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WINTER 2013


To our writers, artists, readers, and teachers, thank you for your continued support as we venture on this journey. This book is dedicated to the work you have put into this publication, and we hope to make you proud. Élan Winter 2013 Contest Finalists Art: Rebecca Miles Self Portrait Without Image (Image appears as edition cover) WINNER Jermaine Shavers Reaching to the Gods Nervo Arreguin Caged Kiersten Mercado Sailing Home Wesley Parvin Sunflower Swimmers Writing: Brooke Azzaro Mother to Daughter on the First Day of Kindergarten WINNER Elaine Nicole Johnson may we grow together Steven Adams Business Rayce Smallwood A Few Sundays After Savannah Thanschiedt A Family Visit


Editors-in-Chief

Emily Cramer Sarah Buckman

Layout & Design

Emily Leitch Taylor Austell

Poetry Raegen Carpenter Brittanie Demps Mariah Abshire Fiction Creative Nonfiction

Kiera Nelson Zoe DeWitt Emily Jackson Shamiya Anderson

Art

Zoe DeWitt Sarah Buckman

Social Media

Haley Hitzing Madison George

Submissions

Makenzie Fields

Public Relations & Marketing

Stephanie Thompson


Contents Brother, we only had eighteen hours left. Emily Leitch

6

Dismembered Claire Lynch

7

Night Sky Alex Kaplan

8

The Looking Glass Emily Jackson

10

Sailing Home Kiersten Mercado

12

Untitled 1995 Zoe DeWitt

14

Loose Leaf Gina Olson

15

A Few Sundays After Rayce Smallwood

16

Window Alyx Beikle

18

A Flora Affair Margaret Middlebrooks

19

September, from Florida Raegen Carpenter

20

Flour & Ink Emily Cramer

21

Reaching to the Gods Jermaine Shavers

22

Amidst Gina Olson

23

Business Steven Adams

24

Caged Nervo Arreguin

26

Right Foot Driver Brittanie Demps

27


To Cope Aracely Medina

28

Lion Boy Jermaine Shavers

30

Fear of the Light Lauren Hunady

31

Loving Like Birds Emily Leitch

33

Sunflower Swimmers Wesley Parvin

34

may we grow together Elaine Nicole Johnson

35

To Fall Kiera Nelson

36

Lessons Learned Raegen Carpenter

37

Envy Maggie May

38

Open-Hearted Jessica Prescott

39

Quilt Namhee Kwak

40

A Family Visit Savannah Thanschiedt

41

Mother to Daughter on the First Day of Kindergarten Brooke Azzaro

42

France, 1940 (After Albert Camus) Haley Hitzing

43

Parachutes Logan Monds

44

Rusty Wheel Calista Pappas

46

Tiny Steps Margaret Middlebrooks

47


Brother, we only had eighteen hours left. Emily Leitch

This is what we do: slam shut the doors of the rusty white pickup truck; drive. This is what we say: nothing. This is what you do: steer the crooked iron wheel of the car around familiar country roads. This is what I do: sit and listen to the hum of the engine. The sun is disappearing behind pine trees. This is what you do: cough; turn up the AC. This is what you are bringing with you: albums, Batman comic books, your collection of Steinbeck novels. This is what I do: run my hand across the upholstery, feel the ridges for a final time. This is what you are leaving behind: me.

6


Dismembered Claire Lynch

7


Night Sky

galaxy. Looking back upwards now, he tried to reach up and brush off the dust. His arm didn’t move. There was no beauty like the fogged mirror of the atmosphere, and Dan would have rather died than get up. At this point, he wished he would never be found. He wished he was lost forever, fifteen feet from the house across the street from his, outside of the fence. That way he could lie forever and not have to deal with the pain, injury, and healing he was going to have to go through come morning. Knowing he’d not be allowed to see his son, he just wanted to let go. An ant crawled across his face. It passed just below his eye, enabling him to make out its vague shape, and the thing it carried in its mandibles. It appeared to be a crumb from his energy bar, the rest probably lying open and half eaten near his water bottle. He watched the ant pass over his nose, and sighed. What more could be taken from him? He didn’t hate the ant, nor did he hate the men with the dark clothes. Neither took much and he’d rather be left alone. That’s why he jogged at night. He wanted to be by himself. He hated people bothering him, spending time over him, and yet even in his sacred jogging time, he couldn’t avoid everyone. The ant paused, tasting the blood starting to dry on his upper lip, and then moved on, probably back to its ant colony, to give up the food it had and go back to a life among thousands of other ants just like him. Ones it couldn’t escape from- family and companions. Dan wondered if the ant minded so many others. Fully starting to sense the blood crusting, he coughed a bit, and twitched the fingers on the hand protecting his stomach. They were covered in his blood, too. It hadn’t dried, though, because it was still flowing, leaving him and draining off into the grass. Dan had been jogging. There was too much to do at home, and after his head started hurting, he knew he had to leave. He grabbed what he needed for his jog, and left his home. After walking down the street and exiting his neighborhood complex, he began jogging down the edge of the woods just outside his house. He twisted his ankle on a dark root, but the pain only crowded out his thoughts about friends, family, and work. He liked that pain. When he rounded a corner, not a quarter mile from his starting point, he came across four men. They had been walking across his path, into the woods to do who-knows-what. They were

Alex Kaplan The stars weren’t quite visible with the thin, dark clouds choking their light, but occasionally a feather-lined hole would rip open with all the viscosity of an overcooked marshmallow – revealing to Dan a few clear specks of the healing luminescence. Being pressed against the grassy field with his body weight afforded him little sense of mobility, but there were no bounds on the sky, and that’s where his mind was. Hence, he lay there carelessly for quite some time before someone found him. In the meantime, Dan was content with smiling up at the stars, sprawled on the grass with one arm protectively across his stomach. He knew his water bottle lay somewhere on his left side, but he hadn’t been jogging long enough to need it. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the high walls and large houses, shadow puppets against the ambient gray lighting of the clouds. On the other side of the walls were safe places- ones covered in concrete and asphalt, where people would be driving past even now. Though the small field he was in was surrounded by the roads and streets of the outside world, the wide, deep sky didn’t merge with the cityscape like it did with the mounds of dirt and grassy slopes of the edge of the woods. Dan felt like he was the one on the outside; the never ending sky and the small field seemingly circled the city, wrapping it in nature as it slept like a child in a blanket. He has a child. No, that wasn’t right- he had a child. A couple weeks ago he did. His son was the most important thing to him in the world, and after his exwife argued his neighborhood wasn’t safe enough for children, and won, he wasn’t sure he could deal with the world anymore. She had a point, though. Drew had been asking for a telescope for his birthday. One of the real ones they put in fancy shop windows. He would have liked to see this. Dan would have liked to see his son. It felt like an eternity since he had tucked him in, read him his books about spaceships and planets. There was dust gathering on the bookshelf now, little white specks sprinkling the covers like a tiny paperback 8


some of the people living in the trashy apartments across the main road. They slowly began fanning out, giving him less and less room to politely go around their formation. Eventually, he slowed. One of the middle ones demanded his wallet. He remembered he didn’t have it on him. There was nothing he could give to satisfy them; all he had was a snack and a drink. He came out there that night to get away from people. Jogging during the day, all he could feel were the eyes of people driving past. He needed this night jogging, and the one way to get out unhurt would be to escape. The fence was short, he could vault over and run back home. As he took off, the men quickly came after him, obviously anticipating this. Dan reached the fence, but not quickly enough. Mid climb, he was pulled back down and kicked. A boot hit him hard in the stomach, and he curled up, until another came down on his face. He tried rolling over to protect himself, but they just pressed his face into the ground while they searched his pockets. He managed to roll over, knocking down an assailant. With one on the ground, he was able to get some punches in, too. The one on the ground gave one quick jab at his stomach, but instead of a fist, Dan felt a knife enter his stomach. After a few more stabs and a last kick, they left, dropping the food and water by his side, leaving them next to his body. They ran off into the woods. He was left in pain, but after bleeding out for long enough, he began distracting himself with the area around him. Eventually his body gave up, and the sky consumed his mind. Dan was always running from other people. They wouldn’t leave him alone. There were taxes, bills, bosses, girlfriends, always something he needed to care for, and never any time alone. That was probably why he hadn’t called for help, or somehow gotten the attention of someone on the other side of the fence; he just needed to leave everyone out of this for a while. Or maybe his lungs were just punctured. He didn’t know. There was no need to call an ambulance. If he died, he’d die how he wished he could have lived: all by himself. He didn’t want any distraction from the sky. Distinct redness started bleeding through

the gray of the clouds, and he decided that was one more reason why he loved the sky. It was big, empty, alone. With the red seeping between puffs of cloud, he could tell the night was not much longer for this world. As day broke, his pain began to show through. The shock was wearing off, as was the surreal 3 a.m. feeling. Like a little boy turning off his alarm clock and trying to get a couple more minutes of sleep, he tried to turn over and pretend the pain was gone again. That’s when he heard his neighbor start to scream. He rolled his eyes. A few minutes later, an ambulance siren ripped through the remaining fabric of the night. He could hear it now parked in the grass nearby. The paramedics slammed the doors, and immediately were by his side, removing his hand from his chest, talking to him, and keeping him from blocking them out of his little world. “Just… five more minutes,” he grunted. “Don’t worry, buddy, you’re not looking that bad. You’ve still got a good two decades before you,” replied one of the paramedics. This made Dan groan even louder, struggling against his restrainers, and trying to roll off of the stretcher. There wasn’t any escape, however. He was loaded into the vehicle. Staring hopelessly at the white metal ceiling of the ambulance, he was driven back into the neighborhood, kicking and screaming as best a doomed man could.

“If he died, he’d die how he wished he could have lived: all by himself.”

9


The Looking Glass

never tending to them or watering them. She hasn’t done so since her husband died. Most of them are Emily Jackson wilted and brown now, though the massive rainfall at the start of spring saved the Elephant’s Ear. She bends down and touches the glossy leaves. Two years after my father left, my mother Fingers trail white veins. There used to be flowdrove her car off the Golden Gate Bridge. She fi- ers. They bloomed earlier this spring. Ms. Robbins nally gathered enough effort to pull herself out of picked them up and put them in a jar by her winthe bed to get the weekly groceries—we were out of dow. I recognized it. The same kind of jar that my everything except for canned vegetables. She left mother used to can tomatoes in when I was youngme with a babysitter. A fifteen-year-old girl with er. The kind meant to preserve things for years braces and pimples. After four hours, the girl left and years with no rot or mold at all. She did not me. Told me she would come back. That night I fell give the flowers water. I could see them through asleep on the front porch, waiting for my mother, the wavy glass. They are dead now, like the rest of the babysitter, my father, anyone. the garden. There was a viewing before she was buried. After my grandmother died I sold her house I walked up to her casket, clutching my grand- and used the funds to buy my way through college. mother’s hand. I closed my eyes and saw her face At the university, I read books. Trailed my finetched into the backs of my eyelids. It was gray, gers across words until black ink stained my skin. tears like ashes stuck to her cheeks. I was afraid Sometimes, I closed my eyes during classes—phito look in. Nine years old losophy, biology, calculus. then, but I imagined I was Listened as the profesmuch younger. My mother sors spoke. I was never was reading to me. My eyes one for logic. I wondered were closed; I let her think what it would be like if no I was asleep. She stopped one could see. Everyone when she realized that I blind. I wouldn’t open was no longer watching her. my eyes until the end of Soft hands shut the book. class. Imagined I was Soft lips kissed me on the forehead. I did not open alone. There were too many eyes at the university. my eyes. I dropped out after the first semester. Until I was Before Ms. Robbins, I watched Mr. Motty, thirty-five I worked odd jobs—waitress, florist, before he was divorced from Ms. Motty. Promised personal shopped. However, my grandmother was her that he would stop smoking. But when she a rich woman. I had no need to work. Eventually I went out to lunch with her friends from the coun- ended up on Arbor Ally, where I watch my neightry club, he would climb out the window and sit bors from my second story window. on the roof smoking cigarettes until he used up a I have never actually spoken to Ms. Robwhole pack. Sometimes two, or three. Eventually bins, though I have lived across the street from Ms. Motty found out. Came home early from her her for ten years. I have never spoken to most of luncheon one day. Caught him out there, smiling my neighbors, yet I know every intimate detail at nothing with a cigarette dangling between his of their lives. I watch them, face pressed against lips. rectangular glass. At night, I kept the lights off. If Ms. Robbins though, is the most unusual someone were to look up while taking their dog for individual I have ever observed. Each morning an evening stroll or driving through to admire the since her husband’s death, at exactly 5:08 AM, grayscale grounds, they would see my dark winshe has walked up and down Arbor Ally, making dow, and think I was sleeping, just like everyone exactly eleven loops before disappearing into her else. house until 10:46 AM. At 10:46 AM, she emerges For now, it is daytime, and I watch Ms. again, wearing the same pink and white nighty, Robbins. She crouches down in dirt. I narrow my and walks around her yard, looking at flowers but eyes. This is not a part of her usual routine. After

“Caught him out there, smiling at nothing with a cigarette dangling between his lips.”

10


she circles her garden for twenty seven minutes, she goes back inside, and does not reappear until five in the evening to walk her fluffy white poodle. However, it has been thirty minutes, and she is knelt down in the lawn. She reaches for a hose, and turns it in her hands. For a while, she does nothing. Finally, she stands, points the nozzle at a clump of dead flowers, and shoots. She spends the next two hours watering every inch of her decaying garden. It is not until her body starts shaking that I realize she is crying. I press my palm to the window as hard as I can. Close my eyes and try to force tears. Nothing comes. When my mother died, I did not cry. Nor when my father left or when my grandmother passed. I slam my fists against the glass. I want to hear Ms. Robbins’ sobs, taste her tears. I undo the locks on the window and open it. The October wind rushes over my face and white leaves rustle below. I lean out. Listen to tears to intertwine with the hose as it showers flowers. I keep leaning until finally, I fall through the looking glass.

11


Sailing Home Kiersten Mercado

12


13


Untitled 1995 Zoe DeWitt

There are blurring colors and she stands in the middle, drenched in white. From the ivory shade of her skin to the bleached pleats on her dress, she is utterly white, but her face is stained with blackened smudges, like the charcoal pencils he used to draw her at night. There are more than streaks leaking down her face, and her newly shaven head is cold. She tries wiping at the lines but only worsens their swirls, brings accidental patterns alive on her cheeks. He’s dressed in a suit, gray, plain, a lily tucked within his pocket. His storms clouds opposite her cumulonimbus. A cigarette, which is also ivory, is pressed between her painted lips, and the ashes are black, not gray. They land on her cheeks and it burns but she doesn’t wipe them away, leaves them to fold against the corner of her smeared mouth. Her burglar eyes look out from behind the mask her tears have created for her, and she sees the tiniest glimpse of blue, and in the distance, green. Perhaps a forest. Another drag of the cigarette and the filter tastes sour. She looks down and flicks it from her gloved fingers, staring not at where her trajectory landed but rather the hole it left in her hand. The hole is the size of a dime. She fingers it, nails scraping skin, and begins to walk. The service ends and her arms fold around herself. His family members stare, not willing to approach her. She wipes at her face again, fingertips blackened enough already. He was so afraid of black, back then, but craved the darkness when he could hold her in his arms and find new inspiration. Seeing suits and dresses and skirts midnight against various tones of tanning skin rushes a shudder down her spine. She spits ash into the trampled grass, mud clinging to her spotless sneakers. Wipes at her darkened brows. Rain drops, like acid, spilling from overhead. Did they even know him at all? Her fingers wiggle and she is cursing her-

self through gritted, lipstick stained teeth for not buying an extra pack of cigarettes. Smoking was always his thing, and she never touched them, but today seems like a pretty special occasion, and maybe she’ll grab some more on the way home. The strangers pieced together through his lifetime abandon post one by one, puzzle pieces peeling off the board until she is left standing alone at the edge of the cemetery. She wipes her face again and her hand comes off red. Lipstick. She shudders under the pelt of gentle drops against her fragile ivory skin, her voice caught in her throat. Maybe she wants to scream, but instead she treads along, bald head bowed and eyes on the roots in the earth below her feet. Mud continues clinging to her shoes and now her leg is being assaulted as well, but none of that really matters. Not the buzzing of mosquitoes nor the traffic on the shore can disturb her now. The sky darkens, and she fears for one instant the black that is yet to come, but remembers the stars and feels comforted. Her name is Penelope, and the rain begins to wash the black from her face.

“They land on her cheeks and it burns but she doesn’t wipe them away...”

14


loose leaf Gina Olson

I. seep dried, then sodden, leaves collect, rise and curve, ferment in warm current i grasp the pot, thread fingers through loop, cup poured heat. II. infuse i sip, submerge, nose tight, it gasps, whispers, screams until i exhale exhale exhale intake. lemon-white peels brush, blend inside me, clearly rippling i embrace breeze from mint, coils soft, but slight in musk, a patiently tended air. i waver, nursing black currant, vanilla spun, a favored goddess stitching white yarn amidst thatched thorns. III. steam leaves crinkle, silently mystify water. i swim, faintly out, set myself upright, climb the spout rebirthed a leaflet, submerged in haze

15


A Few Sundays After

she never enforces the use of anymore. A chipped coffee mug with dregs of watered-down whiskey Rayce Smallwood sits in one of the recent stain-rings on the end table. Now, move on. The bathroom is as stark and empty as a vacated robin’s nest. The shells of old Ten days from Summer’s slow death into eggs still lay about the room; a towel, deodorant, a Autumn, and the house was still empty. Lloyd toothbrush that should have been replaced many stared up into the window, which annoyed him weeks ago. Marks from your teeth on the plastic like Coffeewoman on Tuesdays, asking, “Aren’t of the brush, but you can’t seem to recall how you you him?” when Him just wanted something to might have that kind of anger again, sweet and hot carry him through the morning and was too much like honey over biscuits on Saturday morning. You of a sensible coward to try anything illegal. One feel it colder now, ice on the road that won’t salt shutter hung lamely across half of the calcified away. glass, as if it might still be trying half-heartedly to Turn the knob for hot, till it stops with some conceal the blank wallpaper that was left beyond. resistance from a malfunction you don’t know It asked the same question it had since he followed how to repair. Cold, leave untouched. You think, the GPS on a wrong turn into this neighborhood. though, that the water must be lukewarm. The red Neighborhood, noun, a place where people came skin that bleeds into being on your arms and chest together to live apart, he noted. A faded lawn tells you that, yes, the water is on. You clean quickgnome leered at him from a dead garden’s length ly, in strange and familiar routine. You feel at your away, and he couldn’t help hair, shaved short with feeling Satan dare him a jarring electric. You’ve through its chipped and termissed a tuft, but it hides rier-teethed-on eyes. Satan, behind your ear. Get out, noun, misspelling of God. and dress quickly before He walked over to the garthe steam on the mirror den and sat down next to absconds with the ragged its ghoul. “Alright,” he said. He looked up at the shelter of your blurred and anonymous reflection, house, and he looked down at his watch, and he leaving you to face the spitting image of a newlysaid in his mind for the voice of his father to shut dead father. Now turn, and dread. You want the the hell up, raised his notebook, and started to door to vanish, to leave you without the choice to write. Listen to me. go through it. You want to stay standing, looking You are a boy too old for toys and too young into the mildewed patches of wallpaper. But there for therapy, and your harrowed eyes look out at is still a woman beyond the door. younger and more careful morning. You stretch Lloyd paused, and took to supposing. The and curse, your arms fall heavy to your sides with woman seemed to him much more like the house: the ache of holding still. You want nothing more empty but for bent nails and peeled-bare walls. than to go back to your bed and thrash ceaselessly Seem, verb, to appear, or in the case of those subinto oblivion, carrying the shreds of a bed sheet ject to God and writers, to be. with you as your only companions of the shadow You, for your part, are a woman who ought of a road your father must be at the end of by now. to have been stripped of that prestigious title. And But there is a woman curled on the couch. You you are roused by the push on your shoulder, calm, take your clothes from neatly packed drawers, or- but not kind. You can’t fault him for the shove. You ganized by color and type of buttons. Unfortunate- hear a new chord play in the long ballad of your ly, you have to dig to the bottom to find the one guilt. But the song is stretched over too long a time you suppose is right, the organization paying little for you to hear it, and be moved. You let him pull heed to efficiency. You drift to the door, open it, you up from the couch. and drift through. The woman on the couch has not “We have to go, it’s Sunday.” slept, either. Look at the still-full shells of month- Here, nod absently, not wanting to go. You old prescriptions, left carelessly on the coasters remember that you hate the pew where you sat

“You are a boy too old for toys and too young for therapy...”

16


with him for years, watching the preacher grow older. The familiar hymns sting you like the faded marks under your sleeve, and both remind you that you, my dear, are a coward. You pass a mirror on your way to the black shrine to delusion in the back of the house, and the reflection, be assured, will haunt you. It would, because Lloyd wrote that in his notebook. He had, in his writing, realized that his word was history, not conjecture, and supposition became fact as fast as God had spoken light into darkness, or was it darkness into light? Question mark, punctuation, meaning the imperfection of a mind. Pen back to paper, man. Your father is watching. Your clothes are wayward corpses, laid out to mummify in the morbid light of a room still full of emptiness. A couple’s old room. Pick through them slowly, and find that none of them appeal to you. So, look at the picture, resting amid broken glass and splintered pieces of a wooden frame, and pick out the outfit you wore in it. But, pause. It is difficult for you to be sure you picked out the same pieces. They don’t feel the same. Run a hand down your dress, and feel that it is rough, like burlap. Check the tag in the mirror, and read: cotton blend. But, after a moment, realize it doesn’t matter. You’ve left the lamp on in the corner, and the bulb guaranteed to burn on for some time yet pushes feebly back against the dark that was left after you bought the stiff, idiotic new curtains. You think the natural light could have fought better, but it sullies your spirits to recall that the sun, precious fool, will go down. You search for the ring, but after the latest hard pitch across the room, you cant find it. There are little dents in the wallpaper that made up a constellation of where stars should have been, and never were. Step into the bathroom. It smells like neglect, and a little but of aftershave spilled over the sink, and so now, obediently paint on your face. You need to buy more makeup soon, but you can feel in your thinning stomach that no, you will not. With lipstick, you try to curve practical pink lines at the sides of your mouth. The mirror warps the corpse of a smile grotesquely, but your arm isn’t written strong enough to reach up and wipe the lines away. And the boy is waiting when you come back out, still and solemn and with eyes that couldn’t 17

even be bothered to judge you. Take a moment to regret that he has become such a well-behaved young man. In the past, when he has been almost as dissolute as you are now, you would scold him, and you knew his reactionary anger would pass with the narcotics from his blood. But now, you know he will grow up to be a wealthy lawyer or banker, with starched collar and a silver pen holder where other people keep pictures of their family on his desk, and he will file papers and cash checks and buy watches that aren’t worth their price. But whenever he checks the time, he will be frowning and angry in his inconsolable bones at how much and how little he has left. Ten minutes into a slow drive to church, and a stoplight turns red. The two of you stop for it as normal, and an alien family of vagrants traipses by, the father carrying a little girl with tousled and dirtied hair on his back. You drive on, and park, and follow the crowd in, and what you, weak woman, will remember about the day is weeping when the choir sings, because you’ll know it was beautiful, and you will not be allowed to feel it. And what will you, bone-angry boy, remember? Nudging her roughly with your elbow because, for the first time, the frowns of the churchpeople will move you more than the tears of your derelict mother. A symphony plays with mournful prudence. Lloyd takes the newest phone from his pocket. Jonah, the man from the publishing company. He scolds Lloyd about contracts and obligations and a signing he should have been at ten minutes ago. “These people bought your book, you understand?” Jonah says with the voice of Lloyd’s mother when he had called from college and asked to come home, and she had told him to suck it up, boy, you’ll not get anywhere by quitting what you’re good at. What you’re good at. Phrase. Meaning: not what you love. “That’s not my fault.” Lloyd states, and hangs up. But he gets up from the garden. He walks back to his car, still covered in dirt that will probably stain the cold leather seat, the only one that was ever occupied. He looks back at his story, written in the shadow of a morose mausoleum of a house. He tears out the pages in his notebook and leaves them on the curb when he drives away, because they will not sell books, or gather crowds for signings.


Window Alyx Beikle

18


A Flora Affair Margaret Middlebrooks

Occupation: Librarian, fired for reading on the job, stealing breath between pages, with lily-white hands. Kissing Wilde, when she should have been shelving him, back to an eyeless coffin, where no fingers grace his spine, his pages only turn, dark, dank with dew a shelf where no narcissus bloom. He was sad to see her go, “...each man kills the thing he loves, and so, she had to die� No longer would her fingers pry his thoughts, tilling seeds into the garden. Never had he seen a girl look so wistful on her dying day.

19


September, from Florida Raegen Carpenter

Early September, the season for sleep, when the soles of my feet were snowed-in to my shoes. Fogged windows no longer reflect my face, no matter how hard I scrape. You were the seventh month: thirty one days that left me soaked in sweat, shirt stuck to shoulder blades and cheeks red. The arch of your back is in the sunflower outside my window: bowing its head to the wind with a collapsing stem. Out there, you are breathing thick Arizona air, lungs heavy with humidity and the hum of another home.

20


Flour & Ink Emily Cramer

Mixing batters and batches is addicting-- the scent of ingredients melding into one, the satisfaction in setting down a pan to cool, and the smiles when giving away small portions of peace. I often push myself harder than necessary and when I feel like I’m splitting apart at the seams, I preheat the oven, take out the flour, and let myself go. There is serenity in the art of baking that I’ve found in few other areas of life. My parents divorced when I was young, leaving my mother to find places for me to stay while she worked to support my brother and me. My godmother’s house is by far the most memorable. She taught me to sprinkle flour on countertops, roll dough into a flat spread and knead it beneath my palms. Together we made sugar cookies in the shape of Noah’s Ark, elephants, and stars. When they cooled, she let me ice them however I pleased, and I presented them to my mother with the same fervor that an artist shows her best work. Baking is another form of my art; I’m a writer by definition and identity. There is precision in measuring oil and cracking eggs on the cusp of a bowl, spinning a whisk until it blurs into a cloud of silver. There is meaning behind setting the oven and watching coils heat into orange circles, feeling the warmth across my arms as I set pans in. There is beauty in watching yeast work in dough to make it rise, mixing ingredients into something irreversible. My parents separated too long ago for me to remember the night it happened, but I still feel echoes of it in every decision, every brownie, every poem or story. Baking has allowed me to follow set instructions to an assured outcome. As I grew more into myself and felt the deeper effects of the divorce, I turned to baking and writing to escape. The written word has been a source of peace since childhood, along with the mixing of flour and

oil. There is precision, too, in crafting poems from carefully selected words, moving and rearranging until they combine into the perfect flow of intent. There is meaning behind setting characters into situations in which they are allowed to breathe between lines, speak in their own voices. There is beauty in reading my work aloud, hearing absolute silence as I pause, as if the room is waiting for me to speak again. Countertops and my writing desk have become sanctuaries for me, the whirring of the mixer and the scratch of pen against paper have allowed me to stop and breathe. With my hands coated in flour or ink, I can finally let myself slow down and take a moment to remember why I love creating, whether it be through making the perfect batch of cookies, or stringing together words that speak in ways I can’t otherwise. Whenever I read my work out loud, voice floating across audiences, I feel exactly like I did all those years ago at my godmother’s house when I gave my mother cookies: proud, whole, content.

“The whirring of the mixer and the scratch of pen against paper have allowed me to stop and breathe.”

21


Reaching to the Gods Jermaine Shavers 22


Amidst Gina Olson

Old windows fall shut as she sits witness. A tarnished bronze crucifix, rests near the sill. A split pearl necklace. An envelope. A pin cushion with periwinkle dots. A wine glass topped with origami cranes. Her name cowering beneath a smudge on a letter to the wrong address. Toes alleviate distant pedals, her fingers inducing muted breath into pipes, press absence of keys and collapse to fold the seventh crane, turquoise wings down, plead to a window. It opens; Nothing passes in.

23


Business

strike up a conversation with a woman who will be nice enough to ask what it is you do and you will jokingly say sales but you’re not even sure anymore. She will call you some nights to see how you are doing. You will get out of bed to go and meet her and let her do what she wants. You will come back home and get back in bed with your partially awake wife; she will tell you how much better you smell. You will have six business days to find something to do. Your coffee will become tasteless, your china will lose its luster. Dan will call you frequently just to be friendly. You will begin to hear your own thoughts as if they were standing right in front of you. Your wife will stay in bed most days; she’ll go back and forth between there and the kitchen even when there is nothing there but the refrigerator light. Your children will burn themselves learning to cook on their own. They will bruise from fighting for the last slab of Bologna. The bathtub will run until it overflows some nights. You will receive more calls from your friends asking how you are and if you want to hang out. They will all sound the same. You’ll barely ever hear them. The school will call. Students not coming...somebody will be notified. When in bed with your wife you will notice that she is shedding more and more. You will occasionally say the wrong name during the act of intimacy; she’ll always pretend not to notice. The girl from the bar will call sometimes after, sometimes during; you’ll slowly leave every time; Your wife will have stopped stopping you a long time before that. Days will turn into weeks. The paint in your home will begin to peel. You will hear the thunder before you see the lightning. Your children will get lost while they play in the rain. Their absence will be mute to you. They will walk back several hours later into the evening soaking wet and crying. The water will be turned off and you will be filthy; you will be able to peel things off your skin. Mold will collect in the folds of your unworn cloths and you’ll hear the roaches in the walls at night. When your wife is going through her heavy phase, and you are drunk, you will smell every second of the past years exiting through her pores, your sink will overflow with dishes, your bathtub will not be

Steven Adams

You’ll have six business days to find something to do; no more, no less, will say Dan; your way of life will depend on this and this alone. Nights will be spent away from home, drunk in a shed built long ago; shirtless, pants-less. You’ll repeat yourself so much that you will cease to recognize your own speech. Strangers will love you until they cease to be strangers. People will be nice when they see you frown. They will send gifts; a short phrase of condolence in one of those hallmark cards, anything but talk to you; There will very rarely be time. You will become unfamiliar with the suits in your closet; the way they hang lifeless. After a while they will look like strangers, they will be filled by beings made in your own image. The only sounds will be the sound from the clock in the kitchen, and your children’s bare feet across the wooden floor. You’ll miss the new house smell, You’ll miss the bare white walls. Your wife will gain weight and lose it faster than you will notice. You will accept this. You will tell yourself it is like having two different, equally distant, wives. You will forget your wife’s name and avoid situations where you will have to say it. You will forget your children’s names until you hear your wife say them. You will be oblivious to their extensive knowledge of South American botany, or the Bubonic Plague, or the mating habits of capybara’s. They will know what they know from sneaking through your books when you’re asleep, or not home (or both). Your early mornings will not be theirs. Your sunlight will not be theirs. They will have their mothers smile; Your smile will not be theirs. You will look at your wife and think of Dan. You will remember being told by someone that mistakes like that happen all the time and that you guys will be alright; it’s your choice...I don’t know what happened...You can do what you want. You will enter a bar and instantly remember the song humming low behind the voices, but not who sung it, nor when you first heard it. You will

“You’ll miss the bare white walls.”

24


white, your kids will stay home from school and continue to sneak into your room to read. You’ll receive your last call from Dan. You will be a free man. You will call the woman from the bar and you two will celebrate. You will come back to a dark house; Yes, the lights will be off. Six business days will have passed. You will drink to yourself and sing the song you heard at the bar in your room. It won’t be playing but you will hear it like you did the first time. You’ll sing until you’re hoarse, and sweat until you pass out. You will wake up hours later and notice, through candle light, the dry vomit on the rim of your porcelain toilet, along with a couple of your wife’s teeth rested at the bottom below the waters. Your house will be hot and the candles will make it worse. You will sweat profusely. You will receive knocks on your door more and more frequently. Eventually your children will answer and be taken away while you and your wife sleep; you will notice after a few days. Your wife will notice and say nothing; she will simply spend more and more time in their rooms. This is where she will choose to sleep. You will make love to your wife, who you will swear was a lot skinnier some weeks ago, on your children’s bedroom floor. You will think of the girl from the bar. You will leave her there to sleep. You will hear her scream from that part of the house some nights, you will think you’re just drunk again. You will be unable to distinguish sobriety from intoxication. At the end of every day, you will have this lingering feeling. You will have the feeling that this feeling is resting in your stomach and could be cut out with a carving knife. Your wife will finally leave the house, and you, without a single step back. Everything will echo. Your sense of past, present and future will become one in the same. The walls will seem more fragile and food will make you less and less hungry. Dan will stop calling, the knocks on the door will cease. Everyone and thing will be a stranger, even you to you.

25


Caged

Nervo Arreguin

26


Right Foot Driver Brittanie Demps

Left foot welded to the gas pedal we flicker like light, our eyes sealed through penetrating rays of sun our hands trying to match separate vibrations bare backs pressed into elderly leather. You said right foot drivers fall out of love faster. Pushing ninety in a fifty past semis while caterwauling guitars danced in my lungs, I swear this is marriage. For a moment I watch you tap your fingers to the wrong rhythm, knuckles blushing as the volume rises. I tell you your cologne is a forest fire. At midnight you told me I smelled of wet leaves under black boots. Near dawn I confessed my love. Our heavy strings became soft jazz, speeding reduced to thirty in a forty-five.

27


To Cope

ties. I pity him and remember the utter ignorance of age, the tendency to do good blindly. I rememAracely Medina ber my parent’s divorce because of him. I see the smatterings of a self-despise in Aaliyah who has been lead to believe she does not Define insanity. Tell me about solitude. I deserve kindness. Through her I quell my own will not be persuaded into believing that these two feelings of inadequacy by seeing the flaws in her feelings are not contributors to violence, extremes, method of thinking. Through her, I learn to value and the being of the writer. That said, I refuse to whatever it is that I am: human, female, flawed or change my mind about the qualities of those who otherwise. create existences for the nonexistent. Are they not Or sometimes I create a character whom I the loneliest people, those who materialize some- loathe. I hate him/her because I see darker qualithing out of nothing? ties such as vengeance, and pride, allowed to thrive Writers by their nature are burdened with and rise to their full potential. One character , for lunacy and feelings of loneliness. In response to instance, named Rufus is dominant and abusive. emotional turmoil, they create in place of destroy- He derives pleasure from knowing he is in coning because it is the only way they know how to trol. He is the image of his father though he tried cope. They are disturbed and alone but it is an in- not to be. Due to his character it would seem only timate relationship to be both and it is necessary. natural that his truck, an external representation How else could someone fabricate lives for those of himself would be immense, imposing, and the who will never live? slightest bit intimidating. I am a writer for this It would be blue the most reason, utterly and shamemasculine of all colors lessly. I write because I do with a sharp profile and not know any other way of slanted headlights. He, tasting the world, discovering the reaches of who I is an abhorrent complex bundle of emotions and am and reacting to events in my life except through cruelty. He is a detestable person and thank goodcreating characters. ness he does not exist save for in my conscious. The freedom to create an entity, a friend There he aimlessly floats around. within the self to revisit and converse with is a Even that which I considered to be evil can gift I was not aware of for the longest time. The reveal my perspective of matters. The people I power of crafting something outward and tangible choose to hate teach me about myself. Rufus may was hardly fathomable to me at the tender age I not be who I support and hope the best for but he began to write. I discovered it because I felt soli- makes me think, and I seek to understand him at tary on occasion even when I sat amongst people. least on some twisted level. At moments like these I turned to my characters. I love them, even the ones I would never They were tentative things at first, barely strung want to meet. I care for them because each one together and only holding because of mental tape taught me, reinforced a virtue, brought up a morand glue. I distracted myself with them. al, became such an awful model they taught the I became addicted. contrary, and they are real to me. They are peo I lived through them. I wept and interacted ple. People in turn have the ability to alter subtle with the imaginary. I overanalyzed the intricate mentalities about us by the mere act of being alive. aftermath that is every person because of what People offer comfort sometimes just because their they have experienced. Ultimately, I realized the minds and circumstances exist. selfish nature of it all. Coping. All I can say is: I am lonely and insane. I True, I care for them, but I do because it claim these two qualities and the reaction they succors me. Sometimes their struggles, parts of caused that acquainted me with a myriad of peowho they are loosely correspond with my own. ple, albeit fictional, who helped me to deal with I see the epitome of fleeting innocence in them. the boy who hides his father’s extramarital activi- I am always asking characters who they are.

“I wept and interacted with the imaginary.”

28


In a corner of my conscious I sit them down, and interview them. What did your childhood consist of? Who was your first love? What do you live to accomplish? In truth, it is they who ask me the questions, an unexpected reversal. They cock their heads and toss the questions back at me. I always thought I was molding them but they were in actuality building me with fragments of themselves. I am a product of myself, fleshed out through imagination, observation and the innate need to know, if even for a moment, that I am not the only one who understands. To be introduced to a multitude of people that can relate and bear their psyches with compassion is tremendously alleviating. They are friends, listeners. They are surreal. The best part? The most incredible concept of it all? I carry them around with me, tucked between blood, brain and bone.

29


Lion Boy

Jermaine Shavers

30


Fear of the Light

“I can’t.” he breathed. “If I open the door, they’ll come for me. They’re in here too, Mary, Lauren Hunady they’re in the mirror. I can’t see myself in the mirror.” The cruel smirks of the dark figures behind The door handle shook furiously, rattling him crawled along Ben’s back. He swallowed. against the lock; Ben could swear he heard it. “Hey, it’ll be okay.” He heard it shake and shudder under someone’s “No it won’t, no it won’t. They never leave forceful hand, he was sure of it. me, Mary.” Benji “Ben, let me in.” Benji “No.” The shadows, they were coming for him “Ben,” she said sternly, “let me in.” again. Ben hesitated. But he No, not again. slowly unlocked the door. The voices were It took him a few tries, as loud, like a symphony out his hands were slick with of tune and practice, muwater and fear. As his sicians playing their inhands shook, he gripped struments wildly. Sounds the handle and flung the moved all over, never once door open, revealing his returning to one harmony, sister on the other side, just a sporadic drone of noise and amusement and with her red hair in a side braid and a purple scarf fear and it was scaring Ben. draped across her neck. They wouldn’t stop making noise when all They were crowding in, hushed voices Ben wanted was the quiet; they wouldn’t leave him and slurred figures slithering around Mary. They when all he wanted was to be alone. slinked around her shoulders, dug their nasty They wouldn’t stop. hands in her hair. They whispered their songs to “Ben?” her, trying to captivate her with their whispers. That was Mary’s voice, she was back; Ben She stared straight ahead at Ben, holding out her almost couldn’t hear her over their voices. hand to him. It hung delicately between them as “Shut up!” Ben’s cries didn’t help; they just harsh noises and colors began to pool beneath it. added to the performance. His voice was just an- Ben was breathing heavily. He looked other out-of-place instrument. across the room at the growing mixture of greys “Please don’t hurt her,” he whispered and blacks closing in on them. It seemed as if with breathlessly through the door to the scraping fin- each breath, another shadow filled another space. gers pressed against it. His fingertips trembled “C’mon, then,” Mary said softly. along with his breath along the surface of the door. He stared at her hand, back to the shadHe couldn’t get them to stop. “Don’t hurt my sis- ows, back to her. He slowly slipped his hand into ter.” hers as the crowds divided for Mary with ease. The “Ben? What did you say?” She was at the crowds parted for the two, but their stares and door now, an inch and a half of wood separating smiles clung to Ben. He swallowed, trying unsucBen and Mary. cessfully to make himself smaller, cringing away And the shadows, too. Oh no, they were out from the drifting hands that surrounded him. there, too. The apartment door was shut behind them, He pulled back. Mary’s hand was on the a few of the greys trailing behind. door handle; She gently turned the knob as Ben Please go away, please. pressed his back against the sink, making sure not They snickered in reply. to touch the mirror as he faced the door. Down one set of stairs, two, three, four. “Ben,” Their chorus seemed to quiet at the Mary’s hand never left Ben’s. sound of her voice, “please let me in.” Mary was saying something, but Ben forgot

“It seemed as if with each breath, another shadow filled another space.”

31


to listen. His eyes darted from left to right, searching for what wasn’t there, searching for what he wanted most. Those voices, noises, shadows: they were taking this away from him. The single lamppost throwing tattered sheets of light across the asphalt was taking this away from him. Mary did too. But Ben loved Mary. His head began to pound with a grey breath slithering down his neck. He could hardly feel Mary’s hand. He realized he wanted one thing desperately. But he couldn’t find it. Maybe Mary and her car would take him away, like she was now. She was driving while Ben huddled in the passenger seat. She had always been good at finding things; maybe she was going to find what wasn’t there. Maybe she could find the peace.

32


Loving Like Birds Emily Leitch

You found our wings in the linen of bedsheets, collecting twigs and mud, trying to shape a nest of our own. Since you have flown away I have tried to find the curve of your nose or the bone of your hip in the half empty coffee cups and postcards you left behind. I have spent too many moonless nights trying to glue together enough feathers and leaves to make you appear from beyond the pine trees. You have built a nest inside of me and left it there.

33


Sunflower Swimmers Wesley Parvin

34


may we grow together Elaine Nicole Johnson

1. you guide my hands through soil, reveal a jagged piece of green and we pull; we pull; we pull; a pile of weeds collects before our feet. the soil begins to breathe. transport me to the gardens we’ve dreamed together. in haiti, we planted poppies, their garnet mixing with yam and yellow peppers, wrappedamongst chickweed. your lips poured waterfalls of gospel into earth—“prone to wonder, Lord, i feel it; prone to leave the God i love—“ we sang together & some god (some lifeless and invisible god) formed right there. i could see him. 2. a family of willow-colored weeds wraps along fence posts. the chickweeds go to greet them only to be swallowed, the yams yearn to dance, but they have lost the sun. i wear poppies in my eyes, for they are no longer among the peppers. you taught me to pull weeds but i have only buried them, they grow out of my lips, a garden so foul and full. you cannot see me.

35


To Fall Kiera Nelson

It rained every day of September in 1989. My mother once said that when summer collapsed into fall, the seasons would find a way to adjust, but I thought it was just because the rain had nowhere to go. I usually loved rain; it was refreshing and a reminder that nothing stayed the same. In due time, all things would die or revive, but this wasn’t just any kind of rain. It wasn’t soft and forgiving, the kind that could lull one to sleep. It wasn’t loud but inviting, symbolizing growth. This was regretful and ruthless. It fell harder than it ever had before. God was mad about something. I stood at the eighth floor window; watching sheets of rain blanket the roofs of the neighboring complexes before bouncing off and freefalling to pavement. We stayed in a state of perpetual anger and darkness, bound home by the weather. But it was Saturday, last day of September, and Momma’s birthday so no amount of atmospheric mood swings would change that. It had been days since Momma had gotten out of bed – even longer since she’d smiled or been to work. Usually, she would walk me to my bus stop watching from the window was no longer good enough for her, wait until I was seated, and then wave as I pulled away. Just as the bus would turn the corner onto Main Street, I’d look back and see her still standing there, staring after me as if I was the last lingering dream she’d held on to. As if I held every piece of her together and without me she was just skin, bones, and melanin soaking in UV rays. On the last night of September when the seasons bled into one another, my mother broke down and seamlessly continued to for the rest of the night. I listened to her soft sniffles, and watched the lights from our lone TV project themselves against the wall. I could see my own shadow next to them: long, sleek, still and black compared to the Technicolor. Momma noticed me outside of her room and discarded her tissues. They were everywhere, strewn like Christmas lights on the bed, dangling from her nightstand, scattered across the bedroom

floor. She lay in a sea of whiteness, devoid of all purity and innocence. She had been stripped down and reduced to nothing. I climbed into her bed and didn’t ask one question. We spent the night listening to rain pulverize our roof. 1989 taught me that when rain falls, sometimes people fall with it.

“God was mad about something.”

36


Lessons Learned Raegen Carpenter

We would peel potatoes together on winter nights when all you wanted was something warm—“let’s make soup.” I stood on a stool, shaking, clumsily clutching the handle of a knife, sharp. My hands wouldn’t fit around their bodies and as I cut, you would nudge me, “smaller.” I tried to slice in chunks, mimic the mounds that fell from your side; I missed the target, saw blood, watched my skin fold over in slivers, pale and without pulse like the potatoes you continued to drop. Don’t you remember that day like I do? When you told me, “I only want pieces, not wholes.”

37


Envy

Maggie May 38


Open-Hearted

make it all the way through the hospital lobby and out onto the second floor rooftop. Jessica Prescott My eyes scanned the path. I was Forrest Gump looking out at the entire nation that I would have to run, and unlike him, I was begin In the hospital, hours passed injected with ning to have second thoughts. Shaky feet pressed morphine through IVs drilled into my neck and on. Halfway through I gripped a desk for support, abdomen. Those hours merged into days, each shuddering and heaving with breaths. Invisible drip less and less generous, until finally the nee- boa constrictors slunk up my legs, crawled around dles were extracted from my veins to encourage my ribcage and squeezed my chest with all the feindependence. What they seemed to have forgot- rocity they could muster. My feet slipped against ten was that I was nine; I could barely do multipli- the rough carpet, arms hugging the desk like it was cation on my own, let alone recover independently my best friend. Baby steps. after my chest had just been sawed in half. Open Finally, my hand pressed against the glass heart surgery had caused everything from laugh- of the door to the roof, and with a deep breath, ing to turning on my side to be exponentially more I heaved it open, slowly staggering across the difficult, and yet, it was up to me to recover. ground, my parents in tow, and finally, finally, col Then there was learning to walk again. lapsing onto a rooftop bench. Most people think that it would be easy, seeing as I will never forget that sight: the kisses I hadn’t had leg or foot surgery. It had only been of the wind against my face, city ignited in the on my chest, after all. But in sherbet glow of the setmy little nine-year-old mind ting sun, glinting off of I pictured rising to my feet, sparkling glass windows taking one hesitant step, and and bridges that, for once then watching as my innards in my life, I towered over. exploded from my chest, Cars whizzed on the street tumbling to the floor like and I watched people going some human stew. about their daily lives, not My father somehow realizing that a nine year managed to read my mind, old had just learned to walk and reassured me that I once again, not recognizing that she had earned would not, in fact, have to be mopped up from the chance to observe them from above as if she the tile as I rose to my feet. With an excruciating was their god. My eyes misted over with tears, and amount of pain, I forced my muscles to cooperate the city became a blur of golden skyscrapers and as I rose to a sitting position, and then finally al- rushing wind. lowed the soles of my feet to touch the frigid floor. Eyes fluttered from accomplishment and I rose, a bucket of dizziness dumping itself fatigue. They eased me into a wheelchair, congratover my head. I wavered, stumbled, was caught by ulating my success. But even though I was now a nurses as my chest begged forgiveness. Every step champion, I was still a child, worn out after an evewas spent looking at the bed—two feet away and ning of scouring imperfections from life’s dishes. I was already begging to go back. Halfway across My wheelchair rumbled over tile floors as my head the room my dissected heart thundered against lolled slightly. It was then I reached a realization: my chest, and I realized how a timpani felt after sometimes, in the process of life, you will confront being assaulted by a mallet. dishes that break—but it’s alright. Sometimes, the I stumbled to the door, toes tentatively slip- cracks become the best part of the bowl, a scar sigping on icy floor, a slim tower of cables and moni- naling strength, determination, and hope. Or pertors creeping behind me on wheels. Feet met car- haps just the mark of a little girl, too innocent to pet, and my chest let out a shriek. I looked up with even enjoy her brief reign of triumph before sucall the innocence a teary eyed third grader could cumbing to exhaustion on her throne. muster, but I was simply informed that I had to

“My eyes misted over with tears, and the city became a blur of golden skyscrapers and rushing wind.”

39


Quilt

Namhee Kwak 40


A Family Visit Savannah Thanschiedt

There’s no trace of sterile air left in the small hospital room. I notice empty arm chairs, but choose to stay pushed against the door. I comfort my family, smile at the mother-to-be, promise her the smell isn’t that strong, hair that matted or face that red. Trying to ignore a neat aqua blanket, so carefully settled over the lump. I get people snacks from vending machines, try to make conversation. All I can really do though is waitfold my arms, close my eyes, listen to a priest I’ve never met, bless someone who never lived.

41


Mother to Daughter on the First Day of Kindergarten Brooke Azzaro

Don’t look at this world, flat from Columbus’s heavy oars, believe that it is round, holding two souls-little boats between fluent waters whispering your life in moon beams. Know that you will become blinded by stars; their full freckled faces will fume behind finger-paint, tainting the sequins in your eyes with scented markers so shake their black minds from your hands, open little lilies in their lake of filtered silence. Astound the cold spirits in their eyes. Call your name above a river’s cut-paper crossings: take this advice, here is the pile of leaves you must not light: don’t miss me and go.

42


France, 1940 (After Albert Camus) Haley Hitzing

Black coats billow below knees, polyester scratching lanky necks. I passlong dresses, sideways glances, and you; walking barefoot down cracked clay, pants rolled around ankles, brown loafers untied; following the rest of town seven hundred and eighty steps to the chapel. My boots scuff against white rocks, women gather behind men holding tongues and clenching frail fists, their eyes focus on imprints in dirt. I inch closer to your voice, and you whisper, the only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion. My father tucks me under his arm steering me away, for the God I never knew would damn me, like he damned you.

43


Parachutes

Mason’s blonde friend really didn’t see what Mason did in the drawings. Years passed. Todd and nearly all other elementary friends faded into the grey past as Mason was forced to move onward and become someone new, black hair growing more unruly. It was middle school before someone brought parachutes back to his attention. “Some people say that he was going faster than the speed of light.” “No, that’s not possible. What I heard was that his skin was ripped off from falling so fast.” Chris, with his oh-so truthful statement, was glared at with suspicious eyes. “Macy told me that he went unconscious during the fall…” The bubbling chatter that Mason convinced himself he didn’t care about was edging over the barrier between him and the real world. He was trying to keep his mind on other things. He needed a distraction so he wouldn’t be reminded about his father. He didn’t need to remember that parachutes didn’t always work. “No, no, no, you guys have it all wrong!” Julie protested fervently, childish pigtails swooshing while her head danced with her dramatic words. “His parachute malfunctioned because it was placed wrong.” Mason hissed, “Shut up.” “How was it placed wrong?” The expected response drew a smirk from Julie. Mason felt his muddled emotion form in his clenched hands, pushing tension into his feeble wooden pencil. “The rope was a little too close to his neck when he pulled the cord, so…” Mason’s pencil snapped in his hands with a loud crack. Everyone in the class turned to see what had happened. They didn’t notice the splinters of wood in his hands and almost immediately continued forging onwards in their verbal debate while Mason stared down at his palms. The two almost-even halves of his pencil were dropped on the table, and he laid his head down on the temperate surface of his desk. Strangled by your Savior… he thought

Logan Monds

Mason dreamed of parachutes. According to his mother, he was just like his father. He didn’t like being attached to the earth and was (sadly) bound to fly, someday. Nonetheless, his mother supported his obsession with parachutes with as much passion as a young mother could muster. When Mason invited his equally small friend Todd over to his house for the first time, Todd was pretty bewildered by the paper-plastered fridge. “Why are there drawings on the fridge?” Todd wondered out loud, reaching out to run a finger down a particularly bright crayon-covered sheet. “My mom likes them, so she puts them up there,” Mason explained, watching carefully as Todd observed and poked at his masterpieces, ready to jump in at the smallest sign of disrespect. Todd turned towards Mason, one hand still reaching upwards to fiddle with the corner of a simple pencil sketch. He looked back at the network of art and questioned, “What are they?” A small, almost insignificant smile tugged at Mason’s lips. “They’re parachutes, like sky divers and pilots use. My dad really liked parachutes too.” “Hmm… was your dad a pilot or a sky diver?” Todd entreated. Mason’s lips dropped, hands reaching down to tug at the hem of his Superman shirt. “Yeah. Maybe.” Checking his friend’s emotionless face, Todd frowned. Mason forced a strained grin and suggested, “Let’s go outside and play tag.” Todd’s profile immediately shifted to challenge. “You’re it!” he cheered before scrambling away. Mason didn’t move as he heard the back door open and slam shut, most likely arousing his mother from her nap.

“He didn’t need to remember that parachutes didn’t always work.”

44


mildly. What a joke… Once more, Mason was brought back to the parachutes. By this point, he was already boarded on the plane with his long-term girlfriend, being drilled on the correct procedures that should have been common sense. Stand on the edge. Jump. Don’t think, pull the cord. Land. It was easy enough to see why Mason was disinterested. The tight clothing that he had been forced to wear was itchy. His girlfriend was clinging to him like a lifeline. Mason bit his lip to keep down his amusement. The pack slung on Mason’s back wasn’t buckled and tightened yet, though he had already made sure to check for where the cords were supposed to rest. A story from his middle school days was replaying in his head, and he didn’t want to end up as the basis of another urban legend. His girlfriend’s nails dug into his arm’s skin as the teacher went over final terms and rules before demonstrating how to buckle the parachute pack. Mason copied the instructions given perfectly, his motivation clear. He wasn’t as scared as he should have been. “Are you freaked?” he joked quietly to his girlfriend, making sure not to attract the teacher’s attention. She gazed up at him, dark, wide eyes reflecting his expression. When the time came that they were taking turns diving off the now-soaring aircraft, Mason felt the first bubbles of nerve in his stomach. His girlfriend was laughing anxiously ahead of him, enjoying one last embrace before gracefully launching herself from the platform. Mason swallowed as he strode slowly to the edge, finally alone. The world looked so slow from so high up. A million thoughts raced through his head: summer grapes, his mother’s ancient perfume, the morning mist, and parachutes. He was his father up here, instead of whoever he had been before. Everyone else that had held sway over his life previously didn’t matter, because he had found himself in the billowy folds of his parachute that was sure to slow his fall. He was real. Mason let a smile grace his face as he leapt from the platform. He dreamed of parachutes. 45


Rusty Wheel Calista Pappas 46


Tiny Steps Margaret Middlebrooks

I was sitting on the wooden step, the entry way into the den, debating if it was safe for me to touch carpet. My legs still weren’t used to fresh air, light, texture… all senses had been cut off in the experiment. My legs had to be placed in a plaster cast for about a month and now my limbs had the appearance of a newborn bird; shaking and pale. This was the turning point. Kids at school wouldn’t laugh at me anymore. I could run around, jump rope, and play kickball like the rest of them. But all of that would come later. Right now, I had to focus on the task at hand. I lay on my stomach in the hallway, and let one hand dangle down to make contact with the alien world. What I wanted was my socks. I could see them lying in the middle of the room. They were my lucky socks because they were my space socks. I wanted to be a spaceman more than anything. The carpet seemed to grow over my hand, as if it had fingers and this was a gesture of “we come in peace.” Seeing that it was safe, I steadied myself against the wall and pushed myself up. Ghost tendrils extended slowly, rigid with pain. One small step for man… one giant leap… I fell flat on my face as soon as I took the first step down. But here I was in this whole new world, thanks to my surgery. I felt like I landed on the moon then. I could do the impossible; I could learn how to walk again. I began to learn. Days, years even, wouldn’t go by without me repeating the fabled mantra: “one foot in front of the other...” My toes would curl and uncurl. They became a breathing organism working for me, instead of just hanging limply out in space. They became antennas tasting flavors of my glorious home planet. They became my lunar rover. And it all started with one small step.

“I wanted to be a spaceman more than anything.”

47

Profile for Élan Literary Magazine

Élan Winter 2013  

Élan is an international student literary magazine and a publication of the Creative Writing department at Douglas Anderson School of the Ar...

Élan Winter 2013  

Élan is an international student literary magazine and a publication of the Creative Writing department at Douglas Anderson School of the Ar...

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