and handed her a copy of Where the Wild Things Are. “I don’t want to read this, I want to read Ulysses.” “This is more age-appropriate.” “I’ve read this book. It’s anatomically inaccurate. Those things would have huge fucking cocks.” “Jane LaSalle, you march yourself down to the principal’s office this instant!” Janie slammed the book down on her desk and slunk out of her chair, glaring at Mrs. Abbott, who glared right back. “It’s true, though,” Janie muttered. Janie sat on the edge of the playground, poking the ground with her foot. A little blonde girl in a checkered dress came along and sat by her. “My name’s Sara, what’s your name?” “I’m Janie.” “Do you want to draw a picture with me?” “I’m not allowed to draw pictures.” “Why not?” “The teachers don’t like the pictures I draw. They don’t like anything I do.”

“I like you. I want to see one of your pictures.” “No you don’t. You wouldn’t like it. You’re too young.” “I’m seven.” “That’s too young. I’m even too young. There’s something wrong with me.” Janie lay tucked into bed. She could hear her parents arguing in hushed tones down the hall. Silently, she crept toward the living room and listened. “She needs help, Diane. She’s got a sick mind.” “She’s reading at a college level, Bill. She’s reading Ulysses.” “You’ve seen the things she draws. She won’t stop. People see that, and you know what’s the first thing they’re gonna think? Huh? They’re gonna show up in front of our house with pitchforks, Diane, and torches. You understand? They’re gonna want me. I’m the father of a little girl who draws pornography. What do you think they all think of me?” “What about me, Bill? What do you think—” “It’s not the same! I’m—you know it’s not the same, Diane, you know that.” There was a long silence. Janie could hear her father sigh. “I’m calling Dr. Ellis in the morning,” he said. “She needs help.” “She needs support,” said Mrs. LaSalle. “She has a gift. How can we tell our daughter that it’s wrong to express herself?” Mr. LaSalle laughed. “You call that ‘expressing herself’?” “Well, what would you call it?” “I call it sick. She’s way outside the lines, Diane. She’s going to have a very difficult life if she doesn’t learn to play by the rules.” Janie was drawing a violent sex scene. Mrs. Abbot walked by and crumpled it up without even looking at it. “No drawing, Janie. You know the rules.” Janie threw her pencil to the ground and crossed her arms.

“I’m very good, you know. I draw better than anyone in this school, even the art teachers.” Mrs. Abbot leaned in close to Janie and said, “You’re a twisted little pervert, and a very sick, awful little girl. If I had my way you would be expelled and shipped off to war, just so that we would be rid of you.” Janie burst into tears, and Mrs. Abbot walked away. It was lunch. Sara set her tray down across from Janie. “Did you get in trouble?” “What do you mean?” “You’re sitting all alone. Can I sit here?” “Yeah.” “My dad is a butcher. What does your dad do?” “He’s a low-level marketing rep for a regional shoe manufacturer. His company makes those cheap, off-brand shoes that they sell at K-Mart and stuff.” “What do you do for fun?” “I read, mostly. I’m very good at reading.” “I like to read too. What’s your favorite book?” “Uh, it’s called Slaughterhouse-Five.” “Mine’s Ramona.” Janie smiled. “Why won’t you show me your drawings?” “Because, Sara, I don’t want you to be anything like me.” “I like you.” “You wouldn’t like me if you saw the things I draw.” “Are they ugly?” “Yes.” “I like ugly things.” Janie hesitated. “Sara…how much do you know about sex?” “About what?” “Never mind.”




The Enlightenment of Oscar Brimley Jeffrey Peterson ”A little girl’s mind should not be going to these places,” said Principal Toshi. “Regardless of her intellect or her talent, it’s just wrong. I think we can all agree on that.” “I agree, I really do,” said Mrs. LaSalle. “I’m just not sure why.” Mr. LaSalle gave his wife an incredulous look. “You’re not—I think it’s pretty obvious, dear. It doesn’t take a hell of a lot of thought to see what’s wrong with it.” Mrs. LaSalle stared into the middle distance, shaking her head. “I know,” she said. “I’m just not sure why.” u

At age 60, Oscar Brimley was seeking enlightenment. He would find it in an envelope. “Martha, listen to this quote from Thoreau. A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone.” “Interesting.” She said, not looking up from her book. “Don’t you see? We need to simplify. Stuff is complicating our life.” “Yes dear.” “What if we wanted to pick up and move to Santa Fe? We couldn’t do it.”

untitled Anne Rusley handmade paper, sticks, wire

Martha put her book aside. “Do you think Santa Fe is nicer than here?” “I don’t know, I have never been, but…” “Then why do you want to move there?” “I don’t want to move to Santa Fe. The point is we couldn’t go if we wanted to.” “You want to be able to go to Santa Fe, but you don’t want to go to Santa Fe?” “Exactly” Martha smiled and picked up her book. “I understand.” Oscar was pretty sure she didn’t understand. Thoreau was urging him to take action. He began to seek an opportunity. It came in an envelope marked Affordable Junk Removal. The junk man was coming to town. Oscar would make a toll free call, and all his burdens would be lifted. The next day, Oscar was up before the sun marking the things that were complicating his life. He used the pink plastic ribbon he had purchased at Bill Sanderson’s hardware store. Bill said the forest service used it to mark trees for harvest. Culling the forest to keep it healthy. Exactly! Oscar channeled his inner Thoreau. He didn’t even need his TV…well, except for the Vikings, and what about tornado warnings? Everything else could go. Everything except his chair where he would sit to monitor tornado warnings. Each time Oscar tied a piece of ribbon he felt lighter. When Martha woke up, he poured coffee and they sat admiring his work. “New decorating concept?” she asked. “No, I’ve marked stuff for the junk man to take.” “Really?” “Yes” “You marked the dining room table. That was your Grandmother’s table.” “We need to cull the forest to keep it healthy.” “Huh?”

“This stuff is oppressive. We need to simplify.” “Your Grandmother’s table is oppressing you?” “It’s not just the table…” “How come the TV isn’t oppressive?” “Tornado warnings.” “I have an idea. Why don’t we simplify with that old love seat in the guest room? Wouldn’t that be a good beginning?” Oscar’s disappointment evaporated when the junk man arrived and stepped from the cab of his truck. He looked wise, unfettered, free. The truck was empty, but for a wingback chair upholstered in a delicate pink and white fabric. The junk man had come prepared to take away his burdens. “What’s up with the pink ribbon?” asked the junk man as he lifted the love seat. “Oscar’s culling the forest.” Martha replied “Never mind.” Said Oscar. “I’ll get my checkbook and meet you outside. When Oscar came outside the truck was gone, and Martha was sitting in the yard on a pink and white wingback chair. Martha was beaming. “We needed something to replace that old love seat, and it was free. Isn’t it beautiful?” Oscar stammered and tried to speak, but no words came. He turned to go back into the house, wondering if Thoreau had ever been married. Martha called to him. “Wait, Oscar, I almost forgot. I have a present for you.” She pulled an envelope from her pocket and handed it to him. Inside was a note: Thoreau is not the boss of us. Wrapped in the notepaper were two tickets to Santa Fe.



Till then I will abide with thee Laura Brodie {a Shakespearean style Sonnet} Till then I will abide with thee, and to our woven present day; I sing a song to restore the Nightingale which floats with words that have nothing to say. The perfume of your depth intoxicates even Gomorrah’s lying lair. You were, you are, you will be mine forever as we drum upon this sinking earth that was never really there. I give myself to you, my vanished friend; and though we emerge new and replenished we have sodden the silk and have written the end. And so, what becometh of our unity, I shalt never know. You swirled and nurtured mine heart to despair, will it ever pump again and in your beauty grow? From all that I grew in your eyes, I returned in abundance to thee. Left with the only feeble hope, that they will once again, begin to see.

What Light of My Life Zach Jansen The living room goes dark. I count to fifteen. Light blasts from the upstairs bathroom, sliced by the latticed windows. Despite the appearance of winking, the house looks sad as the porch roof slouches under the weight of last week’s snowfall. Ten inches. I forgot my boots, so my feet, if they’re still there, are sopping wet as my tennis shoes drink in the snow. I crouch behind a thin pine. It’s after eight. I haven’t seen another person in hours. Told Meg I was going to the gym. I taste the sweat pooling on my upper lip and think about when Ben said he and Missy were going to Duluth this weekend to celebrate his vasectomy taking. That opened the window. She’s home alone for a weekend, first time ever. My mom left me babysitting my three siblings when I was ten and Ben and Missy don’t let their little girl alone until she learns how to drive. The single beacon of light I’m staring at begins to fog over. Like Sasquatch coming down from the Cascade Mountains I emerge from the tree line. The snow holds me down, urging me to go back. But the light beckons to me as if I’m an Argonaut. My coat swishes obnoxiously as I cross the street. I crash onto the porch and flatten against the house. The snow hums mournfully in the night. A barking dog echoes in the stiff air. Or maybe it’s a car door shutting. My breath dances in front of my face in stilted steps. The spare house key is taped to the inside bottom of the mailbox. I reach for it and defeat its adhesive resistance. I’ve told Ben he shouldn’t leave the extra key in the open like that. “Better to hide it in plain sight,” he’d say. “No one expects that.” The key slips in the lock easier than the key to my house. The door needs a shoulder to open. It’s quiet at



least. I’m inside and with another shoulder the door closes. I lock the deadbolt. The shower drones through the floor above my head. It sounds like the white noise machine I fall asleep to. Try to fall asleep to. The thing has a thirty minute timer I always outlast. Eventually, though, I’d succumb to the low hum of the device and drift into the next reality. The better reality, where I’m not a forty-year-old accountant married fifteen years and father to two young boys. But then I wake up in the morning. The stairs sit sullenly in the semi-silence of the house. They’re not as persuasive as the light from the bathroom window. I’ve been in this house I don’t know how many times. Learned a lot from attending all those game nights and dinner parties and Vikings parties and graduation parties and whatever else Missy decided was worth getting together for. She’s the kind of mom who gives everyone a trophy––even the losers. Every drawing is a masterpiece, every dance is in perfect step, every song on an out-of-tune violin is just marvelous. I like my violins in tune. I take off my wet shoes and set them on the mat next to the door. Only her shoes are there. Despite being a pair, they look lonely. I nestle mine up to them. It’s like unironically wearing plaid with stripes. My stomach churns. The bottom of my esophagus convulses, struggling to keep closed against the pressure of the acid pushing against it. I put my shoes around hers. My stomach calms. I turn back to the stairs: The first step is loose, so I take the second one. Eight more and I’m on the landing. The shower hums louder now. Light escapes from the half-opened bathroom door. A photo of her hangs on the wall next to me. It’s a family portrait, but I ignore the fact that Ben and Missy

are smiling at me. They wouldn’t be smiling now. I touch her face. My thumbprint lingers on her cheek as the glass holds on to my skin’s sweat and oils. The next ten steps leading to the second floor sneer at me. The first two are good, but the third one is an alarm on its middle and left side. The right edge is safe, though. Then there are the fourth and fifth steps... My legs are stiff and my back hasn’t liked doing any more work than is necessary since Ethan, my youngest, smashed my lumbar area with a thirty-eight inch Louisville Slugger five years ago. Still says he didn’t see me, that it was an accident. He’s a good boy, but almost a better liar than me. I have to remember to help him with his homework. He’s a bright kid, but, unlike me, math scares the hell out of him. I straighten my back, tense every muscle in my body, and hold my breath. I relax and quickly reach for the sixth step. I fall short. My foot smashes onto the fifth step and the weight of my body follows my foot. The step groans out as if in pain. I catch myself from toppling. She must have heard me. The neighbors must have heard me. Meg must have heard me. My heart beats in every part of my body––ba-dum-badum-ba-dum-ba-dum––and air fills my stomach instead of my lungs. The rumble of the shower goes uninterrupted. I first met her at Missy’s Christmas party three years ago; Ben and I had been working together for a few months. Meg is big on punctuality, so we were first to arrive. Ben was out getting more wine. Meg decided to help Missy finish laying out the buffet-style meal: sliced ham, scalloped potatoes, a veggie tray, various types of cubed cheeses that all taste the same, among other things. I was at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for Ben to return or other guests to break the awkwardness. A flush continued... u


of water filled the air, indicating the bathroom. We left in such a rush that I didn’t get a chance to go, so I went up. That’s when I learned about the first step. I turned on the landing and saw her stepping out of the bathroom. Her sky blue flannel pajamas clung to her. Her emerald eyes widened when she saw me “Who are you?” “I’m here for the party.” She took me in, probably trying to determine the veracity of my statement. “You need something?” Her dark hair was pulled into a ponytail with a tie that matched her pajamas. She had her mom’s nose––the only thing I do like about Missy. Her cheeks were a bit puffy, like Ben’s, but narrowed at her rounded cheekbones. Her eyes were large, almost cartoonishly so, and their whites glistened in the semi-darkness. The loose, come-whatmay strands of hair that encircled her face belied her innocence. “Just looking for the bathroom,” I said. “Right here.” Then she went to her room. And now I’m standing where we first met. And again I’m looking for the bathroom. And again she’ll be surprised to see me. I open the door and steam covers my face like a veil. I inhale the warm air and it tickles into my lungs and makes my chest feel like a heavy coat. The drumming of the shower on the porcelain tub sounds like a marathon. I can just make out the shape of her body through the translucent curtain that shakes from the water’s constant pummeling. I clear my throat. She stops. Through the curtain, I watch her ease down and shut off the water. Her head pops out from around the curtain. Her hair, much darker when wet, mats thickly to her head. “I told you to wait downstairs.” 30


She had. “Thought I’d surprise you,” I say. She snatches a towel and ducks back behind the curtain. She wouldn’t have told me to wait downstairs if it didn’t matter. But it’s too late to change that. It’s too late to change anything. I’m not alone in this bond, but I’m the only one culpable. “I’ll be out in a few minutes,” she says as her hand reaches for a second towel. “Wait for me downstairs.” I hesitate. “Go downstairs,” she repeats. I walk down the steps, this time not caring about the noises emitting from my footfalls. At the bottom of the stairs I make towards the living room, but I see my shoes embracing hers and how large my feet are compared to hers. In a few years my sons will bring girls like her to meet Meg and me, see a movie, go to prom. How kids grow up before they should. But seeing as how difficult and tragic growing up can be I don’t blame them. Yet how incredible a man my age is so desperate to return to that time. But to what end? I’ve been at the beck and call of sixteen-year-old girls before; doing anything they asked in hopes of being able to finally call myself a man. A man. I put on my soggy shoes and hear the toilet flush above me. The floor above me creaks as she walks to her bedroom. The front door opens with a brisk tug and closes the same way. It’s much colder outside now. My shoes freeze as I walk the three blocks to my car. I should be home in twenty minutes. Might still have time to help Ethan with his homework. But I don’t know about tomorrow. u

Airport Reflections Matty Spillum “The wireless costs money? Who even does that anymore?” Colin muttered to himself. He cast an eye around his home for the next three hours. Philadelphia Airport. It was, by turns, gray, dirty and gaudy. The kiosk selling hats with facemasks was confusing. Everything else seemed like it was tailored to his inner vision of Philly; whatever wasn’t grimy and cheap looking was hideously tacky. The surroundings were depressing and somewhat jangled. Now robbed of even the distraction of the internet, he puttered over a few writing files. “Yeah, that’s gonna happen,” he thought. Settling into the uncomfortable bench of the strange Asian bistro that was the least horrible of the lunch options he could find, he watched people passing along the concourse through a smudgy mirror. Travelers, flight crews, airport workers all filed past, either toward or away from their reflections. As they passed, Colin began to notice that the reflections were softer, more comely, in almost every case. It was as though the mirror’s particular grime was a specific type, intentionally placed to remove defects of visage from passersby. It fascinated Colin. One by one, he flicked his eyes from the reflection to the real person. In the reflections, faces smoothed, not freighted by the lines and angles of worry or age. Travel stress ebbed away, and each face seemed to perk up compared to the dour looks that synched to the reflections. As his food arrived, Colin found the phenomenon hard to ignore, but a gnawing hunger won out. He looked down to the ginger chicken with broccoli he had ordered. The brown rice resembled nothing so much as white rice that had been cooked in tea, the chicken and broccoli looking fresh from the freezer. The sauce did not look like it would buck the trend. He took a first dubious bite. It was everything he had imagined…and less. Garlic and ginger-flavored soy sauce, essentially. Within two bites,

Colin’s tongue and the roof of his mouth burned from salt. The mealy rice was no relief. Were this any other situation, he might well have pushed it away, but it was no use. He’d had no food since that muffin in Tampa, four hours before. Colin devoured every MSG-laden morsel, drinking as much water as he could. The mirror continued to lighten faces as he chewed. He wondered if he looked happy to those catching his reflection, whether his own face looked like someone tucking into the best meal he had ever had. What would it be like to be in that airport? Still, the airport concourse restaurant he was in had no luster at all, and no free internet access. The televisions were tuned to some daytime courtroom show. Colin paid his bill and gathered his things for the jaunt to the gate. He passed his reflection. He looked back at himself, youthful and serene. The gate’s wide window presented a vista of runways, hangers, clouds and a distant oil refinery. Colin shook his head and grimaced. He put on headphones and tried to concentrate on the shreds of a story he had started. He got a few sentences done and caught himself nodding off. And again. Only an hour or so until boarding, so he tried to stay awake. The other early arrivers, perhaps also stuck on an obscenely long layover, melted into the grim surroundings, as Colin imagined himself doing. All just becoming grayer and grimier, while the mirror’s airport becomes brighter and more vibrant. The refinery flew its long smoke flag in the distance. Colin mused on what would be there in the mirror’s world. Perhaps a lake, or a tree-covered hill. Certainly not the spiky nest of smokestacks that jutted from the far horizon. Colin was disappointed with himself for being so peevish over the lack of free internet. True, he could have puttered around online to pass the three hours, but in truth, what would he have accomplished? No writing would have been done, that was for sure. So, in a way it was a kind of blessing. A bleary, wan blessing, but a continued... u


blessing nonetheless. He drifted off again, blinking his heavy, itchy eyes. Perhaps no writing was getting done. For the life of him, he could not figure out if he’d typed anything of worth in between his slow fades. He thought about wandering about, maybe getting a paper. The walking about might be good, get his circulation going, or something like that. He yawned heavily, and got ready to slip his computer away. Arms stretching above his head, he staggered into the concourse, searching out a kiosk or shop that sold the paper. Language software, weird hats, portable document scanner/shredders… all these in abundance, but papers somewhat thin on the ground. Down the dingy, crowded corridor he wandered, searching for a newsstand. As he walked, Colin idly scanned each reflective surface to see if there were any other glimpses into the other Philadelphia airport. The one where everyone was happy and almost certainly studying their favorite section of the paper in quiet comfort. But no serene faces peered back from any of the smeary glass or Lucite that he passed. Finally having found a current copy of the paper, Colin meandered back to his gate, finding a worn seat to blearily read away the rest of the layover in. If he felt an odd sensation of being watched, he chalked it up to the bored gazes of the other passengers that slumped in rumpled piles about the gate area. As the boarding began, he gathered his belongings and crammed them into his lone carry-on bag. Slowly, the crowd filtered one by one down the jetway, draining like a mostly occluded sink in that special shamble that was the hallmark of slow-moving lines of the weary. Clambering into the tiny seat that would be home for the last leg of the journey, Colin debated trying to stay awake or sleeping. The debate lasted long enough for him to get his seatbelt fastened and his head leaned on the curved wall. Colin typed off yet another witty missive to his creative staff back home. The text messages buzzed in, steadily but not frantically. His trip to Florida had been a complete 32


success, and the messages alternated between congratulations and offers for new projects. He smiled slightly, sipping fragrant green tea and idly bringing chunks of ginger chicken to his mouth with the lacquered chopsticks. If every layover were this pleasant, he might actually schedule his flights around them. Around him, fellow travelers took bites of food, making the kind of pleased noises and facial expressions elicited by excellent meals. Looking out to the clean concourse, Colin watched people sauntering by unhurriedly, with expressions of calm and ease. Tasteful kiosks displayed their wares and the helpful merchants engaged interested customers in discussions of this or that piece of bric-a-brac. Here and there, airport carts would putter by, the drivers chatting happily with their passengers. Almost enough to make you forget you’re in an airport, thought Colin. The artfully designed bistro’s walls held crystal-clear mirrors up to the surroundings, and Colin watched the spectacle of people’s comings and goings both in real life and reflection. The perfectly clear glass could have easily been mere portals in the walls, an opening into another world. Save that some distortion in the glass made the faces of each passerby appear pinched and angry. Colin at first thought he’d just seen one particularly grumpy passenger in the mirror, but on seeing the real person saunter past, a breezy air of serenity on her face, he started looking closer at each pairing. Sure enough, it was child’s play to see that the mirror reflections appeared weary and haggard, while the matching people were just as selfsatisfied looking as Colin himself felt. Finishing his meal, Colin settled up and sauntered off to the gate. As he did so, he took pains to peer into the mirror, watching his reflection-self slouch wearily towards him, until he disappeared around the corner. u

Harrison’s Boots Sasha Reanier After hours of shouting accusations, vehement denials, and dramatic displays of rage, Harrison accepted that his best efforts at mediation had failed. He rose to his feet, leaving the unhappy couple alone in the living room. They didn’t even notice when he left. At the patio door he stopped; the breath from his nose left a small circle of steam on the glass. Squinting, he searched the snowcovered lawn for a glimpse of his own house. It was only four walls and a roof of plywood—a bed of blankets the only furnishings. Even with no heat and no real door, it was better than this. Though he hated it when Dennis and Michelle fought, Harrison felt guilty abandoning them. Perhaps there was something more he could do to help, to make them stop screaming. He was ready to return and try a new tactic, but there were shards of glass on the floor from the picture frames that had been pelted across the living room. It had been difficult enough avoiding the fragments when he left. If only he were wearing his walking boots, then he would go back. The trouble was he couldn’t put them on by himself, and Michelle was too distracted to help. Yes, it was better to stay put. It had to be over soon. It was already past dinner time. Harrison lowered himself slowly to the floor, his legs trembling a bit. Simply walking around the block (what used to be the best part of his day) was starting to feel more like a burden. The doctor had prescribed a low dose of pain medication to be administered once a day, in the morning. It always wore off before his afternoon stroll. He planned to speak with the doctor about a larger dose at his next check-up. The boots helped. The doctor had recommended ordering them from a company in Vermont. Harrison had had to stand very still while Michelle traced his paw on the catalog size chart. They were the color of moss with earthy brown trim and laces. They may not have been the most stylish, but the rubber soles kept him from slipping,

and the bed of lambswool that covered the shock absorbing springs made him feel like he was walking on a cloud. He hadn’t liked them at first, but now he hated stepping outside without them, especially in winter when snow stuck to the tufts of his paws, numbing them with cold. There was a squirrel in the backyard. He could sense it, but he didn’t have the energy to lift his body. The doctor had commented that he was past his fighting weight. A few years ago he would have informed the couple immediately of the squirrel’s presence. They would then release him into the yard so he could defend the house. It had been his duty and his honor, even on holidays and his own birthday. But now, as long as the squirrels didn’t come right up to the glass (a sign of mockery), he let them wander the grounds. Something else smashed against the floor in the living room. A clay lamp perhaps, it sounded thick and hollow as it fractured. Harrison’s head pounded; he longed to be outside, even without his boots, just to have some peace. Instead of fighting at night, the couple used to make popcorn, tossing pieces into his mouth after he did tricks. He was a great catch. But there hadn’t been any popcorn, not even microwave popcorn, since Dennis started staying home most days. Sometimes Dennis left wearing his best suit and polished shoes. But when he came home his suit was rumpled and instead of his briefcase he carried a bottle, wrapped in a brown bag. Harrison learned to leave him alone if he didn’t want to spend the rest of the day locked in the garage or bathroom. Michelle started getting up early to take the bus to work instead of driving; she must have enjoyed the company. Harrison always helped her look for change in the couch cushions before she left in the morning. Dennis usually forgot to buy groceries so she couldn’t have any dinner when she came home. Sometimes she got so mad at him for forgetting that she threw empty beer cans at him, he threw them back, and then they both started yelling. continued... u


If only he were tall enough to reach the door handle. Harrison sighed, his lips flapping as he exhaled—his own breath was now the only noise he heard—a silence that wasn’t silent filled the room. It soaked the air, heavy and full. The hair above his spine pricked up, forming a thick stripe running the length of his back. His senses deadened. Harrison floated above himself like a spectator, watching as he ran into the living room, lunged without hesitation, and sank his teeth into Dennis’s right ankle. Could this be happening? He had never attacked anything, not even a squirrel (they were too fast). But there he was with warm blood on his teeth. He was tearing into his best friend’s Achilles tendon. When Dennis winced in pain his hands recoiled from Michelle’s throat. She dropped to the floor, coughing, lifting the deafening silence. Dennis was shouting, kicking at Harrison, trying to get away. Should he let go now? He knew he was going to be in a lot of trouble. He was never supposed to bite anyone, especially his own family. Tonight he would probably have to sleep in the garage or go to bed without dinner. Michelle curled herself into a ball in a corner of the room, crying, covering her ears with her hands as Dennis yelped in pain. Harrison needed to see if she was all right. He unclenched his jaw and backed away from Dennis, hoping he wouldn’t be too mad, hoping he would understand why he did it. When he started toward Michelle, hobbling from the glass underneath his paws, his tail was caught and jerked backward so quickly he fell to the floor, landing on his stomach. Before Harrison could regain his footing, Dennis swung him by the tail across the floor. His claws left long scratches in the wood before he came crashing into the fireplace. His back cradled the blow. Folding inward, tiny bones cracked and splintered, rupturing his soft parts.At first Harrison thought he was just too afraid to move. But when he tried to lift his head to see if his tail was still attached, he couldn’t. His body didn’t feel like a body, it was a tingling mass shaped like 34


him. Everything was limp, disjointed. Strange protrusions created a mountain range across his ribcage. Still, he didn’t feel anything, not even when Dennis, red faced and limping, scooped him up in his arms, just like he had done when Harrison was a puppy. Michelle remained in the corner, rocking back and forth, her eyes closed, her hands still covering her ears. Dennis started toward the front door; they must be going to the doctor. Outside, Harrison’s tingling body could feel the cold. His head hung down lifelessly but his eyes moved rapidly. He could see little slivers of glass poking out of his stained paws. It was probably going to hurt when the doctor removed them. When they reached the car, Dennis kept walking, beyond the driveway, into the street. It took a long time to get to the doctor’s office in the car; surely Dennis wasn’t going to walk there. When they reached the middle of the road, Dennis dropped Harrison to the asphalt. His body was dead weight; there was no tension to cushion the fall. His head bounce slightly off the ground before flopping to the side with the rest of his body. It didn’t hurt, but he still felt the cold, stronger now. Dennis bent down and unsnapped Harrison’s collar, snatching it from around his neck. He searched Dennis’s eyes for understanding, but he didn’t look Harrison in the eye, didn’t say a word before staggering back to the house. Harrison thought about his boots. Even though he couldn’t walk at the moment they would help to keep him warm. Maybe Michelle would bring them to him. Maybe he just had to rest for a while before he could walk again. The tingling started to fade and Harrison started to grow tired. He knew it wasn’t safe to sleep in the street, but he had to close his eyes for just a few minutes. If he saw the lights of a car he would wake up and get out of the way. u

Shepherds of Lost Sleep Evan Nordstrom Oh stalwart shepherds, overturned like pancakes from oiled pans of endless pastures to the burnt side of watered parcels divided by greedy bureaucratic diaphragms with yardsticks, praying to gods of violated articles of civil law, stamping permits, and pushing fines for shaggy grass. Easier to find GOD in days fear bedded prudence; as when three found by starlight what’s reduced to half filled varnish starved pews for minutes less than evening news: Souls of donated stale hardened donuts, sulfide coffee grounds fuming in superficial basement gatherings perfumed with the decrepit punge of damp rags plunged into cartoon corner holes of mice for seven days in dog years. Oh attendance of warped insisted tradition, elating a population of fifty percent MAOI inhibited minds racing past salvation; an evaporated sense, like noses of cat lovers sniffing piss covered clothes. The putrid flesh of dreams sacrificed to lost sleep lost on the canvas of night, are left for wolves to glean while shepherds sleep in.

A Fate Worse Than Death Nick Hutchinson “You have incurred the Wrath of the Mummy!” said the Mummy. “Oh, shit!” said I. “Yes!” he bellowed. “And now, by the power vested in me by the State of Michigan, I bestow upon you, a hex!” “Oh, heavens no!” I screamed, trembling. “YES!” shouted the Mummy. “From this day forward, you shall find yourself entrenched in mediocrity! Those around you shall exhibit signs of vast potential, tantalizing you with its promise, only to waste it on petty trivialities! You shall find yourself trudging through a series of dreary dead-end jobs, in which you will be bossed around by blustery incompetents whose decisions end up costing the company money, and for which you shall suffer the consequences! You will be required to search far and wide for entertainment options that are even remotely edifying, while your so-called brothers and sisters in being flock to indulge themselves in the most shallow, derivative, borderline-pornographic artifacts of what was once known as culture! Their continued financial support for these horrifically empty-headed amusements shall perpetuate a cycle in which quality is consistently sacrificed in the name of profits! All this will only confirm your dark suspicion that you are but a dying relic of a past that never was, that baseline idiocy is the norm, that there never was but a glimmer of hope for the human race, which was exhausted sometime during the Lower Paleolithic Era! You shall live out your days racked by guilt for not having done something more to save humanity, while simultaneously resigned to the knowledge that there was nothing you could have done! This shall be your punishment! Cower before me, mortal, for as I have spoken, so it is!” The Mummy pointed to something on my shirt, and when I looked to see what it was, he slapped me in the face. Then he walked away, laughing, laughing. I had not known fear until this moment.



Paradoxal Fluxuation Temporal Shift Patrick Parisian “Fuck you, Tom Sawyer!” The axe slices through the air leaving an arc with the intent of splitting a skull. You know how your life flashes before your eyes when you’re about to die? Well, it works when you’re killing someone too. Since I have a few minutes I might as well explain what’s going on. It’s either that or relive my most prominent life moments: standing in line for a movie and playing with a whole bunch of dogs in a park. Have you ever read a really bad book, like really bad? You know the kind of book where whaling suddenly becomes tedious and uncool or people are constantly talking about the symbolism of a conch shell? It’s a fucking shell. That’s the problem with books, no accountability, no interaction. How great would it be to be able to grab Dimmesdale by the collar and tell him to quit being a chicken shit, or stop the assassination of the president of internal affairs in Pride and Prejudice? Or whatever Pride and Prejudice was about, I’ve never actually read it, and I can’t think of anyone who willingly would. I’m running low on time, what was I talking about? Right, so I’ve always wished to change books. And not so much change them as just alter them to exactly how I want them to be. Which seems perfectly reasonable to me. So, instead of using my spare time constructively through the years I’ve done my best to pointlessly wish for things to be different. And I’d done it all: wishing on the first star that appeared at night, holding my breath in a tunnel, loose change in fountains and wishing wells. But the problem was inconsistently and sporadicness. But on my nineteenth birthday (that’s today actually, don’t make a big deal) I hit the holy Quadumvirate. I awoke early to go to the mall. I brought a pocketful of change to use in the mall’s two tiered fountain. The route to the mall took me through a tunnel too, twice. Then when night fell I wished on the first star and went inside to blow out my birthday candles and boom. Success. When I went to my bed on my pillow sat a book thick like an encyclopedia and leather bound like a bible. Just there, 36


like magic. But the book was completely blank. Well, not completely blank. The front had an index of rules, or maybe directions, whatever. Number 1: Write the title of the book you wish to visit. Write the point and the location in the book you wish to enter. Circle the title. Shut the book. Close your eyes. Already being sold at that point I didn’t bother reading the rest of the rules. There were like twenty and no one reads the forewords of books anyways. That’s why they don’t have real page numbers. Roman numeral actually means, “pointless.” That’s an absolutely true fact. To me there really was only one book worth starting with. It had to be The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and not to appreciate the ambiance. Don’t believe me (see beginning.) But Tom’s offenses were small on their own but to sweet Huck… unforgivable. Just needed to quickly add, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Some point after the fake death but before the cave deal with Injun Joe. Circle. Shut. Close. My body felt warm and light. Upon opening my eyes I casually noticed that I no longer sat on my bed. All around me the signs of nature showed. Cicadas buzzed. Birds called and swooped. Bugs crawled over the thick green foliage taking on both tree and shrub form. And the cool spring moon of Minnesota had been replaced with the roaring summer sun of Missouri, or Louisiana, or wherever Tom Sawyer takes place. A different time and place had definitely engulfed me. But do you know what the weirdest thing was? I’d been sitting when I left and upon appearing here I was suddenly standing. Didn’t even notice, puff, like magic. I stepped forward to go towards the faint drifts of smoke in the distance. A town can be picked out in olden times by drifting smoke. How kitsch. Taking a quick look back I noticed a glowing pillar…like…thing. You know in Star Trek when they beam someone up? They leave sort of a pillar of light before the matter of their body fazes out. The pillar was like that with two things that looked like

butterflies of light coming up from the base and slowly twisting around. Cripes, the ax is nearly at the face I need to hurry. Alright, I walked towards St. Petersburg. Strolled really, very naturally as to not draw attention. I’m sure the jeans and sweat shop stitched hooded sweatshirt won’t give me away. Or the fact that I’m a six foot tall Aryan with a perpetual scowl on my face. What did I really care though? I was out to take care of Tom Sawyer. Sorry, “Take Care” of Tom Sawyer. That makes more sense. Strangely, I encountered no one in town and in no way was I being sneaky. I heard soft singing and realized the town currently attended mass. My bloodlust would have to wait, unfortunately. Now, I’d like to believe that God is a literary fellow. Thus, he granted my wish because that arrogant little shit Tom Sawyer smirked before me. All alone. He’d mussed his hair. He’d rolled up his pant legs and his white buttondown shirt had grass and mud all over it. It’s like proper church etiquette meant nothing to him. That smug little bastard. I scanned the area. Like Excalibur in the stone presenting itself, up against a shed rested a woodcutter’s ax. “Where you from, mista?” Tom asked me. Son-of-a-bitch. I’m not gonna take that sort of disrespect from a twelve year old. But maybe I was being too harsh. He deserved a chance to explain himself. So naturally I yelled, “You ruined the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn!” “Wh-what?” The axe swung high to catch the glint of the sun on the blade. And I guess that brings us back to where things have ended up. Or I guess from your perspective, to where things began. The axe sinks in with a sickening crunch. Tom Sawyer’s expression of pure douche baggery evaporates in a whirl of blood and cartilage. The axe cut cleanly down the center of his skull. His face is taking on a split mirror look. A mirror covered in brain matter. Mission accomplished.

That was easy. I always thought it would be tougher to kill someone. Clearly not. I turn on my heels to leave. A scream bursts forth behind me. Looking at me is Becky Thatcher. Curled bobs of gold frame her horror stricken face. She seems frozen, even her white frock doesn’t move in the ominous breeze. She’s stiffer than Tom Sawyer’s about to be, heh. I should probably give her a spook. A little axe waving ought to do it. Pulling on the axe to free it from Tom’s skull produces little result. In fact I’m making things worse. Half of Tom’s head lifts up with the ax. An eyeball slides out a socket. Becky shrieks again and falls to the ground. The only thing she has strength left for is to point a finger at me, which is very damning because I’m standing literally ten feet from the church. A crowd pours out to find out what’s happening. That’s my cue to leave. My hand slides off the smooth axe handle. I quickly and calmly amble away, for about two steps. Someone yells something like, “You’re going to die.” Then a shotgun appears. That means someone brought their shotgun to church. Damn 1876ers. I leap a white picket fence. The shotgun emits its howl, whitewashed wood splinters and cascades about me. “Save me, Injun Joe,” I yell, sprinting full tilt back towards the portal. If I die here, do I die in real life? I really should have read the directions. With a kick a wooden door comes off its hinges. I rush through, scooping a cast iron kettle off of a table. Moving through the front door a man tries barring my path. I greet him with a kettle to the face. With a spurt of blood the man collapses. Time didn’t slow down so I don’t think I’ve killed him. The crowd surges behind me. I’m sure they used the free time to ready pitchforks and torches. I don’t bother looking. My lack of proper exercise becomes apparent. The portal looms before me. I strip off my bloodstained hooded sweatshirt and jeans. Blood’s tough to explain. continued...



Apartness Laura Brodie I step through the butterflies. The light washes over me, I collapse face first… …Only to be greeted by my plaid comforter. Now I just need to find out the repercussions of my actions. Running down the hall I burst into my sister, Merrill’s, room with a ruckus. She’s on the phone and looks up with disgust. “It’s just my brother, in his underwear for some reason,” she says with shake of the head. “No, you can’t come over. I’ll call you back.” She hangs up. “You’re a freshman, right?” “Shouldn’t you know that, creepy guy in his underwear?” “Then you’ve read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, right?” “I just finished Tom Sawyer.” “What did you think?” I say with a grin. “It sucked; Tom gets axed by some weird time traveler from a beam of light.” “But Huck Finn was awesome, right?” I ask. “Why do you keep saying that? Huck Finn got killed by Injun Joe who made off with the treasure. And Becky went nuts after seeing Tom’s body. Like I said, the book sucked.” “Hmmm, interesting,” I say with a thought provoking hand under the chin. I exit Merrill’s room. I eliminated the book I loved and sought to protect. And what do I have to show for it? A dead Tom Sawyer and really the death of two American classics, and Injun Joe got the money. Sweet Huck, why? You would have done great on your own. I’d try to fix things but it seems messy. Actions have consequences. That’s worth remembering. You know, I’ve never cared much for Oliver Twist. u



I didn’t question any of it while I was growing up and nor did anybody else that I know. It was just how things were, and children, especially, did not ask why. Before we left Scotland I looked at a book of where we were going. Loads of great pictures were in it of lions and zebra and giraffe. My Dad said that I might see one out of my bedroom window. I hoped that I might see some African tribes out of my window too, wearing loincloths and hunting leopards with big, long spears. I was almost seven when we moved to South Africa. When we arrived in Johannesburg the first thing I noticed was that all the black people wore normal clothes. Nobody was bare-breasted and carrying spears. It was a big disappointment. A sea of black faces surrounded me and I had never been so hot in all my life. I was never to talk to any of them. My parents called them Native or Bantu, but later they learned the word Kaffir. It was obvious that my parents were very wary of them, though I wasn’t sure why. It was eventually explained to me in school. An old, wizened teacher stood before a class of seven year olds and explained that all black people were bad and that we should be very careful of them. She said they were dirty, smelled bad and often did horrible things to little white girls. I didn’t know what Apartheid meant. It had been around since 1948 and was still going strong thirty years later when we arrived in 1978. Whites made up less than 10% of the population, yet “owned” more than 80% of the land. Blacks were allowed to work in the white areas, but only if they had a “pass”, a document tracking them and allowing them to be there. “Whites Only” signs were in every public place and I was to grow up reading them and to never ask why. Some whites had a black gardener and almost all whites had a black maid. I stayed away from the men hunched over the pristine rosebushes. At times one would catch my eye and I would look down and hurry on, worrying about all the terrible things he might do to me if I returned his bright smile. We never had more than one maid at a time,

but there was always a steady stream of them. Something was either stolen, they were repeatedly late or they just never came back. But it was always easy to get a new one. Dispensable people. They would walk from door-to-door all day long, begging for jobs. You could take your pick. Sometimes I would stick my head out of the window and watch them walk away up the hot, dusty road; their heads often balancing all their worldly belongings wrapped tightly in a blanket, roasting in the sun. White peoples’ houses were built with a tiny maid’s room outside, as well as a separate outside toilet and sink for both the maid and the gardener to use. It was unheard of that either of them would dare use the inside toilet. I wondered if the black in their skin would come off onto our perfect, ceramic toilet seat. I often sneaked a look at their outside toilet and could never see anything unusual about their toilet seats, except maybe older, chipped or cracked. In the middle of too many hot, African summer nights, there would be fear and commotion. I would awake to the sound of police yelling and pounding on their outside doors, demanding to see their “pass”. If they didn’t have it, they would be dragged out kicking and screaming and thrown into the back of the yellow police truck. There was often as many as fifteen or twenty people crammed into it, all on top of each other. Sometimes they never came back, or if they did, it could be days, weeks or even months later. My mum would get me to pack their stuff into a black, plastic rubbish bag to make room for the new maid. If the old one did come back to get her things, she would often look bruised and hunched over. We’d give her her bag, a slice of bread and some water to replace her jobs, and send her on her way. Some would also stay for a while, at times for over a year. They had names like Patience or Beauty or Winnie or Sunshine or Gladys. They were big and slow. They balanced parcels on their heads when they went into town and once one cooked a sheep’s head in our kitchen. The house stank for days and my mum went mad. I had never

seen a cooked sheep’s head before so I stuck my finger through its eyeball. I was physically ill for days. They cooked and cleaned for us. I never had to make my bed because the maid always did it for me. My younger sister was often strapped onto their backs, as they worked all day long humming their tribal songs. They spoke in languages that clucked and clicked, and their English was thick with accent. I was very careful of them at first and would keep a close eye on my sister, happily tucked onto their swaying backs. But they were never dirty and smelly and nothing horrible was ever done to the little white girls in our house. Not by the black people, anyway. So I stopped being careful. Mum and Dad constantly worked and my days were lonely. I came to have black Mummies, one after the other. They made me sandwiches to take to school and they were still there with dinner when I came home. I cried into their large bosoms when I was sad, and when we laughed together I marveled at the whiteness of their teeth! When we ate, they would have to use the chipped plate, tin cup and old spoon kept underneath the kitchen sink, next to the cleaning supplies. I would have the regular china, glass and fancy cutlery. Together we would sit, eating our lunch, never mentioning our unmatched place settings. I learned of their families left behind in the “homeland” which was land that the government “allowed” them to stay in. They would send them most of their monthly income and sometimes my Mum would donate our old clothes and toys. They had parents and children there, babies and toddlers; some they hadn’t seen in years. They would show me their wrinkled photographs and cry their tears of sadness. I think of them still. I wonder if they are reunited with the children that they never saw. Smiling their big smiles of pure white teeth. Patience or Beauty or Winnie or Sunshine or Gladys. I wish I could let you know what you taught this white girl. u


the haves and the have nots straight from my tulips Gail Gates photography

Haute Dish/Summer 2012 Issue  

The Arts and Literature Magazine of Metropolitan State University

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