Co-Editors: Roshena Berndlmaier, Ashley Scheiber, Cassie Towler Production:
The Griffin is a literary journal sponsored by Gwynedd-Mercy College. Its mission is to enrich society by nurturing and promoting creative writing that demonstrates a unique and intelligent voice. We seek writing which accurately embodies or reflects the human condition with all its intellectual, emotional and ethical challenges. Like the mythical griffin, a constructed creature of fearless strength and courage, we prefer formed works rather than experimental ones. Manuscripts of literary works â€“ poetry, short stories, short plays, reflections â€“ are accepted for consideration for publication throughout the year. Copyright 2011 by Gwynedd-Mercy College. Subscriptions available for $10. Checks for subscriptions should be made payable to Gwynedd-Mercy College and sent to: The Griffin c/o Dr. Donna M. Allego Gwynedd-Mercy College 1325 Sumneytown Pike P.O. Box 901 Gwynedd Valley, PA 19437-0901
Donna M. Allego Editor
After a brief hiatus, The Griffin has returned! The Griffin staff is very pleased to resume our relationship with our readers, and we hope that you enjoy the works which shed light on our human experiences. We are blessed with authors and photographers who journey into nature and also offer reflections on significant issues, some of them the darker side of life and others more joyous and humorous. And, of course, no issue would be complete without meta works about writing and art. This year The Griffin has added a new feature. The arts are amply represented by photography submitted by Gwynedd-Mercy College students. If you examine the table of contents, you will also notice that GMC students are well represented in the poetry and prose selections. I am personally thrilled to see so many GMC students joining the professional writers in the 2011 edition, and I offer a deep hearted thanks to the professors who encouraged them to submit their work. From the entire Griffin staff, blessings to all of our readers, writers, and artists.
Table of Contents
Blue Plant Silveria Rodriguez*......................................................... 9
The Rock By the Side of the Pond J. Richard McLaughlin............. 10
Railyard Sunset Art Fox................................................................ 12
Dead Fox on Wolf road Art Fox.................................................... 13
Fall Fred Yannantuono.................................................................. 15
Wide Open Joanna K. Walker*...................................................... 16
Pink Flowers with Water John Maisey*......................................... 18
Striking Portrait Connie Wrzesniewski**....................................... 19
What is Spirituality? Kerri Bulger.................................................. 20
What Does It Mean to be a Person or Self? Suzy Jaggers*............. 22
Spirituality Amanda Hickson*...................................................... 24
Warms the Soul Aubree Luquet..................................................... 26
Falls Roshena Berndlmaier*.......................................................... 29
Creak Elizabeth Connolly*........................................................... 30
Back to Life Kriste A. Matrisch...................................................... 31
Belongings Jennifer Lang.............................................................. 36
The Chair Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt................................................ 41 v
Twelve Years Old and Going on Eighty Becca Pava....................... 42
The Simple Truth B.J. Yudelson.................................................... 45
Brescia and Beyond: My Study Abroad Trip to Italy Gabrielle Rosin*...................................................................... 48
Moth Jonathan Hogga*................................................................ 61
Unpredicted Morrow Dowdle....................................................... 62
My Enemy, My Weakness Sean Hegarty....................................... 63
All the Wealth in the World Philip S. Goldberg............................. 64
Moss Mollie Illinberger*............................................................... 69
9/11 Daniel John.......................................................................... 70
Sunset Ann Minoff........................................................................ 71
The Eulogy Angelo Fiorentino*..................................................... 72
Ocean Reflection Jessica Rufe*..................................................... 73
A Record Randall Brown.............................................................. 74
Stolen Requiem Rachel de Baere................................................... 77
A Likely Story William A. Henkin................................................. 78
Spirituality Justin Boyer*.............................................................. 79
A Literary Affair Bonnie Stanard.................................................. 81
The Problem with Our Dialog Robert Frazier............................... 82
Tincture of Scribes Connie Wrzesniewski**................................... 85
Golden River Roshena Berndlmaier*............................................. 86
Death Seer Prologue Justin Boyer*................................................ 87
Call Me Bob Strother.................................................................... 94
The Planting of the Spectre, A Story of the Crow Witch Mike Phillips............................................................................ 97
Angelic Crucifixion Justin Boyer*............................................... 101
Halloween Wendi M. Lee............................................................ 104
The Unicorn Jae Easley.............................................................. 108
Man and Dog Jessica Rufe*........................................................ 112
A Gift of Soul Norman Nathan.................................................. 113
A Response to Job Rachel Morrell*............................................. 116
The Day the Sun Stopped Shining Elizabeth Harrison*............... 120
A Response to Job Rachael Faye Fitzgerald*............................... 121
My Visit to Ellis Island and “Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America” Linda Ogden*.......................... 123
On Message Eileen Hennessy..................................................... 127
Pink Sky Jessica Rufe*................................................................. 128
In Still Joy Sean Hegarty............................................................. 129
Pretty/Jealous Matthew Pine....................................................... 130
Love on Trial Sean Hegarty........................................................ 131
Judy William A. Henkin.............................................................. 132
Realize Sean Hegarty.................................................................. 133 vii
The Perfect Stitch Ashlei Miller*................................................. 134
An Unexpected Gentleman Rosanne Wheeler.............................. 135
Deer Playing in the Park Roshena Berndlmaier*.......................... 141
Rage Angelo Fiorentino*............................................................. 142
Laundry Marty Carlock.............................................................. 143
Pac-Man Joe Celizic.................................................................... 146
Come Walk in My Scarpe! Gwen Conte*.................................... 148
Yellow Flower Kaitlin Stevenson*............................................... 155
Notes on Contributors............................................................ 156
* denotes Gwynedd-Mercy College student ** denoted Gwynedd-Mercy College alum
The Rock By The Side Of The Pond J. Richard McLaughlin
I sit on her rock, or so it says on the side where she painted her name, we’ve never met, I like to sit on it at dusk in the winter, I don’t know when she sits there, the trees on the shore lean over the pond, listening as she and I have littered a lazy conversation of stones on the ice, discussing its dependability, the trees on the shore lean over the pond, wondering which one of us might try to cross, which one of us might fall through, the trees on the shore lean over the pond, patiently, where at dusk in the winter,
I sit on her rock, or so it says on the side, where she painted her name, we’ve never met.
Railyard Sunset Art Fox
in ultimate october clarity the perfectly transparent sunlight rouges railroad ballast stones. they blush and then they cast their fingers eastward .
a long late sun kindles every stem of wagging trackside weeds. they shadow box. they spin smoke threads. they braid ash skeins and lay down dark quilts. then they frazzle into earth-shade as evening stains the light.
Dead Fox on Wolf Road Art Fox
Here now April wind fiddles dead red brown leaves. Dead red brown leavings bleed into gravel. Once the March fox, quick, sleek, misjudged a semi. Now flies gavotte on scruffy fur. Now smashed-in face a fake snarl, raisins for eyes and stench for scent. Here once glaciers forgot boulder litter, no memories of mammoths. The trees never whisper what they have seen. Today I walk bones of the earth, blood-slaked and fleshed with April leaves in shrouds of loam.
Hear then. Spring ripens bloodroot, dogtooth and mandrake to ocher and ivory chaste in the sun.
Ailanthus, grasping miser, hoards his gold till all around are bankrupt, then sheds all in an afternoon like a girl stepping out of her slip, arms reaching wildly for heaven as if the straps just had to break and she must dance. Viburnumâ€™s leaves ossify in place like fingers turned arthritic overnight to be chipped away one by one by picks of wind to lie culled and curvate on the seed-eating ground. The maples, reds and sugars, stamp their feet and whistle, and dare each other to go first. The smaller reds relent and paint the walkway bittersweet and amber. Then the grand dame sugars deal their cards in flicks of bezique-cadmium, with bleeding pips onto the still baize shelf of cooling earth.
Joanna K. Walker
Cracking paint contours cement and alerts of hazards beyond its mustard line. Ledges shape platforms which guide silver bullets at the brink. Morning zombies gather with vigor drained from their veins. They painstakingly persevere, herding through humdrum habits. Conductors peek at faces on their wrists, impatiently calculating a timely journey, as they yawp at the nameless, like stem shepherds guiding their flock. Lost is the vision of childhood -when every glimpse of the world wondrously ignited imagination. A sigh of persistence: Pressed air releases in a pulse. Electric powers hum the train into movement and motion. Sightless eyes vastly overlook Natureâ€™s canvas of blue, green, and gold-great gifts of color and life. Commuters crowd corridors as a murmur fills the cavity with the song of awkward birds. ÂŤ16Âť
Squawk. Click-clack. Squawk. Click-clack Confined conversation speaking over tacking tracks Meanwhile. Clear panes of glass frame planes of grass; A wilderness waiting ... widely out of sight.
Striking Portrait Connie Wrzesniewski
We hurried up the long flight of metal stairs emerging before us and fading behind as we neared the concrete platform at the top. The elevated train was already screeching down the tracks to the Frankford station, but there was still enough time to wedge the two pennies into the vending machine slot which hung from the wall at the side of the station. Two miniature Hershey bars in silver and brown wrappers slid out, one milk chocolate the other dark. My mother kept the milk chocolate, her favorite and handed me the semi-sweet. The train wheels clattered, squealed and ground to a halt. The doors slid open easily. Taking my hand in hers, she propelled me into the car and chose a seat about halfway down. Unable to wait any longer, I tore open my sweet treat, our tradition whenever we rode down town together. As I placed the one bite chocolate on my tongue and settled down for the long ride ahead, I noticed a young man seated directly across the aisle facing us. As a child of eight or somewhere thereabout, I couldn’t help staring. I was fascinated, more transfixed by his ice blue eyes which were neither penetrating nor vacant. They were infinite circles, perfectly pale and pierced by a black dot at the center, lucid, the color of a husky’s. Dressed in a grey suit and navy tie, he sat alone. His snowy skin and stark black hair conjured a striking image. Framed by the window behind, he was a virtual portrait. I continued to stare. The memory is bright in my mind, even today. I can still visualize that picture. All the while, the elevated train bounced and jostled us from side to side and front to back. The car swayed and the wheels constantly clacked. Eventually, we were lulled into a hypnotic state of vacancy. Rooftops, chimneys, steeples and billboards flickered by the windows of our car endlessly. Every so often it lurched to an abrupt stop ending the animation and jarring us smartly in place, our reveries jolted from their lofty parapets. Then, the slow steady pull of the train would drag us back to reality and my eyes, once again, were drawn to the portrait across the aisle. My mother leaned down and whispered, chiding me: “Don’ stare,” she said. “It’s impolite. He’s blind. He has a cast in his eye.” I wanted to ask what a cast was and why my staring mattered if he couldn’t see. But children didn’t question the authority of their parents back in those innocent times. And yet, today, it puzzles me. The portrait is still there ready to be recalled at a moment’s notice. «19»
What is Spirituality? Kerri Bulger
Imagine: After completing various stretches and poses you are sitting with butterflied legs in erect posture deeply rooted into the ground steady as a cheetah ready to pounce on an antelope and solid as a bolder on a creek bed. You are comfortably dressed in cotton with arms outstretched as your hands grasp your knees and your breathing is so deep you can feel the oxygenation of the blood as it rushes through your body to the fingertips and toes and returns to the heart. Each methodical breath is fluidly exhaled in its entirety with a hiss from the back of your throat, which makes your body feel warm to the core like hot chocolate during a windy January. Your mind is clearer than the sky on sunny day over the rolling Great Plains and the only sound you can hear is the hiss of the back of your throat and slight hum inside your chest just behind the sternum. So begins the daily journey into yourself. This is the time to ask yourself: Do things happen for a reason? What do I want to be remembered for? What is my ideal occupation? What if money was no object? What are my goals for this year? The next five years? Am I a good person? What makes me happy? How can I help others? Meditation is just one way to develop spirituality, a process of self-discovery and self- acceptance and an expedition toward who, where, or what a person wants to be in life. Spirituality is about questioning current beliefs and a challenging oneself to promote personal growth. This shapes every aspect of life from tolerance, open-mindedness, acceptance, and care for others to keeping in shape, eating healthier, praying, and reacting well to situations gone wrong. Spirituality often brings a person to realize how alike people are as whole, rather than how different we are in our neighborhoods, places of worship, workplaces, and wallets. Many times those who are spiritually in-tune are also in touch with Mother Nature and their effect on the environment as well as their place in the world and how it can affect others. While spirituality itself doesn’t necessarily solve problems or reach conclusions, it encourages the exploration of meaning, purpose, and direction of your life which helps determine your decisions in any given situation. Spirituality is more about karma than dogma. It means doing well by others and leaving a good impact on people and the world with the idea in mind that good deeds done will come back to you. Spirituality is not religion. It is not teaching about a God or «20»
memorizing a holy book to promote a following and attendance to a building once a week. It is a discovery process in which a person finds out about themselves and develops a connectedness to others and the earth so their impact on the world and on other people is a good one. Positivity and happiness are infectious and the way one views a problem determines his or her reaction to it. Religion oftentimes helps people develop their spirituality and learn about themselves. Treating people and the planet with respect is encouraged in both religion and spirituality. Religion and spirituality each foster a peaceful feeling of continuous support and guidance toward individual betterment. Spirituality gives a person a sense of purpose as all decisions are goal-oriented. One who is spiritual is aware that their decisions and reactions can have a direct effect on their short and long-term goals. This affects your professional, personal, and social life in a positive, forward manner. These goals and decisions foster independence and self-reliance and promote self- confidence. Confidence often times radiates outward with healthier patterns for eating and exercising. Such trends include eating foods that are more organic and natural, demonstrative of the fact that the subject is in touch with the ways the earth naturally nourishes humans. Working out also fosters confidence and releases endorphins throughout the body that promote good feelings. Alone time for oneself while exercising can also help clear the mind to assess goals, diagnose conflicts, plan a fix, hypothesize on the results, implement the plan, and evaluate the process after it has occurred. Spirituality is a never ending journey into oneself. It is not a religious following. Spirituality is very individual and open to interpretation, but it maintains characteristics in almost all definitions. These characteristics are: respecting nature, doing for your fellow man, being goal-oriented, maintaining positivity, and learning about oneself.
What Does It Mean To Be A Person Or Self? Suzanne Jaggers
What does it mean to be a person or self? This question is very complex. Sure, one knows the physical attributes that make a person, but what about everything else. A person cannot just be a physical object, with no feelings, characteristics or personality. There are plenty of different aspects that make one a person or self. A completely established self should have opinions, dependence, free choice, emotions, feelings, life experiences, relationships, a sense of purpose, and finally societal interactions. Each of these ideas are crucial in determining a self, and without one of these ideas, a self would be severely lacking. One major part of being a person or self is having opinions and not letting others make decisions for one’s self. When a person is opinionated, others can observe that the person has a real sense of who he or she is. A person develops into his or her true identity when forming an opinion and making decisions are made entirely on that person’s own. Someone who makes choices with the help of others tends to become too dependent and lose the sense of self that everyone should have. A very dependent person almost becomes robotic. The film, I-Robot, exemplifies how the ability to choose freely can make or break a self. The robots in the movie are unable to make their own decisions because three laws bind them. The robots show no signs of personhood because of their inability to think for themselves. One robot, however, is exceptionally different from the others because the Doctor that created the robots made this robot different. This robot, Sonny, seems to have many qualities that a person or self possesses. While viewing I-Robot, Sonny’s character enables the viewer to further question, “What does it mean to be a person or a self?” Sonny shows signs of emotion and feelings in the movie. Someone with an absolute established self certainly expresses his or her emotions and feelings freely. At one point in the film, Will Smith’s character refers to Sonny as “someone,” rather than “something.” Sonny’s reaction to this is happiness, because throughout the whole film he is trying to figure out who he is and what his purpose is. Every human being spends most of his or her life searching for purpose. Given that Sonny is looking for purpose in his life establishes him as a person and self. The great psychological debate of nature versus nurture can aid in deciding what it means to be a person or self. Does nature or «22»
nurture have a bigger impact on forming a person into who he or she is? There is no right or wrong answer, but the 1970â€™s case of the feral child, Genie, will cause one to believe nurture has a greater impact than nature. Genie was a wild child that was tied up and isolated for 13 years of her life. She would be hit if she ever made a sound. After being found and rescued at 13, weighing only 57 pounds, doctors observed her behavior to be very animalistic and she was silent. The hope was to nurture Genie into more normal human behaviors. At first, Genie showed progress. She began to vocalize and express herself through sign language. She also became familiar and affectionate to familiar faces. Unfortunately, once funding was lost, Genie ended up in a foster home, where she was hit for making a sound, and she regressed. Did Genie have an established person or self? Before she was found, she was not a self. She had no interaction with society, no personality, no relationships, and no life experience to learn from other than making noise meant that she would be beat. Genie had no chance to become a self with the circumstances she lived in. After she was found, Genie probably could have eventually developed into a self but there was not nearly enough time spent with the doctors. The little progress she made when the doctors were nurturing her definitely proved that nurturing does in fact have more of an impact than nature itself. Just nature alone did nothing for Genie. Although, she was in complete isolation, Genie acquired none of the aspects that make someone a self. Through nurturing, she had a much better shot at becoming the person she could have been. In conclusion, it takes a lot to become a person or self. One needs to encompass many different qualities. A person cannot just exist alone. One should have free choice, dependence and opinions. Sonny in I-Robot proved a person needs feelings, emotions and a sense of purpose. Finally, the feral child, Genie, presented the idea that nurturing, rather than nature, enables a person to become a self. Nurturing gives someone relationships, personality, life experiences, and interaction with society. All of these aspects are essential in determining a self. Without any of these aspects, a self is seriously affected and probably would not be fully declared.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term “spiritual” as “of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit”. It goes on to define spirituality as “sensitivity or attachment to religious values”. It is very difficult for us to define what spirituality is, because the things that make up spirituality are not always tangible. What is spirituality? Is it something one feels? Is it something one does? Is it something that is made up just to have something for people to believe in? Is it a mix of all three? The vagueness of this definition of spirituality allows for personal interpretation. Every person has a different idea of what spirituality is, depending upon what that person is raised to believe, or what they practice themselves. Spirituality is a major part of many religions, both good and bad. Spirituality can be found in both traditional religions such as Christianity and Judaism, as well as the occult. Spirituality is centered around the person, because it focuses on the spiritual well being of a person, and how their spirit, or essence, develops. To understand spirituality, one must understand the idea of the spirit. Many shows on television today talk about ghosts, and ghost stories. Often, the term spirit is used in these shows to refer to the dead people who have yet to pass on to the other side. The spirit is the essence of the person. It is what gives the physical body substance. It is a person’s attitude, and how they think. It is seen as something separate from the physical body, that lives on long after the physical body has decayed and disappeared. Christians believe that when we die, the body stays on Earth, however the spirit lives on in heaven. This opens a whole other area up for discussion, because until we die, we do not know what heaven is, or if it exists. Much of the development of spirituality depends on people’s own personal beliefs on what they are preparing their spirit for after they die. The idea of spirituality is therefore different for each person. Spirituality is a process in which people use prayer, meditation, contemplation and other methods to discover and develop their spirit. It helps people understand themselves better, and helps them to change their lives for the sake of their spirits, depending upon what they believe will happen to them after they die. Spirituality is present in many religions, as well as the occult. However, the views between religious people and people who believe in the occult conflict with each other. Many Christians believe that we use spirituality to prepare our spirits «24»
for eternal life in heaven. They believe that the spirit either goes to heaven or hell, and that God is the “owner” of all spirits. However, people who believe in the occult believe that the spirit has its own wants and needs, and can go on to the afterlife whenever it chooses to go there. Spirituality is a rather selfish process, not necessarily always in a negative manner, because most aspects of it are designed to make the human person feel comfortable and happy with themselves, and their lives. Many people confuse spirituality with religion, however the two are separate entities. Spirituality can be a part of religion, and religion can be used to express one’s spirituality, but they are still different. In conclusion, the definition of spirituality is different for every person depending on their beliefs and religious values. Spirituality is the actions, words, and thoughts that mold and develop the spirit, which is the essence of a physical body. Spirituality can coexist with religion, however the two should not be confused as the same thing. Spirituality prepares the spirit for the afterlife, where the spirit will continue on existing in some place after the physical body has ceased operation. It is impossible for the living to know what happens after death, but through spirituality people can prepare themselves for what they believe will happen to their spirits.
Warms the Soul Aubree Luquet
The still, frozen air scratched at my face as I walked down the street, a five dollar bill in hand. My mother had an appointment and couldn’t take me home beforehand. Feeling bad about it, she had given me the crisp bill so I could walk down the street and buy a hot chocolate from Simply Good Cafe in town. I didn’t really mind waiting, but if the chance for a free drink is present, I’m going to take it; so began my cold journey. At the corner across from the cafe, as I waited to cross, I spotted an older, black man sitting on the curb. I was surprised to see him only wearing a very thin gray jacket and torn jeans on such a cold January afternoon. I was fascinated with him for some reason I couldn’t comprehend. Was he homeless? He must be. Why else would he be out here shivering with nothing but torn clothes to keep him warm? I felt a small pang of sorrow in my heart, but I knew there was nothing I could do now. The light changed and I crossed, entered the warm cafe, and left the man on the curb in the back of my mind once more. I walked up to the tall counter that met me at eye height; being 5’ 1” at fifteen years of age had some disadvantages. I flagged down the burly man behind the counter, who had hair growing from every place possible except the top of his head, and ordered my hot chocolate. I looked around the cafe. It seemed small, maybe able to hold 15 people or so, but it was warm and cozy. The yellow walls gave the place a soft glow, contrasting with the dark wood stained tables that gave the place some elegance. I took a seat next to an elderly couple drinking coffee and sitting silently. “Are they going to give us coffee soon?” The old man piped up, looking slowly over his shoulder. “It’s in front of you, David.” The woman answered almost automatically, as if expecting this question. “Oh. That’s right.” The woman smiled a tired smile at the man, then turned to look out the window. I grabbed a newspaper sitting on the table, guessing someone had left it behind. In the middle of reading about the upcoming presidential inauguration, I was startled by a loud, raspy voice. Looking up, I noticed the man from the curb was now standing in the doorway, saying something in a voice that was slightly louder than necessary. Everyone looked up from their conversations, maybe slightly annoyed that they were interrupted. «26»
“Anyone have change so I can get some pizza? I don’t got money to eat.” None of the seven or so people in the cafe answered, including me. The old couple next to me continued to sit in silence, as if the man in the doorway wasn’t even there. “Anyone?” Again, silence. Some looked away, and others just shook their head at him. He looked at me, and I shook my head no, even though I knew I would have at least $2.50 left in change. The man looked around once more, then, with a look of sadness mixed with pain, he turned and left. I stared at the door for a few moments, before my attention was caught by the fact that my hot chocolate was ready and I had to pay. I handed over the five dollar bill and was given change of $2.43. I stared at the money in my hand for a second, before stuffing it into my pocket, taking my hot drink and leaving. As the door closed behind me and I stepped back into the sharp winter air, a familiar voice cried out to me from across the street. “Excuse me! Do you got any change?” The man was back on the corner, sitting on the curb. I stopped for a moment, almost feeling the burn of the bills and coins in my pocket. He asked me again when I didn’t reply. Before I could realty comprehend what I was doing, I shook my head no. A voice somewhere in my head hissed at me, but I pushed it away and kept walking. Technically, the money wasn’t even mine, but my mothers. I knew she would tell me to keep the change, and I didn’t want to give it up. I didn’t have a job at the time, so a little pocket change was always nice to have. It’s my money now, why should I give it to a stranger? But the more these thoughts passed through my head, the more I could feel the man’s stare on the back of my head, as if he knew I was lying to him and myself; I didn’t actually need the money. Each step I took farther away from him, the bigger the hole in the back of my head got. The next thing I knew, my feet were taking me in the opposite direction I was going. Suddenly, I was across the street, narrowly missing a car, and standing in front of the sitting man. It was as if my feet had a mind of their own, a mind with a guilty conscious. The man looked surprised that I had turned around and acknowledged his existence. I looked down at him, and he looked up at me. From this angle he looked very small, his face plastered with the look of a lost puppy with his big dark eyes staring up at me. He shivered as a hard wind blew past, breaking the silence between us. I extended my arm that held the still hot, full cup of hot chocolate. He stared blankly at it, not fully comprehending why I was holding it out to him. “Take it,” I said “It will warm you up.” «27»
The man looked even more shocked, but smiled a no-tooth smile and gladly took the hot beverage. He took a large gulp, which I’m sure must have burned his entire mouth, but while I watched, it was as if I could see the warmth pass through his entire body. He held the cup in his cold hands for warmth. “Thank you very much, young lady. It’s very cold outside. This made me feel a lot better.” he said with the same smile. “No problem, I wouldn’t want you to freeze out here.” I replied. I paused. “… wait right here. I’ll be right back.” Before he could say anything, I sprinted across the street, a little ways past the cafe, to Tony’s Pizzeria. I could hear the frozen coins jingle in my pocket as I ran. Opening the door, warmth met my face again, while the smell of oregano and garlic met my nose. Slowing my pace, I walked up to the counter and ordered one slice of pizza to go. The dark haired Italian lady told me it would be exactly $1.50. Handing her two dollars, I told her to keep the change and waited for the piece to be heated. Five minutes later I plunged back into the cold, a hot plate of pizza in hand. Once back across the street, I could still see the man sitting on the corner, enjoying his hot drink while it lasted. Every step closer to him, I thought about how happy I was just by making this helpless stranger happier. At this point I couldn’t believe that I thought keeping the rest of the money would have made me more joyous than this. Keeping it wouldn’t have made me nearly as delighted and proud as I was at this moment. I mentally gave myself a pat on the back as I handed the man his lunch. His grin only widened as he took the plate from my hands, hunger in his eyes. Before he even touched the pizza, he looked up at me, his face filled with many emotions. Outwardly, I could see hardship, sadness, despair, and loneliness all etched into his thin face. But as he looked up at me and spoke, I could see past this painful mask; joy, hope, warmth and gratitude. ‘Thank you so much, miss. You have made my day. God bless your kind soul.” All I could do was smile, too overcome with my own emotions. My skin felt cold, but all I could feel was warmth. I smiled, and said a soft goodbye with a wish to stay warm. He nodded and turned to his pizza. I started to walk away as he took a big hungry bite from it. I sighed as I started my own cold journey back. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would say when my mom asked about the hot chocolate I was suppose to buy, but it didn’t matter; I could still feel the warmth it gave me.
Creak, creak, creak creak creak The teacup of life starts to spin. Round and round, round and round, Gaining speed, losing time. Holding tight, unable to see what it’s like to be free. Forgetting to breathe or take the time, to make memories while you’re alive. Then suddenly Screech It’s only a ride, but you forgot to to open your eyes.
Back To Life
Kriste A. Matrisch
I took my last paycheck and income tax refund and ran. Eighteen hundred dollars in New York City wasn’t that much money to start off with, but it was just enough for my security deposit and first month’s rent, with a few hundred to spare. When I left Illinois I knew that this was the risk, but everything in my life at that time, well—let’s just say it couldn’t have gotten any worse. “You knew things would be complicated when you first started dating me,” my boyfriend said, taking a drag from his cigarette, as he sat at our computer. “I told you about Mindy and her pregnancy.” I stood next to him, but I looked away and responded, “Yes, I know.” “Then why are you surprised?” His 5’10” frame shrugged a bit; his blue eyes tightened with the quick inhale. As he roughened up his wavy brown hair, he exhaled the smoke, his lips in a slight-curled smile that echoed his thoughts and statements. Because I thought you’d eventually change your mind about her and the baby. But I didn’t say that. I just turned my brown eyes back to him, shifting my weight to another foot, my short height of 5’4” appearing shorter than it already was. “Didn’t I tell you that the baby would come first?” He tapped the cigarette toward the ashtray, then took another inhale of the tobacco—as if this habit could help him through this. “But why does she have to be part of the package?” I’m not a fan of cigarettes, but, in that moment, I welcomed the smoke clouds and subsequent stench to distract me from what was happening. “It’s just easier this way.” He smothered the butt into the ashtray. “Look, I’ll let you stay here until the end of the month, rent-free, but come the first of April, I need you to be out.” He had been paying the rent during the course of our ninemonth relationship, while I was buying groceries and paying the utility and phone bills. It was a financial situation that worked for us, and, honestly, it was what brought and kept us together in the first place. After college neither one of us wanted to move back in with our parents. Now I just felt robbed—how the hell was I going to get everything back that I lost during this time? In this moment I realized, I was a sellout. How would I ever get my soul back? I stared at my now ex-boyfriend for another minute longer, a «31»
new cigarette lingering in his mouth while he surfed the Internet. I don’t think he would’ve said anything more or even looked at me ever again if I hadn’t piped up. “Then I don’t want you here. I can’t stand to look at you any longer, if you’d rather be with her—that person who treated you like crap.” Even when I knew that he and I were together for the wrong reasons, I always treated him with respect and kindness and believed I could make him a better person for it. He got up from the Internet and chair, put his cigarette down, and started toward me. “Don’t be this way.” But now disgust and self-preservation took over. I stepped backward from him, throwing at him any of his stray clothes that I could find on the 1100r. “No! Get away from me! I want you out!” “Kris—” I continued backward, fumbling for my purse and keys, and opened the front door. Gritting through my teeth, I told him, “I’ll give you two hours to get you and your shit out of here.” I slammed the door behind me and didn’t dare turn my back or change my mind. And when I returned the next day, he was gone. The house sat as empty as I did. *** When I went to work the next week, I tried to divert my thoughts into the mundane monotony of Horace Mann insurance policy changes and verifications, but instead, the names and numbers suffocated me. As I sat behind a wooden pillar during lunch in the cafeteria, thirty minutes brought me blissful sleep—dreaming ...pining ...craving something more than an unhealthy relationship and an insurance company could give me. My creative spirit was dying in this stifling Midwestern town. The poems that I used to write on a weekly basis during college were no longer coming to me. My university diploma, proclaiming my B.A. in English, was wilting under the frame. As a lover of all art forms, my ears burned for good live music, and my eyes yearned for inspiring visual arts. My liberal soul thirsted for freedom and an open-minded culture. I had to get out of here. Where could I escape but to New York City, home of the greatest independent music, museums, and every language spoken under the sun? I didn’t even consider any other city. My closest friend, Jane, who I’d been friends with since eighth grade, lived in Brooklyn, and I figured if she could do it, so could I. I thought, If I’m going to dream, I might as «32»
well dream big. After deciding to make it official, I booked a flight to Newark, New Jersey, to arrive on March 29, 2001. I couldn’t stand my job any longer and was looking forward to this adventure so much that excitement glowed from my skin. Everyone at work noticed this, noticed me, but knew I was already on a plane out of there. *** With only one more week to go, I decided to call Jane with the news. “I’m not going to lie to you, Kriste,” she said. “It’s not easy; I had to struggle to get a stable job. The commute to and from Manhattan is enough to ruin your psyche, and after you pay rent, there’s not much left. This is an expensive city.” “So I’m noticing from my research online.” An affordable rent in a commutable area to Manhattan went anywhere from $600 to $1200, for just one room. My ex-boyfriend was paying $430 for renting this small house with two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and a washerdryer combo. “But I don’t want to discourage you. It is worth it and I’d love to see you again. I’ll pick you up from the airport and everything. I want you to go for your dream!” “Thank you.” Even if Jane would be my only connection to Illinois, I knew I could rely on her friendship no matter where I was living. “Have you started job hunting or looking for apartments?” “Already have. In fact, I have a couple leads for an apartment and an interview with a small magazine.” “That’s really good! Well, listen, I gotta run. Keep me posted!” During that last week before my departure, I set up a meeting with a potential roommate in Bergen County, New Jersey. It wasn’t exactly Manhattan, but I was informed that it was only a twenty- to thirtyminute bus ride away. Rent for this place was only $550—that was good enough for me. As far as potential jobs were concerned, I knew I couldn’t rely on only one interview, so I pooled my Internet skills. As a backup, and even if it was just a part-time thing, I was a shoo-in for a cashier-customer service help for an Internet cafe on 3rd A venue. I was determined to not go back to retail—something I had done during my first three years of college. Compacting everything I had into three suitcases was a task, but it really helped to eliminate some of the emotional baggage that tied me down. I gave myself a return flight back to Illinois for April 27, 2001— «33»
almost a month to determine if this was going to work. Without a solid relationship or a job that challenged me, I had absolutely nothing to lose. While flying over the Midwest and several Mid-Atlantic States, I kept thinking, What if this is a huge mistake? What if I die mid-flight? And if I do land, what if Jane forgets to pick me up at the airport? What if my potential roommate is a psycho-killer? All the negative what-ifs that ran through my head were subsided when I realized that not giving it my all could be the biggest regret of my life. When I finally landed in Newark and reunited with my luggage, Jane greeted me. Why I doubted her being there I have no idea. She hugged me and said, “It’s so good to see you! We have much to catch up on, but let’s get you settled first.” We met my roommate-to-be at a gas station since we couldn’t determine which exit off Route 17 was my future apartment. “Welcome to New Jersey,” Vik said, shaking my hand and Jane’s. We followed him to the apartment and talked more about the place. In the room that would be mine, I confirmed with Jane that this seemed like a solid deal. *** The next day’s morning sun woke me to new beginnings, new surroundings, new hope for my future. I left the apartment, walking the couple blocks to catch the bus to New York, soaking in everything around me. Even though I hadn’t planned on moving to New Jersey, she has many things to appreciate (as I would learn over the span of years to come): nice houses, independent pizzerias, Garret Mountain, traffic circles, malls, the Shore, farms, and, yes, even the New York Giants and Jets and the Statue of Liberty. Once I arrived at Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, I didn’t know where to go, so I followed the crowd. The last thing I wanted was to seem like a tourist. I did my best to blend in and not tilt my eyes up any higher than needed. Times Square was like a 2417 street festival—full of tall buildings, nonstop bright, flashing lights, swarms of people, and a unique mixture of driving smells of exhaust, of hot dogs and pretzels and nuts in street vendors, and the subtle hint of refuse. Wow. I inhaled deeply, finally able to breathe, thinking—once my body and core were at the center of it all—This is something people should experience at least once in their lives. And I was experiencing it. «34»
*** Eight years ago a seed was planted. I became a new person—my soul anew—and I finally felt alive. I was now part of the blood that made New York continuously flow. Everything that I imagined about this city has come true; the music scene has definitely revitalized my sense of self—I have been seeing an independent musician performance or a mainstream music concert at least once a month since moving. My creative being has also rejuvenated; I’ve had poems, written here in this NYC area, published in literary journals across the country. These things would have never happened to me if I hadn’t taken the risk. And while I’ve continued getting to know all of the little nooks and crannies and streets and people who make up this dear place, I’ve come to appreciate the intense, intimidating, but honest feelings that overwhelm me every time. I’m now a fully developed tree, transforming with every season—sometimes dying a little during New York’s cold and bitter moments—but every year, around spring, I bloom and fall in love with her, just a bit again.
Belongings Jennifer Lang
Finders’ keepers, losers’ weepers “Mommy, can I keep this?” asks six-year-old Simone. “Please.” She’s holding a scrap of apple-green wrapping paper with irregularshaped red hearts suspended in air. It was left over from wrapping a present for her friend’s birthday party. “What for?” I was just about to crumple it up into a ball and toss it in the trash. “It’s garbage.” “But I like it,” she wheedles. She looks at me with her big eyes, turning the corners of her mouth down in a pretend pout. “I could use it for a blanket for my doll or for a collage.” She knows she’s saying the right thing. I’m all for imagination and artistic expression. But her needto-save, have-to-keep-it-all behavior makes me crazy. Of my three children, Simone is the only one with these keep-aholic tendencies. If it’s not remnants of wrapping paper, it’s a worn-out shoe box, a bracelet missing half its beads or an empty candy wrapper. Recently, we received a gift box filled with gourmet food. Before I had even finished removing all the contents, Simone was at my side. “Can I have the box? I could use it for my sticker collection.” I rolled my eyes at her. “Give it up. You’re going to have to let go,” I wanted to say to her. Instead, I repeated that vague, noncommittal phrase that, at her age, still seems to satisfy her: “We’ll see, Simone, we’ll see.” To have and to cherish Saving certain things doesn’t bother me. I get a thrill from taking pictures, keeping our photo albums up to date as each season passes. I love writing the names and dates on the backs of the pictures, recalling the exact moment the camera clicked, then slipping them into their shiny plastic sleeves to protect them from fingerprints. And in this new world of electronic communication, I am overjoyed by the occasional handwritten birthday cards and postcards from friends and family. The words on paper are a testament to their thoughtfulness and good manners. And, I will certainly keep most of the kids’ artwork and gifts they have made for us. It’s everything else that irks me: mass-market invitations to birthday parties, perfunctory thank you notes, pamphlets from places we’ve visited. It’s all the things Simone wants to save; all the things my «36»
mom made me keep for the first half of my life. But now that I’m the adult, a parent, I wonder why. Who needs proof you were somewhere if you know you were there? I despise clutter and piles of papers and any object that has the potential to attract dust. I enjoy art on the walls, not knickknacks on the shelves. It’s a system, a way of being, that works for me. When my kids come home from school with worksheets with their teachers’ “Good job!” scrawled across the top or stickers, I acknowledge them and then immediately put them by the backdoor to go in the recycling bin. As soon as the mail arrives, I sit out on my front stoop and sort it into piles—mine, my husband’s, my children’s, recycling. Whatever falls into the latter, I take directly to the bin without passing by the kitchen counter, where hard-to-classify papers can pile up. When people first walk into my house they marvel at the open space, the sparsely decorated living room, the absence of random objects. “Where’s all your clutter?” they often say. Sometimes I let go of things too fast. At a luncheon for my first cousin’s 40th birthday recently, I was overcome by my shortcoming. One by one, the women were standing up to recite a poem or make a toast to her. “Were we supposed to prepare something?” I asked the guest to my left. “It said on the invitation you could bring something to read aloud if you wanted,” she said, fiddling with her own paper in her hands. My face flushed, realizing my error. Shortly after receiving and replying to the invitation a month earlier, I had marked it on my calendar and tossed the paper. It wasn’t a first for me and knowing myself well, it probably won’t be the last. What if one day I want to write a memoir and don’t have the material to back it up or help fill in the holes? I’m not sure what will happen if I want to give my children their great grandmother’s china, which has been misplaced during our multiple moves. Having certain possessions might not have mattered to me, but it could to them. The to-save-or-not-to-save debate is ongoing in my head, one I am sure to wrestle with for years to come as my children grow up, leave home and make their lives elsewhere, or as we pack up to move to a different house in another city or country. The gene pool My fear is that Simone will become a bona fide pack-rat. Sometimes I imagine her all grown up living in a house crammed with curbside throw-aways like lamps and end tables, mountains of magazines and reams of cocktail napkins with crazy and colorful prints. (She’s recently started collecting them.) She will be so bogged down by her stuff that she will beg us to store her childhood possessions because she’ll never have enough space to accommodate everything she continues to collect. «37»
Moving will be out of the question and even traveling will be tough. Packing light is difficult for Simone. When I was a kid, my mom made me save everything or just did it for me. By the time I reached college, I had throngs of boxes filled with childhood treasures collecting dust in the attic—alongside some of hers. I’ve often wondered why my mom is a saver extraordinaire. A post-Depression baby who grew up without excess, perhaps surrounding herself with things makes her feel richer. Or, because she left home at the age of 18, saving things helps validate who she is and the life she’s created. But she says my ideas are silly, so we’ve agreed to disagree. When my parents decided to move while I was away at college, I was called home to help pack. I unearthed every report card from kindergarten through twelfth grade, every birthday, Hanukkah and Valentine’s Day card ever given to me, every theater program, museum ticket stub and book report. Faced with the detritus of my life, I took the easy way out: I threw away a little but kept the bulk. I moved it to their new house and shoved it in the attic. The second time around, however, was different. Fifteen years later, married and a mother of three, I was forced to take ownership of my past. “Dad says all your boxes in the attic are a fire hazard,” my mom announced during a visit one day. I looked at her to make sure I’d heard correctly. I knew downsizing wasn’t on their to-do list, but I also knew they had accumulated a lot since moving into their house. Some by choice, some not. Following the death of four family members, my parents’ attic became home to their worldly goods-Grandma Bea’s miniature box collection, Baba’s hats, Zaida’s books and Uncle Sid’s artifacts from traveling around the world. “You better go through your stuff soon, because we’re tripping over it every time we go up there,” she said with a hint of anger. For some reason, I was reluctant. It wasn’t just laziness. For the first time in my life, I was forced to think about those things that had been kept out of sight and out of mind for decades. It was easy to live without them because I didn’t have to think about them. I knew they were safe. Months passed after my mom’s first request to remove my things from their attic. When she brought it up a second time, I knew she was serious. So, one Saturday I hauled a box of heavy-duty black trash bags and a stack of empty cardboard boxes upstairs. Bit by bit, box by box, I began sorting my life. I made piles—one for garbage, one for give-away and one for me. To keep. At first glance, it was relatively pain-free to decide what went where—the three “like” letters from my fourth-grade boyfriend Craig «38»
Roberts were keepers, the hundreds of holiday cards with the standard Hallmark prose and someone’s name in his or her best cursive were not. I tossed all the ticket stubs I could find, but re-read every aerogramme my hometown honey sent me while I was studying in France. I admit the letters from the childhood and college friends whom I had known and kept in touch with for years meant more to me than I realized. They took me back in time not only because they recalled to memory what was going on in our lives then, but also because so few people actually sit down and hand write letters today. So again, I made piles, stacking correspondence by friend and wrapping a rubber band around each. By the day’s end, there were three mid-sized boxes left. One contained only letters. One had my third-grade autobiography, my sixth-grade geography report on Israel, my report cards and yearbooks. And the last had my Master’s thesis, as well as an aborted book proposal for a memoir about my brother and me and my proudest pieces of work from my first two jobs in Paris and Israel. These are the things I will take with me wherever I live. Learning curve Six months after my parents moved, I took a college course on Buddhism. I remember being struck by one of the basic tenets of the religion: detachment, defined as renunciation, the determination to be free from suffering. The idea was that clinging very strongly to anything or anyone creates a dependency; if you lose that thing or person, you will be miserable. Not only will you suffer, but you also won’t be free. Being detached doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy or desire anything or anyone. It simply means “If I get the house or the job I want, great. If I don’t, it’s not the end of the world.” Given the context of my life at that time, the idea of detachment made sense. I had already said goodbye to the house where I spent my entire childhood, not knowing if I would ever live in my parents’ new one. And soon, I would be packing to spend a year in Paris. I had no choice but to detach myself from clinging to the people and the things I loved and would leave. If I wanted to take advantage of the adventure and enjoy the unknown ahead of me, I had to let go, to be strong. Throughout the past twenty years, I have moved halfway around the world and back again-first alone, then with a spouse, and finally with children. I have allowed myself to develop close bonds to both the people and the surroundings, yet at the same time, I have learned how to let go so that, once settled in a new place, I don’t waste my time looking back and pining for the past. But just because this approach works for me doesn’t mean it works for the rest of my family. I see Simone struggling. And I need to «39»
figure out a way to let her hold on-even ifmy gut response is to make her let go. Remains All three of my kids each have a large, plastic tub for their schoolwork, their artwork, their certificates from swimming, gymnastics, ice skating. Simone clings harder to the objects and pieces of paper than the older two. I try to let her keep things she feels she needs—for whatever reason. I accept that I might not be able to understand why. Come June, after school ends, they love sifting through their tubs. It’s like therapy. They check in with their past, revisit their accomplishments, see how much they’ve grown and learned. And they enjoy making piles, too: one to keep, one to discard. “Oh, this is so ugly. I’m getting rid of it,” says the one in the middle. The one who rolls her eyes at me when Simone asks if she can keep a kids’ clothing catalogue that came in the mail or some unidentifiable found object. The floor of the bedroom is littered with colorful, glittery works of art. “No way,” I say, sitting nearby to oversee. In an effort to pass down what I have learned—that memories are often triggered by objects—I add: “That was your first self-portrait you drew in preschool. I love that and one day when you get older and think back you might, too.” I want to make sure they understand the holiday cards they’ve made for each other over the years or the long-term assignments they slaved over are part of the permanent collection. I don’t want any of us to look back and wonder.
Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt or making the best of an impossible profession —W. Bion
Soft leather, beige with mahogany armrests, to cushion the blows of rage, darts of raw hostility, and the black vortex of projections from my tormented borderline patient. It is good to feel the skin of a living thing, a buffalo or a cow, capable of cooling or warming with the vicissitudes of growth and regression, absorbing silences and the turmoil of change. I lean back, pushing the ottoman in the right position, trying to relax into the unknown despite the beasts of the past rattling in cages behind teary eyes. My chair rests neither here nor there, neither in the real nor in the imagined. For the next 50 minutes I am alone in the sturdy suit of my self and the chameleon skin of the impossible profession
Twelve Years Old And Going On Eighty Becca Pava
Cramping pains jolted through my belly and up into my chest. I rolled over and pulled my legs up against me tightly, I could feel my hipbones digging into the mattress, and it didn’t feel good. I’d lost so much weight that no matter what position I sat or laid in I couldn’t get comfortable. Despite the fact that I’m twelve years old, I barely reach sixty-five pounds. “Kristy’s anorexic, that’s why she’s so skinny.” “Liz heard her throwing up in the bathroom after lunch.” “Did you know that the reason Kristy barely eats is because she has an eating disorder?” The rumors were everywhere, the more popular seventh and eighth grader threw them all over the place until I got too sick to go to school anymore. “Aren’t you going to eat your lunch?” Maddy used to pester me. Shrugging my shoulders I would look away from her and her knowing looks she was shooting over to her clique of friends who were giggling in the corner. I was always too nauseous from my treatments to eat and nobody except the school nurse knew what was the real cause of my socalled “eating disorder”. I planned to keep it that way too. I was afraid of the way people would treat me if they knew I had a malignant tumor growing inside of me. “The truth is that kids are scared of what’s happening to you. They don’t know what to make of it,” a social worker at the hospital where I got my treatments explained to me one day when I told her about the rumors and nasty comments. The truth was I didn’t quite know what to make of it either. The year before I’d been a normal kid who loved sports, hanging out with friends, and video games. Then I got diagnosed with cancer and everything changed. One morning shortly after I had started my first chemotherapy treatments, I woke up with several clumps of my thick red hair lying on my pillow. I felt like the last piece of myself, of my old life, had fallen out with that hair. I was angry, angry with myself, at life, at the girls who had teased me, and even angry with my family and my mom. “Kristy, you need to take your meds,” mom would remind me four times a day. “Just leave me alone. I’ll take them, you don’t have to keep reminding me all the time,” I’d snap. “I can take care of myself.” «42»
“Do you want me to read you Peter Pan?” Mom would ask me. Some of my pain medications made it so I saw the pages of books as streaky blurs and blobs. I’d been in the middle of reading Peter Pan when I started to have problems seeing clearly. My mom had started to read the rest of it aloud to me. “Just don’t bother me right now,” I would moan. “I hate you, I bet it’s your genes that gave me cancer. Your genes are killing me.” Mom’s skin lightened to a white pallor. She just stood there for a moment, fidgeting with the hem on the sleeve of her blouse. Her green eyes that look so much like mine got really big and wet. I could see her features quiver as she fought to maintain a steady expression, but as soon as she left my room I could hear the choking sound of her sobs pouring out of her. The sobs triggered something deep inside me. I rolled over on my side and pulled my battered teddy bear with the red ribbon into the concave of where my belly used to be. My own jaw was clenched as tight as my mom’s had been as I tried to fight back the tears heating up my eyes. I couldn’t hold them back. They streamed down my face like a waterfall of pure pain. I stared at the door where my mom had been standing and tried to mentally will her back. When she didn’t come back I felt abandoned and guilty. The summer sun beat down on my body through the large picture window of my room; I squirmed under the heat of it and tried to pull my blankets off my sweaty body, but I was too weak. I needed my mom to help me, and she wanted to be there for me. She wanted to be able to help me because she loved me and felt just as powerless as I did against the tumors. I remember a therapist in the hospital telling me that, but it hadn’t really sunk in until that moment. Ever since that day, I haven’t been as angry anymore. Most of the time lately, I’ve been too sick to get angry anyway. The doctors stopped the chemotherapy a month ago. They stopped the radiation a week ago. It was all my decision. Even though I’m only twelve, my parents have mostly been letting me make the decisions about my treatment. “It’s your body, Kristy,” mom had told me when the doctors sat down with me in a little conference room with lime green walls and a bunch of hard backed chairs in a circle around a long table. “The cancer has metastasized and is now not only in your pancreas but in your lungs and liver too,” The doctor kept his tone steady and looked at my chart, not my parents or me, as he spoke. “What are the options?” I’d asked, sitting up in my wheelchair as straight and tall as I could manage. My voice shook, but only a little. Sometimes I needed to appear stronger then I felt, for my parent’s sake. Sometimes I felt like I was the grown-up and they were the kids. That’s «43»
what happens when you go through hell I guess. “The tumors are inoperable, because of their locations. The chemotherapy hasn’t been helping, and neither has the radiation. We can try some experimental treatments, but they could just make you feel sicker and not even help you in the long run.” The doctor explained. Then he told me about hospice and the idea of spending my last few months at home. So much ran through my head at once, but in the end I knew I couldn’t take any more painful treatments, I couldn’t take anymore needles and tubes and surgeries. Most of all I wanted to be home where I felt most comfortable and where the people I loved were. “I want to stop the treatments.” I told the doctor, this time I couldn’t stop my voice from shaking. My mom was tearing up at the corners of her eyes, my dad’s head was ducked down low and I could see his shoulders shaking. I was the only one who didn’t cry. Instead of crying I released my death grip on the arms of the wheelchair and reached out with both arms. In one hand I squeezed my mom’s hand, and in the other my dad’s. It was funny that I was the one dying and the one doing the reassuring at the same time. Even now, as I lay in bed, shaking with the horrible cramping pain, even now I don’t cry. I’m too grown up for that. I’ve grown up fast this last year. Sometimes it feels more like I’m eighty then twelve. I guess that’s a good thing though, because who wants to die at twelve? I hear footsteps outside my door. It’s my mom coming to check on me and make sure that the bag attached to my catheter doesn’t need to be emptied. “Hey Kristy, are you doing all right?” She asks. I nod, even though I’m not fine. “Do you want me to sit with you for a little while?” She asks me. I nod, because sometimes even grown ups need their moms. Mom leans in and hugs me; I can smell the strawberries and cream shampoo she uses. She pulls up a chair beside my bed and tells me about her day. I smile and drink up the familiar soothing tones of her voice. My room suddenly feels less suffocating and more comforting. Mom pulls my sky blue comforter up over my body that has betrayed me, pats my shoulder gently and then asks me if I want to hear more Peter Pan. I nod again. I like the story about the boy who never had to grow up. I let myself cry. Mom hugs me again. I guess sometimes even kids who grow up too fast need to cry.
The Simple Truth B.J. Yudelson
I’m sitting in the back of the funeral chapel. The airconditioning barely beats the July heat. My mind drifts from the eulogy to a winter day 25 years before. That day I sat up front. That day I shivered with grief and disbelief. I remember watching an endless line of stricken faces file past to murmur comforting words-words I was beyond hearing. What could anyone say? What words could undo the work of the drunk driver? I remember a rabbi telling me that because this was Purim Katan, a month before Purim in a Jewish leap year, eulogies were inappropriate. He and the other speakers would not extol Ruth, just speak the simple truth about her full, short life. I remember Rabbi Jablon, with his red beard and kind eyes, telling the overflowing crowd how responsible Ruth was, how caring and giving, loved by all the children in the junior congregation she led at his synagogue. She was their role model, he said, mature beyond her 13 years. Not a eulogy, just the simple truth. Rabbi Kamen’s usually twinkling eyes were sorrowful. Voice breaking, he described Ruth’s kindness, her intelligence, and especially her love of children. Ruth babysat for his six children and tutored one of his daughters. “Six children—how do you take care of six children?” I used to ask Ruth. “Oh, this one had a friend over, that one was at a friend’s house, another was napping, and that only left three to deal with,” she would reply with an assurance that I, her mother, couldn’t comprehend. Tears ran in an unending stream down my face while other bearded men in dark suits praised Ruth’s character and devotion to Jewish learning. Outside the chapel I saw my younger daughter Miriam’s best friend, Fagie. Her dark hair and glasses a reminder of Ruth’s Semitic beauty, she stood with two other girls, all taken out of school early for the funeral. Her familiar face was somber, her dimple gone. She seemed weighed down by her backpack, filled, I thought, with the shock of a young death. Of all the faces that surely watched me enter the car that took us to the cemetery, why is it only hers that I recall a quarter century later? I trembled under the February sky that pressed down on the «45»
cemetery. My father and I held each other up as we watched the coffin lowered. We waited endlessly, painfully, interminably while people from Ruth’s life threw dirt into the grave with the backs of their shovels, a traditional sign of reluctance to say good-bye. Her father. Her brother. Her Uncle Harry. Her cousin Peggy. Her friend Joey. Grim-faced teachers, crying friends. One put down the spade, and the next took it up. Shovelful by shovelful, thud by thud, each clod crushed me with its finality. My father, a Reform Jew, had never witnessed a burial at which the mourners filled in the grave. I remember his words: “This really clops you on the head. It doesn’t let you deny that she is gone.” All I do is wait, I recall thinking. A lifetime of waiting in the 13 days since the intoxicated driver’s car had destroyed Ruth’s brain stem and left my effervescent daughter comatose. And now more waiting while the hole in the ground slowly filled. Will it never end? How will I fill my emptiness? How will I keep going? *** These jagged images, evoked by a neighbor’s funeral, accompany me to a wedding my husband and I attend later in the day. The bride’s sister, Rachel, was a classmate of Ruth’s; the wedding is in her garden. Under the healing sun, surrounded by happiness, my thoughts soften to visions of Ruth and Rachel at play, gossiping and giggling. My tears are gentle, shed in part for the bride’s happiness, in part for all that will never be. That night we attend a fiftieth anniversary celebration for friends. With moist eyes, I picture four-year-old Ruthie at her grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary. I recall how she smiled shyly at relatives she hardly knew, tagged along with cousins, and grimaced at the camera for the formal family portrait. I prefer these memories, and others summoned by life, to the ones that assaulted me at the funeral. A grandchild’s tantrum brings back Ruth’s toddler fits-and my relief when she outgrew them. I catch sight of a sailboat, and suddenly Ruth is at the helm, jibing skillfully, thrilling to the wind in her hair. On a crisp January day, I can almost hear her singing along the snowy path from school, jacket unzipped to the frigid sun. Like the hugs I long for, these memories caress me with a closeness to my eternally young middle child, whose eyes sometimes glimmer from the faces of her siblings’ children. I look at these grandchildren, two named for their Aunt Ruth, and pray they will grow «46»
*** Not long after Ruth’s death, I sat with Rabbi Jablon in the synagogue library. “I wanted to know how she’d turn out,” I wailed. It has taken years to understand the simple truth of his answer. “She turned out beautifully.” THE END
Brescia and Beyond: My Study Abroad Trip To Italy Gabrielle Rosin
For many years I have dreamt of visiting Italy, a country of my ancestral heritage, especially after hearing stories from my mother of how her great-grandparents came from Calabria, and stories of when she visited Italy and loved every part of it. One year ago when I learned I would receive that chance to study in Italy for an entire month, needless to say I was thrilled. I just knew I had to take that chance as the only opportunity I may have to visit Italy while I am still a student and prior to employment. Of course, before taking the trip I had a lot to learn about living in Italy and adjusting to life there. There was a lot of money to be paid for the flight, apartment rent, tuition, medical insurance, and some other needs. Professor Elisa Clewis, who had arranged the trip and whose family hometown was Brescia, walked me and the other attendees through everything we needed to know. Throughout the months until May, I attended meetings with Professor Clewis and the members of the Brescia group to discuss everything we needed to learn about living in Italy. This included learning about Brescia’s geography, how to best use local transportation, sites to visit, using ATM machines, gathering and shopping for supplies we would need, and information on the weekend trips. I was especially excited to learn about the weekend trips, in which we would be visiting Florence, Rome, Milan, Venice, and any city desired to visit. Each meeting filled me up with more anticipation and excitement. Finally, after nine months of planning, preparations and rigorous gathering of supplies, May 20th came, the day I left for Italy. Originally, we had planned to take a 6:00 pm flight, but British Airways was on strike that caused us to re-schedule the flight. More unfortunately, we ended up having to meet at The Philadelphia airport at 5:15 am to catch a 6:00 am flight to Chicago, then another flight to London, England where we spent the night at a local lodge. I was exhausted at that point. The next morning I was more rested, and Dr Clewis, who had accompanied us, accompanied our group to the London airport to catch our flight to Italy.
(My group at the London Airport) Within two hours, we quickly landed in Milan, Italy where Elisa Clewis met us, and we took a bus to Brescia. I was so excited to finally have reached Italy. I loved looking at the pleasant sights as the bus drove by the Northern Italian country. Soon we arrived in Brescia. Brescia was quite a small city, its setting similar to that of South Philadelphia in terms of structure setting, groups of families present, and the busy but friendly atmosphere. There were streets, buildings, café’s, stores, schools, and more. I was amazed to learn of the diversity within Brescia. Like America, Brescia was a melting pot, consisting of Caucasians, Africans, Muslims, Indians, even Asians.
After we got off the bus, Professor Elisa Clewis showed us our apartment buildings, and I unpacked my belongings and settled in. I knew that living in Italy would require some adjustments in lifestyle since Italy’s is different than America’s, but I was prepared to do my best. Such adjustments included cooking all my own meals, using Eurooperated washing machines, and riding bicycles everywhere. On the «49»
first weekend of our arrival, Professor Elisa Clewis led us on a tour of Brescia’s surrounding areas so we would become more familiar with directions, especially the square in the center of town where an elegant church, shops and café’s stood. We first stopped at the bicycle station to pick up the bikes we paid to rent. It has been years since I have ridden a bicycle, but luckily I was able to get on and ride perfectly again. We rode the bikes throughout the town, passing by the school and university where we would attend classes, shopped at grocery stores, sought the location of every ATM machine, and I got to taste my first fruity Italian Gelati! It was so tasty and refreshing on a warm day as was that first day. The next day I engaged in more activities on Brescia including observing some festivals. One was a festival to promote car sales, and a historical festival, where I witnessed dancers performing traditional Italian dances. It was a wonderful site to see traditional Italian customs performed. It made me feel like I was walking in the path of my ancestors.
(Brescia’s Historic Festival)
(Riding our bikes.)
Attending classes at Brescia’s local high school was interesting, in terms of learning the Italian language and being among the Italian students. Actually, about once each week, our group would meet the Italian students for conversations. I enjoyed speaking with the students about my life in America and in turn having them tell me about their lives in Italy. They were interested in hearing what we had to say. In the middle of the first week, we took a field trip to an agricultural school called the Pastori High school, where we spoke to the students there about our American school systems. In fact, the students there were so enthusiastic to see us that the moment we walked in the door they cheered and applauded for us as if were stars at a red carpet event. We toured the sections of Pastori High School where the students learn how to make wine, grow and arrange flowers, and care for animals. Quite a treat if I might add. Even better, I learned from Elisa the next «50»
day that the group picture we took at Pastori was published on the front cover of Brescia’s daily journal! It felt terrific to know that I and everyone involved in the group was given such positive attention!
(Pastori High School)
(Some cute little farm animals.)
(Yes I even saw an Ostrich!)
In taking the Italian course, I realized how difficult it is to learn the Italian language since there are several ways of pronouncing certain words. I also took an Italian philosophy course at Brescia’s local University, which was nice. One fun thing we did at the University every week on Tuesdays was watch Italian movies. Some were entertaining, some were boring, but it was a nice time to kick back and relax some. On the first Tuesday of my stay, our group took a field trip to Brescia’s Santa Guila Museum. It is a beautiful and historic museum that housed ancient Roman artifacts, mosaics equal in beauty to that of Rome’s Vatican, and the remains of ancient Roman temples and homes which were well preserved for being thousands of years old. For deeper understanding there were models of what the temples, homes, and artifacts looked like back then. I enjoyed gaining a deeper look into Brescia, and Italy’s ancient history. I learned that Brescia was known as the “Lioness” of ancient Roman times because its rank was second to that of Rome’s. «51»
Brescia Temple and Home remains)
During the weeks when I wasn’t attending class or doing homework, I engaged in one of my favorite pastimes in Brescia; making trips to the grocery stores and bakeries. I loved going food shopping and buying food and delicious Italian treats that I would never find here in America. These included croissants filled with jam and chocolate, Italian biscotti, warm olive and garlic breads, and lots of chocolate nutella-filled pastries! Yummy!!!! At the end of each school week in Italy, I anticipated the weekend trips. Prior to leaving, I made reservations for hotels in Florence and Rome. Milan and Venice were day trips. A couple of days before I was to leave for Florence, I learned from Elisa that I would have a guide to accompany me on the trips. My guide’s name was Sara. She lived in a town outside of Brescia and was a friend of Elisa’s brother. Sara lived in England for a year learning English. We would «52»
be able to communicate quiet well. I met Sara the day before I left for Florence and we had dinner at a local café to get to know each other. That night, Sara and I walked around Brescia’s square and witnessed another festival at which a concert was held. An orchestra and chorus were performing. It was a lot of fun to watch, like parades and circuses I remember as a child.
(Me at Brescia’s Square.)
(Drummers and Clowns)
The next morning, May 28th, I left with Sara for Florence. We walked to Brescia’s train station, where I saw how different European train stations were from American train stations. The station was more sophisticated in appearance and had a café, and couple of shops inside. I was amazed to see how fancy the inside of our train was. The seats were cleaner and upscale than the trains I remembered at home, and there were restrooms and a café in the last car, very convenient. The Milan station, where we had stopped along the way, was also elegant in appearance, like no train station I had ever seen. «53»
Within a couple of hours, we arrived in Florence. We started our visit right after dropping off our belongings at the hotel. Sara and I walked around Florence and visited many of the sites. Sara was very informative and told familiarized me with several of the sites we passed as she had been to Florence before. One site in Florence I will never forget was the Piazza del Duomo Dome. It was a wonderful church with a hug domed roof. Sara and I climbed all the way to the top. It was a long, sweaty, exhausting climb, but we made it. I was able to see all of the buildings and sites below. The site from above was truly breathtaking! In addition to the Duomo, Sara and I visited several other churches, and I shopped for clothes and shoes. Normally I am not too crazy about clothes shopping, but shopping in Italy made shopping more exciting. Another famous site I visited in Florence was the Ponte alle Grazie, which Sara informed me is the oldest bridge in Florence. Not only was the bridge a means for a great view, but there were many shops lined up within it, including exquisite jewelry stores. I even caught a glimpse of a bride and groom walking through the street! I then ate a delicious pizza at an elegant pizzeria, followed by an Italian crepe my first time. It was delicious! I learned firsthand that restaurants in Italy can be aggressive in attracting customers, especially when their prices are high. But luckily, Sara told me where to find the best and most affordable places to have meals. I enjoyed spending time with Sara and she was fun to talk to, especially when she taught me some new Italian words, and I taught her some English words.
(Sara and me)
(Piazza del Duomo)
(Climbing the Piazza del Duomo.)
(Finally made it to the top.)
During the following week, I witnessed Italy’s Independence Day. I learned that it was not celebrated fully as America’s Independence Day, but it was significant enough that schools and shops had closed. On the second weekend of my stay in Italy, everyone traveled to Rome by train. Within six hours, I arrived in Italy’s historic, exquisite, beloved capital! I had the opportunity to pass by and visit several of Rome’s most well-known sites. These included the Spanish Steps, ancient Roman temple remains, the Vatican Museum, the Coliseum, the Jewish Quarters, and the Trevi Fountain. The Vatican was just as my mother described to me; absolutely beautiful! I loved viewing the sculptures, pillars, paintings, and even tombs of previous Popes. It was surely one of the most elegant places I have seen in my life. The Coliseum was magnificent with its preserved structure. I was also happy to have made it to the Jewish Quarters, but it was Sabbath at my visit so the area was pretty much deserted. I loved hanging around the Trevi Fountain, but I was disappointed to learn that it is now forbidden to toss coins into it. Quite a shame, especially after learning the classic legend that you toss one coin in the fountain to return to Rome someday, two coins to find your true love, and three coins to find your true love in Rome. Despite Rome’s magnificence and beauty, it was also a little crazy, particularly due to the city’s fast pace and strict laws which could easily be inadvertently broken.
(Me and Sara on the Spanish Steps.) (In front of Ancient Roman temple pillars.)
(Me in front of the Trevi Fountain.) (Me in front of St. Peter’s Square.)
(Vatican Museum sculptures)
(Vatican Mosaics) «56»
(Sara and me at the Coliseum.)
(The Jewish Quarter’s museum.) On the third weekend of my time in Italy, I paid visits to Venice and Milan. However, unlike the previous two weekends, these were single day trips. The first trip on a Friday was spent visiting Venice, which became my favorite city of all the Italian cities I visited. I was excited to see all of the water canals, the squares, and to ride the gondolas. The atmosphere was refreshing; being by the seaside and feeling the cool breeze blowing against my skin on the hot day. The seafood I ate in Venice was among the best ever, so fresh and delicious. I was also lucky to complete one of the activities I had highly anticipated; ride a gondola! Sara and I loved the gondola ride, the boat was fancily decorated and the gondolier did a wonderful job rowing. Another part of Venice that I loved included walking around San Marco Square and buying Carnivale masks and Venetian glass-blown jewelry. Venice made me feel like I was transported to a different world full of canals and festive scenery.
(Bridge to San Marco Square.) «57»
(Riding a Gondola with Sara.)
(Walking around San Marco Square.)
The day after I visit Venice, Sara and I went to an amusement park near one of Brescia’s great lakes called Gardaland. Sara told me Gardaland is the largest amusement park in all of Europe, but compared to that of Six Flags and Dorney Park, it was quiet small. I enjoyed myself at Gardaland. The land rides and water rides were all fun. It had been my first amusement park trip in a few years so this was a real treat for me.
(Gardaland) The third day, on a Sunday, Sara and I took a trip to Milan. Milan was not as exciting and did not have as much to see as Rome, Florence, and Venice. But there were still some nice sites. I stopped by the Domed Square, the front of the La Scala opera house, and visited the Palace courtyard. While walking there, I took a picture of a newlywed couple having their wedding photos taken!
(Milan’s Duomo Church)
(The La Scala opera house)
(The Palace courtyard)
(The Domed Square)
On my final day in Italy, Elisa Clewis invited our group members to her family’s house to cook lunch, which was a lot of fun because I was able to participate in preparing an Italian meal. We made pasta with egg sauce, chicken and mushrooms, and creamy cake for desert. For everything I had experienced in Italy, from living and studying in Brescia, attending local festivals, touring famous cities, meeting civilians, and eating Italian cuisine, it was nothing short of «59»
incredible. Although there was so much of Italy that I had experienced, there is much I have yet to see. Italy has so much to offer. I simply could not see it all in just four weeks. Italy’s beauty, history and culture gave me a glimpse into how my mother’s ancestors lived. Of course, the trip did have its ups and downs, but I somewhat expected that. In addition, staying in Italy made me appreciate my American heritage all the more. I realized that despite being of partial Italian descent; I am American through and through. No doubt I will make another visit to Italy someday and visit all the places I did not have a chance to visit, such as Naples and Calabria. I had the greatest European experience I could ever ask for.
Unpredicted Morrow Dowdle
My mother-in-law likes to tell the story of the way she found my husband’s father: she and her best friend, two freshmen, getting ready on a Saturday night for the college bar, which was all there was to do on the weekend at a university in the mountains of North Carolina. They had lit candles and were reading the cards spread across the bed, divining that one would meet her magic man that night. The cards were supposed to be for fun, they weren’t supposed to mean anything, really, and the smell of danger went ignored beneath the joint pausing in the ashtray, the hair warmed and flattened into two drapes by the silver fin of an iron, and the incense in its holder, a single strand of smoke waving like a feebly warning finger. But where, among the swords and wands, the coins and cups, the Major Arcana with its Fool, Hanged Man, and Wheel of Fortune, were the cards predicting subsequent cruelty, infidelity, abandonment in long brown hair and opiate eyes waiting on the peeling vinyl seat of a barstool, motorcycle parked outside for the midnight ride? Where were the cards predicting a mustardcolored house standing empty, a woman grown gray without love, a man waking in my arms weeping still at being a fatherless son?
My Enemy, My Weakness Sean Hegarty
It comes in squadrons with its friends they come to cause pain severing deep festering wounds bursting blisters over bare skin coursing blood down the roads of dwindling health It darkens the roads It paves in dried flesh leaving scabs to be peeled off peace’s fragile heart It’s not a terrorist, though it ravages emotions It’s a strategist with guerrilla warfare Attack first the weak thin necks of the bold for the throat is the pivotal flank of proceeding vantages to retaliate means retaliation, irritation brings aggravation aggravation calls for total war, to burn away precious land leave behind infested cloth to spread across allied battalions they will come and search and gather and migrate It only needs to strike once for the unsuspecting they will be had and brought to their knees \ in tears of rejection will they soak this day in fears of gossip they will shudder upon the next the valiant will suffer an onslaught of repetitive offenses with a mighty clap on the shoulder will collapse fortresses Its landmines mean to scourge the earth for healthy soil to destroy it, dig holes, and plant seeds, with one intent to watch this world slowly be tortured into disintegration the strong will outlast it, others will turn their hopes for medication is our grand defense.
All The Wealth In The World Philip S. Goldberg
The whitewashed porch swing creaks as Rita rocks back and forth clutching the gown in her hands overrun with age spots and blue veins, which rise above the surface of her paper-thin skin. Squinting into the setting tangerine sun of a late August evening, she whispers: “Emily.” The name struggles through dry lips like a wounded butterfly. Without realizing how, a hand finds her mouth and prevents anything further from fluttering free. “We have to go back,” Al, her husband of more than 50 years, says framed by the doorway he stands in. Rita doesn’t glance at him. Instead she runs a hand over the cream-colored crinoline gown and nods, the weight of her world apparent in each miniscule movement. It is a world that from afar appears desirous, something of which to be envious. She enjoys good health. Al’s real estate business provides her with the comforts of wealth. Despite their nearly 76 years, they still have enough friends alive. Yet something is missing. She clutches the gown tighter. An hour later she sits in the passenger seat of their Mercedes Benz sedan, waiting for Al to finish closing their summer and weekend house near Key Harbor, a sleepy little hamlet on the Jersey shore. The sun’s down and an evening chill grips the air, which sneaks into the car’s plush interior through her window that’s cracked open. Looking at the cottage, which they’ve owned for four decades, she sighs. It was here that Emily fell from a tree in the backyard and fractured her arm. It was here where she taught Emily how to swim in the ocean. It was here where Emily fled after deciding not to marry Jim. The driver’s-side door slams shut, plucking away these thoughts. Al studies her and asks in a voice that knows the answer before the question is posed: “You okay?” “Yes,” she replies in a Zoloft-tainted voice and pushes a button on the door that closes her window as air conditioned air floods the car’s interior. Glancing at the back seat, she catches sight of the wedding gown draped across soft leather. Its presence offers comfort and makes her feel Emily is still close at hand. She forces a smile, which is erased by the muffled roar of the engine as Al starts the car. The trip by car from Key Harbor to the affluent Northern New Jersey village of Skyler takes just over an hour, barring traffic. In less than that Al parks the Benz in the garage under the large one-story «64»
house. Some proclaim their home a mansion. It features eighteen rooms plus a fully stocked wine cellar. An in-ground pool and pool house hold court in the backyard, as well as a beautifully landscaped garden and a tennis court unused in years yet maintained for appearance. Rita enters the outer foyer and stands under the crystal chandelier that Al saved from an old Atlantic City hotel he demolished years ago. She remains frozen under the chandelier, not knowing where to go, listening for the joyful sounds that once greeted her here. But silence, intermittently broken by electronic beeps of the house alarm system are all that find her ears. With her moment of solitude shattered, she walks into the huge living room and says: “Lights.” The room is instantly lit. “Lower,” she commands and the room’s illumination dims to a more pleasing effect. She walks to the couch, kicks off her shoes and rests her tired feet on the ottoman before her. The door slams shut in the kitchen and she knows that Al has entered from the underground garage. His soft steps recede deeper into the far side of the house. Leaves rustled by a gentle breeze scratch the glass French doors. Yet her ears pick up something else. Faint whispers of a child, a girl, are barely audible to her. They are followed by an older voice, her own, but not her voice now, a younger, more vibrant voice. To hear them better, she closes her eyes as she always does. “Mother, how old will you be when I am 20?” The young voice has a playful tone to it. “50,” she replies in an equally lighthearted expression. “35?” “65.” “47?” The whispering dies off as if it’s a breeze that has ceased blowing. Rita opens her eyes, surprised to see Al standing before her with a glass of gin and tonic in his extended hand. She takes it and says: “Thanks,” and then she shakes the glass gently and listens to the clinking ice cubes. “She’s not coming back,” Al says in a tired and drained voice. “I know.” She sips her drink. “All the money in the world couldn’t make that happen.” “Then let me have this time to myself.” Her voice grips the air with a stern, grave edge. Exasperated, Al walks off. Again his steps grow softer and softer as he walks deeper and deeper into the huge house, a place he bought some 15 years ago as a way for both of them to escape their pain. After all, he naively believed that his wealth could ease the pain of anything. And with no one to leave the money to, he had plenty of it to spend. Rita, on the other hand, did not see things this «65»
way. As his footsteps fade to silence, she drains her drink and places the empty tumbler on the narrow glass cocktail table that butts up against the couch. Back she leans against a plush cushion and stares up at the ceiling with its plastered scrolls and the cherubs and flowers that border it. Craftsmanship, that was hard to find, and when Al finally did, cost a king’s ransom, she recalls as her breaths grow even and deeper. She mulls over what Al said. She knows they tried everything. She despairs at how wedding plans became medical bills. Her eyes flutter. She forces herself up, battling the sedative effect of the alcohol, and awkwardly rises to her feet. Slowly she heads in the opposite direction of Al. Her footsteps are heavy, plodding. Swaying a little, she brushes against the priceless pieces of art that she and Al purchased on their many trips around the world. Her elbow touches a Matisse. Her arm grazes a Picasso. Her hand braces the gilded frame of a Van Gogh. Despite the wealth at her fingertips, she feels destitute, lacking in something so basic to the prosperity of man, woman. With effort, Rita arrives at her destination. She opens the door and glances inside, as if fearful of awakening someone. But there is no one to arouse. The security lights in the yard penetrate the curtained window and cast lifeless shadows across the carpet, the walls and the small bed that once comforted a teenage girl. Rita inches into the room and to the bed where she sits. On the night table, a picture of a smiling girl beams at her. She runs a finger over the photo’s smiling lips. On the wall above the headboard illuminated by the security lights, a diploma from Columbia University hangs. Next to it, there’s a New York State license to practice medicine. It was Emily, Rita recalls, who discovered the lump on her breast four months before the wedding. It was Emily, who waited until all the test results came through before she told her mother. And it was Emily who cancelled the wedding and painfully set her fiancé free. Rita sits on the bed and becomes aware of a clock ticking in a distant room. The sound of time moving forward is so distinct, she realizes. It never loses a beat, slows down or speeds up. And, of course, it never goes backwards. She rises from the bed and bends over and kisses the pillow. Its silk cover feels stiff against her lips and offers little comfort. Pulling her head away from it, she straightens up and heaves a sigh. The breeze outside has kicked up again, and tree branches tap on the window pane. Shadows of leaves and branches backlit by the outdoor lights dance on bedroom walls papered in a delicate flower design. Rita absorbs it «66»
all and then turns and inches out of the room, closing the door with a hush, behind her. In the hallway nothing feels familiar. Walls appear foreign to her. The plush wool carpet looks like another planet’s landscape. It’s as if her world no longer exists. But in a tick of the clock all returns to normal, and she takes a step on her carpet, past her walls in her house. Then she takes another step and another until she finds herself in the underground garage. “Light,” she commands, and harsh fluorescent light casts a cold, garish glow on everything, especially the Mercedes that’s parked in the room’s center next to the snow blower and the lawn mower. She walks down five wooden steps until her feet touch cold cement. Chills race up her body like a greyhound and she shudders. Looking around, she sees that the space is big enough to fit a two bedroom apartment. “What a waste,” she mumbles. By now, she figures Al is asleep, and despite his age, he still sleeps deep. He balances out the fact that she hardly sleeps anymore. She walks across the cold cement to the Mercedes Benz and looks inside at Emily’s wedding gown she left on the back seat. The garage door rattles as the wind, which has picked up, blows against it. The noise’s suddenness makes her jump. Then she stares at the car with a wistful expression and steps beyond it and takes the spare car key off a peg that’s driven into the wall. With key in hand, she goes to the car and grabs a door handle, cold and smooth, turns it and then enters the plush, safe interior. Hours later, sunlight streams into the master bedroom and bathes Al who lies asleep. A steady beep draws him out of his slumber. The beeping continues and he focuses on it. With sleep still cradling him, he steps out of bed and into his slippers, following the sound through the room and into the hallway and down the stairs. The beep grows louder, closer. At the foot of the staircase, he stops, looks around and calls out: “Rita?” Her voice does not respond. Quickly he checks the den. She is not there. He returns his attention to the beeping and runs to the kitchen where he stops dead, knowing the sound. It is the carbon monoxide detector in the garage. The beeping is now not the only sound he hears. There is another. It is the hum of the Mercedes Benz’ engine running. The realization of what these combined sounds mean hits him like a hard punch to his solar plexus. He keels over and grabs his quivering mouth with one hand, stifling his fears from rising any further. The air feels charged as if an electric current runs through it. Around him everything appears in its proper place. Life looks unstirred, but he knows it’s not. He rubs his eyes to prove that he is awake. The ticking of the clock «67»
sounds like a heartbeat as he takes a deep breath and finds some composure to hold on to. Slowly he stands and grabs the phone off the wall and dials 9-1-1.
**** Two firemen descend into the garage, in which the carbon monoxide has been allowed to escape through the opened garage door, and come upon the Mercedes. They discover an ashen-faced Rita crumbled in the driver’s seat, clutching the unused wedding gown. Oddly they think her face appears fixed in a smile. One firefighter turns off the car’s engine. Its sweet hum is silenced. Backing out of the car, he stands and looks around. Then he says: “What an amazing house. What did you think ... Two million? Three million?” “More,” the other replies without question. “Much more.”
she undressed like a cigarette burning down to his filter slipping off the events of the day folding them over the back of his chair in front of the TV sky in flames then lay down on the bed naked as newspaper while the rest of her life unrolled like a bolt of clerical cloth
the sky quietly recedes into the river leaving behind muted reflections of the day my sister resounds her voice strong declaring Kadish in honor of our fatherâ€™s memory I too chant the words as my father lingers in the car chewing gum waiting for us after a school dance repairing an antique frame with the same gum painted gold farmer cheese on his lips our chanting done we stand silently as his physical frame dissolves back into the sky and all the years gather together above the horizon and disappear for another year
Writing was not easy, palms clammy, mind racing, Find the right words, phrases, and pacing, When the time comes, conquer your fears, Summon your voice, hold back your tears, Rise from the pew, stand by the alter Do not think, Do not hide, Try not to falter, Grip the lectern, face the crowd, Steady your hands, read thoughts aloud, Pray to the Lord, these words do you proud. With one piece of paper, conversation will cease, Emotions are stirred, as you rest in peace. No one prepared me, for when life turned drastic, Suits pass down the aisle, hands on your casket, The Avè has played, one too many times, I conceal my pain, within each of these rhymes, Focus on these words too closely, and see how I feel, For this feat I endured, the memories are real.
I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph, and no name. Well actually, I’d like it to say “figment.” —Andy Warhol My aunt keeps calling. I need to write the epitaph for my uncle’s gravestone. It’s been over a year. And nothing. Everything was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt —Billy Pilgrim’s epitaph in Slaughterhouse Five I think my uncle hated me. I lacked the greatness of his generation, the ones borne of dust, the ones who built and saved worlds. I’m living off the trust fund his father left for me. I work in a factory, picking parts, listening to my i-Pod. The same song, sometimes, on repeat. Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” “Hey Jude.” Songs like that. Have you made your peace with your God? “I never quarreled with my God.” But aren’t you concerned about the next world? “One world at a time.” —discussion on Henry David Thoreau’s deathbed He didn’t hate you, my aunt says on the machine. Just write the fucking thing. It’s the least you could do. My aunt has no idea about the least I could do. I have just had eighteen whiskeys in a row. I do believe that is a record. —last words of Dylan Thomas My uncle built a law firm, first working for the IRS, then against them. My aunt fills the machine with her memories of him. I write them down, turn them into something: Even from beyond the clouds, she could pick him out among the black objects that traversed the Tahoe slopes. He moved like the pendulum of a great grandfather clock, a grace that put experts to shame. That grace took «74»
her back in time to the dance floor where every step he created out of nothing remained perfectly in-time. Work, play, every interaction with every person he met he viewed as a challenge to do his best, harder on himself than on anyone else. He always sought out the highest peaks, the biggest hats, the largest life he could find. As a kid, he fished beside his father and, sat by his side when the wind blew West. In that mythic West of his father’s stories and trips, he was born, terrorizing and loving his sister with that fierce obsession of the Western Heroes, with a kind of absolutism that hid a vast complexity, that deep sensitivity to life, not only this one, but the one he might find tomorrow, over a higher peak. How he loved his life, his friends, his city, his slopes, his guests, the law and things beyond it. Picture him now, moving like a pendulum with the grace of gods, riding clouds, the only angel in heaven with a black twenty-gallon hat. Yippee-aye-oh, he yells out. Yippee-ay-oh, we yell back. His demand for the best in himself, brought in the best in us all. Yippee-ay-oh, to the last great mythic cowboy. Yippee-ay-oh. You were loved! Madly. Fiercely. Forever. I hope I haven’t bored you. —end of Elvis Presley’s last press conference Too long, my aunt says in an email, for an epitaph. You know, she adds, you never came to visit us in San Francisco. Not once. Where’s that in here? I’m been thinking about it some more, and you have no right to him. ...the fog is rising. —last words of Emily Dickinson I want to write it. For my aunt. My uncle. ALIEN TEARS WILL FILL FOR HIM PITY’S LONG-BROKEN ERN, FOR HIS MOURNERS WILL BE OUTCAST MEN, AND OUTCASTS ALWAYS MOURN. —epitaph of Oscar Wilde My aunt doesn’t call anymore. «75»
As the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew, So this old world is made brighter by the lives Of folks like you. —epitaph of the “outlaw” Bonnie Parker Brilliant. Like a black diamond. Loving husband, brother, son, and uncle. William Bell Adams.
Stolen Requiem Rachel de Baere
In what scene would I want to be enveloped more than this one—an ordinary evening at my writing table: yellow tablecloth celebrating its green, blue and gold flowers born of earth, pen stroking the last page of my notebook? This moment gives me time to sort the noise that screams from beneath my blue blouse—hollow words spoken by a priest who knew nothing of the dead one. Our sister, he called her. Within the ten weeks from diagnosis to death, her bones protruded, skin sallowed, eyes sank. In the church, I watched a daughter’s gaze turn toward her mother’s casket during the see-you-later-don’t-be-sad sermon. Writing gives me time to rest my heart on the page, share the unspeakability with lines that hold, so I can move beyond this moment, to a time when a girl who loses her mother will go on. There is nothing I need more than the thickness of my book, thicker now with my ink. It’s all here, written with ferocious heart. Forgive me if I cry at the beauty of solitude at this table. Forgive me my anger. Forgive me this extraordinary pleasure at writing from loss.
A Likely Story
William A. Henkin
begins in the midst of relevant events— while the storm is already brewing, the star-crossed lovers are on the way to their ill-omened destination. Everything that matters hangs in the balance and proceeds as if inevitably toward its foregone conclusion. A story less likely begins at the beginning, or at the end and works backwards, or seems to make no sense until some radical catharsis brings all the disparate elements of disentangled lives together so enemies die in each other’s embrace, true lovers never even meet, portentous weather passes, while across the street unseen by anyone an innocent child suffers and dies, a civilization collapses, or nothing at all occurs while no one watches.
Spirituality Justin Boyer
Until recently, humans have depended upon spirituality to provide explanations behind the inexplicable processes of the world. In their minds, we were one of the lower forms of active intelligence, besides the angels, gods, or other supreme beings. Spirituality existed as a potential explanation behind the source of our being and the reasons for our existence. Nothing in the immediate tangible world could readily explain these things. So instead, humans had to think beyond the physical world and begin conceptualizing a metaphysical realm. Through this, they hoped to instill meaning into peopleâ€™s lives and distinct reasons to live morally. One of the most suspicious elements of spirituality is morals. Even now, science faces limitations when trying to suggest reasons for an intrinsic moral code. Noticeably, there seems to be some type of moral awareness programmed in all of us. Our current scientific reasoning inspires us to scrutinize brain scan images for a sketch of this unseen concern. Every day, we are confronted with moral concern. Unconsciously, we empathize with many people just by allowing our thoughts to detach from ourselves. Overcoming the inner desire to protect our own selves, we begin having that same equal concern for someone else. Ancient knowledge of spirituality purports that this empathy is evidence of our spiritual selves. Nearly every religion shares a belief that our spiritual selves strive to live harmoniously with other human beings. Additionally, they always stress the immorality of living an enclosed life, free of love and wonderment. Art provides us with the essential tools to illustrate our intangible realms. In our minds, we all hold some unique image of the ideal ideas of all things present on Earth. Our private realms all reflect some image of an unforeseen afterlife where all these ideal ideas are present. Nearly all art takes these spiritual ideas and attempts to communicatively share these ideals with other humans. All stories universally weave these ideas and create an illustration of our journeys towards creating these dreams. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia, and many other well know fantasy classics all seem to paint our present struggle with human corruption and our attempt to restore the former glory of the ideal. Mythology originally existed primarily to show our relationship between the ÂŤ79Âť
physical and metaphysical. Our current fantasy books always pay homage to this tradition by modernizing the elements of the physical realm. While the spiritual realm of ideals shares many similarities in that it seems to always sketch some image of wild perfection. This image of idealized goodness or perfection contains many similarities in these stories when they are present in the depiction of a world that has vanquished the temporary interference. From art to morals, scientific reasoning becomes useless when trying to suggest simplistic evidence of these spiritual activities. Brain waves can only feebly illustrate the activity of the thoughts behind these activities, rather than their source. Art itself still grapples with the idea of the source of the ideas. Though, art also has silently accepted the idea of some ultimate source behind our existence. Even if the answer is riddled with the questions and contradictions we place upon the idea of this Supreme Being or deities. Morals themselves only provide proof that the most problematic questions of our existence can only be answered with spiritual explanations. Without spirituality, we would not have some escape hatch from the mundane or treacherous qualities of the real world. More importantly, we would not have the strong faith that promotes us to live meaningful lives.
A Literary Affair Bonnie Stanard
Words are submissive but unfaithful, fickle to their roots and inconstant. Even if you believe them, they act in bad faith double-cross your best efforts and desert you. As often as you use them they abuse you. Believe me, they mess with your meaning.
The Problem with our Dialog Robert Lee Frazier
Writers are continually given the advice,” Make your written dialogue sound real.” This piece of trade wisdom is repeated often by editors, teachers and how-to manuals. The challenge of course isn’t making your dialog sound real - even a beginner knows this is important. No, the problem is in the way we are always encouraged to find examples of real conversations. We are directed to our nearest coffee shop. Now, I’m not sure about other writers but for me this location inspires zero confidence in the idea that we should be able to listen-in on sparkling banter or charming discussions. I recently sat in my local coffee shop sipping a latte. I was minding my own business scribbling in a notebook when a group of well dressed older men came in. They ordered drinks, and sat at the table next to me. They immediately began discussing realestate devaluation and the financial misfortunes of many of my cities neighborhoods. Although I’m not the kind of guy you would call worldly-wise, I can pick up the newspaper and read those kinds of statistics for myself. As for discourse or delivery, well they might as well have been reading a recent article aloud, from the real-estate section of the city paper, plenty of boring facts - no personal opinions. Suddenly from across the room a woman stood up from an oversized plush chair. She reached up tall, arms outstretched, yawning; she even rolled up onto her toes. As she was doing this her purse toppled off the arm of the chair and onto the floor with a clatter. A handful of change spilled out and hit the floor, as change is want to do, scattering in all directions. A young man, who had been reading a magazine on an oversized coach opposite from her, sprang up and started collecting the coins. The obviously embarrassed woman then mumbled,” Don’t worry… .” After he had picked up the few coins that had rolled in his general direction he handed them back to the woman with a smile, saying, “Here you go… .” She looked at him and said,” Thanks, you’re sweet… .” He turned back to his sofa and not even looking in her direction said aloud,” I was waiting for the dollars…” «82»
She smiled without looking his way and said in a still distracted voice, “…finders fee?” This Embarrassed woman then continued her coin search near the front counter. When another female customer strolled in. Seeing the Embarrassed woman just standing in front of the counter she stepped up behind her. The Embarrassed woman then turned to the new customer and said,” I’m not queued-up.” The new customer stepped aside and said simply, “Queued...?” Although this is an accurate account of the events, it wasn’t really all that was obviously being said. The use of the ellipses ... is my poor way of demonstrating the fact the each of the persons involved were still continuing their contributions long after their mouths had stopped working. From their facial expressions it could be discerned that they were each experiencing a continued dialogue. They were each carrying on this conversation in their own heads. The point I carne away with, after witnessing this odd exchange, was how important it is for a writer to capture the amount of unspoken exchange that is happening all around them. Modern man spends a lot of his time in contemplation with an inner monologue babbling on endlessly. I’m reminded of St. Augustine’s (A.D.354-430) remembrance in his Confessions, of his master, Bishop Ambrose’s habit, exceptional at the time, of reading silently without moving his lips. --Confessions, Book VI Chapter 3. It is strange that modern man works out his conversations alone. When our forefathers thought even the act of reading should be done aloud. Personally I think this encounter would have been far more interesting if each of the persons would have lied or at least spoken more like they lived in a television soap opera or old time melodrama. We could reconsider the scene as follows. Into the coffee bar stomped an angry woman. She glanced around the room and as her face darkened, she marched over to stand in front of a man who was sitting on a sofa reading the newspaper. “Here you bastard,” She said and threw a fist full of gold coins on the ground. She raised her voice and continued, “You’re evil.” The man looked up and smiled. He pulled at his beard and answered, “What, having second thoughts about my finder’s fee?” “Finders fee - more like blood money.” The man slowly bent down and picked up the coins, all the while keeping his eye on the woman. The door opened and another woman marched in. The sound of her high heels beat out a message on the floor. She walked over to the man and as he stood, pointed a small «83»
pistol at his face. The first woman tried to protest but the woman with the gun said, “Get in line lady. He’s had this coming for a long time.” See what I mean - exciting. Now we have some spicy drama and conflict to write about not just something as boring as real estate prices and loose change. The disheartening truth is this, you can listen until your ears bleed but most of us do not practice exciting conversation. We simply share basic ideas and knowledge. For many people they would never dream of talking about their personal lives in a public place. If you’re dead-set on eavesdropping on other people pick a time when they may be confessing something interesting. Like when they’re talking to their Mothers or possibly their priest. THE END
Tincture of Scribes Connie Wrzesniewski
Take two cc’s of India ink. Infuse with a mizzle of mnemonics, a hodgepodge of snakeskin, mammal fur and human hair. In a mortar and pestle, crush three owl feathers, a spit of spider silk, some caterpillar webbing, four blades of witches grass and one of needlegrass. Combine mixtures in a one and a half inch wide cast iron cauldron. Drizzle in a few drops of honeysuckle nectar and a plethora of powdery pages from Shakespeare. Liquefy with copious amounts of saliva from your favorite author. Set this atop a Bunsen burner for fifteen minutes, or so. Allow to cool and proceed to administer. Rub on all pulse points, forehead and hands. Rapid heartbeat, racing pulse and itchy fingers will signify that the time is right and – so you will. Take in hand an ancient eagle quill and dip it into the tincture of scribes in the cauldron. Let the words flow onto a piece of parchment. Eureka!
Death Seer Prologue Justin Boyer
Rain pelted the crowd of similarly dressed people: nearly all of them were wearing their black tunics for today’s sacrifice. Among some of the neighboring tribes, the people were thrilled to see the death seer or anyone be sacrificed to the pantheon of Gods. This particular tribe instead greeted the death seer’s sacrifice forlornly. About every eighty odd years, their elected death seer was bound to be killed. He was required to be killed in order to permit the world to peacefully transition to the next stage. If the tribe as a whole neglected the task of murdering him, they were then being negligent of death. Or, they were simply ignoring the natural order of life. In some symbolic way, they had to show nature that they accepted the inevitability of death. Even, if they themselves muttered protestations about its messiness and its indescribable terror. For this tribe’s denizens, the notion of murdering this specific Death Seer was overwhelming. Many of the women and even some of the men had sewn hoods on their tunics to obscure their vision. They did not want to see this particular seer tackle death. There was a certain meekness and innocence contained within this Death Seer’s physical body that caused this sacrifice to be murder within their eyes. These veiled individuals thus were relegated to the back of the gathering. The high priest wished for the Death Seer’s confrontation with death not to be obstructed by displays of empathy. As a whole, the community needed to stoically show their acceptance of the Death Seer’s fate. Their physical bodies had to be free of any sign of emotion; they needed to show that within death our spiritual selves begin to depart from us. Symbolically, the inexpressiveness of the tribe must show that we believe our bodies to be secondary while the interior soul is our primary self. It is the self that we must beckon to vanish from our material prisons. One of the veiled individuals, a male named Aura, sensed a great river of sadness within his spiritual self. As he meditated upon the hopefulness of death, he began to think instead of the possibility that the spiritual self was nonexistent. Meaning, this sense of sadness that sought to overwhelm him was just a product of his material self. There was no real spiritual «87»
form contained within. It was nothing but an attempt to explain the mysteries of emotions. Nearly all this ritualistic stuff was just a façade. It covered the mystery that no one wished to ponder. It did nothing but bolster the idea of meaning within the world. In actuality, it kept the citizens from becoming fatalistic. All of this religious buffoonery was nothing but a distraction from the void. Aura had thought of the void often when painting. Just yesterday, the elders had confiscated his painting tools because he had painted a seemingly beautiful meadow being swallowed up by a black hole. Basically the hues of the meadow were sharpened and defined at the edges. But towards the middle, the colors seem to taper off. Smack in the middle was a gaping tunnel of blackness. When Aura painted the black hole, he had chuckled maniacally to keep himself from crying. Exaggerated laughter was often forced because it hides dark emotions. Underneath, the laughter Aura was mentally sinking into a realization that the world was meaningless. Aura had meant to paint the drawing for an art show that took place during the death seer’s sacrifice. Overtly optimistic paintings were displayed to help people grapple with the grim reality of death. Before and after the sacrifice, people stared towards these paintings to remind themselves of the meaning and depth of the world. They looked to these paintings as consolation. Yet, the paintings were all identically vibrant unlike Aura’s latest work. Differently, his was only slightly colorful but overwhelmingly colorless. The priestly order of the town was appalled by Aura’s painting and sentenced him to solitary confinement. Aura then was shuffled off to the dark cave near the village and was forced to remain there for an entire day. A boulder was rolled in front of the cave’s opening to deflect light. Within the cave, Aura was deprived of food and was instructed to meditate on the example of the death seer. Since the Death Seer was known to be pressed by death at all hours of the day, he thus had to refine his very self with the strong belief that greater life follows earthly death. Due to death visions being triggered directly by staring into the eyes of others, he was blindfolded for his whole life. Therefore he could not see sensual pleasures. He had to rely upon a mental picture of sensuous things. In many ways, he had to derive pleasure from imagined things. Aura had been let out of his prison just a few hours ago. He «88»
felt like one of the derelicts who wandered the roads in between tribes. His whole stomach felt emptied of any sustenance and he felt even more disillusioned with the world around him. A grating sound awoke Aura from his reverie. The sound emanated from a blindfolded, elderly man who was shouting hoarsely. While his pained shouts resounded through the gathering, the villagers preserved their solemn stares with greater effort. Right now, the sadness from their spiritual selves was spilling over into their material selves. If not kept in check, that sadness would manifest itself upon the physical self. Aura scoffed at that explanation that the priests feebly offered. They believed that the spiritual self felt only sad by death because it wished to die and be freed as well. Therefore, they interpreted sadness to be nothing more than the spiritual self coveting another person’s death or spiritual release from the world. A priest diminished the death seer’s cries by tying a cloth around his mouth. Now the cries were quiet grumbles which were not as disquieting as cries. That same priest knelt down to the Death Seer and kissed him on both cheeks. To Aura, it looked more like they were kissing a jeweled relic taken from a defeated tribe. Suddenly, the priest cleared his throat obnoxiously and began to spew his meaningless drivel. Aura found it amusing that the priest’s beard looked like a tattered scroll while his ancient skin resembled the color of saw dust. Many of the villagers named him the Wise Oak for these very reasons. “Now villagers, I know that many of you feel pinioned by a great sense of sorrow as we release the Death Seer from his physical prison. Remember that your spiritual self, at this moment, only seeks selfish release. Yet, the natural rhythm of the world will not allow for that to happen. We must all die at our respectful, natural times. We are only mere patrons of this beautiful world that the pantheon of Gods gladly lent to us. Our Death Seer is meant to be our message from the Gods themselves as to when each of you are to die. They speak through the Death Seer with visions to indicate to us when some of you are meant to die. Then each of you individually will take your turn at this altar of ours to seek your release. As we watch this kindly boy die, be reminded that this is only the end to our first life. Afterwards, we will be ushered into a world where our spiritual selves are fully fleshed out and all our senses our augmented. In that world, we will live harmoniously with the greater powers that originally created us. Soon enough we will be part of their spiritual fiber.” While Wise Oak resonantly spoke these words, Aura could not help but sense some «89»
underlying derision. If interpreted that way, it meant that the priests did not take their own religious beliefs seriously. The crowd remained subdued as a burly executioner who wore a tunic of red walked upon the stone altar where the Death Seer was now fettered. Both the Death Seer’s limbs and legs were bonded tightly with rope. Muttered cries could be detected from the Death Seer while his nerves trembled in fear of his impending death. Several of the veiled villagers near Aura began to softly whimper as they empathized with the death seer’s plight. In many ways, they felt that the pantheon of Gods envisioned their spiritual selves to be emotional. Therefore, all emotions should be unleashed into the physical body and permitted to become manifest. Some of the other villages where people interpreted the Gods differently were allowed to fully emit these emotions. At this tribe though, only joyousness and thankfulness could be expressed. In some sense, only certain key emotions were allowed to be unleashed from the spiritual selves. It was anything that maintained peace. Wise Oak appeared again upon the stone altar. He brandished a large spear that was manufactured out of the sturdiest oak. The sharpened edge of the spear itself was sharpened from the densest stone. For any sacrifice, the weapon had to finely puncture all flesh and also have the ability to crack any bones. “We will now remove the Death Seer’s blindfold from his eyes so that he can look upon his physical body once more.” The priest announced while the executioner carefully removed the black blindfold from the death seer’s eyes. Before his eyes were seen, the executioner quickly averted his glance away from the death seer’s grey eyes. Withdrawing himself, the executioner sought out his own personal spear which was an inferior version of Wise Oak’s. Wise Oak wobbled slightly as he carried a tub of water to the Death Seer. He then blindfolded his eyes while groping for the death seer’s ropes. Untying those, the death seer arose though he sat with his back to the audience. The death seer’s mouth still had a cloth tied about it to prevent his cries from being heard. Removing the blindfold from his eyes, the priest vacated the altar and left the death seer alone with his back to the gathering. The death seer felt for the rim of the tub of water and dragged it so it was seated in front of him. While he proceeded in doing this, the death seer quivered violently as he began to discover his reflection in the pool of water. The audience nervously chattered in whispers while the death seer upraised his hands to the sky and screamed plaintively. No «90»
meaning could be comprehended from this guttural scream: it was completely incoherent in the much the same way warrior cries are. Tears produced themselves in Aura’s eyes while his spiritual self seemed to empathize greatly with the Death Seer’s strained cries. Aura batted those emotive thoughts away and focused only on his orthodox thoughts instead. For any fragment of time, he could not dwell on anything remotely emotive. Then the death seer loosened the blindfold from his mouth. After that, he regained his composure and tried not to allow any screams to escape from his mouth. “I am picturing a world that seems to be advanced in terms of tools. It is a very distant world in terms of our measure of time. While, it seems fairly close in terms of the wide scope of time. In this world, there are many contradicting faiths and many belief systems that seek to control our method of viewing it. More than anything, this world wishes to eliminate the natural process of death. They wish to repress its idea to allow for greater warfare or more dangerous tools that allow for an expedited life. Everything in this world is about quickening the pace and closing us off from the metaphysical. The belief systems of this world are conveyed to the people in order to make them complacent with the world and also to allow for greater control over them by governmental forces. Oh, the agony, this world is bleeding internally due to a loss of truthfulness and reason. Soon enough the gods or this earth will punish us by seeking to bypass our own limitations. These people are far too presumptuous in their view that everything in the world can be perfectly known. None of these people are helpful subordinates to the Earth; they are their own venerated Gods. I feel that this will be the death of civilization as a whole once the pantheon and the Earth revolt against us.” The Death Seer clumsily phrased his prophetic words as if stumbling over both their intensity and scope. Of all the former predictions from this death seer, this one did not exist in this time period. It foresaw events about a stage of the world far beyond this point. Aura could not fathom anything the death seer spoke. A great part of him wanted to have full belief within his words. But mostly, he denied their validity because the Death Seer was probably maddened by his impending death. Much like some of his art work, this prediction was some vain attempt to assuage the insanity and feeling of purposeless existence. More than likely, the predictions of the past death seers were unfathomable and overwrought because the physical body fails to think coherently at this point. The physical self could be forfeiting its hold over the spiritual self or it might merely be «91»
panicking at the realization that there was no consciousness beyond death. The death seer now grabbed the blind fold from the ground and gravely sat himself back upon the altar. Then he obscured his eyes once again with the retied blindfold and did the same with the knot of fabric on his mouth. This signaled the executioner and priest to return with their spears. With this, the crowd wrestled their emotional selves with greater power than before. Since the death seer had unveiled his last prediction, he now had no further purpose within this world, Quickly, the executioner proceeded to fettering the death seer to the stone altar. While, the priest waited anxiously with the domineering spear in one hand. Silently, the executioner motioned the priest with his hand to stand on alternate sides of the altar from him. Both the priest and the executioner raised the sharpened edge of their spears above the death seer. Alarming grumbles could be heard from the death seer as he stared above at the proposed cause of his death. Incantations were whispered with precision by the guard and executioner as if beseeching the gods to forgive them for any feelings of sadness wrought by this murder. Instead, they must allow themselves to be gratified by the murder because they were succumbing to the natural rhythm of the world: they were allowing the next stage of the world to unfold, Aura knew that they were mostly sadistic, both the priest and the executioner. They just wanted to utilize their religion to justify their barbarous acts. There were countless wars attributed to allowing the natural order of the world to continue. Mostly, they were wars that were designed specifically for gaining more land or wealth. One sole scream erupted from a lady beside him as a crest of blood plummeted to the ground around the stone altar. She quickly silenced herself though when people around him shuffled disconcertingly. Upon the altar, both spears had now penetrated the death seer’s physical body. Both the guard and the priest were awash with his residual blood from two large wounds upon his torso Weirdly, the priests thought of themselves as the human vessels of the gods. In order for the Gods to receive their offering, the priests were to drink the sacrifice’s blood as one collective, sanctified vessel. Therefore, many of the other priests soon crept to the altar to receive their blood offering. The rain seemed to intensify from earlier. Now it made a sound similar to cracking bones as it impacted the ground. Expectantly, the «92»
priests seemed not to mind it because they believe the Gods were showering them with praise and ushering them to the next stage of the world. In response, the priests lathered themselves with the death seer’s blood in adulation to the Gods. Then, they ingested more of the blood from the death seer’s cadaver in order to symbolically fill the Gods with the life force of the Death seer. Aura knew differently; he knew that the world itself was protesting the misuse of religion to fuel base desires. These priests were subhuman and their religious structure allowed them to subsist on immorality. Maybe, the death seer’s words meant that humans were going to continue degenerating. Then, the Earth itself would wage war on humanity as a whole. Who knows? As Aura felt greatly disgusted by the pleasured slurping sounds of the priests, he stared at the gathering around him and wondered if they found this whole world to be empty. Thinking of his painting once more, he thought again of the colorful edges of the painting where once the world began with beauty and purpose. Then it was consumed by a hole of darkness that was the dark underside of humanity. Closing his eyes, Aura tried to envision some sense of true meaning in this world of illusions. He felt the Death Seer’s words reverberate through his depraved mind. The words themselves seemed to be entrapped in his mind though he did not believe them entirely. Soon enough he would pass from this stage of the world and subsequent stages of the world would pass also. These would be filled with diverse people who were all grappling for truth and meaning. Most of all, there would be a process of entropy happening in both the universe and the people of the world. Eventually, the final death would seek domination and blot out the existence of everything. In this future last stage, there would be a death seer in existence. Maybe, he had the answers or solutions. For now, Aura vowed to enjoy the remainder of his life and tried not to brood about that distant death. More than likely, he will probably not to be able to ponder it any further after his own end.
Erin Benton’s drowsiness was surpassed only by her desperate need to find a restroom. Driving alone along a desolate stretch of I-77, she searched futilely for any lighted sign that might promise relief. “Why are they called ‘convenience’ stores,” she muttered, “if they’re so damned hard to find?” Just then, Blondie’s “Call Me” shattered the quiet inside the car. Erin plucked her cell phone from her jacket pocket, checked it, and put it back. The phone’s feature allowing her to program it to call itself at regular intervals had rescued her from many a boring situation. Tonight it doubled as an effective means of keeping her awake. She hadn’t really wanted to go to the faculty party, but for a professor seeking tenure, attendance was a de facto mandate. She had not, however, been mandated to drink five Pink Squirrels. That had been her own idea, albeit a regrettable one now as her bladder threatened to explode while she was still twenty miles from home. The car’s headlights picked up a green reflective sign and Erin’s heart bounded. The rest stop that she passed every day on her commute – she’d forgotten all about it! Her foot pressed harder on the accelerator as she saw the hazy glow from mercury vapor lights in the distance. There were no other cars in the parking lot as Erin slowed for the exit and pulled up in front of the facility. Normally, she might have been hesitant to stop in such isolated surroundings, but her overwhelming need to pee took precedence over any concerns of that nature. In fact, the one worry she had was: What if the restroom doors are locked? She got out of her car and rushed up a long walkway to the building, breathing a sigh of relief when the door marked “Women” opened easily under her touch. She groped along the wall, found the light switch, and entered the nearest stall. Oh my God, she thought as she pulled down her panties and hovered an inch above the toilet seat, this is one of the greatest pleasures in life. A moment later, as Erin stood rearranging her clothing, she noticed a message scrawled on the interior of the stall door: He comes at midnight. “Right,” she said, and chuckled softly. Then she felt a cool stirring of air around her ankles and heard the whine of a tractor«94»
trailer from the Interstate. Had someone opened the restroom door? She glanced at her wristwatch: eleven fifty-five. No, she thought, that’s ridiculous – just a coincidence… Then the lights went out. Don’t panic. She almost called out to say, “There’s someone in here. Please turn the lights back on.” But the chill that gripped Erin’s spine stopped the words before they reached her mouth. Instead, she waited, not moving, barely breathing - and listened. She heard the soft scrape of a shoe on the concrete floor, then nothing, and then she felt the breeze again at her ankles as the door reopened. Had they gone? She waited another moment before easing open the stall door. It was pitch black inside the restroom. She couldn’t see a thing save for a thin sliver of sickly orange light bleeding from around the entrance door. She took a chance, crept to the door, and pulled it open just a crack. The outside lights momentarily blinded her - then she saw a dark figure in a hooded parka jogging up the walkway toward the restrooms. Erin pulled the cell phone from her jacket with trembling fingers. But who could she call? There wasn’t time. She wanted to scream. But then she had an idea. She moved as quickly as possible, feeling her way along the row to the stall farthest from the door. Then she slid the phone under the stall door and hurried back to the corner of the room nearest to and behind the entrance door. There she waited. The door opened. The hooded figure stepped inside. The door closed. She heard his breathing now, slightly labored from his exertion. Then, exactly at midnight, Blondie called. At the sound of the ringtone, the man bolted for the far stall. Behind him, Erin yanked the door open and made a dash for her car. Struggling to wrench the keys from the pocket of her jacket, she prayed she’d left the car unlocked. Oh, thank God, she had! She leapt inside, slammed down the locking mechanism, and fumbled with the keys. At the far end of the walkway, her pursuer burst from the restroom door, paused for just a second, then sprinted for the parking area and her car. The starter ground, then caught as he neared the parking lot apron. Erin jammed the transmission into drive, and punched the accelerator. The car lurched over the curb. She cut the wheel hard left, aimed for the running figure. He dodged her at the last second and Erin cut a ragged swath through neatly manicured rows of colorful «95»
pansies. She corrected, the car bounced back onto the asphalt, and she floored it. As she roared toward the Interstate entrance ramp, she glanced at the rearview mirror, saw the man standing in the parking lot, watching. Erin laughed hysterically and gave her would-be attacker the finger over her right shoulder. When her car reached the smooth macadam of the highway, she finally dared breathe. Fifteen minutes later, Erin pulled into her driveway, parked, and slumped over the wheel. She was drenched with flop sweat and weakened from the adrenalin high of her escape. After a moment, she gathered her strength and stumbled to the house. Inside, Erin locked the door and dragged herself up the stairs to her bedroom. Her legs were wobbly under her and she collapsed on the bed, clothes and all. Ought to call the police, but...I’m so tired. I’ll do it in the morning. Exhausted, sleep overwhelmed her, but not for long. She woke with a start. Had she heard something? She held her breath, checked the bedside clock – one fifty-seven. Erin waited, heard nothing. Her heart rate had almost returned to normal when, from somewhere on the lower level of the house, she recognized the music that was at once familiar and terrifying: Color me your color, baby – color me your car. Color me your color, darling – I know who you are...
The Planting of the Spectre A Story of the Crow Witch Mike Phillips
A spectre rose from its hiding place. It was hungry and it craved the souls of the innocent. Testing the wind, it splayed its bony fingers and stretched its gaunt arms, reaching toward the sky. Releasing a long, cruel breath the spectre floated into the air. It breathed in and released, rising until it was higher than the tallest tree, then floated away into the night. Sitting at an old picnic table, head propped up on her hands, Sally Maloney stared at the pumpkin in front of her, trying to decide what to carve. She was at the Albertson farm for the 4-H Halloween party and she was the only one who hadn’t finished her JackO-Lantern. Everyone else was out in the corn maze, playing hide and seek. Sally heard them out there, laughing, having a good time without her. Only the row of lighted pumpkin shells, carved into curious and hideous faces to ward off the spirits of the night, were there to keep her company, glowing and grinning in the darkness. A cloud passed over the full moon, casting a deep shadow. Sally felt a sudden chill. She had the feeling that something was watching her, something bad, but when she turned around nothing was there. She went back to her work on the pumpkin, still unable to decide what to do with it. A crow flew down from the sky and came to rest beside her. It was a rather large bird and had the shiniest black feathers Sally had ever seen. “Crows are a portent of evil,” she told the bird. “At least that’s what books say.” “And so they do,” the crow replied. “Well spoken. And so this day I am in fact a portent of evil.” “What evil?” Sally asked, unaffected by the strangeness of the messenger. “Aren’t you surprised that a bird can talk?” the crow asked. “Most people have difficulties accepting that.” “I bet most people do and so would I if you were really a crow,” Sally said. “What do you mean, if I were really a crow?” the bird asked, incredulous. «97»
“You’re Miss Weigenmeister, the librarian. You only look like a crow.” “And how do you know that?” Miss Weigenmeister asked suspiciously. “I can see you under all those feathers, and especially behind your eyes. I like your eyes.” She added, “Then there’s your voice. It’s the same too. Oh, don’t worry, I won’t tell your secret, I promise.” “You can see me as I really am?” “Well, yeah. Haven’t I proved that by my guess?” “I suppose you have.” “Will you teach me how to be a crow some day?” “Well, now that I know about this talent of yours, perhaps I will,” said Miss Weigenmeister the crow. “But right now we have work to do. Not long ago, I was out in my garden and I felt the passing of an evil and wicked thing in the sky, floating above the trees. I followed and it led me here. Will you help?” “I don’t know what I can do,” replied Sally, turning away in shame. “Maybe one of my older sisters can help. They can do everything.” “If you can see me you may have more talent and ability than you suspect,” Miss Weigenmeister said. Sally didn’t reply. “Look at that pumpkin for example. Am I correct in assuming that is one of the famous Maloney family pumpkins, the seeds of which have been passed down over the generations?” “Yeah, big deal. So to be a Maloney you have to be good at growing pumpkins. I don’t like pumpkins and I don’t like carving Jack-O-Lanterns. It’s gross.” Then Sally thought better of what she had said. “I’m sorry. I’m not having a very good day, that’s all. It’s not your fault.” “What is wrong, my dear?” Turning back to the pumpkin with the knife, she began to open the top, scoring the lines that would eventually become the features of the jack-o-lantern. “Oh, I’m not good at sewing or crafts or those kinds of things like my sisters are. The only reason that I’m in 4-H is because they are.” “That can’t be the real reason,” Miss Weigenmeister prompted softly. Still staring at the pumpkin, Sally said in a low voice, “Nobody likes me.” “Come now, you’re a nice girl. It really doesn’t matter that you can’t sew. You must have a lot of friends.” “I do, at school, but not in 4-H. The only friend I have, Linda Bleu, isn’t here. I’m all alone.” «98»
“Well I’m here now and we have things to do. Evil is afoot. The hunt is up. No time to feel lonely.” “But what can I do?” “My point about the pumpkin is that with proper water, soil, and sunlight, a tiny pumpkin seed can grow to humongous proportions. Some pumpkin plants will grow long vines. Some will grow many flowers. Some will grow large pumpkins. It all depends on the determination of the seed. The talent isn’t what matters. It’s how that talent is used.” “I’m sorry, but I still don’t know what I can do to help,” Sally said. “And neither do I, but we might find out together. Now, let’s go. We’ll have to find the others. We have to find this evil thing and destroy it.” Miss Weigenmeister paused. “By the way, where are all the others? Are they out on a hayride? We may have to go find them. Do you know how to drive a car?” Laughing at the last, absurd, question, Sally said, “No. They’re out in the field, in the corn maze.” The silence was suddenly striking. Sally blanched. “I heard them out there, just a minute ago.” “Sally, oh dear, it comes this way! I can feel it.” An odd shape stepped out of the cornfield. Sally felt a chill that frosted her blood. The spectre was tall and lean and looked as if it were carved from wood. Its clothes were all black and hung upon it as if some lifeless doll. It walked toward the girl and the crow with a gait that was stiff and ungraceful. Behind the spectre, from the corn, came the children. The children followed the spectre at a distance, but there could be no question that they were under its thrall. Their faces were blank, devoid of all emotion. Their arms hung limp at their sides. In their eyes a sickly green light glowed. “Come for a kiss,” the spectre said. Its voice was like a whisper in Sally’s ear. “Come here my dear. Come for a kiss and you will be mine.” “No way, you sick old man,” Sally shouted in disgust. The spectre seemed surprised, almost wounded by her defiance. It spoke again “Come, come to me so that I may give you the gift of eternal life,” it said, stretching its arms out to her. Clutching the carving knife, Sally stepped back toward the house. The spectre followed, but showing caution, keeping a measured distance from the picnic table and the glowing Jack-O-Lanterns. “No!” Sally shouted. “Yes. Yes, I’ll have you. You can’t defy me.” The thing was «99»
horribly vexed, and full of wrath it flew toward her. “Quick Sally, the pumpkin,” Miss Weigenmeister shouted. “A talking crow?” the spectre said. “Be off witch, these children are mine. Get your own.” That was all the time Sally needed. Screaming with fear, Sally ran back to the table and took hold of the pumpkin. Sobbing, shaking, she flung it at the spectre with all her strength. The shell broke upon the wicked thing’s chest. A few seeds and gut stained the spectre’s garments as the pumpkin fell to the ground. Looking down, the spectre laughed. “No good. Now I’ll get you and the witch.” But with those words the seeds clinging to the spectre’s clothes sprouted and took root. The tiny plants grew, as if an entire season in just a few moments. Then too the seeds on the ground sprouted and thick green vines began to reach out. The spectre was caught and pulled backwards, overpowered by the vines, rooted to the ground. In a moment the spectre was gone, little more than a mound of earth. In its place grew a vast tangle of green, growing wide in all directions. Flowers bloomed and then fell to the ground. Round, ripe, healthy pumpkins grew in their places. The spell broken, the children woke. They looked confused but otherwise unhurt. Miss Weigenmeister gave Sally a quick wink, and without a word, she flew away. The End
Angelic Crucifixion Justin Boyer
The mournful church bells weep Then slowly the wail ceases Along with the broken gasps Of the Fallen boy Laying against the inanimate body That belonged to the boy’s lover The figure’s former smile Now has vanished with the amorous energy That once possessed the empty vessel If the abandoned boy still listened closely, He could hear his lover’s lyrical voice Stringing together some semblance of hope Suddenly the church bells awakened From their restive place And pierced the air with irrational alarm Along with it, the gutturals of impassioned villagers Echoed the feelings voiced by the bells The villagers still needed to crucify one more To preserve the illusion The demeaned boy felt a soaring fear Rise over his morose thoughts He became awash with more fright For the riled masses Assembled Below the hilltop Where he still grieved for his Lover’s demise «101»
They soon congregated along the hill’s bottom Their faces were alike, Cast in a malevolent light From the fire of their torches Altogether, the flames Swung madly atop the torches and were About to extinguish Because the crowd had forgotten The advantages of a candle flame Preserved with love and care A preacher roused the crowd’s anger By feeding their primal energy With abominable depictions of the gravest sinner, The preacher spoke detachedly about the emasculated boy’s sadness While, he bellowed triumphantly for the lover’s murder In front of him, the blazes of the torches Seemed to grow in height Behind the opaque blanket of fire, The faces of the villagers were brightened At the prospect of rightfully killing The sinful fiend, Crying dispassionately for his incubus’s departure Alarmed, the boy mewled Chastening himself for the legions of death Bursting with flames below Seizing his lover’s bloodied form He held the fractured form aloft Then locked his lips On the lifeless lips of the corpse
Predictably, the crowd applauded his actions With projectile torches Sharply colliding with the boy Knocking him and the lover Upon each other while the flames Passionately entwined them and licked them During which, the boy screamed painfully As the flames finally shredded their skins Finally, the crowd clapped, enthralled With the spectacle of the torched twosome Some of them gave a silent prayer of Thanksgiving For the deaths of two unholy aberrations While, the preacher himself, discomforted Averted his sanctified eyes Though he still gave one feigned cheer Of joyfulness over this successful witch burning Several people still hear the revelry Sounding from this long forgotten tragedy Unnumbered among the mess of unrecognized sins Amidst it, some sensitive ears Still hear the lover’s hopeful lament, The lovers’ exultant shouts Then their distraught cries And finally, their last, relieved breaths Signaling their final release
Halloween Wendi M. Lee
All week long, Will’s friends debated whether or not to dress up for Halloween. They were twelve years old, a little too old for ringing doorbells and shouting “Trick or Treat.” On the other hand, they liked Halloween, liked the horror-movie marathon they were technically too young to see at the Cineplex (so they snuck in through the side door, which Jared’s older brother left propped open for 2.5 strategic minutes during his shift). And the costumes at the Halloween Outlet store were impressive—serial killer masks with oozing fake blood, alien masks with a hundred tiny beady eyes and rubber pustules bursting where the ears should be. They decided on the rules together: No. 1: They could ring doorbells, but they would not say the words “Trick or Treat,” not even if old Mrs. Kazinsky demanded it from them, holding the plastic pumpkin basket of candy behind her back for leverage. No. 2: If offered, they could accept candy, but only chocolate bars or hard fruit candy, none of those little kid candy necklaces or liquid lollipops you squeezed from a tube. No. 3: If there were a pumpkin sitting on the front porch, they could kick it over. But only when the owner of the house had already closed the front door, and then only if the jack-o-lantern was unlit. As Steve nervously pointed out, “We don’t want to burn the whole fricking town down.” Will went with his friends to the Halloween Outlet store, trying on masks and whacking Jared and Steve across the backs with a plastic pirate sword he dubbed “The wrath of Will.” But it was all for show. Will already had his costume. He’d had it for months now, trying it on and staring into the mirror, fussing with the details to make himself flawless. Will lay awake that night, listening for his father’s shuffled footsteps. The older man headed to bed like clockwork after the 11:00 news, Will’s mother following behind in a heavy tread. Will heard the toilet flush, and then the distinct sound of his mother weeping. When he could hear only the old house, settling into the deepening night, Will got out of bed and crept into his older sister’s room. Will grazed his flashlight across Shannon’s calico bedspread, across the postcards and snapshots thumb-tacked into the creamy white «104»
walls. In one photograph, Shannon sat on a bench, posed in a way that reminded Will of an old-fashioned Victorian lady. Light filtered through the leaves of a nearby oak tree, and dappled sunlight fell across Shannon’s light-colored hair and down the front of her shirt. Her gray eyes looked like they were harboring a very big secret. In the other pictures, Shannon laughed with her mouth open, hanging onto the shoulders of her friends as if she couldn’t stand up on her own. Will much preferred the tree snapshot, his sister caught forever in a lingering grace. He set the flashlight on Shannon’s vanity and rummaged through the closet. There it was: the aquamarine tank top and matching plaid skirt, the kind that mimicked a Catholic school girl’s uniform but went considerably higher up the thigh. It was the outfit she wore that last morning, slouched at the kitchen table with a thin slice of banana bread in one hand and an opened book in another. Every once in a while she took a disinterested bite of bread. Will sat beside her with a slopping bowl of cereal, the milk turning gray from the sugared com flakes. “That’s disgusting,” Shannon said, pointing to the milk. “Good,” he said. It made a kind of happy camaraderie-Shannon pointing out all that was lacking or undesirable in Will, and he wholeheartedly agreeing. Their mother stepped into the kitchen at that moment, dressed in office clothes. She glanced at Shannon and recoiled a little. “You are not leaving this house in that outfit.” Shannon looked down at herself reflexively. She seemed confused, as was Will. It was not a new outfit, something their mother had never seen before. There had never been any objections to it before. “What do you mean?” Shannon said. The older woman held her gaze. “You know exactly what I mean.” Shannon sat there quietly for another minute, and then without arguing (as Will assumed she would -- it was hardwired into his sister to always try to get her way), went to her room to change. Will never saw what she ended up wearing that day; he had to make a wild dash for the middle-school bus. When school let out, he waited for her in the living room, pushing buttons restlessly on the TV’s remote control, but she never came home. Will pressed his nose against the front of the aquamarine tank top. He liked to imagine he could still detect the citrusy perfume she wore that morning, but in truth he’d worn the shirt so many times it now smelled only of him - one slightly musky boy. He tried it on again after pitching his own t-shirt and pajama pants in the comer, examining «105»
the way his arms looked even skinnier when exposed from shoulder to wrist. The skirt came next, buckled securely above his hipbones. His legs weren’t as pleasing to look at as Shannon’s had been, with his knobby knees and a thin trail of curly hair. He still hadn’t decided if he would shave his legs yet - it seemed to Will like that might be taking things one step too far. The wig was tucked in Shannon’s chest of drawers, laid across her panties and bras like a small, treasured animal. Will lifted it out carefully, smoothing down the flyaway strands. When he tried the wig on for the first time, moments after buying it at a thrift store (the clerk not batting an eye, this being the end of October), he looked simply ridiculous. The long, light-brown hair jutted up at the back of his scalp instead of lying smooth, and the part appeared crooked. After long minutes spent fussing with it on his own, the clerk left her register nook to help him, showing him how to tug it over his own hair in a way that looked almost natural. Lastly was the pair of tall riding boots with another set of buckles. This was the hardest part of Will’s transformation, because his feet were already a shoe-size larger than Shannon’s, and his toes cramped painfully. Will zipped the boots and took a few experimental steps. He tottered like an old person who had had too many gin and tonics. Like his mother on the nights she drank too much and cried herself to sleep, dragging her legs like they were incomprehensibly heavy. Standing still was much better. Will stood in front of the oval vanity mirror, one hand pressed to his hip, the way Shannon used to stand. In the flashlight’s dim glaze, he looked like Shannon, rushing back into her room to change out of her clothes, the outfit that had suddenly become so distasteful to their mother. But why? Will glanced at his favorite snapshot again, taped just above the mirror. Sometimes he could swear she was trying to tell him something with her gray eyes. Maybe it had to do with that last day, those long afternoon hours when Will waited for her to come home. Sometime during the waiting, Shannon’s car ended up in front of an oncoming train. An accident, Will’s father said, a faulty transmission, an old car. No one’s fault except perhaps his own, for buying the second-hand car in the first place, for not making sure Shannon kept up with oil changes and tire alignments, or investigated any unusual sounds. Will’s father was a rational man. He went alone to identify Shannon’s body at the morgue, and came home remarkably unchanged. Sometimes Will caught his father whistling as he walked through the rooms of their old house, «106»
ignoring Will’s mother and the gin tumbler clutched to her chest. “Tell me what really happened,” Will wanted to say to his parents, wanting it so badly his body burned and vomit rose in his throat. “Tell me the truth.” He couldn’t articulate these words, much less the one word he wanted to say most of all. He couldn’t in his own trousers and boy flesh, not with their eyes skimming over him as they sat down together for meals, or walked past him in the hallways. But on Halloween, he would transform himself with his sister’s clothes, and see the secrets rising like ghosts on his parents’ faces. In Shannon’s darkened bedroom, Will stared at the snapshot. Her gray eyes burned, belying her modest Victorian pose. In his mind, Shannon slowed her Toyota to a stop on the train tracks, hand on the gear shift to put the car into park. She stared at the train barreling toward her, and did not flinch.
The Unicorn Jae Easley
For as long as Holly could remember, the glassblowers had come to the mall, setting up long tables down the middle of the ugly, busyblue carpeting. Each one had the same beige cloth laid over it, with a piece of plate glass over that to hold it in place and provide a stable surface for the myriad figurines that balanced on precarious, delicate legs atop it. The first time she could actively remember seeing them, Holly was five. Her mother held her hand and wouldn’t let her touch any of the glimmering creations arranged in haphazard rows on the table. Holly remained a foot away from the tables at all times, lest her clumsy childish hands and the knees that went every which way end up breaking something. From that vantage, she watched in fascination as the glassmaker bent the fragile glass into shape, blue-flamed torch moving expertly over its surface to meld the body of animals real and mythical. When Holly was seven, her mother finally let her get closer to the tables, trusting that one skinny seven-year-old in light summer clothes couldn’t do too much damage. Her mother went to look at bedding in the home store next to the glassblowers’ set-up, and Holly remained there to watch, with wide eyes and stem instructions not to move from that spot, and not to speak to anyone. The glasscrafter at this particular booth was a woman, with short blonde hair and a crooked nose like Holly had never seen before. Her arms had lots of shiny burn scars on them, and Holly stared at them, imagining patterns and shapes in them, too. “What would you like to see me make?” the woman asked Holly, noticing the girl peeking at her work table. The older woman toyed with a piece of glass in one hand, turning it over and over with the blue fire of the torch in her other. Holly just shrugged her slight shoulders in return, remembering her mother’s orders. The glassblower’s smile was soft-enigmatic, even, though it would be years before Holly could think back and apply that word to it. The glassblower began to work, shaping in quick motions a form that held Holly’s fascinated gaze. The seven-year-old was enthralled, so easily enchanted by the complex process she saw before her. Four delicate legs with tiny cloven hooves, a tail that seemed to «108»
be blowing in some unseen wind-only when the glassblower carefully fashioned the creature a horn did Holly recognize it for what it was: a unicorn. It balanced on its hind legs and that long tail when the older woman set it down on the table before her, scrutinizing its shape and then making just a few adjustments to its form before she was done. The process was finished so quickly Holly felt a deep sadness when it was over, but the intricate little figurine gleamed with inner fire even with only the harsh fluorescent lights of the mall to light it. “Would you like to hold it?” said the crafter, her head tilting slightly as she watched Holly lean this way and that to inspect the unicorn from every angle. Holly looked quickly between the glass figure and its maker, her eyes very round. “Go on, you won’t break it,” the glassblower said. Her smile encouraged Holly, who reached out and scooped up the unicorn into her hands. She felt it, each slender limb and the horn with its miniaturized spiral, and the figure seemed to flash in the light when she touched it. But the clap of her mother’s hand to her shoulder nearly made her drop it, a gasp escaping her. “Holly, I told you not to touch anything,” said her mother, and Holly guiltily slid the unicorn back onto the table, to join the other glass figurines, though Holly felt none of them quite equaled the unicorn. “No, no. It’s my fault; I told her to,” the glassblower interjected. Though Holly nodded quickly to confirm that, her mother did not look convinced, and her forehead wrinkling up as she studied the woman and finally nodded once herself. “Would you be interested in this one, incidentally?” The glassblower gestured toward the unicorn, which still stood out even among the sea turtles, and fairies, and regular old horses that currently surrounded it. “No, thank you,” said Holly’s mother, taking her daughter by the hand and leading her away. Holly glanced back at the glassblower as she was led away, and the glassblower smiled again at her. When they reached home, a day of shopping behind them, Holly was tired and whiny, flouncing into the house and going to change clothes at once, into her pajamas. Something poked at her, though, when she was doing so, and she dug into a pants pocket to find what it was. It was the unicorn, and with it, a plain ivory business card with “Veldhuis Glass” scrawled on it in curling, old-fashioned letters. Holly sounded the words out and then stared at the unicorn; it was still in her hand when her mother came upstairs to check on her. “Holly!” said her mother, outrage coloring her voice as she stopped in the doorway. “Holly, did you steal that?” «109»
“It followed me home,” said Holly, clasping her hand around the unicorn tightly. She hid it behind her back, business card and all. The card crumpled up but the unicorn didn’t break, no matter how tightly Holly gripped it. “What have I told you about stealing?” her mother continued, reaching to grab Holly by the arm. “That’s it, we are going back to the mall and you’re going to return that and tell them what you did.” Holly’s whining, her tears, her protestations that she hadn’t stolen the unicorn, that it had wanted to come home with her insteadnone of this made any difference to her mother, who was adamant about dragging her back to the mall to see the glassblower and explain what she did. There were also many promises of spankings for when Holly got home, and just wait until her father got home, too. But when they arrived at the mall again, the section of mall in front of the home store was empty; there was no glassblower set up there. The few others who were at the mall to show their work wore matching blank expressions when Holly’s mother asked them about that booth. Even when her mother pried the card away from Holly, the other artisans just shook their heads and professed to know nothing. Eventually, Holly’s mother was forced to give up, even her stubbornness getting her nowhere. She was, at least, so flustered by the whole experience that she forgot all about the promised beatings for Holly when they got home. Holly slunk upstairs again once they were back home, just in case her mother did remember. But she did not, and when Holly’s father got home, Holly heard her mother explaining the whole situation to him, her voice strident with frustration as it carried up the stairs to Holly’s room. Holly proudly set her hard-won unicorn down on her nightstand, carefully turning it so it caught the light just so. She stood the business card up next to it, balanced against the base of the lamp on the table. Holly spent the rest of the night watching the unicorn, and sometimes playing with her other toys, though the little glass figurine soon drew her attention back to it. She tried playing with it, miming it galloping across her nightstand, but it felt somehow wrong to play with such a creature, and she quickly put it down again, leaving it to watch over her while she amused herself with other toys. When her mother finally came up, much later, to tuck her in, Holly went to bed with surprising ease, considering the fuss she was often prone to when it came time to sleep. In the dark, she reached over to touch the unicorn again, her finger running over the point of its horn and the sleek curve of its neck one last time before she fell asleep. She did not sleep easily. Shoving the quilt off her so that she «110»
slept only under the sheet, she was still too hot, and her dreams turned to terrible things. She woke up sweaty, with her hair matted down and tangled; it was still dark outside, only crickets audible. Holly looked for the unicorn and in the blackness of the room, it still gleamed, the dull blue of witchlight.
A Gift of Soul Norman Nathan
He could see. He could feel. He could talk. But where was his body? It was like a dream in which he was the principal actor and yet had no physical evidence that he was really there. Hadn’t he just died? Hadn’t he been buried? Yet he was as alive and alert as ever. To prove it was no dream, he tried thinking logically. He wondered that his mind did not jump from scene to scene and that the characters did not change in the course of his awareness. This was no dream. This was reality. “Could this be Heaven?” he asked aloud. It must be. Surely he was looking at some kind of angel, who apparently saw him even though he could not see himself. “It is,” a voice responded, “That is, it almost is. You are at the entrance to Heaven, and like everyone else who dies, you have a choice.” He laughed nervously. “You mean Hell?” “Don’t be absurd,” the voice said, “What would the Omnipotent want with a Hell? Why create what destroys?” “But I was told ...” “Nonsense! Hell was invented by the rich and powerful to keep slaves from killing themselves. They were more afraid of Hell than the pain of living” “Well,” he felt his face must be beaming, if indeed he had a face, “Then I guess...” “Not yet!” the voice said. “You have a choice. Your soul can go straight to Heaven. Or, you can give up your soul so that someone else who has died before you may enter Heaven.” He recalled a verse in the Bible, “Greater love hath no man than he who would lay down his life for another.” But the soul? Couldn’t the Lord create as many of those as he wished? Though he suspected that his thoughts could be read, nevertheless he said aloud, “My eternal soul? It seems unfair.” “Unfair?” The angel laughed. “Here the only thing that matters is what is right.” “But is it right to...?” “You not only want to keep your soul, you want to be the Judge?” It was obvious to him that he would not win any argument. «113»
It was safer to be humble, and he didn’t want to lose this fleecy atmosphere that he could see through, walk through, and touch as if caressing. “May I know the rules? The procedures? The whatever?” “Certainly. If you want your soul to enter Heaven immediately, just say so. Forsake your wife, your mother, your father. But if they are in Limbo, you can give your soul to whomever you wish.” “Limbo?” he questioned. “The Limbo is not a bad state; you would know that if you remembered the time before you were born.” He said, “You mean they are among the dead?” “Just because you are now visiting eternity, don’t think you can ask questions forever. Make your choice. Your soul, or the soul of someone else.” The angel had said that in Heaven you do what is right. He owed his life to his mother and to his father, and wasn’t it only right that he should give them back what they had given him? He could imagine their faces as if they saw the present scene. They weren’t pleading with him, they were just hoping, hoping for what...for whom... for him. And his wife, whom he loved almost as himself, hadn’t he promised to protect her? Even if he were willing to remain in Limbo for the sake of one of them, how could he choose? On the other hand, if he selfishly just entered Heaven himself, would he not endlessly feel that he had cursed himself in refusing to help even one of those he most loved? While he was thinking, the angel said, “You may stay here forever trying to decide what to do. This is a kind of Limbo. When and if you have an answer, call me. I’ll be here immediately.” Through his mind ran the four choices he thought possible. He was more than unhappy. Maybe he should just blurt out the name of one of the three. Then he himself would be in Limbo and suffer no more pain—the pain of having to condemn two of the three he most loved. He wanted to sit down while thinking it over, but there was no chair. And then he realized he was not standing, yet he was not tired. He felt weightless and at the same time, gravitational to wherever he was. He was beginning to enjoy the luxury even of being only at Heaven’s gate. But these thoughts were wearisome and repetitive. Suddenly, an answer flashed into his consciousness. “Come!” he said. The angel reappeared. “To each of them: my wife, my mother, my father, I grant a third of my soul. That each may be in Eternity a third of the time.” “We give second chances,” the angel said. “Are you sure?” “Positive,” he replied. ‘”I will be in Limbo and out of my misery. As far as I can reason, for my loved ones to live in Eternity only a third «114»
of the time is no disadvantage to anyone of them. Their souls will live forever. And they will feel no loss.” The angel said in a compassionate voice, “Take your time. You can be too selfless. Remember, your wife might miss you.” He hesitated. Then he saw the angel smile. “I suggest that you divide your soul in four parts and keep one for yourself.” Suddenly, his wife, his mother, and his father were all in one embrace, and a little ways off he saw his smiling grandparents. As he rejoiced he asked himself, “What would have happened if I had wanted to save my whole soul for myself?” In a flash, he knew the answer. He would be in Heaven. Alone.
A Response to Job Rachel Morrell
Scene: I was talking to my friend Holly and her mom about her father. He has bipolar disorder and because of his disability, she has been through a lot misfortunes. They are constantly asking that question please God why our family? It is not because of the disability they ask this question, but it is the decisions that her father makes that put their family in some terrible situations. Having bipolar disorder affects a person’s ability to think right and the person may not always make rational decisions. Her father has been in the hospital many times, sometimes a month at a time, trying to get him back on the right track. While in the hospital, the family fell behind on many of their bills. In addition, her mom discovered that her husband has not been paying the mortgage for about a year. He handled all the bills and they always thought he was capable to do so. Now they have realized that his medications were not being taken properly and he had a relapse of manic/depressive state (bipolar). He has lost his job because of his disability and is now not making enough to support his family like he use to do. Their family is struggling to pay their mortgage, electric bill, and oil bill to be able to take hot showers. The family gives up many things because they cannot afford it anymore, and it has been hard on the kids to focus on school and work at the same time to help their parents. Holly: Rachel, why did God choose our family for all these bad things to happen? What did we do to deserve this? We have done nothing wrong; we are good people, why are we being put through this? Why is God not looking out for our family? Me: Holly, you and your family are good people and you have done nothing wrong. You cannot blame yourself because of your father’s disability. Holly: I thought bad things only happen to people who do bad things. God punishes people who commit sin right? Me: That is a misunderstanding; good people suffer too. Holly: How does that make any sense? God is suppose to look out for «116»
us and protect us. Why would he let all these bad things happen when he has the power to help us? Me: Holly, there is a Rabbi named Harold Kushner who is very knowledgeable and has made many good points about why bad things happen to good people. It may help you understand why these things happen and why you think God is punishing you for no reason. They are not definitive answers, but the suggestions Rabbi Kushner makes are very reasonable. Holly: Please tell me because I do not understand why my family and I are being put through this mess. Rabbi Kushner may help me make sense of all this. Rachel: Kushner believes that we have a kind and just God who is powerful but is not in control of everything. If we attribute everything to God’s power, this will teach people to hate God. Kushner says that bad things happen to good people because laws of nature cannot tell the difference between a good person and a bad person. For example, a falling rock on a cliff that strikes a person on the head and kills them doesn’t know if that was a good or a bad person. Holly: Okay this is making more sense; Rabbi Kushner makes some good points. Rachel: For instance, your father’s bipolar disorder is out of God’s hands. It is something your father was born with. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in his brain, which is a biological cause. His disability is not act of God. Holly: This makes sense, wow I never thought of anything like this. What is happening to my family is really out of God’s hands. Rachel: Yes, it is but he is still there for you. Although it is unfortunate these bad things are happening to your family, God is still there. Your family and friends that are there to support you, and give you comfort during these hard times, is an act of God. He is at your side when you are hurting, and sends the ability to transcend and get through all your tough times. Holly: Wow, I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and be thankful for my family and friends that I have that allow me to get through all these tough times I am going through. God gave me all this love and support «117»
and I should be thankful everyday that my family is so strong to get through this mess! Rachel: I am here for you, I know I cannot heal your father and stop you from crying when things get tough. I do know that I can be there to help you cry and get through it. I know your family will overcome this; just never give up and never stop believing in God. Did you ever hear about the story in the bible about a man named Job? Holly: I heard of the story, but I am not too familiar with it. Rachel: It is a story that is told to help people get a better understanding of why people suffer. The story of Job is not a true story. He is a man who never committed any sins and never did anything bad; he always prayed to God and believed in him. One day Job found out that all his children had died and Job came down with boils all over his body and was very ill. He still never lost faith that God was a good God. Job knew it was not God that did these horrible things to him. It was something that was beyond God’s control. “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, when suddenly a great wind came across the desert and smote the four corners of the house. It fell upon the young people and they are dead” (Job, 1: 18-1: 19). The wind that came was not God’s doing; it was act of nature. Nature cannot tell if the people in the house are “good” or “bad” people. Holly: After all this happened to Job, he still believed God was a good and just God? Rachel: Yes, Job believed that what happened was out of God’s control. Job’s friends, on the other hand, did not support him; they insisted that he must have done something to sin to deserve all those horrible things. This is because Job’s friends thought only people who sin, are the only people that suffer. This is not true because good people can suffer too. Holly: All this makes so much sense. I know there is no definitive answer to why good people suffer and why bad things happen to good people, but this has all helped me a lot in dealing with my own suffering. Rachel: I am glad to be of help, if you need anything else, please know I am here for you and never stop believing in God. «118»
Holly: I will not. I appreciate everything you have always done for me, and I know my family and I will get through our troubles. References 1. When bad things happen to good people. Perf. Harold S. Kushner. Charlotte, C: WTVI 42, c1986.
The Day the Sun Stopped Shining Elizabeth Harrison
Have you ever had the sun shine so brightly that all you do is think about it nightly? Fortunate enough to feel its warmth across my face sparkling the human sense with grace Enjoy the smile it shines through your heart, since you never know when this embrace could part. But what happens when the sun does stop shining? What unreal force shortens its direct lining? I remember when the radiant sunshine stopped; This significant moment could never be topped. The sky was suddenly crying with drops of rain as if the sun fizzled and released the pain. Gathering to watch the sky turn dark, I never noticed the journey on which we would embark. Realizing how much support we need, I knew we should start planting a seed. Our seed needed time to grow, to blossom even when our light dimmed low. But figuring out how is harder than it seems, since the foundation needs some radiant beams We then understood that caring was our duty. Disguised compassion finally blossomed its beauty; Our spirits were uplifted with hope, and learned how to cope. Always keep the handfuls of light by your side, close and tight. Eternal friendship was my illuminating sign that it will always be my ray of sunshine.
A Response to Job Rachael Faye Fitzgerald
As one of my assignments for my religion class I was asked the following questions: Is the response of Job’s wife to the mystery of suffering common? Is it helpful? Why or why not? Do you regard suffering as a test that God gives you? Would the author of the Book of Job be satisfied with this explanation? These questions touch on one of the most fundamental questions of life: Why do people suffer? I think it is something that everyone has to deal with in life and would not say that there is one right answer out there. Here was my response to the questions I was presented: I believe that a lot of people think the way that Job’s wife does. They think that if innocent people are suffering, it’s God’s fault and that we should blame him/curse him. I remember asking this question when I was younger, when I was still questioning the existence of God (a process I feel that most people go through). I was told answers such as: that is the Devil’s work, if you’re a bad person you suffer and also the possibility that God is not all loving, or that he does not exist. None of those answers worked for me though. The idea that only bad people suffer is just not true and there are a million examples to show that. This is what Job’s friends were trying to say yet Job knew, and the audience knew, that Job had not sinned. I believe that if there is a God he would be all-loving; and the idea that no God exists just raises the opposite question of why do wonderful things happen? I digress; I have trouble understanding why people would question if God was all-loving from this Book of Job. I see why people would ask why we suffer, that much makes sense. The Book of Job was written by an author, is this not just his idea of what God is like and what God would say? I guess that is why he never answers the question on suffering, because if he had created an answer and it was wrong or people found it to be unsatisfactory, it would have disastrous effects. Job’s wife’s answer is not helpful at all. You can’t just curse your parents or teacher because they did something to you that you dislike. You must try to understand their reasoning before jumping to conclusions and getting angry. Job was patient and trusted God, and in the end he was rewarded. «121»
Since I am Agnostic, I do not see suffering as a test from God, but I do see it as a test. I think that pain and misery actually brings out the most impressive and helpful traits of the human mind. I think resilience is a human trait that is earned and can lead to miraculous things. I think at times suffering can help people become better than they would have been without it. There is a trick to it though, you must not get mad at the world and blame other people. In a religious sense, you must not get mad at God, and blame him for your sorrows. Throughout my life my father has been an alcoholic and my mother has been a drug addict, as a young child I would constantly ask: what did I do wrong, do I deserve this? Yet, in the end I feel as though I ended up so much stronger because of my past, and I learned to appreciate the world around me. Perhaps the scientific law that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction is the answer to this fundamental question? Maybe every time something good is done in the world, something bad happens somewhere else. The author would most likely not agree with my view, since it is a secular one. Regardless, maybe the question as to why we suffer will never be answered, but I find it important to not simply complain about problems and heartaches but to learn something from them and grow stronger; there might not be a reason behind suffering but it can be seen in a positive light if you look at it the right way.
My Visit to Ellis Island and “Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America” Linda Ogden
Last month I attended an outing with Gwynedd-Mercy College to visit Ellis Island, New York. For me, the purpose of the trip was two-fold. First, I was eager to learn about the various roles played by catholic sisters in American history. Second, I had never been to Ellis Island; therefore, I considered this an opportunity to explore my Irish ancestry and the aspects surrounding their immigration to this country. The first relic I came upon was the remains of an old ferry slip, which was once a hub to welcome and shuttle thousands of immigrants. My mind conjured up images of the many faces that once looked upon Ellis longing for freedom. Eventually, the lucky were shuttled to the arms of eagerly awaiting family members while those rejected by immigration were returned to the homelands they so desperately sought to escape. As I strolled toward the main building which housed the exhibit, I passed by the dilapidated framework of what had once been a bustling railway system for the east coast. Astonished foreigners had never witnessed such technology; yet many blissfully rode these rails to freedom. Now, these same tracks lay empty and overgrown with vegetation while impaired stop signs still cling to their old metal posts. I recognized most of the stops which later became the final destination for those who had spent weeks on a boat with cramped quarters, little food, and poor sanitation. As I entered the main building I discovered it was once the “Registry Room,” where immigrants would sit and wait for their names to be called and their paperwork to be verified. It felt surreal to learn that thousands entered here, only to experience rejection and be forced to return to their country. Walking through the great hall with bustling visitors so relaxed and exuding life, I felt as though my presence were quietly forbidden. I cannot explain why I felt this way; perhaps my heart sensed the depth of despair and hopelessness endured by the thousands who were denied their dreams of becoming a citizen. At that moment, I felt completely humbled and forever grateful to be an American. A few floors above me, was an exhibit featuring the “Catholic Sisters in America.” I became immediately impressed by the history of how «123»
the sisters immigrated to America. It did not take long for me to realize that whether here in the states or abroad, all sisters shared the same philosophy: provide loving care to the sick, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, and comfort to the down trodden. Murals surrounded me with a life-like glimpse of the conditions shared by both the sisters and those they cared for during their missions. I was transformed back to a time long ago; before television and fast food, and prior to the cures of modern medicine. I realized that thousands of people had died from a lack of the most basic human needs: food, water, and health care. I read the many stories of conflict and illness which often led to premature deaths, and how sisters built hospitals and schools to improve a quality of life which is still enjoyed today. As I navigated through history, I watched a video depicting the heroic measures undertaken by sisters to protect their orphans during a Texas hurricane in the early 1900’s. Moving the children to the second floor after the orphanage became flooded, the sisters tied them to their own bodies with clothesline in hopes of saving them. In the aftermath, it was discovered that 90 children and the 10 sisters who tried in vain to save them, had perished. Tragically, when the bodies were discovered, many of the children were still wrapped in the loving arms of the sisters and tied to their dead bodies. Many individuals of foreign descent such as Europeans, African Americans, and those of mixed race, were the focus of unjust and inhumane treatment. The more I read the more ashamed I felt. Even by today’s standards, as a nation, I do not believe we have tried hard enough to appreciate diversity and criticize prejudice. As I made my way past the pictures and artifacts, I paused several times; silently praying for those who suffered so deeply and lost so much of themselves. Possibly the most disturbing part of the exhibit was the Foundlings, where I read about orphan trains. The state of financial affairs during that time was so desperate that mothers began to give up their babies. Abandonment became a temporary solution to their impoverished lives, forcing some mothers to leave their infants on the steps of the churches and orphanages. People were so desperate and powerless to change the situation they found themselves in; I guess entrusting what they loved most dear to the care of the sisters, had some redeeming qualities. The sisters were known to provide safe and loving attention to the children; however, often mothers would return for their children only to discover they had been adopted. Considered orphans, the children had been placed on trains headed to the Midwest where they were eventually adopted by different families. Ultimately, the children were never seen «124»
or heard from again. I guess reminding themselves of what was best for their child gave these mothers courage to make such a painful decision, while also providing a sense of fulfillment for placing their own needs second. Below the many pictures which depicted sisters holding babies and young children so meticulously cared for, was a book of letters written from birth mothers to the sisters. Most often they contained the baby’s name, birth date, and sex so the child could be identified. Most of the letters included words of love, devotion, and desperation from a mother’s heart to the child she may never see again. A few lead one to believe the child had been conceived out of wedlock and/or assault. Typically, the letters were pinned to articles of clothing or baby blankets. I read only four of the letters because of the painful emotions they elicited in me; however, a positive thing came from the Foundlings section of the exhibit. I discovered the role of sisters in providing caring to orphans was a forerunner to modern day “foster care.” Being a foster mother myself over a period of six years, I realized I had continued a tradition first established by the “Catholic Sisters of America.” It was the only time during my visit to Ellis that I had felt pleased about what I learned. Next, I entered the floor containing exhibits of the early immigrants to America and it was like walking into a graveyard. Each room told a story with pictures, artifacts, and towering murals that were so lifelike one could almost see the wrinkles pressed into the faces of these newcomers. Despite the many worries carried by the immigrants, most shared a blank expression with eyes devoid of all emotion. Even the young children shared a mask-like appearance and you couldn’t help but ache yourself, knowing how deeply they must have suffered. Unquestionably, immigration would have been a frightening experience for most, if not all. Many were destitute and detached with no guarantee they could remain here. I feel certain that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was widespread among the individuals who made the journey to our country. There were exhibits of early physical, psychological, and intelligence tests which were performed on the immigrants as a means to assess their ability to maintain employment in this country and not become a burden to its government. In addition, physicians tried to expose illnesses in an attempt to thwart any incoming disease. Should an individual be found to have any health or mental deficiencies, a large X was written across their chest or back and they were sent to another station for further evaluation. In most instances, receiving the X was a sure sign that one would be forced back to their ship and denied entry «125»
into the country. The methods utilized for testing were primitive and unsanitary, which resulted in unreliable findings. The instrumentation was not sterilized between patients; thereby, becoming the perfect mode of disease transmission to the next person in line! In this paper I have visited aspects of the exhibit that touched me in the deepest of ways, leaving me forever changed. At the heart and soul of the exhibit was the many ways in which the sisters demonstrated their love for, and devotion to, all people during their greatest moments of suffering. Their quest for healing led them across fields of battle, blinded them to race, and removed them from the comfort of their homes. The sisters risked death to preserve life, bring comfort, and give hope to those in need. They created so many things from nothing. In fact, the first hospitals were built with monies collected during “begging trips” in which the sisters would travel by foot and donkey to locations often far away and dangerous. They utilized the proceeds of such trips to build schools and hospitals, and expand existing medical facilities to serve the poor and discriminated against. Regardless of conditions endured by the sisters, they found a way to survive and bring hope, comfort, and peace to those around them. If not for their courage and devotion to humanity, many of the poor would have died from lack of medical care. How compassionate and courageous to undertake such an effort. Their love for humanity was remarkable and beautiful, setting the standards by which I aspire to live.
On Message Eileen Hennessy
I move as if our planet were my comfort zone. I play the five fingers, sing the prayer of the seven holy hidden names, chant the mystical declaration of life. I am the proud possessor of old sane things. I am speaker of your peace, maker of your miracles, cloth of your visions, illuminator of your shadows, burner of your candles, knower of things you do not know about yourself. To communicate with you is to be a holy turning table. Be assured that our words are already in fortuitous cosmic connection. I offer you my friendship and greetings and high strong regards and pray that they reach you in good time. I have seen the sword of your suffering. Be assured that I am using ancient spiritual magic to protect you. I am the person you can trust. This is the most important letter you will ever receive. Within hours of your call, I will be there. Even before then, there are many things that I will do for you. I have taken you for my own. After you have worked with me, you will know life and death and how they lie.
In Still Joy Sean Hegarty
Never so close as to a smile from you. Screech of delight leaping into the deep of my arms. Calm will save you, as I will be your psalm singer. Rest now, or the world will have its way with you. There is no rush to tackle the steep cracking plateaus. No need to slam the creaking door on crackling monsters. Don’t wander aimlessly through time. Stay. Instill Joy. There is no trap you cannot trip, but fall. I will catch you. Through Trials. Through Tremors. Through Terrors and Errors. I lend you my five pillars. -
Pretty/Jealous Matthew Pine
Unadorned smile brighter than the crown. Soft crimson encircles nimbus pearls. Her small smile brightens the morn’ and Jealousy smears Aphrodite. Twin pools of silver blue speak heaven’s joy and outshine Dawn’s new rays. Earning a colossus rage from a shadow of divine beauty strayed.
Love on Trial Sean Hegarty
Love is a falsely accused man on trial constantly exclaiming his innocence while being berated with questions he is not meant to answer. Meanwhile the prosecutor is fully aware of his purity, but his job is to tear love apart. It is his duty. It is his responsibility. He has done it before, and it haunts him every day. He can only hope and have faith that when all is said and done, Love will prevail and that Lust, Love’s public defender, does not poison the story. For Lust, a healthy, chiseled, long-haired, smooth talker, will assure Love of false promises while he sweet talks his wife and jerks off his funds. He’ll convince Love to lie and build his alibi and make up stories that would otherwise be blatantly false. Lust will defend the simple, intrinsic, and the primitive, making for a loose yet feasible argument. It will work... well, sometimes. Sometimes the lies will distort vision and even bend the very fabric of reality. Sometimes Love will believe the lies himself. We’ll call those days: “The Present”
William A. Henkin
What a lovely afternoon you gave me— Bach and Brahms and Billy Collins all keeping my mind from wandering to the pile of bills, the hungry dog, the dirty dishes crusting in the sink, and of course my own keyboard waiting as if patiently for me to write to you. And so I do. But not that way. Instead I take up paper and pen as we always used to do, as my progenitor took up papyrus and a reed, dry mud and a stick, a charred piece of branch and the rock of a cave wall. These three lines are you; these three lines are me; all the lines and curves and spots and spaces in between are nothing but my thanks.
Do not forget the infinite possibility you do not have. Grasp all of it and pull the endless handkerchiefs of skills and attributes from the tiny pocket of the clown. You will not reach the end though rainbows may brush by over the seams of reality and satisfaction may be yours as you watch the waves of color break at the pinnacle of their radiance. Pull harder and harder to reach new peaks that surely you will conquer in morning light. Rip the shimmering sheets from their comfort. Ravage the fabric and find the colors dim. Their beauty will fade,
The Perfect Stitch Ashlei Miller
I’ve placed little pieces of you within me Sewn them, stitch by stitch with what I thought was the purest thread A thread of gold worthy of you, so immaculate, He must have made it. Light stitches of you rest on my fingertips Caressing the male of my unique prints They’ve embodied you, they longed to be synced with the touch of a friend I sewed you to my heart In hope that it would pulse pure pristine gold through my veins In hope that I would feel the truth of our labors In hope that I would feel your embrace, entangling itself in the confines of my chest again Dyes fade, leaving the combinations of fibers to weaken, leaving your aureate aura to dull The thread from my fingerprints wore, but you’re still tightly tied to my ticking heart Pumping, pumping. pumping False gold dye through my veins.
An Unexpected Gentleman Rosanne Wheeler
Lauren got back to her desk after delivering the morning mail and saw the note on her chair. She almost disregarded it, but then changed her mind and read it. Immediately she felt her body temperature rise. The typed message read... “I frequently see you in the hallways; a casual greeting in the morning, during lunch time, or the cafe for coffee. Your face lights up with that beautiful smile and those bright green eyes when we see one another as if you don’t have a care in the world. I think of you exceedingly often during the day and when I do, you seem to appear. I can’t explain why, but I feel a magnetic pull when we pass and a light hearted joy after seeing you. I’m taking the chance that you feel this draw as well. I’d like to meet you, if you would be so inclined. I realize leaving this note, in this fashion is a bit unconventional; I would prefer talking with you face to face, but my position within the company is one that holds an enormous amount of responsibility. Often my life is so scrutinized that it’s not my own, therefore leaving me very little privacy. To put both our minds at ease, perhaps meeting at a local park after work would suit you. The days are still long and the warm weather brings many folks out, so we wouldn’t be alone. I will completely understand if you decide not to show. I feel compelled to inform you that I’m a man of immense determination and persistence. I have a humble, genuine nature and a deep well of patience. My efforts to meet and talk with you are earnest. I look forward to meeting you this Thursday evening at the boat rental building in Brookline Park at 6 p. m “ Fondly, John “Again?” she whispered as she sank in her chair. This note was the third in three weeks. Lauren recalled the other two letters being brief, one note complimenting an outfit she wore, and the second, hoping her day was going well. However, this letter was different; now he wanted to meet. His name was a common one, in fact Lauren knew numerous men holding management positions within her company with the same name. After all, she passed dozens of people on any given day; she couldn’t possibly know everyone by name. Either way the tide had shifted. Lauren hadn’t paid much mind to the previous notes, in her opinion they were harmless. A voice in her «135»
head said, Is it strange that I don ‘t feel a sense of danger? That I don’t feel uncomfortable in any way? Is it wrong that I find the ‘love notes’, on some level, a sincere and an endearing approach? Dear Lord Lauren, it’s official, you have become the most desperate forty-something woman alive. Seeing as it was only Tuesday, Lauren was certain she was going to lose some shut eye over this bizarre pursuit. She was also reluctant to share this information with anyone else in the office. The women liked to chit-chat too much and the men, well, they too liked to chit-chat to much. Besides, most of the people she worked around were younger professionals with new families. Mildly irritated, Lauren thought, have I been living in a cave? How could I have a “secret admirer” and miss the signs? Am I really that far gone, that I no longer believe that men will find me attractive? Friends frequently joked that Lauren never took emotional risks that for her to make a decision took days or weeks of deliberation. Additionally, they knew her to have an inquisitive nature, an uncanny ability to analyze things to death, and a super talent for talking herself on and off the ledge over and over again. So naturally, her detective skills were working in overdrive. Pondering the third note again, Lauren surmised that this wellmannered gentleman was particularly self-assured and confident. The notes weren’t distasteful, but had a refined tone and were in no way threatening. Therefore, what would be the harm in meeting the man in a public place? “This is crazy,” Lauren mumbled. Her internal debate finally ended no more skepticism or frustration; the suspense was killing her. She’d made up her mind; she was going to meet the mystery man and on some level was thrilled about it. She’d never expected it, but Lauren came to the realization that she was falling into the trap of a hopeless romantic. When Lauren woke Thursday morning, she changed her outfit three times and spent entirely too much time fussing with her hair. She finally realized this man sees her every day in the office, dressed professionally, and from his remarks obviously liked what he saw. Lauren, a natural beauty, always looked younger than her years. A rich brunette with shoulder length curls wanted to highlight her slender physique and curves by wearing something special. She’d decided on her navy shirt dress from Ann Taylor and accessorized the outfit with her every day Tiffany jewelry which set off her golden complexion for the get-together. The park was in full bloom during the late part of spring. The sun had yet to set but was still warm and comforting. Even the magnolia «136»
trees, forsythia’s and tulips were basking in the glow. The lake was mostly calm, with a slight movement on the surface and the sun’s quick reflection, mirrored messages like Morse code. The scent of Hyacinths and Lily of the Valley were carried in the air. It was a perfect spot. Lauren entered the parking lot towards the back of the boat rental building which was closed until mid-June. On a nearby path, she noticed bikers and runners taking advantage of the long awaited season. She breathed a sigh of relief that the meeting spot was not secluded. The lot was basically empty with two other parked cars besides Lauren’s. While one car was empty, the other had a man leaning on the outside door of a silver Audi A8 sedan. He seemed to be studying what looked like a Blackberry. She recognized him instantly. It was John McCarthy, a divisional Vice President. Lauren had always respected him and thought him to have a classic style. She just never considered him in a romantic sense, but now was fascinated. Is he the man leaving me the notes? It couldn’t be! But, he’s the only one here, it has to be him. Lauren recalled seeing him frequently throughout her work day. It was strange how often she ran into him, she remembered. How could someone of his caliber be interested in her? She’d never considered it. John McCarthy had the look of an aristocrat. Lauren guessed his age in the early fifties. How could a man like this not be married? Suddenly she realized she knew nothing about him. All she knew through the office grapevine was that he was highly admired with a keen business mind, and very approachable. In fact, she couldn’t recall anyone ever saying a bad thing about the man or for that matter, knowing anything about him personally. Now incredibly nervous, Lauren had to remind herself to breathe; her palms were sweating, she felt faint and nauseous all at the same time. Quickly, she knew she had to sober up and compose herself “Dear Lord, this guy is some serious handsome, “ she whispered. He stood a little over six-foot, with a lean and fit body, wearing tan tailored slacks, and a white dress shirt that was un-buttoned at the top. She could see the navy blazer he wore that morning on a hanger in the back seat. His hair was light brown, neatly groomed with a touch of gray on the temples. The man screamed sophistication. She imagined that ninety-nine percent of the time the man was in complete control of any given situation whether it be business or personal, that he made precise decisions on a moments notice, and never stressed set backs no matter how bad things seemed to be. She parked in a spot fairly close to him. He looked up from his Blackberry when he realized a car had pulled in. His face was beaming as Lauren stepped out of her car. He moved towards her, sliding his phone into his pants pocket. He wore leather shoes broken in from «137»
numerous miles, in and out of airports no doubt. For unknown reasons, just looking at him relaxed Lauren. She still wasn’t sure what she was going to say, and desperately hoped her words wouldn’t make her sound moronic. “Hello Lauren.” He knows my name? Of course he does, my name is posted at my desk! “Hello John. So you were the one leaving me the notes?” “Yes, I wasn’t particularly comfortable doing it in that manner; I hope that approach didn’t alarm you? I’m glad we finally have the opportunity to talk.” He stepped closer to Lauren, his stare unbroken, “I wasn’t sure you’d come. My schedule is pretty hectic most days and I didn’t want our conversation to be rushed or interrupted. Every time I’d seen you, I wanted to introduce myself, but with the lack of privacy, it always seemed like bad timing. Hence the reason for the notes, I hope you understand.” He’s so charming. “Sure, I understand, and you’re probably right, an interruption during work could have been potentially embarrassing.” Dear Lord, she thought, he’s even more striking close up, especially with those crystal blue eyes. “No worries, besides, I get notes all the time from admirers,” she said jokingly. He started to laugh, “I’m sure you do. Well, since you already know who I am, I guess we can skip introductions.” “John, I’m still finding it hard to believe you are here to see me.” “Believe it Lauren. I’ve passed your desk so many times, and decided I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to meet you. It’s nice by the water, how about we sit and talk some more?” “Sure, I’d love that.” Placing his hand gently on her lower back, he steered her towards a park bench by the lake side. When they sat down, he placed his arm around her resting it on the bench and began to make small talk. “I think the evening sunset will be a perfect end to this beautiful spring day. We’ve had such a horrible winter, I’m glad it’s behind us. Are you a fan of the warmer seasons, or the cooler ones?” “Me, I love, spring and summer. If I had the opportunity, sometimes I think I could live in a climate that’s warm all year around.” “I absolutely agree. I have a sail boat and enjoy spending my free time on the ocean. If you’d like, maybe we could go sailing one of these weekends? He had a welcoming smile as he brushed some hair away from her eyes. “Hmmm, I’d love that, thanks.” When they noticed the sun starting to disappear, the pair «138»
discovered they had talked for almost two hours. The conversation covered many topics; childhood, their families, his divorce, his two children attending college, hobbies, careers, and even some memorable vacations. He’s easy to talk to, Lauren thought. They walked to their cars together. John felt a light breeze starting and noticed goose bumps on Lauren’s arms. “Are you chilly?” “A little bit.” John enveloped her with a warm embrace. She felt heat and instant comfort. “How does that feel, better?” “Yes, definitely better.” When he pulled away he hardly loosened his hold. His cheek brushed up against hers. Lauren had her eyes closed, lost in the caress and his fresh scent, almost as though she was hypnotized. “Lauren,” he whispered. It took her seconds before it registered, he was saying her name. “Hmmm” She could feel his heart beating so hard, she felt the vibration through his dress shirt. “May I------kiss you?” She managed to open her eyes slightly and saw the solemn gaze in his eyes. Their lips were a breath away. “Absolutely.” His kiss was soft, tender. Lips barely touching, he moved slowly, he took both of his hands and cupped her face as though she were made of glass. He gently stroked her jaw line and cheeks with his fingertips, constantly touching, never losing contact. He obviously wasn’t in any rush, but savoring a moment he’d waited quite some time for. Lauren reminded herself that she should probably feel shock, but only after she got the feeling back in her legs and realized she was no longer in quicksand. She couldn’t remember ever being kissed like that. Was there any other man before John? It was as though the kiss erased everyone from the past, and she was looking at her future with clarity and belonging. “John, it’s getting late, I should go.” “Lauren, would you like to meet again, perhaps dinner this Friday evening?” “That would be nice.” Lauren gave John her cell number. As Lauren turned towards her car, she heard John pull his car keys from his pocket. Then, she heard a unique sound, like metal hitting the pavement. What rolled by her feet was a shocking site. It was a gold wedding band. Lauren’s heart sunk and her body froze. She bent down to pick up the ring. «139»
Lauren’s eyes widened, “John what is this? I thought you said you were divorced.” John stared at her in silence. Lauren dropped her head not knowing whether she should cry or be furious. He seemed so honest. Lauren took the ring and tossed it back at him. The ring hit the ground, bouncing somewhere on the grass. She turned and walked quickly to her car. She sat there and rested her head on the steering wheel. Through the car window Lauren noticed John searching the grass for his ring. A million thoughts went through her head as she observed him. How could he tell me he’s divorced, when he isn’t? How could he be so polite, gentle and deceitful at the same time? Am I an idiot for wanting to believe him? Was it really just sex driving him? Oddly, Lauren didn’t think so and needed to find out; especially after the kiss they had shared. Aggravated, Lauren stormed out of her car. John had pulled out of his parking spot, turned around and was about to leave, when Lauren stood in the middle of the lot blocking John’s exit. He stopped quickly and got out of his car. “Lauren, what are you doing?” he shouted. “I have something to say” she responded, as she walked closer to him. Her expression was unreadable. “What’s that?” “Where are we going for dinner Friday night?” she said with a smug grin.
I need to eat, to get through this day, Eyelids are heavy, legs beginning to sway, I give the metallic beast my dollar, wrinkled and torn, It spits it back out, filled with rebellion and scorn, I shove the money back in, with tenacity and force, Hoping to sub a snack for a main course, The machine takes the dollar, but my blood begins to boil, For my package of Danish, is stuck on the coil.
The first time Jackie did laundry for me, I blew it big time. All through college I had taken my laundry home for my mother to do; she was divorced, I was the only child, and it somehow kept us connected. She washed my socks by hand; she ironed my tee shirts. And she folded stuff perfectly, the shirts in thirds with the sleeves folded behind, the jockeys in thirds and folded in half horizontally, label in back, the socks paired and folded in perfect thirds. It could have gone on a departmentstore counter, it looked so good. I lived at home for ten years. It seemed like a good deal for both of us: I brought home a salary and I got my meals cooked and my laundry folded perfectly. When I finally took a job in Boston and moved out, it was a jolt to have to learn how to do laundry. I admit I called home more than once to find out what kind of soap to use and how much. What was not a problem was folding the stuff correctly. I had unfolded it enough to know how it should go. My job in white collar sales was the kind that enabled me to eat lunch out most days. I’d make that my main meal and then get take-out or a teevee dinner at night. After six months it got tiresome, and when I met Jackie I was ripe to get married. So was she. She had just surfaced from a disagreeable divorce, but she said I was entirely different. We found a bigger place and moved in together. At first we were both eager to please. Then came the laundry thing. She had folded my stuff the lazy way, in half one way and then the other. Towels, same thing, folded in half lengthwise, when they look so much better hung with the edges turned in. I didn’t complain, just started telling her about my day and refolding everything my way. ‘What are you doing?’ she said. ‘Urn, these just fit in the drawer better if you fold them this way. See, you put the shirt down face down and ... ‘ She laughed drily. ‘I’m glad you know how,’ she said. ‘Life’s too short to do the same work twice over. You do it.’ She refused to do my socks by hand, either. In fact I don’t know how it happened, but pretty soon I was in charge of the laundry. I even did her stuff, although I left it for her to fold herself. She offered to teach me how to iron, but I drew the line. As a result we both pioneered the wrinkled look, which shortly became fashionable anyway. That was a lesson for me. I understood that if you never learn how to do anything, you never have to do it. «143»
When I complained that we didn’t eat enough vegetables, she offered to teach me how to cook. She said producing a main course and a salad and rice or potatoes was all she could manage. She said if I could read I could at least cook frozen vegetables. I was trapped. Even so, I managed to cook my vegetables in a way that drove her crazy. I followed the directions on the package to the letter. ‘It’s much more energy-efficient to put the lid on while you’re bringing the water to a boil,’ she insisted. ‘Doesn’t say to,’ I pronounced. ‘It says bring to a boil, then cover and simmer. You said if I could read, I could cook. I’m reading.’ ‘I guess I was wrong,’ she said. I thought at the time she meant she was wrong about how to do it. Thinking it over, it could be she was saying she was wrong about my literacy. She tried to get me to do fresh vegetables, said they were better for us. I told her I was afraid I’d cut myself, so she had to do the prep work. Then she also had to figure out how long to cook them. Most of the time the steamer thingy wasn’t where it should be, so she had to find that and decide what pan the stuff would fit in. Basically what I would do was turn the stove and the ball game both on and get absorbed watching. It only took one or two burnt pans to persuade her I couldn’t be trusted. The refrigerator thing came naturally to me. There’s a joke about male refrigerator blindness, men never being able to find anything in the frig. It’s because she puts stuff in wherever it fits, without any system. Male frig blindness is a real ineptitude, but it served to reinforce my image. I tried to torpedo the laundry thing by soaking my blue jacket in with some of her stuff, so they came out with these sort of tie-dye blue patterns on them, but that didn’t work. She pretended she didn’t see it, and I had to keep doing the laundry. I was more successful elsewhere. Washing the car? I said I was afraid of scratching the finish. Vacuuming? That was easy. I went real fast so not everything was picked up, and skipped the corners. Painting woodwork was a no-brainer. Doing a bad job with lots of drips and leaving the brushes to harden up was actually enough, but I frosted the cake by pouring the leftover paint down the drain. She came close to apoplexy. I even manage to have a hard time plugging in appliances. With one of the prongs fatter, there are two ways to try to do it... My most brilliant show of klutz came the day she brought the Christmas lights in. She had strung them around the front door, two strings of those little LEDs that are supposed to last forever. She asked me to untangle them and bunch them up some way so they wouldn’t be tangled when she got them out next year. They are nasty – double strings of wiring with the lights sticking up every few inches, a little like «144»
barbed wire, so the lights get snagged on the wiring. Jackie said there were two strings plugged together and it might be easier if I unplugged them. I said I couldn’t find the plugs in that mess; was she sure? She came to help and began teasing the strands apart, looping wires over and through. She found the plugs and took them apart so I had one string and she had one. ‘Just work it out; be patient,’ she said. I had both ends loose with a tangle in the middle; I shook the knot and yanked on it. Suddenly we saw a little pink light bulb on the floor, three inches of broken wire trailing from it. She looked at me in disbelief. ‘God’s sake. I can’t trust you to do the simplest thing.’ ‘Damn cheap goods,’ I said. Some days I have fears Jackie will catch on. ‘How is it,’ she asked me once, ‘that if there are two ways to do something, you always manage to pick the wrong one?’ I shrugged and spread my hands out, my most naive smile on my face. ‘Just talented, I guess,’ I said. THE END
Pac-Man Joe Celizic
When my sister and I were growing up, my father kept rows of old arcade games in our basement, pushed up against the walls. Their dim, unlit illustrations leered above us whenever we braved the trip downstairs in our Velcro tennis shoes, and we marveled at the pictures, all of the characters reminding us of our father. He grinned like Donkey Kong, wore the same sunglasses as Avenger. He collected them, bought from pizza parlors, garage sales, local game rooms, others who had realized the machines’ value had expired. Every time he pulled our truck into the driveway with a new multicolored box in the bed, peaking out from the weathered gray tarp, mom would shake her head, her cheeks twisted with premature wrinkles like a used dishtowel. She didn’t mind the games in the basement. When he was still at the office—the accounting firm he never talked about—she would tell us that the level was his and that collecting them was “okay” but she never understood why he still played them. He retreated to the basement on nights and weekends rather than helping to dust or compose the weekly dinner list. Mom grumbled to herself, bit her tongue around him, but she was unable to hide how bothered she was when he acted the games out afterwards. He made Mario jumping motions when he walked up and down the stairs, moved around the kitchen island like Centipede when he helped set the table. He made Asteroid crashing noises when he turned off the television and imitated the Adam’s Family Pinball “game over” sound as he left our rooms after tucking us in at night. He named our golden retriever DK. The night he agreed to give the machines up, a week long project that aged him more than any other week in his life, he came to the dinner table dressed in a yellow sweater and golden yellow corduroys he hadn’t worn in years. “Blinky,” he said to me, pointing to my red T-shirt, a smile budding up on the edge of his lips. “Pinky,” to my sister. “Inky,” to my mother. He ate the peas one at a time with Pac-Man gobbling sounds. My sister and I ate the dry roast in silence, fighting chuckles, unable to drink our milk. My mother cringed when he asked what was for desert. “Pears,” she said. «146»
“Yum,” he said, “two thousand points.” Before she could bring it to the table, my father pulled a multivitamin out of his pocket, gave me a wink of camaraderie, and popped it in his mouth. With a crash, he jumped out of his chair, his feet slamming on the floor, his arms out at his sides, and looked right at our poor golden retriever. “Get over here, Clyde!” He chased DK out of the kitchen, into the living room, around the bedrooms, the dog barking with an open-mouth smile. My sister and I dashed out to catch them. We ran away from our father, bounded down the stairs and sprinted around the basement, laughing. Our mother yelled, begged for him to stop. “I have to get them while they’re still blue!” he said and he chased us around and around, grabbing at our backs, biting with his mouth, trying to consume our youth, never quite reaching us. On my way back up the stairs, still running, I heard the collision, the cry of my sister. I turned around, closed my mouth, reversed my direction, found her bleeding on the floor next to a pinball game, wailing like a high-score victory. My father was on her before I could react, holding her, kissing around her deep red gash, whispering to her, all while on his knees. My mother rushed in behind me, prepared with a towel, but by the time she got there my father was already wiping up the blood with his yellow sweater.
Come Walk In My Scarpe! Gwen Conte
“Look! Look!” I yelled as I saw the tips of the Alps poking through the clouds. We were flying over them on our way to Italy! The beautiful sight was the first of many to be seen on the journey we were about to endure. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to study abroad with Gwynedd-Mercy College’s program. There were about 20 students embarking on the trip, each and everyone Alps Poking Through the Clouds of us as excited as the next. We finally arrived in Italy! Our new home for the next month was to be a town called Brescia (located in northern-central Italy in the region of Lombardy). Once we settled into our cozy apartments, we went exploring the town we now called home. First things first, we needed our bikes! So, together, we all strolled through Brescia to the opposite end of town where our bikes were awaiting. It was the perfect opportunity Out and About in Brecia, Italy to learn our way around the town and to sight see the beauty that lied in the heart of Brescia. Honestly, the sights were awe-inspiring to me. I could not believe how beautiful the cathedrals were and how exquisite the architecture was. I was so eager to continue to explore Brescia and Italy. Once upon our bikes we were led to our classroom sites. Our Italian class was to be held at the local high school and our Philosophy classes were to be held in the local university (Universita Cattolica), both accessible by bike located right in Brescia. Now that the nitty-gritty was taken care of we were on our own! That first night a bunch of us went out into town and met people our age and enjoyed ourselves at a local cafe until it got late enough to return and go to bed. It was sensational to be out and about with friends «148»
meeting people in a totally new country. Was the language barrier tough at first? Of course! But were the Italians entertained by our hand gestures and minimal Italian words? Of course! It is truly amazing how much you CAN understand others even when there is a language barrier. We were able to hold conversations through body language much more than I ever even realized possible. It was fun! We were all laughing and enjoying ourselves! Classes began and we were learning how to speak Italian (very helpful, I might add)! We even got to mix and mingle with the Italian students who attended the school where we took classes. It was fun! We would enter their “English” classes and we would speak to them using our Italian and their English as good practice for us all. Not to mention it was interesting learning about the true Italian culture first- handedly. It was a great advantage taking classes alongside Italian students because it helped us to learn to speak Italian better and it was great to ask them questions about their lives. After our first week of class, we were able to travel on the weekends. A couple of us decided we wanted to see Venice, Florence, and Pisa all in one weekend! And to top it off, Nick, one of the students on the trip with us, was living in an apartment with three other Italian kids our age. They all spoke English quite well. Amazingly enough, one of them wanted to join us on our trip to Venice! So helpful!! It was our first time taking the trains out of town and being with someone who could translate for us really helped us get our bearings! Once we arrived in Venice, he also helped navigate us through the town (which was a hike, I might add)! I doubt we could have done it so efficiently without him. Venice was lovely. There were canals that acted as roads all throughout the city. Gondolas were riding by here and there and everywhere. We even got to ride one! Little shops filled the sidewalks. It was so different than any town I have ever seen before. We had to cross tiny bridge after bridge just to bypass all the water that filled the city. We reached the famous square of Venice known as Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square). This square is the home of Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile di San Marco (the Bell Tower). To describe Atop the Bell Tower in Venice Saint Mark’s Basilica as «149»
anything less than unbelievable, it would be a lie. The ancient cathedral is hundreds and hundreds of years old and yet it is so spectacular. It boggles my mind how crafty the human race was without the technology we have today. The beauty of it was just amazing. I honestly am so glad my eyes were lucky enough to witness such beauty because it gave me a whole new appreciation of humankind and architecture. We also took an elevator to the top of the Bell Tower and were able to see Venice from a bird’s eye view at 323 ft up at the top. It was amazing! We could see all the rooftops and canals that ran through Venice. We also were able to see a small island off the coast of the town. “Dong! Dong! Dong!” the bells also went off while we were atop. We thought we were going to fall over! I am so glad I experienced Venice, because who knows how much longer it will stay above water... The next day we took a train to be “under the tuscan sun” in Florence. There was so much history in the city of Florence. We wanted to see the famous Statue of David by Michelangelo, which is what we set out to do. Atop the famous huge hill in Florence houses the exact replica of the statue along with a beautiful overview of the entire city. We decided to spend our time trying to reach the top of the giant hill to find the Statue of David and overlook the city! Boy, Climbing the Steps to David in Florence! were we in for a workout! Not only did it require trekking through the entire city, but also the steps to the top of the hill were endless! This was a mountain!!! I can remember standing at the bottom of the steps and looking up and not being able to see the top! However, we all agreed this is what we wanted to do so we began the climb! Almost an hour later, hundreds and hundreds of sweat drops later, and, about 30 breaks later, we reached the top! It was worth it!! We got to see the statue and we got to see the picturesque view of Florence! It was a sight my eyes will never forget. Once done taking our pictures, Nick Nick Being Silly with the being a bit humorous in his photos with the David statue (you can only imagine!), we set Statue of David «150»
out to return to the train station to depart for Pisa. Obviously the trip back down was much easier! We stepped off the train in Pisa only to learn that the leaning Tower was a hike away. We were already exhausted from our hike up the mountain, most of us in sandals, and now we needed to travel about 45 minutes by foot just to see the famous leaning tower! Optimistic, we set out! Laughing along the way, we FINALLY made it there! We arrived at a perfect time to see the sun begin to set behind the tower. It was just breath taking. Pictures in books and on the Internet simply do not do it justice. I was awe-struck. The tower was LITERALLY leaning!! I was glad it was not a windy day because Me, Jordan and the Leaning Tower of Pisa I would have been afraid it would have tipped over! Words cannot express the remarkableness that it truly is. A few of us decided to buy tickets and go to the top of the tower! I was one of these brave people, along with two others of my close friends, Nick and Christine. The only open time was 45 minutes before our train was set to depart. We decided we were only in Pisa once so we would quickly go to the top, snap some pictures, and then run to the train! This was so risky, knowing how far the train station was. We felt that this was something we needed to do in our lives, so we took the once-in- a-lifetime chance (or risk, whatever you may call it)! No lie, I was honestly afraid for my life climbing the steps to the top! My heart rate increased greatly and I was sweating more than when I was climbing the hill in Florence! I could literally feel the leaning-ness of the building. Some of us were even stumbling up the steps because it was so uneven! But, we safely made it to the top, snapped pictures and returned to the ground securely! But, uh-oh, we had to SPRINT the multiple miles back to the station in 25 minutes! (As if we haven’t already lost enough fluid throughout the day)! We ran and ran our hearts out and JUST made the train with 2 minutes to spare! Unfortunately we sacrificed dinner for the trip atop the tower! (Totally worth it!), except after all our daily exercise, we were starving! It took «151»
us about 6 hours to get back. Once we got back, we ordered some never better tasting true Italian pizza from a nearby pizza shop! What a day!! Classes throughout the week were continuing to become more and more interesting (and helpful in breaking the language barrier)! We even visited an agricultural school to witness how some students choose to be educated (in Italy their education system is different, and some students go to trade school instead of traditional high school). We saw how they make wine, grow crops, and farm animals. This was very interesting to see students our age and younger making Italian wine at school! It was a vast cultural difference that I found extremely interesting! During another weekend trip, we of course visited Rome! So, my travel group booked a hostel (something I was nervous to do) and luckily only needed to share a room amongst ourselves! We visited the Coliseum and took a tour around it learning about all its history. The gigantism of the Coliseum is much greater than any picture ever portrayed. It was unbelievable to think that it was built almost 2,000 years ago and still stands tall and strong today. We also toured the ancient Roman ruins. We then set out to find the Pantheon, which we were Nick and I Inside the Coliseum successful in doing. That night we experienced the nightlife of Rome and went to a local famous bar and met many people from all over the world! It was so amazing to meet people from so many different countries, that in itself was a highlight! We were able to enjoy ourselves at a local bar and just have fun! It was a great time. The next day we set out to find the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi). The famous fountain is often known for ensuring marriage and luck. It is one of the most famous fountains in the world. Our high expectations were met when we saw how extravagant the fountain really was When we all began snapping photos and throwing in our coins, we did not expect what happened next! My roommate, and good friend} was standing at the edge of the fountain about to throw in her coins and take a photo when a kid (he must have been about 10 years ÂŤ152Âť
old) threw her digital camera INTO the fountain!!! How? He was trying to throw his own coins into the fountain when he smacked her hand sending her camera flying. Upset, she confronted the kid who ran away with his mother, who was screaming at us in another language! Along comes a woman with an English accent who told my roommate to go in and retrieve her camera! She said, “What is the worst that can happen?” This woman was so convincing that my roommate agreed! She took off her jewelry and climbed over the edge! We were all in total disbelief! She hurried to the camera, lifted it with her barefoot, and hurried back
Jordan Inside the Trevie Fountain!
out! Within seconds the security was escorting us away! She was fined almost 200 euros and we were asked to leave! We all chipped in to pay the fine and ran off, all the while being called “Barbarians!” It was an event that will NEVER be forgotten! In fact, it is something that you only see in the movies! The story is totally worth the fine...however, I do not recommend anyone enter the Fontana di Trevi, the Italians take it very personally! We then set off to see enter the Vatican City. We toured inside seeing all the ancient artwork and sculptures. There was so much history and artwork. We spent a lot of time just mesmerized by the artwork in the Sistine Chapel. It was unbelievable and fantastic how there was so, so much detail covering the entirety of the walls and ceiling. Michelangelo was truly, truly gifted to say the absolute least. The next morning, Sunday morning, we visited Saint Peter’s Square and took our photos. We also agreed to enter Saint Peter’s «153»
Basilica, which houses Saint Peter’s tomb. Talk about beauty, there were hundreds of statues all over, and even covering/attached to the walls and ceilings. There were golden arches and stone columns everywhere. I felt like I was in heaven, it was an unreal feeling! We were lucky enough to be able to attend mass once inside! It was the opportunity of a lifetime! Although we could not understand the mass, we all knew enough of the mass to know what was going on. It was such a blessing. Unfortunately our time in Rome did have to come to an end. We returned to Brescia for classes again that week. The next weekend we were lucky enough to take an overnight train to Naples then we took a ferry to the island of Capri. It was like a mini vacation! We boated around the island seeing all the lovely stones and caves. We even entered the famous Blue Grotto. The water inside was neon blue and exquisite. Nick and I rented a Vespa and drove around the island and saw the lighthouse. It was so fun! Capri was a great time and I Enjoying the Island of Capri am so glad we spent a weekend there! Our time in Italy did, unfortunately have to come to an end. However, I walked away learning so much about the Italian culture and seeing so many things I never could have imagined. I also met people from the group, and from Italy, whom I will always be friends with. I did not want to leave and to say it was the opportunity of a lifetime would be an understatement.
Notes on Contributors Rachel de Baere, a native of the San Francisco Bay area, completed her undergraduate education at U.C. Berkeley and received her MPA at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. Rachel worked for more than 15 years administering New York City programs serving crime victims and juvenile and adult offenders. Once again residing in California, she currently facilitates writing practice groups and teaches letter and literature courses. For the past six years, Rachel has taught at the International Women’s Writing Guild (IWWG) conferences in Santa Cruz and at Skidmore College in New York, and she also serves as a regional representative for the IWWG. She has led writing workshops in Spain and in the UK. New work has appeared or is forthcoming in 5 AM, CQ (California Quarterly), Darkling Magazine, G. W. Review, The Hurricane Review, Illya’s Honey, Kaleidoscope, The Licking River Review, Limestone, Oregon East, Owen Wister Review, Poetry Flash, Quiddity Literary Journal, Rattlesnake Review, Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, River Oak Review, RiverSedge, Sanskrit, Slant, The South Carolina Review, and Wisconsin Review. Justin Boyer lives in North Wales, Pennsylvania and is junior in the Communication program at Gwynedd-Mercy College. Randall Brown teaches at Saint Joseph’s University, holds an MFA from Vermont College, and is the Lead Editor at Smokelong Quarterly. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Quick Fiction, Hunger Mountain, Connecticut Review, Saint Ann’s Review, Evansville Review, Laurel Review, Dalhousie Review, Night Train. upstreet, and others. He is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (Flume Press, 2008) and had an essay on (very) short fiction in the anthology The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field (Rose Metal Press, 2009). Kerri Bulger resides in Gloucester City, New Jersey. She currently is a nursing major at Gwynedd-Mercy College. Previously she earned an associate’s degree in science from Camden County College. She has been working in TD Bank’s call center for more than a year and recently was promoted from Customer Service to Fraud. Kerri plans on working for TD until she completes her degree and then would like to be a labor and delivery nurse. «156»
Marty Carlock resides in Weston, Massachusetts. Her fiction has been published or is forthcoming in American Literary Review, The Madison Review, Old Red Kimono, RiverSedge, and Phantasmagoria; her work has also appeared in Hobart’s online publication. For almost 20 years, she was a regular contributor to The Boston Globe and other publications; more than 30 newspapers and magazines have published some 1,600 articles under her byline. She is the author of two editions of A Guide to Public Art in Greater Boston. At the present time Marty writes for Sculpture and Landscape Architecture magazines, and reviews fiction and nonfiction for the Internet Review of Books. Joe Celizic lives in Bowling Green, Ohio and holds a BA from Purdue University and is currently enrolled in Bowling Green State University’s MFA creative writing program. Elizabeth Connolly lives in Chalfont, Pennsylvania and is a twenty-one year old sophomore nursing student at Gwynedd-Mercy College. She loves science but also enjoys cooking, crafts, and writing poetry. Gwen Conte resides in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and is a nursing student at Gwynedd-Mercy College. She plays on the women’s soccer team and is a member of the President’s Council. She hopes to one day become an inspiring nurse to help those in desperate need. Gwen also enjoys riding horses and playing the piano. Morrow Dowdle resides in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Her poetry publication credits include Prism, a Princeton University journal, and Philadelphia Stories. She has also had numerous art reviews, editorials, and interviews featured in The Charleston City Paper, The Baltimore City Paper, and Redivider, Emerson College’s literary journal. In addition, she was recently invited to participate in “Contemporary Charleston 2010,” an exhibit of visual art and poetry for Spoleto USA in Charleston, SC. Previously she studied at Emerson College’s creative writing MFA program with poet William Knott and authors Dewitt Henry, Lise Haines, and Kim McLarin. In addition to writing poetry, she is also a family medicine physician assistant. Jae Easley is from Gadsen, Alabama and is currently studying English and creative writing at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Angelo Fiorentino resides in Norristown, Pennsylvania and is a 2011 graduate from Gwynedd-Mercy College with a BS in Criminal Justice. «157»
Rachael Faye Fitzgerald is a senior at Gwynedd-Mercy College majoring in Secondary Education- History with a minor in Philosophy. She has always enjoyed school, learning new information and broadening her horizons. That desire, combined with her love of helping others, makes teaching the perfect fit for her. Rachael hopes to go on to get her master’s in philosophy and eventually become a professor. Art Fox resides in Chicago, Illinois. He is a relatively new poet whose poetry and art photography have been published in Chicago Quarterly Review. Robert Frazier lives in Hagerstown, Maryland with his wife, four children, two in-laws and two lazy pugs. His previously published credits include an honorable mention in the 2009, I am the Next Mark Twain fiction contest sponsored by Harper Studio. His prose work has been published by Six Sentences, the Happy Magazine and Black Lantern; as well as poetry published by Marymark Press, The HaightAshbury Review, The Freefall Review and The Houston Literary Review. Philip S. Goldberg, a resident of Brooklyn, New York, has had more than 20 of his short stories have appeared in both literary and small press publications including Byline, Best Foliate Oak 2007-2008, The Griffin and Straylight. Elizabeth Harrison lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania and is a senior Communication major at Gwynedd-Mercy College. She is the EditorIn-Chief of the College’s newspaper The Gwynmercian, an Orientation Leader, secretary for Student Activities Committee, member of Sigma Phi Sigma, a Student Leader for “Let Your Light Shine” Retreat, and was selected to participate in the Dublin Pilgrimmage for Young Mercy Leaders. William A. Henkin earns his living as a psychotherapist and sex therapist in private practice in San Francisco, California. He has written a great deal of poetry and odd fiction. His poems have been published in many different magazines, including Beyond Baroque, Gnosis, The Little lVlagazine, New American Review, Rain, Sumac, Transatlantic Review, and Triquarterly. Eileen Hennessy, a native of Long Island, New York, has spent her life there and in New York City, apart from residence for several years in France and Austria. She holds an MA in English/creative writing from New York University and an MFA in creative writing from Fairleigh «158»
Dickinson University. Eileen began her professional writing career as a translator of books, chiefly in art history, and now specializes in translating legal and commercial documentation into English from several West European languages. She is an adjunct associate professor in the Translation Studies program at NYU. In terms of creative writing, apart from a few incursions into writing non-fiction articles and fiction, she is a poet first and foremost. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including The Paris Review, Western Humanities Review, Prairie Schooner, Columbia, Confrontation, The Dirty Goat, Fulcrum, Inkwell Magazine, The Licking River Review, Rhino, Smartish Pace, Southern Poetry Review, Poem, CQ (California Quarterly), Wisconsin Review, and The New York Quarterly, and in several anthologies. Amanda Hickson lives in Harleysville, Pennsylvania and is a sophomore Elementary, Early Childhood, and Special Education major at GwyneddMercy College. She is a member of the Education Club, and works with children at a local parochial school. This is her first published writing. Suzy Jaggers resides in Lansdale, Pennsylvania and is currently a junior in Gwynedd-Mercy College’s human services program. She attended Gwynedd Mercy Academy high school and while there she competed in three sports: soccer, basketball and track. For four years, she was the leading scorer and in assists in soccer. Freshman year she placed second with her team in the 4 by 400 meter relay. Her junior year of high school, she placed 1st in the 100-meter dash at the district championships, and 2nd in the 200-meter dash. She spent two years at James Madison University then decided that staying close to home was a better fit for her and transferred to Gwynedd-Mercy College. While attending college Suzy also works at the Whitpain Tavern as a server and bartender. She plans on helping children some day but is unsure of exactly what she’d like to do. She knows that she loves children and helping people. She also loves playing sports, so if that can be involved in her profession in some way she would be very happy. Daniel John was raised in Saskatchewan, Canada. He is a dancer, movement and massage therapist, poet, writer, actor, and playwright. He has ten children. He is a garden and landscape designer by trade and teaches a class in Intuitive Gardening for Brookline Adult Education. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Amherst Review, Apalachee Review, Cold Mountain Review, Compass Rose, The Comstock Review, descant, Drumvoices Revue, Epicenter, Epiphany, GW Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, The Louisville Review, Lullwater «159»
Review, Mindprints, North Atlantic Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Oasis, Open City, The Owen Wister Review, Passager, Passages North, Phantasmagoria, Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Pig Iron Press, Poem, The Rambler, Red Cedar Review, Rio Grande Review, River Oak Review, Sierra Nevada College Review, Soundings East, Spillway, Studio One, Thin Air, This I Believe, Valdosta Voice, Vanguard, Willow Review, Xavier Review, Zillah, and the online journal, DIAGRAM. His poem, “Freedom” won honorable mention in the 2008 Passager Poetry contest. His essay, “Dust to Dust, Ashes to Children” was one of the winners in the 2001 Campbell Corner Essay Competition sponsored by Sarah Lawrence College. Jennifer Lang, a freelance writer, has been published in Parenting, Real Simple, Yoga journal and Natural Solutions, among others. Her essays have appeared in the South Loop Review, San Francisco Chronicle, as well as on ducts.org the webzine for personal stories. Most recently, her essay “At Gilda’s” was selected to appear in an anthology called Saying Goodbye to the people, places and things in our lives. She lives in White Plains, New York with her family. Wendi M. Lee, born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, now resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and has work forthcoming or published in Karamu, Plainsongs, Common Ground Review, Ship of Fools, Inkwell, and Oyez Review. Aubree Luquet resides in Lansdale, Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Abington Friends School. She is presently a student at Cabrini College in Radnor. Pa majoring in Exercise Physiology. Kriste A. Matrisch, originally from Springfield, Illinois, moved to the New York City metro area to immerse herself in a more cultured surrounding. For the young woman who maintains her Midwestern charm, NYC certainly hasn’t disappointed. Her work has appeared in 13th Moon, RiverSedge and Wisconsin Review. J. Richard McLaughlin resides in Boston, Massachusetts, where he is a writer, semi-professional musician, amateur trapeze artist, and jack-ofall-trades. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Santa Clara Review, Prism Review, and The Chaffey Review, among others.
Ashlei Miller is currently a sophomore at Gwynedd-Mercy College. She is an English/Secondary Education major who aspires to be a Middle School Teacher (7-8) teaching in the Philadelphia School District. She plans on getting her master’s degree and hopefully teach in the suburbs. Eventually she would also like to complete a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. Ashlei enjoys reading, taking long naps, eating the best food known to man, and participating in school activities. She is currently the Freshman Class President, the Social Representative for the Voices of Gwynedd and the Recruitment Chair for the Griffin Ambassadors. Ann Minoff lives in Edgewater, New Jersey and graduated from New York University with a degree in philosophy and continued her education at the National College of Chiropractic in Illinois. She received her Doctorate of Chiropractic in 1982. She currently teaches Yoga and classes on Kabbalah. Her work is forthcoming or has been published in The Alembic, California Quarterly, The Distillery, The Literary Review, Lullwater Review, Nimrod, Porcupine, Quiddity Literary Journal, and Sacred Journey: Journal of Fellowship in Prayer. Rachel Morrell lives in Warminster, Pennsylvania and graduated in May 2011 with her associate’s degree in nursing from GwyneddMercy College and will continue her studies to obtain her bachelor’s degree. Rachel hopes to start off her nursing career in critical care and eventually move into Maternity. Norman Nathan resides in Arlington, Virginia. His more than 30 short stories have appeared in Arkansas Review, Bibliophilos, Canadian Forum, Contemporary American Satire 1, Contemporary American Satire 2, DeKalb Literary Arts Journal, Dogwood Tales Review, Forum, Gem, Iconoclast, Ignis Fatuus Review, Malahat Review, Montreal Standard, Oui, South Carolina Review, Tabard Inn, Timber Creek Review, Victorian, University Review, Villager, Waves, and Z Miscellaneous. Linda Ogden, a native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is a junior in the nursing program at Gwynedd-Mercy College. She currently resides in Pipersville with her husband Patrick and is the mother of four children. After graduation Linda plans to continue her studies at Gwynedd-Mercy College to obtain her BSN and dreams of one day obtaining a master’s degree in nursing. Linda served Bucks County as a foster mother for six years, during which time she cared for and later adopted her two youngest sons. Recently, after visiting “Catholic Sisters in America” on exhibit at Ellis Island, New York, Linda found herself so deeply moved by the experience she felt compelled to share her story. «161»
Becca Pava lives in Springfield, Massachusetts and is currently in college studying pre-nursing. Despite all the papers that she has to write for school, she still finds time to write short stories and poetry. She has loved writing since she was a young child and in addition to writing shorter pieces, Becca has also written two full- length novels. One of her novels, When One Door Closes, is self-published and available for sale on Amazon. Mike Phillips resides in Rockford, Michigan. Matthew Pine resides in Lehi, Utah. Gabrielle Rosin, a senior student with a major in education and a minor in human services at Gwynedd-Mercy College, lives in Penllyn, Pennsylvania. In addition to her schooling, she loves to volunteer and assist people in need. She has been a member of the international Best Buddies club for the last four years, and has volunteered with a theater club for disabled adults called Harmony Theater for the past year. Her professional goals include becoming a teacher or advocate for special needs children, or a human service advocate within the various fields. She is the youngest daughter of three, and an Aunt of two nieces and two nephews. She has two cats named Raphael and Michelangelo. Hans Jorg Stahlschmidt is a German-American writer and psychologist who moved from Berlin to Berkeley, California in 1982. Although trained as a psychologist in Germany, upon arriving in the United States he worked as a gardener, housecleaner, carpenter, and mover before starting his own business as a building contractor. During the last 12 years he has returned to the practice of psychology and now maintains a busy practice, working with couples, individuals, and groups. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Atlanta Review, Black Bear Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Cumberland Poetry Review, Madison Review, and Manoa. He has also been published in such anthologies as the Anthology of Magazine Verse, The Practice of Peace, The XY Files—The Truth About Men, and Yearbook of American Poetry, and in Holocaust poetry and art collections, including Bittersweet Legacy and Blood to Remember. Bonnie Stanard lives in Columbia, South Carolina and has been published in RiverSedge, The South Carolina Review, Connecticut Review, Eclipse, North Atlantic Review, and Binnacle. Her poem Incidents of Estrangement won the 2008 River Poets Journal Short Poem «162»
Contest; Marked by Progress won Knock magazine’s 2008 Ecolit Contest and her poem River Voices was nominated for a 2007 Pushcart Prize. Bob Strother resides in Greenville, South Carolina and has written creatively for more than five years and has completed four novels. More than thirty of his short stories have been published in the following literary journals: The Armchair Aesthete, Barbaric Yawp, Catfish Stew, Down in the Dirt, Everyday Weirdness, The MacGuffin, Midnight Times, Metal Scratches, Mobius: The Journal for Social Change, moonShine review, Muse & Stone, New England Writers’ Network Magazine, Northwoods Journal, The Petigru Review, Pointed Circle, The Storyteller, Writers Post Journal, Weave Magazine, and Words of Wisdom. His short story, “Silent Prayer” placed first in the 2008 Petigru Review competition, sponsored by the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Bob has also received literary recognition from the Green River (Kentucky) Writers’ Association, and the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards Program. His non-fiction work has appeared in various professional trade journals and periodicals including Viewpoint, the nationally-published Regional Development Digest, and a three-part series in Carolina Regions. Joanna K. Walker resides in Quakertown, Pennsylvania and is a student of Gwynedd-Mercy College’s School of Education, working towards a three-part certification (Early Childhood, Elementary, and Special Education). She was raised in a family that promoted appreciation for the arts, and each of them has cultivated various talents. She has an appreciation for all genres of music, and continues to play both the piano and the drums. Photography is a hobby that Joanna greatly enjoys. She loves to shoot in black and white, and has yet to join the digital revolution because she feels some of the craft is lost when film is absent. She is a lover of language; English and literature classes were her favorite in school. Reading and writing poetry continues to be a beloved pastime of hers. Joanna’s professional goal is to become an inspiring teacher who positively influences the lives of her students. For her, experiencing great teaching is a gift. She often remembers teachers of her past who encouraged her to reach her potential. Joanna is forever grateful for their presence in her life, and she wishes to impact her future students in the same way. Rosanne Wheeler lives in Telford, Pennsylvania.
Connie Wrzesniewski resides in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and is a freelance writer. She writes for the Bucks County Herald newspaper in Bucks County, Pa., and In Your Prime, an over 55 publication. She has two children and two grandchildren. As a returning adult student, she graduated from Gwynedd-Mercy College in 2002 Magna Cum Laude with a BA in English. She was on the Dean’s List, as well as, a member of the Literary Honor Society and was Editor of the Gwynmercian. Also, as a member of the choir, she sang in London, England. Fred Yannantuono resides in Bronxville, New York. Fired from Hallmark for writing meaningful greeting-card verse, he once ran twenty straight balls at pool; finished 183rd (out of about 10,000) at the 1985 U. S Open Crossword Puzzle Tournament; won a yodeling contest in a German restaurant; was bitten by a guard dog in a tattoo parlor; survived a car crash with Sidney Lumet; Paul Newman once claimed to have known him for a long time; hasn’t been arrested in 17 months. His 143 poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 75 journals in 30 states. His work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2006. B.J. Yudelson resides in Rochester, New York. She earned her BA in religion from Smith College, MA in Old Testament from Emory University, and MS in instructional technology from Rochester Institute of Technology. Her intellectual interest in religion has served as a catalyst for a lifelong spiritual journey-from her southern, Reform Jewish upbringing to her current traditional practice. In 1981 she was a homemaker, full-time mother, and heavy-duty volunteer, taking graduate courses toward a career, when her middle child was killed by an intoxicated driver. That crisis propelled her into the workforce, where she landed in nonprofit development and public relations. In 2000 she left to pursue freelance writing. When not writing, B.J. visits nine grandchildren on two coasts, travels with her husband, tutors first graders in a city school, and she also recently returned to the study of Hebrew. Her favorite place to be is in her solo canoe, searching for loons on an Adirondack lake. Since retirement, B.J. has found her voice in creative nonfiction, studying with Sonja Livingston, Anais Salibian, and Len Messineo. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Democrat & Chronicle, The Jewish Georgian, Tiny Lights, and in the anthology I Didn’t Get Old Being Stupid: Wisdom from Elders. Her entry about her heirloom Sabbath lamp won second place in the National Jewish Outreach Program’s “Judaica Across America” contest. «164»
Guidelines for The Griffin Published by Gwynedd-Mercy College, The Griffin is a literary journal for the creative writerâ€”subscribing to the belief that improving the human condition requires dedication to and respect for the individual and the community. We seek, therefore, works which explore universal qualitiesâ€”truth, justice, integrity, compassion, mercy... Guidelines for Submission Fiction: Short stories up to 2500 words. Also short-shorts. Novel excerpts if the work can stand alone. All genres considered. Essays: Personal essays up to 2500 words on any theme, as long as the theme reflects universal experience. Poetry: Any style of well-crafted verse up to 30 lines. 1. All submissions should be previously unpublished and typed. Submit on disk with hard copy. Please identify simultaneous submissions. 2. Include SASE for returns or replies. Send submissions to: The Griffin c/o Dr. Donna M. Allego Gwynedd-Mercy College 1325 Sumneytown Pike PO Box 901 Gwynedd Valley, PA 19437-0901
1325 Sumneytown Pike P.O. Box 901 Gwynedd Valley, PA 19437-0901 gmc.edu