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Our Town EC Montage 2011


EDITORIAL STAFF Caleb Milligan Julie McBath Chris Hair Nathan Gilmour Heather Lambert

Co-Editor Co-Editor Faculty Sponsor Faculty Sponsor Layout Editor

Sarah Stokely Alex Hammock Megan Starbuck Jeremy Elrod Desiree Wilson Jessica Caldwell

Prose Screener Prose Screener Poetry Screener Poetry Screener Art Screener Art Screener

JUDGES

Kyle Garrett Brent Chitwood

Prose & Poetry Judge Art Judge

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Contents

POETRY WINNERS: 1ST PLACE: “The Me I Want to Be” Anthony Martinez 2ND PLACE: “Sincere Worship” Julie McBath

pg. 18-21 pg. 42

PROSE WINNERS: 1ST PLACE: “Irreadibility” Megan Starbuck 2ND PLACE: “Hero’s Welcome” Chase Procuro

pg. 64-73 pg. 46-52

ART WINNERS: 1ST PLACE: “Soul” Jeremy Elrod 2ND PLACE: “Blindness” Tiffany Hubbard Honorable Mention: “Daddy’s Farm at Fall” Julie McBath

pg. 44 pg. 8 pg. 6

THE FARM The Road that Isn’t Paved Lanny Farmer Daddy’s Farm at Fall Julie McBath

pg. 5 pg. 6

THE SHOP: Blindness Tiffany Hubbard My Money Rap Carly Hauntsman Sheer Bliss Rachel Marsh

pg. 8 pg. 9-10 pg. 11-15

THE ROAD: Memories of a Soldier Julie McBath The Me I Want to Be Anthony Martinez The Nameless Road Caleb Milligan

pg. 17 pg. 18-21 pg. 22-28

THE STREET: House in Hand Chase Procuro Dream of Another Dream: Bitter Sweet Release Meredith Bray Tic-Tac-To Julie McBath

pg. 30 pg. 31 pg. 32-39

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Contents continued

THE CHURCH: Psalm 145 Shalimar Crowe Sincere Worship Julie McBath

pg. 41 pg. 42

THE BAR: Soul Jeremy Elrod The Other Side of the Pillow Heather Tolbert Hero’s Welcome Chase Procuro

pg. 44 pg. 45 pg. 46-52

THE SCHOOL: The Butterfly The Thief The Mustache Manuscripts of Harrison Moak Irreadability

Sarah Major Jeremy Elrod Jeremy Elrod Megan Starbuck

pg. 54-56 pg. 57 pg. 58-63 pg. 64-73

THE GRAVE: The Fall of Man Beth Harper Man on the Moon Sarah Major The Barroom Chase Procuro

pg. 75 pg. 76 pg. 77-81

BIOGRAPHIES:

A1-A3

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the Farm

Daddy's Farm at Fall Road that isn't paved

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THE ROAD THAT ISN’T PAVED -

LANNY FARMER

Back home there is a gravel road Where lives were lived and stories told. My youthful ghost will still remain On the road that isn’t paved. The gravel’s gray and sharp like glass The winters flee and the summers pass. I grew up too fast or so it seems It blew away like autumn leaves. I remember days with details crisp My heart, my soul will forever miss, The artwork by the hands of God. The greens and blues still paint my thoughts. Looking back, my old road will stay. In the town where I was born and raised. A farewell I’ll say to my old friend. Perhaps one day we’ll meet again. But as for now I must move on. Those years of life have come and gone. There is a road now at my feet. A brand new friend for me to meet.

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DADDY'S FARM AT FALL -JULIE MCBATH

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The Shop Blindness My Money Rap Sheer Bliss

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SECOND PLACE : ART

BLINDNESS -TIFFANY HUBBARD

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MY MONEY RAP Money’s just something that somehow gets gone It doesn’t have a tree that it grows on. It’s hard to come by, it’s easy to go. It spends so fast but saves up slow. The bills come in and accidents happen You feel what I’m saying? You hear what I’m rapping? You gotta get gas, you gotta get food. You work too hard and it affects you mood. You bite off a head and chew off an ear. It’s because of the bills that loom and jeer. Your paycheck comes in and goes right back out. Another week’s gone and you’re all give out. At least for the weekend you can relax. You just can’t go out, ’cause your credit card’s maxed. It’s kinda depressing the way that life goes. You feel the thorn instead of smelling the rose. Still, week after week and bill after bill, Eventually stops (or maybe it kills). Either way it concludes and leaves you be, But what you do now is really the key.

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You can gripe, complain, and argue, But life’s what you make it. It’s all up to you. Don’t worry of money. Don’t worry for bills. Just learn to love simpler, cheaper thrills. Today’s what you make it, so let’s make it great! Payments and fees are in everyone’s fate. You’ll always have costs, expenses, and bills. Don’t let them control you – it’s a battle of wills.

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-CARLY HAUNTSMAN


SHEER BLISS - RACHEL MARSH It was a year after the terrorists attacked. I was standing outside my high school, after hours. I was smuggling a couple smokes in my trench coat. I’d gone a full day not having been caught with them and now I was looking forward to walking home and smoking them with Valentine at my side. She was running late that day, the only reason why I was still there. Distracted, it took me back when I heard a scream erupting from the doors to Mundy’s Wheel High School. A girl came running out; the hijab she wore was falling from her head, exposing her black ringlets of hair. A group of boys followed after her. In their hands were tomatoes snatched from the cafeteria and some other random trash plunged from the garbage. Their voices were angry and hatred spewed from their lips like smoke fueling a train engine. “Get out you Muslim filth!” The leader screamed. “Terrorist! Terrorist!” The other boys chimed, hurling their insults and their food. The Principle, Mr. Swalskie, came out after them with a vengeance and a raised fist. “You boys stop it!” I watched as Mr. Swalskie, a couple of the gym coaches, and a police officer managed to stop the harassment. The boys moved away from the girl, whining loudly to the man. “We’re just showing that terrorist that she doesn’t belong here!” “Enough,” shouted Mr. Swalskie, pelting them with sternness. His voice dropped to a low growl meant only for the group to hear. The Muslim girl knelt on the sidewalk, shaking with fear and tears. I stared at her for a moment and debated speaking to her, to add some comforting words, but I shook the idea off. Others were watching…I had my rep to uphold. Valentine popped up beside me. “Ready to go?” I nodded, digging for the smokes in my pocket, and we were off, sharing them between us. That was the last time I saw the girl. Apparently she had suffered a lot at Mundy’s Wheel and managed to withdraw from the school: lucky. There were many times that I wished I could do the same. The incident sent the school abuzz. Some teachers silently praised the group of boys, inwardly harboring their own racism, but others were appalled. They started having meetings on how to deal with these problems; however, no one did anything about it…well that is with the exception of Mr. Hollister, my social studies teacher. A week after the incident I found myself sitting in the very back row of his class. He hadn’t come in just yet. I was talking to Valentine, drumming my fingers on the desk top, and quietly mimicking the preppy cheerleaders that clung together in their cliques like lumps of mud. Brightly colored maps draped down white brick walls and the low hums moaned from the bored lights above. Finally, Mr. Hollister arrived. He was a tall lean man with a soft, young face, straight out of college. He coughed to get the student’s attention and then began to speak. “Ignorance is bliss,” he began, “and I am sure the boys last week will agree with that. But,” he continued, “Ignorance is blissful only to the ones who are ignorant. For the ones that everyone is ignorant about, not so much.

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Last week we were talking about World War II and Hitler’s reign over Germany. Can anyone guess how the two relate?” The classroom didn’t stir and Mr. Hollister waited for a moment before continuing. “No one, huh? What about slavery? What about the sterilization of thousands of handicapped individuals?” Again silence. “History can teach us many things and one of those things is the consequence of ignorance. Thousands of Jews perished, thousands of African Americans were slaves and were told that they were not as smart as the white man. Handicapped individuals were feared to be a step backwards on the evolutionary chain.” “And one Muslim girl ran crying from this school because a group of boys claimed that she’s a terrorist. So how does ignorance affect you? Look around,” he instructed. I gazed from Valentine to the jock boys further up, to the nerds that leaned forward in the front row. “What ignorance do you have about each other? That’s why we are going to do something different. I want each of you to write a three page paper…”A groan erupted from us. “On,” his voice came back loud, “someone else in the class. I want you to spend as much time as you can with them. Go home with them, eat with them, talk to them, whatever you can and write me an essay on their life, their family, everything.” “Umm…I like choose Becky,” Jessica announced with a raised hand. “No,” Mr. Hollister retorted, “I am choosing your partner.” Some of the boys grew louder with indignation, girls rolled their eyes, and a few sucked their teeth. “Now listen up as I call out partners.” He went down the line, saying name after name…and then he came to mine. “Amber Black, you’re with Becky Swallows.” The pain was instant and I turned my head over to the perfect little, overly cheerful, trust fund baby Becky. The look on her face was mutual. Friday, I found myself walking home but not with Valentine; Becky was my escort. It took a few days after Mr. Hollister’s dreadful announcements for an agreement to be made on how we would do this. I was in no rush to spend time with her, and I would have had no hard feelings getting an F. It was Becky who finally broke down one day at lunch. She slammed her hands against the lunch room table to get my attention. “Look,” she spoke, “I don’t like this anymore than you do but I like refuse to fail this course because of some stupid assignment.” I bit my lip…itching to make a comment, but held my silence. At the end of that discussion we made an agreement. Becky would spend Friday at my house and I would spend Saturday at hers. That way we’d only spend a couple days together and the horrible experience would be over and done with. So here we were, Becky by my side with a look of boredom and crossed arms. Just moments before, she had gazed longingly at her clique because she couldn’t leave with them…it was the most pathetic thing ever. Almost toward my home and far enough to not be able to be seen by the school, I drew a smoke and a lighter from my pocket. The end ignited as it dangled loosely from my lips. I cast an eye over to my escort. “Want one?” I spoke opening the top to my pack. Becky retorted with disgust. “OMG, I can’t believe that you are smoking! Will you please put it out?” “What?” I spoke agitated. “You can get cancer all you want but you’re not giving it to me!” I rolled my eyes, thinking how stupid she

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sounded but I didn’t argue. I threw it down and smashed it underneath my black boot. “Fine,” I groaned…good thing I still had a whole pack left. “We’re here anyway,” I spoke. My home was a rickety looking place with dull paint chipping, revealing the cracks of dingy brown wood underneath. My front screen door hung on its hinges. A useless car was cradled in the sea of unmanaged grass that was my front yard. The mailbox hung open, and inside was a bunch of envelopes with big red labels on the front reading: Final Warning. “You live here?” Becky said with disgust. “Home sweet home,” I replied, making my way toward the door. “Eww,” she chimed before following me. I led her up to the front door and tore off a notice taped there. The door opened with a squeal and a swarm of gnats. I had cleaned up but mom always ended up making a mess. Today, there was some broken glass shattered on the floor, probably from the needles. The kitchen table stood crammed with stuff and a pot stood on the stove, and inside was a bunch of baked beans, a couple hours old. Becky stepped tentatively into the kitchen as I called for my mom. I heard a groan come from the living room. I turned to her. “Stay here,” I ordered. I went to the neighboring room and found my mom lying on the couch, in a nearly motionless state. A used needle lay on the floor; its mark was already in her arm. I groaned and cleaned it up carefully. I threw a blanket over her and checked her pulse…she was alright. I just hoped she hadn’t overdosed again. “Your mom’s a junkie,” Becky came from nowhere. I turned wildly at her. “Don’t you dare say anything about my Mom!” I snapped. “Didn’t I tell you to stay in the kitchen?” “Like I am going to do everything that you tell me.” She approached and squatted next to my mom. “Is she going to be okay?” She spoke. She almost seemed concerned. I nodded. “Yea, I think so.” A sudden realization hit me, and I turned to stare her straight in the eyes. “This better not go into the essay!” Becky shook her head. “I am not going to put it in.” I was shocked and in a weak confused voice I answered back. “Umm….good…why?” Becky shrugged and rolled her eyes. “’Cause I don’t like you. If the teacher reads my report, then he’ll call D.F.C.S and you’ll end up in a nice safe home full of loving people…I’d rather prefer you to be miserable.” “Oh,” I spoke, not convinced. “Good.” “So if your mother is a junkie…”. “Watch it,” I growled. “Then how do you survive?” I shrugged. “Grandparents, child support, and Valentine sometimes.” “And you live off that?”

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“It’s enough to get food,” I replied. “Where’s your dad?” I shrugged again. “Don’t know. Never met him. Mom says he was a gambler, so he’s probably off in Vegas somewhere.” That night went slowly onward but there’s not much to say about it. I didn’t have dinner that night. It just wasn’t in the cards and that was probably the first time little Mrs. Perfect went to bed with a rumbling stomach. Early the next morning I mean eight o’clock early which was too early for a Saturday morning Becky was shaking me awake. I groaned to see her already perfectly made face, combed hair, and Old Navy outfit staring down at me. I still remember her words chiming out like the most annoying alarm clock. “The early bird catches the worm!” We scurried down stairs, and I checked in the living room to find that mom had left, probably off to get some more drugs. Becky seemed in a hurry to get to her place and a nice home cooked breakfast that her perfect mom had put together. Outside, a Porsche was waiting for us, driven by her driver. Oh, did I mention that her dad was mayor and her mom was the only child of a fairly wealthy home and the founder, leader, and president of some really ritzy clubs? You know the kind of club where you have to wipe your face with five hundred dollars to get in? Yea: ritzy. We left my home and headed into the nice part of town. We pulled up to a gate that surrounded a good bit of land and straddled in the middle was her home. It was about two levels, three if you count the wine cellar. A pool was stretched out in back, with shimmering blue water and an invite to be used. Expensive looking furniture was spaced here and there with silver framed pictures. Her mom awaited us in the kitchen when we arrived, and a plate of pancakes and bacon sat cooling. My stomach groaned and together we tore into the plate. The whole time, I silently studied Mrs. Swallows. She was a short woman with reddish brown hair that fell stiffly at her shoulders and a face painted with makeup, but, even under it, one could see the lines of age. That day, I followed Becky around and truly believed that her life was perfect. She had a black Volvo parked in the garage, and her room was big enough to run an underground meth lab. That day we kicked back, swimming in her pool, playing games on her Mac, and even took a ride in her Volvo. Her mom didn’t bother us at all, made no demands about cleaning the house like normal mothers did, or even asked if Becky had done her homework. Once or twice, I saw her dad, but he never stayed long, off to do work. I had gotten a lot of information about her family; from what she told me there was no black sheep, bad experiences, nothing. Everything was absolutely perfect. She had no sisters but an older brother who was in the Marines and about to graduate with top honors. A picture of him in his uniform, couple medals slung beside it, showed him off to the world. After an oddly pleasant day, night had finally come. Becky had escorted me to a guest room where a queen sized bed sat waiting. I made my way there and flopped onto it, smiling at the once in a lifetime opportunity to live in the lap of luxury. I wouldn’t miss Becky one bit but I would do anything to keep everything else.

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Silence crept on me in the guest room, but I couldn’t sleep. It seems that I had forgotten one tiny thing: it was hard for me to sleep in a strange place. I tossed and turned for hours and finally gave up. The clock on the small nightstand beside my bed read 3:00 am. Deterred, I finally decided to get up and go snooping around. I knew it wasn’t polite, but then again I didn’t care. I crept out of the room” I could hear Becky snore quietly in the next room but the entire house seemed still. I wandered into her living room, and then I paused. Her mother lay on the couch motionless except for the small jump in her chest that came with a soft snore. She was still dressed in professional wear, and hanging down at her side was an unopened bottle of bourbon. Nearby the cabinet door had swung open, and what once was hidden from eye now revealed rows of strong alcoholic drinks cradled and huddled together side by side. Some were half drunk, others nearly empty. I eyed her, surprised: I knew a passed out drunk when I saw one. Down the hall, I moved to a pair of shut double doors. Becky hadn’t allowed me in here earlier. That’s Daddy’s private office. I can still remember her snapping at me. I hesitated before placing my ear against the wood…nothing. I began to pry it open slowly and then flicked on the light…empty. I moved inside, listening intently to anything outside and looked around his huge office. It was classy, a book shelf against the wall, a globe twirling on a golden spindle, a cheery wood desk and leather chair with a matching leather couch, and a few decorative plants. I moved silently to the couch. It looked inviting. I plopped down and wondered what he would need a couch like this for. Unfortunately I got my answer. Something caught my eye that was stuffed down into the cushions. Curious, I dug my hand in and retrieved a woman’s small red thong. I jerked my hand away, disgusted, and the pair fell to the floor. Suddenly, his private phone shrieked. I jumped. I waited for a moment for him to come and find me red handed but he didn’t. Boldly, I approached to see the caller ID and saw it was a cell phone number. I waited until the shriek died. The answering machine grabbed it and a voice clicked on. “Baby,” spoke a female’s voice, seductive and whiney at the same time, “it’s me. I need you right now…you know where to find me.” Click. I stood there silently and then heard noise for the first time. Turning my head, I watched a wide awake Becky step into the room. I waited for her to say something…to get mad…to scream at me to get out…to do something. She didn’t. Folded arms, a look of shame crossed her face. Wordlessly, she made her way to the answering machine and pressed delete on the phone. We stood there awkwardly for a moment until, in a quiet voice, she retorted. “Some messages are better left unheard…”. I nodded. I completely understood.

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The Road

Memories of a Soldier The Me I Want to Be the Nameless Road

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MEMORIES OF A SOLDIER -JULIE MCBATH

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THE ME I WANNA BE Hi, my name is Anthony. You probably don’t know me … Sure, you may know my name— you may see me most every day. But do you know me? Do I even know you? Can I know you if I keep real dialogue at bay by rarely going beyond “How are you?” and “I’m okay”? I’m sorry for any time I’ve ever been rude— I’ve never been the greatest at speaking. I probably often seem to have little or nothing to say. Even when I do speak, I may waver, fumble—even stumble … I try at all though because I wanna know you, and I hope you wanna know me, too … So, are you who you wanna be? Probably not, right? I know I’m not the me I wanna be …

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See, I have a long history of depression … Maybe that’s a heavy beginning, or, maybe I’m not even surprising? Maybe it easily explains some things about me … like why I’m subdued. Have you ever seen me excited or angry? Even when I wear a smile for you, fake or real as it may be, I tend to brood.

FIRST PLACE: POETRY


It may be hard to see because I tend to elude … But that’s not the me I wanna be— “Beckon me!” I cry inside, for only dialogue really lifts my spirit and mood. But of course, you can’t hear me if I don’t speak. Could I dare to talk? Would you bear to listen? Or would you walk away like others before you? I’m scared to trust you; I’m scared to trust me— Help me! Because this isn’t the me I wanna be. May I continue? Do you have time and room? I pray I don’t burden you. But if I intrude, please tell me, so I don’t waste your time. See, I haven’t always been so … blue. From recovery to relapse, I slipped—unshrewd— with hardly a blip on anyone’s radar. I die, knowing I waste time, and believing time wastes me. I once had a time, when time was not unkind. I once had a time, when I didn’t believe words are cheap, or that silence could scar me. I even once had a time, when I would not lie to you by telling the truth. Am I crazy? I may as well be if I can deceive us like Jacob. But that’s not the me I wanna be … cheap with my words,

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or even silence, and wounded by time … broken by silence— “Break the silence!” I cry inside, for me, for I know time doesn’t heal all wounds. Of course, I can’t heal if I don’t release my pain … But could I dare to cry? Would you care to soothe me? Or would you stare at me blankly, even swear you don’t know me? Don’t worry— I still don’t know me either. See, I once knew innocence in my heart— until it shattered, along with my identity. Ever since, I’ve been running scared— scared to fall to more pieces, lest you won’t catch me, or worse, that you’ll drop me. Yet only when someone is watching, can I really fall apart … I’m crazy, maybe you’d conclude. Roger. But, that is the me I wanna be: transparent, to at least somebody … real— because I know I can’t heal on my own, or even through God alone … right? Maybe I scare you … What in the world do I go through? Maybe I scare me … I’m not who I think you see me to be— I go astray too. Come on now … sometimes the light I shine is dark …

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Out of mind, out of sight, I sometimes wander … far. I’ve gone to town, even walked down a few blind alleys … I’ve tried to be Jesus,


yet have come up so much less holy than He. Indeed, I’ve taken unsavory company under my wing, but lost my wings for it, even my voice for a time too. Yet don’t ever let me delude you into believing I’m a total victim— I’m not above making a mess of things, or even a mess of me. I wander astray on a dead sea of grey, reflecting some shadow of sanity, while always deflecting the bottom of me to the nowhere of middle. See, I’m not okay— I’m not alright. Do I scare you away? I’m rarely willing to share … It’s rarely easy for me to have something to say, something beyond some seeming pleasantry. That’s not the me I wanna be. If I don’t speak, then you may never know me, or my story … I pray it’ll be worthwhile someday, like I once believed it is. See, one voice, much like me, once changed my life— inspired me to reach far beyond me, and, I pray that under all my pain, I will not forever bury that legacy of love. Loved—that’s who I wanna be … loved beyond even what I can give … But who will show me what love really means?

-ANTHONY MARTINEZ

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THE NAMELESS ROAD -CALEB MILLIGAN

On the outskirts of the rural college town was a nameless road, a winding ribbon adorned with horror stories and rumors of unspeakable evil from years gone by. Not everyone believed everything they heard, but enough of all the talk stuck in people’s ears to keep the cryptic path considered a popular topic around campus. Students were known to speak in hushed tones of that lane out beyond the city limits, far from even God’s jurisdiction. From year to year, there were different conversations about those who had driven down that seeming portal to hell and never returned, but there were always conflicting reports of those same students withdrawing or transferring out. No one really had proof that the road was as chilling as the stories that it inspired, but it was almost like a pastime just to swap creepy, atmospheric tales about what exactly lay in wait on that country way. It was a typical autumn night—leaves swept through the dusky air by chilled wind, the sun already tucked in on the other side of the world—when a car turned down the nameless road. It was not the first car to do so, and, if the area maintained its reputation, there was a good chance it would not be the last. This vehicle, an SUV the color of blood and wine, held four very nervous passengers. They were all incensed by fear, the girls more so than their guys, and ready to empty themselves of the anxieties associated with this place. Someone had apparently taken a wrong turn, but they knew exactly where they were when headlights had illuminated the street sign bleached clean of whatever name it used to advertise. They knew they should not be here; they had heard more than enough of the rumors to know the truth about this street. Joseph, however, told his skittish companions, “I’m pretty positive the road isn’t very long. Quit bitching long enough for me to get us on and off it.” Riding shotgun and gripping his free hand tight enough to bruise, was his girlfriend, Victoria. Her bare legs, short skirted, prickled with cold or fear. “Well, hurry it up, baby! This place seriously creeps me the hell out.” In the backseat, Anthony and Grace edged together a bit closer. They were not dating yet, but the front of the vehicle knew the back was dangerously close to being honest with themselves. Anthony mumbled, “Yeah, haha, I mean—it can’t be th-that bad, but still: we don’t need a tour.” He swallowed the uneasy lump in his throat hard. He liked Grace, liked her quite a lot, and knew he would have to be the brave knight to win the damsel in distress. No time for panic—all smooth like glass; Grace must not see any cracks. Grace enjoyed the nearness of Anthony’s hand to her own, but she was still too girlish to dare entwine her fingers in his. She told herself that chivalry dictated Anthony make the first move; in the meantime, she would pine away in silence. She was certainly in lust with him, and the uneasiness permeating the car only made her cheeks flush deeper and her thighs feel damper. Relishing this side effect of the creepy mood, she looked at Anthony and whispered, “You’ll protect me, right? If the stories about this place are true, right? Won’t you?” Anthony laughed. His chuckle shook with nervous tremor. Grace giggled too and scooted in even closer. Her entire side of the backseat was mostly left alone as the space between them vanished. He tried, as subtly as possible, to adjust himself. Grace was really hot. But the flirtation and fervor stood no chance against their setting; it all fell flat against their creeping fear.

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If it was possible, the road seemed to get darker than the rest of the land surrounding it as if the car was driving deep into some cave of night sky. This effect gave the students another reason for malcontent, as the road managed to seem more terrifying with every few feet. Even Joseph shifted uneasily in his seat. Picking up on the death of their humor, he insisted, “It’s really just a road, you dumbasses.” Even though he found that hard to mean as it left his mouth. Victoria caught onto this shift in tone, and gripped his hand again. Joseph didn’t even mind when she resituated their hands and he saw the slight punctures her nails had left. Anthony shivered and Grace quivered as they drove down the road, noticing the grass getting taller and wilder, the pavement eventually giving way to unpaved trail, the modest, livable house at the street’s genesis balking from the threatening presence of the gothic, condemnable shack soon to come. The nameless road began as something odd, a strange little shortcut in a small town, but continued into something ominous, a frightening zigzag of horrific imagery. It all felt very black and white, very pulpy, very terrifying. The car had grown so silent that only the zoom of its tires sang in all the passengers’ ears. The road robbed them of conversation; talk felt trite among such seeming terror. Nevertheless, Victoria shattered the quiet with a faltering voice: “Sorry, baby, but I’ve heard way too many stories about this place to think this is just a road.” Grace’s expression suggested fear outweighed by curiosity. “Stories? Like what ki—” Anthony butted in. “Is it really a smart idea to start swapping legends? This isn’t Are You Afraid Of The Dark. We’re actually on a creepy bend in nearly the middle of nowhere. I swear I’ll hear ‘Dueling Banjos’ before we’re outta here.” Joseph laughed, said, “Grow some balls, Anthony. We’re nowhere near a river. Anyway, Grace, Vic is referring to those kids that got run over out here.” The backseat grew cold with that sentence. Grace looked at her shivering paramour like she regretted having asked. Anthony could only pat her hand sweetly, not quite lingering there to hold it. She smiled back at him, but her eyes did not; they were afraid—she was afraid. Grace blurted, “Run over? Omigod, what kind of place is this?” Joseph and Victoria smiled at each other despite the dark and the dread. Victoria cooed, “Grace, girl, don’t worry. It’s sketch as hell out here, but don’t flip out.” “Don’t flip out! We’re on the scariest road in probably the entire state, but yeah, don’t flip out!” Grace could not be consoled now, but Anthony still put a brave arm around her shoulder. She quieted somewhat at his touch. “The road’s not that scary,” Joseph lied. The road was pretty scary. They had now left paved street behind and dirt and gravel lay ahead as far as any eye could see. This lack of city-provided-highway-convenience only heightened their inevitable horror. Why was this place unhindered by the good influences of town ordinance? It did not belong in their world. It was a dreadful path, a dusty tongue into some dragon’s mouth. The woods grew thicker and the darkness that lay in wait loomed even creepier. This road was like a tightrope with deadly calamity hedging around. Trees and trees and nothing else stood tall as sentinels around the dirt path. The SUV itself trembled with unease. It was then they passed the house nestled deep in the freakish aesthetic of the road, the house that everyone talked about, asked about, wondering, “Who lives there?” It was beyond condemned, with wood that advertised its rot even in the evening, windows ranging from cracked to shattered, a porch sinking into the earth like

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the whole shack was about to be swallowed into hell’s eager maw, and its tin smokestack emitted sulfurous belches of smoke. It was an abode for the abominable, as far as all passersby were concerned. Victoria shivered at the sight of it, but she was too undaunted now to not tell her friends its story. The road was scary, the car was scared, but there was scarier to come. The nameless road did not achieve its reputation without some blood on the path. She turned to Grace and Anthony and began, “So, guys—have you heard about this place? They both shook their heads, eyes as large as those of reprimanded puppies. “Gotcha, so like, there’s apparently these totally grody in-breds out here—totally The Hills Have Eyes, right? But no one was supposed to know, right? Because that’s completely disgusting, of course. Anyway, the road was pretty left alone, like everyone knew, like, something was completely sketch out here—” Anthony squirmed and mumbled, “This is too much. Too scary.” Grace shushed him and refocused on Victoria’s face, betraying some annoyance now. In the front seat, she snapped, “May I continue, please? So, right, like I said, these boys started biking down the road just for kicks or what the hell, and they would hang around this old school bus coming up soon. Apparently, before the guy started boning his sister or ya know, gross, he drove a school bus for the county kids. But then, like I said, he was getting a little too close to the family, and they started having these mutant babies, so he just wanted his family—if you call it that, ew—to be left alone. Then these kids, right? They’re just biking down the road, being punks. They’d dare each other to do all this wacked trick stuff, and they’d ride wherever they wanted, I guess. Baby, what do you do with bikes? Wheelies? What?” Joseph was jolted by having to participate in the conversation. “Vic, I don’t know: ride them, duh. Just tell the story.” “Pssh, fine, Joe. So right, it goes that they were riding close by the house near the bus, and they saw the freaky kids. No one really knows what they look like, or they haven’t survived to tell the tale—mwahaha!—no, haha, anyway, but they’re definitely weirdo. And they made fun of them, or threw rocks at them, or whatever? Joe, do you—” Joe turned to her and fumed, “Victoria, baby, next time let me tell the story, I mean—shit!” “Sweetie, I just wanna get the damn thing right. Don’t snap at me!” She kissed up his arm and bit down on his bicep. He yelped, and she sniffed smugly. “You deserved it, silly.” Anthony and Grace were in the back hanging by every thread of the yarn that Victoria was taking her time to spin. Grace scolded the lovers up front with, “Kiss and make up later! Tell the story, Vic!” “Oh, right! So yeah, anyway they totally messed with the freaks and apparently the little monsters must have tattled to daddy, because next time they rode down the road, he smeared them with his bus. Like totally ran them over. The dude got arrested. But the school bus is still here—which is also really messed up because wouldn’t they impound that as evidence? And so are his sister-wife and her niece-kids. This was like thirty or forty years ago or something. Isn’t that fucked up?” Anthony shuddered, just nodded. Grace looked at him and said, “We can’t hang out with these guys anymore. I’m worried I’m gonna get raped or something!” Joseph laughed and said, “You’ll be fine, children. In fact, look here: the bus is up ahead. Just a bus.”

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It would have been just a bus if Victoria’s story had not repainted the fading yellow shuttle with a glossy coat of sinister horror. It was somewhat odd that it lay abandoned here like that, but it was just a chipped and peeling bus in a field until they learned it was so much more—it was a murder weapon now, rusting with yesterday’s blood. It was thicketed on all sides by weeds and grasses, like blankets for the resting vehicle. This field was its bed, the last resting place for a psychopath’s weapon of choice. In the almost pitch black of the night, the bus threatened like a giant, some titan wearing this entire night scene as a creepy cape. “Yeah: just a bus. In the middle of a field. On a sketch country road. For no earthly reason. That’s not creepy at all,” murmured Anthony. “No, there’s a reason. The guy used it to kill people. Gotta park the murder weapon somewhere,” taunted Victoria. Joseph laughed and said, “Don’t scare the kids. You’ll only make them wet themselves.” Anthony barked, “Real funny, haha, not really. You see no reason to feel completely sketched out, out here?” Joseph chuckled. “Why bother? It’s just a—” The sentence was cut short when Joseph slammed on the brakes to narrowly avoid colliding with a log that was thrown out into the dirt path. His words were ripped from his mouth by the shock and lingered unfinished in the air. Where Joseph’s vocal chords petrified, Victoria’s roared to life as she shouted, “What the hell?” Anthony did everything to keep from squealing at the unexpected fright. Grace had screamed, so he steeled himself deep down to be the man for her. Inside though, he was shrieking. The log crashed and splintered into the ditch. Everyone in the SUV just watched its progress from darkness to darkness. Joseph seemed too scared to drive, Victoria too scared to talk. Anthony and Grace were practically in each others’ laps, hoping cuddliness held some leverage over creepiness. The road was no longer just unsettling. That log broke open a new dread to flood over them like water from rock. Now, there was only to wait for whoever threw the offending log. Or whatever. In their trembling, they knew not to dismiss any and every possibility. There were options all more ominous than the last out here on the nameless road. Joseph pierced the quiet: “What do we do?” “Just drive, man, just drive far away.” Anthony was all business, a front for his fear. “Baby, check and see if the car’s okay.” Grace’s tongue nearly lolled into her lap as her jaw seemed to hit her knees. “Baby—nothing! Joe, don’t be stupid! Don’t get out of this car. Listen to Anthony: drive.” Joe fiddled with the lock button at his door, indecisive between his girlfriend’s practicality and his friend’s pleas. It was easy to think that forever had passed between them all as he pressed the button down, pulled the button up. However, only seconds expired from one log to the next—which crashed right by Grace’s door. Her scream was bloodcurdling. Anthony’s scream registered just barely below hers. After the second block of wood splintered on the ground, its agents ran into the road and began banging on Joseph’s car door. Two tattered shadows, ugly and tall, bent and misshapen in the darkness, were out for murder on the other side of the window. Joseph said, “Fuck this,” and ripped open his door into the face of one of his molesters. His act of his heroism, however, was only rewarded by the other grabbing him by the arm and pulling him onto the dirt path to the soundtrack of everyone else’s screams. The door was open now like a picture frame for the scene about to take place before their eyes.

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In a broken Southern accent, one of the mutated villains began shouting into Joseph’s face as he simultaneously punched deep into his victim’s stomach. “Stay the hell offa arr road! We alwez hate you fuggin’ kids out hayre!” The other, more misshapen than his brother, pushed him to the ground and started to kick at Joseph’s face, barking, “We gon’ kih ya! Kih ya deader’n’dead!” Victoria whipped her neck back at the cowering couple trying to sink into the seats, “Shouldn’t we do something! I mean, like, Jesus!” She toppled out of the car on awkward high heels and tried to tackle one of the road’s dreadful denizens. Taken aback by Victoria’s assault, he recovered quickly and tossed her into the ditch like a rag doll. Joseph saw this mistreatment; his territorial nature sparked his adrenaline and he pushed his attacker onto the dirt. The other monster pulled some knife—nearly a cleaver—on Joseph and stabbed him in the side. Anthony and Grace heard his scream pierce the night, pierce the innocence of a life before they saw their peer murdered in front of them. Victoria pulled herself from the grass and thicket and, seemingly possessed by some newfound rage, pushed the murdering mutant into the SUV. He hit his head against Anthony’s window and fell to the ground. Anthony and Grace responded with another shriek. Victoria stabbed into the stunned misfit’s back several times, frenzied. Grace screamed, “Anthony, what the—what do we do?” He could only point at the opposite window and the pocked face staring through it hungrily. The in-bred mutant yanked the door open. Anthony and Grace looked into each others’ eyes, relishing their last few seconds with each other on this earthly plain, and kissed lightly—a goodbye with closed lips. They sat waiting to be raped or torn to pieces. Of course, they were then baffled to hear the scary man talk to them in a completely different voice than used before, a voice much like their friend, Nathan. It said, “How adorable is that! The two lovebirds bought it, kids. Hook, line, sinker!” As the prospect of living past this night flooded them, their confusion only peaked to new heights when Joseph stood to his feet, looking very much alive and very free of stab wounds. He then helped his former murderer, also playing dead in the dirt, to his feet. The backwoods in-bred pulled off his hideous mask to show he looked just like Brent; he was Brent, and said, “Wooyeah! We should all get Oscars for this!” Victoria looked into the vehicle, right into the thoroughly fooled faces of Anthony and Grace, winked mischievously, and bent the rubber knife all the way back to its hilt. She laughed, taunted, “We figured if a near-death experience didn’t get you retards into each other’s pants, then all hope was out the window!” Joseph came up behind his girlfriend and kissed down her neck as he wrapped his arms around her waist. He said, “So it was unconventional, yeah…but effective? You bet your ass.” “Unconventional? It was cruel and unusual, you sadists!” Anthony tried to laugh his comment off to make it seem like he was not completely pissed; however, it was clear he was completely pissed. Grace just shook, fidgeted, shook. All she could manage was one timid phrase on loop: “S-so it was all-l a j-jok-ke? So it was all a joke?” Nathan and Brent joined Joseph who clapped them on their backs. “Yep, we’d been planning this all week. I had no idea it would work this well, but kudos to us, I’d say. I mean, you guys have been tonguing each other with your eyes for weeks; so we speed up the clock, you guys admit your eternal love or what the hell.” Anthony quipped, “Sorry, but I don’t consider this our first date!” He was continuing to fail his easy-going façade. He was annoyed.

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Grace smiled and whispered to him in a winking voice, “Well, at least I finally got a kiss out of this.” Anthony smiled back, despite himself. He was ready to be far away from all these people—everyone but Grace. Victoria stepped back into the SUV and buckled in, her sign to the boyfriend that tonight’s fun and games were coming to a close. She turned around and punched Anthony in the arm. “Lighten up, losers. Everyone’s gotta be initiated out here. I’m pretty sure you’re not a real college student if you haven’t been down this road. Anyway, Joe, sweetie, I’m ready to watch some Grey’s Anatomy. Let’s get.” Joseph was lost in his own conversation with the impersonators. “Yeah, you guys ever throw something that heavy at my beautiful baby—and I mean the SUV—again, I’m shutting you down.” Nathan and Brent laughed and continued— “Joe!” “What, baby? Damn!” “Grey’s!” “Wha—ohhh…man…” Walking back to his car, he heard the distinct crack of a whip as rendered by someone’s mouth. He turned on the guys threateningly. They both feigned blameless innocence. As soon as his back turned again, there was a cough, and a muffled, “Whipped!” He ignored it, stepped into the SUV, and slammed the door. He gave Nathan and Brent a death stare before changing the subject. “Yeah, uh, you guys need a ride?” “No, thanks bro, we uh—we rode out here in Brent’s truck. What, you think we walked all the way out here? I mean, yeah, we got ’em good, for sure—I’m pretty positive that Anthony thought he was about to get murdered by some boonies mutant—but even if the stories aren’t legit, this place is still scary as shit.” Brent added, “Hey, that rhymed! Legit. Shit. Haha, anyway, but yep, waiting for you slowpokes wasn’t as fun as you think.” Joseph and Victoria laughed. Anthony rolled down his window and said, “Get back safe, guys. And don’t talk to me again until I’ve determined if I want to continue to be your friend.” More laughter punctured the dark and was then torn away into the atmosphere as the dark red vehicle jetted off far into the distance. When the car had completely blipped out of sight, Brent looked at Nathan and said, “Got ’em pretty damn good, eh!” Nathan chuckled. “Yeah, those lovebirds’ll need to check their panties when they get back to campus. I bet money that Anthony wants to punch us all in the face.” “Let him be mad. At least he’ll finally get something from that girl of his now. He’ll get more than I am currently. I still say she’s too hot for him—some dudes have all the luck.” “Well, let’s get far away from here and then we can find you a girl to validate you, you poor thing, you.” “Hey, screw you, man; I’m just saying: I’m jealous.” “Well, be jealous. Makes no difference, you sad sack.” They chuckled and headed back. Nathan wrapped his arm around Brent’s shoulder, started leading him to the truck parked in the tangled darkness of the woods outlying the ominous bus. Brent squinted his eyes. “Where the—dude, where is my truck?” “It’s back there somewhere, chill out.” A brilliant light from virtually nowhere lit the entire woodland scene, emblazoned the truck’s silhouette in

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their eyes. “Oh, good, some light—there it is!” “Wait, where’s the light com…” Nathan pivoted back around to discern the source of the light. Brent walked on, unfazed until Nathan yanked him back by the arm with a vice-like grip. Brent turned then too. His heart froze in its cavity as his eyes digested the omen before them. The bus’s headlights shone out into the black, two spears of clarity among the dark fuzziness. “Just what am I seeing, Nathan? Dude. Nathan?” Nathan said nothing—was unable to say anything. Fear constricted his throat from emitting even a squeal. From behind the bus emerged two figures, the real muses of terror out here on the nameless road, only maybe ten feet from the boys. They could immediately see everything they got wrong about the inhabitants of these outskirts. Where the boys rendered them cartoonish and horrific, they were all too realistically hunched over and afflicted, mutated even—but terribly believable. Where the boys spoke in hokey and cringe-worthy Southern accents—affects not worthy of the worst rendition of some Deliverance knock-off, they said nothing; they did not have to say one word when their silence inspired choking fear. Where the boys armed them with typical slashing fare, they were armed with the land’s tools: one with a pickax, the other a shovel. They were the real things. They were all too real, and all the more horrifying. Before either Nathan or Brent could determine any plan of action, the monsters sped up, towards the young men, ready for blood. “Nate, do we run? Do we run? Say something: shit!” Nathan was weak at the knees; his amount of unvoiced fright weighed heavy on him. He was able to say just a few strangled words: “So…the stories are true.” Not that Nathan or Brent would ever give credence to the tale. In just seconds, as the small gap between the murderers and the murdered grew fatally smaller, the in-bred offspring—already in their thirties—of a sick and incestuous man electrocuted on death row years ago by now, would guarantee that the boys would never leave this field. They would be as silent as the grave—the hastily dug, unmarked graves waiting for them. If the cliché says dead men tell no tales, then the same could be assumed for college students. Those boys would meet death on the nameless road. At least, that’s what urban legend would say for semesters to come. Or maybe Nathan and Brent both transferred to a different college.

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House in Hand

Dream of Another Dream: Bitter sweet Release

Tic Tac To

The Street

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HOUSE IN HAND -CHASE PROCURO


DREAM OF ANOTHER DREAM: BITTER SWEET RELEASE BY: MEREDITH BRAY Bitter Sweet Release The shattered mirror called reality The glass cuts my hands and feet I watch myself bleed Bitter Sweet Release I do not try to hide the wounds Everyone knows what I have done The ugly truth Bitter Sweet Release The bittersweet release from the façade Showing unafraid Who I am Bitter Sweet Release Laid out for the world My dead, perfect dream The Dream of another Dream Now it’s the Bitter Sweet Release Letting go of the porcelain mask Watching it fall and shatter

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TIC-TAC-TO -JULIE MCBATH It always has to be perfect. There can be no flaws, no imperfections. There is no room for uncertainty or even the slightest hint of ambiguity. The place, the timing, the person, it all has to line up exactly. We begin observing weeks before. I choose to position myself right in front; a very forward position, but the most advantageous. From this view, I can see everything about the person, his or her family, the place, and determine a successful time. I watch carefully for distractions, obstacles – dogs – and look for the possibility of avoiding them; if it’s too risky, I move on. Someone else will have to do. After weeks of careful observation, we move to a more prominent position on the day of and tie up all the loose ends. Once, I even blatantly asked this older fellow about his tools; they were missing the next day. Then we wait. I like three o’clock because it’s like pressing pause in the middle of a movie. Everything is still, frozen in time, in sleep, the only movement in dreams. I keep a careful eye on the prospect, hoping to avoid moving the time back anymore with revealing lights or that sleepless child. At the ticking of the clock, I stealthily move closer, narrowing in on the target. Thirty minutes tops and I’m three towns over by morning; they won’t even know what’s missing. But I do. I thought about that tonight, balancing an old lady’s white gold chain on my knuckles, slithering like a snake between my fingers, balancing a carefully cut emerald in its silver tongue. I clenched it quickly in my fist under the table as the waitress ambled over, the truck stop sign blinking its reflection on the grimy tables. Sam was late again. I hope he didn’t get caught. I ordered scrambled eggs and toast with a side of grits and coffee. The doorbell jingled behind me and I heard the unmistakable scrape of Sam’s dragging step on the ragged carpet. He rounded the table and slid into the booth seat, kicking up his large feet and knocking his fist on the table, his brown eyes twinkling with excitement, his round cheeks flushed with the effort of movement.

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“So, ready for another long night?” I nodded, leaning back in feigned nonchalance, the weight of my sleepless eyes dragging my skin down my face. I was really nervous, always nervous, but I refused to let Sam see. He’d always been like my kid brother, though he was really an idiot. As much as I loved hanging out with him, I hated working with him. “I guess you’re still coming with me, then,” I asked, more of a statement than the vain hope of the question. Sam nodded stupidly, scratching his round belly. Really, I tried to not get irritated, but I just felt like I did better on my own than with him. Sam glanced at his watch and smirked, flicking his shaggy brown hair from his face. “Commence countdown. One hour,” he said excitedly. I felt a shiver crawl up my spine, maybe from the cold, maybe from the nerves, as the clock struck two. I lowered my eyes under the table where my silver snake wrapped its green head around my thumb. “Yeah,” I nodded, “Countdown.” ~~~ We decided on my old truck, the black paint peeling and scratched, and parked it three streets up. The oldest gang member, Tommy, had hijacked it three months earlier, but just for the thrill of it. He really didn’t want it, so I took it. Good thing, too. It was a great get-away car. I slipped the gears in park and killed the engine, my long, feathery fingers lingering next to the keys. Sam had fallen asleep, a sliver of drool dripping from his chin onto my faded black seats. Disgusted, I rolled my eyes and twisted the rearview mirror, examining my complexion. To be a meager seventeen years, I looked much older, but not in a good way. My skin was pale and sticky like paint on misshapen pottery. My brown eyes that Mama used to love had darkened to a menacing black, piercing through my thin skull. My light brown hair looked darker, dirty, like a stained mop draining on my head. I’d lost so much weight since the accident, since my disappearance. The orphanage had expected a scared fourteen-year-old on the steps on that rainy October afternoon; they got an empty doorstep and a stolen hope. “Sam,” I whispered loudly, punching him hard in the shoulder. “Sam, wake the hell up, will ya?” Sam mumbled and stretched, his fat face jiggling as his chin lolled about sleepily. I rolled my eyes and opted for the opportunity for solitude. I slid quietly from the cab of the truck, silently thankful for the previous owner’s rewiring the interior lights. With darkness drinking in my every step, I silently closed the door and wound my way down the street,

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carefully stepping across the dividing light of the street lamp and secrecy. The night was absolutely beautiful, breathtaking. The sky was clear, breathing a sigh at the absence of the heavy moon. The stars winked at me, motivating my step toward the house at the end of Miller Street. Three weeks of careful observation and I’d decided this was the best option. An older couple, kids gone, but filthy rich. I could feel the prize burning in my hands already, whatever it was I would choose. I scratched my leg absent-mindedly, the baggy, ragged jeans lifting and falling with my nails, pushing an oversized shirt up in waves that cascaded down my frail figure. My head was starting to hurt; coffee was probably a pretty dumb idea. The house loomed closer, the bricks stretching in sleep into the belly of the night. The back wall climbed behind a tall oak tree that tickled the roof of the square second story. The bottom floor beckoned me from around the bowl of bushes and I itched to crawl through the dining room window next to the mahogany china cabinet. I’d seen that the first day, the old woman busily stretching her wrinkled arms to the top, her duster dancing across the wood. Being at the end of the street, the house was watched at night by the woods, the trees whispering in the wind, dropping leaves on the rooftop. I stopped in the shadows of the neighboring fence and dropped to my knees, checking again that I would be hidden from view. The tree limbs drooped lazily and swayed gently, their thickness forming a wall and I knew no one would see me. No one had seen me. Still hidden in the shadows, I turned my head once more, checking the lights of the neighboring house and the chosen one before slithering down the fence, around the back wall, and lightly stepping into the woods. I knelt to the ground, my knees crunching the leaves and acorns beneath them. I leaned my head around the branches, running my fingers nervously through my hair, thievish excitement pumping in my veins. The glare of the streetlight protested my absence, slapping the fence post in reprimand for letting me through. I chuckled at the thought, dropping my eyes and fingers to the dirt. The thick soil met my skin and crowded into my fingernail as I slid the tip through the dirt, dragging an ‘X’ into the ground. I studied the rugged letter before scratching two more lines around it, whispering the beginnings of a game. I used to play a game of Tic-Tac-To with Daddy every night. He was always X’s and I was always O’s. He said that’s why he always won, but that’s not true. I’d figured out his strategy by the time I was nine, but I liked to let him win because it was a gamble. Daddy said for each X he could get on the board, he’d tell me a story to help me

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fall asleep. I still hear his voice sometimes, smooth and quiet, raising for emphasis and dropping quickly so as not to wake Mama. I’d giggle at the three little pigs and tremble in fear at the three bears and Goldilocks. Each X was a story. He always had three X’s. “One X, Daddy,” I whispered in the wind, leaning back on my elbows and landing with a soft thud on my backside. “A scared, parentless kid joins a gang.” A rustle of leaves below shocks me back to the present and I hear an unmistakable dragging. I roll my eyes. “Hey,” I hear through the trees, the whisper thick with uncertainty and tainted with fear. Damn you, Sam. I stick my hand out enough for him to see and he clamors his fat self up the hill into the woods. I find myself ironically praying, hoping that he doesn’t wake anyone up. He lands next to me and I feel the earth bounce with his weight, along with my patience. “What the hell were you thinking,” I hissed in the night, infuriated at his stupidity. He shrugged, his shoulders slowly hauling themselves up and letting all the weight fall again. “You left me.” “You were asleep.” “Was not!” “Shut up.” “Smart ass.” “Dumb ass.” Silence. I’d hurt his feelings, I know, but he wouldn’t shut up and silence was absolutely imperative. My hunger for something fancy was eating the skin on my hands and I couldn’t take it if Sam ripped the opportunity away from them. I saw the glow from the stars in his eyes lower and fade into the night, guilt tickling at my stomach. I swallowed hard and glanced at my watch. Five til. Sam noticed my game in the dirt and flopped over on his left side, sticking his finger out excitedly. “Oh, so I’m O’s,” he declared, drawing a circle in the dirt. I shrugged and watched him trace his game piece. I stared for a second before dropping my own finger in the bottom left, diagonal from my other X and directly next to Sam’s O. I scratched my second X in the dirt, mumbling under my breath. “Two X’s. A stupid friend, a kid brother, a

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partner in crime. The annoying brother I never had.” “What,” Sam asked, already sketching another O above my newly played piece. I glanced back at my watch. Right on time. “Nothing,” I said, coughing slightly. “You think you can do this?” Sam nodded emphatically, rolling back over to stand up straight. “Hell yeah, man,” he whispered excitedly, dusting the dirt from his pants. I nodded absentmindedly, my eyes scanning the premises one final time. Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked. Probably the first house on the street. I ruled it out last month. “Come on,” I whispered, smiling at the memory of the dog’s chain. I really hated the guys, the gang, for putting me with someone when they all knew I was better on my own, but what could I do? I shot a glance at Sam’s excited face like a child in a candy shop and wondered if there was actually a five year old living in this bulky sixteen year old. The night yawned above us as we tiptoed from the woods, stealing quietly down the dirt hill and around the wall. The back yard grass breathed gently against my shoes, tapping my soles in curiosity. A garden hose peeked out from around the side of the house, its bronze head watching us breathlessly stride through the yard. A stumble, a swear, and sudden disappointment. I didn’t need to turn around to know that Sam had not seen the green snake that had struck him around the feet and dragged him to the ground. I dropped to my knees and flattened into an army crawl next to him. “Sam,” I whispered, “What part of slow, sneaky, quiet, did you miss? Huh,” I hissed menacingly, incessantly cursing him in my mind. “I’m sorry, man, I’m sorry,” he stammered, kicking the hose from his ankles. “I just, you left so quick, and I forgot that the guys said…”. “Never mind what the guys said,” I said, swallowing my impatience and praying no one heard the commotion. “But, Jack, they said…” “Never mind…”. “They want…”. “Sam. What did I just…”. “They’re thinking about kicking you out, man.”

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I froze mid-sentence, my mouth forming the next curse on my lips. I rolled my head over, blowing my bangs from my face. “What?” Sam nodded slowly, his eyes avoiding mine. “I was gonna tell you while we were hiding, but I was just, I don’t know, hoping you’d figure it all out tonight on your own, and well, change.” His heavy breathing had slowed, the mist from his warmth swirling above my head and falling with the dew around me. “Why,” I asked in a whisper, anger and shock creeping up my arms. Sam lifted his head to look at me, but dropped it again at the effort. The stars winked at me again, but now with a laughter, a mocking laughter, that made me cringe. Sam sighed heavily. “Jack, I’m sorry, I…”. “Why,” I asked again, my voice rising angrily. I felt Sam shrink away and heard his arms fold over his chest. “They know what you’ve been doing. You know, with the stuff.” I nodded. He continued. “They know you’ve been keeping stuff, the good stuff, the jewelry, the money, the cards, everything, and giving them the shit stuff. They’re tired of it, Jack. It’s not fair to them. Tonight was your last chance.” My breathing slowed and evened out, my eyes narrowing on the mockery in the sky. I mentally saw Sam scratch another O in the dirt, menacingly challenging my prospective win. “And you?” Sam shrugged. “I guess…I don’t know. It’s not really fair, yeah, but you’re my man, Jack, my best friend. I hate to see you kicked out on your ass.” I cringed at the thought. The gang gave me everything: shelter, food, stolen clothes, stolen money. Family. How could they rip it all away from me? I felt an engulfing anger spreading up my skin, drinking in my heart, suffocating me. My blood pulsed rapidly, beating against the walls of my veins, and I angrily punched the ground next to me. Sam cringed at my sudden outburst, and I rolled over on my side away from him. I felt his eyes bore through my back, but I ignored them. I ran over my past few years in my life – the gang, the thievery, the money – and I felt sad. But I couldn’t. I was a gang member, a man, and I couldn’t feel emotion. I couldn’t feel anything at all. Except for anger.

37


“Come on,” I said flatly, standing to my feet and stepping through the yard as though the night granted me invisibility. Sam watched in horror, swinging his head around nervously, praying no one would awaken and see me standing in the shadows. I stopped, slowly twisting my head around to Sam. “Are you not coming?” He looked around, uncertainty dripping from his nervous eyes. “Jack, I…I..”. “Fine,” I said, cutting him off in frustration. “Don’t. Stay. Go back to them. I don’t give a damn anymore.” My heart convulsed in guilt at Sam’s hurt expression, but again, I swallowed it. I twisted back around, averting my eyes, extinguishing the hurt I shared with him. I left him there, nursing his pain. I didn’t hear him leave, but he was gone when I looked back. I should have apologized, begged him to stay, or even left with him. But I didn’t. I kept walking, rigidly and determinedly, to the back door, it’s chipping paint reaching out to greet me. My stealing hands itched again, but hurt pride scratched it and they retreated back to normalcy. I stood there, my fingers resting lightly on the smudged gold knob. What was I going to take? What could I take to prove myself to them, to show them they needed me? Jewelry? The old woman always wore a yellow gold chain with a charm for each child dangling around her neck. Even the husband’s fingers boasted a wedding band and a membership ring to some ritzy club. But, no. Money? I’d watched from the front corner of the woods as the old man tucked the fake books on the shelf to hide the safe and the woman kept her wallet full of cash and credit cards patiently waiting through the night on the front coffee table. There was only one thing I could do. The only thing I’d refused to do all those years in the gang. Sure, I’d watched the mangled messes land on the ground, the red thickness seeping in the streets, but I’d never done it. I couldn’t, not after knowing what it felt like, after my parents. But it was the only thing left I could take. The only thing left this old couple had that I could take and show and prove that I was worth keeping around. They were old; why would they need it another day anyway? It was probably itching to leave. Why couldn’t I take it? I peeked around the door and through the back window, the stars twinkling against pictures of gradua-

38


tions, weddings, portraits, and my conscience bit at me. I stepped closer to the window and saw a glittering from the kitchen. Dishes poked their dirty, food stained heads from the sink, pushing and shoving for room in the cramped space. I squinted my eyes, searching for the glinting, assuming I could take it and leave, but it had different ideas. What my eyes found sitting on the kitchen counter couldn’t be taken; it did the taking itself, in the right hands. My hands. My head throbbed as I scanned the picture frames again, guilt swallowing me now, but I could already feel the cool metal sliding through my hands. I could already see a red stain and the smiles on the gang’s faces. Somewhere in the back of my mind, my parents’ dead faces flashed palely across my memory, but where were they now? Gone. The gang? Gone. Security? Gone. Life? Gone. I slid my hand under the rug, pulling out the spare key I’d seen the old man hide there, taking my time, the knife waiting patiently for me. Sliding the key in the lock, feeling the clicking pressure, I sighed heavily but determinedly. “Three X’s, Daddy,” I whispered in the wind, tears threatening my eyes. “A little boy grew up too fast. He does something he’s never done before…”.

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Church Psalm 145

Sincere Worship

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PSALM 145 SHALIMAR CROWE

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SINCERE WORSHIP -JULIE MCBATH She sat at the end of the pew, the wooden bench rigidly leaning away from her body as though afraid of her inner vivacity. The people in the room were quiet, silent voices reaching out to God with tired fingers and tearful eyes as though their strength were trickling from the tips. One voice lifted, one at a time, Softly crying and begging, pleading and praying for a miracle as though miracles still exist. Not a word escaped a pair of lips, each heart beating harder and louder in the fear and nerves as though their wording were not right. She began to whisper, then mumble, her gentle voice flowing mellifluously from her lips to the heavens as though it were simply her and God. Then she stood, slowly and surely, her pale, twisted hand reaching out to God in a plea for mercy, as though mercy were free and waiting. Tears cascaded and bounced down her cheeks, her face pointed upward and pressed tightly into a pleading prayer as though there was no other hope. Her silence was broken, her voice breaking and raising and reaching out to God for help as though God could step from Heaven. She lifted her hands once more, slightly higher then clenching into a tight, tired fist as though worship were her only chance.

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The Bar

Soul the Other Side of the Pillow Hero’s Welcome

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FIRST PLACE: ART

SOUL -JEREMY ELROD

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PILLOW -HEATHER TOLBERT Some say the other side of the pillow is the coolest I tried to find that side, but only found stale tears Taunting me, and telling me that “I am being foolish” What started as a single tear became a puddle of sorrow My emotions just flood over like a broken dam My hands cannot contain the flood of my tears So I break down and muffle my cries Turning the pillow to the other side Just to repeat the procedure tomorrow Some say the other side of the pillow is the coolest I tried to find that side, but only found unheard cries That have not been carried to the skies Yelling at me, and telling me that “I am being foolish” It started with just a few words for my father “Take the drugs, keep him safe, bring him home . . . I promise I will obey” But then it shifted to my brothers, sisters, and remodels My heart cannot take it, But my pillow can “Lord, protect my friends like I know you can. Sex, drugs, financial issues, love, hurt, doubts, and pain, and love my mother all in your name” Repetitive words bleed into my pillow Smothered by endless valleys of sorrow As I turn my pillow to the other side Anticipating more tears tomorrow The Other Side of the Pillow

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HERO’S WELCOME SECOND PLACE : PROSE

-CHASE PROCURO

The young man stepped swiftly through the automatic doors just outside of the bustling airport gate. He wore black army fatigues, a black patrol hat, and over his shoulder hung a black duffel bag. All three were military grade, as were his boots, which were also black and glistened heavily in the sunlight. He stood rigidly erect, as a statue might, with only his eyes moving, observing the throng of slouching and muttering civilians that passed by. Some peered up uncertainly at his countenance while others, more curious, felt it satisfactory to stare at his impressive, broad shouldered frame. To all his visage made him appear as if he were some kind of mourning monument, lost in the land of the commonplace. The young man, feeling these many unfamiliar eyes locked upon, quickly strode towards a public bench that sat away from the entrance of the gate. As he sat down he realized how unusual he must have looked. How his tall frame, garbed in an all black military uniform must have seemed out of place in a civilian world. He glanced around now and realized that no one else was wearing black. No one. At this he decidedly took off his hat and fatigue jacket and stuffed them into his duffel bag, wearing now only a white short-sleeved undershirt. A bus drove by just after this sudden undressing and the young man glimpsed his reflection on its metallic side. He thought he looked adequately civilian now, like a normal person. At this he let out a small, relieved sigh and began to scan the expansive parking lot in front of him. He was looking for a red Ford truck. Johnny’s truck. Searching proved difficult, though. It had been a long time since the young man had seen so many American brand vehicles. And after a few more minutes of vain scanning the young man began to tap his foot anxiously. He did not stop his impatient tapping until, finally, a red Ford truck pulled out of one of the lanes of cars and halted at the curb. The driver twice honked his horn and then stepped out of the truck. “At ease, soldier!” Johnny shouted happily as he walked around the front of the truck. His voice sounded gruff and deep, but familiar. The young man smiled. It had been over three years since he had seen his older brother. As he came near the young man stood from the bench and they embraced in a tight hug. Johnny gripped him tightly and clapped hard on the young man’s back, as if to make sure this were really him, that he was really here. The young man stood somewhat rigid through this embrace until Johnny finally pulled away, beaming up at him. The young man simply stared back, unsure of what to do now. It had been so long since he’d seen his brother; he was quite different than the young man had remembered him to be. Johnny’s hair was long now, pulled back into a ponytail. And scrawled onto each of his forearms were tattoos of names. One was of the young man’s name: Michael. “Look at what they did to my little brother,” Johnny said laughingly, stepping forward to feel one of the Michael’s arms. “You look like you’ve put on twenty pounds of muscle Mike.” Michael nodded and stood awkwardly. It had been months since someone had called him by his first name, since he had had a real conversation. “Well,

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I guess that’s what happens after you join the military huh,” Johnny continued. “It’s like I haven’t seen you in ten dang years.” “It hasn’t been that long.” Michael said hesitantly, shaking his head. “I’ve only been gone three.” He finished. For some reason he was surprised at how high his voice sounded compared to Johnny’s. His voice seemed different now, heavier. “Three and a half by my count,” Johnny said and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “I’m counting from when you went to basic.” He lit one and put the pack back into his pocket. “Either way it’s been a heck of a long time since I’ve seen my little brother,” he gave Michael a pat on the shoulder. “A long time.” “Yes, it has,” Michael said. He watched Johnny take a drag and exhale smoke, realizing now why Johnny’s voice was raspier than his own. “When did you start doing that?” he asked, nodding toward the cigarette. Johnny smirked, “About a year after you left. I was up to around three packs a day, but now I’m trying to cut back since…well,” he paused winked at Michael, “since that I’ve moved back home with mom and dad.” He laughed to himself. “As you can imagine they don’t really care for it.” Michael nodded. They stood looking at one another. “You sure ain’t saying much,” Johnny said, taking another drag. “S’everything ok?” Michael nodded again and abruptly reached for his duffel bag, but as soon as he moved Johnny flicked his cigarette away and sprang forward. “I’ll get that. You’re probably tired and all from flying half way across the world.” He laughed at his own statement and picked up the bag and they both began walking to the Ford. As they came nearer Michael noticed that the truck had a faded black and yellow bumper sticker on the side of its bed. The sticker read “My Brother Serves in the Army.” Michael read it again and watched Johnny as he put the duffel bag into the cabin. He was surprised to see such a sticker because Johnny had been the one who was most adamant about his joining the army. He wondered if mom or dad had made Johnny put in on the truck but decided not to ask Johnny about it just yet. As he got inside the truck, he could smell the strong aroma of stale cigarette smoke. It reminded him of something and he turned to Johnny. “Hey will you give me one of those cigarettes,” he asked quickly. Johnny raised his eyebrows and laughed aloud. “Since when does my little brother smoke?” he said grinningly as he pulled the pack out and handed it over to Michael. Michael took one out, found a lighter from the dashboard, and lit it. He took a puff but inhaled too quickly and went into a coughing; smoke burned his throat and nostrils. He then rolled down the window and threw it out. Johnny let out a terrific laugh. “I actually never have smoked one before.” Michael said quietly, rolling the window back up. “No…really?” Johnny said sarcastically, but then saw that Michael wasn’t smiling. “I only wanted to try because of this guy in my squad.” Michael said. “He got caught with a cigarette at basic. We all had to run ten extra miles because of it.” Michael pressed his tongue into the side of his cheek. “I was just wondering if a cigarette was worth that much running.” Johnny looked over to Michael and saw a blank expression. He waited for him to continue but Michael said nothing else. They drove; an uneasy silence began to fill the truck. After a while Johnny tried to break the silence and asked jokingly, “So how does it feel to be home Mr. War Hero? Beats being in a dang desert don’t it?” He forced a laugh. Michael turned away from the window and nodded his head slightly. His expression distracted.

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“Yeah. I guess so,” he said, and then bit the tip of his thumbnail, turning to face to windshield. Another moment of silence passed; the only sound was the asphalt rolling underneath them both. Johnny looked over at Michael again but felt he ought to keep quiet. Michael was staring straight ahead, his thumb still perched on his lower lip. “Have you ever,” Michael began, his voice breaking the silence, shattering it. He paused. “Have I ever what?” Johnny asked, jerking his head towards him. But Michael was still facing the windshield. He was squinting slightly in the sunlight that shined through the tree line on the right side of the highway. “Have you ever seen someone die?” Michael asked quietly. The question made Johnny sit up straighter in his seat. He shook his head slowly. “No. I guess I never really have.” He looked back over at Michael nervously, afraid to ask. “Well I have,” Michael said in a monotone. “More than once.” Johnny looked at his brother still biting into his thumb. He knew that Michael would have some kind of story to tell about the war. He just wasn’t expecting him to tell it now, here in his truck. He watched out of the corner of his eye as Michael leaned against the seat and tilted his head back, staring at the cabin ceiling. He took a deep breath. “There were eleven of us,” he said closing his eyes; as if what he was about to say was forming itself on the back of his eyelids. As if in therapy. “There were eleven of us and we were supposed to overtake this building complex in some Godforsaken place called Najaf. None of us had ever been to there before and they never told us what to expect when we arrived, but we went anyway. A few days before we loaded up and prepared for the worst, like we always did. The usual loading of gear, ammunition, getting our information straight. But we weren’t really expecting too much. Up until this point none of us had seen any kind of fighting.” Michael shifted in his seat but kept his eyes shut. Johnny drove on. “When we got there all we found were a couple of blown out apartment buildings. There were some people too, but they were just civilians. No threats, no cause for concern. Anyway we searched the buildings and found nothing, nothing but goats and weeping old women. We were all pretty relieved at not meeting any trouble, so we loaded up and moved out.” Michael paused, exhaled. “We had gone about a mile when it happened. I was sitting in the passenger seat, like I am now, and saw the jeep in front of me blow upward. It was like the earth underneath it had erupted, almost like a volcano. I saw it land on its side, the jeep. The whole thing was on fire.” Michael opened his eyes and lowered his head. Johnny listened and watched the road wide-eyed, hanging onto his every word. “It happened right in front of me.” Michael said. “At first we thought we were being attacked by something along the highway, but it turned out to be a mine. A roadside bomb they called it. When we got out to see if they were ok we… well,” he trailed off. Johnny said nothing, not wanting to force the story out. After a few minutes Michael sat up and stared straight ahead. Johnny glanced at him saw that he had not shed a tear. His gaze was eerily distant. “I dragged four bodies from that wreck.” Michael said finally. “All were dead except for one man. His name was Alfonse. We all called him Al. He had had one of his legs…and the other, the other was just barely…” He stopped and tapped his foot nervously. Then took a deep breath then let it out slowly. “Al didn’t die until we were halfway back to base. He bled to death in the back of our jeep,” Michael whispered, and then there was silence. The only sound was the wind whipping on the windshield of the truck.

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“Jesus, Mike,” Johnny murmured after a minute or so. He noticed that his knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel so tightly and he loosened them. His voice was shaky when he spoke, barely above a whisper. “Have you talked to anyone else about this?” he asked. “Like a psychiatrist or-?” “No.” Michael said flatly. “You’re the first and last person who’s heard it. Who’s going to hear it.” He looked out the window now. Johnny simply nodded and drove on. They exited the highway a few minutes later and were now on their way to their hometown, passing familiar places that Michael hadn’t seen in years. He took in all of the scenery in silence, occasionally letting his gaze drift over his shoulder at something that seemed new or changed from the years gone by. When they entered the edge of town, Jonny peered over at Michal anxiously, hoping he would comment on the changes in the town. The new restaurants, the new department stores, the new mall, anything. But Michael kept quiet all the while. “Town’s changed a lot huh?” he asked hopefully. Michal nodded but kept looking out the window. “Is there anywhere you wanna go, maybe the old high school or someplace to eat?” Michael turned in his seat and, for the first time since being picked up at the airport, grinned. “I’m starving actually,” he said, the grin leaving his face as quickly as it came. “The food on the plane was terrible.” “Really? Well, uh, is there anywhere you really wanna go? There’s a ton of new restaurants here in town now,” Johnny said eagerly. He was relieved that his brother had smiled again, even if it was just for a moment. “Someplace that has cheeseburgers,” Michael said peering out of the window again. “I’ve been craving a cheeseburger for a long time now.” “I should’ve guessed you’d want an old fashioned American meal.” Johnny chuckled, taking a left at the stoplight they had come to. “Being halfway across the world I bet you didn’t see too many places to eat a decent cheeseburger.” He glanced over at Michael hopefully. “There’s a place over by the new mall. I’ve haven’t eaten there yet but it’s supposed to be alright.” They drove on; restaurants were now coming into view. They decided on an Applebee’s and Johnny pulled the truck into the half filled parking lot. Michael scanned the pictures of all the main dishes in some of the windows while Johnny eyed the large sign out front advertising drink specials. In reading the sign he was suddenly struck with a pertinent question. “Hey Mike, how old are you now?” But as soon as the question was out of his mouth he felt embarrassed at forgetting his little brother’s age. “Wait, don’t tell me,” he said. Michael, however, did not seem offended. “Twenty.” he answered. “Right, sorry.” Johnny said, fumbling for an apology. “It’s just been so long, you know?” “It’s fine,” Michael said dismissively, “Why?” “Well, since your home and all I figured I’d, I don’t know, buy you a drink. You know, to celebrate.” He cut the engine of the truck and pointed up towards the large sign in front of them, grinning. “It says they have a special tonight. Two for one deal.” Michael looked at the sigh and then frowned. “Yeah, but I’m only twenty.”

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“That shouldn’t be a problem,” Johnny said as he stepped out of the truck and shut the door. Michael followed suit. “If you’re old enough to go to war then you’re old enough to have a drink,” He said this then smirked over his shoulder at Michael. “I’m sure they won’t care.” As they entered the restaurant Johnny held the door open for Michael. When they were both inside, they saw that the place was about half full, with a few men sitting at the bar. A hostess, who looked to be about Michael’s age, guided them to their table. She sat them in a booth near one of the windows and gave them each a menu. “Your waiter will be with you shortly,” she said and left them with a smile. Johnny sat, suppressing a grin as Michael watched the hostess walk away. As soon as she was out of sight he looked around the restaurant wide eyed glancing at the posters, the televisions, and the many colored and ornamented walls. He looked back at Johnny after a moment and let out a low whistle. “This place is so different than what I’ve seen the last few years,” he said, picking up his menu. “So different,” “I bet its different eating in public again huh, with regular people?” Johnny asked and picked up his menu now. They both browsed over it for a few minutes until a waiter appeared. His name tag read Clarke and he was tall and skinny, almost absurdly so, and had long black hair that was obviously dyed and straightened so that is covered one of his eyes. Johnny noticed also that he had a small tattoo of a heart on his hand. The tattoo was pink. Clarke coughed to get their attention and when Michael looked up from his menu he noticed that he recognized the young lanky kid standing over him. It was someone he had gone to high school with. Not a friend, but just a face he had remembered seeing a few times. “What do you guys want to drink?” Clarke asked flatly. At this question Johnny stole a glance at Michael and smirked slightly. “We’ll have a couple of cold ones, draft, not bottled,” he said casually, and then added, “and a plate of nachos for the appetizer.” At hearing this Clarke pulled out a small pencil from behind his ear and scribbled the order down. Johnny winked at Michael, who was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly Johnny had handled the order. He looked forward to having a beer again with his brother. Clarke put the pencil back behind his ear and appeared as if he were about to walk away when suddenly he looked down at Michael. “Oh, hey can I see your IDs?” He asked in the same flat voice. To Johnny it sounded like more of a demand than a request and rolled his eyes and sighed loudly, drawing Clarke’s attention. He took out his wallet, flipped out his ID and handed it to the waiter. Clarke glanced at it then handed it back. He then turned lazily to Michael again, who wasn’t exactly sure what to say, and not wanting to get out his ID for it to be automatically rejected, remained still. Clarke coughed again. “He hasn’t got his on him.” Johnny said quickly, irritation in is voice. “He’s just returned today from Iraq.” He hoped this bit of information would end the Clarke’s peskiness. At hearing this Clarke turned back to Johnny. “Well then I can’t give him a beer,” he said. Johnny thought he heard a hint of sarcasm in his voice and put one of his hands on the table and began the drum his fingers. His tongue pressed into his lower lip. Michael recognized the movement as one of stifled anger. “C’mon guy,” Johnny said impatiently to the blank faced waiter. “My little brother hasn’t been home in two years.”

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Clarke didn’t even blink. “Sorry can’t do it without an ID,” he said mechanically, and looked back at Michael, eyebrows raised. “So do you have it or not?” he asked. Johnny stared hard at him, a vein beginning to climb in his neck. There was a moment of hesitation all around. Michael spoke now, not wanting the situation to escalate. “No. It’s alright Johnny, I don’t really-” “What the heck is your problem,” Johnny said loudly to the waiter. A couple of other diners in the place turned towards their table upon hearing this sudden outburst. The waiter jerked his head towards Johnny, whose eyes still hadn’t left him. Michael saw that his stare had turned malignant. Clarke stammered, an expression of surprise had etched itself onto his face. “Wha…what?” he said finally, after a moment of mumbling. It was obvious to Michael that he had not expected a confrontation about the matter. A few other diners turned in their seats to watch the scene. “You heard me.” Johnny said quickly, his voice even. “He’s a war hero,” he stopped drumming his fingers and pointed at Michael. “A war hero. Do you even understand that? He’s saved lives; he’s seen things that you can’t even begin to imagine. So how about you do yourself a favor and just get us our beers and stop with all this ID crap.” There were a few murmurs from other tables nearby who heard this, but they soon hushed to see what would happen next. All the while Johnny kept his eyes locked onto the waiter. Michael waited tensely for what he thought would come but all Clarke did was nod awkwardly, turn on his heel and head towards the back of the restaurant. The audience, at seeing this anticlimactic finish, grudgingly turned back to their meals and before long the dull clamor that one would expect in a restaurant resumed. Johnny was breathing heavily through flared nostrils. Michael set his menu down. “You didn’t have to do that,” he said sternly. Johnny cut his eyes at him. “I’m not going to just sit here while some arrogant little jerk treats you like that.” “He was just doing his job,” Michael said, but was inwardly moved by his brother’s anger. They both sat quietly for a little while longer, Johnny brooded over the menu and Michael looked up every minute or so for Clarke to reappear. After a while a small middle aged man in a buttoned down black shirt approached their table. He was followed closely by Clarke, who whispered something to him then nodded at Johnny. As the man came nearer Michael realized it was the manager of the place. He was wearing bifocals. “Hello boys, hope ya’ll are having a nice evenin.’”the bifocaled manager said shallowly, wearing a thin smile. He then looked at Johnny, cutting to the chase. “Now, Clarke here tells me that there’s been some kind of mix up. Somethin’ about ID’s?” Johnny sat impassively with his arms crossed. “No mix up,” he said adamantly, “All we did was order two beers.” The manager looked over his shoulder to Clarke and then back at Johnny. “Well Clarke says here that you swore at him. Is that true?” “I didn’t-I was only trying to get him to show some respect,” Johnny said sharply. “What’s wrong with that?” The manager looked at Johnny, who stared back at him stone faced. He then took off his bifocals and rubbed his eyes wearily with his thumb and forefinger, then placed them back on and tilted his head to Michael. “Do you have your ID or not boy?” he asked tiredly. “No sir, I don’t,” Michael said. The manager nodded slowly, but before he could say anything Johnny was out of his seat.

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“What the heck is the matter with this place?” He shouted. “Is this how you treat your nation’s soldiers, like children?” The restaurant stopped its clamor and stared. The question reverberated in a heavy silence. “Sir, could please lower your-” “This man fought for his country! He put his life on the line for it, saw men die in front of his own eyes,” he took a step at the manager, whose face had lost all color and was leaning back towards Michael. “And he can’t drink because of what? Because he’s not of age? Because he’s not a man?” The manager held his hands up defensively, his sweaty palms facing Johnny. “Sir, the law requires-” “He’s a hero!” Johnny bellowed fiercely. His face was now inches from the managers and he was gripping his shirt collar with a white knuckled hand. The other, Michael saw, had been balled into a trembling fist. Michael swiftly got up and wrenched Johnny’s hand off of the man’s collar and pulled him away. The manager took a few steps back and stood stiffly, eyeing them both. After a moment he straightened his shirt collar firmly, as if the action reaffirmed some vestige of his authority and said, “I’m afraid ya’ll both are goin’ to have to leave. This kind of behavior ain’t allowed here.” Michael felt Johnny still quivering with anger. “Come on,” he said quietly and let go of Johnny. He brushed past the manager, heading for the door they came in from and kept his head down, feeling the many eyes of the restaurant upon him. He hated the feeling. After a few steps he heard Johnny moving along behind him but he didn’t turn back to look. No one spoke. The place was in utter silence until they both got to the door. Just as Michael put his hand to the door handle, Johnny spun around to face the dining onlookers. “SO MUCH FOR THE HERO’S WELCOME!” he shouted at the top of his voice. He then spat on the floor and stood eyeing the occupants of the diner for a few seconds more until Michael pulled him outside. The door slammed behind them both and they walked on to the truck, sliding inside in silence. Neither said a word for the entire ride home. It wasn’t until Johnny pulled into their driveway that either of them spoke again. “You’re a hero, Mike. Don’t let them or anyone else make you think different. Only a hero could have done what you did.” Johnny said, and then grabbed Michael’s shoulder tightly. His voice wavered, “A hero, Mike. I want you to know that.” Michael placed his hand atop Johnny’s and nodded slowly. “I know,” he said firmly. But inside he didn’t feel like one. Most heroes don’t.

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School The Butterfly Thief the Mustache Manuscripts of harrison moak Irreadability

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THE BUTTERFLY -SARAH MAJOR When children are born, Eyes full of surprise, Before the corruption Of the secrets and lies, Their youthful hope And spirits full of fire Spark a childlike curiosity, A kindred desire.   And they sprout their wings Like that of a butterfly And a youthful innocence Carries them high   Above the corruption Of the world below And their hearts are free From the sin down low.   But because of their weakness, They only fly so high And never escape fully From the world full of lies...  

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And as the things of the world Snatch and ensnare, The wings become tattered And eventually tear. They begin to sink lower Into this world full of sin. They believe the lies And forget where they’ve been.   The weight of the world Weighs down on their wings And they reach the ground To dwell with earthly kings.   And when the freedom is gone, Eyes hold no flame And the butterfly’s ensnared In this sinly game,   The voice of the eagle Rings true and clear Over the demands of the world, Ripping through all fear.   And though you flew real high And fell real far, The eagle only sees you For who you truly are.  

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He picks up your soul And your wings beyond repair And sets you on his back And soars into the air. Higher and higher, Way higher than you’ve been, Miles above this world Of corruption and sin.   He sets you on a cloud And stands at your side, And though the world has torn you up, You have no reason to hide.   He takes your soul And your wings to mend And he sets to work. The transformation begins...   And the metamorphosis is over As soon as it begins. You have wings of an eagle, Just like him. 

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THIEF -JEREMY ELROD Once, I was a thief Stealing lives that weren’t my own Like clothes I’d merely try them on And change my colors more than a fall leaf Once, I forgot my name So in the ink, the pulp I drowned For what I dreamed, I wrote it down And from the paper, that’s who I became

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THE MUSTACHE MANUSCRIPTS OF HARRISON MOAK -JEREMY ELROD

“It’s not fair!” he thought, flipping through the pages of a Peoples Weekly magazine and staring at his reflection in a compact mirror he’d taken from his mother’s purse. “How is it that everyone on the hairy face of this planet seems to possess the ability to grow facial hair but me?” It was true, 16-year-old Harrison Moak, the youngest and smallest of all his friends, was no doubt a late bloomer. Even his younger brother was showing signs of stubble, and he was only in the 8th grade. His father, Mark Moak, was known for having an amazing mustache which, even on a bad day, could easily rival that of Burt Reynolds from Smokey and the Bandit or Tom Selleck from Magnum P.I. This of course only further burned in him the question, “What is wrong with me?” For if his father could grow a mustache and his younger brother was already beginning to show signs of doing the same, then why not him? Had the universe cruelly skipped over him when distributing the genetically hairy trait? Was he adopted from an alien species that couldn’t grow hair? Or worse, had he carelessly sinned too many times in the few short years of his life, and was now suffering a just punishment handed down from God that stated he must live out the remainder of his life with a face as hairless as a new born baby girl? Although knowing two of the three of these were highly unlikely to be the cause, he was still haunted by these thoughts as he went throughout his daily life. Mustaches were everywhere! He saw them while watching television, reading magazines and shopping at the mall. He saw them on movie stars, professional ball players, and the seniors that bumped into him in the hallways at school. And, as if the two went hand in hand, each time he saw a mustache, there was sure to be a beautiful girl hanging off of the arm of whoever owned it. It was then at that point, staring into his mother’s compact makeup mirror that Harrison Moak decided something had to change. He didn’t know when and most certainly didn’t know how he would do it, but one thing was for sure - he had to get one. ~~~ For three weeks now, Harrison had his eye on a certain girl at school. She was smart, artsy and absolutely gorgeous. Her name was Diana Bradberry, and she was way out of his league. “I think today’s the day,” said Harrison. “If only I could get her attention one good time, I think I might ask her out.” “Good luck with that,” said Travis Matthews, Harrison’s best friend and constant supplier of moral support. “I don’t think she even knows you exist!” “She does too,” said Harrison, desperately attempting to defend his pride and social status. “The other day when she was wearing that red and yellow sun dress, I told her that she looked really nice.”

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“Oh really, and what exactly did she say back to you Fabio?” “Thanks.” “That’s it?” “Yes Travis, she said thanks and that was it.” “Yeah you really made a lasting impression on her!” said Travis. “I’m surprised the two of you aren’t already married after having that much of a connection.” Travis was right though, at least in his usage of sarcasm anyway. Harrison knew deep down that Diana most likely had no earthly idea who he was that day he told her she looked nice, and that she certainly hadn’t taken any further steps to figure out who he was since then. “Why should she?” he thought, secretly to himself. “It’s not like I have any qualities about me that are worth knowing or remembering anyway.” It was at that moment, constructively talking out his feelings with Travis and contemplating making a move on Diana, when he stood idly by and watched as someone else beat him to the punch. It was “Slick” Rick Stottlemyer, President of the English Elite and senior heartthrob of Gardner County High. Needless to say, he had a way with words and one heck of a mustache! ~~~ Harrison was tired of it. How would he ever get a girl if he couldn’t grow a mustache? He’d already lost Diana, but how many more was he going to lose if he didn’t do something about it now? It was then that Harrison got his first idea of what to do. Once again sneaking into his mother’s purse, he grabbed the compact mirror and a black eyeliner pencil. Carefully stenciling a thin line across the top of his lip, he could smell the lead-based composition as it rested precisely under his nose. He quickly threw on his scarf and jacket, grabbed his books for class and rushed out of the house before anyone in family could notice his sudden change in appearance. It was perfect, he thought, or at least for the time being. What he didn’t realize was that due to the frigid February whether his nose had begun to drip, and when combining the draining moisture from his nose with the swift swipe of his thermal sleeve - his mustache didn’t stand a chance. Before he even stepped foot inside the classroom, his facial masterpiece had turned into a smeared work of abstract art, stretching from the tip of his nose to the top of his right cheek. It was a disaster! The only person in the room, including the teacher, that he didn’t see pointing and laughing was that of Diana, and that was only because he couldn’t bear to look her way. A few weeks passed after the melted mustache incident, and he had actually managed to go three whole days without hearing someone bring it up or mention it in the slightest way. “Hopefully they had all forgotten,” he said to himself, although knowing full well that the likeliness of forgetting an event like that was slim to none! Even his cat, Sylvester, seemed to mock the incident. With a white base coat and a grey, half mustache of his own, he basically mirrored Harrison’s appearance on that unforgettable day. It was watching the mocking nature of his cat; however, that eventually gave him his second idea. “Of course the last mustache didn’t work out, it wasn’t real hair,” said Harrison, as he stroked Sylvester’s back in a most sinister way, and pinched a tuff of feline hair between two of his fingers. “This one will be though, that’s for sure.”

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He put the cat down on the floor and let him scurry away, because, although Sylvester was the one which initially sparked the idea of using animal fur in the first place, his white fur would make for an awkward mustache on a teenage boy. Thus, he gave a quick, two syllable whistle, and watched in amazement as the neighbor’s dog, a faithful mix between and Irish setter and a Chocolate Labrador, came running through the doorway with his long locks of reddish-brown fur blowing in the wind. “Now that’ll make a mustache,” he said. And with a dog treat in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other, Harrison fashioned a set of Hulk Hogan handlebars out of Charlie’s luscious lock of hair. It wasn’t until his left eye became completely swollen shut that Harrison began to admit something was wrong. Noticed first by Travis during their 2nd period math class, it was then quickly pointed out for the rest of the class to gawk at as well. True, his eyes did seem a little dryer than usual and his tongue a little larger than he remembered, but he never paid attention or spoke out in math class anyway, so how was he suppose to know that his vision had deteriorated and he had developed a speech impediment that overly emphasized the use of the letter “h.” “Oh God, Harrison!” screamed Mrs. Douglas, “What happened to your face?” “Oh thith is justh my muthhstathh Mrsth. Douglath.” “Wait, what? Oh sweetie I’m not talking about that thing, I’m asking why your face is swollen like a big red balloon.” “Whathh?” cried Harrison, now fully aware of the severity of change in his speech. “Hurry, please someone call the nurse!” exclaimed Mrs. Douglas as she ran frantically around the room. “And someone scrape that dead animal off of his face, I think that may be the problem!” By the time he made it to the nurses office, Harrison’s eye’s had become completely bloodshot and glazed over. With his swollen face and small patches of dog hair still glued in various locations around his mouth, he resembled that of a blind pig that had eaten a batch of squirrels. Although it was later revealed that he was highly allergic to dogs and essentially lucky to be alive after having such direct contact with the hairs, he now believed more than ever that he was cursed to never have a mustache. ~~~ “Mark, this craziness has gone on long enough!” she said. “I think it’s time for you to have a talk with your son.” “But honey, I’ve already had the talk with him,” he said. “And to be quite honest, I’m not exactly sure how that’s even relevant to this particular situation right now?” “Not the talk Mark, a talk.” “Oh okay, well if you would have just said that from the beginning I wouldn’t have been so confused.” “Alright well now that you finally know, get in there and let him know. Otherwise he’s going to continue to act out in these crazy ways, and we’ll continue to be the laughing stock of the community.” “Well to be quite honest, there are a lot worse things that he could be doing,” he said. “I mean, back when I was his age I was…”

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“Mark – just do it!” “Yes dear.”

~~~ “Come on son, just having facial hair isn’t what makes a man who he is,” said Mr. Moak, trying to calm his son’s irate frustrations. “And not everyone that has a mustache is a great man.” “Oh yeah, name one person!” “Okay… well… umm… well, what about Hitler and Joseph Stalin?” he said, smirking with a certain sense of pre-celebrated victory in his choices. “Things didn’t work out too great for them now did it?” “Oh sure maybe not in the long run, but for a while they were two of the most followed leaders the world has ever seen!” said Harrison. “Even if they were bad guys, they had mustaches that demanded power and respect! I mean, when you think of a short, black mustache that takes up only an inch of someone’s upper lip, who do you think about?” “Well… of course it’s Hitler.” “And that’s exactly what I’m saying, with a ‘stash as popular as that people couldn’t help but follow him.” Realizing he had lost the debate and that he had clearly run out of things to say to diffuse the situation, Mr. Moak offered one final suggestion to the boy before full accepting defeat. “You should talk to your uncle Bobby,” he said. “He had trouble growing facial hair when he was your age too, so maybe he can help you out.” “Well thanks,” said Harrison, although he didn’t know if what was said was actually true. Harrison never thought of asking his uncle Bobby, primarily for the sheer fact that he had a face full or hair, and always had as long as could be remembered. Nevertheless, he took his father’s advice, and went to see his uncle. “What’s bothering you son?” said Bobby. “Your daddy said you wanted to talk to me about something.” “Well… yes sir. Daddy said that at one time you had trouble growing facial hair like me, and I just wanted to know if that were true or not.” “You better believe it boy, because there was a time when my face was a bald as a baby’s behind, and I couldn’t grow hair to save my life!” “How did you fix it, what did you do?” “Well boy, I’ve never told this secret with anyone before, but I suppose I’ll share it with you seeing as how we’re family and all,” said Bobby. “All you have to do is apply an even coating of BENGAY on your face at night before you go to bed, and you’ll have more hair growing than you’ll know what to do with.” “Is that all?” “That’s all.” That night Harrison went home, and put his uncle’s hairless remedy to the test. It took less than five minutes to realize the prank his crazy uncle had played on him, as he raced to the bathroom and threw his face under the sink of water. It was the first time he’d ever taken his uncle’s advice, and would no doubt be the last. ~~~

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A year had passed now since Harrison’s first encounter with Diana, when he told her she looked nice in her red and yellow dress. He had grown nearly six inches over the summer, and, whether from the natural course of time or his uncle’s suggestion of using BENGAY, had finally begun to form the appearance of a five o’clock shadow. The first days of class proved promising, and seemed to foreshadow the coming of a good year. He once again had classes with both Travis and Diana, and, through the grapevine, heard that her relationship with Slick Rick had ended shortly after he graduated. “I heard that Slick didn’t want to be tied down now that he’s in college,” said Harrison. “Oh well, his loss is my gain.” Along with his new, lightly shaded mustache, he also grew a sense of confidence which he had hoped would come in handy with a certain significant someone. “So are you actually going to ask her out?” asked Travis. “Or am I going to have to put up with another year of you drooling over her from a distance?” “Oh this is definitely going to be the year, you just wait and see!” “Okay good, because I wrote her a note asking her for her number and if she wanted to go out sometime.” “What?” screamed Harrison both shocked and enraged at the thought of what his ‘friend’ had admitted to doing. “How is that okay? You know that I like her, I just got through telling you that I was going to ask her out, and you turn around and tell me that you’ve written her a letter? “Yeah, pretty much.” “You’ve got about two seconds to give me one good reason why I shouldn’t punch you square in the face right now!” “Well… maybe because I signed your name to the letter!” said Travis, laughing hysterically at the humor of his own trick. “Ready or not, here she comes Fabio!” As furious as he was at his friend, he had to admit that Travis had done nothing more than present him with the opportunity that he had just previously been bragging that he would eventually do himself. Travis merely sped matters up a bit, and essentially forced him to do what he most likely otherwise would have avoided. The moment of truth was upon him now though, and with every new step that she took towards him, his heart became one beat closer to exploding. She walked directly up to him, placed the forged note securely into the palm of his hand and gave a teasing smile as she walked on to her next class. As he began to open the letter Harrison felt both the warm sensation of acceptance, and the nauseating fear of rejection. He paused briefly, debating whether or not he should continue on into the risk of a possible denial, but was then reassured by the sound of Travis quoting the poetic words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.” Truer words could have never been spoken at that time he thought, as he tore open the letter. Within it, it read: (555) 241-2063 Pick me up at 7:00 tonight, and I’ll wear that dress you like.

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~ Diana Neither of the two boys could believe it. They both stood staring at the letter, as the bell rang them tardy for their next class. “I told you she knew who I was,” said Harrison, who was glowing a radiant shade of red, and running his fingers across the sharp, course hair on his upper lip. “Holy Geez, I never saw that one coming,” said Travis. “I was just hoping that she would shut you down, so you would finally stop talking about her. But, I mean, this is cool too.” That night, Harrison picked Diana up at 7:00 on the dot, wearing her red and yellow sundress, just as the letter had stated. They grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed to the movies to watch the showing of Steven Spielberg’s new movie, E.T. Although originally hoping it to be a scary one so she would want him to hold her close, he soon realized that it didn’t matter. The awkwardness of a first date and the anticipation of their first kiss loomed heavily in the air, as he waited for the opportune moment to make his move. He leaned in, closed his eyes and readied himself for the moment in which he had so longed and mentally practiced for on numerous occasions. With sweaty palms and a heart which could outrun even the fastest of cheetahs, he placed his forehead flush against the warm, white wall of hers. Rubbing the tip of their noses back and forth across one another in an attempt to assimilate the art of butterfly kissing, he was just about to make his final move when, to his unanticipated astonishment, she pulled away. “Tee hee,” she said, giggling and rubbing the bottom of her nose. “What’s the matter?” he asked, telling himself it was probably just a case of the nerves - especially since she was on the very brink of experiencing her first real kiss with a real man. Then she turned around, ran her fragile finger across the prickly patch of sporadically growing hairs that traced his upper lip, and, in the most angelically innocent voice that his ears had ever heard, kindly asked, “Would you mind shaving your mustache? It’s tickling my nose.”

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FIRST PLACE: PROSE

IRREADABILITY -MEGAN STARBUCK

She was concerned—enough to do something about it. The first doctor she took him to was no help. When she explained that her boyfriend was twenty-four years old and illiterate, the doctor simply laughed and said that it was normal—he even made the statement, “I myself am still trying to learn to read.” It’s not that Billy didn’t want to learn or that he wasn’t very smart. His GPA when he graduated college was almost a 3.5, and ever since they started dating three years ago, he let Allie try to teach him. But this type of reading was definitely not his specialty. Allie was disappointed to discover that his mother hadn’t taught him this while he was growing up, but she was certain she’d be able to. Three years and still he is unable to read. She could tell he was trying, though. Like the time he was driving them to a nice restaurant for their one year anniversary and she rubbed her arm. So he turned the air down. “What’d you do that for?” she asked, confused. “Aren’t you cold?” he questioned back. “No—what made you think that?” “You were rubbing your arm.” “That’s because it itched—and I heard it’s better to rub an itch than to scratch it.” “Oh,” he said, disheartened that he’d gotten it wrong again. As he turned the air back on, he added, “Remember last time, though?” Last time. She remembered. She wished she had forgotten. It had been a miserable day—her believing him to be a rotten jerk. Things have been so much better since she found out that it’s just because he has a disease. That day, though—that’s the day all this mess began….

She didn’t say a word. She sat with her arms crossed looking out the window, finding great interest in each tree they passed. “Come on—what’s wrong?” he asked. She heard the concern in his voice but still didn’t answer. She wouldn’t. He should know what’s wrong; he’s the one that did it. Obviously she was cold and wanted him to turn the air off. Any gentleman would have noticed the chill bumps on her arms—and it’s not like he needed to watch the road

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while he was driving. This is where she rubbed her arms to draw his attention to it, but he completely ignored her! He was so thoughtless—he must not care about her at all. He just kept staring at the road. She thought he must love it more than he loved her. The frigid air propelling into her body had penetrated so deep that her warm heart had now turned cold. All because he didn’t listen to anything she thought. She would’ve done it herself—cut the air off—if she hadn’t already asked him nicely in her mind several times. Somewhere in there, he even had the nerve to mumble, “What’d I do this time?” She crawled into the backseat. This conveniently served a dual purpose—to get away from the AC and to be further from him. Actually, it wasn’t that convenient seeing that she nearly fell to the floor when he sped up through the green light. He probably did it on purpose. She had noticed his huff at her unbuckling her seatbelt and awkwardly fumbling to get to the back between the two front seats. She could see that he was both thinking she must be crazy and wondering how he ended up with a girlfriend that would do this type of thing. Frustrated with what he considered childlike behavior, Billy startled her with his tone as he threw his arms up and said: “Seriously—what’s the matter?” Regretting his uncharacteristic outburst, he then apologetically added in a calm and sincere voice, “You can tell me.” She had already told him. In her mind, at least. What more could he want from her? “Please talk to me.” I’ve been talking to you the whole time. You’re just not listening. You have no communication skills whatsoever. “Look—you’re gonna have to help me out here; I can’t read minds.” Hearing that frustrated admission to something so humiliating removed all of her own frustrations. There was only room for compassion. This poor boy could not read minds. Oh, the things that he was missing! She had previously noticed this problem in less important instances, but she thought he was just ignoring her. She had let it go. This time she wouldn’t let it go—and was glad she hadn’t or she never would’ve been able to help him with his disease. Yes—disease. The doctor she took him to for a second opinion informed her of that. To Allie’s dismay, she also said it was incurable; Billy was just glad to hear it wasn’t terminal, although the doctor did add that key word: “usually.” Using a very sophisticated voice the doctor continued, “The official term for this condition of not being able to read minds or body language is ‘Irreadability.’ Now—I’m going to refer you to Dr. Rasworth, a specialist in this department. This is necessary because not many cases have been

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reported—although it has recently gained much interest. However, we still don’t have sufficient information in our offices to really help you in any way. Dr. Rasworth will be able to fill you in on all the latest research information and is a very trustworthy doctor.” Walking into yet another doctor’s office, Allie thought to the receptionist, We’re here to see Dr. Rasworth. Seeing Allie just staring at her, the receptionist asked, “Are you here to see Dr. Rasworth?” Billy replied with a “Yes,” while Allie thought: Wow, these people are legit! After signing in, they were called to the back where a nurse informed them that Dr. Rasworth “will be here in a minute to see you.” She arrived several minutes later, surprising them with her young appearance. Her long, thick, dark-chocolate hair was pulled back with a few strands hanging down on each side. Her glasses went almost unnoticed but stood out just enough to complete her professional look. Her clear complexion was enhanced by the latest make-up products, which she applied using natural tones to complement her features. She sat with perfect posture resting a clipboard, thick with papers, in her lap. Her refined hands, free of any rings, were clasped together on top of the clipboard with a sleek black pen between her fingers. The doctor looked up to see Billy slumping against the dull, gray wall and Allie sitting with her legs crossed in a chair beside him. “Well, let’s get straight to the point. I see that—” She studied her paper for a moment. “William?” She looked back up and he nodded, about to add that everyone calls him Billy, but she continued before he could get a word in. “…has been diagnosed with Irreadability. If you’ll look at this scan of your brain, you’ll see a healthy brain to the left of it.”

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Billy studied the images and shrugged. “They both look the same to me.” Dr. Rasworth smiled coolly and replied, “That’s what they all say, dear. However, your kephalay is


severely near nekros.” Uncomfortable and trying to lighten the mood with a joke, Billy simply replied, “Um, ok. Sounds like Greek to me.” “Maybe that’s because it is. I’m impressed, although I’m sure it was just a lucky guess. Basically it means your head is almost dead.” Here Dr. Rasworth let out a groan and thought to herself, “Oh, simple language is so tediously drab. But I suppose it’s what I’m reduced to in my chosen occupation.” She snapped out of her soliloquy and returned to her conversation with Billy. “This is an extremely serious disease, and—although it has only this year been qualified as a disease and given a name, research shows that there have actually been many cases throughout all of history. Adam, for example—if he had only read Eve’s mind when she was thinking ‘I’m offering you this apple because the snake told me to, but don’t really eat it because it’ll just cause a lot of trouble,’ then he would’ve been a lot better off.” “But how do you know what she was thinking?” Billy interjected. Allie tried to elbow him but instead only succeeded in hitting her funny bone on the arm of the chair. After a little yelp, she settled for whispering through clinched teeth disguised as a smile, “Billy, don’t question a doctor.” His ability to read minds would’ve come in handy just then. Dr. Rasworth continued, “Perhaps a better example would be Ananias. His wife was obviously screaming in her mind for him not to keep any of the money. But he just went ahead and lied to the church, causing them both to die. You, however, are probably more familiar with Romeo. Juliet told him on numerous occasions to never kill himself…but look what happened!” “That’s not even a true story.” “Oh, William, William. You must know things like that happen in real life all the time. But if you prefer nonfiction, another example would be Hitler—” “Ok, can you just tell me what to do about it?” She pursed her lips obviously holding back what she really wanted to say. She instead settled for “Currently, the disease is known only to appear in males. Scientists are diligently, even desperately, searching for a cure. Until then, it is critical that you see me once a week so that I can examine and chart any progression. You will also participate in sessions so that we are able to train and study your mind. This will only cost $400 per visit.” She stared at Billy as if to emphasize the seriousness of the matter, and then went on, “Irreadability affects everyone around you. They have to work with you a lot, and it’ll be hard on them. But you need them in your life to help you cope with this disease—otherwise it is sure to overtake you and quite possibly cause you to end up like Hitler.” Alarmed, Allie ran through ideas the whole drive home of ways she could help this cause. Finally, she knew. As soon as the car came to a stop, her seatbelt was off, and she shoved the door open, slammed it behind her, and rushed to her desk, causing the rolling chair to slide a bit as she sat in

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it. Using her feet to scoot it closer to the desk, she sat on the edge as she typed frantically. She didn’t bother checking for errors, for she never had any—especially when it came to this sort of thing. She quickly changed the number of copies to forty-four—that had been Billy’s high school football number—and clicked “print.” She then sent it as an attachment to everyone whose email address she had with a message on the importance of them forwarding it to everyone they know—in the next twenty-four hours. She was sure to add that, otherwise, all of the guys in their lives, including themselves if they’re guys, would get the disease. She shut her laptop, put on a sweater, and grabbed the stack of papers before fluttering out the door. Invigorated by the cool night breeze, she rushed down the steps and onto the sidewalk. The crunch of the crisp autumn leaves crumbling beneath her shoes was such a delight to her ears that she went out of her way to crush each one while walking through the town posting the flyers on as many businesses as she could. Crunching all the way back to the stepping stones that led to her front porch, she breathed in the night air before twisting the doorknob to let herself inside. Exhausted from her brisk walk, she nestled beneath her comforter and drifted off to sleep with a smile on her face knowing she was doing a favor for everyone on earth. After the fourth time, she finally heard her cell phone blaring “I’m walkin’ on sunshine…” It was only 7:30. Who would call me at this time? She snatched it from the nightstand, wanting to throw it across the room. Not recognizing the number she almost ignored it but decided to answer—even if it was with a groggy “Hello?” “Oh, thank God you answered! I saw your flyer when I was opening my flower shop this morning, and I think my boyfriend has Irreadability. Phone conversations with him are the worst; he calls me sometimes and then hangs up like I never even answered the phone. Oh, but I answered. I could hear myself—I knew just what I was saying. I think he seriously has a problem. At first I thought he was just faking it, but even when I say nice things, he pays no attention.” “Ummm, ok. Well—” Sitting up, she tried to clear the fog in her mind, “—give me your email address, and I’ll be in touch.” She grabbed paper and a pen from the drawer of the nightstand and continued the process of answering the phone, only taking breaks for meals—the list finally reaching a total of 53 names and addresses. How can it be that all these girls have been going through this? It has to end. How many others are there? Putting one hand to her aching head yet feeling rejuvenated by her newfound purpose, she emailed Dr. Rasworth who also felt an urgency to help these people. She readily agreed to have an outdoor meeting in the town the last Saturday of the month and urged Allie to encourage others to bring financial support for the research of the disease. Wednesday Allie spent the day making another flyer and putting it up around town:

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Wanna make history?

Attend the meeting on Main Street! Be in the know about “Irreadability” If you care about any men, You’ll be there at noon ready to learn how you can help Bring donations to support this critically important cause! Saturday, October 27, 12 noon Thursday Allie spent the day reading emails such as this: it’s true it’s true! i didn’t believe it so i didn’t send the email. that night i was sittin in my

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room wishin my brother and dad would come talk to me so i asked them to but they didn’t come! i did the same with all the guys in my life & it didn’t work on any of them. so now none of them can read minds! Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Allie spent the day responding to email and answering more phone calls. Monday, she took Billy back to Dr. Rasworth for another appointment. While getting out of the car, they heard a girl call out to another: “Stay away from him…he has Irreadability!” They giggled and hurried off in the opposite direction. Billy had grown to expect that reaction, but he still hated it. Inside, after Dr. Rasworth explained the procedure for the day and was preparing to begin it, Allie remembered she had left her notebook in the car. “Billy, can I have the keys? I left something in the car.” “Sure,” he replied, reaching into his pocket. After handing them to her, he focused his attention back on Dr. Rasworth, who stared at him in dismay. “What?” he finally asked, wondering how he could have already done something wrong. “You truly aren’t aware of what you just did?” Dr. Rasworth asked with disbelief. He slowly shook his head questioningly, and she explained: “She wanted you to go to the car for her.” Billy looked at her blankly—unconvinced. So Dr. Rasworth continued. “That’s why she hesitated after you handed her the keys. You didn’t read that in her body language?” “She wouldn’t want me to go to the car—she wants me here, meeting with you.” “Ok. Of course you didn’t notice. Allow me to point it out—she was sitting down while she asked, and she got up slowly…waiting for you to say you’d do it.” Not knowing what she wanted from him, he responded, “Sorry.” “Sorry?” she retorted. “There’s no need to apologize; it’s not your fault you have Irreadability. This is good—now I’ve seen it for myself and have more information with which to work.” A week later at his next appointment, Dr. Rasworth greeted Billy with an, “Ah, welcome back, my simpleton friend.” He hoped she read his mind when he thought, “I’d rather be just a simpleton than your friend.” His thought made him smile, and she seemed pleased as she added, “Let’s take your third session outside, shall we?” Without waiting for an answer, she led them outside to a shaded, grassy area. She handed Allie a baseball glove and tossed another glove to Billy, who was relieved that this test was an activity he was comfortable with—even good at. They tossed it back and forth to warm up, and then just when Billy was really getting into it, he noticed that Allie wasn’t smiling anymore. “I think we need to stop,” he said. But Allie replied, “Billy, this is important…just hang in there.” “But you don’t look like you’re having any fun. You shouldn’t be punished because I have a dis-

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ease.” “No, it’s not punishment. I love throwing baseball.” You’re just throwing it too hard. They continued throwing it, and Allie continued to wince every time she caught it. Finally Dr. Rasworth said she had enough. As they walked inside, he asked Allie where she wanted to eat, and she answered that she didn’t care. “Ok, we’ll go to Burger King.” Allie smiled, making him think she was pleased…until Dr. Rasworth whispered to him: “You know that’s a fake smile. She must hate Burger King—you better choose something else.” “Alright,” he said whispering back, “since you’re so good, why don’t you read my mind?” “What do you mean?” “You don’t know?” he asked, his voice growing louder letting his anger out as he spoke. “I thought my mind was pretty clear. Maybe my body language will get the message across.” As he headed for the car instead of the door to her office, Dr. Rasworth composed herself quickly in order to respond, “William, I know what you’re thinking—“ “Good, then you know you should leave me alone right now.” “Billy, what’s gotten into you?” Allie finally found her voice. “William, that’s not what you’re thinking. You don’t want to leave; you know this is good for you…your Irreadability has just gotten so bad that your own thoughts are getting jumbled and you’re having difficulty reading your own mind. I didn’t realize it was this bad. This is serious, William.” Fuming, he continued his exit, ignoring Allie’s calls after him. He wished Dr. Rasworth had been able to read his mind when he was thinking, “It’s no wonder she’s not married. She’s beautiful enough to attract any man, but no man in his right mind would stay with her after a day or two of her mindreading games.” Saturday. Finally it had arrived—and so did a crew from every news station in the surrounding areas. Men and women alike filled the streets, some simply curious others nervously concerned. Everyone began to quiet down as Dr. Rasworth walked across the small temporary stage in her black heels and suit with the grey button-up showing from underneath, the collar spreading an inch or two on each side pressed neatly around her neck forming a “v” in the front. As her thin fingers curled around the microphone, there was a hushed moment just before she spoke. With everyone enraptured for the entirety of her fifteen minute speech, she engagingly, compellingly, and concisely told of all she knew about Irreadability. She then introduced the town’s familiar face who had “worked so hard to make this event possible.” Allie received the mike and began: “It is such a privilege to stand before you with Dr. Rasworth. I would like to share my own experience of dealing with my boyfriend’s Irreadability and how it has af-

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fected my life. When we first started dating, I hardly noticed it, but it kept getting worse.” The women across the crowd who had convinced their men to join them lovingly and pityingly patted their husbands’ and boyfriends’ arm at this part of the speech. Allie continued, “Then came our two-year anniversary, and he asked what I wanted. So I told him to get me something from the heart. But inside I was thinking and hoping he’d remember the gorgeous earrings I’d shown him less than three weeks earlier. The day finally came and I opened the box to find a bracelet—much to my disappointment.” Here, the women moved away from their men and booed in agreement that a bracelet instead of her hoped-for earrings was pathetic and heartbreaking. They continued their move toward the stage slowly as Allie encouraged them not to put off taking a guy to the doctor at the first sign of the symptoms that Dr. Rasworth had mentioned. “It’ll save you a lot of heartache,” she said. “After all that I did to help him, my boyfriend left me.” More boos came from the crowd of women. “It’s been really difficult, but I still want to help people like him and people who know those like him. And I hope you want to do the same.” Men in the audience lingered together towards the back as the women had been drawn to the front by the story. Some of the men were even leaving—furious—as Allie concluded with this statement: “Now we want to open it up for any questions you may have.” Not even Dr. Rasworth was expecting the reaction they received; questions were shouted from every direction. Overwhelmed by the chaos, Allie searched for who to call on to ask their question. Her eyes stopped on a young girl wearing a red, black, and white plaid dress that reached to her knees. This girl stood halfway towards the back and to the side of the crowd. Allie smiled with pride at the fact that they are learning and interested at such a young age. She pointed to her and said sweetly, “You there—please come ask your question into the mike.” The eleven-year-old girl’s thin brown hair reaching down to her waist sways as she walks forward nervously looking down at her black mary janes and back up at the stage. She is very aware of her own inability to read minds and even sometimes body language. All eyes are on her as she looks up at Allie and innocently asks into the mike, “When and how did you learn to read minds and body language?” An eerie silence falls over the crowd as Allie thinks for a moment; the child wonders if she should have kept quiet. However, she doesn’t like the idea of her brothers having to go through this ridiculous process of being told that they are ill. Thinking of them again makes her glad she had spoken up. Finally there would be a realization that no human can read minds—and that it’s ok, probably even best. Allie’s eyes begin to water; she shakes her head and bites her lip. She squeezes her eyes shut tightly and takes a deep breath before answering with a fearful, “I never did.” A gasp from the crowd adds to her hopeless mortification. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? she wondered. The micro-

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phone was slipping from Allie’s slightly limp hand when the specialist grabbed it. She spoke into it: “Ladies and gentlemen, you have just witnessed the first announcement of a female case of Irreadability. Please take all appropriate precautions. As you can see, this disease is spreading quickly. If you would like to make a donation to help support the research of Irreadability so that we can find a cure, you can make your checks out to Dr. Michelle Rasworth….”

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The Grave

THE Fall OF MAN Man on the Moon

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The Barroom


THE FALL OF MAN - BETH HARPER

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MAN ON THE MOON -SARAH MAJOR Frigid winter nothingness. Spiritually subdued. Encompassed by darkness, Old feelings ensue. Accustomed to dark, A brief glimpse of twilight Awakens my soul... Afraid of the light.   Run past the shore Into the tide. I have nothing to lose... Arms open wide.   Frigid winter spray Numbs my very soul, But rays of twilight Overwhelm the cold. My muscles tense. Physically statuesque. But whispers of the moon... I must acquiesce.   Only able to drift. Physically subdued. But I will unite With the man on the moon.  But I will unite With the man on the moon. 

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THE BARROOM -CHASE PROCURO His right cheek was directly on the floor, pressed in such a way that it made his lips pucker out, like those of a dead fish. His arms were sprawled out at different angles. The left one straight at his waist, palm up, while other was just above his head, bent at the elbow, palm down. It was in this position that Jonathan Campbell awoke. First his eyelids fluttered and then he blinked slowly, adjusting them to the dim light he found himself in. The floor felt hot under his cheek so he swung his head up, putting his weight on his chin for a moment. He then slid his left arm around, evening it with his right and pressed both palms down onto the floor beneath him, forcing himself up to his knees. But this sudden motion made him feel off-balance, like all of his weight was in his head and he fell backwards heavily against a wall. Now, with his feet jutting out in front of him, he clinched his eyes shut and waited for the heavy feeling to pass. A moment later he opened them and tried to make sense of his surroundings. It appeared as if he were in a lounge of some kind, maybe even a barroom. The floor, he noticed, was marble, and had a large black and white checkerboard design. Sitting along this checkerboard were low tables with black circular tops, two black leather armchairs perched at each. Above them were rows of hooded lights, each spaced in such a way that every bulb served as a kind of halo for the table it glowed over. Just to the right of these illuminated tables was the impressive bar itself, comprised of a long polished slab of black-granite marble that stretched the length of the room, curling towards the wall at both ends. Behind it was a massive alcohol cabinet that took up the entire right wall. It was filled, floor to ceiling, with a vast variety of liquors and spirits. Each shelf was packed with rows and rows of bottles in almost any shape imaginable, each one sitting bright and glistening and full. All impossibly clean. Beyond the bar Jonathan noticed a small white door, opposite of where he was sitting. For some reason seeing the door made him glance over his shoulder, at which he realized that he was leaning against a door himself, only this one was larger, and black. He carefully rose to his feet and faced to the black door, taking a few steps back to observe. He presumed it was the entrance to this place, the one he must have came in through to be here, but he couldn’t remember ever stepping through it. A hand rose absently to his right temple as he stood and pondered the door, searching for an explanation. But the door held no explanation, offered nothing but a blank and impassive stare. This made Jonathan feel uneasy, empty almost. Like the blackness of the door was sucking away his essence. Suddenly he had the urge to kick it down, to burst through the door and get as far away as possible. But for this to happen he had to step closer, closer than he was now. He took a hesitant step forward, and then another. A moment later he was so close that he could make out his reflection in the door’s slivery knob. The hand caressing his temple fell to his side as the

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other made for the mirror-esque knob at his finger tips. “You’re not leaving now, are you?” A voice called out abruptly, from behind. The sudden sound of this question caused Jonathan to pull his hand away from the door. Startled, he spun around to find a man at the circular table that was nearest him, sitting with one leg crossed over the other, ankle on knee, and wearing an impeccable black suit with a silver tie tucked into it. The color of the tie matched the suited man’s eyes, a glistening grey, and he was smirking slightly. “I’m sorry, what?” Jonathan stammered, speechless. He hadn’t really registered the suited man’s question. “Leaving.” The suited man said calmly. “I asked if you were leaving just yet.” “Oh,” Jonathan said, touching his temple. “Well I was about to. This place looks closed and I can’t seem to remember-” “You can’t leave now,” the suited man said playfully. “You haven’t even had your drink yet. What kind of man goes into a bar and doesn’t even have a drink?” He gestured to the cushioned chair across from him. “Join me.” Jonathan glanced at the chair, then back at the black door, wavering. “But I was just on my out and I…um,” he mumbled, turning to the suited man again. He shrugged. “Please, I insist.” The suited man said. “Surely you have time to spare for one little drink.” The insistency of this suggestion caused Jonathan to nod. He found something magnetic about the suited man’s voice, his eyes, a kind of subtle confidence that drew him to the table. As he took his seat the suited man watched him, looking mildly pleased. “So, what will it be Mr.…?” The suited man let the question hang, extending a hand. “Um, Campbell. Jonathan Campbell.” Jonathan said as they shook hands. “And you are?” The suited man chuckled, and then straightened his tie. “You know Mr. Campbell; people don’t usually bother to ask who I am. They’re usually too busy trying to get through that door.” He pointed at the black door. “But you can just call me Jack.” “Ok, Jack,” Jonathan began. He glanced at the bar, at the rows and rows of bottles. “So um, Jack. Is this a full bar then?” “It is.” Jack nodded. “You can have anything you like. They have it all.” Jonathan scanned bar momentarily and then noticed a particular blue bottle with a silvery bow on it. He brought a hand up to his temple, staring at the bottle. The color reminded him of something. “Is that…do they have champagne here?” he asked, his eyes locked on the bottle. “Of course they do,” Jack said, rubbing his hands together. He followed Jonathan’s gaze and rose from his chair. “It’s about time I met someone with tastes as sophisticated as my own.” As he said as he went behind the bar and pulled the blue bottle off of the shelf. He swiftly strode back to the table, setting the bottle down between two long-necked flutes. “Champagne it is,” he murmured, pouring some of the sparkling golden liquid into each flute. He then sat as Jonathan took a flute with the hand that was not rubbing his temple. Jack watched him carefully as he took a sip from his own. “Good, no?” he asked, bringing the glass away from his lips, but Jonathan did not answer. He was busy staring at the flute in his hand. He brought it up to his eyes, and then away, inspecting it at arm’s length. “I believe you are supposed to drink it, Mr. Campbell.” Jack said mildly, but again it appeared as if Jonathan

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had not heard him, for he continued staring at his flute, as if in a trance. “Is there something wrong Mr. Campbell?” Jonathan responded by taking a small sip from the flute and then setting it on the table. He licked his lips, shaking his head slightly. “No, it’s just this champagne. It tastes…familiar.” He said quietly, starting intently at his flute. He rubbed his temple. “It reminds me of someone.” At this Jack leaned forward and folded his hands on the table. “Who does it remind you of?” “My wife, Jackie.” Jonathan whispered, keeping his eyes on the bubbling liquid. “We drank champagne like this on our last anniversary together. To celebrate.” “Ah, and how many years were you two married?” Jonathan smiled privately to himself. “Forty-eight years, if you can believe it.” Jack nodded thoughtfully and then mimicked Jonathan’s smile. “You must have really loved her.” “I did. I loved her until her very end,” Jonathan said softly, “even after.” He then blinked and took another sip of champagne. “That last anniversary, we celebrated like it was our golden one. You know, the fifty-year mark? We were originally planning a trip for that year but…things didn’t pan out like we had hoped.” “May I ask what happened?” Jack asked delicately. Jonathan thought about this and rubbed his temple. “We didn’t go because she got sick,” he said slowly. “The doctors said she wasn’t allowed to leave the house, said she probably wouldn’t make it back home. They didn’t give her very long, the doctors. So what I did, right at the end I went out and bought an expensive bottle of champagne for us. We drank it at home, a week before our actual anniversary. Our last anniversary…” He trailed off, the corners of his mouth dipping slightly. He then picked up his flute and drained it. Jack took the flute and immediately refilled it, then asked, “You missed her, didn’t you? After she was gone?” Jonathan nodded and took another sip from his newly filled flute. “I started getting depressed and all right after it happened.” He said. “I had to take medication, but it didn’t really help much. You see, Jackie and I got married when I was twenty-one, so I just wasn’t used to living without her. I couldn’t…I don’t know…adjust properly. It was just too hard.” He drained his flute again. Jack took the glass, although this time he did not refill it. “Do you remember what happened next, Mr. Campbell?” “Yes, I remember.” Jonathan said, staring at the table. “I remember I was sad…very sad…” he rubbed his temple and blinked a few times. “I remember…um,” Suddenly a memory flashed across his mind. Sitting in his bedroom, the smell of Jackie’s favorite perfume, the metal chamber, cool against his temple. And then... “Do you remember Mr. Campbell?” The question caused Jonathan to get up out of his chair. “Wait, wait, wait. I remember…I remember the bed, and…” He brought his hand away from his temple and looked at it, as if seeing it for the first time. “Wait. Jack, am I…I’m not…?” He looked over at Jack, wide-eyed, afraid to form the word. “Yes,” Jack said calmly. “You are.” Jonathan breathed heavily, shaking his head forcefully from side to side. “No, I can’t be. I can’t…” He rea-

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soned aloud, but somewhere in himself he knew, knew that it was true, that he was. “But this is just a bar.” He said, more to himself than to Jack. “I’m just in a bar.” He repeated, forcing a weak laugh. He immediately went to the door and grabbed at the knob. It wouldn’t turn. He tired again, clawing at it with both hands. “Mr. Campbell, please,” Jack said from the table. “Just sit down and let me explain.” But Jonathan did not hear him and was now slamming his shoulder into the door, his frustration rising precipitously. He then took a few steps back and hurled himself at the black rectangle, throwing his whole body into it, using every ounce of strength he had to move through it. Again nothing. The door stood unscathed. “What’s wrong with this door?” Jonathan panted, turning to Jack. “Why won’t it open?” Jack sighed. “The door will not open because you have already passed through it, Mr. Campbell. Once you pass through the door you cannot go back. It is locked to you from that point on.” “But why!” Jonathan screamed, rushing to the table. He grabbed the champagne bottle and hurled it across the room. It shattered atop one of the tables. “Why can’t I go back?” He bellowed. “Why is it locked?” Jack sat, cool and composed. “You know why.” He said calmly. “We both do. Now please, sit down Mr. Campbell before you drive yourself mad.” Jonathan stared at him uncomprehendingly, and then turned to the door again. After a minute he asked in a small, tired voice, “But this is just a bar, isn’t it?” “I’m afraid it isn’t.” Jack said sternly, which forced Jonathan to face him again. They stared at one another for a moment, until Jonathan finally collapsed into his chair, clutching his temple. He saw that the bottle of champagne was back on the table, full and uncorked. “Where am I?” Jonathan asked in a quavering voice. “Am I in hell?” He breathed. “Mr. Campbell, if you were in hell, do you think you would be here with me, sipping champagne?” Jack asked sarcastically. The flippancy of this remark both relaxed and chilled Jonathan to his very core. Intimidated, he shook his head before asking, “What exactly is this place then?” “This place is an intermediate plane of existence, Mr. Campbell,” Jack said, matter-of-factly. “An in-between place, if you will.” “So this is like, what…purgatory?” Jonathan asked cautiously, leaning forward. “Because I’m not Catholic. Wasn’t a Catholic,” he corrected himself. “Jackie wasn’t either.” Jack stifled a laugh. “No, this is not purgatory, Mr. Campbell. But you can call it that, if it makes you feel more comfortable. I have come to learn that you mortals prefer to label those things which you do not fully understand.” Jonathan frowned at him. “What does that mean, ‘you mortals’? Are an angel or something?” “Of sorts.” Jack said evenly. “However, that is neither here nor there. There are more pressing matters at-” “Then why are you here with me?” Jonathan interrupted quickly. “Why did I not meet Jackie first? Or God? Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen here? I mean if I really am-” “Calm down, Mr. Campbell,” Jack said forcefully, and then adjusted his tie, composing himself. “Listen, I am

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only here to guide you, to help you come to terms with what has happened. You are here because you are not yet ready to move on. Consider me a nudge in the right direction. I am here to make sure you come to terms with your actions regarding your wife, Jackie.” Jonathan listened to this and then scratched his head, visibly shaken. “But why?” He choked out. “Why couldn’t you just tell me I was...well you know…?” “Because if I had, you’d still be clawing at that door,” Jack said sternly. “I had to let you realize what you had done. Telling you would only have prolonged your understanding.” He paused for emphasis, letting his words sink in. “Do you understand, Mr. Campbell?” But Jonathan did not answer immediately and allowed his head to droop between his shoulders. He stared at the floor, the checker board pattern, the black-white-black-white design. He could taste the champagne in his mouth, its faint sweetness, which brought his thoughts to Jackie, of how he couldn’t live without her, of their bedroom on that day. Something in him unclenched itself, causing his head to rise effortlessly. He nodded, rubbing his temple for the last time. “I…I think understand.” He whispered, letting his hand drop, catching Jack’s eye. “I understand now.” “You’re a quick learner Mr. Campbell,” Jack said, then rose up from his chair and started for back of the room. Jonathan did the same, knowing somehow that he was to follow. They silently moved through the room, past the bar, the tables, and then halted in front of a white door. The same white door that Jonathan had noticed earlier. Jack moved out of the way, giving him a full view of the white rectangle. At once Jonathan stepped forward, noticing a small window in the middle of the door. He moved past Jack and brought his face up to the window, knowing that what was on the other side was intended for him to see. Placing both his palms on the door, he gazed through it for a long time. “It’s everything,” He murmured intently, and without looking over to Jack he firmly grasped the door’s handle and slowly pulled it open. Instantly the entire room was engulfed in a brilliant, blinding light, so pure and dazzling that Jack had to shield his eyes with his arms, not opening them until he heard the faint “click” of the door as it swung shut. “Goodbye, Mr. Campbell,” he said to no one as he adjusted his tie. He then turned towards the head of the room, and observed there a disheveled looking young woman who was gazing intently at the black door, gently caressing her neck as she did so.

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BIOGRAPHIES Meredith Bray

I am a Junior. My major is Early Childhood Education. I often find inspirations for my writing through real-life experiences or through my emotions. I wrote my piece when I was going through a time when I felt like I was hiding myself to get through the day.

Shalimar Crowe

I have been at Emmanuel for 8 years as the Athletic Trainer. I live in the Sandy Cross area with my husband, Mike, and 2 daughters, Kadyn (4) and Hannah (1). I have “attempted” photography since I was probably 7 or 8. I just really enjoy capturing those precious moments in life that can be preserved for years to come.

Lanny Farmer

I am a senior Communication major, and I’m from Hoschton, Ga. Creative writing has been a passion of mine since I was very young. I’ve always enjoyed creating stories and characters. I chose to study Communication because there are so many outlets for writing and being creative. Hopefully when I graduate, I will be able to find a job that allows me to write in many areas. My favorite style of writing is poetry and song lyrics.

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Beth Harper

I am 21 years old and I have lived in Sandy Cross my entire life. I enjoy horseback riding, reading, playing violin and piano, as well as dance. I have been obsessed with photography since I was 14. Living on 50 acres of beautiful North Georgia, I love taking pictures of nature, especially trees.

Carly Hauntsman

I am a Music Education major in my sophomore year. When I finish my degree at EC, I plan on going to grad school at UGA to become a Music Therapist. I love to dabble with poetry in my spare time.

Sarah Major

I am a senior pursuing a Bachelor’s in Mathematics, and I’m minoring in English. I’m a math tutor in the SSC, and I’m also Vice President of IMPACT, the math club here on campus. I’m also a part of EC Players, the drama team. I live in Commerce, GA. I’ve been writing poetry ever since I won a poetry contest at a local library when my teacher turned in a poem I wrote for an assignment. She thought I had a real gift, so I decided to keep writing. Though I’ll probably end up in some math-related career, I hope to continue to keep writing, maybe even pursue a degree in writing later on in life.

Rachel Marsh

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up just south of that. I am 22 years old and a graduating senior with a BA in psychology. I am a first generation college student. After I graduate, I plan on pursuing a career in journalism and creative writing. My ideal job would be working as a photojournalist for a travel magazine. I’ve been writing poetry and short stories since the fifth grade and I have had four or five poems published. “Sheer Bliss” if my first short story to be published.

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Anthony Martinez

I am a senior Business Administration major, with a heart for writing. My piece, “The Me I Wanna Be”, was partly inspired by the title of a book by John Ortberg, “The Me I Want To Be”. I strongly felt like no one really knows me well, because of how I’d rarely ever speak. So, I figured...what if I were to say something bold: who I am and have been in the face of silent pain and struggles, and who I want to be? I had no idea how well this would go, and had little confidence at first about ever submitting something this personal, but I did, and thank God that I’ve been able to share. May it inspire other people, especially those who have felt the way I have.

Julie McBath

I am a sophomore, Education major from Carnesville, GA. The ideas for my poetry began as jurnal entries where I simply decided to try different literary techniques. I’ve always loved writing. When I was in second grade, I declaired to my parents that I wanted to be a poet. I even tried to write my own Anne of Green Gables novel. Writing became my outlet for feelings and emotions and has grown from a mere hobby into something that I am very passionate about. One interesting fact about me is that, on a visit to Mexico, I swam across the Rio Grande, toched American soil, and swam back to Mexico.

Caleb Milligan

I am a junior English major. I love to write and plan on making English a part of my life as I get a master’s degree in English or a master of fine arts degree in Creative Writing. I am Montage’s editor and look forward to writing more for next year’s Montage.

Heather Tolbert

I am a senior from Asheville NC. I graduate in May, majoring in Psychology, minoring in Christian Ministries. I am a member of the Lady Lions Softball team.

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EC Montage 2011  

Montage's 2011 Production, "Our Town"