A Writers’, Artists’ and Bloggers’ Journal
April 2010 Volume 1, Issue 1
BY kIM sAKS
Writing is a labor of love. Photography is a labor of love. Putting this magazine together was a labor…the love wil come later. I never imagined what I was getting myself into when I started Drop of Ink. I thought it’d be an easy job—collect some submissions, paste them into a program, hit print, call it a day. But it’s been far from that. Due to an overwhelming response to our first call for submissions, the magazine took on a life of its own, causing me to rethink my strategy and buckle down and get to work on it. Drop of Ink is intended to showcase those writers, artists and bloggers who wish to grow their audience. It’s intended to provide a forum for ideas and spark a desire to create in others. It exists not just to be there for itself, but to inspire others to participate. With this being the first issue, things might be a bit bumpy. There might be missing pages, misspelled words or misplaced credit. I apologize in advance for any of these mishaps. But that’s what happens when you start a labor of love…the labor sometimes becomes too great to complete in the time you allotted yourself. I hope you enjoy Issue 1 of Drop of Ink. And I hope even more that you’ll think of contributing to the Summer 2010 issue about “Love and Loss.” Check us out at www. dropofink.org. As always, the future is up to you. Kim Saks
Tableof contents I Lost It by Jane Marie……………3 I want to write by brad……………3 Because Sometimes Summer Doesn’t Last by Lisa Morford……………4 Spring by Janet Wallace……………5 Shapes by Lawrence Lai a.k.a. Ecner Wal……………6 Forgotten by Steffeni J. ……………6 My Beginning as a “Writer” by Lana Marye……………7 Tonight, I Choose Not to Throw Stones by Chase……………8 Foresaken by Dianne M. Ullrich……………9 Back in Kansas: Dorthy’s Continuing Adventures After Oz by Rev. Michael Ciavarella (Part One)……………10 Content Does Not The Perfect Life Make by Mandy Adwell……………14 Don’t Spare the Change by Danah, The Yuppie Activist……………15 DC Details #1 by Rebeca a.k.a. Amperlee……………16 Beginning of Adulthood and Ending of Planning by Lana Marye……………17 Parents: a meditation by magnolia……………19 Some Other Beginning’s End by Catherine Wells a.k.a. Verybadcat……………20 Untitled by Courtney McManaway……………22 Untitled by Meredith Dabek a.k.a. Ordinary Mer……………23 Happiness by M’liss……………24 Back in Kansas (Part Two) ……………25 What’s in a Name by Jessica Eiden Smedley……………26 How I Got Here, Part I by Dana Aritonovich……………29 Blame it on the Good Stuff by Sean Brown……………31 Twenty, a Few Days Early by M’liss……………33 The Toilet Story, Or Why I Have Now Seen Two Other Women’s Front Bottoms by Bil yjean……………36 CELLOPHANE by Silvi Vann-Wall……………37 May I Please Be Excused by Kelly Patten Hatgas a.k.a. ‘Bama On The Brain……………41 Back in Kansas (Part Three) ……………42 Beginning and Endings of Relationships by Lana Mayre……………47 Remember When? By M’liss……………49 How I Got Here, Part II by Dana Aritonovich……………50 Beginning of Maturity and Endings of Youthful Naivete by Lana Mayre……………53 It’s For You by Sharon Peltier……………55
I Lost It
This piece was prompted by the anniversary of the passing of my father, the first major loss I have experienced in my life. It is a reflection on
how much can change in a year, and the way that losses stay with us long after they happen.
It was the perfect day to stay in your pajamas. There was a foot of snow on the ground, so why bother to get up and get dressed? I looked forward to doing nothing all day. Then the call came. Dad was gone. Heart attack. Died instantly. No. I just talked to him last night. This couldn’t have happened. But it did. I remember everything that happened in those following moments perfectly. It is a movie I have watched in my head a thousand times. I called the Bestie. I took a shower. I was numb, in shock. I miss the numbness. It was replaced with a pain, not a sharp one, but a dull ache, right in the deepest part of my heart. For a long time, I felt the ache every day. Now it’s only sometimes, but it’s deeper, harder. He is really gone. Really, really. And I miss him so much. It’s a part of life. It happens to all of us. Our parents die. But when it happens to you, it’s totally foreign. You’ve been dropped into a land where you don’t know the customs or speak the language. You have no idea what to do, or how you are supposed to move forward. No one can prepare you for it. It will never feel normal to be choosing your father’s casket. It’s been a year today. The longest and shortest year of my life. I lost a father and gained a son. I have experienced deep sadness and great happiness. But every moment of happiness had a hint of sadness with it, because Dad wasn’t here to share it. I wonder when that will go away. I suspect, never.
I want to write something beautiful something slow something careful as wide as this space something soft something calm something you won’t forget a secret you’ve known a phrase that means enough something between its lines can’t won’t make it.
more than just clues answers better chances more than i should tell you but this pen won’t move. and i can’t I was so sure of a feeling. But I won’t couldn’t say it out loud. So this is its disguise.
Because sometimes, Summer by Lisa Morford doesn’t last (**Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t seen the movie (500) Days of Summer, you mii ight want to watch it first, before reading. Or not. But I am going to talk about it a bit, and I really don’t want to spoil anything for you!)
This movie tugged at my heartstrings. I mean, really. It’s beautiful. Everything about it is beautiful: the cinematography, Zooey Deschanel’s wardrobe, Zooey Deschanel, the story. The story. You know, the narrator warned me in the beginning. He said, “This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story.”
I mean. He says that. Before the movie even starts. He straight up tells us– tells me –it is not a love story. But, I didn’t believe him. I thought to myself: Ahhhh, nice touch, adding the sneaky narrator to trick us into thinking it’s not a love story! But of course it is. It will be. Of course when Boy meets Girl, they end up together. That’s how movies go. That’s how these things go. Right? Right? When I began to realize that they were definitely not ending up together, I found myself becoming inexplicably annoyed. I was thinking, what is wrong with her?? He’s so in love with her, I mean, look! He’s just completely devoted to her! And she just dumps him, and runs off, and finds “true love”, and gets married, and what the heck, man? It really did not sit well with me, at all. And then…I remembered that the narrator had warned me in the beginning. He’d warned me. I was meant to have known all along that they were definitely not going to end up together. It was a story, but not their story. So, why was I still so unsettled? I mean, that’s not how movies go! That’s just not how these things work. And then… I realized. This is not a movie about movies. It’s a movie about life. Because, that’s how life is. And if Summer would have stayed with Tom, it would have been wrong, because they really weren’t meant to be. Because to be “meant to be” both people have to want it, the same. Because that’s how you know when it’s true love. In “untrue love” there’s always a “chaser”: the one who wants the relationship, the one who feels happy and content, the one who’s always trying to make it work. And the other person is hesitant. They’re like, “Um, I dunno…are you the one? What if there’s something better?” So the other person is always chasing them, but never quite catching them. (By the way, this “chaser” idea: totally stole it (& added my own spin) from another movie, The Happening. Another Zooey Deschanel movie. Haha! But something in this concept really resonated with me. I told you: I get way too emotionally involved with movie and television characters.) I Page 4
Because Sometimes, Summer Doesn’t Last....continued In true love, both people are doing the chasing. Or rather, there’s no chasing at all because no one is running, except into each others arms. Because in true love, both people know they want it, and that’s that. And so, it would have been more unfair for Summer to stay than for her to leave, because she didn’t really love Tom. And that would have been unfair to him. And that’s hard. But that’s life. And the truth is that I’ve been in Summer’s shoes before. And maybe that’s why the movie affected me so much. I just didn’t recognize that I was Summer, because I’d never seen it from Tom’s perspective before. I’d only seen it through Summer’s eyes. And once I realized it, I realized what a beautiful movie it is. Because it deals with something hard. And yet, still leaves room for belief. In true love. Because true love is real. Because, as Tom puts it, “It’s love, it’s not Santa Claus.” Love, Lisa ♥ PS: All that, and I still haven’t spoiled the ending for you.
by Janet Wallace Page 5
Sometimes when you are adamant on moving in one direction, you may get to unexpected places, and perhaps end up exactly where you were to begin with.
by Lawrence Lai aka Ecner Wal
Why am I a square? It’s so boring to be symmetrical. So many squares around. This is no good, just no good at all.
I’ll try being a circle. Whoa whoa whoa, I’m tipping over. Oh crap! Why am I rolling?? Stop this moving, I might actually go somewhere. This is no good, just no good at all.
Okay. I will simplify, I will be a triangle. No, that’s not simple enough. I will be a line, two ends. Even simpler, I will be a dot! Crap, I’m a circle again.
How about a hexagon. More corners than a square. And I won’t roll around all silly-like. Wait, why not more corners. Alright, some more. And more! And more!!! Shit, I’m a circle again.
Screw it. I’ll go back to being a square. Shapes stink.
Forgotten She typed in the name. Hit enter. It loaded. It finally loaded. Happy. There were images. Photos. Illustrations. Images, a couple of them probably from when she was around. A drawing made for her. The adorable drawing on the brown canvas. It brought joy then. Now it is just emptiness. She is no longer thought of.
by steffeni j
It is now lost. Love is lost. She clicked the button. Page disappeared. Her heart sank. Got up, a heavy sigh. And made her way to bed.
My Begi n ni n g as a “Wri t er. ” Originally titled: “My Quest to Believe in the Beauty” Beginnings and endings are rough, but all the “good” stuff happens in the middle. The middle is what counts. The middle is what I blog about. Blogging has been a wonderful experience for me. It provides me a forum to share my perspective, feelings, thoughts and if I’m lucky.. my words reach out and touch someone. This is my first post on my official blog- how exciting! So...how do I give a shortened introduction of myself? Hmmm....Well I’m 24 (hence the 20Something in the title) and recently people have been asking me “Aren’t you in law school?” So I think maybe I should start with answering that question...
by Lana Marye
Short Answer: No Detailed Answer: Law School induced what felt like a mid-life crisis in August. (See Below) You see, I was in my first year of law school last year. I should have been happy, I should have been confident, I should have been finding myself- unfortunately everything was the exact opposite for me. I was miserable, I was doubting everything I was doing, everything I have ever accomplished and I was losing myself. I completed the awful first year (and yes its as dramatic exhausting and tedious as people claim it to be) I was overworked, over-caffeinated and overtired. I had the summer off where I worked for a Judge, spent almost every weekend at my beach house and went on a Euro-Vacation to Paris and Belgium! It was a great summer-until I remembered that in August I was due to go back to the hell that I call law school. (Wah Wah Wahhhhhhhh BOOM) Then it hit me. Why the hell was I torturing myself? Why was i forcing myself to do something that I hated? I thought about this.... and came up with possible answers: 1. “It would be worth it in the long run” -No that didn’t see like it would pan out. If I hate it already, its not going to miraculously get better. Truth is, I’ll probably still hate it in 10 years. 2. “I’m supposed to like law school, I have been working toward this goal my whole life!” - Well that doesn’t work, because, even though I was SUPPOSED to like it, I didn’t- end of story. 3. I got it... How about because “They say that if you like to read and write, then law school is the place for you.” - This one I had to spend some time with. This one brought up a few questions. First of all....WHO the hell are the infamous “THEY” and second where the hell are “they” because I’d like to find them, smack them in the face, and inform them of how wrong they are. So much for finding a reason to keep torturing myself...then I found a solution to my dilemma. Enter Solution: I hate law school, but I DO like to read and write. In fact I love to read and write. Even more, through all of my frustration and misery of the past year I have been writing just for myself. I have been using writing as an avenue to vent my frustration. I have been writing as a desperate attempt to hold onto who I really am. I am passionate about writing because- I’m a writerPage 7
My Beginning as a “Writer”...continued... I’m a writer? That sounds weird to say- REAL writers are people who get published and go to book signings at Borders and Barns & Nobles. REAL Writers work at magazines and newspapers. REAL writers create pieces that people read and respect. Wow how great would it be a REAL writer?! I want to be a REAL writer! So in August I dumped Law School and decided to start believeing in the beauty of my own dreams and ditch the crap about what i’m “supposed” to do. So, I applied to a Master’s Program at St. Joseph’s University in “Writing Studies!” I’ve been applying to jobs in my new field, and I started this blog. I’m on the road to being a REAL writer. Yes I know the economy sucks and this may be the worst time in history (with the exception of the great depression) to be making major life changes- but what are you gona do? All beginnings are scary so what better time than now? Hey....this is what people do when there 20something! SHORT AND SWEET...AKA...MORAL OF THE BLOG (In law school they say “condense the nonsense!” I never really caught onto that concept but here is my best attempt.) --> This is a blog about a nobody from suburban Philadelphia who went to law school with a hefty resume, and a transcript chock full of coveted “A’s” all to realize that everything wasn’t all its cracked up to be. Sometimes what your supposed to do is overrated and what you dream of doing is “do-able.” Maybe you can identify with my situation, understand where I’m coming from, or are just plain interested (even if you think I’m full of shit and have made the biggest mistake of my life) follow my blog and come along for the ride! xoxo Lana “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” -Eleanor Roosevelt
Tonight, I Choose Not To Throw Stones by Chase This piece is just what it seems. I wrote it after finding out a close friend fell into some trouble in a pretty public way. I wrote it to his accusers those out to throw stones; I wrote it to him - so he could read my heart on the situation; and I wrote it for me - I needed to be reminded of the times I’d been forgiven, as a response to his situation. And I found that the truth in the story I shared transcends all three perspectives.
Tonight, I’ve been meditating on a story of Jesus centered around a practice we thankfully no longer see in our culture, at least not in the literal sense. While Jesus was about town, particularly in the social and religious mecca, teaching to any and all who stood by to listen to him, some of the most highly regarded religious folk approached him with quite a situation. In their clutches sunk a young woman, barely robed: tattered, distressed, unable to raise her head from the shame piled on. You see, this woman was caught in adultery; yes, the very act. The problem with this, the righteous pointed out, was that the law said to stone her. That is to pick up rocks and throw each one at the guilty adulteress until she breathed her last. Under the law, they had every right, and even obligation to do this. So they pointed out. Page 8
Tonight, I Choose Not To Throw Stones...continued... Jesus was notorious for debunking the law. He chose people over practice, and in their experience, never opted for violence against anyone. Knowing this full well, they hoped to use the plight of this woman to trap the teacher into rebelling against the law, or sending the woman to her death. But Jesus was a master at finding another way. The rabbi saw through the situation and into the heart of all those involved. With one sentence, Jesus eradicated the situation set as a trap against him. With a glance, he looked up and stated “Stone her if you will, but let whoever has done no wrong throw the first rock.” The text says the accusing crowd began to slink away, convicted in their own right. Adapted from John 8:2-11 Tonight, I’m thinking about the times I’ve messed up under the eyes of God. The times I’ve hurt people. The times I’ve had to seek forgiveness, and the times I’ve been granted it. It’s a road we’ve all been down, in one way or another. The route or the sights along the way may differ, but the destination is always the same. Some make it further down the dark trail than others, but who are we to judge the length of one’s stride. No one is down the road too far, unable to stop in their path, turn around, and make the long, hard trek out of the thick, dark forest. I hope that my journey is one that exemplifies this. In my experience, though, I can state that in those times when I’ve needed to seek forgiveness, when the forest’s branches seem so looming I fear they’ll swallow me and my depravity whole, what I’ve needed were not stones. No, but I’ve wanted stones. Hoped the forest to swallow me. Wishing not to see the sun. I wanted all that? Yes, and more. But what I needed was a voice who quiets the crowd and says “I don’t condemn you, go free and walk the path you were meant for.” The love, forgiveness, and mercy found in that one statement takes more courage to face than the stones I know I deserved. Tonight, I’m breathing in that statement, and asking how I can live it out and live it forward. Tonight, a friend was “caught in the act.” But tonight, I choose to not throw stones.
by Dianne M. Ullrich
Throughout my life I have learned to depend on my faith/ God to get me through the difficult times. I encountered an individual who had lost their faith/trust in God due to difficult circumstances in their life. I sensed the individual’s emptiness and bitterness and Forsaken was the result of this encounter.
I look but cannot see. I listen but cannot hear. I feel but cannot love. My heart is cold and dark Like an empty tabernacle The door closed and locked I search for the light, but the glow is gone. I cry out in the darkness My God, why have you forsaken me? Page 9
Back In Kansas: Dorothy’s Continuing Adventures After Oz by Rev. Michael L. Ciavarella
The movie, The Wizard of Oz, left me with some unanswered questions. Did Miss Gulch come back for Toto? Did Dorothy have to give him up? How did Dorothy come to live with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry? Did Dorothy and Hunk have a thing going on? My reference to Hickory’s “Wind Machine” was an actual part of the movie that was cut out. There were some references to the machine left in the movie, but if you didn’t know that the machine was cut out, you wouldn’t know what they were talking about. Back In Kansas answers the questions that this great film left with us. The year 1941 will be a year that I will remember for the rest of my life. School just let out and I have a lot of time on my hands now. I mean, I still have chores to do, but I have plenty of time to find a tree to sit under and write all about what happened the day the cyclone came through earlier this spring and all the wonderful things that followed. My head hurt through the night and for the next two or three days after the cyclone blew the window in and hit me. Aunt Em called Doc Fitzgerald to have a look at me. He said that I just had a couple of bruises and that there was no need for stitches. He gave me some pain pills, which took the sting out, but it still hurt a little. He said I was very lucky. It could have been much worse with glass shattering everywhere and all. The morning after the cyclone, I was outside helping Uncle Henry fix the gate. You will remember that I had so much trouble getting it open when I came back home after seeing Professor Marvel. It seems that the whole fence was blown down and the gate’s hinges were bent. Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke got the fence up and set in its place while I was out cold right after the storm. While I was holding the gate up in place, Uncle Henry was screwing in some new hinges. It was then that I saw Miss Gulch riding her bike back to our farm. “Oh, Uncle Henry. Here comes Miss Gulch. Please don’t let her take Toto again. Please Uncle Henry,” I pleaded. I was gripped with fear. I couldn’t lose Toto. He was such a precious little dog and I loved him so much. Uncle Henry put his arm around me and assured me that everything would be all right. “I’ll take care of this, Dorothy. Don’t you worry about a thing.” Toto was running around the front yard and barking at Miss Gulch as she approached. “Well, Miss Gulch, you’re back,” said Uncle Henry in a friendly tone. “I’ve come for that mangy dog. I won’t let him get away this time.” Miss Gulch never had a kind word for anybody. “Now, Miss Gulch,” Uncle Henry was trying to be nice, “you’ve caused enough trouble around here with that whole thing about the dog. I think you’d better get back on your bike and peddle right on out of here. This dog isn’t going anywhere.” Page 10
Back In Kansas:: Dorothy’s Continuing Adventures After Oz.. continued “If you don’t give me that dog, I’ll see that the Sheriff takes him. That dog has been terrorizing this community for far too long.” Uncle Henry replied, still trying to remain calm, “Now, I don’t want to be rude to you, Miss Gulch, but I am asking you politely to leave here and don’t come back.” “My word,” replied Miss Gulch indignantly. “You have no right to talk to me that way, Gale. I’ll have my lawyer contact you and see to it that you lose your farm. The idea that you would talk to me that way. Honestly.” Uncle Henry was losing his good nature. “Almira, you can bring the G-men here if you want. I’ll fight you with everything I have. Now go away and leave us alone. You’re not welcome here. I have a business to run. My goodness, Almira. Don’t you have anything better to do besides making a little 16-year-old girl cry? Go on. Get outta here before I run you out myself.” “Very well. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer and the Sheriff. I’ve had enough of you and your brood.” With that, Miss Gulch mounted her bicycle and peddled off. I was near tears. Miss Gulch had a lot of power here in Greenwood County. She could make a lot of things happen whether the community approved or not. She has been known to make a lot of trouble. “Oh, thank you, Uncle Henry. But maybe you shouldn’t have stood up to her like that. What if she takes the farm away?” Uncle Henry smiled and said, “She would love to get this farm, Dorothy. She’s been after this land for years. But don’t you worry about any of this. I’ll take care of everything. You’ll see.” Uncle Henry told me that I could forget the rest of my chores for today. He said that I had enough worry for one day and that I could go ahead and do whatever I wanted. I thanked him. He was always so kind. More kind than I remember my father to be. My father, Larry Gale, was a hard worker. He was a stern man, very serious and rough. Oh he loved me, all right, but Aunt Em told me once that his character became dark and grim after my mother died giving birth to me. My father and I lived in Wichita until he died of pneumonia in 1932. I was 7 at that time. He was Uncle Henry’s younger brother. Their sister, Aunt Caroline took care of me whenever he was working. He worked long hours. It seemed that he was hardly around. After he died, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry convinced Aunt Caroline to let me come live with them. They told her that the open country and the change from city life would do me good. Auntie Em was right. I loved living on the farm and Auntie Em and Uncle Henry loved me so much. They were always so kind to me whenever we visited them on the farm just outside of Reese, Kansas. I knew that everything in Wichita would remind me of my father and leaving town was the best thing for me. Page 11
Back In Kansas:: Dorothy’s Continuing Adventures After Oz.. continued I went to my room and picked up my notepad and pencil and ran off to see Professor Marvel. “Well, good day, Miss Gale. And how are you today?” “Hello Professor Marvel. I’m doing well, thank you. And you?” “Just fine. Just fine.” He looked around. “Why, where’s Toto?” “Oh, he’s back at the farm. We have to keep him close to home. Miss Gulch has been really giving us a bad time about him.” Professor Marvel looked down. “Yes, your Uncle told me about it. That’s why you wandered through here the day of the cyclone.” “That’s right,” I said. “I was going to leave here with Toto so Miss Gulch couldn’t get her hands on him.” “Dorothy,” Professor Marvel asked, “where would you have gone if you hadn’t seen my wagon yesterday?” “I don’t really know. I thought I might walk out to the train yard and jump up on a car and let it take us wherever it was headed.” Professor Marvel shook his head disapprovingly. “Oh dear, don’t you think that would have been dangerous? There are some very scary old boys riding the trains these days.” I nodded in agreement. “Yes, I suppose you’re right. That probably wouldn’t have been a wise decision on my part. But I was so afraid that that old witch would have taken my little dog away. She wanted to have him put to sleep.” “Toto is such a harmless little dog, Dorothy. How could anyone want to harm him? But, running away isn’t the answer. I’m sure you’ve figured that out, haven’t you?” Again, I nodded. “Yes. And oh, that dream I had. That place. That is what I learned while I was there, Professor. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, helped me see that very thing. Running away was not the answer.” Professor Marvel put a finger over his chin. “Yes. That place. You talked about it when you woke up that day. That dream, that place you visited must have left quite an impression on you.” “Oh yes. I will never forget it; or the people that I met there. It was such a strange and wonderful place. It will be a part of me forever.” “Does this place have a name?” “Oh yes, it does. It’s called the Land of Oz. It is so beautiful there. I wish you could have seen it.” “Why, you told me that I was there with you.” Page 12
Back In Kansas:: Dorothy’s Continuing Adventures After Oz.. continued “The Wizard. He was very much like you, actually. And the people that traveled with me were a lot like our farm hands, Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke. It was such an odd adventure.” “Well, Dorothy dear, I’m glad you’re back here. This is where you belong. Whatever happened to you there, helped you to see things from a different perspective. As for Miss Gulch, I’ve run into her several times in town. Dorothy, do you believe in magic?” “Oh, after what I’ve seen in Oz, Professor, I do.” “Well, I’m going to concoct a little spell,” he confided. “I’ve learned some witchcraft of my own over the years. I used to run with gypsies back in the old days. We were connected with a circus and they taught me some magic. Not sleight of hand magic. Real magic. Magic that can make things happen. “Now, Miss Gulch is certainly not a very nice person. I think I know how to deal with her. I’ll make sure that she leaves you alone.” “Oh Professor, you’re not going to hurt her, are you?” “No, no, no,” replied the Professor grandly, “I wouldn’t hurt her, Dorothy. I’ll just do a little voodoo to keep her off your back. She won’t come after your dog anymore, I assure you.” “Oh, Professor Marvel, thank you. I would really appreciate you doing that. I would feel terrible if something bad happened to her even though she deserves it.”
“Well, you can’t. I just care about you. I don’t want you running away and having something terrible happen to you. Now, you look as though you are going somewhere right now. What are you up to?” He saw the notebook I was carrying. “I’ve been going up the creek just a small distance from here. There are some lovely trees there. I’ve been sitting under one of them and writing about Oz. I never, ever want to forget it.” “Wonderful, Dorothy. Write it all down. When I come through here again next year, I hope to be able to read all about it.” “Oh, Professor. You’re not leaving already, are you?” “Why yes, my dear. I never stay in one place very long. I have to keep moving in order to keep my show on the road.” I was upset. I was beginning to love Professor Marvel. He has been such a great friend to me. “When will you be leaving?” my voice quivered. “Just as soon as I get Sylvester harnessed up. I thought I’d have a little lunch before I go. I’m glad you stopped by. If you didn’t, I would have run by your farm to say goodbye. But never fear, young lady. I’ll be back. I come through here every year. Maybe I’ll stop by here on my way back to Omaha this fall just to say hello. How would that be?” I was near tears, but when he said that, I gave him a hug and kissed him on the cheek. “I can’t wait to see you, Professor. Be careful, okay?”
“Now Dorothy dear, don’t worry your pretty little head about this. I’ll take care of her.”
“I will, Dorothy. And don’t worry about Almira Gulch anymore. Do you promise?”
“Thank you, Professor. How could I ever repay you?”
“I promise. Goodbye Professor.” “Goodbye, Dorothy.” *** Part Two Continues on Page ____
Content does not the perfect by Mandy Adwell life make. I wrote this piece as a result of the positive and negative input I’d received about making a huge career and life decision. I wanted others to know that the advice of others really does help and is important, even if you take it and run in a completely different direction. You know how sometimes you’ll take a huge plunge and everyone wigs and they’re all “but what if it doesn’t work out what are you gonna do?” and suddenly you start thinking “well hrmph. Maybe I need a backup plan. Everyone seems to think I’m crazy because I don’t have one…” and then you start to think of one and realize it totally sucks because it’s not even what you wanted to do in the first place? Well aside from the overwhelming support I’ve received from my friends and family regarding my freelancing plunge, which I know is NOTHING compared to the plunges others take, there are still people who think that when it’s all said and done, I need a back up plan. That the rug will be pulled out from under me at any minute and I’ll have nowhere to go. That I need a part-time job somewhere to ensure I have something “when” writing gets slow, bills get high(er) and I’m starting to freak out (more). I don’t want to make a back up plan. I don’t want it to become THE plan as soon as things get tough and I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I don’t want to think “oh, well this is harder than I thought, I’ll secure myself a little tighter with this other nonsense I have sitting behind me for comfort. Just a little, for, you know, security.” I don’t want it to become the plan and one day before I know it I’m back on square one and gave up on my dream because things started to get tough and I freaked and grabbed my blankie. I want to struggle (a little). I want there to be times where I realize I need to hunker down and crank out some work if I want to pay my student loan. I want to make myself nauseous from the procrastination I’m doing to myself, and I want there to be days when I’m up until
4am finishing up work because I sat around all day reading blogs instead of making money. I want to coordinate weeks where I do three times as much work so I can go visit out-of-town friends the following week without having to get anything done. I want to leave no trace of evidence that I work from home – a perfectly made bed, folded laundry, and dust-free furniture. I want to drink entire pots of coffee and give myself the shakes so I stay up all day and finish what I need to do. If I have complete security and comfort, which so many of us see as a level of “achievement,” like we’ve all suddenly reached our goals and can sit and be there and stay there, what am I going to get out of it besides the cash? What’s going to teach me, tempt me, freak me out, or make me squirm of discomfort? I know in the end we all want that feeling, but thinking of the day where I sit back and say “yep, this is it. This is where I’m at and how it’s going to be for the rest of like, ever…” makes me realize how I’m not ready to be there. Maybe it’s because I’m too financially irresponsible and too obsessed with writing my thoughts on a blog for free rather than writing for as many paid publications as I can, but when I think of the second things start getting too settled, I get depressed. I try to find a new hobby, I realize the only thing I may have to do out of the ordinary for that day is the dishes, I get overly excited about TV shows, and then I realize that the only thing breaking up my standard, settled, planned-out and ordinary week is American Idol, and I get super depressed because really, American Idol should not excite me in the “oh good, my life has something new and exciting in it” way. If it’s the only thing changing up, I’m going to dictate that my life = boring, and I’m going to find something that has to change. Last time I started to feel this way, I moved out of my boyfriend’s apartment and
Content does not the perfect life make....continued
we ended the relationship. A few months later, I started to feel it again so I quit my job and started freelancing. I wonder what I’ll do 6 months from now. Predictions? Content is not good for me right now, and all a back up plan will give me is the chance of grabbing ahold of that feeling. I have no desire to feel absolutely at ease with where everything is right now, therefore I don’t need a backup plan. I may have failed math 3 times in college, but I can still figure out the logic here. I feel content with things when I’m not completely settled and content. Also, I want to say thanks to everyone who has encouraged me and giving me so much support in making this decision, I know I talk about it a lot and you probably think “shutup and go write, woman” but I appreciate all the positive support and feedback I’ve received. I don’t think I would have taken this plunge if it wasn’t for blogging and how strongly it’s impacted my life. I’m sure many of you know what I’m talking about and have had it affect you in the same way. So here’s a big virtual hug and a smooch. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Don’t spare the change
by Danah, The Yuppie Activist This was a conversation I found myself in recently, and because it’s something I encounter daily, I felt the need, more than ever, to write about it at the precise moment that it happened. Individualism angers me, unfortunately, it’s all around us. “How much is your hot chocolate?” She asks. “$2.89 with tax,” he responds. She counts her money. “Ahh, I don’t have enough! Thanks anyway.” I pull myself into the conversation, “Hold on, how much do you have?” “No no that’s fine.” She’s hesitating, her body is moving closer to me yet backing away. “No seriously, c’mon, I offered, it’s just a few dollars, cents,” I respond. She observes me. Maybe my face isn’t friendly enough. “It’s okay, no don’t worry, thanks though.” “Alright,” I tell her.
This reminded me of the kids at the store, that’s why I offered. They were always short change and the sadness that filled their eyes when they came up to the counter and were missing $0.10 or something was almost heartbreaking. Most owners and employees won’t bother taking it out of their own pocket to put a smile on that kid’s face, they’re too selfish. At his store, my dad always let the kids have their candy, no matter how much they were short. They loved him for it, and they never did it purposely because he trusted them, and they trusted him. After seeing the excitement they get from getting away with the candy, it’s worth it, no matter how many times you do it. This small act will make you smile no matter what mood you’re in. I offered, I don’t want anything in return. If you’re short $0.25, $0.50, $1.00 it’s not a big deal. I’m trying to help you, because that’s what humans should do, help each other. But I guess adults, unlike kids, panic when another commits a nice gesture, we’re not used to it.
She rushes out.
DC Details #1
by Rebecca aka Amperlee
Iâ€™ve lived in DC for about seven months, and Iâ€™ve noticed that whenever I go to document my wanderings, my photos are expansive and all-encompassing. Iâ€™m trying to center myself and reminding myself to focus by zooming in on the details of the amazing monuments, museums and other sights around the city. Page 16
Beginning of Adulthood and Ending of Planning by Lana Marye (original title “WHAT NOW? Blank Pages and Butterflies”) Beginnings and endings are rough, but all the “good” stuff happens in the middle. The middle is what counts. The middle is what I blog about. Blogging has been a wonderful experience for me. It provides me a forum to share my perspective, feelings, thoughts and if I’m lucky.. my words reach out and touch someone.
I’ve been carrying a planner around since I was a freshman in high school and I was “required” to have one. I was 14, and telling me I had to do anything made me instantly want to do the opposite. Yet even through the haze of adolescent defiance, slowly but surely, I grew to love the planner. I carried it with me, inputting all of my activities. When I was uninterested in class I would pull out my beloved planner and flip through the pages. I found comfort in knowing that maybe I was bored to tears in biology but… o Tomorrow would be a half day, OR o In three weeks it would be Christmas break, OR o Four months from now was officially prom season, OR o This weekend it would be a friend’s birthday No matter how unexciting the class was, I knew I carried with me a happy distraction. My planner was always there as a little reminder that good things were in the future and there was always something to look forward to. Plus, the planner made me efficient and responsible. I could time-manage like a corporate executive by 16. I knew what was coming, what was due, where to show up and what to bring. The planner is a great tool for controlled environments. To this day, I think it is undoubtedly the best way to manage a schedule. For four years in high school my planner helped me keep control over due dates, assignments, events, and obligations. When I went to college I managed an even heavier schedule because of my trusty planner. The problem is that the planner creates a façade of control. Truth is, it is really only an effective tool to manage the THINGS in life, NOT LIFE itself. The realization of the “façade of the planner” started here…. I was sophomore in college when my sister was a senior in college. We are exactly twenty-one months apart in age. The space in time is not large but at certain points in our lives, for different reasons, it felt like we were lifetimes apart. It was May, I lived away at school and on my campus this meant “Spring Fling”– yet another reason to drink and celebrate the warm weather. I was sleeping in at my dorm (probably recovering from the previous nights festivities) when my cell rang and I saw my sister’s number flashing green on my screen. It was EARLY in my world (i.e any time before noon) but she was calling me from her internship where, to her, it was ALMOST LUNCH– Same time zone, same time, much different perspectives. We were both college students, but in this point in time, we were in vastly different worlds. I picked up the phone, half- asleep, half- listening as she frantically spoke about how nervous she was to graduate in May. Page 17
Beginning of Adulthood and Ending of Planning.... continued “What am I going to do after school?” “Do you think this internship is going to hire me?” “What do you think about Graduate School?” “Where am I going to work?” “What do I really want to do?” “Am I going to be hired anywhere?” A million questions spilled from her mouth and I remember thinking how bizarre it seemed that she was anxious about a time she should have been looking forward too. A date in her planner that was highlighted and warranted happy faces and stars around it. From my perspective graduating meant, no more papers, projects, assignments or classes. To me, graduation represented freedom…To my sister, graduation was the frightening unknown. It wasn’t until two years later, when I was ready to graduate, that I understood her dilemma and what I now refer to as… The “What Now” conundrum. End realization, Back to the Blog “What Now” is when you flip open the planner and notice that dates had stopped filling up. When you don’t know what coming next, where you have to be or what it is your supposed to be doing. This is the scary part. This is called your 20’s…but for those of us who went to college, this realization is delayed until graduation. It’s not until the safety net of school is pulled away and we recognize that everything is no longer neatly laid out for us in a planner. Initially this awareness is terrifying…but we should find comfort in the fact that, most 20something’s are all wandering around trying to find our own way. Trying to figure out what it is we’re supposed to be filling our schedules with. Being 20something is a time where we are forced to let go of the practice of living through our planners. We stop using them as a crutch and we see where the future takes us. For
some of us this is much easier than others. For people like myself, who have held tight to that planner since 14, we’re having a harder time. In a way, I think it’s good that the future makes us nervous. It’s like a first date, if there aren’t any butterflies, then were probably not going to go out with that person again. So, if were not nervous, on some level, about whatever were doing or whatever direction were going in…then its probably isn’t worth pursuing. We can all agree that butterflies can make us momentarily uncomfortable– but they’re usually a good sign. So, although the unknown is scary and unnerving it also offers a myriad of opportunities. Things that are better than anything we could have planned. Accepting this, may be the lesson were supposed to be learning. Bottom line, we cannot control life by planning it out, or budgeting the time in our days…because life just happens. The controlled environments of the school days are over. We do not have to wait for something to look forward to, we can just create it. We are the makers of our own happiness. So, lets all make a little more effort to stop looking ahead (like we’ve been programmed to do) and start enjoying the present days…I think it will make finding our way and living in the moment a much easier task. SHORT AND SWEET…AKA…MORAL OF THE BLOG Just ride the wave and put the damn planner away. And if this concept still makes you nervous…remember– butterflies are a fool proof way to gage if were going in the right direction. It’s all about perspective… The blank pages and open dates should be invigorating not scary. Let’s stop waiting for happiness in the future and recognize that its right in front of us, we just have to have enough balls to grab it. Xoxo Lana “The past is so tangible, I know it by heart. Familiar things are never easy to discard. I was dying for some freedom, but now I hesitate to go, caught between the promise….And the things I know” - Sara Grooves “Today is life - the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today.” - Dale Carnegie
parents: a meditation by magnolia the blog came about as a way to process some complex failings and upheavals in my personal life. i’m nearly thirty, and i’m about to graduate from law school. the possibilities of the next decade have caused me to reevaluate every choice i made in my twenties. i use a fictional element - exaggeration, imagination, etc. - for two reasons. first, i desperately want to protect the innocent (and not so innocent) in my life. more importantly, though, i use poetic license to explore, imagine and investigate possibilities. i hope the result is entertaining, thought-provoking and interesting.
this is the time of night that’s designed for smoking cigarettes, drinking bourbon and being alone. i am doing one of those things. (i’m more of a vodka girl myself.) it’s times like this when i start thinking about my family, about my choices, and about how i got to be who i am. i am the daughter of a music man and a tortured genius. that’s probably the most succinct way to put it. my daddy (all southern-raised girls have a “daddy”) is a brilliant guitarist. he was a professional musician for a very long time. but for a couple of intervening circumstances - my birth, mainly - daddy would be bad blake. basically, he curtailed that dream to be my dad. and seriously, i am my father’s daughter. a lot of women worry that they’re growing up to be their mothers. i am PROUD to grow more like my daddy every year. i am so, so grateful that he changed his life to raise me. despite some of my failings, he did a damn good job. i got my work ethic, my sarcasm, and my tenacity from him. all good things to possess, in my mind. but there are two sides to every coin, two halves to every lineage. every kid has a mother. my mother was a force of nature. i get my passion, my politics and my intellect from her. this is a woman who, as a teenager, faced down the klan in rural georgia to make sure little black kids got to preschool. she was beautiful and she was BRILLIANT. but, as is so common with the gifted, she was also troubled. she had addictions. she had demons. her brain, her greatest asset, turned out to be her worst enemy, and her mental illness took her down HARD. i suffered for that, but nothing at all like how she suffered. the demons kept us apart for years. i couldn’t deal with it. and, just like some kind of movie, that’s the way things ended. i got a call one super bowl sunday, letting me know she was gone. it’s still hard to think that. so much was left unsaid. i played “fire and rain” on repeat for days, weeks, months, trying to wrap my mind around it. mental illness is the worst kind of illness. it’s so hard to understand, so hard to watch. i occasionally wonder if that might be my mother’s biggest legacy to me; i, too, swing wildly from one extreme to the other. but i keep coming back to the center. the tenacity of my daddy, tempering the passion of my mother. breathe in, breathe out, move on. one foot in front of the other. i think, in the darker moments, that my parents’ twin legacies to me will be my saving grace through the insanity of my life. i had the good fortune to be born of two rather extraordinary people. i just hope i can live up to my bloodline...
Some Other Beginning’s End by Catherine Wells, aka verybadcat
A business trip gets personal in the best possible way, and the beginning that results has the potential to create several bittersweet endings and maybe, just maybe, a happily ever after… On a Tuesday night in Arizona, my coworker dropped me off at my hotel a little too early and a little too sober. Human Resources people never stay out late enough or drink enough for my taste. I headed down to the hotel bar with my purse and the clear cosmetics bag I had just bought. It was more crowded than the night before. An older woman sat at the end of the bar, and there were three empty chairs between her and a middle aged man. I took the middle chair, pulled the tattered ziploc bag I had been hauling my liquids around in out of my purse and ordered a drink. That was when I looked over at him. He was huge; tall and broad, his long legs turned towards me, his right ankle sitting on top of his left knee. It was then that I noticed how handsome he was. As I swapped my little bottles from the old bag to the new one, we struck up a conversation. I don’t remember who broke the silence, I don’t remember what we talked about in those first few minutes. What I do remember clearly: moving over into the empty chair next to him. That was the beginning. Two weeks later, it has occurred to me that I am in the middle of a beginning that might lead to one hell of an ending. This man lives a thousand miles from my little house in the cove. We’ve kept in touch, and our conversations have had a considerable crescendo. The chemistry between us is undeniable, and we’ve found more than a little common ground between us-the way we each see the world, and our respective places in it. We’ve found that at-
deepening and widening, growing beyond the bounds of an out of town business trip, beyond friendship, beyond casual. Still, that thousand miles lays between us, unmovable, a harsh reality in an otherwise pretty picture. How do two people pursue a promising relationship a thousand miles apart? How do those two people ever end up in the same place? These questions hung between us like wet sheets on a clothesline. So he answered them. Over the course of four days, he did some thinking and some research. He called me on Saturday morning, and some hours into the most epic phone conversation I’ve had in my life, he answered every single one of them. His answers were thrilling and terrifying. We would spend as much time together as we could. We would talk as often as possible. His lease is up in June on his New York apartment. We could both transfer to Arizona. We could both move to Arizona. We could move in together. In Arizona. If it works out. If we want to. We can be together. In Arizona. He asks me if I am willing to leave Asheville. For him. If it works out. If he’s nervous, I can’t tell- his tone is appropriately serious, but he also could have been asking me to go away for the weekend- there is something light about his question. My mind is reeling. Reeling. This man is incredible. He is everything I’ve been looking for, and a few things I didn’t even know I wanted. I’ve spent the past two weeks daydreaming about him, silly grin plastered on my face, beneath half closed eyes. Two weeks. I’ve only known this man for two weeks, and he is asking me if I will leave Asheville for him. So we can be together. Leave my friends gone family. Leave my private office for a
Some Other Beginning’s End . . continued . . cubicle. Put another few thousand miles between me and the place I’ve made home, between me and my favorite place on earth. I’m shaking. I know that I’m only saying if. If it works out. If he wants me. If I want him. If we think we want to. I also know that there is a good chance, a very good chance(?), that I will end up having to follow through on my answer. My answer to his answer, my answer to our how. I know that I hope I will have to follow through, that I hope that this is real, I know that I still think about his arms around me. I know that his laugh makes me grin from ear to ear. So without knowing, I know. “Yes. I would leave Asheville to build a life with you. Yes.” He asks me if I’m sure, if I’m even capable of loving some other place, if I’m capable of leaving Asheville. He is asking if I am more in love with Asheville than I could ever be in love with him, whether or not he realizes that’s what he’s really asking. “What good does it do me to live here without someone to share it with?” I am telling him that there is a very good chance that I could, and I realize that I am telling him this without telling him that I want to love him more than I love Asheville, because I am not supposed to feel that way much less tell him that two weeks after meeting him. We agree then, that if it works out, if we want to, if we want each other, then we will make a life together. In Arizona. The conversation turns slowly and gently towards other topics, other subjects. We continue to talk well into the night, emboldened by possibility. Hope. As we cover ground, as we find out more about each other, I look around my house. I imagine saying goodbye to it, to my friends, to my life here. I think about just how long it can take to get to know someone, and how poorly things ended the last time I gave my heart away. I wonder what it would be like to try to come back if I went, if I went and things didn’t work out. If he didn’t want me. If he wasn’t who I think he might be. How hard it would be to get the transfer back to Asheville. Facing the people I left behind. Going through all of that just to get back to where I am right now, which isn’t a bad place at all. I say something to him, something funny. He laughs as he responds, in that tone of mild bemusement he uses so often when I say something funny or crazy. In that moment, I pull my legs out from under me and stretch them along the end of the couch, closing my eyes and taking the deepest breath I can muster. He’s talking, and I remember the way I felt when I was around him, the way his arms felt around me. I can almost smell the packing tape and cardboard.
by Courtney McManaway Page 22
I have an overactive imagination, I think too much and I over-analyze everything. If I didn’t write it all down, my jumbled thoughts would get stuck in my head and I’d go crazy. So for the sake of my sanity - and the sanity of those around me - I write.
by Meredith Dabek a.k.a. Ordinary Mer It wasn’t that she hated vegetables, per se, though she never really did go out of her way to eat them. It was just, with so many other choices, vegetables fell far down on the list. If a vegetable could taste like a delicious slice of cheesy, gooey pizza, she reasoned, then she would eat vegetables all the time. But they didn’t. So the pizza always won. “No pizza today,” she thought to herself as she navigated her shopping cart into the produce section. The produce section always reminded her of a bad acid trip: the bright reds, oranges, yellows, greens and purples of the fruits and vegetables attacking your eyes, while the muzak droning on in the background made you feel like slitting your wrists. She wandered slowly through the maze of fruit and vegetable displays, pausing every now and then to fill a flimsy plastic bag with the items from her list. That’s it. That is the entire story. Those three measly paragraphs are all I managed to write all month (and, really, based on the rules my eight-grade Language Arts teacher taught me, the last paragraph isn’t really a paragraph because it’s only one sentence, albeit a long, complex one). When I first found out about Drop of Ink, I was excited. Here was my chance. I wasn’t just going to write, I was going to WRITE! (I’m still not exactly sure of the difference between the two, but I know it’s important enough to use capital letters.) The theme, beginnings and endings, seemed so deceptively simple. I could write about anything, I reasoned, and there was no doubt in my mind that I would ultimately have several pieces to submit. Looking back, I may have set myself up for failure with my overconfidence. I can just imagine the Powers That Be lying gleefully in wait, ready to pounce and slap me down with a shrill, “I don’t think so!” Writing is one of the few things I truly enjoy doing as often as I can (hence my juggling of two personal blogs and one at work) and most of the time, I’m happy with the final result. But no matter what the outcome, the one part of writing that never fails to entrap me is the beginning – the start of the process where I’m staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor and I’m wondering how the hell I’m going to get the jumble of thoughts out of my head and onto the page – in a reasonably logistical fashion, no less. I often have so many hopes and expectations at the beginning. I know what I want my writing to be and sometimes, there’s this fear that if I don’t get it right at the start, then the whole thing will fall apart. The practical part of my brain that remembers the concepts of rewrites, revisions and editing disappears. When the words don’t flow and I’m faced with the cursed cursor, I convince myself that the beginning has to be great or else the rest of the piece will suck. Other times, I’m so in love with my idea that before I type or write a single word, I easily get caught up in various fantasies: getting paid to blog, having my book displayed in store windows, winning the Pulitzer. But while I’m busy preparing an acceptance speech for an award that’s probably never going to come, that annoying cursor is still blinking, the page is still blank and all the fantasizing in the world won’t make the words write themselves. Eventually though, I make myself sit down in front of my computer, I bang my head against the desk a few times and slowly but surely, I start to write. Sometimes the words are good, sometimes they’re utter crap. Either way, once I’ve battled my way past the the first few lines and started to craft something, I feel pretty confident about my writing and generally like what I’ve managed to write - at least, until I have to figure out how to end it. Page 23
Happiness I have always been in love with writing, whether it be short fiction, my personal blog, or the articles and interviews I write at my job for CONFRONT Mag (an online music publication). My work often reflects either one or all of these above inspirations.
Today I spent the entire afternoon at my brother’s house & the subject of my adventures at shows came up. Although he knows how passionate I am about music and how much I love what I do at Confront, he still asked the obvious question; don’t you get bored of seeing the same band(s) over and over again? Doesn’t it just get boring? I thought that was the strangest question ever (even though it’s expected). So strange that I actually didn’t know how to answer it. Not in a bad way- I guess people are bound to ask it eventually… but I don’t go around asking people why they eat/sleep/breathe everyday. Is it really that different in peoples’ minds? His questions got me thinking. More & more my life is drifting into the direction of the music industry. Every day I’m more interested in music news and in what’s going on in the business- more than in any other news out there. The more this happens, the less I feel I’m paying attention to other aspects of my life and the more people are asking me what it IS that attracts me to this lifestyle. I can’t answer the question. It feels like it just happened to me. Like I walked right into music and it just fit. How do you explain that to someone? How do you explain to the people who call you a “groupie” that you don’t feel like that at all, that music is just… who you are? That you just love the atmosphere, the memories & the people so much, that it’s worth all the money and the time?
When girls go out to clubs every weekend and make out with guys left,right and center, and dance, wear very little clothing or drink until they can’t remember their evening… do I go around calling them sluts, alcoholics or delinquents? No. I don’t judge their actions because it’s not my place. I don’t see why when the roles are reversed you can’t return that respect. “Groupie” just isn’t a word that I like to hear. I’ve worked hard to be where I am right now. I’ve met people that you can’t even imagine, musicians and fans alike- and I wouldn’t change that for the world. I’m going in a million different directions here. What I meant this post to be about was, essentially, happiness. I think it’s unfair that just because certain people don’t live the same lifestyle as me, they give themselves the right to judge what I do. I don’t think I owe anyone explanations about it… but even when people ask nicely… It’s hard to explain the feeling. Just try and think of what makes you totally & completely happy. Multiply it by a million. Then maybe you’ll understand me a bit more.
Back In Kansas: Dorothy’s Continuing Adventures After Oz Part Two
by Rev. Michael L. Ciavarella
That night, there seemed to be a lot of commotion out by the little house that the boys stayed in. I wandered over to see what was going on. They didn’t mind me being around. They all seemed to like me a lot. I asked, “Whatever are you guys doing around here on a Saturday night? Aren’t your girlfriends going to be angry with you all for not coming into town?” Hickory looked up from some metal box he was working on. There were wires and tubes that glowed whenever the power was on and he had tools lying all over the table where he was working. He said, “I almost have this radio finished.” Then, Hunk said, “And he conned Zeke and me to stay around and help finish the job.” Hunk didn’t sound too excited about the whole thing.
“All right, I’ll go up and aim the antenna, Zeke.” Hunk just wanted to get the job done. He went outside. We could hear him climb the ladder that was leaning against the little house. Hickory looked up towards the ceiling as if he could see Hunk walking across towards the antenna. When the footsteps stopped, Hickory nodded then said, “Okay, now Zeke, I’m going to get this tube into place and I’ll give you the word. That’s when you throw that switch over there on the wall.” Zeke still looked a little nervous. “That big switch over there?” “That’s right. It won’t bite you. It looks more dangerous than it is.” “Okay. Are you sure that radio is going to work?” Zeke was always worrying about everything.
Hickory smiled when he said, “Okay, Zeke, you go up on the roof and get ready to turn that antenna. I’ll tell you when to stop. Don’t turn it too fast. We want to make sure we are in the right place to pick up that station in Wichita.”
“Well, I hope it will,” he answered. Then, he yelled up at the ceiling. “Are you ready, Hunk?”
Zeke was getting jittery. “I-I don’t think I can stand up there too long.”
This was very exciting. We never had a radio around before. There were some very exciting things happening in the world outside of Kansas. This radio would bring all kinds of news and music right to our doorstep.
“Why not?” Hickory looked up at Zeke in surprise.
We heard Hunk yell, “Yes. I’m ready.” He sounded far away.
“What’s the matter, Zeke? Are you afraid of heights?” Hunk chided.
Hickory picked up a large glass tube. He plugged it into place inside the gray box. Suddenly, Hunk hollered, “What’s going on down there?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, my knees get weak whenever I get up too high.”b the ladder that was leaning against the little house. Hickory looked
Hickory yelled up, “Take it easy. We’re getting there.” When he got the tube secured in place, he looked at Zeke. “Now.” out of the speaker.
Zeke threw the large switch and secured it in a clip. Just then, all the tubes inside the gray box began to glow. It was mystifying. Hickory smiled and began to turn knobs and we heard a lot of strange noise and crashing sounds coming out of the speaker. “I think we have it.” He was very excited. Then, he looked up towards the ceiling and yelled up to Hunk. “Okay, Hunk. Start turning. Don’t turn it too fast.” As Hunk turned the antenna, we heard voices come and go through the crashing sounds. Suddenly, we heard a voice. It became clearer as Hunk eased the antenna around and Hickory tuned the signal in with the knobs on the radio. “Hunk! Leave it right where you are. Now, move it just a little more in the direction you were going, but go really slow.” The voice got louder and more natural. “Okay! Stop right there!” The three of us were jumping with excitement. Hickory was overjoyed. “Come on down, Hunk! You gotta hear this!” We heard Hunk moving much faster now than when he first went up. He bolted through the door. His excitement betrayed
his original attitude about having to stay in on a Saturday night. He was just as excited as we were. They were playing a popular Glenn Miller tune called, “In the Mood”. Oh, how exciting. We listened to all sorts of music called Swing. Hickory was so excited with himself that he grabbed me and taught me how to jitterbug. The boys all took turns dancing with me. I was in heaven. We were having such a good time. I’ll always remember the night Hickory brought radio to the farm. The announcer came back on with the news. He talked about the war in Europe and a man named Adolph Hitler and Germany. We talked about these things in school, but hearing it on the radio made it more real. It sounded very scary. Then, he gave the weather report. He said that there were reports of a cyclone near Reese, Kansas in Greenwood County yesterday afternoon. We all looked at each other amazed that he was talking about us. Zeke said, “Wouldn’t you know, the first time we ever heard a radio and they’re talking about the cyclone that came through right here on the farm.” Then they started playing more music. We danced until we couldn’t dance anymore. Continued ...
What’s in a Name?
by Jessica Eiden Smedley
Other than the tangible changes of a new drivers license and Social Security card, changing my name affected me on a level that I could not foresee. I was really surprised by how confused I felt and how unhappy it made me, despite having the intention of creating a cohesive “family unit”. I changed my surname four months after getting married. Women representing multiple generations generously offered their unsolicited opinions by stating I had either “caved to conformity” or was an example of feminism gone too far by waiting so that long to take my husband’s name and clearly showing disrespect for his family. The reality of the situation is I did not feel like going to the Social Security office and the DMV. Full of pre-teen angst and sure the history of this name changing ritual had roots amongst the mindset of treating and trading women as commodities, I frequently tested the tolerance of my gender-role Page 26
What’s in a Name? . .continued.. traditionalist, hyper-religious father by proclaiming, “I am not a piece of property!” and demand to know why upon getting married I was “expected to exchange one man’s name for another?” It is unknown if the anger my father displayed was due to my obstinance or my three younger sisters being within earshot. As I got older, I really started to love my surname; I could not be Jessica without Eiden. It was slightly odd and just rare enough that my siblings and I knew if a stranger could pronounce it correctly it was assumed they were acquainted with a member of our extended family. On the other hand, my middle name invoked feelings of a different nature, despite it also being a family name. Louise has been the middle name of the first-born daughter for generations on the maternal side of my family tree. It always made me cringe; mean old ladies with fierce old lady hair were named Louise. It also dumbfounded me as I have an older sister. Years later, while discussing the choice with my then-fiancé, I decided that not only would I take his surname, I would replace my middle name with my maiden name. Quite the traditional move for this non-traditional gal. In February of 2009 I found myself standing in line at the Social Security office without my morning coffee. Within an hour, the clerk had barely glanced at my faded card before tossing it aside and asked me to sign here and here. Two weeks later an envelope arrived. The whole process was so easy and effortless, not a single consequence crossed my mind. I opened the envelope and saw my new name. I shuddered. I sat. I sobbed. And sobbed. And sobbed.
There, on this very official government document was a foreign name. Jessica Eiden Smedley. Who the hell was that? I had no idea and did not care to learn. It felt like my past was being erased and I was the only person to blame. The irrational thoughts continued: somehow I had to return to my outrageously overpriced alma mater for the repeating of my undergrad because Jessica Eiden Smedley never went to college. I was not even sure she had the high school transcripts to submit for college admission. Who was going to tell my siblings they were down a sister? Were the numbers in my mobile telephone automatically disappearing? Is Jessica Eiden Smedley a vegetarian? A runner? Tattooed? Registered as an Independent? In a matter of seconds I had reduced myself to a friendless, meat-eating, apathetic nobody trying to pass the kindergarten entrance exam by spelling her name correctly. And failing. My husband found me crying in the dining room. “You didn’t have to do it.” He was right, but honoring my commitments is just another way to showcase all of my stubborn glory. No matter how ridiculous. The following month I received rather distressing news from my best friend and was soon on an airplane bound for my hometown 3,000 miles away. During my month long stay, I spent a few nights at my mother’s house. My parents were divorced many years ago. This shattered the family emotionally in ways that are still felt today, so to recognize the historical significance of this seemingly mundane event of just being present at my mother’s house, one would require much more time to write than I have available as well as signed disclosures from the family attorney and mental health professionals. It was big. It was important. It was going just fine.
What had I done? would require much more time to write than I have available as well as signed disclosures from the family atPage 27
What’s in a Name? . .continued..
Wanting a lunchtime excursion found my mother, my youngest sister, her girlfriend and myself driving downtown. I was taking my turn in a spirited conversation with my sister, which included a playful insult. Her jaw dropped and between fits of laughter she managed, “Jessica Louise Eiden! That is so gross!” “You know that is not my name anymore, right?” “Oh, right. Jessica Louise Smedley! That is so gross!” “Actually, I took Eiden as my middle name.” My sister continued to talk, about what I could not say. I did not hear a word because of the look on my mother’s face. She was driving so I could not get the full effect, but what I saw while in the passenger seat, was more than enough. Her single look conveyed a level of sadness that I did not think possible from a woman that had unfairly been plagued by grief throughout her 51 years. The wind was knocked out of me and my body went numb. Her convictions were always understated. She would not remind me that her middle name, my grandmother’s middle name and great-grandmother’s middle name were elegant protests against the unfortunate occurrences caused by the men in their lives. She would remain silent and refuse to show any vulnerability in front of her daughters. I chose Eiden over Louise. I chose him over her. I broke my mother’s heart. After lunch we went to my favorite bookstore where I managed to break away from the group and locked myself in the bathroom. I sobbed. And sobbed. And sobbed. I just could not get it right. Jessica Eiden Smedley has existed for nearly one year. The petty, unreasonable thoughts have been replaced by small grins when I still forget to sign “Smedley” or do not recognize my name being called. I insist upon the full version of my name because I cannot be Jessica without Eiden. But, if anyone ever slipped Louise in there, I would not mind.
How I Got Here, Part I by Dana Aritonovich I started this seven-part essay on Facebook on January 1, 2009, thinking that if I started writing on the first day of the year I would write regularly throughout the year. I had been having some serious issues with my best friend for a year and a half on top of my own issues with depression, anxiety, and drinking, and I needed to get some stuff off my chest. My BFF wouldn’t sit down and talk about our problems so I hoped he would read this on Facebook so it could help us resolve things. The more I wrote the better I felt, and by the epilogue I had realized that my friendship had to end or I would never be happy. As openly emotional as I am, I understood through writing this that I am often passive-aggressive and need to speak out more when things bother me. Stil , I am glad I wrote this the way I did, in such a public and raw fashion (though no names were ever mentioned), because it was my truth. They say that the way you spend the first day of the year is the way you spend the rest of the year, and that was certainly true for me in 2008. It started off with a drunken New Year’s Eve party with far too many people in my apartment, many of whom I did not invite. No big deal for the ones I knew, but some people who were actually invited were just handing out my address to complete strangers. I was too drunk to care at the time. I barely remember it turning midnight, except that I greeted a friend’s mother with “Feliz Año Nuevo”. There was so much going on, and in the midst of it all, two people who should not have been making out were making out in my kitchen, and I lost it. That started a downward spiral. After the majority of people left I really freaked out and started breaking wine glasses; I’d take a drink out of a random glass and throw it onto the carpet. I was getting hysterical and there was broken glass everywhere, wine stains from guests were all over the floor and my kitchen counter, food spilled everywhere, the light bulb in the ceiling fan went out and it really pissed me off…after everyone left except one last drinking buddy who was also the first to arrive, I cried and cried and cried and finally went to sleep after he calmed me down somewhat. I awoke the next morning around 9, and cried again when I saw all the mess. There were shards of glass at every step, the carpet still stained from red wine, rice spilled on the electric can opener. What a metaphor for the rest of 2008: picking up the broken, stained pieces of my life and trying to make sense of it all. Where was I to go from there?
I did not feel much like drinking for the next few days, though there were those close to me—people who were at the party and saw me getting kray-zee after it was over—who kept pushing me to drink with them. Some people just don’t like to drink alone. I did that a lot over the years, especially in 2007. I wanted 2008 to start on a better foot after the hell that was 2007, but that did not happen. I tried telling my friends that the New Year’s party was a bad omen of things to come, but they thought I was being silly. Serbian Christmas is January 7, and for two weeks before the holiday I had a sick, anxious feeling. I was suffering from massive anxiety and depression at the time, and had been for at least a year, but this feeling in my gut was something different. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew something terrible was coming. Before I went to church with my family for Christmas Eve, before we stopped to visit my sick grandmother, I had to relieve the tension. I did what I needed to do and felt immediately guilty yet relieved, and we went to visit Baba in the nursing home. She had been sick for over a year, but was doing fairly well this time. She was alert and talkative and happy to see us all. She looked healthier than she had for a while. We kissed and hugged her goodbye and went to church, and then to my uncle’s house for a bit. I spent the night at my parents’ house. My uncle stopped by to visit Baba before coming over for Christmas, and he said she looked bad. We were surprised since she had been doing pretty well the night before. But things change very rapidly, and Baba was tired of all the hospitals—she had been to the ER something like 19 times in the previous year or so. She didn’t want to do it anymore.
How I Got Here, Part I...continued...
My mother called me before 8AM the next morning to tell me that she had died. It was devastating. I texted a friend and told him that I had known that something was going to happen—that anxiety was not all in my head like he usually thinks it is. Baba was very intuitive. When she died, I think that passed over to me. I had a feeling that something major was about to occur. It was very rough, those days ahead, watching all the relatives mourn, seeing people recognize their own mortality. Baba was in her 80s when she died, and had had a hard life at times, but she was full of love for the people she knew, and she (and my paternal grandmother) was the strongest woman I ever knew. I could only hope to someday be a strong and resilient as she was. She fought in the resistance in World War II with my grandfather and her brothers, she lost her home, had to leave much of her family behind, coming to America and not speaking the language. She took jobs and did what she had to do to build a better life for her family—it was always about her family. She had a strong faith in God and our Serbian Orthodox Church, she loved her Serbian people, she loved America, she loved her grandchildren more than life itself. She always expected more of me because I am the eldest, I was her first grandchild. She was never hesitant about expressing her disappointment in me, and I always felt bad when I knew she disapproved. I have hidden a lot from my family, and had to hide my tattoos from Baba! But that was out of respect. But now I realize that many things I have done in my life have been disrespectful to myself, which in turn disrespects my family. I don’t want to live that life anymore. I had fun, but I was really sad most of the time. I was very self-destructive in many ways—I never did drugs, but I sure as hell drank a lot. There were plenty of people who drank more than I did, and who behaved more scandalously than I did, but I have always considered myself a family woman, a nice Serbian girl, but, really, I didn’t act like it. A few days after Baba’s funeral I began graduate school. On the second day of class, my great uncle passed away. This was exactly a week after my grandmother died. I was still fucked up about that, and now I had another loss to deal with. I was having major anxiety, and did what I normally did to temporarily relieve that anxiety. I got drunk later that night, the night before the funeral. We had a lot of food left from Baba’s funeral lunch, and even more from my uncle’s. I took a lot of it home and invited friends over two nights in a row to eat and get my mind off things a bit. I had a glass or two of wine at the first dinner, but after that didn’t drink much. We do a service 40 days after a person’s death to commemorate their soul reaching heaven, and I did three shots of whiskey at the parastos for my uncle. That was around the time that Kosovo declared independence, and the bishops asked Serbs around the world to be sure to fast for Lent, and to dedicate the fast to our suffering Serbian brothers and sisters of Kosovo. I had never done the whole seven week fast; one day a few times a year was difficult enough for me! We fast like vegans, so it’s pretty challenging when I am a hardcore carnivore. But I felt like this was something I had to do, and I knew my grandmother would have been proud of me. I had not had a drink for two or three weeks before the fast began. I don’t think I necessarily intended to stop drinking forever at that point. Baba did not like it when I drank, and I thought this would be a nice tribute to her. The fast was difficult to begin, but I had a friend who was also fasting for Lent, and that was helpful. Mainly, though, I was doing it because I am an Orthodox Christian and I knew I was supposed to. I certainly did not condemn anyone who didn’t do the fast, because most of my family did not. It was the right time for me to do it. I was never tempted to break the fast (though I did have a piece of cake on my Dad’s birthday), and I really adjusted well to the vegan lifestyle. I was depressed the whole time because I was still mourning my grandmother and uncle, and because I had serious problems with a friend, but the fast and the purpose behind it kept me going. School was very stressful as well, and I was concerned about money (like always). But the constant harping from friends about my not going out was getting to me; I was daily accused of being anti-social. I really didn’t Page 30
How I Got Here, Part I...continued... have time to go out because of school, but I just really did not want to. I realized that I had a drinking problem, and it is difficult to avoid drinking if you keep going to bars with the people you used to drink with, especially with your main enabler buying you drink after drink. I had a fully-stocked bar at home and never drank. I drank a lot at home, alone, passing out on the couch pretty much every night. If I got home from work at 3PM, I would have a mojito in my hand by 3:01PM. I was a binge drinker. I drank every week end—Sundays at the bar with the boys!—and most nights of the week. I had to completely change my lifestyle if I was going to stop drinking. But some of the people I considered my closest friends did not understand. They took it as a personal rejection. They could not see that this was a better way for me to live. What kind of life is it to be drunk every night, being scandalous and disrespecting my body in public? Where was I going with that shit? But some people didn’t care if I was trying to be a better, healthier, happier person. They just saw that their popular drinking buddy went home before the party ended.
Blame It on The Good Stuff
by Sean Brown
I have a blue collar backround and “Blame It On The Good Stuff” comes directly from that sometimes desperate life.
“I can’t do this anymore.” She said, quiet yet firm; with finality. She stared up at me with dark brown eyes on the verge of tears. Her browns were actually the first thing I’d noticed back at Kelly’s Pub two winters ago. Back then, her brown eyes shone with passion and hunger, the love of life we’re all searching for. She’d been with her girls and I’d been with my boys, and as these things tend to happen, our respective groups became one. She’d been shy and reserved, laughing at our antics, but offering none of her own. At the end of the night, with a head full of beer-fueled courage, I’d told her I thought she was cute, and would like to see her again. She smiled up me and said she’d like that too. She kissed me on the cheek and slipped her number into my jeans’ front pocket. That was nearly two years and a thousand smiles ago. Now she stood in front of me, on the verge of tears, and I knew it was my fault. If there’d been a thousand smiles, there must have been two thousand tears, again, my fault. I have a problem, and I know it. She used to laugh when I’d drink too much with the boys or at the game. When I’d come home stumbling and singing, smelling like the pub. She’d put on coffee and throw in frozen pizzas for the boys I’d brought staggering back to our apartment after bar close. She’d tell her friends it was the Irish in us, that we were good boys, that we couldn’t help it. We’d had our first fight not long after we’d moved in together. She told me I was too smart for the factory, that I needed to finish school, to do something with my life. I’d told her I wasn’t doing nothing, that I liked the factory, the Union, that life. She said going out with the boys was no kind of future, that she needed more out of life, that she needed me to need more out of life. I’d slammed the door on my way out, fuming and swearing my way down to Hyperion Liquor for whiskey. Slamming the bottle in the alley behind the store, I’d felt a little bit better, a little bit calmer, but certainly not ready for home. I wandered down Randolph, cold, but numbed by drink, my head still raging. I’d gone into Mickey’s and drank until I couldn’t walk straight, before somehow getting back to the apartment. She’d known what I was up to, and she cried while she hugged me and told me I was sick, that I needed help. I’d laughed and said she sounded like my mother.
Blame It on The Good Stuff... continued... The next morning I felt horrible, not just from the hangover, but from the guilt, the shame. We went to Mass at the Cathedral, and I swore I’d never do it again. And I truly believed it. I didn’t want to do it again. But this is life, and life tends not to work out as planned. I’d hurt my back on the double shift and was out on worker’s comp for four months. At first I read. And then I wrote. I even signed up for business classes at the community college. But the whole thing was a waste of time, and I was bored out of my mind. So I drank to pass the time. At first it was just while she was at work, and I’d brush my teeth and throw out the bottle in the neighbor’s recycling so she wouldn’t find out. As time went on, and I didn’t feel any better, I began to care less if she found out or not. I think I wanted to be found out, I wanted her attention and rage, if only to feel something authentic and exciting. I craved passion of any sort. I was not a college boy, and I was not a church going man, I was an alcoholic; and alcoholics drink. That was the first time she left me. Went to her mother’s house for the weekend. Her dad was a drinker too, and she was determined not to make the same mistake her mother had. At first, I didn’t care. I had freedom to come and go when I wanted and do as I pleased. I could drink whiskey with my coffee in the morning or have a beer during the game and not feel like I was being judged. As time wore on though, I realized that I missed her. That I needed her. That she was the only thing in my life worth anything, and that I was throwing it away for the bottle. So I called her, I begged her to come back. I told her the truth, and I meant it, I promised it wouldn’t happen again. I offered to go to rehab or AA or something, or anything, if she’d just come home. She came home. I went to exactly one AA meeting. In the parish basement with the other sinners, I actually fully admitted to myself that I had a problem. I went home and showed off my newcomer chip, all proud, like a child with his first report card. One week later, I’d gone to the pub with the boys to celebrate a coworker’s retirement. Soda water with lime had turned into whiskey and waters, which turned into straight whiskey. I wrapped my car around a neighbor’s tree on the way home and spent the weekend in jail. Monday morning she was there to bail me out, but wouldn’t speak to me on the drive. I’d gone to work my shift at the factory that day, and she was waiting for me, hands on hips, when I got home. She’d called me a liar, and she’d been right. She’d said that I was too good for this kind of life, and I wasn’t sure if she was right about that or not. Which is where we stand; alcoholic and woman who loves him. “I can’t do this anymore,” she repeated, voice cracking. “I know,” I said, knowing that she couldn’t. Knowing that deep down, I was no good for her, for myself, for anyone. Finally understanding that I wasn’t going to get better. That she really was better off without me. “I’m going to miss you.”
Twenty. A few days early. by M’liss I’ve never tried to make a big deal about my birthday for myself, I know it’s a day like any other & I know that I’ll be turning a year older every time July 10th comes around… But I thought that in celebration of the fact that I’m turning 20, a new decade & an important one in my life at that (in my opinion) I would reminisce about all the years that have gone by and some of the important things that have happened. I remember the exact moment that I woke up on July 10th 1999 when I turned 10 years old. I remember it so well because for the other 9 years of my life I was excited to be able to have 2 digits in my age, and because turning 10 was my “lucky year” (born on the 10th, turning 10…) I woke up with big expectations of my day. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen exactly, but I figured something really important would happen. Nothing overly exciting did end up happening that day- my brother took me to the mall and bought me my very first Furby (remember those things?!) which is still buried in my closet somewhere. I guess I always remembered getting that gift because that year had just been so special at the time. It’s weird remembering myself 10 whole years ago… I don’t know how to explain it, but it doesn’t seem like I should remember myself THAT long ago. In the 10 years that have come and gone since, I’ve become a completely different person… but I guess some things never change- because here I am looking forward to waking up on July 10th 2009 so that I can have this whole new digit in my age. It’s really REALLY scary to think that after this year, the next time I hit a new decade I’ll be in my thirties. (I look forward a lot…) In the first 10 years of my life I moved to a really small town (at the time) and met the 5 year old girl next door who, little did I know, would become my best friend for the rest of my childhood. The only reason I’m bringing her up in this post is because we’re still friends and we still talk… and I guess in my heart she’ll always be that first best friend & therefore still kind of is. I love this girl to death… We went through (ironically enough) a really strong 10 year best-friendship where we were completely inseperable. I’m talking about sleeping over every weekend during school, going over after classes were over during the week, taking turns at each other’s houses every single day during the summer… It was literally like we did not exist one without the other. I remember this one time we were probably about 8 years old or something like that and we were lying on her bed thinking of the future. We were trying to figure out what the older version of us would be like, what kind of friends we would be like. We always imagined that we’d just live the way we do right now. But I remember turning to her and saying “Can you imagine us doing this one day when we’re SIXTEEN years old?!” This was a big year for me because it meant graduating high school and, in my mind, becoming an adult. The very thought of being friends, let alone existing together at the age of sixteen was the most mind-blowing thought ever. She turned back to me and said “When we turn sixteen I want us to remember this exact moment, so we know we’ve been friends for a really really long time”. And we did just that, 8 years later. Although today we’re not nearly as close as we were 10 years ago, we still make sure to talk… and I know that if I’m in trouble, or if I need someone there for me… she’ll be there. I wouldn’t be me today without her. J’tame fort <3 Page 33
. .A few days early. .continued.. I think a really huge amount of the turning points in my life so far have come a bit later in life. I mean there were the obvious teenage high school transitions… but from my memory all of my biggest moments were from Grade 11 and on. The pressure of figuring out who to be and what to do at the end of high school, applying to colleges… Going to college & realizing that everything you did in the last 5 years was pretty useless, all those little dramas were so un-important. It’s funny to look back at highschool Melissa. I wish I could tell her that obsessing over who’s ‘cool’ and who to talk to, what to eat, what to wear… It’s all meaningless when you leave that place. I like knowing that I can go in my twenties with that piece of knowledge though. It makes me feel a bit more ready to head into the years of being a “grown-up” (as my mother would say) I think the most important points in my life all revolved around friendships. That being said, the next most important one that I remember happened on my very first day of high school. I had gone to elementary school with this girl for 3 years- and we practically hated each other- she called me a snob and I called her something really terrible from the time… I can’t remember what. The first day of high school came and we found ourselves in every single class together, completely lost & knowing like 3 other people in the school. We were terrified. She looked at me in homeroom that day and said “I think we should be best friends. We should stick together in this place”… and we did. It’s funny how some friendships start… Now that I think back on it I never would have imagined that saying what she said could have been so STRONG. But I guess being a terrified 11 year old was strong enough… We became pretty inseparable in high school. Through all of our different circles of friends, boys, fights, everything… She is still one of the people that I make sure to see regularly. 10 years later (wow, actually 10 years this year) that I know her and I know she’ll easily be around for many, many more decades to come. I love you to pieces. The last two people who have truly been around since the beginning are a bit of an interesting story (not really, but to me a little bit) They make me realize that some people are absolutely meant to be in your life. I met both of them in my first elementary school that I left after 2 years. We were friends but never very CLOSE. We then met again in high school where we slowly ended up hanging out in the same circle of friends. By college we were taking classes together & spending more time together, until one fateful day… we decided to take a small trip to NYC, just the three of us. The rest is kind of history, because I can’t imagine my life without them, nor will I ever have to. I love them both tons. I can’t remember any other incredibly pivotal friendships that happened in my childhood that are worth mentioning- but throughout those years I certainly did meet some amazing people that have stood by me up until now. It’s weird because when you’re younger, you never imagine that the same people will surround you for your whole life. I find this especially strange because I was always one to imagine what being older might be like… and yet it never occurred to me that my life would be much like it was when I was a kid. High school ended and college started with nothing crazy that happened. I remember the convocation cerermony only because I danced my way out of my high school gym with Agnes screaming “I’M DONE!” But I think everything else of extreme importance in my life happened in college. In my second year(at the end of it) one of my closest friends sent me an email telling me that she wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. It was one of the biggest, most shocking emails that I had ever read. She went on to say that our friendship made her very anxious and she needed to get rid of the things that made her feel that way. So that was it. She was the first person I’d ever spoken to in high school (that I didn’t know from elementary school) and she continued to be one of the most Page 34
. .A few days early. .continued.. important people in my life for the seven years of our friendship. But I guess everybody changes after high school, and to her, that meant not needing me in her life anymore. This month makes it one year that we haven’t said 2 words to each other. Although I do think about our friendship a lot, I’m not angry about losing it or about what she said to me anymore. I was for a long time, but I’m over it now. I am 100% happy with who I am and the people who’ve brought me here & have stuck with me til right now. Since college I think there have really only been two other people that I’ve become close to that I can’t imagine my life without. These two girls… are my other 2/3rds. Triple threat. They completely complete me… however weird that sounds. Although music became a huge part of my life in high school, it was with these two people that I truly discovered what loving music meant. I’ve blogged many many times about our adventures and about how much I adore the two of them so I won’t detail it now… but like I said earlier, some people are just meant to be in your life and I really believe that about these two girls too. I’m going to take a 5 second break over here to mention that it’s really hard to sum up 20 years of life in one blog post. If someone is still reading this right now… Congrats. I wouldn’t be reading this if I wasn’t writing it. Anyways. There are probably dozens of other moments worth mentioning… Things I don’t want to forget… But as of right now I can only think of one other part of my life that’s worth talking about. Music. Although I’ve always loved it it’s only since I was 18 that it became 97% of who I am. All the shows I’ve gone to, the people I’ve met, the bands I’ve seen grow… My job at CONFRONT… So much has happened and I know that it’s only the beginning of something really important. I realized that I see music as not only a hobby but a career. Journalism, communications… It’s yet to be decided but I know that I’ll be doing something in this industry in my twenties. It’s definitely strange, trying to sum up a whole life. I think that through everything, the most important parts of who I’ve become have definitely been the people I’ve met & the music I’ve been introduced to. The high school to college to University lessons all come with the deal, but those two things definitely make me who I am today. So Happy Birthday.
The Toilet Story, or, Why I Have Now Seen Two Other Women’s Front Bottoms by Billygean I started blogging in 2005 and basically just wrote funny things id done on the internet. Since 2008 the blog has been more serious and even helped me recover from a serious il ness, so I owe it a lot. I hope you enjoy my latest non-serious post about erm.. Poo. “Oh, congratulations again!” I say as the host just like hers, but I don’t want her to KNOW that – of the party comes up the stairs. you know? I am waiting for the bathroom at my friend’s housewarming. “Thanks!” she says. “So sorry I’ve barely spoken to you and MindReader.”
Having successfully wiped, I try to pull up my tights and wince as they get uncomfortably stuck on my bum. I’ll sort it out later, I think, and then wonder where one has to go to be alone if not the toilet? I stand and straighten my dress and look at the faintly yellow liquid in the toilet.
I give a wave of my hand. “Don’t worry,” I say. “Hosting is…” “So are you having a nice time in London?” “Lovely,” I say. “So – how’s things?” “Oh it’s a long story…” she says as the toilet becomes free. “Shall we just go in together?” I look at her and at the door. This has happened once before when I drank a cocktail AND a glass of wine (quite a lot for one who has a tiny body which can’t process anything that’s fun to consume), and accidentally let someone from law school come into the toilet with me and grill me about whether I fancied MindReader (a resounding yes) while I tried to conceal my bits AND wipe. I push open the door and she appears to follow me. “I won’t look,” she says, as I try to pull down my tights in a dignified manner.
“Do you – erm, shall I flush, or are we sharing?” “Oh let’s share,” she says, “saves water.” I shrug. It is her house after all. I find myself hoping she is drunk. I wash my hands very intently at the sink, avoiding eye-contact and other-contact as she pees. “I just went into the bathroom with someone again!” I say to MindReader as I return back downstairs. My tights still don’t feel right. “Billygean!” MindReader says. “Who was it this time?” “Hostess,” I say. “Did she have a wizard’s sleeve?” I confess I had to look that one up.
She tells me how she is as I pee which, I have to confess, I don’t pay too much attention to, so worried am I about the wiping. I am wearing a dress, which, luckily, covers my woo-woo as I wipe. I’m pretty sure it’s Page 36
CELLOPHANE. I attempted for several years to write long novels, but they never got finished. When I read Roald Dahl’s “Tales of the unexpected”, I thought it would be a much better idea for me to write shorter, creepier stories. One night, I was bombarded with horrible garage music coming from one of the neighbour’s houses and I though to myself “I’d really like to chuck something at them to make them stop.” It was cold that night, and the culmination of these things began my story. The rest simply flowed logically.
by Silvi Vann-Wall
The frightful noises came abruptly to a halt as the third beer bottle sailed through the bass drum, tearing the skin and possibly some other things. It was a good shot. Too bad I didn’t throw it. The crowd was just beginning to realise how much pain the lead drummer was in when I slunk out into the night. Cigarette smoke trailing behind me, (it wasn’t mine, I don’t smoke,) I felt relief for the first time in my life, to be in that pitch black winter. This time the chill didn’t bother me. The moon radiated its eerie sunlight reflection down upon the car laden street. And I felt fine. Hell, even the asthma wasn’t bothering me. I turned the corner into a one-way street, its purpose defeated when one is traveling by foot (The “one-way” was justified by a small barricade and traffic island which, if traveling by car, is impossible to get through. But I never drive). I casually performed a routine task of straddling the barricade and swinging my legs over to the dried up turf. A different night, yet the same old shit. I resented my house. I would’ve rather stopped where I was and slept on the turf. I call it a house because to be defined a “home”, one actually needs to feel at home in it. And I did not feel one bit at home in 448 Benton Avenue. Christ, I just gave you my address, what was I thinking? Or more like: what was I not thinking? A couple of vodkas can do that do you. Currently my hide-out of choice was the old Barley Corns Hotel, a few blocks back from where I lived. Scummiest pub I ever graced with my presence, yet the only place I really felt at home in, night after night. But tonight was different. Tonight, something told me it was a good thing I was going home before midnight. And it wasn’t only due to the awful racket that the band had called “music”. No, it was almost as if alarm bells had suddenly gone off in my mind, ringing their shrill tune of “get out, now!”. Yet why had this happened? I had never been in trouble before. I was savvy, I kept my distance. I watched everything from the sidelines. I drowned my sorrows in vodka and staggered out at 2am, without anyone ever hearing so much as a whisper from me. Yes, the strong-silent type they called me. Sans the strong part. I was an under-nourished owl of the night, after all. As I made my way through a series of under lit lane ways I noticed the night air becoming colder, biting my neck and ankles with its icy fangs. I tightened my scarf around my neck (in a clichéd manner, of course) and continued along my course. Not far now. Soon I would be in the marginally warmer embrace of that tiny concrete shit-hole. What joy. Page 37
CELLOPHANE...continued... I almost had a spasmodic convulsion to run back to Barley Corns and set up camp under the bar, when I smelled something I had not previously smelled. Sniffing the air like a nocturnal rabbit, I tried desperately to place the odd scent. It was not smoke, nor was it wood fire, nor petrol - all of which were common smells in this particular context. No, it was strange...definitely not natural. Manufactured, then. Chemical? No. What could it be? I slowed down my pace in order to identify it. Maybe it was the vodka acting on my behalf, but I absolutely had to know at that moment what the smell was. It was so different...yet so familiar. And then it clicked. My father’s cologne. Greele Street was emanating my father’s cologne. A cologne that had stopped being manufactured eight years ago. Could it be that...? I turned sharply, thinking I had heard a noise. If only I had thought to check behind me for the cologne-swathed man bearing an extra large suitcase. * The suitcase came down hard. Or at least, I assume it did, as the only thing I remember is waking up in a bright pink room filled with dolls. Yes folks, you heard right. Pink room. Dolls. I trembled with fear just thinking about what must go on in this sicko’s mind. To cut a long and rather boring story short, Daddy Cologne Man entered the room at around five o’ clock. Actually, I have no idea what time it was. I just though five o’clock was a good time to saunter into a room, and it is ever so annoying when one forgets their timepiece. “Good morning,” he said (I guess he forgot a timepiece, too). He looked surprisingly calm and collected for a man who purchased more dolls in his life than I had changed underwear. “Grrff ghhmmemmem,” I replied through a stale sock. His smirking smile turned into a look of confusion and disgust. “I gather you know why you’re here,” he said, stepping forward, then doing a double-take of the room as though he had just noticed the dolls for the first time. Embarrassed, he began chucking them out of the open window. Of course, now would’ve been the perfect time to escape, had I not been gaffertaped to a living chair. Cologne man turned to face me again. He grinned a toothy, stage smile, nervousness flickering in his cold eyes. “This room belonged to my daughter,” he explained quickly, then returned to viciously sending a golliwog flying through the window frame. Of course, it was hard to imagine anyone so oddly violent could produce offspring, but there you go. Feeling rather like a film noir hero, and seated in a position where all the blood rushed to my head, I felt both extremely dashing and placidly sedated. My eyes languidly surveyed the room. Pink walls; the colour beginning to fade. Pink curtains; shredded. Pink carpet; incredibly stained. The girl undoubtedly would’ve been a basket case, if she existed at all. The last porcelain face flew out of the window as cologne man swiveled around with such force that I had every intention to believe his eyes were going to pop out. He gritted his teeth; a purple vein visibly enlarged on his forehead. “Well,” he said with gusto, then trailed off, having obviously forgotten what he was on about. I hate it when that happens. Page 38
CELLOPHANE...continued... His eyes fluttered several times; the over-worked cogs in his brain almost visible through them. I saw this as a chance to have the fume-emanating traveler’s sock removed from my mouth. “Mmmg ppghghffff mpph ffrrghgm pphheegghm?” “What?!” the man shouted, the vein increasing every second. Then without warning, he lurched at me, eyes wide and terrifying. If I hadn’t been expecting this, I most certainly would have flinched. However, in a split-second the ancient ogre sock was out, leaving me coughing and spluttering my own spit (well, most of it spit, some of it ogre foot sweat). “What did you say?” He asked, seething. I cleared my throat once (to make sure it still worked) and said in the politest possible way: “I said, perhaps you were going to tell me why I am here.” For some reason, speaking made my disgustingly defined cheek-bones ache and throb. Cologne’s eyes widened with disgust. “You know perfectly well why you are here!” he spat, then seemed to be reconsidering this proposition. His aged, leathery hands moved from his hips to his pant-pockets. The silvery white hair atop his worn boot-like head made him seem comforting, somehow. Like the grandpa I almost never had. “Well, perhaps you do not,” he said at last. Yes, perhaps we do not. Five stars for you, gramps. He began pacing oddly up and down, as though trying to escape from some invisible thing that confronted him at every direction. “Perhaps,” he began, then commenced pacing again, muttering to himself. I relished these few moments I had to take in some deep, odour-free breaths. Eventually the pacing ceased. “My name is Ernesto,” surprisingly, was the next thing the man said. “Jim,” I replied. Actually, my name wasn’t Jim, but would you give your name to this freak? “Good. Good...” he said softly, though there was something unsettling in his softness. That and the fact he had taped me to an arm-chair in a bright pink room full of dolls, after knocking me out with a suitcase. To make sure ‘Ernesto’ understood my contempt, I fixed a scowl upon my face and glared at him. He stared back for several seconds, then shouted: “What?!” “Nothing, nothing,” I replied, feigning innocence. His composure was gradually falling apart, exactly what I had planned. “Brilliant. You have made me lose my train of thought,” he said through gritted teeth. My head began to spin with ideas for escape when, to my surprise, Ernesto pulled a gun from the inside pocket of his jacket. “Not to worry,” he spoke while slowly taking aim, “I still remember my ultimatum.” Page 39
CELLOPHANE...continued... “WHAT?!” I shouted, senses in panic mode and on high alert. No time for rationality now. “I must admit, I was beginning to have second thoughts about this…” he whispered while staring, unblinkingly, at the weapon in his hand. “You’re crazy,” I managed to say through chattering teeth, “You don’t know what you’re doing! You’ve never even met me before!” Yellow lights began to dance around in my head, my entire vision reducing to a blurred picture, surrounded in blackness. “Haven’t I?” Ernesto replied, his eyes suddenly piercing the blackness. Then he pulled the trigger.
* Heaven, for those of you who don’t know, is a wonderfully sickening place. It contains seventeen of the most aesthetically pleasing statues you will ever see, but unfortunately, no cameras are allowed. Admission for the zoo is free, but most of the animals are dead (Ha. Ha). Everyone dresses as though hoping not ever to be seen. To the world, all things unknown are like a single sheet of cellophane. Simple, yet always pleasing; believable, yet ultimately transparent. Sometimes, without any prior warning, human beings themselves can undergo a transformation which suddenly places them in the same category. It is not known exactly why, but the ultimate outcome is undoubtedly obvious. One method of preventing this disaster is to simply acknowledge the existence of any human being of this nature. Another is to run, as far away as possible. Sadly, the latter is usually more common. I myself have never been to heaven. Thankfully, this situation was not about to change. When I awoke later that night, I discovered a small note attached to my forehead. Being careful not to move fast in case I fainted again, I lifted a weary hand and began to remove said note. It took a while for my eyes to adjust before I could read it: Dear Joseph, I have nothing to do except wholeheartedly apologise for the unconventional events of the past few hours. If only you had called your father once. Just once. Love, Mum. Sometimes, human beings become so transparent, that we forget who they are completely. END.
May I Please Be Excused? by Kelly Patten Hatgas aka ‘Bama On Many of us come from non-traditional families or “broken The Brain homes”. This piece is my own special blend of pain and perspective on the subject of divorce. It was inspired by actual events and evolved out of a personal essay I wrote in college. The dusky glow of the evening warmed Us as my sister and I sat amongst The orange shag jungle, picking At the chocolate eclairs that pulled The meal to a close.
Forgotten. Instead we sat, kneading Thoughts. My sister’s tears fell hot On her leg and she flinched With the burning while I gouged The eclair, forcing the tine
Our parents sat, still and solemn, On opposite ends of the couch, their Gazes like bees refusing To land anywhere in particular. Then, my mother’s thunder bolt
Of my fork in and out of the same Wound, unblinking. My mother’s words ended then and I’d like to remember rising, Taking the torn eclair to the kitchen,
Words struck as the sun melted Into the horizon leaving Streaks and shades of pink. Dad was unspoken, his blaming Face towards the fading
Shoving it mercilessly Down the garbage disposal drain, Flipping the switch and dancing To the whirring-chop As my parents looked on,
Sun. Mom’s voice was like granite As she told us our family was over-Like the daylight, like the steak dinner. We just sat there, picking and avoiding While her words beat
Horrified. But I was nine. So instead I blinked back tears And watched golden pink fade Into dusky blue, not understanding As my mom rubbed her eyes,
Like hummingbird wings And Dad looked like he wanted to break Out of his skin as if all that held him Together was a thin layer of tanned flesh. Words like “divorce”, “separation”
My sister shredded her napkin, My dad swirled his coffee, And we all waitd to be excused For the last time.
“Marriage” and “love” were all different Parts of the same knife I imagined slicing My dad away from the living room And freeing him to splash into a puddle And dissolve into the couch cushions,
Back In Kansas: Dorothy’s Continuing Adventures After Oz Part 3 by Rev. Michael L. Ciavarella The next day was Sunday. The boys were off on Sundays. They still had to tend to the animals. There was never a day off from that. But after that, they could do whatever they wanted. After Uncle Henry, Auntie Em, and I came back from church, I got into my outdoors clothes and went out looking for Hunk. We always went out for a walk on Sundays. We enjoyed each other’s company a lot. It seemed that he and I grew closer everyday. “Wasn’t that wonderful last night?” I asked him. “Dorothy, that was marvelous. Say, you’re a pretty good dancer.” “Oh Hunk, I didn’t know what I was doing. I felt so clumsy. You guys are the dancers. Why, by the time we got through a few songs, I was able to follow all of you.” “Well, if you keep practicing with us, we’ll all get pretty good. Don’t you just love that music, Dorothy?” “Oh, I do. I really do.” *
Zeke has been with us longer than Hunk or Hickory, Hunk being the newest of the three. Farm hands usually don’t stay around too long. It was still the Great Depression and workers kept moving around in hopes of finding something to settle into. Zeke seemed to like it here. He’ll be with us three years in June. Hunk was only five years older than me. Him and I hit it off from the very start. He was always watching out for me. He taught me how to ride Snowball our riding horse. He showed me how to work the reigns when the old mule was pulling the carriage. After that, I would take Auntie Em and Uncle Henry to the First Lutheran Church in town every Sunday morning. When I was out of school, Hunk and I would ride into town and buy our groceries for the week. He’d always let me have the reigns. Auntie Em fussed about that at first, but Hunk earned her trust very early on. He told her that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. So, while Uncle Henry and the guys were out at the barn, Auntie Em made us some tea. We sat at the kitchen table. The setting sun was coming through the window and a cool northwest breeze came through the screen. “Doesn’t that breeze feel nice, Dorothy?” Auntie Em asked me.
That night, after I helped Auntie Em with the supper dishes, Uncle Henry and the guys went out to the barn to play cards and smoke cigars. They always played cards on Sunday nights. Uncle Henry had always done that with the farm hands. It was his way of not being such a boss. Uncle Henry was not the bossy type; but he had to be firm when there was work to be done.
“Oh, yes. It was so warm and muggy before the storm the other day.” “Heavens yes. And with that incubator acting up, I thought we would lose those little chicks. We have Hickory to thank for saving their lives. Sometimes that Hickory can come up with a good idea to fix things around here. He really has a mind for mechanical things.”
....After Oz...continued... “Oh he does, Auntie Em. He is really smart with that sort of thing. You should go out there and see the radio he built. It’s wonderful. We danced to music all night last night.”
I was astonished. “You do?” She nodded. “Oh, Aunt Em. It was the most remarkable place I’ve ever dreamed of. In fact, I don’t think I could have dreamed up a place like Oz.”
“Now, I want you to be careful with them boys,” she admonished. “They are much older than you. I don’t want you getting into any trouble.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Oz?”
“Oh Auntie Em, they won’t get me into any trouble. They are always looking out for me. If anything, they will be there to keep me out of trouble.”
“Whatever are Munchkins, Dorothy?” she asked enthusiastically.
“Okay, but be careful. Now, what is this invention Hickory is working on again?” “He calls it a wind machine. He thinks that he can keep cyclones away by blowing wind at them and causing them to go a different direction. It worked. The twister never touched the house or the barn. You see?” “Oh Dorothy, dear. That is utter nonsense. If that twister had a mind to take this house and the barn, there is nothing Hickory could have done to stop it. Do you know how strong those winds are in that twister?” Resigned, I just said, “Anyway, he thinks it worked.” Auntie Em took a sip of her tea and smiled. She said confidentially, “Well, if he thinks it worked, then we’ll just let him think it. It’ll be our little secret, dear. Sometimes men feel like they have to be the big hero. We’ll let him think that too, okay?” I smiled. “Okay, Auntie Em.” “Now, tell me about this place you visited the other day. I want to know all about it.”
“Yes. It was the Land of Oz. When I first got there, I was in Munchkinland.”
She was really interested in what I had to say. I felt as though she was treating me like an adult. She had always treated me like a child in the past. Today, somehow, she must see me growing up. Maybe I gave her a scare by trying to run away. I told her everything I could think of about Oz. The Munchkins, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Glinda the Good Witch, the Wizard, Emerald City, and of course the Wicked Witch and her sister who the house fell on. That’s when I realized that it all had to be a dream. If the house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East and I walked all the way from Munchkinland to the Emerald City leaving the house behind, how could the house still be here in Kansas? Then again, there was magic about everything that happened in Oz. Who’s to say? When I finished telling Auntie Em about Oz, I was nearly crying all over again because I still missed my friends so much. Even Auntie Em’s eyes seemed a little moist. Auntie Em leaned over and hugged me. She said, “Oh Dorothy, that is quite a story. I notice that you have been writing. Have you been writing about the Land of Oz?” “Yes, I have. I think I will carry Oz with me for the rest of my life.”
....After Oz...continued... “Wonderful, Dorothy. Something so rich and powerful should remain yours forever.” It was getting late and the sun was down now. Uncle Henry would be heading back to the house soon. I hugged Auntie Em again and kissed her goodnight. I had school in the morning and everyone else would be going to bed soon too. When you run a farm, everyone gets up early. * * * * * There were only a few weeks left of school. When the final bell rang, I walked outside and looked for Toto. I was surprised that he wasn’t around. Then I remembered. Toto won’t be waiting for me anymore thanks to wicked ol’ Miss Gulch. On my way home, I have to walk passed Miss Gulch’s place. I wouldn’t look at her house. I wondered if she was in the window watching me. Maybe she was looking to see if Toto was with me. If she was watching, there was nothing to see. I don’t like to admit it, but I think I hate that old crone. She has caused a lot of people a lot of hardship in the past. Sometimes I wish I could have melted her with that water. When I got back to the farm, Toto was jumping up, barking, and following me all around. I hugged him and told him how much I missed him walking home with me. Hunk was hooking the tractor up to the chisel plough. He was smiling and waving me towards him. He was always excited to see me. When I got there, he asked, “Hey Dorothy, wanna go for a ride?” I smiled really big. “Yes!” I replied. I always wanted to ride on the new motorized tractor. Now, I’d be riding it with Hunk. While Hunk got the engine started, I leaned my schoolbooks against the barn, picked up Toto, and
off we went. We ran the tractor up and around the perimeter of the field. It was so much fun. Hunk showed me all the controls of the tractor and how to use them. When we got to the farthest side of the field from the barn, Hunk shut down the tractor and we got off. There were some trees nearby and we went over to lay down underneath one of them so we could look up at the sky. We picked cattails and hung the stems from our mouths. It was so easy to be with Hunk. He was the older brother I never had. He was my best friend. He was more than all of that, but I never admitted that to myself and certainly not to him. I opened my arms to let Toto run. He’s been cooped up around the house for days. He went scampering around exploring the landscape. He never went too far away. “So did old Gulch give you any lip when you walked passed her place today?” asked Hunk. “No. And I wouldn’t even look to see if she was watching. Oh Hunk, I hate her.” “Now, that’s pretty strong, Dorothy.” “I know it is. I’m really ashamed of myself for it too. But she’s nothing but trouble, Hunk.” “Yes, she is. I don’t blame you for feeling that way. She’s always bullying people; especially, kids. Why, sometimes I’d like to go over there and teach her a lesson.” “Oh Hunk, don’t go doing anything that would get you into trouble. I don’t want you to lose your job with us. I like having you here.” Hunk looked at me and smiled a big toothy grin. “Do you, Dorothy? Really?” I looked at him hoping my feelings weren’t showing too much. “Why, yes. Yes, I do, Hunk. You’re the best friend I ever had.”
....After Oz...continued... “Oh, Dorothy. You’re my best friend too.” I thought that this would be a good time to do some fishing; except, I didn’t plan to use a rod and a hook. “Hunk, why don’t you see Annie Beth anymore?” “Oh, Annie Beth? Oh, Annie’s a nice girl. She’s a little immature for her age. Why, she’s 19 and still acts like a school girl.” I looked away trying to sound as passive as I could. “I’m a school girl. I suppose I’m pretty immature too.” “Oh Dorothy, you’re just fine the way you are. And for a 16 year old, you’re pretty mature, personality-wise, that is.” “Oh,” I said in dismay.
at me and said, “Hickory must’ve got your Uncle buffaloed into believing that hunk of junk really works.” We both started laughing. But, I couldn’t help wondering if that old hunk of junk really did keep that twister away. Hunk shut down the tractor and jumped out. Then, he ran around to my side and helped me out. We heard Hickory giggling. Hunk turned around and hollered, “What are you snickering about?” Hickory pointed at us and said, “I get it. I see what’s happing.” Then, he laughed some more. Hunk frowned and replied, “How would you like me to come over there and smack that smirk off of that ugly puss of yours?” “No need, Hunk. The picture is perfectly clear.”
“Oh, I mean,” he started back paddling, “you’re pretty. I mean – “ I looked back at Hunk. “Do you really think so?” He smiled shyly, “I do. You know Dorothy, I think I’d rather hang around with you than ten other girls I know.” I put my hand on his. My heart was soaring. “Oh Hunk, that’s so sweet of you to say. Do you mean that?” Hunk looked me right in the eyes and whispered tenderly, “I mean that.” We kept looking into each other’s eyes for another moment or two. It felt like forever. Then, we decided that we should head back to the barn before Uncle Henry started wondering where on earth Hunk had disappeared to. As we approached the barn, Uncle Henry and Hickory were working on Hickory’s wind machine. Hunk chuckled. He looked over
“Aaaa.” Hunk waved him off. Uncle Henry just puffed on his pipe and smiled. I looked up at Hunk and thanked him for the ride. He smiled at me. “Don’t listen to that mouth over there, Dorothy. He’s just giving us a hard time.” But I wasn’t bothered at all. I was floating. Someone really likes me. The whole thing was flattering. Hunk drove the tractor and the chisel plough over to the side of the barn. He was getting it ready for tilling the ground and spring planting. That would start very soon. All the boys would be very busy from now on through the summer and into the fall. I picked up my schoolbooks from where I left them and started for the house. I had to do my homework and get ready for final tests. I was two years from graduating high school. I wanted my diploma more than anything else. Auntie Em encouraged me to get my education. She said that my father would have wanted this for me and she would do everything she could to get me through it. On my way back to the house, the Sheriff pulled up. Uncle Henry headed in his direction to meet him.
....After Oz...continued... “Howdy there, Henry. Things sure have cooled off out here, haven’t they?” Uncle Henry shook the Sheriff’s hand. “Yep, sure has. Funny thing about them twisters. There’s always cool weather right behind ‘em.” “Did you have a lot of damage? Looks like your house and barn are okay.” “Just a little minor damage. Nothing to get all shook up about. The front screen door blew off and the fence needed a lift and Dorothy’s bedroom window blew in. Other than that, everything is all right. We got it all fixed up again.” “That’s good, Henry. You know, you and me go back a long way. We went to school together and even dated some of the same old girls back in the good ol’ days.” “That’s right, Jake. Times are changin’, aren’t they?” “They sure are, Henry. They sure are.” The Sheriff cleared his throat. “Now, there’s this matter with old Gulch.” The Sheriff and Uncle Henry had an easy way of talking to each other. “You know as well as I do that she’s the town menace. She’s got this burr in her bonnet about your dog.” “That she does, Jake. Can you help us out? I can’t let her break Dorothy’s heart. Why, she nearly ran away the day of the cyclone except that magician fellow had the sense enough to talk her into comin’ back. Isn’t there something we can do to keep that old goat quiet?” “Well, Henry, she wants to press charges against you and I don’t want it to come to that. You pay your taxes and you’re entitled to fair treatment. Now, I’m not going to stir the pot any more than I have to in this matter. It happens that Judge Fareway and me play golf together. When that old heifer came crying about Toto biting her, I knew just what she had on her mind. So I went to see Judge Fareway this morning. I told him the situation and asked him to write you a directive.”
Uncle Henry asked, “Well, what kind of a directive?” “It’s like this, Henry. If you promise to keep Toto on your property, he will keep Gulch quiet so she can’t take your dog or your farm. How about it, Henry? Agreed?” Uncle Henry gave the Sheriff a hearty handshake. “You bet, Jake. I can’t thank you enough. Dorothy will be pleased as punch.” “Good. I hope the old maid never contacts me again about anyone. But you know as well as I do, Henry. That old bird can’t stop crowing.” I was elated. I hugged Toto and cried. This time I cried tears of joy. Toto would not be leaving us. He’d be here for the rest of his life. I knew that I would miss him meeting me at the schoolhouse door in the afternoon, but with only two years of school to go, I would be all right with that. Professor Marvel said that his spell would keep Miss Gulch off of my back. Whatever he did, worked fine. But I couldn’t help thinking that whether the Professor cast a spell or not, the outcome would have been the same. It’s just like Hickory’s wind machine. Whether he would have started that machine or not, would the twister still have missed our house and the barn? I suppose I’ll never know. Now my thoughts are on something much bigger than any of that. I think I’m in love with Hunk. I’m pretty certain he feels the same. I’ll spend the whole summer dreaming about Hunk and me spending our lives together and making a home of our own. The future looks so wonderful. Who knows what wonderful things are about to happen after the summer of 1941. I am so happy and excited about tomorrow. I couldn’t help but notice, as I looked up through the trees into the most beautiful blue sky, how the wind had begun to change.
Beginning and Endings of Relationships (original title “Growing Up”) by Lana Marye Irony is a funny thing– I say this in contemplation of one specific reference: Sometimes it’s the people that we’ve held onto the longest, that, when were ready; are the easiest to let go. Whether its relationships or friendships. Maybe it’s because while we held tight to that person, what we were really holding, was our idea of them. I say “idea” because of the pesky irony… The irony, that even though we may see good and beautiful qualities in another person, they may never see it in themselves. Just because you love someone, doesn’t mean that they love themselves. This problem successfully masks itself while growing up. By the time your 20something, some people are mature, some immature. Some people have grow-up, some are on their way, and some are destined to be life-long Toys R’ Us kids. We are all on our own path, struggling to find our own way. What is difficult to understand, is that just because we start off at the same place, doesn’t mean we end up any where near the same place. So while we struggle to accept this, we hold on to hope that a certain person (relationship or friendship) will end in the same place. We see characteristics in these people that show, with some faith, hope and hard work, they could end up at the same finish line. That hope overtime morphs into fullfledged belief. Belief that the person could and would hurry to… Grow-up Catch-up Rise to the occasion See the good in themselves that we see; AND Realize all the wonderful things they deserved in life, because we realized it We hold on to this IDEA, this hope, this belief– for weeks, months and in some cases of strong believers(like myself) years. We hold out, waiting for a person to see their own potential. But sometimes waiting is as far as the progress goes. Whether the situation is “we have been together for years” OR “we have been friends forever” the point is that TIME does NOT bind people. What bind us is that we have to continue to grow in the same direction. As much as I don’t want to admit it, some people never grow up, and if they do, it doesn’t that there growing alongside us. So should we feel hopeless or defeated because we find ourselves to be one of the “believers”? Should we feel naïve because we are the hopeful few who holds on to an IDEA of person and see’s the great person they have the potential to be? I don’t think so. I don’t think this seems fair. We shouldn’t feel bad for seeing the good in someone (even if they only reveal it to us and no one else). We shouldn’t feel bad for believing in someone. We are learning too, 20something is about trial and error. We just have to manage and gage how much hope and energy we invest. Page 47
Beginning and Endings of Relationships.. continued.. . So while we waiting in baited breath for our friends and relationships to move with the times, we must not forget about the irony of it all. If I’ve learned anything in my 20something years, it’s that you can’t force people... To do what you want them to do See what you want them to see, OR Act how you want them to act. The only thing we can control is ourselves. This is frustrating and sometimes disappointing– but once we accept this–we can walk away from the people--the ones where we have been holding on to their IDEA. The people that we have been hoping will grow and evolve into something more. Once we realize this irony…it’s much easier to let go. Once we see that our IDEA of a person is only an interpretation. Remembering that is may not be WHO they are or WANT to be. Recognizing this and accepting this is what makes letting go and stepping away much easier. I think there is some truth that you have to let some things fall apart so others can fall into place. I want to avoid all cheesy “Hallmark-isms” but I think this is so true. By 20something most of people have already discovered and revealed their core person. Sure, they have more things to accomplish and add to their resume of life; but core characteristics are already laid out. So, we have to let go of our “IDEA of a person” and accept people just as they are. Once we do this, it is much clearer whether they has a good or bad influence/impact on our life; whether they add to our joys or our sorrows; whether they make life a little easier or a little more difficult. This is something we have to examine for our own sake. This is something that we have to do if we want to keep growing up and moving forward. And like all “grown–up tasks” it is a complicated and tough...but most times when we are honest with ourselves it is difficult. The upside is that once we let our IDEA of a person fall apart, we open ourselves up to new people who may help our lives come together. SHORT AND SWEET…AKA…MORAL OF THE BLOG Good judgment comes from experience…but experience comes from bad judgment. So we must forgive ourselves for acquiring experience, by holding onto our IDEA of a person. Once we can get past the hurt and disappointment that some people are not growing along side us, we can be objective. We can step back and be honest with ourselves. The truth is that no one wants to be pressured to be something they are not, and no one wants to constantly overcompensate for someone else’s shortcomings. As we grow up we leave some people behind. Sometimes its people that we want to hold onto, but we have to let go and accept this. We have to, so new people, who are already growing in the same direction, can fit into our lives. xoxo Lana “Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what’s to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come. The thing is, we didn’t have to hate each other for getting older. We just had to forgive ourselves... for growing up.” – The Wonder Years
Remember when… we waited for hours on end to get into a show sometimes the weather was gorgeous often it was cold or rainy and we didn’t know if it would be worth it but it always was remember how every moment mattered whether it was the tiniest smile or wave or song played it was always important to us remember the endless bus rides the repeat road trips to random towns the hours upon hours of driving listening to music in the car preparing ourselves for what was to come remember sitting in fields waiting for it all to start and spending god knows how long in the scorching sun or bundled up in a blanket or under an umbrella remember the time it was about the music and only about the music because that’s all we were ever really there for but we somehow got incredibly lucky and met some amazing people and somehow… somehow we got lucky and found each other. ♥
How I Got Here, Part II
by Dana Aritonovich
It was certainly a struggle at first, especially when I was stressed out or depressed, but I avoided alcohol like the plague. Like I said, not going out was a huge help, though people didn’t understand. I think a big part of their lack of support was not wanting to acknowledge that I had a problem. They would have to think about their role in it (buying me drinks all the time—in one case, buying me bottles of wine when I was too poor to afford wine or milk or eggs!), and they would have to think about their own drinking and whether it was a problem which, for some, it was. So it was obviously easier to say that I was just overreacting, that I shouldn’t stop drinking altogether, maybe just cut down a bit instead. Isn’t that ridiculous? How dare someone try to tell me that I don’t know when I have a problem. It was inconvenient for people that I was not going out like I used to, it was an affront to the lifestyle they wanted to continue to lead. I was anti-social, yes, partly out of depression and just plain being too busy with school, but a major part of it was just preferring to stay away from the environment in which I was a drunken mess for all those years, and I admit that I wanted to stay away from people who encouraged me to drink and be scandalous and all that, people close to me who triggered my self-destructive tendencies. Why would someone who loves me want me to be in an unhealthy environment like that? It is ultimately my decision to drink or not, and to do the other things I was trying to avoid, but being around people and places where all I did was act like a hot drunken mess certainly did not inspire me to keep on the new path I was trying to create for myself. I had no support in this from friends. People I was closest to did not approve of the changes I was trying to make. “I was in grad school and worked full-time and we still went out all the time—why can’t you do it?” was what I heard. Nobody was happy that I was trying to get my life together. Now, when I say “nobody”, I am not including my family in that, because I pretty much kept this from them. They are certainly glad I am doing better, but they didn’t know the extent of the issues I was having at the time. The friends I counted on the most were not there for me when I needed them. The ones who were there for me don’t live around here, but at least we could talk on the phone. But the people I really needed the most compassion, encouragement, and love abandoned me. I was tossed aside and pretty much forgotten. They continued to party and do all the things I used to do with them. Instead of making other plans with me that didn’t involve the bar, they just left me behind. I was basically told that they couldn’t NOT go out to the bars, that sitting around with me doing something chill and sober was boring. I understand that it is no fun to be around someone who is depressed all the time, but part of my unhappiness was being confused about my role in their lives. I was beginning to realize that I was never really a friend; I was just method by which they could gain popularity. In the spring I decided to try to reconnect with a guy I had had a fling with a few years earlier. It was a weird situation: we really didn’t have a relationship, and at that time had not even seen each other for over three years. But we talked on the phone once in a while, and the conversations were always amazing. But I wrote him off the year before in a long email after some drama, but suddenly felt compelled to see what he was up to. In the spirit of my new life path, I wanted to see if he had made any changes. He said he had. He stopped drinking and smoking pot all the time, he was in school, he was starting a website. We began emailing and chatting online regularly, and eventually talked on the phone. I was going to write a blog for his website. We didn’t talk about our history together, which was good, because I still liked him a lot and knew I could easily get sucked into the drama. It was nice to have someone to talk to. I told him about everything I had been going through in the past year, and he gave me his insight and compassion. It was great! I never thought that a straight guy would really Page 50
How I Got Here, Part II...continued... understand me, but he seemed to. We talked about the issues I was having with a friend, and he was so caring and wonderful when telling me his thoughts about it. It felt nice to have a friend like that. Around the time that we reconnected I found out that I was not going to be part of a certain community event that I had been involved with for six years. The new people who took over, people whom I had helped and stupidly trusted, screwed me over big time and gave my job to somebody else. If they had told me beforehand that they were going in another direction, I would have at least respected them. But they just did it and said not a word to me about it. My friend told me, and I was pissed off. This friend, however, was still planning on helping out at the event, despite the way I had been lied to and disrespected by these people. He went back and forth between volunteering and not, until he finally told me he had to work that day and could not volunteer. I believed him. Two of my friends from out of town were in Cleveland the weekend of the event, even though I was no longer participating. One was going to volunteer but changed his mind as soon as he got there. I was working that whole day at my retail job; we were in the middle of an arts festival. We had gone out the night before, the first time I had really been out in about six months. It was very awkward for me to be out and sober. I was worried. I didn’t know if I could have fun, or if anyone would think I was still cool or interesting. Would anyone even remember who I was? I was really scared. But it was a lot of fun, and the boys were all so happy to see me. My close friend, the one who was originally going to volunteer and then had to work, was there with his other friends, and some guy I didn’t know. My friend had told me a month earlier that he had broken up with his long-term boyfriend, but they were still living together. He had been dating someone new, but I didn’t know for how long or who it was. But there was a different guy out with him and his friends that night. My friend avoided me like the plague all evening. I still had fun, but it was a mixed bag of emotions all weekend. I was upset about not being involved with this event, I felt weird being sober, something weird was going on with my close friend but I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I had other friends around me who were happy to see me and supportive of my sobriety. I had to work the next morning so I left kind of early, and my close friend was talking to that random guy, hands on each other’s upper thighs, when I left. He said he had to work 12 hours the next day, so I told him he should leave soon. He told me they were going to let him come in at 10AM instead of 7AM, so he could stay out a bit. I reminded him that he could come by my place the next night for cocktails and appetizers before we all went out. I could not sleep that night. It was exhilarating being out and being remembered and everyone telling me how good I looked. They wondered why I was drinking bottled water so I briefly explained. They thought it was cool that I recognized an issue and took care of it (they recognized this, generally, through beer goggles!). In the morning I went to work, and my close friend called a couple of times in the afternoon as I met a friend for my lunch break. He said he was at work, and asked what I thought about the guy he was with the night before. I told him that one of my other friends thought the guy was “skeevy”, and I said he just didn’t seem right for my friend. I told him he needed a more professional man, someone with his own money and house and everything—an adult! He said that the other guy he had been seeing was more like that. I had not met this other person, but I said that he needs someone who knows who he is and who won’t put up with any shit from my friend. Page 51
How I Got Here, Part II...continued... There was a major rainstorm that day, just as the arts festival was coming to a close. The friend I had gone to lunch with asked if I wanted to drive up to the other event to see how triflin’ it was, and I said no, that I just wanted to keep my distance. We ended up driving past it, and we saw lines of cars driving away because of the rain. The event had shut down around 6PM. My friend and I went out to eat. As we walked into the restaurant, the straight guy called me—I think this was the first time he had actually called me since we started emailing and chatting online. I let it go to voicemail, and then texted him to say we could talk later. When we talked that night (as I dolled myself up for the night), I told him the Reader’s Digest version of my drama, and we really had a great conversation. I remembered why I always loved talking to him. There was no pressure, nothing big, just two people sharing their thoughts. Wonderful! Nobody came over for drinks and apps before the bar that night; I didn’t get home in time to prepare anything anyway. I picked up my California friend; I called my close friend on the way, and left him a message about hoping to see him out. I actually called a few times. As my Cali friend and I walked toward the bar’s front door, I saw my close friend, his friends, and the skeevy guy from the night before, walking down the sidewalk. I asked what was up, that I had been calling, why didn’t he come over to my place. He told me he didn’t get out of work until 8:30PM, and he couldn’t call because his phone died (I hear that a lot). He went right to his other friend’s house from work, he said. The next day, a bunch of us were going to Cedar Point. My close friend mentioned that he had to get up early for work the next day. “So I guess you’re not coming to Cedar Point?” I asked. He said no, that he was “mandated” to work the next day. I was upset, but told him that I understood if he had to work. That was the last I saw of him. He and his friends slipped out of the bar without saying goodbye. It was a rough night for me, and my gut was telling me something was going on. I called him when I got home around 2:30AM, knowing he wouldn’t answer. I was crying and saying that I knew something was wrong, we needed to talk, this was a serious issue. I had trouble sleeping. He called me in the morning, saying he only heard part of my message (the part where I wasn’t crying, of course). I asked why he didn’t say goodbye the night before, and he said he couldn’t find me. I really couldn’t get into everything right then because I had to get ready for Cedar Point. He called me three more times that day, and something just wasn’t right. I know his patterns. He was trying to cover something up. I had fun with my other friends at Cedar Point. But my gut was telling me that there was a problem, a serious problem with this other friend. My grandmother’s intuition had definitely seeped into my body.
Beginning of Maturity and Endings of Youthful Naiveté (original title “The ONE”) by Lana Marye I sat on the train today commuting into the city and among all of the people rushing to work I noticed an elderly couple. They boarded the train, couldn’t find seats together and each sat on the end of the row; allowing the aisle to separate them. As the train moved away from the station, the man reached out over the aisle and grabbed the woman’s hand. They only held hands for about a minute, then he smiled at her and let her hand go. It wasn’t anything monumental, just a gesture, and it got me thinking…. • If they were young, I would have thought about how naïve they were. Its puppy love… • If they were my age, I would have thought about how cheesy they were. Ugh it’s the morning commute for God’s sake... • But because they were in their 70’s, I thought about how damn cute they were. It made me think that maybe all the Hallmark bullshit about “Love” may not be a marking ploy just to sell overprices greeting cards after all. I have wanted to blog about Love before but I just couldn’t get motivated. I even considered making a Blog entitled “Love is all you…HAHA” but I couldn’t whole heartedly mock love either. I was on the fence, in the middle. Maybe its because… When we talk about love we allow ourselves to be vulnerable OR We don’t want to jinx it OR We don’t want to get our hopes up OR We are afraid to plan on it OR We have been hurt and we just can’t find it within ourselves to believe at the moment Whatever the reason... Love as a 20something is a touchy topic. But the people on the train inspired me today to write about it. So here goes… At this point in our lives, each and every single one of us has been burned by what we thought was love. In some cases, maybe it was, in others we have to believe it wasn’t. Either way, by 20something, we all have our own battle wounds and we have all endured our own suffering on a count of love. Some of us have been left jaded and some of us have moved forward. The problem is that by 20something were moving in all different directions. I have friends who are single, involved in something complicated, in a relationship, engaged or even married with children. After high school and college we disperse. There is no more set-track or timeline to follow. So those of us who are single (like myself) wonder if maybe we have fallen behind. Those of us who are in relationships wonder if we’re rushing or settling. It’s complication…actually it’s a mess. Right now I’m single and on a “weak moment” I think… Will I ever meet someone? Am I ever really going to be satisfied with one person? Am I going to be single the rest of my life? Page 53
Beginning of Maturity and Endings of Youthful Naiveté.. continued.. When I was in a relationship and had a “weak moment” I thought… Am I really happy with this person? Do we have Hollywood-Movie-Titanic-like chemistry? Is that chemistry even real? Am I cutting myself short? Is there someone else out there waiting for me? Bottom Line…Whether we’re single or in a relationship, at 20something– we are cautious, unsure and questioning. The sad truth is that dating only gets harder as we get older. No longer do we like someone solely on our ideas that they are “cute” or “fun” or “cool.” These things still matter, but only to a degree. They are no longer the make or break of a relationship. The characteristics become more complex. “Cute” becomes “chemistry” “fun” becomes “motivated/driven” and “cool” becomes “similar interests.” We have all new categories to define and examine. I’m not sure if the idea of the ONE makes me hopeful and whimsical or straight up anxious. I’m leaning more toward anxious. Sometimes I believe in the ONE and sometimes I think it is putting all of this pressure on us. While we wait for the ONE we concoct this idea of a fictitious person. This ridiculous idea of the ONE is what I think can be mocked---The idea of a check list of characteristics and attributes that we believe the ONE should have. It is all so silly because its forcing unrealistic expectations onto the next poor person we date. So in my desperate attempt to mock Love, I can’t do it! I can mock the check list theory of the ONE– that one person will meet and exceed our list expectations. This I can mock, and rightfully so, because somewhere along the way, the meaning got skewed. But then there is another theory of the ONE…the theory of the ONE where Love comes in. When Love is involved the ONE is viewed differently. The person no longer has to be the perfect match to our paper checklist. We not longer see that The ONE as a superman waiting on a white horse. Instead, the ONE is just a regular person, faults and all, who we decide that we just don’t want to live without. This theory I can live with. This I can support. This is what I need to be reminded of. So, as I looked at the couple on the train today, I thought that maybe they are the proof that love is out there. Maybe they weren’t high school sweethearts. Maybe they weren’t even married. But in that moment, to each other; they were the ONE person that they didn’t want to be without. Maybe that is enough… SHORT AND SWEET…AKA…MORAL OF THE BLOG Lets stop taking the phrase the ONE so literal. Maybe at different points in our lives there are different “ones” who we need and want along the way. Maybe for some people there is a single ONE, but for others, maybe not. I don’t really think anyone has the answer--Either way the subtly of holding hands across an aisle of a crowded train, serves as a small reminders that love is out there, for any age, at any time. xoxo Lana “Love is not singular except in syllable.” ~Marvin Taylor “The past is behind us, love is in front and all around us.” ~Emme Woodhull-Bäche
It’s For You
by Sharon Pelletier
I can’t stand talking to other people. I keep my eyes on my shoes in the elevators and I never smile at strangers. So why am I talking to you? You are my paycheck, you and a thousand like you. I put on my headphones this morning and the computer dialed your number. There’s an account number on my screen, a phone number, a balance and a name. Except I know you’re not there, because I called you a week ago and I spoke to your son. I could hear his voice crackling through the phone, heard the quiver of his lip and the spasming of his chest. You died a week ago, leaving a balance of a couple thousand dollars on your credit card account. Your file passed to the Sensitive Collections department, which lurks in a dusky quadrant of the top floor of this building. People don’t come up here much – not much to see, not much to hear. We’re trained to speak softly and gently, kindly. I started my career with this company in the General Collections department. My voice learned to be angry, authoritative, threatening, irresistible. My throat barked meanly, wearing into a growl by the end of Thursday afternoon, and I would nurse my vocal cords through Friday with a mug of hot water – just a little lemon and salt, no tea. Then I transferred to Sensitive Collections. That’s a polite way of saying what we do. Or really, of not saying it. This is why I hate talking to people. Because you can’t say what’s true. You have to say everything around it, and only the smartest ones piece together the shape and see what’s missing in the middle. So I spend the day murmuring stealthily to devastated sons, angry daughters, confused husbands and weeping wives. “Yes, I’m so sorry, sir. Unfortunate that we have to bother you at a time like this. Why don’t I contact you at another time.” That’s the secret, you see. That’s what we learned in our three-week course, creating in a handful of words the illusion that we are friends. We are sad, we are groping, we are hesitant. We are mortified at the serendipity that landed our call in the lap of the bereaved just days after the funeral. Because no one can know that Sensitive Collections exists. We’re taught to insinuate that we are just another harassing operator, stunned into humanity by the ugly coincidence of calling on a dead person’s account. And the listener on the other end, accustomed to the brash and bullying tactics of General Collections, is hoodwinked in the midst of their pain and their relief that even the credit card monster is jolted into an understanding tone of voice. So I breathe, I whisper, I murmur, I hang up with a payment scheduled for a hundred bucks and an anguished but freely-given commitment that the account will be paid in full in a timely fashion – “It’s what Daddy would have wanted. He was so careful about his money, you see. I can’t imagine how this bill even mounted like this. It shows you how he was slipping at the end, poor thing. If only we Page 55
It’s For You.. continued.. had known.” Of course. If only you had known. That his brain was rotting? No, that Daddy had a tempting little internet poker habit, had been carrying a tab just on this side of General Collections for nearly a decade. That your sweet sister charged all her utility bills to keep herself in rum and vodka. That your mother-in-law spent more on adopting endangered species than on her prescriptions and special dietary foods. Those are the things I don’t say. I breathe, I whisper. And I don’t mind the tender half-suggested lies that I dispense every day because I’m not talking to people. I’m talking to beings that lost a piece of themselves with the casket, into the ground. Answerers sickened by grief and crazed by shock are not people. I talk to them and I listen. They hear my voice on the phone, my muted demands and flooding apologies, and they know it’s safe to talk, now, for a moment. They don’t have to be strong for me. They don’t have to comfort me. They just have to explain that someone is dead and they don’t notice as their words leak into paragraphs, into elegies, words dropping underneath sobs. Silences. They finish their words and they want me to say something. They wait for me to fix it. They want me to settle this horrible thing and they forget that paying a credit card account won’t bring someone out of the grave. But part of them – part of their bank account – can pay to pretend. The coffin is holy and the coffin doesn’t exist. They make a payment, set up direct withdrawal, or promise to call me “when everything is straightened out.” I make a note in the file, mark my calendar for a follow-up, move on to the next. Reset the stage, shaking an etch-a-sketch. “Hello, may I speak to…oh, I’m so sorry…” A week ago I spoke to your son. He was calm and sad and responded quickly. As he was reading off his bank number, I remembered him. We had worked together at my first job, a lifetime ago, when I was still pretending that I could write news. He was a photographer. We were kind of friends. We would sometimes drink at the same places or order the same Chinese food. He was a person I loved to talk to. And now his mother was dead. I remembered hearing the stories he told about you, sometimes. The honey-glazed ham you baked for Easter, the ornaments you crocheted every Christmas for your grandnieces and nephews. He was your only child and had given you no grandbabies, when I knew him. You would tease him about this, very sincerely. Sometimes I wondered – I was young then, and really very silly – what you Page 56
It’s For You.. continued.. would think of me if we ever met. If your brown eyes (I was sure they were the same color as his) would look at me sternly or with affectionate approval. I ended the call and hoped it wasn’t one of the dozen or so a day that the Quality Control Manager for Sensitive Collections would choose to review. I had stumbled a bit at the end, picturing your son’s brown eyes looking down at your closed ones. I sat at my desk for the rest of the day, last week. I made no more calls. I went home at the usual time, cooked my usual small dinner, honored my usual bedtime. I wanted to wake up to an empty morning. I woke up groggy and unrested with a broken voice. It wouldn’t slip into the coffee-smooth grooves of every day. It wouldn’t caress tearstained pennies and dollars out of hands with coffin blisters. The headphones pressed harshly into the flesh behind my ears. I pressed the redial button over and over. My voice stayed broken. I can’t stand talking to people. Your brown eyes – your son’s brown eyes – made them people. I went to your funeral. I couldn’t help it. And I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see you or your son. He had told me on the phone that he had just come in from the visitation – he was making your little house ready for the river of mourners and gawkers. I stood in a shadow at the funeral home and watched a little girl throw a tantrum on the floor in front of your casket. A woman with mascara staining her cheeks bent helplessly nearby as the screams and fists and heels raged. Then I heard, from behind me, a soft panting gait, the pad of furry feet, and a glowing dog brushed past me. It looked up briefly, searching my eyes, almost seemed to nod – “This one’s ok” and continued on its way. It ambled down the middle off the room, right up to the shrieking little girl, and nosed around her chin, licking the saltiness off her unwrinkled skin. She hushed mid-howl. Her mother froze. I stared. How strange to see a dog in a funeral home. This soft yellow thing was wearing a vest, blue trimmed with red. A service pup. Someone’s guide dog, perhaps? Were your brown eyes blind? The little girl was hugging the dog frenziedly, sitting up, tugging frantically at its ears. It stood quietly, calmly, tail loping back and forth gently. A little boy, slightly older, approached hesitantly from the side, crept forward and tentatively stroked the dog’s back. The woman came unfrozen and moved the little group to the side out of the way. The dog turned its face to me and looked in my eyes again, from across the room. It had that doggy smile on its face, the look of wise simplicity, like the open mouth of Yorick’s skull. I wanted to rush forward and join the children on my knees next to it, knot my fingers in its fur, hide my eyes, my voice from the people of the world. I heard hushed adult voices talking somewhere near my elbow. The funeral home director was explaining in a honey whisper, an oddly familiar tone and cadence, that they were hosting an Page 57
It’s For You.. continued.. experimental canine therapy program. He went on mumbling about child therapists, developmental theories, notions of judgement-free love, infinite patience. Unconditional comfort. I turned away from the coffin, left the room. I sat at my desk and I burned. The headphones clutched my head soundlessly. I spoke to no one, as usual, but I hated the sight of my shoes. I hated the lines that replayed in my head when I looked at the redial button. The lies that replayed in my head. Then I dialed the first number. “Hello sir. I’m calling from your credit card company, can I speak to…. oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. I am truly sorry to bother you at this time. Let me just take a moment to reassure you that this account has been paid in full. And I would like to offer you our deepest condolences at this time. Goodbye.” A few clicks of the mouse. Then redial. “Yes, hello, can I speak to…oh, I’m so sorry. I will only take a moment of your time. Just confirming that the balance has been settled satisfactorily…”
I’ve been making these calls all week. I’m sure they’ll notice eventually. I’m sure they’ll do something to me. I’m sure I’ll have to talk to someone. And now I’ve dialed your number, and of course your son answered. “Yes, it’s me with your credit card company again. I’m so sorry to bother you so soon, but I’m afraid we’ve made an awful mistake. The outstanding balance was incorrectly reported. You’re paid in full…”
Contributor Bios Jane Marie: Jane has been writing her whole life, and has worked as a freelance writer for three years. Her blog, I Really Suck at This, is a humorous look at her attempt to balance marriage, motherhood, a full time job, being pregnant, and raising a child. Website: http://isuck-atthis.blogspot.com. Lisa Morford: I’ve been blogging officially since July 2008, but I recently launched my newest blog due to my desire to be more serious about blogging. I gain so much inspiration every day from all the wonderful blogs I’ve found, and my hope is to be able to give back a little of what I get. Website: http://www.lovecommalisa.com. Lana Marye: I am pursuing my M.A. in Writing Studies. These posts are from my blog which I will be using as my thesis. I hope to put them together and publish them as my first book. Website: www.lanas20something. blogspot.com Magnolia: i’ve been a writer ever since i learned how to craft a sentence. i write seriously and heavily in my professional/academic life; blogging is a way to stay connected with my love of the written word. Website: http://magnolia-thoughts.blogspot.com Steffeni J: I started writing experimentally during primary school, and have been enjoying literature since. I also explore other forms of creativity, but so far I find that I am probably most comfortable expressing myself through words. Website: http://chimchum.blogspot.com. Catherine Wells/verybadcat: Blogging since 2007, wants to be a writer when she grows up. Website: http:// cattails.me/ Meredith Dabek a.k.a. Ordinary Mer: A lifelong addict of reading and writing, Meredith has been blogging in one form or another since 2002. She still has no idea what she’s doing. Website: http://www.ordinarymer.com. Lawrence Lai aka Ecner Wal: This blog post was written whilst contemplating deep thoughts and the meaning of life, i.e. sheer boredom. Website: http://doodidooda.blogspot.com. Chase: Chase is a 20-Something blogger, world traveler, teacher, and community advocate. He writes introspective realities on every-day-normality because he believes life is a journey. Website: http://www.chaseandre. com/thedrift/ M’liss: Music isn’t my life, it’s me. It has slowly made it’s way into each aspect of my life and shaped the person I have become and am still becoming. There are a lot of things I have yet to accomplish in my writing and I’m still learning how to channel all my influences into my work. Billygean: Compulsively read blogger - sharing too much information since 2005 Website: http://www.billygean.co.uk
Contributor Bios Sharon Pelletier: Iâ€™ve been writing books since I was six years old, but have become remarkably less prolific as I grow up and learn to question myself. I ramble on my blog while secretly dreaming up grand sentences and curious characters; occasionally I am bold enough to let myself write them. Website: http://ceilingflickers. blogspot.com Rebecca a.k.a. amperlee: Iâ€™ve been a photographer for over ten years. I studied photography in college, and worked with different studios in CT, AZ and PA before starting my own studio based just outside DC. Website: http://amperlee.wordpress.com/ Janet Wallace a.k.a. Slice of Pink: Janet Wallace is a wife, law student, photographer, writer, bicycle rider, dress wearer, cat owner, wine drinker, thank you card sender, and hostess with the mostess. Website: http://sliceofpink.typepad.com Courtney McManaway: (bio to be updated via website)