The Jonathan R. Reynolds Young Writers Workshop
June 14-21, 2015
Table of Writers Jasmine Painter ........................................................................................ 3 Will Brown ............................................................................................... 4 Sydney Richardson .................................................................................. 6 Piper Thompson ..................................................................................... 7 Madeline Myers ....................................................................................... 8 Jacob Grant .............................................................................................. 9 Michael Rainwater .................................................................................11 Rebecca Paulisch ...................................................................................12 Riley Kern ..............................................................................................14 Madison Murray ....................................................................................15 Olivia Hersman .....................................................................................17 Dylan Chambers ....................................................................................18 Susannah Cate........................................................................................20 Bo Terrill ................................................................................................21 Lauren Kossman ...................................................................................23 Madison Smith.......................................................................................24 Caitlyn Bove ...........................................................................................25
Taylor Hawk ..........................................................................................27 Elena Grandbois ...................................................................................28 Quintin Jepson ......................................................................................29 Daniella Saul ..........................................................................................30 Taylor Fleming ......................................................................................32 Austin “Rambo” Hanrehan .................................................................34 Sarah Dalgleish ......................................................................................35 Caroline Federinko ...............................................................................36 Alexandra Hensley ................................................................................37 Julia King ................................................................................................38 Hazel Bell ...............................................................................................40 Somi Jun .................................................................................................41 Izzy DeSantis .........................................................................................43 Mia Rossi ................................................................................................45 Sarena Brown.........................................................................................47 Nikki Howard ........................................................................................48 Sarah Geach ...........................................................................................50 Eliza Kucynski .......................................................................................51 Kateryna Bolonnikova ..........................................................................53 Eden Stephey .........................................................................................55
Something about how I only liked stormy weather and the way you touched me felt like being hit by lightning and not in a good way Something about how your voice boomed like thunder just like my father's Something about how the only difference between the two of you was that when he left, he didn't tell me he loved me Something about how the time between the lightning and the thunder determines how far away the storm is Something about how the time between "I love you" and "I'm leaving" sounded an awful lot like trees falling over in the wind Tell me, if a girl cries for help in the middle of a thunderstorm, does she still make a sound when you hit her? Something about how abusive relationships run in the family Something about how I tore the tornado siren off the roof How it's been raining in this house for years Something about how standing under a tin roof in a lightning storm doesn't scare me but standing in our bedroom, surrounded by empty liquor bottles does Something about I relate to trees split right down the middle, insides charred by flashes of light Something about how fists move faster than lightning, the time between the flash and the thunder indicating how high my pain tolerance is tonight Something about how when the storm is over, the skies may turn blue but the wreckage remains Something about how you can fix broken windows but still see the cracks in the glass How people notice the shattered panes but figure it's none of their business How they just keep walking Or something like that
Will Brown All Things Come to He Who Procrastinates "Oh Wiii-iiiill, we'll be leaving right after lunch."
I swear, one of these days I'm going to install one of those signboards they have at rail stations and airports in my bedroom. "Brown family spring break trip. Destination: St. Simon's Island, Georgia. Departing at 1:00 from gravel driveway of 606 Maple Avenue, on time." "Ok, I'm on it. Just a few last items," I reassure her from the upstairs landing, wondering how I've been left out of the loop for the umpteenth time. My mind seems to have the unfortunate tendency of translating any useful information my mother ever spouts into a string of jumbled jargon. I wrack my brain, grasping for any hint that she may have left to notify me that we were leaving for the island today. Could the scallops we ate last night for dinner have been a clue that we were about to migrate to warmer climates, some sort of culinary hieroglyphic? Or maybe when music by Jack Johnson began emanating from the Bose speakers last night it was some sort of subliminal message suggesting an eminent departure for a more tropical realm? I scramble to pack the bare essentials first-- only those precious items that man can't live without. Golf clubs, soccer ball, headphones, iPhone...everything's fallen into place for an entertaining trip, if potentially one without a change of wardrobe. This is a breeze, I think. "OWW!" Now I've just stubbed my toe into the bathroom sink. The pain brings back all too clear memories from last year's trip, when I narrowly avoided flattening a small beagle while riding on my beach cruiser. "Contacts! Forget them every time!" Now equipped with visual aids and an infernal pain in my left big toe, I hobble purposefully to my closet. I have a grave feeling that Mom wouldn't accept the "I was only looking out for your best interests, it would be criminal for you to have to do laundry on vacation" excuse for not packing any clothes. Past experience comes to my rescue yet again; if packing no clothes is the easiest method, packing an unnecessary abundance is the second-easiest. Then, another bellow from downstairs: "We're going to start packing the car in about fifteen minutes, and we need your help carrying out some of the luggage." "Sure, sure, no problem. Just making my bed up so that I can return to a nice, clean room when we get back in a week," I reply, stumbling through the nuclear-disaster zone of books, jackets, cleats, snacks, and the occasional piece of shrapnel that I call my living quarters. Passing my bed, which hasn't been made since the defeat of the Spanish Armada, I open the door to my equally tidy closet. No time for elaborate math calculations such as counting how many days we'll be gone and how many pairs of underwear I'll need at a time like this. I grab heaps of clothes at random-- a bundle of boxers, a few wrinkled t-shirts, a swimsuit, a baseball cap from my 4th grade Little League team (why not?), and realize that my suitcase is still lying on the opposite side of the room. Any attempted crossing of the wake of destruction with heaps of
apparel in hand would register a nine on a difficulty scale in which Washington's crossing of the Delaware rated a seven and swimming across the English Channel measures a mere five. "Thattaboy, Downtown Willy Brown!" I hear the words of Coach Lewis, my seventh grade basketball coach, in my ears as the shot-clock runs down. Fans of the opposition are screaming muffled insults from downstairs. "How long can it take to make a freakin' bed?! It's time to get on the road." "Don't listen to the haters" yells Coach Lewis. "Just keep shooting." One deep breath and I begin firing away, sinking three-pointer after three-pointer. "Are we going to have to leave without you!?" Arms now freed of the mound of apparel, I traverse the body-strewn terrain and zip up my suitcase. I coolly stride down the stairs. â€œO, hey Mom. You called?"
According to several websites, the name Sydney means Wide Island. It is the name of a large city plagued by heat and beautiful beaches. Sydney means dreaming and aspiring. It is like the smallest star in the sky, unseen under city lights. Sydney means wannabe and unoriginal. It is like the most overplayed pop song on the radio. According to my mother, the name Sydney means change. It means having a child without wanting a child. Sydney means a pit of unhappiness and grief suddenly turned into the source of light flowing through the windowpane. My motherâ€™s good looks have long faded because of the birth of child number four, but she explains that she is grateful. She no longer thirsts for a sense of belonging. According to my father, the name Sydney means new life. It is the name that brings joy to a hateful and fickle man and makes him God's holy follower. It is the name that changes a bear into an ox. It is the name that brings a smile to a generation, saving the world from mistrust and sin. It is the name that saves the generations after from poverty and neglect. I like the name Sydney. I admire how it easily flows off of the tongue. I am forever defined by two syllables and six letters, which I am perfectly fine with. My mother, the woman I love, and my father, the man who cares for me, defined a helpless baby girl with Sydney. Sydney means second chances.
Piper Thompson Dear Brother,
I hate you. I was only five and you were only seven. It was a new day. One of those days where the sun sinks into your skin, warming you from the inside out. You and I, along with the other kids were playing under this oven like sun. We were conquering new adventures, new monsters, and new villains, but slowly as these adventures were returning back to reality, I saw you with a toy. A toy I wanted and that you were going to give me because that’s how I liked things to work. But like all good siblings do, you did not hand over the toy. What seemed like sixty seconds later, you had handed over the toy to another boy. You put that boy before me and I hated you. Maybe it was just a toy, but what you did meant you didn’t love me. A family loves each other and by loving me, you had to give me that toy before anyone else. So, I said the only words to say when you are hurt, “I. Hate. You.” After I tossed those words out of my mouth, I knew I didn’t mean them, but they were already thrown and I couldn’t try to catch them now. I should have though because what I didn't know was that you were finding a new toy. Something else to hurt me with. Pretty soon you reappeared with your new toy, a jump rope. My swing, losing energy with every sway, slowed and came to a halt. I sat, watching you climb that big oak tree slightly to the right of the swing set. I sat pondering how you were going to jump rope on a tree, the only logical thought, I thought. As I watched you frame by frame, I was beginning to understand that you weren’t trying to jump rope on a tree. You were trying to jump off the tree. You started to tie the rope around the tree, then making another knot around your neck. Everything happened so slowly yet so quickly. I was paralyzed by the actions taking place in front of me, because of me. No sooner after you tied the jump rope around your neck, you jumped, not over the rope, but over the tree. You hung there. You dangled there, reaching for air, for life, for a way out. I sat screaming, terrified, realizing. As a five year-old I was realizing what life is and how it take it. My brother was hanging himself because of something I said. Because of something I didn’t even mean. Someone must have ran to get the women in charge. When she got to you, her face was empty. There didn't seem to be thought in between the holes on the sides of her head, only she was working on you. Her body was stretched, long gated to the point of no return. She could barely touch the sole of your shoe. I looked at your face, panicked because we both knew how this could end, but somehow she was able to push the bottom of your shoe back to the tree. You untied yourself from the simple elementary bunny ear knot that held you. You were safe and alive, breathing, but I was still crying. I just watched my brother dangle with death. I pushed you away for years after that because I didn’t want your life in my hands. I didn’t want to say or do the wrong thing, for the fear that you would jump. I figured if we weren’t close and didn’t embark on any more adventures together, you would still be alive and that’s what mattered. I cringe at the sight of a tree. I bend at the sight of a hanging limb. Because they remind me of what I said and what you did. I can’t bring myself to touch a tree without wanting to collapse to the ground that you once could not reach. A tree is my scar, I’m reminded of it every day of my life I afraid of the truth. I don’t think I have ever said it, but I’m sorry. I’m sorry for saying I hate you. I’m sorry for making you feel like I don’t love you. I’m sorry for pushing you away. I’m sorry for not saying I love you enough. My brother, I love you. Love, Your Sister Page |7
I Wish that This Were for a Fish Every time I try to think about what happened - try to figure out how it went wrong, it's like I'm watching fish in a bowl. They go on steadily and keep swimming in their bowl, crafted in the thinnest of glass. And then one day I get home to see that a fish has died. And there's nothing to do about it, but flush it. If not, the absence is potent in the air. The death would linger. But it's not easy to do. I wonder: what happened to the fish? What happened to us? I don't speak their language so I'll never know if their leaving was a necessity, or if it just gave up. But I do know that I'm not a fucking fish. You're not a fish. I'm not trapped by a glass bowl or controlled by anything but my own tyrannical emotion. I have to let the feelings linger because it's the only option. Itâ€™s all I know how to do. Did you have options? You may not be floating in water, but that doesn't mean we're the same. I still don't get you. I'm tempted to say that you've been a chicken, a coward. But if I go on comparing everyone to animals eventually everyone would be an irrelevant ant crawling at the bottom of all food chains. Youâ€™re just a boy. After all, the most complicated creature you have ever been, or ever will be, is human. I still don't get it. I don't know what happened, or where it turned into turmoil, and how I let such a little thing turn me into the pathetic, heartbroken mess. At the very least, I wish you could be a human that hasn't given away humanity. Have mercy on me. Give me a reason. Tell me why and maybe the glass will finally break. I'm tired of watching. I want to be a part of the life you're all living. The contradictions you leave me with are impossible, and I canâ€™t move on from them until I understand. And I need an answer in more ways than one. I don't know where I'm standing. I just need you. I need you. I need you. I wish I didn't.
Ice in the Champagne
The day was dying on the other side of the expansive glass wall. They sat down to watch, he easing into the voluminous black leather chair, she demurely onto the thin leather bench. Other than the delicate glass table which supported a bottle of champagne in front of them, the room was empty and lifeless. They sat staring out the glass shield in silence, inspecting the city sprawling before them, until a servant came and filled their glasses with the champagne. The girl picked hers up and sipped it carefully before glancing over at the man. His hands were calm, his posture carefully regulated. His frosty hair was combed back, his eyes emotionless. His visage was that of practiced tranquility. “They will remember you,” she said. Her voice snapped like cold ice in the room. “They won’t be able to find me to remember me,” he assured her. “I have had many years of practice in covering my tracks.” His voice was smoother, sophisticated. She marveled at the Old Russian accent which still slithered through his parted lips. Its breath was mist and its bite fire. “Not a single trace of the man who tore the world asunder?” she asked him, a smirk pulling at her countenance. But he merely shook his head, his soothed features stubbornly lingering. Her smirk slipped away, and she returned to her drink. He left his sitting on the table, the ice within it floating languidly around the glass. “You never explained to me why you put ice in your champagne,” she reminded him. “No time,” he answered. She raised an eyebrow at him, though his face did not turn away from the window. “Two thousand years, and you don’t have any time at all.” “It seems I do not,” he murmured. His lips pursed together as he watched the clouds outside. Far on the horizon, one could glimpse the sun setting through the veil. It was a violent crimson, the only color permeating the white ice and fog of the city. Indeed, even his cheeks were white. His eye sockets were a cold, leaden gray. They smoldered like dying coals. She pitied him. It was then that the first jagged disk descended from the Stygian blanket of clouds. Its black bone fingers yearned towards the surface of the planet, and the city erupted in chaos. As the sirens began to sound, carried by the billowing wind, she looked back over at the man who had guided her, mentored her, held her hand her whole life; she looked at him and wanted to fill his empty shell. For the first time in her existence, she could see how old he was. “You know,” she whispered, “some men never die.” The corners of his mouth tugged upwards in a sad smile. “So it seems.” Page |9
She watched more disks fall slowly from the clouds, which parted in wisps to allow the onyx halos their passage. â€œI pity the men I have built,â€? he said suddenly. She nodded, and together, they watched the world shatter.
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It is 3:01 A.M. Dear Sarah, hello. May 9th Saturday morning – I have nothing in my head again. Again stuck in the psychedelic era. Though you are not here to lie on my bed with me and whisper hello from eye to eye, “God’s noises make no sense to me.” Oh and I got my first rejection no --tice by email on Sunday morning but those poems are about to go right back out again. Again, stuck in the psychedelic era. Tuesday, sat around the house and read— Talked to Seth on the phone. Play practice, 6:30.
Words What makes you silence in a word— but frowning thought… willing— I don’t know. To read you like a book would be too easy. So instead I stumble, tripping over your downturned eyes fallen into the stream with the rest of your words… and I will swim I will swim until you come for me.
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I don’t clearly remember her, but I do remember that she was an elderly woman, lying in a hospital bed directly next to that of my grandmother’s. All that separated her from my grandmother were two thin, ghostly white curtains that seemed to morbidly foreshadow what was to come. I didn’t know her at all, but looking through the crack between the two curtains told me enough. No flowers. No get well cards. No family standing by her side. Just a woman, as nearly as pale as the sheets that walled her off from a livelier world. She was dying. My simple 10 year-old mind could surmise that, even though I didn’t fully comprehend what it truly meant to die, to cease to exist. My family and I were there to visit my grandmother after her appendix removal surgery, and we brought her bouquets of flowers and collections of balloons. We knew from the moment that she went into surgery that’d she be fine, as it was one of those common, routine procedures that doctors performed all the time. Regardless, we felt the need to give her something. Something to show we would be there for her, even when we knew she’d be alright. And it was obvious that the woman beside her would not be alright. Yet, where were her bouquets? Where was her family? How hopeless it must have been, to know that you were coming to the end of the final chapter of the book that was your life, but none of the characters whom you encountered and bonded with along the way would be there to finish it with you. And that’s when I made a choice. I told my parents I was going to the bathroom, but instead, I went down the hospital elevator to the ground floor and into the gift shop. I had 10 dollars left over my birthday, which I carried around in my pink poodle purse. All I bought was a cheap pot of artificial purple flowers. I remember kicking myself as I rode the elevator back up to my grandmother’s room; I had just spent the last of my birthday money on this? This pot of crudely cute purple cloth glued to green plastic stems? What was wrong with me? When I came back to the room, I was greeted by my mother asking, “Oh, are those for grandma?” “No...They’re for her,” I awkwardly replied as a slid between the two curtains and placed the pot on the table by her bed. I could feel my parents’ gaze on me, and I knew they were giving looks of complete surprise, probably with mouths agape. I at least know that was my exact expression when the woman’s eyes fluttered open, and she feebly asked, “Are those for me?” Slightly taken aback, I said that they were. “They’re beautiful. Purple is my favorite color.”
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“It’s mine too,” I lied and then hurriedly slipped back out to my parents, barely catching the woman’s thank you. I thought that maybe the purple flowers were enough to make up for all that she was suffering, but now I know that it wasn’t. Nothing would have ever been enough. I sometimes wonder what happened to her and whether she finally got that much needed bouquet from her family. Sometimes I imagine a world in which a miracle would happen, and she would fully recover and would walk out of that hospital with flowerpot in hand. And she would we drive out of that dreadful parking lot in her own car, down her own street, and into her own house. And she would march triumphantly back up the steps of her front porch and into her kitchen with its purple-painted walls. Because purple was her favorite color.
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Garden of Time
The old woman with yellowing eyes, spaghetti hair, and veins poking through the skin that clung to her like saran wrap admired her beautiful garden nestled on a hillside. Clocks were placed on the ground in seemingly random spots, each one different from its neighbor. Some were digital alarm clocks, some golden and cracked with roman numerals, some cuckoo clocks made in Germany, but all ticked endlessly. Each clock had a time engraved on the back down to the second, each for a different time. Each day, the woman added a new body to her garden and a new clock would bloom with a new time. The bodies she carried were those of the homeless man or the dead eyed, cow faced lady at the checkout line of the local supermarket. Those who lived in, what seemed to them, a never ending cycle of hell, problems, and tears were her normal prey. She kept close watch of the time on the mahogany clock she hung on her foyer wall each day to see when it would happen. Some days it didn’t, some days it did, but it always happened. When it did, she reused the grave and dug up the clock with great tenderness and care, placing each one under a glass shell in her basement. Each shell sat on a podium. On each podium, hung a solid gold plate hand engraved with the person’s name and where she killed them. Her large, basement, only lit by the light that shone on each podium, was nearly full. The judgment usually came within one month of the clocks blooming dependent on the extremity of the person’s crime or charity. Her ears were always open. She listened for the screams of the immediate regret from those who were always damned to sink. The screams were those blood curdling shrieks of horror that you only scream once upon the sight of the foulest entity of your imagination. Those who rose, sang the hymns they’d learned in Sunday school as children or laments of the people they’d left behind or songs of great thanks. All had the voice of an angel. She hadn’t the slightest clue who was going where and/or when, but she always thought she would rise. On a warm, sunny day, she carried her freshly choked victim into his grave. Upon covering him with dirt, a clock sprouted from the ground. She only choked her victims so she would preserve their beauty. Turning with pleasure over her new meat and checking her watch, she saw it was 1:57:39. Over her own mental celebrations, she heard a deep, oaky laugh and was pushed in the hole at her bare feet. As she was covered with dirt, she saw the smile of her son that had been missing and assumed dead for twelve years. She was blamed for his disappearance, but it never went to trial. A mahogany clock sprouted above her with the engraving “1:57:44”. 5…4…3…2…1… She screams.
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There is an anchor in my chest, pulling on my guts and making a lump form in my throat from where it is attached. The pull of it is almost unbearable, making me want to tear out my chest to relieve the pain. They told me this would be easy, they told me this would be fun. This should be a form of torture, your body tearing you apart from the inside. They didn’t let me watch them leave, didn’t give me that satisfaction. Though, if they left as I watched, I imagine I would have felt even more abandoned that I do now. Slowly, I force my way through the crowd of blank faced strangers. They told me that people would feel the same, that I would meet people who would be like me. Around me, people are pairing up, leaving me here with my bags and a name tag that tells everyone my name. It’s not even in my handwriting, leaving me feeling like I’m just one of a few thousand kids. . “Name?” A girl asks, her clipboard filled with the names of all the kids who have decided to make this their home. All of them has made this huge commitment, have decided to live here for four years at least. “Cameron Xavier?” It comes out as more of a question, partially because I can’t speak without the threat of the anchor chocking me. If I speak to long, if I open my mouth than the sea inside my belly may rise, the ties are already licking at my heart. For a place we will all call home, it seems very military. Stand here, grab keys, your room is on the second floor. Vaguely, I wonder if the tides will be able to reach me up on the second floor. Surely if something reaches the second floor then it will take the anchor away with it, how could it not? The room, with a whiteboard and the number 219 in cheerful blue numbers on the door, is a sad grey, devoid of any features. My roommate is coming from someplace across the country, and won’t be here until later in the week. She must have an anchor in her chest too, maybe an even bigger one. Maybe the distance will make it bigger. When I was younger I used to adore the water, I went swimming and waded in creeks. Now, I never want to see the water, see a boat, see an anchor, ever again. The movies always made the kids seem happy, even excited, about leaving home. The parents give their kids a kiss on the forehead and wave as their kids walk away with smiles brighter than the gorgeous sun’s shining brightly behind them. My parents hugged me tight enough to implant an anchor in my chest, said so many goodbyes that filled my chest with water, watched me with sad eyes that tied the rope around my throat. My sister smiled and me with the bright smile that I have seen every day since I was three, and slipped the poison into my veins.
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No one ever seemed to say that you feel like that you are dying as your parents drive away in the SUV that used to be the family car and how you wonder if you are still a part of that family as they leave you behind. My bags hit the floor with a thump that shakes the dust up from the floor, forcing me to cough. Tears leak out of my eyes as I do, but quickly the tears turn into sobs. I am willing to sob, if it will loosen the tightness in my chest. If the water is on the outside, then surely it cannot suffocate me on the inside.
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The Earth is still, the stars frozen in sky; the wind dissipates in the air… I don’t risk a breath that could shatter this place: time frozen, time gone, time to spare. The mountains adhere to the Earth’s gentle state, posing in sole solemn stance. Rock clings to rock, clouds hang still in the sky, and anticipate sun’s keynote dance. The rock trembles first, a sparkle, a stir, a glimmer in its gentle face. My lashes brush skin as my eyes are drawn in to the darkness’ leave without trace. Sizzling sparks burning far down below burn, pop, rise and implode: Preparation to bloom, a battle of time, to set the horizon aglow. First comes purple, a lilac ballet, an innocent form of “I do”, a commitment to rise and shower the Earth with the first light to kiss the rain’s dew. Pink blooms next, and the hue thaws the stars; their shivering ceases with mine. I feel my heart bloom like a flower of spring, as I witness the unfurl of time. Yellow warms the mountain as it bursts to life, “I love you” incarnate in light; my eyes catch the sight of a bird’s silhouette visible in this absence of night. The Earth is still; the sun frozen in sky, the wind dissipates in the air… I don’t risk a breath that could shatter this place, time frozen, time gone, time to spare.
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"Really, man. I'm not feeling it today, whatâ€™s up?" The teen was starting to feel exasperated. It was just like Zach to mess around, most of the student body found him to be extremely annoying. Zach furrowed his almost-uni-brow, "Srik gadul. Fwoin heloy xentol, kolp venk lulaw chighk." His voice was even more high-pitched than usual, an event which only happened when he was frustrated. Giving up, the boy rolled his eyes, collected the books from his locker, and made his way to first period. Figuring that Zach must have been in one of his more childish moods today, he tried to clear his mind. Then he began to worry. "QWIIIIILUX FAD BRULK VIGEL!!!!!!" A particularly loud, ignorant, and frustrating lacrosse player screamed as he raced down the hall, past the boy, before leaping onto the back of his friend. "Womil hoo bek...!" The mother, who ran the bookstore, whispered to a woman working the cash register. "Feek gul nort!" Shereplied in shock before giving a customer change for his gaudy argyle sweatshirt, the embodiment of prep and school spirit most students needed to live. Anxiety began to consume him and he listened to every conversation within his vicinity. Nothing made any sense. Try as he might he could not discern the meaning of any spoken word. The only sounds he heard from other human beings were gibberish, streams that flowed smoothly from their sources but turned to rapids within his ears. Tears streamed down his cheeks after over an hour of trying to communicate with his mother, she could understand what he said, but he had no clue what she was saying back. It never seemed strange to anyone else and that is what terrified him; everyone went about their normal lives and attempted to hold conversations with the young man. When he became frustrated, they acted like he was insane. Soon everyone at school stopped reaching out to him. He attempted to write notes back and forth with his family but any writing they returned was illegible. He sought out new and different kinds of people: the elderly, men and women from other countries via social media, complete strangers on the streets, all to no avail. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. After a while, he too gave up on reaching out. For the rest of his high school career, he did not speak to anyone. Eventually, it became commonplace and he went on living his life to the best of his ability. Applying to college without the being able to understand what anyone said was quite interesting, but he selected a school with a beautiful campus and great academic facilities. His first days on campus were a messâ€”he had no idea where he was going and he was awful at reading maps. As he ran through the quad for his third time in a less than ten minutes, a girl seated beneath an oak tree, protected by its shade, stared at him and laughed. The laugh was not malicious; instead it conveyed a sincerity he was not used to. P a g e | 18
"Excuse me," she said with a small giggle, "You seem to be lost. Would you like some help? Where are you headed? Maybe I could show you the way!" The young man grinned and tears began tumbling down his face.
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Excerpt from “Might”
Lying on the newly purchased pillow top, fully clothed, your shoes askew on the carpet signally a recent arrival, you look up. Up at him because he’s taller, like the majority of the people you have encountered in life. Hair like milk chocolate falls in his eyes. Well, the same shade as milk chocolate, but that’s where the similarities end. It’s not hard or stiff but is fluffy and impossibly pleasant smelling, in a way that’s almost feminine but you still accept because you like to run your fingers through it when his head rests in your lap. But that’s not happening right now. Right now everything is tense and uncertainty hangs in the air like a question that you pretend you didn’t hear because you don’t know the answer. You’ve both run out of things to talk about and now you’re staring down at your hands trying to untangle the knot forming in the back of your throat. He’s struggling to convey something to you, but it’s only strangled bits of sentences and you don’t want to listen anyway. You already know what’s happening, know that he’s trying to find a polite way of saying he doesn’t want you anymore. But he can’t right now, and understandably. There’s no way to tell someone you used to shower with adoration, used to act like hung the stars and the moon and every other goddamn thing that’s beautiful way up in the sky, that they mean nothing to you now. The same sky you lay under when he wrapped his arms around you a year ago, and said he might love you. That might had fleshed out and become a certainty you’d bank on, a definite truth that you’d long ago labeled as eternal. Now you wonder how you’d ever let that happen. Turning your head so he’s just in the corner of your field of vision, you look up at the cracked bulb fastened loosely to the ceiling. You’ve always thought there should be a ceiling fan there, and suddenly its absence infuriates you. As he clears his throat for the third time you glance around the room trying to make a mental note of all the other things you hate about it for later. Treacherous words flow freely now, spilling over his chapped lips like they’d been hiding there for some time, crouched down beneath his tongue, biding their time until they’d be released. You turn your head even further away consciously trying to zone out and become oblivious but the words scramble up your neck and dive in your ears and you have to listen. Too forced they say, too much time with the same person. You cringe at the sheer ridiculousness of them. Do people not spend their whole lives together and never once think it a waste? You turn your back now, a gesture that usually draws him in. But this time he does not conform to your shape, and any togetherness that until this point remained, immediately evaporates. He sighs as though he is the tired victim, not the instigator of the end. He thinks you should go. You agree. Your feet smack against the uneven surface of the parking lot, and you imagine they grow tough. Your shoes are stuffed haphazardly under your arm because you didn’t want to take the time to put them on, as he watched over your shoulder, pity rolling out from him like mustard gas over trenches. You curse the stars because you’re not ready to curse him yet. You leave his condominium behind. You sling open your car door and scrunch up inside, becoming as small as possible; small like a child.
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The End of the World
August 12th, 2065
Lieutenant Colonel Pilot Khan, Arata Dear My Sweet, I don’t know why I still write to you. I asked Private Himura to check our house while he was scouting Sapporo and he said there was only ash, blood, and bodies in our neighborhood after all the damage the American phoenix bombs did. Still, even if there is the slightest chance you’ll get my letters, it’s worth it. Things are grim. Every continent has been bombed several times over where the largest amount of people are. The fatalities are in 9 billion range. All the militaries are dead. All our men are dead. Himura, dead. Kato, dead. Even General Shin killed himself. He had me come in his office, gave me my last assignment, that involved me flying into my own mushroom cloud, and put the barrel of his Baby Nambu between his teeth. I don’t blame him, however, the radiation leakage was getting too powerful at Iwakuni. I’m afraid I myself would’ve gotten radiation poisoning had I stayed any longer. I’m certain this will never get to you, but on the off chance it would, I love you, Kuri Khan. My wife, my love, my life. Sincerely, Arata Khan Khan sealed the envelope and put it in the royal blue, un-nuked postage box, with a stamp of what appeared to be a rusty, cracked bell. Why it belonged on a stamp, Khan didn’t know. He walked back to his baby-blue Magnum-CV Fox-Trot and climbed in. He loved his jumbo jet. Yet, he’d be the last one the fly it. Khan was going to drop the last of the bombs and kill himself in the process. Climbing up the side, Khan slapped the symbol of the Japanese Air Force, the golden eagle in a sky of blue, and then the sun of his life, the flag. Settling himself in the seat, he put on all his straps and fired it up, although being as it was primarily a stealth plane, it didn’t make a sound. It was one of the things Khan actually hated about flying it. It was unnerving how loud his own breathing was whilst racing in the sky. The craft rose higher and higher in altitude until he was over the heavy, radioactive clouds of fallout and could actually see the sun. Khan loved the sky and sun. Ever since Japan was bombed and the fallout became too thick to even dream about seeing the blue sky and sun, Khan never got enough of the sky. But war was war, so he only flew when needed but did allow himself to fly above the irradiated clouds when going from point A to point B. Khan came within a few hundred miles of the drop-off point and dipped quickly below the radar viewing spot of the United States, despite the United States having thought to have perished. He tipped the planed and glanced out the window to see children at a park, families barbequing and being happy. Then he dropped the atom bomb. Directly after the weapon was released, Khan pulled up and fought against the heavy radiation to accelerate rapidly and get away from the soon coming mushroom cloud.
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Khan ripped his mask off and let the light of the bomb blind his pretibial vison. When he was about fifty miles away he did a U-Turn and saw the blossoming of the bomb. In a way, it was the most beautiful this he’d ever seen. The splitting of a single atom made that stark-white and blood-red explosion of intense fury and…purity. The Japanese plane flew into the cloud and he felt his plane tearing up on the sides and wings and the radiation seeping through the metal. Khan let go of the wheel and grabbed the picture of his wife and himself standing in front of two cheery blossom trees in their backyard on their five-year anniversary, her stomach swollen with their child. “I’m coming home, Kuri.”
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Excerpts from “The Implausible Steps to Writing an Essay”
Do you struggle with writing? Is it a magnanimous pain in your neck that just will not subside? No worries, I am here to provide you with a step-by-step guide of how to write an A+ essay, with as much ease as possible. Follow my steps, and you will reach success! Step two: Always look at other’s work first. When trying to get ideas for a paper, or if you are just stuck with a bad case of “writers block,” use other people’s work as inspiration. And, if you are still stuck on what to write about, just copy and paste those words right into your document and call them your own; they are just “words,” right? Plagiarism, as it is technically called, is definitely a great tool to use when in a bind. Not only will your essay be spectacular, but your teacher will be so impressed that you took the time to research the topic that they will not even notice that you “stole” someone else’s work. And hey, when you are (potentially) sitting in detention because you are a “thief,” just think back on how good your essay was! Step six: Use words that you do not know. If it sounds good, and makes you seem smart, for the heck of it! Use the absconding word! Your teacher will be placed into a nefarious state and vastly quaffed that you are trying to improve your vocabulary. And hey, everyone makes stevedore mistakes—if the word is not “correct” for that furrow sentence, so be it- at least you tried! Step eight: When your teacher tells you, “your essay must be twelve pt. font, double spaced, and three pages,” DO NOT LISTEN. This is for the standard, boring kids- let your creativity flow. Write ten pages, or write one. Write on a napkin or a paper plate. Write with colored pens or draw pictures to illustrate your thoughts. Use this freedom to show your creativity—it will make you stand out amongst your peers. You want your teacher to remember your essay, and if you do not follow the standard protocol, yours will surely be one that is talked about in the faculty lounge. Step ten: Make your own due date. Your teacher, although he probably gave the essay a due date, does not know what he was talking about! If everyone else in your class turns in the essay on the day it was due, your teacher will be so bogged down with work he is likely to go crazy! Give him an extra week, or turn in your work when you feel like your teacher has had enough time, and is ready for your paper. Although when you tell him this he might seem a little angry, you are simply are doing him a favor, and he just does not recognize it yet. By the time you turn it in, and your teacher sees what you did for him, he will be very grateful. In return for your consideration about his workload, he will automatically give your essay a great grade! Now that I have given you my ten steps on how to write the perfect essay, I am personally guaranteeing you a solid C- or lower! And hey, who doesn’t like to be average! And if this is not the outcome, I apologize, but you must realize that this is not your fault—your teacher is probably an ex math teacher, and doesn’t know how to recognize creativity when he sees it!
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I enjoy the sensation of falling. The heart pounding excitement that comes before. The nervous anticipation that reaches to every limb, fingertip and hair on my body. Then comes the gut lurching, heart wrenching thrill as gravity pulls me involuntarily downward. The adrenalin creates a high like nothing else can. I’ve always loved the feeling that I get when falling. So it’s only fitting that falling would be the way I’d choose to die. I’ve been empty for a long time. It’s become ingrained in my daily life, causing relationships to suffer and loneliness to consume me. My concentration slipped long ago and I’ve become nothing but the empty shell of a person, oblivious to the outside world. The world would be better off without my soulless corpse tainting it. A few weeks ago, when the obvious solution to cure the world of my pathetic existence came to me, a sense of calm washed through me. When I called my parents yesterday, to let them talk to me one last time before I left, they didn’t answer. When I quit my job and revised my will, no one noticed. The world wouldn’t realize I was gone. Now I stand alone at the edge of an abandoned bridge in the outskirts of town. The water below is silent, lapping slowly at the rocks on either side of the river. Fluffy white clouds float in the sky on the backdrop of a clear, pleasant blue. A soft breeze caresses my face, as if telling me everything will be alright now. This is the perfect day to die. A glint catches my eye in the distance ahead. It’s the ferris wheel. The ferris wheel that had captured the attention of both my sister and I all those years ago. The pure joy that graced me during that one wondrous day at the carnival floods into me. A happiness that I haven’t felt in a long time. And with that, a surge of memories rush to the front of my head. My sister and I catching the late night premiere of that one horrible chick flick. My sister and I working through the painful algebra homework in middle school. My sister and I dress shopping for our first prom. My sister and I facing the world hand in hand. My sister and I. She had left me to study abroad, but could I really leave her for good? My resolve wavers. A timid fire reignites in the recesses of my suddenly less empty shell. Hesitantly, my shoe finds the asphalt on the safe side of the ledge. The side that means facing life once more. And now I’m turning away from the water, no longer seeking the easy way out. A small smile is beginning to form on my lips when a roaring noise assaults my ears. That is the only warning I have before the truck slams into my body, throwing me over the ledge and to my death.
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The Stars are Not Real To my dear friend, the philosopher. In a short film I wrote a while ago, There is a scene where the two main characters are lying on the floor staring at the ceiling. One of them, The more adoring one says that this feels intimate. The other, More pithy one says it feels nauseating. Believe it or not, they are in love. To me, This feels transcendent. I only feel this way though, When I gaze with him. He who lights a fire with his lashes. He who makes me forget the world. You know youâ€™ve fallen in love with your close friend when, Instead of thinking about how he does not believe that best friends exist. You're thinking about what the bottom of the bottle whispers in his ear, When you know you could tell him sweet sweet nothings all day And he still wouldn't believe them. I hope one day he listens. I want to tell him that, He storms my soul. I want him to discover things about me I never knew. Like how my body disintegrates faster when my brain becomes less fragile. Or how I think an overdose feels a lot like a fist hiding in the corners of my stomach. He must know that, despite all he has done to both me and those I love My friends and teammates who he has deliberately betrayed, I will always read the drafts of his novel. No matter how tired of sleeping, No matter how bored of sadness, I will always open my eyes for his words. We will always share the time when we gazed at the plastic and drunken stars pasted on the ceiling of our friendâ€™s home. Now, P a g e | 25
The characters from the movie do not end up together, There is too much going on in their hearts and minds. Too much history. With him, I hope to rewrite that history. With him, I see the future. Friend, raise the roof like you built it.
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I am sitting alone in a busy coffee shop. People are swarmed around me, bustling, and rustling, each with their own lives swirling around them like bees to a hive. If the room around me is full, if the air is tight and thick with life and voices, why do I feel so empty? The vacant seat beside me is an earthshattering, heartbreaking reminder. This is the table where he and I always sat. This is the table where we shared our lives with each other. This is the table where we swapped books with margins full of little notes. This is the table where he first told me he loved me. This is the table that once sat two, but now only sits one. He’s probably in a different city, at a different table, but still sipping his usual black coffee. He’s probably sitting at a table with her. Her. She is the girl that he left me for. Her. She is the girl that brings him so much happiness that he had to take all of mine away. I observe our table, which is now just my table. It is made from rich brown oak, and it wears its years worth of stains like body art. Sunlight from the nearby window spills itself onto the table where my elbow rests. My foot hits the legs of the table, which sends it moving forward and back, like waves in the ocean. Based on this unsteadiness, the table could collapse like an avalanche at any second. This slab of wood isn’t stable. It never was. This table never loved me, never truly cared for me. It took loneliness and emptiness for me to realize that this table isn’t stable, and it will never be. I’m rushing out of the coffee shop, bursting through the barrier that I have built for myself. I never really loved coffee anyway.
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Reflection In the mirrors of my house, there lives a girl. Her face is marked by a constellation of moles that I could almost touch; if we weren’t separated by that slick-smooth silver that bars her hands from mine. Most of the time, I catch her in the corner of my eye and turn my head and keep on moving, leaving her trapped by the frame. Sometimes, she catches me. Sometimes, I turn a corner or look up and her eyes lock with mine and I stare in wonder at a face that everyone seems to know except for me. I do not like this girl. She is a mimic, and a liar. I hold my hand to the mirror and she follows, unable to do anything by herself. I smile, and she smiles, but her smile is different from mine. Mine is faint and haltering, hers is strong and full of vibrant light. A smile that is too big for her face, plastered and stretched until it loses its meaning. She scares me. When I sit alone, and in the quiet, it is not so bad. When people come, though, I lose to her. She senses them, beckoned by the call of human voices, and steps from the mirror and into my throat. I try to speak but it is her voice that slips out, her voice that they all know and love. Her voice, not mine, not mine. I call her liar because she lies, because she tells them “this is me.” Who is this “me”? I do not know. I do not know who I am, only that it is not her. No, not her, not her. So the people come, and they ask whom I am. But I am bewildered, because I do not know who I am, so she steps forth and answers. She comes forth and takes my voice and speaks with it and it is perfect, she comes forth and dances for them and is everything they want her to be. She is perfect, and a liar, and every day she takes my place and wears my skin and walks my life and every day I lose more of what I thought I was to her. And so I am afraid, and hate her, this girl who stands outside the mirror and looks in back at me.
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A muted pools lays tranquil In a set of ivory Its green hue Glistens With a love lost And a love won
A pink blooms on her cheeks A crinkle, a dimple, a smile Her face erupts into a myriad of pale whites Muted pinks and loud reds Not even the sweetest peach Or the ripest apple Or the sunniest day Could compare to her smile
Think and see The whispers, the words, The wisdom, The voices that Have made up everything, and to think It has all been wasted on a man Who knows nothing.
A man smiles As he knows nothing of The worldâ€™s worth. A man frowns as He knows nothing of A lifeâ€™s worth.
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They say that keeping a journal is both therapeutic and useful in recollection. I’ll start with a picture, then. From a street view, the sign read “Cen--t- P-lace” in ancient curly letters, which led to the local moniker “Cent Place”. It became the cheapest, lowest option for those in desperate need of somewhere to spend the night. To an outsider, it was simply a mixture of powder blue paint chips patching up musty wood, three stories, nine visible windows. Sandwiched between little shops on Main Street, shooting straight up into the clouds, the hotel stood proud, if dilapidated. Of course, it was intended to be the Cennet’s Palace, a grand Shangri-La, the jewel of Arnett, Oklahoma. In the eyes of the Dursuns, the Palace was exquisite, it was perfection, and it was proof- proof that the American dream was fulfilled, that they had done it. I remember them devoted to each other, devoted to Cennet’s Palace - Heaven’s Palace, as they knew it, in their native Turkish - but blind to the judgment that hung like a cloud above them. The building stood proud, the couple was proud, and that was what mattered to the Dursuns. But the Oklahoma that I knew had no place for blue paint in a sea of beige bricks, no place for strange fonts spelling strange words. I was just eight years old when I moved into this ‘Palace’ with Mom and Dad. The hotel had been open for three years, and it wasn’t as broken yet as it would be. Every day, when elementary school let out at two and I walked back ‘home’, the burning eyes of locals were hot on me. Arnett, Oklahoma had no room for anything but white or black, especially anything ‘in-between’. I was white, but it didn’t matter when I got home. I didn’t see the problems that would invade my Palace, not yet. I’m not proud of this; I don’t think I was then, and I’m certainly not now. In youth, I knew feelings with no reasons. I knew what felt naturally ‘good’ - talking with a grinning, wrinkly couple, hearing tall tales of Turkey, this exotic, old-world paradise. Late at night, as the lobby’s sofa swallowed me, the two of them - childless, frail, at least seventy years old - would stay up late simply entertaining. My memory may be drifting, but I will never forget my laughter on these nights in the Palace. I laughed more in my first eight years than in the eighty-eight that followed. There were the humorous stories, my favorites. The sad ones with life’s lessons that I should’ve followed. There was romance, violence, folklore of the Ottoman Empire. Mr. and Mrs. would complete them together, each one finishing the other’s thoughts, weaving together a masterful tale. At times I’d sit up, on the edge of my seat, hungry for the conclusion. I was consumed by these stories, these vivid glimpses away from Arnett. I lied. I really don’t have an ounce of pride in my deterioration, that’s true, but it goes beyond that. I’m ashamed. While it’s no excuse, my early childhood - offbeat as it may seem - existed in tougher times. My America was sick with fear of the abnormal, and the South was the wound in which it festered. A pale little town was the perfect breeding ground for such fear. I lost my colorblindness fast.
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Second grade evolved into third, third into fourth, fourth into fifth. And as the years piled up, the nights got shorter and further apart. The stories were just as interesting, always unique. They claimed to have thousands more, and I know they did. I’d give anything to hear them. Every night, faithfully, they’d sit opposite the sofa. They would tell me as many stories as I’d like to hear, but it was growing more difficult to escape Arnett. I got older, my friends formed opinions, and their opinions formed me. I told them I lived a street away, in a normal house surrounded by normal houses. I felt the same locals’ judgment intensify as I walked back to the hotel alone. There came a day when I passed Mr. Dursun upon entering the Palace, eyes on the ground as I silently strode upstairs. Years later, as we approached either college or marriage, a group of us girls sat outside a cafè on the other side of town. I saw two people walking, hunched over with arms linked together. Mrs. Dursun noticed me first. With smiling eyes, she waved. I pretended not to notice.
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It’s hot as hell in this kitchen. Sweat trickles down the back of my neck and soaks the collar of my shirt. His eyes on me aren’t helping either- I can feel them burning a hole through my back. “Sophia baby, do you think maybe you could pick it up a little bit before I starve to death?” irritation rolls off of his tongue. Of course I don’t say anything; you never say anything around here unless you want to get hit. So I grit my teeth and flip his omelet, flexing the fingers of my left hand as I do. My knuckles crack and the sound practically grates against my eardrums in the quiet kitchen. His chair scratches across the floor and heavy steps move towards me. Shit. “It’s almost like you enjoy making me angry,” he snickers. I swallow the fear and turn to stone. No matter what he says I will not let it affect me, no matter how he hurts me I will block it out. His breath hits my neck and I cringe before I can stop myself. His smoker’s cough bellows around the kitchen. “Little Soph’s scared of her Daddy…huh?” his wheezes punctuate the sentence. “Your omelet is done,” I try to say with steel in my voice. Of course it comes out slightly cracked at the end, like the word got caught in my throat on the way out. I hate feeling weak, vulnerable. He has a way of making me feel like an infant. “I’m not feeling so hungry anymore,” he cackles and walks out of the kitchen. My fists ball up and I squeeze my eyes shut as if I could wish myself somewhere other than here. Someplace nice. A real home, but no, I’m still in this decrepit kitchen with the yellowing wallpaper and the cracked tile floor. The urge to run rises up so rapidly inside of me I choke on it. All I have to do is open the screen door and walk out. Never come back. Easy. I put my hand on the handle. “Where the hell do you think you’re going girl?” he yells from behind me. Before I could pull my hand off the handle his arms are around my shoulders and he pulls me back into the living room. My feet drag against the carpet, struggling against him. His arm makes it hard to breathe and I can’t get leverage to hold myself up. Just when I start to panic he drops me and I hit the ground hard, cracking my head on the way down. The room spins; once, then twice it goes around. Everything comes back into focus and he’s there at the center of my vision. Standing with legs apart, arms crossed across his chest. I can’t show fear, it’ll only encourage him. “Don’t you love Daddy? It’d make me so sad if you left,” he croons.
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He bends so we are eye level and tips my chin up with his fist. “What are you thinking about girl?” he asks. I don’t say anything and he shakes his head. My skin heats up the longer he stands in front of me. “Soph, baby talk to Daddy, I don’t want to fight,” he cups my face in his hands. “I wasn’t leavin’,” I mutter. He smiles big and hugs me to his chest. Murmuring how glad he is that I wasn’t running away, how much Daddy loves his little girl. It disgusts me. He disgusts me.
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Austin “Rambo” Hanrehan
Life of Insanity
Within the countryside of England stood a large lonesome building surrounded by old birch and oak trees. At first glance you could easily mistake this mammoth structure to be a maximum-security prison. Its towering outer stone walls, crowned with barbed wire, screams: “No escape!” At every corner of that lengthy stone wall stood a tall, concrete, guard tower with a mounted gun that plainly stated: “Move, I dare you.” The main building’s brick structure and dark barred windows whispered: “Danger lies within me.” Though its silent words rang with truth, the people within these walls were not just the average murderers or petty thieves. Indeed, the people within these walls were those far beyond the norm. A prison for the insane with concrete walls, iron doors, and steel bars designed to lock away the deranged, deformed, and animalistic people that act more like rabid dogs rather than the human beings that they are. Rabid animals that society refused to call human, neighbor, or friend. Asylum; a prison to many, a hospital to others, and a possible job for those who are brave enough. A job very similar to that of a zookeeper, to retain the vicious, and dangerous animals behind those iron doors.
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The Reason She Wears White
Her throat is lined with butterflies. Her collarbone has started wars. They begged that her fingers be showcased at the museum. She chooses to breathe fire, concealing her mouth with those aspen tree hands. Wipes ashes on her hips where no one can see. Waits for the day everyone else will wear black.
The Transfer Follow me to the wildflowers. They will know how to restring your broken chords. Follow me to the wildflowers. They will feed you carefully-measured spoonfuls of innocence until you relearn the language of honey, teach you to apply stardust to your cheeks and eyelids, relieve your face of all the wisdom it should not yet know. Follow me to the wildflowers. They will help you grow roots here, adorn fairy circles round your neck, tip your petals to catch crescendos of sunlight. Keep you safe from the skyscrapers that dared call you a weed.
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Wrinkled flesh stretches across creaking bones, Liver spots splotch spider-webbed veins, And bitten nails are yellowed from decades of cigarettes. Pads of fingers cling to ashy remnants of Old newspapers, And memories of childhood follow every soft soul Life lines etched into palmsâ€” Broken off â€“and then rejoined They weave in a tiny waltz. These Hands flourish, express, and compose They map the way through corridors of an Old mind To forgotten playgrounds, lovers, and friends. The Old carve tales and paint pictures for The Young They teach the sacredness of stories So that the Hands without wallpaper skin, Or brown stains of Time, Or dust from the past settled in grooves Can learn and grow. They learn to flourish, to express, and to compose. They learn to map their history, And paint memories They learn so in turn, they can teach the next Young Hands.
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A Life Worth Living
There is something magical about Camp Campbell Gard in the evening, when the air is cool with a light breeze. We often hold counselor hunts or capture the flag during this time, unless it is “Nature Night”. Wednesday’s are known as “Nature Night” at camp because cabins cook outside, play games, and sometimes sleep under the stars. The unofficial (and very appropriate) term is “Nuts Night” because of the crazy stuff that always transpires when CCG hits the wilderness. I have only experienced “Nuts Night” twice (the past two years since it rained on “Nature Night” when I was younger), but both times it was quite memorable. Compared to some, my time at camp has been small. I went as a camper two straight summers when I was nine and ten, but after that, I didn’t attend until last year, the summer following my freshman year of high school. I signed up to be a counselor-in-training with no small amount of apprehension. Not being a naturally gregarious person, I was anxious about meeting and getting to know an entirely new group of people. When I walked into Cabin 8 in Summer Village last June, I had no idea what to expect. By the end of the night, I had twenty-five new best friends. “Nature Night” is always at the dam for the CITs. At sunset, the light hitting the water produces a brilliant shimmer. We have contests to see who can skip rocks the most times (definitely not me) and dip our feet in to cool off. This year, I had an especially unique experience while I was sitting on the bank attempting to catch minnows. It is quite common to encounter moths in the cabins, but I had never seen one in the river until then. It was no ordinary moth either; the creature was absolutely massive, the size of a small bird, and rather terrifying. As you may have guessed, insects and I are not on great terms. The memories I have from camp are timeless, and although we only spend a couple of weeks a year together, the friends are forever. From laughing over burnt marshmallows while making smore’s to singing the Camp Campbell Gard song at closing campfire by candlelight, the power of these shared experiences is impossible to express. As one of my favorite counselors told me at the end of last summer, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”-Winnie the Pooh. I hope you are as lucky as I am.
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Smallman The smell of dead flesh permeated the damp air and tangled with the thoughts of the entertainers. This was most definitely the last straw. The hulking yellow heap of the late great, pharaoh lay pathetically sprawled on the hay strewn cement. No longer raising his proud head in daring bravery, the lion seemed emaciated and starved as if his still warm carcass has already started to decompose. The eyes, fixed vacantly upon the faded striped wall of the tent, held no honor. The hearts of his loyal companions was empty without it. The performers, who hours before, had leapt from daring heights and tumbled through flaming jungle-jims, now circled the unmoving mass and looked down at their own calloused hands. Some wept. The depressed party remained for a long while, not making eye contact and waging wars behind their weather torn faces. They did not trade stories or recite anecdotes but sat in heavy silence, permeated only by the patter of rain on the tarpaulin roof of the tent. The furious strike of thunder flashed in the eyes of the performers again and again until their hands shook with its power and they could feel the lightning coursing through their veins and passing through their hearts as if the electricity could set their lives ablaze. The tormented wind and crashing storm continued to rage outside but hours passed before they cared to notice the other sounds that ripped holes in the thin tent walls letting the rain pour in. The sound of vengeful shouting and scraping metal made the huddled company look up and blink around in a daze. Smallman, the star of the clown troupe, stood abruptly sending his companions sprawling like bowling pins. He waddled his dignified waddle over to the tent flap breaking the circle and the solitude of the melancholy group. He peered outside and saw glinting metal through the haze of raindrops. Hooded figures stood in a twisted ring sporting white billboard signs that bled black ink in the downpour. From the distance of the tent and amid the darkness of stormy twilight the signs were illegible but Smallman could guess what they said. The protests were all the same no matter the place. A part of being in the circus was the constant endurance of adversity. They had gone without food, companionship and their own sanity. It showed in their scarred and weathered faces and in their words when they talked in hushed voices backstage before shows. The quiet pride of the industry shone through on every battered face. The difficulty with money presented itself as a new enemy and it was met with a new defense. Men and women clad in woolen suits of armor with ties red and metallic appeared like a terrible army from a nightmare. They carried papers demanding permits and insurance statements. Smallman remembered the growing stress like an infection. People with angry faces and P a g e | 38
declarations of hate began to appear before shows warding off the usual attendees. The infection spread. On the battered television that the troupe shared and carted from venue to venue they observed as their art, once great and celebrated by people of all sorts as it was torn into and ripped limb from limb. The protesters continued to march in place and Smallman maintained his own greif filled glare As if sensing his own observation, a protester turned his head and lifted a dripping arm to point at the crack in the tent. Smallman could make out the manâ€™s mouth as it shaped a scream and in his devastated mind he saw no choice but to return his own pained cry for battle raging and wild as the wind that howled in his alliance.
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Whenever I spoke, people looked past me, at the space behind or above, and I started to wonder if I was real, if they could hear me, —did my voice make a sound?— before trailing off mid-sentence, a superfluous ‘I don’t know’ at the end so their distracted silence was excused. Yet it began to worry me that I was ignored during roll call until I shouted ‘I’m here!’ —was I here?— and I continued to wonder if I was real, since my waving hand caught no eyes. Once someone smiled at me in the hall, I couldn’t contain my joy in believing that I take up space in their path, I must exist, and whenever my biology teacher asked, ‘What makes something alive?’ I responded, ‘It reacts to stimulus,’ because if they looked past me when I spoke, or forgot that I was there, then they were not real, and I am. But I began to realize that I was not; the wind chilled us at the bus stop and too often my brother stood behind me, I am his shield, yet when I called his name he did not hear the fourth the fifth the sixth time. And when I closed my eyes, my mind f l o a t e d, my body m e l t e d, I expanded into n o t h i n g n e s s, d i s a p p e a r i n g until I open them again. Now I know that I am not real, and this poem isn’t either.
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Motherâ€™s Day There are caves in my stomach With arid holes and rolling hills And smokestack mills. I smell the smoke and grass, but The burning sad acrid man Is bottled in my flesh like Momâ€™s day vodka
half and half What you have heard is true, that the old house which held a golden dog and the tune of childhood afternoons long gone, has been destroyed, yes, big wrecking ball swings up bald face sweats in sunlight, big ball sings as it swings down, and all the children on Cornfield block wave goodbye to the old house in the sun, whereas you, you hear about the old house crumbling only in passing, hear only echoes of the ball crash, because you, you were half awake for the entire year, clawing at your face at 5 a.m. in the morning, knowing you find no sleep again tonight roasting under plastic bulbs while the rest of the house keeps, while the new house keeps, you have only echoes with red face plus bleeding forehead like half and half, and half again, half again asleep, knowing the whole is proper and buried
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under the old house weeps as the old house, the new house, the old house, sleeps.
Yellow I breathe yellow and Holy blessed last words Forget unsung, my lungs are done. Man thrash desperate, he wants to be survivor Man jerks, man drives splinters Into his other side, no noMan's lungs are exposed, flake and flutter Movement in deep sea cardiac arrest, who are you all In the Sudden people clutter. I stood by, in fact I sat, I. I leaned back, I. I breathed in deep yellow, and I breathed no shallow yellow underwater. Man don't have eyes to cry, just yellow jaundice stains on tough love skin, I. No eyes to cry, just tattoos of jaundice on tanned deep skin, so I. I feel deep, the yellow in my organs' water I feel it in my bones, I. I am your only daughter.
She She Stands in purgatory A beacon Godsend From the saintsâ€™ own palms. She Kisses boys And forgets to do her alms.
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Nathan Concord got one present for his seventh birthday. It was a deck of seven cards from his grandfather, wrapped in orange paper and tied with a blue ribbon. Each card had a black and white drawing of a monster on it. There was a note from Grandfather that came with them that said, use them well. Nate used them to mark the pages in his schoolbooks. He spun them like tops on his desk. He played tic-tac-toe against himself on their glossy purple backs. “Do you like the cards I gave you?” Grandfather asked one day. They were sitting at a picnic table in the park, licking ice creams. Nate fished the cards from the pocket of his backpack. They were a bit grubby, and Steve Markowitz had folded one of them in half. “Oh, no,” said Grandfather. “That’s not right. Do you have any crayons with you? Color one of them in.” Nate obeyed. He chose his favorite monster—it had a penguin’s body, but with horns like a bull. He colored the whole thing with his favorite crayon, a pink one called ‘Pink Lemonade’. The card began to glow bright, hot white. Jets of light shot out from it like sunbeams, and it got hotter and hotter until it exploded in a miniature display of popping pink fireworks. “Whoa.” Nate’s ice cream slipped from his hand. The penguin monster was standing on the picnic table, it’s pink coat rustling in the afternoon breeze. It began to eat Nate’s ice cream. Nate rubbed his eyes. This couldn’t be real. “What do I do with it?” he asked. Grandfather smiled. The monster spread its sleek wings and lowered its horned head, like some strange horse before its knight. Nate lifted himself onto the monster and twisted his hands into its feathers. He decided to name it Pink Lemonade. No, just Lemonade. That was right. Lemonade pressed his webbed feet into the wooden picnic table, and took off into the sky. It felt like being in a room with a hundred electric fans spinning all at once. Lemonade swooped up and down, a feathered rollercoaster car. They flew over the baseball stadium and saw a homerun. They spiraled up to the top of a skyscraper. They soared over the bay, the salt speckling Nate’s face as Lemonade dipped his feet in the waves. They returned to Nate’s house at nightfall. Lemonade allowed him to pat his head one more time, then he took off into the night. He never came back.
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The following afternoon, Nate colored another card. It was a sea serpent. He called it Sebastian. Then it was a wooly mammoth with duck feet. Then a purple camel. Each day he colored a new creature, each more fantastical than the last. On the seventh day, Nate colored a dog with brilliant feathers in all the colors of the rainbow. He decided to take it for a walk. He called it Spots. Nate and Spots met a girl in the park. She was called Violet. What’s that, she asked. My dog, he said. Can I pet it? Violet scratched Spots behind the ears. Spots wagged his feathered tail. The next day, Nate saw Violet in the park again. She asked where his dog went. Nate said he went away. Violet asked if he had any more pets. He said no. Violet reached into the pocket of her dress. The dress was the exact shade of the cornflower blue crayon he’d colored Sebastian with. She pulled out a stack of cards, just like Nate’s, but with different monsters. She asked, “Do you have any crayons?”
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To carry. What does it mean: to carry? To physically pick up, and transport somewhere else? Then, what does it mean in the phrase, to carry on? To keep hope, to not give up? What about to help carry someone's burdens? This is also not necessarily a physical act. It could be, on the contrary, helping someone to get through something. You are "carrying" then from one place to another, but emotionally, for example. What does it mean to carry someone? Are you picking them up, are you helping them through troubles, are you not letting them give up hope? What do I mean when I say to carry? He carried him. He carried him, first on his back, and then in his arms. The star came to him in a dizzying flash of blue light, and said to him, "Carry me to Heaven." "What?" "Take me to Heaven. I need you to take me to Heaven." But his star was weak, and as such, had to be carried. Then they reached that place, that one place where everything began, long before their time, and the same place where it now hopefully would end. The man was tired, his eyes weary, their lids leaden. His arms ached, a long dull ache, and his legs burned, pleading for a rest, just a short, simple, second-long rest. The star was fast asleep in his arms, beautiful Blue eyes locked away from the horror their world has become. What was he dreaming about? The man wondered. What thoughts plagued his unconscious mind? Did he dream of witches, of black cats and blood? Did he dream of lollipops and God and the Rapture? The man stopped. What did he, himself, dream about? He can't remember. The place was smoke and shadow, ash and dust, blackened and lost. They were in a church that time had now forgotten. The ivory Holy Mary stood weeping as they walked in, serpentine vines snaking around her. Shattered glass littered the floor, crying out as the man stepping over them, flashes of crimson, cobalt and emerald. An effigy of the savior lay bleeding and broken, eternally nailed in the Center of the far wall. Even through the gloom, light filtered down from a hole in the ceiling. A single halo, illuminating fishes of ash, turning specs of dust into a kaleidoscope of many indescribable colors. The man slowly walked forward, dragging his languid limbs behind him, and gently placed his star in the center of the light, shielding him from all that is dark. Enduring all the trials and tribulations, if they could have just an iota of peace, of happiness, it would be enough. Regardless of his selfish desires, his overwhelming want to keep the star, the man stepped back, and the star slowly rose. His joints creaked and snapped, his chest puffed up, and he gave a small smile. The man's eyes met the star's Blue ones, a blue that carried calm and loneliness, melancholy and sadness, a blue full of good-byes, farewells and, in the star's native tongue, zaijian. The man never dropped
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his eyes, never turned from the star's blue ones. In their last moment, the man finally realized his star was not a star at all: he was an angel. There was a faint swoosh, and the ash and dust swept around the man, his hair flying up past his face. There was a vague sense of emptiness, of loss, of finality. A single tear rolled down the man's cheek, though his eyes were dead and his face was slack and emotionless. But then, sneaking through the silence came the slightest whisper, barely detectable, a last think of Blue: "Until we meet again."
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Born at twenty-six weeks, I weighed a delicate one pound, five ounces. (so small in the palm of my father’s callused hands)
For three months, I stayed in the hospital’s care before I was strong enough to come home. It took me seven days before I began to open my eyes. Nineteen years later, I am still opening my eyes.
Best if Used By… Love sits in your refrigerator. Disguised as Milk. It’s Expired.
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Ode to Petyn Petyn is her name Façade is her game Passion like the fruit Love expelled from her roots She is everything except ordinary Winged eyeliner like a humble fairy “Be yourself, hold no faults” “Unless of course you’re me, Then flaws are completely free” She gives joy like a gift When her moods need a lift Hypocritical And harshly critical Of only herself And no one else She’s hollow and forgotten Her insides have rotted Flying away with the butterflies That resonate in her insecurities She barely exists She knows not of her purities Strong as an oak On the inside she’s a choke For those who treat her wrong Know not that she is raw Taken for too many rides By those who hold too many prides Powerful and shaken From those who have taken Forgiving as god In this aching façade She’s scared of her thoughts all alone in her shell Afraid of the loneliness and its isolating hell With the sting of a bee But entirely weak at her knees She soaks in her nothing Like it’s rain drenched clothing She doesn’t know who she is When asked by the writing “wiz” But here me in my words Believe it and trust That this little fairy loves so much Stronger than she knows Even in the tips of her toes Oblivious to it all Like she’ll ever fall
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And even if she does I’ll be there waiting, scouting the scene Ready to catch her in this troubling ravine She knows not of her worth Doesn’t understand her birth She’s most of the more She’ll survive this war Something beautiful Something sweet Something to overcome Something to defeat She’ll do herself well Even when faced with adoring hell I wish she knew How many candles I blew This wish I place on the highest shelf Oh, please, dear Petyn Won’t you love yourself? You’re worth them all All the silver All the gold You’re the kind of perfect That will never grow old I write this here So you’ll overcome your fear Become raw for us all I promise you’ll never feel small Not as long as I’m here I’m on your side I’m here for you, dear So, tell me you’re worth it You are, that I trust Tell me you’ve figured out We all love you so much We are your anchors In this righteous storm Tell me what if feels like When you’re finally born I’ll hide you under my wings Till’ like a bird you’re ready to sing Let me comfort you Let me be in your shoes And most of all Let someone like me Love you
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Only gnarled ghosts remain of the colonialist hand and the ancient tribes have been machined to dust which settles on people and on the land blanketing out all sense and reason. A quiet has descended on rocks and mountains. they shrink. Time has weighted down the corners of the smiles, and forced them into a foreign alignment closing the quirks and gaps in the front. Fragments of faces dissolve in the sterile sand of the sea: never gone, but so far lost that they will never be found. Only grimaces are left, in the parting of the lips and in the eyes. Colourless sheets blown by the changing wind, they depart from the clinical appointment, blank and perfectly straight. The
The Layers of my Life, by Maddie Myers
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Excerpt from “The Blacksmith’s Brother”
We lived right in the middle of everywhere. Where woods should have touched our borders, there were walls of another village. Villages surrounded those villages, and those villages were enclosed by others. Few trees, many carriages, several imported crops. On any other day, my brother’s hammer could be heard clinking throughout the town square. He doesn’t use a hammer anymore. At least, not in public. Now, he secretly taps what metal they’ve left us with a spatula that’s been melted into a grotesque clump of sorts on one end. He can make all sorts of trinkets and gadgets to help other poor folks get by. But then again, in times like these, those things can also be terribly useless. Things like… “This chest plate.” I shake my head at him and stare at the peculiar, ingenious creation that I am wearing. “It’s made of spoons.” “Aye,” my brother Roland says, stretching his arms above him. “I’ve noticed that.” He shifts on his stool, adjusting the leg that prevents him from wearing spoon armor himself. “Think it’ll be enough?” “No.” “Birk.” I sigh and slide my fingers over the woven chainmail that he had spent meticulous hours working on. It’s made of fork tines. “It’s just that…” It’s just that this notion is ridiculous. It’s just that I don’t want to go to war. It’s just that I’m too young to die. I say none of those things, of course, and just glance helplessly at the scraps of metal on the dirt floor of his dark, underground workshop. “Don’t tell me you don’t like it,” Roland says at my silence. “No. No, it’s beautiful.” He smiles. “Good. Carry on, then.” I hesitate, staring at the glint of candlelight that reflects in his eyes like a spark of mischief. I don’t necessarily want to tell him my blunt opinion on something he had spent so much illegal time working on, but… “The enemy will die of laughter if I go into battle in this.” Roland smirks. “Kind words from a tactful brother.” I falter and give him a look that I hope says I’m trying, and he waves his hand. “Go on, go on.” “I-I don’t know what else to say, Rol. I wear this and—and they’ll just smirk and slaughter me. They’ll stop, raise their eyebrows, and crack my crown.” “Not if you wear your helmet.”
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“Rol!” I say. “I’m serious here.” He sighs and holds up his hands. “Look. Would you rather be wearing my spoon armor or would you rather be dead?” “Well,” I say, “I’d rather be alive.” “Okay, I’ll take it.” Roland peels a dry piece of skin from his callused hand as if I am unworthy to be in his presence. “But—” I start, but I can’t think of anything to say. Silverware isn’t exactly the most reliable thing to wear into battle as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think he understands that wearing these intricate pieces will only make me stick out to the enemy like a cardinal among pigeons.
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Uninvited Uninvited, waves of goosebumps were divesting me, as he held me on his knee. Jealous, he was staring at the sea.
Mellow Let’s be precise. The sky is, maybe, blue. Yet, when it rages, you’ll only eye the navy ramp about. And in the morning dew, you call transparent, have you not seen there’s silver all around? Have you not spied the scarlet in a bleeding cherry, the blinding neon in the mountainous sunrise, some amber in your tipsy glass of sherry, with all its hues you so well etherize? Let’s be precise. You’ll call our fire red roses, and the sun above it. . . .yellow! Do not generalize at least the exodus of Moses and our love’s demise. There’s no way you can make those mellow.
i let go stars are mingling, a kaleidoscope in the restlessness of quicksand so unsteady in their tremendous scope barely hylic to touch by hand and, what's kindling me most they are visible any side of the globe – you turn if not now, then eleven Eastern Time they will put on their sparkling robe they will shine, a bolt of lightning when the coveted time arrives sending you some Ukrainian. . . .wildness P a g e | 53
that i've shrieked into nighttime skies so phrenetically, constellations fell apart under double tides that split second, it dawned you’re the next one i let go of the stellar confines
And What If Poetry And what if Poetry were Putin? Deducing votes without even asking, devouring land without even shooting, and what if. . . .Poetry were Putin? And borders should, in fact, stretch wider, and troops of other states should vanish, and voices of the mass grow quieter, the awe for Poetry to relish. And what if Poetry’s much bigger– beyond the seas of the Crimea– way farther than the hoary Dnieper, but even deeper: the idea. What if there truly were volition, and referendums really happened, without commissions on omission, and peoples’ verity not deafened, and tanks not hurled on towns like drizzle, and nobody the prey of looting, if all’s a coup, and not a fizzle. And what if. . . .Poetry is Putin?
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Descending to the height of the first story window, we view the Lairs, who have just sat down for dinner like any other evening. A post card family of four, all blonde haired and blue eyed. Always presentable, always polite, always pretending. Pretending the food mother made was good, pretending they loved their parents, pretending they didn’t suspect a failing marriage. They were Midwestern people, known to bottle up their feelings until they resurfaced years later in a screaming match over something as insignificant as finding a recyclable in the garbage or leaving a puddle on the bathroom floor after a shower. But tonight they acted civil. Around a feast of greens, meats, and desserts, they bowed their heads and prayed. Lauren snapped up and quickly scrambled across the table, brandishing a long sword with which she aimed directly through her father chest with enough force to impale the dining chair as well; he’d never favor Luke over her again. Her mother shrieked and Lauren turned on her, deftly severing the pearl necklace laying in perfect harmony with the coordinating outfit. Her mother didn’t deserve a quick death, no. Not after years of subtle but biting criticism. Lauren would enjoy this one. She was halfway through her mother’s limbs when her father tried to wretch the sword from her, his wound in the process of healing itself but still dripping and exposed. This time she would finish the job, she fanned the sword in circle over her head and decapitated him. Luke cheered. When the main course was finished, Linda Lair presented the loveliest homemade cherry pie. They applauded and of course she said it was no big deal, when it was. Everyone brought her their plates and she distributed the slices, making sure to give her husband Lawrence the largest. On the way back to his seat, her youngest Luke’s foot caught the leg of the table and his pie splattered, syrupy filling staining the freshly cleaned carpet. Her family transformed before her eyes into delicate porcelain dolls with rosy cheeks and pleasant unalterable smiles. Lauren in a white cotton dress that she would have scoffed at and Lawrence and Luke in matching slacks and dress shirts. Slacks that Luke couldn’t tear holes in the knees of, a dress shirt he couldn’t ruin with melted ice cream. That sat with perfect posture with surrounded by foods that never molded, flowers that never died, a perfect dollhouse display. The dolls would never be grimy with sweat, burp at the table, or have an affair with the neighbor. Linda manipulated them all; placing napkins in their laps for a meal they would never eat. That evening, all the Lairs washed their faces and brushed their teeth. Lauren and Luke kissed their parents goodnight, and Lawrence and Linda tucked the children into bed. Linda read a romantic novel she had been meaning to finish and Lawrence fell asleep in a plush chair in the living room to a fuzzy TV program. But somewhere else, in a dimension requiring the traversing of whirlwind widths and endless expanses of navy darkness, The Fantasies live on. Now and again transferring glimpses of their lives to their parallel Lairs. What are your Fantasies sharing with you?
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